Ranking the Biggest Blunders in College Basketball History
In every college basketball game, there are crucial moments that influence the outcome of that contest.
It is at those times when heroes and heavies are created.
Legends are made when players come through in the clutch.
But, when mistakes are made at critical times, coaches or players create a different type of story by which they are remembered.
Here is a look at some of the biggest blunders in college basketball history.
We will see some teams and individuals who stumbled or slipped up at the wrong time.
We will extend this list to include members of the media, an NCAA Selection Committee and a referee crew.
10. Eric Devendorf's Premature Celebration
Syracuse’s Eric Devendorf hit a bunch of big shots during his collegiate days.
His 14.5 PPG career average shows that he was a significant contributor to a lot of Orange victories.
Syracuse’s 2009 Big East tournament game against Connecticut was one of the most exceptional college basketball games of all time.
The Orange beat the Huskies 127-117 in six (yes, I said six) overtimes.
Devendorf was having an unremarkable shooting night, but one memorable field-goal attempt stands out.
Just before the end of regulation, UConn’s Kemba Walker tied the game at 71. After a timeout, Syracuse had to inbound the ball with 1.1 seconds left and go the length of the court.
Syracuse’s Paul Harris threw a pass that was deflected to Devendorf.
He had no choice but to fire a shot from at least 25 feet, and it went in.
Devendorf, never bashful to express his emotions, stepped on top of the nearest courtside press table, beat his chest and celebrated what he and everyone else at Madison Square Garden thought was going to be a buzzer-beater victory.
But, after further review, the referees determined that Devendorf did not get his shot off before time expired.
Devendorf’s celebration was premature, but basically harmless.
The same cannot be said for the rest of the blunders on this list.
9. Improper Seeding of the 2013 NCAA Tournament
Millions of people fill out an NCAA tournament bracket every year.
Even people who practically do not know anything about the players, teams or the sport will get in on the March Madness action.
Before anyone starts to make their picks, the Selection Committee meets to decide who makes the field of competing teams, what each of the teams is seeded and where and who those teams will play.
Usually the seeding of the teams does not offer much drama or controversy.
However, the 2012-13 tournament seeding was an exception.
Generally, teams from major conferences that win their league’s postseason tournament get a favorable assignment, rewarding their late-season success.
Somehow, the Committee positioned both Oregon and Ole Miss as No. 12 seeds.
Sure, I understand that both teams did not have a full season of success. But, No. 12 seeds?
Those are the slots usually occupied by the tournament winners from conferences like the Big West and the Ivy League, not the Pac-12 and the SEC.
The result of that seeding means that those teams play a better opponent in the first round.
Ironically, both Oregon and Ole Miss prevailed in their first games.
Oregon knocked off Oklahoma State and Saint Louis before losing to eventual NCAA champion Louisville in the Sweet 16.
Ole Miss beat Wisconsin before being upset by LaSalle in the Round of 32.
8. ESPN Analysts Get It Wrong About VCU on 2011 Selection Sunday
When Virginia Commonwealth was selected for the 2011 NCAA tournament, ESPN’s analysts almost lost their minds.
They could not believe that they got in to that year’s edition of March Madness.
Dick Vitale was at the forefront of the cynics. He protested the inclusion of VCU and Alabama-Birmingham and the exclusion of Colorado and Virginia Tech.
It was not enough for him to express his displeasure or disagreement. He had to, according to Totalprosports.com, do it in classic Dickie V fashion:
So how unjust was the committee’s decision to pick UAB and VCU over Colorado and Virginia Tech? As Vitale would describe it, it was a lot like “picking Rosanne Barr over Scarlett Johnsson in a beauty contest.”
Dan Fogarty of Sportsgrid.com pointed out that Jay Bilas joined the group of naysayers. He wrote, "In addition to calling the selections of UAB and VCU “indefensible,” Bilas questioned whether the selection committee “knows if the ball is round.”
If these basketball experts were on target in their breakdown of the Selection Committee’s work, you would expect VCU to fall flat on their faces.
Instead, Shaka Smart’s squad went on a historical run through the tournament, making it all the way to the Final Four, before losing to Butler in the national semifinals.
7. Refs Wave off Colorado's Buzzer-Beater Against Arizona
Colorado Buffaloes basketball does not have a storied past.
They have only made it to the NCAA tournament three times in the last 40-plus years.
Even within the resurgence of the last few seasons, CU has looked for signature wins that will continue advancing the program forward.
The Buffs thought that one of those wins could come on the road in the 2012-13 season against Pac-12 opponent Arizona.
At one point in the game, CU was up by 17 points.
With under a minute to play in regulation, Colorado was ahead by five points
U of A, as it had done several times during the season, mounted a furious comeback.
Jordin Mayes stole the ball and cruised for a layup.
After CU made one of two free throws, Arizona’s point guard, Mark Lyons, made a layup with 33 seconds to play, pulling the Wildcats to within two points.
Colorado’s Jeremy Adams missed two free throws. Lyons made two, and the game was tied at 80 with 10 seconds left to play.
Colorado worked for a final shot. Rather than getting a great look, Sabatino Chen threw up a desperation three-pointer that banked in.
After a lengthy review, the refs waved off the basket, sending the game into overtime.
Almost everyone who saw the video evidence that the referees were looking at agreed that the shot was off in time and should have been allowed.
Colorado’s Tad Boyle was so incensed about this mistaken call that he suggested that college basketball completely get rid of instant replay review.
Bottom line: The refs blew it even with video to watch.
6. Any and All No. 2 Seeds Losing to No. 15 Seeds in the NCAA Tournament
There is no legitimate reason why a team that is a No. 2 seed should lose in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.
I do not want to take anything away from the accomplishments of Florida Gulf Coast (2013), Lehigh and Norfolk State (2012), Hampton (2001), Coppin State (1997), Santa Clara (1993) or Richmond (1991).
They are the seven No. 15 seeds that have pulled it off.
It is Georgetown, Duke, Missouri, Iowa State, South Carolina, Arizona and Syracuse that have to live with those embarrassing moments.
5. Arizona's Collapse Against Illinois in the 2005 NCAA Tournament
All Arizona had to do to advance to the 2005 Final Four was to close out the final moments of its Elite Eight game against Illinois.
The Wildcats broke the game open with a late second-half 18-6 run. They were up 75-60 with four minutes to play.
Piece of cake, right?
Rather than finishing out the Fighting Illini, U of A turned into a collection of inept individuals who made one mistake after another.
The Wildcats allowed Illinois to get up off the mat and respond with its own unbelievable 20-5 run.
A Deron Williams three-pointer put the game into overtime. Williams hit two more three-pointers in the extra period to lead U of I to a 90-89 triumph.
4. No Kentucky Player Challenging Grant Hill's Inbounds Pass for "The Shot"
On March 28, 1992, Duke and Kentucky played what could be considered the greatest college basketball games ever.
Both teams were shooting a very high percentage: Kentucky 57 percent, Duke 65 percent.
Christian Laettner had been perfect on the day. He had nailed nine shots from the field. He had attempted 10 free throws and made every one of them.
At the end of regulation, these two legendary programs were tied at 93.
With 2.1 seconds left in the first overtime period, the Blue Devils were down 103-102.
Because they were inbounding the ball underneath the Wildcats' basket, Coach K’s crew needed a miracle.
Duke’s Grant Hill was called on to heave the ball to the other end of the court to hopefully put some Blue Devil in a position to catch and shoot the ball one last time.
What was odd was that no Kentucky player was in place to challenge Hill’s toss. In fact, no one was within 40 feet of him. He had an unobstructed approach to any passing angle he wanted
Christian Laettner sealed his man at the opposite free-throw line and Hill threw a 75-foot strike.
He spun left, and then back right, squared up and let “The Shot” fly.
If Rick Pitino could rewind his career to the 1992 East Region Finals, would he have changed his approach to those closing seconds?
I have not seen many unhindered last-second inbounds passes since that game.
3. Memphis Lets the NCAA Championship Slip Away
Memphis had a perfect opportunity to win it all in the 2008 NCAA tournament. It entered its championship chance with an imposing 38-1 record
It had a super-talented lineup featuring a young Derrick Rose and multitalented Chris Douglas-Roberts.
John Calipari’s bunch was facing a balanced Kansas team that was not going to just roll over and let the Tigers take the title.
For most of the game, the lead went back and forth. The Tigers built a modest nine-point lead with a little over two minutes to play.
Kansas coach Bill Self decided he would make a last-ditch effort by putting Memphis on the free-throw line. After all, the Tigers were shooting less than 62 percent from the stripe.
KU started committing fouls with a little over two minutes remaining and down nine.
Memphis’ worst nightmare came true. All of a sudden, it went from being a confident crew to a timid team.
It committed turnovers, missed shots and basically fell apart.
Derrick Rose went to the line with 10 seconds to play. He missed the first free throw and made the second, putting the Tigers up by three points.
Kansas got the ball in to Sherron Collins. He passed the ball to Mario Chalmers.
Chalmers buried a three-pointer with two seconds left, tying the game and sending it into overtime.
In the extra period, KU looked fresh while Memphis looked exhausted.
The energized Jayhawks took control of the game and shocked the world, winning it all 75-68.
What looked like a Tigers title quickly turned into a Kansas crown.
2. Fred Brown's Inexplicable Pass That Cost Georgetown the 1982 Title
Bad passes happen. Even the best players of the game throw the ball away occasionally. However, some turnovers are more costly and more consequential than others.
Just ask former Georgetown Hoya Fred Brown.
Brown was a member of some of the best teams (1980-84) in school history. He was a versatile wing who was known for his emphatic defense. He was on the floor at the end of the 1982 championship game at the New Orleans Superdome against North Carolina.
Michael Jordan had just hit a clutch 16-foot jump shot with 15 seconds to go in the game. His basket gave North Carolina a one-point lead.
Georgetown brought the ball up to get ready to take the last shot of the game. Fred Brown had the ball up top with less than 10 seconds to go. He initially looked left for Eric Floyd, but he was covered. He checked to see if Patrick Ewing was open in the paint, but he was blanketed too.
Brown, thinking that he saw Eric Smith on the right wing, turned and inexplicably threw a pass right to UNC’s James Worthy. Worthy was not even making a defensive play. No doubt, he was as shocked as anyone to have a ball thrown right to him.
While both teams committed their share of turnovers throughout the game, this untimely one gift-wrapped the final outcome in North Carolina’s favor.
1. Chris Webber Calls Timeout That Michigan Doesn't Have
Michigan’s Fab Five was an incredibly talented quintet that some thought could be the next collegiate dynasty.
The Wolverines' mind-blowing 1991 recruiting class was super athletic, intimidating and brash.
They feared no one and were ready to take on everyone.
By midway through their freshman season, Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson became UM’s starting five.
They reached the 1992 and 1993 NCAA championship games as both freshmen and sophomores.
The ’93 championship game provided the moment where The Five could put one in the books.
Michigan had a slim four-point lead with under five minutes to play. North Carolina went on a 9-0 run, pulling ahead 72-67 with only 58 seconds to play.
After the Wolverines cut the lead to three with 46 seconds left, they called their final timeout.
As Michigan was coming out of the timeout, its coach, Steve Fisher, reminded the players that they had no timeouts remaining.
After a UNC turnover, Chris Webber scored on an offensive rebound with 36 seconds left, making it 72-71.
Carolina’s Pat Sullivan knocked down the first of two free throws. But when he missed the second, Webber pulled down the rebound, setting up what could be the final possession of the game.
Rather than circling back to get the ball from Webber, Michigan’s guards released, leaving him on his own.
Webber, completely out of sync, advanced the ball beyond half court. Still no ball-handling help.
When he picked up his dribble near his own bench, North Carolina began to move in to trap Webber. He stopped and looked around to see what he could do.
And then, bizarrely, he made the gesture that everyone understood: Webber called a timeout…a timeout that Michigan did not have.
A technical foul was accessed, and the Tar Heels’ Donald Williams calmly stepped to the line and hit both free throws.
UNC inbounded the ball, and Michigan was left with nothing to do but foul again. Williams hit another two free throws to finish the game off, 77-71.
Right or wrong, Webber, a fantastic player, will forever be remembered for this—the biggest of all college basketball blunders.
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