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Best conference tournament player runs of all time

The NCAAB Championship takes place later this month and there will undoubtedly be a few players who etch their names into their colleges’ histories along the way.

Some individuals can produce a run of games that guide their teams all the way to the national championship and those player runs begin in the conference tournaments.

The tournament can make stars, sometimes these players have always seemed destined for greatness but in other cases they come out of nowhere, and we’ve had a run through some of the most remarkable player runs in conference tournament play and beyond in years gone by.

Kemba Walker - Connecticut 2011

Connecticut’s run in 2011 made our best team conference tournament runs of all-time list earlier this week, and there can be no question that was inspired by some herculean performances from Kemba Walker.

The run Walker had in the Big East Tournament was so impressive that it arguably eclipsed what he did to help UConn land the national title that year.

He scored 130 points, the most in any conference tournament in 15 years, to help Connecticut secure five wins in five days to reach the main event.

Walker continued that kind of form into the NCAAB Championship, including 33 points in a second-round victory over Cincinnati and 36 in the round of 16 success over San Diego State.

Larry Bird - Indiana State 1979

Larry Bird initially signed on to play college basketball with Indiana University in 1974 but left after less than a month, enrolling at Indiana State the following year.

The 1978-79 season was the best in Indiana State’s history as they swept through the regular season unbeaten having entered the campaign unraked.

Under first-year coach Bill Hodge, they went on to win their first MVC tournament title, beating a New Mexico State team who had come close to denying them a perfect regular season record 69-59 in the championship game.

Indiana State went all the way through to the national championship game - where they fell short against Michigan State and Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson, who also enjoyed an incredible run that season.

Indiana State’s success over the course of that entire season was inspired by Bird and his player run essentially spanned the entirety of the campaign, seeing the future Hall of Famer pick up a number of awards at the end of the regular season.

The MVC didn’t have an outstanding player award for their tournament that season, but had one existed it surely would have gone to Larry Legend.

Danny Manning - Kansas 1988

The University of Kansas are one of the big guns in college basketball but that wasn’t the case in 1988 when Danny Manning was a senior.

Manning led KU to the championship game in the Big Eight conference where they fell short against 1-seed Oklahoma.

They recovered from the setback, however, and went all the way to claim the national championship as a 6-seed, with KU taking revenge against their league rivals in the championship game.

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Gerry McNamara - Syracuse 2006

Gerry McNamara came in for some intense criticism prior to the Big East tournament in 2006 but the Syracuse senior silenced his doubters in style during his final conference tournament.

McNamara hit game-winners against Cincinnati and 1-seed Connecticut in his team’s first two postseason games, then helped Syracuse see off Georgetown and Pittsburgh to become the first team to complete four wins in four days and claim the Big East title.

He was crowned as the Big East tournament's Most Outstanding Player. After being labelled as overrated by both Sports Illustrated and the Syracuse Post-Standard prior to the postseason, he wore a tee-shirt with the emblazoned with the response "Overrated?!!" as he helped cut down the nets following the championship game.

Unfortunately for McNamara and Syracuse a leg injury hampered their NCAAB Tournament bid and they were upset in the first round by Texas A&M University.

Randolph Childress - Wake Forest 1995

Randolph Childress embarked on an incredible run to lead Wake Forest to the ACC title in 1995, scoring 107 points in three games – a scoring run that is yet to be bested in the league despite the quality players that have followed in the ACC.

Those points included the game-winning shot in the championship game in a battle with North Carolina that went into overtime, Childress landed a game-winning jumper with 4.6 seconds remaining to secure the conference title for Wake Forest.

Wake Forest would go on to reach the round of 16 at the NCAAB Championship in 1995, where their bid was ended by Oklahoma State.

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