college basketball

The greatest performances ever in the NCAA Tournament National Championship Game

Profile Picture: Andrew Champagne

March 31st, 2021

The Final Four field has been set! We’re just a few games away from crowning the 2021 national champions, and in honor of that, we’ll use this space to count down some of the most memorable title game performances in college hoops history.

Let’s take a trip down Memory Lane, shall we?

5. Greg Oden, Ohio State (2007)

Yes, Oden’s Ohio State Buckeyes lost the national title game to Florida. However, Oden shined while going up against several future NBA standouts. He had 25 points, 12 rebounds, and four blocks, and often looked like the best player on the floor despite the game’s outcome.

This performance helped him become the No. 1 pick in that year’s NBA Draft, but injuries would prevent him from achieving anything close to his full potential at the next level.

4. Jack Givens, Kentucky (1978)

This name may not ring a bell, but Givens was instrumental in helping Kentucky cut down the nets in 1978. He scored 41 points as the Wildcats topped Duke 94-88, and opposing star Jim Spanarkel was quoted in Sports Illustrated as saying he played "the best game I have ever seen anyone play."

3. Lew Alcindor, UCLA (1969)

The player later known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar finished his college career in style by leading the UCLA Bruins to a 20-point victory over Purdue. The NCAA’s rule against dunking was put in place to make it harder for Alcindor to impose his will on the game. It didn’t work, as the eventual Hall of Famer finished with 37 points and 20 rebounds in an easy victory.

2. Bill Russell, San Francisco (1956)

The San Francisco Dons were gunning for their second straight NCAA championship in 1956, but the Iowa Hawkeyes jumped out to an early 15-4 advantage. Russell, however, motivated his squad to come back with a stellar 26-point, 27-rebound stat line, and the Dons prevailed 83-71.

What’s even more fascinating is that these stats don’t tell the whole story. Russell was the best shot-blocker of his time, and blocks were not official statistics until many years later.

1. Bill Walton, UCLA (1973)

You can’t ask for much more than Bill Walton gave in the 1973 final against Memphis, and that’s why the colorful redhead tops this list. He went 21-for-22 from the field, scoring 44 points while also tallying 13 rebounds. He played hard until the very end of the game, too, only leaving after injuring his left ankle on a fall in the final minutes of play.

UCLA won that game 87-66 to cap off a perfect 30-0 season.