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The greatest performances in Final Four history

Profile Picture: Dan Halverson

March 31st, 2021

The Final Four is finally upon us, and with it a number of highly talented players on some of this year’s greatest teams. As we eagerly await the games and look forward to superb performances that will decide the winners from the losers, let’s look at some of the greatest individual performances in this round from the sport’s storied history.

Here are the five greatest performances in Final Four history

5. Glen Rice, Michigan (1989)

Stat line: 28 points and five rebounds vs. Illinois

Glen Rice holds the record for the most points scored in an entire NCAA Tournament, pouring in 184 points in 1989. In one of his six outings that year, Rice led the Michigan Wolverines with 28 points in the national semifinal game against Illinois.

The game had 33 lead changes, with Michigan ultimately prevailing over the No. 1-seed Fighting Illini. Following the win, Michigan went on to win the championship 80-79 over Seton Hall. Rice was named to the All-Tournament team for his excellence.

4. Christian Laettner, Duke (1991)

Stat line: 28 points and seven rebounds vs. UNLV

The UNLV Runnin' Rebels had won an incredible 45 games in a row before facing Christian Laetner and the Duke Blue Devils in the 1991 Final Four. In that matchup, Laettner led the way with 28 points on just 14 shots.

Laettner sank two free throws with 12 seconds left that ended up being the difference in a 79-77 victory. Duke would go on to defeat Kansas to win the national championship.

3. Carmelo Anthony, Syracuse (2003)

Stat line: 33 points, 14 rebounds, and 3 steals vs. Texas

There was a short period of time back in 2003 when some believed that Carmelo Anthony would make for a better first overall draft choice than LeBron James. This sentiment originated after Carmelo Anthony flourished as a true freshman against the No. 1-seed Texas Longhorns in the Final Four.

Anthony put up 33 points and 14 rebounds in that semifinal victory, and went on to win the national championships as underdogs against Kansas. Anthony was a true star that confidently flashed his scoring brilliance at this level’s grandest stage.

2. Magic Johnson, Michigan State (1979)

Stat line: 29 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists vs. Pennsylvania

Eventual Hall-of-Famer Magic Johnson provided a taste of things to come with a triple-double for Michigan State in the 1979 Final Four. Johnson and MSU absolutely dominated Pennsylvania, as evidenced by the lopsided 50-17 score at halftime.

Johnson would go on to defeat Larry Bird and Indiana State in the final, further foreshadowing the fantastic rivalry the two great players would go on to have throughout their careers.

1. Danny Manning. Kansas (1988)

Stat line: 25 points, 10 rebounds, and six blocks vs. Duke

Danny Manning took on the heavily favored Duke Blue Devils in the Final Four, where he put up 25 points and 10 rebounds in an astonishing victory that propelled the Jayhawks to the NCAA National Championship Game. Once there, Manning and Co. defeated Oklahoma to win the title.

In addition to his impressive offensive stats, Manning also added four steals and six blocks, thereby showcasing his skill as an impactful two-way player and deserving top pick for this list.

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