A lot has changed since the NCAA Tournament's conception in 1939. Eight teams has turned into 68. A national title went from something awarded to something earned. And a month of each year has evolved into a truly unique and iconic event. But one thing has stayed consistent -- each year we are gifted a new crop of must-see moments and last-second endings. The ACC is no stranger to either. As we prepare for the Sweet 16, we took a look back at the 16 sweetest NCAA moments for ACC men's basketball teams. -- Patrick Ronan
1. 1992 Duke v. Kentucky – Laettner’s Improbable Jumper Sends Duke Back to the Final Four
No play better embodies everything that we know and love about March Madness than Christian Laettner’s shot. Kentucky’s Sean Woods hit a running one-hander over Laettner to give the Wildcats a 103-102 lead with 2.1 seconds left in overtime. Coach K called timeout and put into motion the most iconic play in college basketball history. Laettner caught a perfect 70-foot pass from Grant Hill, faked right with one dribble and buried a turn-around jumper from the free throw line that moved Duke into the Final Four, Laettner into college basketball history and guard Thomas Hill to tears. Laettner finished the game with 31 points and seven rebounds. He hit all ten of his shots from the field, all ten of his free throws and scored Duke’s final eight points in overtime.
2. 1983 NC State v. Houston – Charles Answers Wolfpack Prayers with Last Second Dunk
The legendary images of Jim Valvano running around the court tend to overshadow just how big of an upset this was. The sixth-seeded “Cardiac Pack” were huge underdogs against Phi Slama Jama’s Clyde Drexler, Hakeem Olajuwan and high-flying Houston. Dereck Whittenburg heaved up a 30-foot prayer that Lorenzo Charles answered when he snatched the air ball and dunked it home as time expired for the 54-52 win.
3. 1982 UNC v. Georgetown – Jordan’s Late Jumper Lifts Heels to National Title
Our first taste of a buffet of Jordan game-winners on the biggest of stages – point guard Jimmy Black found the freshman on the left wing. Jordan rose up and knocked down the 16-footer to give UNC the lead for good. Fifteen seconds and one infamous turnover later, the buzzer sounded, Dean Smith had his first national title and the legend of Michael Jordan was born.
4. 1990 Duke v. UConn – Laettner Connects on “Special” Shot in Elite Eight
Before there was Laettner vs. Kentucky, there was Laettner vs. UConn. Down one with 2.6 seconds left in overtime, Coach K set up a play he called “special.” It resulted in Laettner draining a shot from the wing as time expired to end an unbelievable game that saw 16 ties and 17 lead changes.
5. 1974 NC State v. UCLA – Wolfpack Dethrone Bruins; Win First Title
The Wolfpack shocked the world in the 1974 Final Four. UCLA had won seven straight titles, and with Bill Walton and John Wooden the eighth was almost guaranteed. The Bruins had even beaten NC State by 18 points in St. Louis earlier that year. But the Final Four was in Greensboro, and a Wolfpack heavy crowd helped will David Thompson and NC State to battle back from late deficits in regulation and in the second overtime. NC State won 80-77 on its way to beating Marquette for the school’s first national championship. WATCH HERE
6. 1991 Duke v. UNLV – Blue Devils End Rebels’ Perfect Season
It’s rare to see Duke doing the upsetting, but that’s exactly what happened in the 1991 Final Four. The sixth-seeded Blue Devils faced the top-seeded UNLV Rebels, with a record of 34-0 and winners of 45 straight games. The game came down to a pair of free throws with 12 seconds left from – you guessed it… Christian Laettner – that gave Duke yet another epic tournament win. Two days later, Duke beat Roy Williams’ Kansas team to capture the school’s first national championship. WATCH HERE
7. 2001 Duke v. Maryland – Duke Heads to the Finals Thanks to Huge Comeback
In the patented “Duke” fashion they have become so known for, the Blue Devils pulled off one of the greatest comebacks in tournament history. Down 39-17 in the first half, Mike Krzyzewski lit a fuse under his team at halftime. It led to a comeback so epic, that Duke won the game by double digits and later beat Arizona to win the 2001 national championship. WATCH HERE
8. 2003 Syracuse v. Kansas – Warrick Denies Kansas’ Shot at Title, Clinches it for ‘Cuse
Everyone likes a good redemption story. Headed to the free throw line up 81-78, Hakim Warrick missed a pair of free throws that would have all but won it for Syracuse. Instead, Kansas had a shot to tie, but Warrick soared through the air to swat Michael Lee’s 3-point attempt and seal the first national championship for Jim Boeheim.
9. 1957 UNC v. Kansas – Tar Heels Outlast Jayhawks in 3OT for First National Championship
The 1957 national championship game between blue bloods Kansas and North Carolina could very well be the best title game in tournament history. UNC forward Lennie Rosenbluth outshined Kansas sophomore center Wilt Chamberlain and the Tar Heels outlasted the Jayhawks, 54-53. The win capped off an undefeated season and gave UNC its first national championship. WATCH HERE
10. 1986 Louisville v. Duke – Freshman Carries the Load as Cardinals Win Title
Pervis Ellison was a pioneer for freshman dominance in college basketball. He was a beast all season as a freshman, especially in the 1986 finals against Duke. Ellison’s 25 points and 11 rebounds led Louisville to the national championship and earned Ellison Most Outstanding Player honors. In a truly old school move, “Never Nervous Pervis” stayed at Louisville all four years before being selected 1st overall in the 1989 NBA draft. WATCH HERE
11. 1996 Syracuse v. Georgia – Orange Advance After Mile High Madness
The 1996 Sweet 16 game in Denver between Syracuse and Georgia is just one of those endings you have to watch to fully understand. Down ten points late in the second half, Syracuse battled back to tie the game at 68-68. Georgia’s Pertha Robinson hit a fadeaway to take the lead with 3.5 seconds left, before Syracuse’s Jason Cipolla hit a jumper at the buzzer to force overtime. The Orange went back ahead by two in the final seconds of overtime before Robinson hit a 3-pointer to put the Bulldogs up 81-80 with seven seconds to play. ‘Cuse’s John Wallace refused to be stopped, taking the inbounds pass, dribbling up the floor and draining a 3-pointer to give Syracuse an 83-81 victory. Wallace finished with 30 points and 15 rebounds.
Before his days of Hollywood acting and championships with the Lakers, Rick Fox was a standout at UNC. The eight-seed Tar Heels faced top-seeded Oklahoma in the second round of the 1990 tournament and with the game tied at 77-77, Fox drove right-side baseline and banked in a shot just before the buzzer. The win sent the Tar Heels and Dean Smith to the Sweet 16 for the 10th straight season.
We see guys get hot and go off in the tournament every year, but no one went full NBA Jam “on fire” mode like Notre Dame’s Austin Carr in the first round of the 1970 tournament. Carr lit Ohio up for a tournament record 61 points in the Irish’s 112-82 win – a record that still stands and might never be broken. WATCH HERE
14. 1992 Georgia Tech v. Southern Cal – Forrest Picks Perfect Time for First Three-Pointer
Down 78-76 with three seconds left in the second round of the 1992 tournament, Georgia Tech’s Jon Barry seemed to lose the ball out of bounds, ending the Yellow Jackets’ season. But officials ruled that the ball last touched USC, giving Tech one last chance with 0.8 seconds left. Freshman James Forrest, who hadn’t hit a 3-pointer all season, caught the inbounds pass and swished a three at the buzzer to give the Yellow Jackets a 79-78 win.
15. 1983 Louisville v. Kentucky – Cardinals Outlast Wildcats in “Dream Game”
The tournament just has a way of making things happen that otherwise wouldn’t. Case in point: the Louisville v. Kentucky “Dream Game” in the 1983 Elite 8. Though the campuses are less than 80 miles apart, the teams had not met since the 1959 tournament and had not met in the regular season since 1922. Despite four Final Four appearances in the previous 11 years and a national title in 1980, the Wildcats refused to play their in-state archrival. The Cardinals finally got their chance and took full advantage, beating Kentucky 80-68 in overtime in front of a packed house in Knoxville, Tennessee. WATCH HERE
16. 1994 Boston College v. UNC – Eagles Stun Top-Seeded Tar Heels
The chips were certainly stacked against Boston College heading into this second round matchup with the defending champion, top-ranked and top-seeded Tar Heels. UNC boasted a roster with eight McDonald’s All-Americans, while the Eagles relied on toughness, experience and leadership. Behind a combined 61 points from BC’s four senior starters, the ninth-seeded Eagles upset UNC 75-72 to advance to the Sweet 16, snapping UNC’s streak of 13 straight Sweet 16 appearances. WATCH HERE