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5 of the best performances in Final Four history

The Final Four begins Saturday in Phoenix with semifinal games between Connecticut and Alabama and Purdue and North Carolina State. The winners will meet in Monday’s championship game.

The national semifinals and final haven’t lacked for memorable individual performances throughout the tournament’s history.

Here are five examples of those who stepped up the biggest when it counted most:

1. Danny Manning (Kansas): Manning was terrific throughout the entire 1988 tournament, but his Final Four run for such an underdog was classic. He averaged 28 points and 14 rebounds in wins over Duke in the semifinals and Oklahoma in the championship game. He also had a Final Four record with eight blocked shots in the title game.

2. Bill Walton (UCLA): We’re talking near perfection. Walton made 21 of 22 shots and scored 44 points in a win over Memphis State in the 1973 championship game. He was 10 of 10 in the second half. He averaged 23 points and 14 rebounds in the tournament.

3. Carmelo Anthony (Syracuse): He was fantastic in both Final Four games in 2003, totaling 33 points and 14 rebounds in a semifinal victory against Texas and 20 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists in the title game win against Kansas.

4. Lew Alcindor (UCLA): Well, given he won a title every year he was with the Bruins, there is plenty of stats to choose from. But it was in 1968 when Alcindor combined for 53 points and 34 rebounds in the Final Four. He changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1971 after converting to Islam.

5. Larry Bird (Indiana State): He had 35 points, 19 rebounds and nine assists in a semifinal win against favored DePaul in 1979. Then, in one of the most talked-about finals in history, he tallied 19 points and 13 rebounds in a loss to Magic Johnson and Michigan State.

Ed Graney, a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing, can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on X.

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