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Best Players in Final Four History

Posted by Javier Morales on 4/3/2016 8:18:42 AM

When Syracuse, North Carolina, Villanova and Oklahoma took center stage this weekend in Houston for the Final Four, every player had the opportunity to cement his place in the history of the game with outstanding performances.

Brice Johnson of North Carolina was the favorite entering the Final Four to be the weekend's Most Outstanding Player with odds of +210 at the SportsBetting.ag Sportsbook. Buddy Hield of Oklahoma was also a prominent mention with +325 odds.

With players like Johnson and Hield primed to make their mark in college hoops history, this article looks back at the three most notable Final Four performers of all time:

Donald Williams, North Carolina (1993)

Donald Williams, as a four-year player for the Tar Heels, averaged 11.8 points per game and hit 221 three-pointers (which stands at third all-time in school history). Where Williams really made a name for himself was during the Tar Heels’ title run of 1993. In the national semifinal against Kansas that season, Williams scored 25 points on the strength of five three-pointers to lead North Carolina to the national title game. It was almost an exact performance against Michigan and their “Fab Five” in the title game, as Williams went for 25 points with five from long range and clinched the game with late free-throws. During the entire 1993 NCAA Tournament, Williams excelled. He needed to hit clutch threes just to get the Tar Heels to the Final Four. For a player who wasn’t the best ever for such a historic program, it’s clear that Williams knew how to perform on the big stage.

Magic Johnson, Michigan State (1979)

Before Magic Johnson became one of the most iconic players to ever compete in the NBA, the versatile legend was making a name for himself with Michigan State. In two seasons with the Spartans, Johnson averaged 17.1 points, 7.9 assists, and 7.6 rebounds per game. In the 1978-79 season (when he earned an All-America honor), those efforts helped the Spartans capture a share of the Big 10 title and positioned them as a favorite in March Madness. With excellent performances in the early rounds of the tournament, including a 19-point, 13-assist effort in the Elite Eight, Johnson led Michigan State to the Final Four, and then he really started taking over. In a rout of Penn in the semifinals, he notched a triple-double with 29 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists while knocking down 90 percent of his shots.Then, against Larry Bird and Indiana State, Johnson scored 24 points, grabbedseven rebounds, and dished out five assists to lead the Spartans to the championship — one of the most legendary title games ever. Johnson was named Most Outstanding Player of the tournament. His collegiate success was a precursor to his NBA excellence.

Danny Manning, Kansas (1988)

Kansas back in the late 1980's was known as “Danny and the Miracles.” Manning was the team’s heart and soul for his entire four-year tenure with the program. Over the course of , he averaged 20.1 points and 8.1 rebounds per game, ending with a senior year in which he averaged 24.8 points and nine rebounds per contest. While he did so many brilliant things with the Jayhawks, Manning will always be remembered for his tournament performance back in 1988. As a six-seed that season, people didn’t expect Kansas to reach the Final Four. Thanks in part to a 20-point performance by Manning in the Elite Eight, they did just that. In the semifinals, Manning’s double-double of 25 points and 10 rebounds led the team to another upset, this time over Duke. In the title game against top seed Oklahoma, Manning had the performance of lifetime with 31 points and 18 rebounds to complete Kansas’ unlikely championship run.

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