Ranking Every NCAA Tournament Game

As most of you know, I am obsessed with ranking things, and while I have been ranking each game in the first three rounds of the NCAA tournament for the past couple of seasons, I have never created a cumulative ranking of every NCAA tournament game until now. I found a few similar articles to this online concerning past tournaments, but I have not yet seen a 1-67 ranking of this year’s tournament games. So without further ado, here is my first ever ranking of every NCAA tournament game. Spoiler alert: the same team won the best game of the tournament and the worst!

Tier I: All-Time Classics

1Title Game(1) Kansas 72, (8) North Carolina 69– the greatest comeback in NCAA championship game history had great second half drama
2Sweet 16(15) St. Peter’s 67, (3) Purdue 64– the greatest upset in Sweet 16 history has to take the top spot!
3Final Four(8) North Carolina 81, (2) Duke 77– the most hyped game of the tournament delivered except for anti-climactic final 30 seconds
42nd Round(8) North Carolina 93, (1) Baylor 86 (OT)- unbelievable 25 point second half comeback by Baylor will live on in annals of tournament near misses
5First Four(11) Notre Dame 89, (11) Rutgers 87 (2 OT)- the greatest First Four game ever played!

Tier II: Really Good Basketball Games

61st Round(7) Murray State 92, (10) San Francisco 87 (OT)- just an incredible NCAA tournament from start to finish
72nd Round(1) Arizona 85 (9) TCU 80 (OT)- Horned Frogs played their hearts out in this upset attempt that featured a crazy final few seconds of regulation
81st Round(15) Saint Peter’s 85, (2) Kentucky 79 (OT)- a game that caused me great anguish personally but this was the game that initiated the Peacocks’ magical run to become the greatest Elite 8 Cinderella of all-time.
91st Round(12) Richmond 67, (5) Iowa 63- the biggest upset of the first round besides the aforementioned Kentucky vs. St. Peter’s game. This game seemed bigger than a 12 over a 5 because of the double digit point spread and how Iowa had become a trendy Final Four pick.
101st Round(9) Creighton 72, (8) San Diego State 69 (OT)- an overtime slugfest with several twists and turns
111st Round(12) New Mexico State 70, (5) UConn 63– the third of the big three first round upsets
122nd Round(15) St. Peter’s 70, (7) Murray State 60- the Peacocks proved their Kentucky win wasn’t a fluke with this impressive victory over a very good Murray State squad
131st Round(7) Michigan State 74 (10) Davidson 73– a truly epic game that Davidson just refused to concede
142nd Round(3) Texas Tech 59, (11) Notre Dame 53– this is one of those games that was a lot closer than the score indicated as the Irish had the lead in the final minutes and then had a couple of close calls go against them
151st Round(10) Miami-FL 68, (7) Southern Cal 66– a back and forth war decided in the final minute that almost featured one of the great halfcourt buzzer beaters we had ever seen.
16Sweet 16(2) Duke 78, (3) Texas Tech 73- great battle between two of the best overall teams over the course of the entire season.
172nd Round(1) Gonzaga 82, (9) Memphis 78– the Zags’ gutted this one out but their struggles were a ominous sign for their Sweet 16 game
18Sweet 16(8) North Carolina 73, (4) UCLA 66– great battle between two teams with contrasting styles that was close until the final minute
191st Round(3) Wisconsin 67, (14) Colgate 60– was my biggest upset pick of my bracket and it almost came to fruition. Colgate battled their hearts out but came up just short.
201st Round(4) Illinois 54, (13) Chattanooga 53– all four 13 seeds could have won their first round game, and in the case of Chattanooga and Akron, they really should have pulled off the upsets.
211st Round(4) UCLA 57, (13) Akron 53– see comment above about Ilinois/Chattanooga game
222nd Round(4) Arkansas 53, (12) New Mexico State 48– the Aggies came within a few plays of joining St. Peter’s as the tournament’s second weekend Cinderella
231st Round(4) Arkansas 75, (13) Vermont 71– Catamounts played a great game, but like South Dakota State and Colgate, they weren’t good enough defensively to spring the upset.
242nd Round(11) Iowa State 54, (6) Wisconsin 49- big upset that was magnified by the fact the Cyclones were basically playing a de facto road game in Milwaukee.
25Sweet 16(4) Arkansas 74, (1) Gonzaga 68– would have been the upset of the second weekend if not for the St. Peter’s shocker over Purdue.
262nd Round(2) Duke 85 (7) Michigan State 76– a classic battle between two all-time great coaches that was nip and tuck the entire way.
271st Round(4) Providence 66, (13) South Dakota State 57– the Jackrabbits were buried in the game but then game back to make it exciting. Like the Miami/Southern Cal game above, the outcome was unfortunately decided by a controversial foul call in the final minute of regulation.
28Sweet 16(5) Houston 72, (1) Arizona 60– another example (see also game # 25) of a soft and overrated west coast # 1 seed getting upset by a scrappy and defensive-minded team of athletes
292nd Round(11) Michigan 76, (3) Tennessee 68– good upset over a Volunteer team which was a trendy Final Four pick after their SEC tournament title.
30Sweet 16(1) Kansas 66 (4) Providence 61- the Friars came back late to make this one entertaining

Tier III: Watchable Contests

311st Round(11) Iowa State 59, (6) LSU 54– huge win for the Cyclones to launch their Cinderella run to the Sweet 16
322nd Round(3) Purdue 81, (6) Texas 71– not a particularly memorable game but one that was close throughout
331st Round(1) Gonzaga 93, (16) Georgia State 72– the final score ended up being lopsided but any game where the 16 seed is leading a 1 in the second half has to be featured in the top half of these rankings.
34Elite 8(2) Villanova 50, (5) Houston 44– the Cougars hung around the entire contest but just couldn’t quite get over the hump
352nd Round(2) Villanova 71 (7) Ohio State 61– The first of several gutty second half efforts by the Wildcats in this tournament
362nd Round(1) Kansas 79, (9) Creighton 72– the Bluejays kept this game close but were never really in a position to spring the upset
37Sweet 16(2) Villanova 63, (11) Michigan 55– was never a blow out but Nova seemed to have this game under control the entire time.
382nd Round(10) Miami-FL 79, (2) Auburn 61– big upset in a game that got away from the Tigers in the final minutes
391st Round(11) Notre Dame 78, (6) Alabama 64–  close game for a little over a half that saw the Irish pull away down the stretch and end Bama’s disappointing season.
401st Round(11) Michigan 75, (6) Colorado State 63– strange game where Colorado State got a big lead and then fell apart, as Michigan won with relative ease.
411st Round(10) Ohio State 54, (7) Loyola-IL 51– the biggest “bust” of first round games despite the close final score. Everyone was then enthralled with this matchup when the brackets came out, and then Loyola came out and put forth one of the worst offensive performances in tourney history.
42Elite 8(2) Duke 78, (4) Arkansas 69– this game was a lot more of a blowout then the final score indicated
43Play-In(12) Indiana 66, (12) Wyoming 58– the Cowboys basically gave this game away to begin what ended up being a dreadful tournament for the Mountain West (0-4 overall, all in games with close point spreads)
441st Round(9) Memphis 64, (8) Boise State 53– another game that seemed like a great matchup on paper, but ended up being a mop out, thanks to a horrendous start by Boise.
451st Round(6) Texas 81, (11) Virginia Tech 73–  great first half, second half not so much.
46Play-In(16) Texas Southern 76, (16) TAMC-CC 67– the least memorable game of any contest that wasn’t an utter blowout in this tournament

Tier IV: Bad Basketball Games

47Final Four(1) Kansas 81, (2) Villanova 65– Jayhawks put this game out of reach thanks to scorching start from three.
48Sweet 16(10) Miami-FL 70, (11) Iowa State 56– game started well and then Iowa State faded down the stretch
491st Round(5) Saint Mary’s 82 (12) Indiana 53– this game was a blow out from the very start and would be lower on the list if it wasn’t for the epic highlight of the Indiana cheerleader retrieving the ball from behind the shot clock.
501st Round(9) TCU 69, (8) Seton Hall 42- an historic win for TCU, as they ended their 35 year drought without a tourney win, but it wasn’t ever close.
511st Round(5) Houston 82 (12) UAB 68– Blazers dug a huge hole early that they could never quite get out of.
521st Round(1) Arizona 87, (16) Wright State 70- the outcome was never really in doubt but Wright State did have the game within single-digits in the second half.
53Elite 8(1) Kansas 76, (10) Miami-FL 50– the Canes put forth one of the worst second half performances in tournament history in this one.
541st Round(3) Tennessee 88 (14) Longwood 56- the heavy underdog kept it close for the first 10 minutes and then got blitzed
551st Round(2) Auburn 80, (15) Jacksonville State 61– see comment above about Tennessee/Longwood game. This game also featured the dunk of the tournament from Jabari Smith
56Play-In(16) Wright State 93, (16) Bryant 82– the nation’s leading scorer, Bryant’s Peter Kiss, could never really get going in this one.
571st Round(2) Duke 78 (15) Cal State Fullerton 61– every now and then you have a game that wasn’t a blowout but also wasn’t really close and nothing memorable happened in it. This was that game.
581st Round(2) Villanova 80, (15) Delaware 60–  the underdog came out hot in this one but then faded quickly and defiantly.
592nd Round(5) Houston 68, (4) Illinois 53– technically an upset but the Illini played so bad in this tournament for the second consecutive season that it felt like they were overmatched from the start
601st Round(3) Purdue 78, (14) Yale 56– see comment above about Villanova/Delaware game (# 59)
612nd Round(4) UCLA 72, Saint Mary’s 56– the Bruins owned the Gaels from start to finish in this one
62Elite 8(8) North Carolina 69, (15) St. Peter’s 49– there is almost always one game in every tournament where the clock strikes midnight on Cinderella and the results are ugly. This was one of those games.
632nd Round(4) Providence 79 (12) Richmond 51– see comment above about game # 62
641st Round(3) Texas Tech 97, (14) Montana State 62– shockingly, Montana State’s men’s team got beat by 35 points in this one but still outplayed their school’s women’s team who lost by 41 in their NCAA tournament opener and didn’t score a single point in the first quarter.
651st Round(8) North Carolina 95, (9) Marquette 63– the first sign that UNC came to this tournament to make a statement
661st Round(1) Baylor 85, (16) Norfolk State 49– this game felt over (and ultimately was over) as soon as the tip off happened.
671st Round(1) Kansas 83, (16) Texas Southern 56– see comment above about Baylor/Norfolk State game

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