We’ve seen plenty of dominant team performances in the NCAA tournament over the years. But in any single-elimination tournament, individual heroes are bound to emerge.

Sometimes, they’re the “win with” guys, those normally quiet players who fill an integral, if not necessarily starring, role. Then you have the “win because of” guys. Without them, teams just don’t win in March.

Here are eight of the greatest March Madness runs by an individual player ever:

*1960: Oscar Robertson, Cincinnati

The 1960 NCAA tournament didn’t end as the Big O had hoped, making him one of the most dynamic players to never win a national championship. But as expected, Robertson put up eye-popping stats in his four NCAA tournament games that year.


One performance stands out in particular: Against Kansas, Robertson scored 43 points on 30 shots while pulling down 14 rebounds. Assists weren’t tracked at the time, but you could imagine he had a good amount of them, too. No other Bearcat scored more than 11 points in Cincinnati’s 82-71 win.

Robertson had games in which he scored 29 and 32 points in that tournament, too, and lef all players in scoring by the end of March with 122. The final averages: 30.7 points, 11.8 rebounds. He was on his way to having perhaps the best March Madness run of all time. Those stats would have held up over the next 50-plus years, if you include assists. But he threw up a dud against California, shooting 4-of-16 in a loss. Regardless, he was a predictably awesome college player.

*1968: Elvin Hayes, Houston

We generally discuss basketball numbers in averages, but Hayes’ totals in the 1968 dance pop off of the page: He scored 167 points and grabbed 97 rebounds in the tournament. Against Loyola of Chicago, he went for 49 and 27. 49 and 27. That’s a nice two weeks for some guys, and remains the only 45/25 game in NCAA tournament history. He still holds the total rebounds record.

He still didn’t win a national title that season.