March Madness is when heroes are made. Here are a few one-man madness machines who carried their teams deep into the tournament.
The NCAA Tournament is a place to solidify legend. There are many ways to accomplish this — hit a game-winning shot, lead a major upset, or obviously, pilot your team to a National Championship. The history of March Madness is littered with the names of both future NBA talents and one-hit wonders, all of whom have their place in history due to their performance on this big stage. Whether it’s Tyus Edney or Tyus Jones, Antawn Jamison or JamesOn Curry, Aaron Harrison or Harrison Barnes, the list of players who can claim a piece of NCAA Tournament lore is long and illustrious.
Among that long list of tournament stars, there’s a special category that only comes along once in a blue moon. It doesn’t happen every year, but sometimes, the NCAA Tournament gets hijacked by one special player. This one player doesn’t just have a spectacular performance or two, or present as the clear leader of a National Champion or Final Four team. Instead, this is a player who single-handedly puts his team on his back and takes them to the top of the mountain. This player is almost a one-man show, someone who the opponent’s entire gameplan is schemed around, but it does not matter in the slightest.
This isn’t 2001 Shane Battier, or 2008 Joakim Noah, or even 2014 Shabazz Napier — players who were the heart and soul of national champions, but had significant help to climb the mountain. The March Madness Machine is instead a player who for four, five, or six games, was their team’s performance as a singular offensive threat that pulled some defensive weight, as well. This player usually dominates a tournament’s headlines, like Kemba Walker in 2011. This year, we’re looking at Trae Young of Oklahoma, Devonte Graham of Kansas, or Terance Mann of Florida State as the potential players who could completely take over the tournament’s headlines and steal the show for their team.
To be a one-man machine, you have to strike the balance between dragging your team to the highest level and being singularly efficient and dominant on the way there. The defense has to know you’re the only option coming across halfcourt, and be terrified of that fact anyway. And that doesn’t happen every year. In fact, it’s only happened a few times in the long history of the tournament. While Young and Graham might deliver some of the same heroics, it’s by far no guarantee that they’ll have all-time NCAA performances, and need to carry their team by themselves to get deep in the tournament. However, the chance of this happening this year is higher than most. To see what type of performance we might be in for by these players, here are the five best one-man tournament runs of the past 35 years.