NCAA tournament 2012: Iona, Mississippi Valley State feeling a different sort of March Madness


View Photo Gallery: Sports writer Mark Giannotto fills out his March Madness bracket.

There were two big-time comebacks in the first two play-in games of the NCAA tournament on Tuesday night.

BYU came back from 25 points down to beat Iona, 78-72. It was the biggest comeback in tournament history, according to the NCAA. The previous record was set in the 2001 Final Four, when Duke fought back from 22 points down to beat Maryland.

In Tuesday’s first play-in game, played in front of President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron, Western Kentucky rallied from 16 points down over the last five mintues to beat Mississippi Valley State, 59-58.

Some other notable comebacks/collapses from NCAA tournaments past (a couple featuring local teams):

2008: Gone in 2 minutes 12 seconds

After a ho-hum NCAA tournament that was filled with blowouts and mismatches, Memphis had a nine-point lead on Kansas with 2:12 left in the national title game. But the Jayhawks outscored the Tigers 24-8 over the final 7:12 of the game (including overtime). Memphis, one of the nation’s worst free throw-shooting teams in the regular season, continued that trend in the title game: The Tigers missed four of their final five free throws in the final 1:15 of regulation and made only 12 of 19 for the game.

2006: George Washington comes back twice

The eighth-seeded Colonials trailed ninth-seeded UNC Wilmington (playing in front of a very supportive crowd in Greensboro, N.C.) by 18 points with 11 minutes left. But utilizing a swarming full-court press, GW scored 19 straight points in less than four minutes and forced overtime. Then, in the extra period, the Colonials trailed by four points with two minutes left but overcame that deficit to win, 88-85.

2005: Illinois stuns Arizona in overtime

Trailing by 15 points with four minutes to go and by eight with 63 seconds left in a region final, the top-seeded Illini was able to force overtime and held on for an 90-89 win over third-seeded Arizona and their first Final Four berth since 1989. “It was a miracle,” Illinois guard Dee Brown said.

2001: Terps toppled by Duke

Maryland built a 13-point lead on Duke over the first eight minutes of their Final Four game, and soon the Terrapins’ advantage was 39-17, which was believed to be the Blue Devils’ largest deficit in more than 10 years. But Duke took control over the game’s final 27 minutes, overcoming what was then an NCAA tournament-record 22-point deficit to win, 95-84. “Hopefully we'll have a shot to be a very good team next year,” Maryland Coach Gary Williams said after the game, and the Terrapins were, winning the national championship.

1998: Wildcats get revenge on Duke

Six years after Kentucky’s Grant Hill and Christian Laettner stunned Duke with a last-second shot, the second-seeded Wildcats trailed the top-seeded Blue Devils by 18 points in the first half of their region final and by 17 points with nine-plus minutes left. But junior forward Scott Padgett put the Wildcats into the lead for good with a three-point shot with 39.4 seconds left that broke an 81-81 tie. The only other time Kentucky had led was when guard Cameron Mills hit a three-pointer with 2:15 left.

1996: Tables are turned on GW

The 11th-seeded Colonials led sixth-seeded Iowa, 73-56, with 8 minutes 21 seconds left, but the Hawkeyes closed the game on a 25-6 run to take an 81-79 victory. “I don't think anyone quits in the NCAA tournament,” Colonials Coach Mike Jarvis said after the game. “But sometimes they sort of walk home.”

Did we miss any? Leave your favorite NCAA tournament comeback/collapse in the comments.

More NCAA Tournament coverage:

Interactive bracket & tournament history

44: Obama picks Tar Heels to win it all

Fab Melo ruled ineligible for NCAA tournament

NCAA tournament quiz: Can you locate the schools?

Locals in the 2012 NCAA men’s tournament

2012 NCAA tournament bracket predictions

After spending the first 17 years of his Post career writing and editing, Matt and the printed paper had an amicable divorce in 2014. He's now blogging and editing for the Early Lead and the Post's other Web-based products.

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