Chris Tyler 555d

NCAA March Madness: all-time top Australian Moments

Men's College Basketball, Saint Mary's Gaels

For all passionate college basketball heads, March is undoubtedly the most wonderful time of the year.

It's the time when heroes are made, villains are cursed and brackets get busted. It's a time when the underdog can forget about the last four months and focus only on the 40 minutes ahead. It's a time that turns ordinary Australians into household names, creating memories that will live on in the minds of all of those who witnessed it.

In this list, we have a look at the top 10 performances by Australians from both Conference Tournament and NCAA Tournament history.

10 - St Mary's win in the 2010 Round of 32 vs Villanova

Back when St Mary's only had five Australians on their roster (compared to seven this year), the Matthew Dellavedova-led Gaels marched into the 2010 NCAA tournament as a 10th seed (Midwest Region) after defeating perennial foes Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference tournament.

Their first round match up was against the 7th seeded Richmond Spiders and their star junior Kevin Anderson. The Gaels, despite being slight underdogs, took proved too stong in an 80-71 victory. Their second round match-up would come against the highly favoured second seed Villanova Wildcats, a team the Gaels had already lost to in non-conference play earlier that season.

The Gaels would not be intimidated however, as they ran away to an historic 75-68 win on the back of a stellar 14-point, four-rebound performance by Dellavedova. Ben Allen, Clint Steindl, Jorden Page and Mitchell Young also contributed in the win, which booked the Gaels a ticket to the program's second ever Sweet 16 appearance and their first since 1959.

9 - Cam Bairstow's performance in the '14 Mountain West Conference Final vs San Diego State

In 2014, the New Mexico Lobos marched into the Mountain West tournament with a 24-6 record and the 17th ranking in the AP poll. Despite their strong regular season, they still came into the tournament as a No.2 seed behind a strong San Diego State squad who were ranked 13th in the AP poll. The Lobos and Aztecs split their two meetings during conference play so it was only fitting that they'd meet each other in the MWC Final.

Coming into the game, Cam Bairstow was averaging a team-high 20.4 points per game and 7.4 boards, which included a 21-point, 10-rebound game and a 23-point, eight-rebound game against Fresno State and Boise State respectively. From the moment the ball was tipped, Bairstow was at his very best, continuing to display his All-WMC form with 17 points and nine rebounds en route to a 64-58 win.

8 - Steph Reid's buzzer beater in the '16 Mid-American Conference Championship vs Central Michigan

It would be remiss of us not to include perhaps the most exciting March moment from the women's game for any Australian player. Only last year, Steph Reid's Buffalo Bulls were in the MAC tournament final as a lowly eighth seed taking on No.2 seeds, Central Michigan.

To have been in the final in the first place was seen as a tremendous achievement, but the Bulls soon took the Chippewas to overtime. Then, with 3.4 seconds to go in overtime, the Melbourne-born Reid would find herself with the ball in her hands and time quickly expiring.

What came next was a moment that Steph, her teammates and Bulls fans everywhere will remember for the rest of their lives; a buzzer-beating runner to send her school to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in women's program history.

7 - Matthew Dellavedova's performance in the '12 West Coast Conference Final vs Gonzaga

After the Bulldogs got the better of St Mary's in the 2011 WCC final, it was the Gaels' chance to get revenge. And it was going to be their floor general Matthew Dellavedova who made sure it happened.

The 2011/12 WCC MVP and inevitable WCC Tournament MVP had averaged 15 points and six assists throughout the season and came into the clash confident his Gaels wouldn't be on the receiving end of another Bulldogs bashing. He was right. The Maryborough native capped off his incredible WCC play with a 22-point, four-assist performance in the Gaels' 78-74 victory.

6 - Andrew Bogut's double-double in the '05 Round of 32 win vs #3 Oklahoma

There was a clear reason why Bogut went first overall in the 2005 NBA draft -- he just knew how to get the job done. That was no more evident than when Bogie led his Utah Utes to a Round of 32 win against third-seeded Oklahoma and their first Sweet 16 appearance in seven years.

Bogut would finish the game with 10 points, 11 rebounds and 7 assists. It wasn't quite as statistically impressive as his 24-point, 11-rebound performance from their Round of 64 victory against UTEP (a game where the big man hit two of his three long range attempts), but there was a whole lot more on the line in their clash against the Sooners. Even 12 years on, the Melbournian is still fondly remembered amongst the Utah faithful.

5 - Andrew Gaze's performance in Seton Hall's '89 Final Four win vs Duke

Australian college fans remember Andrew Gaze's performance in the championship game against Michigan, but what many people might have forgotten was how well he played in the game that got them there in the first place.

Seton Hall were a No.3 seed facing off against a second-seeded Duke side led by Danny Ferry. Trailing by five at the half, Seton Hall packed on an incredible 62 points in the second half to Duke's 40 to claim an impressive 95-78 win. Gaze finished with 20 points off 50 percent shooting, four rebounds and three assists to finish with his highest point total for the tournament.

4 - Ryan Broekhoff's buzzer beater in the '13 Horizon League semifinal vs Green Bay

Before Ryan Broekhoff was beating buzzers in Europe, he was doing the same thing in college. Now this is a tricky one. While Broekhoff's incredible circus shot didn't have the immediate importance of some of the other moments on this list, it allowed Valparaiso to stay alive and afford them the opportunity to progress to the Horizon League final...and look what happened then.

After going 13-3 in the Horizon League that season, Valpo would have been disappointed with anything short of a trip to the big dance. Trailing by one with 6.3 seconds to play, Valpo intentionally foul Green Bay's Alec Brown to put him at the line.

A 75 percent free throw shooter on the season, Brown calmly knocked the first one down. The second shot however, hit the front of the rim and bounced off. That gave Valpo the ball and as one of the best three-point shooters in the conference, Broekhoff dribbled the ball up the court only to be quickly stopped by the help defender. But Broekhoff backtracked, and with one second left on the clock, threw up a Hail Mary heave. What happened next needs no explanation.

3 - Luke Schenscher's double-double in the '04 Final Four win vs #2 OSU

Only two Australians have ever been lucky enough to grace the hardwood of a packed out stadium during a National Championship game. Luke Schenscher is one of them. But "Copper" didn't just make it resting on the pine all night. In fact, he was the reason why the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets were so successful in the first place, and his performance in their 2004 Final Four win vs OSU -- which sent the Yellow Jackets into the championship game -- epitomized exactly that.

Leading by seven points at the break, Schenscher and the Yellow Jackets held off Oklahoma State to snare a two-point victory; 67-65. Schencher finished the game with a 19-point, 12-rebound double-double, while shooting an outstanding nine of 13 from the field.

2 - Peter Hooley's buzzer beater in the '15 America East Final vs Stony Brook

Peter Hooley's shot wasn't just memorable because it was a conference tournament final, nor the fact it came against the No.1 team in the America East. It was memorable because of what had happened in the lead-up to that very moment. On the 30th of January, 43 days before the shot that was seen all around Australia and the world, Hooley lost his mother Sue to cancer.

Coming into the game, Albany was the #1 seed. They had been near perfect in conference play with their only loss coming at the hands of Stony Brook in mid February. Unfortunately for the Great Danes, that Stony Brook outfit was the team that they had to beat to punch their ticket to the big dance.

With 6.2 seconds left on the clock, the Great Danes were down by two points. Junior Ray Sanders put up an off-balanced mid-range shot. The ball bounced off the window, ricocheted off a pair of outstretched hands and bounced straight to a waiting Hooley.

Hooley gathered it and quickly put up the shot; it hits and the Albany crowd rushes the court. When the crowd finally dispersed, Hooley made his way over to the side of the table, dropped to his knees and began to cry. A moment that perfectly encapsulated the jubilation and heartbreak of the win.

1 - Andrew Gaze's performance in the '89 NCAA Championship vs Michigan

The greatest March memory created by an Australian in Conference Tournament and NCAA Tournament history is without doubt the day the great Andrew Gaze and his Seton Hall Pirates took on Michigan in the 1989 NCAA Championship Game.

Put in a defensive role against Michigan gun Glen Rice, Gaze was unable to play his usual brand of offensively-based basketball. But Coach PJ Carlesimo was adamant that if the Pirates were to knock off the Wolverines, this was how they were going to do it. They almost pulled it off too, before inevitably going down 80-79 in overtime. Gaze may have finished the game with only five points off five shots, but he certainly didn't lose any fans in the performance.

This was a game broadcast live throughout Australia, which was incredibly rare for college games in 1989, and for everyone who was old enough to remember it was a game they'll never forget. While the Pirates lost the game, it remains a clear winner as the the most memorable March moment for any Australian.

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