There is something exhilarating about watching a college basketball player catch fire during March Madness. For one game, on the NCAA’s biggest stage in the sport, that individual cannot miss. In that moment, he becomes part of something that people will talk about long after a new champion is crowned. And that is special. No one can deny that.
Unfortunately, as impressed as we are when talented players put on scoring clinics for the whole world to see, there’s one thing that grabs our attention even more: Consistency. It’s one thing to light up scoreboard once, but the real trick is doing it over and over again.
Throughout the history of the NCAA tournament, plenty of players have made the stage of the big dance their own. However, as far as individual scoring efforts are concerned, no one dominated a single tournament quite like these three superstars.
3. Elvin Hayes, Houston
Total points: 167
Players like Elvin Hayes don’t come around very often. During his three seasons — 1965-66 to 1967-68 — at Houston, the man they called “The Big E” amassed career averages of 31.0 points and 17.2 rebounds per game, was named First-Team All-American twice, and earned AP Player of the Year honors in the 1967-68 season; the same season he went into the NCAA tournament and put on a performance for the ages.
The Cougars played in five tournament games that year, making it all the way to the Final Four and ultimately losing to the Ohio State Buckeyes 89-85 in the National Third Place game. For his part, Hayes put up 33.4 points per contest, including dropping 49 in a first-round victory over Loyola (IL). Only two players in NCAA history have ever scored more than the 167 points that Hayes put up in the 1968 tournament.
2. Bill Bradley, Princeton
Total points: 177
Aside from a prolific career with the Princeton Tigers, superstar Bill Bradley is most remembered for his superhuman-like performance against Wichita State in the National Third Place game of the 1965 NCAA tournament. In a contest in which the Tigers throttled the Shockers by a score of 118-82, Bradley went 22 for 29 from the field, connected on 14 of 15 free throws, and finished with 58 points, the second-most ever by an individual in a single tournament game.
Of course, while this particular game will always represent Bradley’s “One Shining Moment,” we can’t overlook the fact that he also put up 177 total points during the 1965 tournament. It’s one thing to light it up during one game, but as we’ve said before, it takes a real superstar to make it happen on a nightly basis.
1. Glen Rice, Michigan
Total points: 184
The Michigan Wolverines entered the 1989 NCAA tournament as the No. 3 seed in the Southeast Region. Six games later, they were cutting down the nets as the national champions of college basketball. And the way we see it, they should be thanking All-American Glen Rice for that.
In six contests, Rice never scored less than 23 points in a single game, and he would finish the dance with 184 total points. As you might expect, for his efforts, the future first-round pick was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.
Statistics are courtesy of SR/College Basketball.