Let us ask you a question: Who’s ready to dance? If you’re answer is anything but a resounding “YES,” then it’s time to get it together. The play-in games are over, the bracket is finally set, and 2016 NCAA tournament is about to tip off for real. We have no idea what’s going to happen, but that’s exactly how we like it. We just can’t wait to tune into the first-round games and see if anyone has what it takes to put the rest of the country on notice.
As we all know, it has happened before. Back in the 2003 NCAA tournament, the world watched as a freshman named Carmelo Anthony lit up the competition and turned the dance into his very own one-man show. But as it were, he was hardly the only superstar to make a splash at the ball.
That year also brought us the Marquette Golden Eagles — the No. 3 seed in the Midwest Region — who had a dynamic individual of their own. And for those of you who don’t know, that player was Dwyane Wade. While the Golden Eagles fell short of their championship aspirations, Wade managed to put together some sensational performances. These three stand out among the rest.
3. 2003 Midwest Regional Second Round: Wade vs. Missouri
In their second-round matchup against the No. 6-seeded Missouri Tigers, the Marquette Golden Eagles were pushed to the limit. Much more so than they probably expected at the time. And while Marquette’s Travis Diener came away as the hero, knocking down five three-pointers on his way to a 26-point effort, there was no way the third-seeded Eagles would’ve been in the contest had it not been for the exceptional play of D-Wade.
Despite only shooting nine for 23 (39.1%) in the game, Wade was a perfect six for six from the free-throw line, and finished the contest with 24 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, and two steals. The Golden Eagles would go on to win the game 101-92 in overtime. It was at this point in the tournament that folks began to realize that Marquette was a force to be reckoned with. As for Wade, well, he was just getting started.
2. 2003 Midwest Regional Semifinal: Wade vs. Pittsburgh
Marquette entered its regional semifinal matchup against the Pittsburgh Panthers (No. 2 seed) in the underdog role. However, when it comes to tournament play, seeding can pale in comparison to having the best player on the floor. And on March 27, 2003, no one was better than D-Wade. Unlike the previous contest, the First-Team All-American was uber-efficient from the field.
He knocked down 52.6% of his shots — 10 for 19 — on his way to a game-high 22 points to go along with three rebounds, four assists, and two steals. Thanks to a complete performance by the man they call “Flash,” the Golden Eagles kept their tournament run alive, advancing to the regional final. There they would face the mighty No. 1-seeded Kentucky Wildcats. Of course, in the end, only one of these teams had a superhero on its side.
1. 2003 Midwest Regional Final: Wade vs. Kentucky
Facing the juggernaut from Lexington in the Elite Eight, Wade put together the performance of a lifetime. He knocked down 11 of 16 shots, went two for two from beyond the three-point line, and connected on five of six free-throw attempts. Flash would finish the game with an eye-popping stat line of 29 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists, one steal, and four blocks, and the Golden Eagles would shock the country by knocking off Kentucky 83-69 and advancing to the Final Four. Now that’s how you do the dance right.