The 20 most influential college basketball games of the 2000s: Virginia vs. UMBC, Villanova vs. UNC, more

With the 2022-23 college basketball season fast approaching, it’s a great time for your resident hoop thinker to do what they do best: copy the clever ideas of others!

In August, when I read my fellow The Athletic’s entertaining story Andy Staples, who ranked the 20 most influential college football games of the 2000s, I felt a pang of list envy. So, with a not-so-gentle nudge from our college basketball editor-in-chief Hugh Kellenberger (“If you don’t do that, we’ll make you our beat writer for Thursday Night Football”), I set out to do the same for that man game.

As Andy noted, it’s not easy to define what makes a game “influential”. First and foremost, the game has to fit the overall narrative of the sport. It should have a historically significant outcome, or at least an iconic moment or two. And it should have decided something important.

Not surprisingly, most of these games were in the NCAA tournament. But not all. March Madness is the capstone of college basketball, but there are many other golden nuggets from the last 22 years that are worth revisiting. So hats off to Andy, here are my influential 20 followed by the 10 games that almost made it.

20. UConn 76, Pittsburgh 74

March 10, 2011

With UConn finishing 9-9 and ninth in the Big East, there was no bye to Wednesday’s conference tournament at Madison Square Garden, let alone the double bye that went to the top four seeds.