Which Athletes Scored The Most Points In March Madness History?

Given how the NCAA Division I basketball tournament has been around for more than 80 years at this point, there have been so many great players who have taken to the court for a chance of collegiate sporting glory, may it be as a top NBA prospect or as part of a championship-winning team — or both. Starting out as an eight-team men's tourney in 1939, "March Madness" has since grown along with the popularity of basketball, and its days as the less glamorous event behind the National Invitational Tournament (NIT) are long gone. Currently, the qualifying rounds feature 68 teams, and that applies to both the men's and women's tournaments alike.

Unlike the NBA, which keeps separate statistics for regular-season and playoff games, the NCAA combines both of these. And it can be argued that postseason stats are the ones that count the most. Tournament time is winning time, so those 30 points your favorite player scored in the championship game mean much more than the 40 points they scored while cruising to an easy win against a cupcake opponent in regular-season play. But which players scored the most points in March Madness history? We'll be answering those questions below as we look at the top career and single-game scorers for both the men's and women's NCAA Division I basketball tournaments.

Duke's Christian Laettner has the most career points in the men's tournament

In the entire history of the NCAA Division I men's basketball tournament, one person remains ahead of the pack as the all-time scoring leader. Duke big man Christian Laettner scored a total of 407 points in 23 games — good for an average of 17.7 points — during his time with the Duke Blue Devils, making him the leading career scorer in March Madness history. Playing all four years of his college eligibility in an era where it was still relatively rare for players to declare for the NBA Draft as early entries, Laettner most notably won national championships for Duke in 1991 and 1992, made the Final Four as a freshman in 1989, and played for a runner-up team as a sophomore in 1990.

The oftentimes polarizing Laettner was also the only college player to be named to the 1992 United States men's basketball team in the Olympics — the so-called "Dream Team" that featured Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, and other future legends of the sport. According to The Sporting News, Laettner was chosen over Shaquille O'Neal of LSU and Alonzo Mourning of Georgetown as the Dream Team's lone college star, and he ended up averaging 4.8 points in eight games for the gold medal-winning unit. 

The 6-foot-11-inch forward/center went on to have a 13-year NBA career as the third overall pick in the 1992 draft, averaging 12.8 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 2.6 assists in 13 NBA seasons for six different teams and playing one All-Star Game in what can be described as a solid, yet unspectacular stint in the pros.

Notre Dame's Austin Carr has multiple March Madness scoring records to his name

As for the single-game March Madness men's scoring record, one will have to go back more than five decades — or about two decades before Christian Laettner lived rent-free in the minds of almost every college basketball fan who didn't study at Duke. In 1970, Notre Dame guard Austin Carr scored 61 points against the University of Ohio, a record that still stands to this day. In fact, he holds a number of other NCAA tournament scoring records, including highest scoring average in a single tournament (52.7 points in 1970) with a minimum of three games played, and highest career average (41.3 points over seven games), according to Bleacher Report.

Following his career with the Fighting Irish, Carr was selected with the first overall pick in the 1971 NBA Draft, going to the Cleveland Cavaliers, who were only in their second season in the league. Similar to Laettner's case, the 6-foot-4-inch Carr's professional career was more than decent, but arguably not what you'd expect from someone drafted so high — he averaged 15.4 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 2.8 assists in 10 seasons, including nine with the Cavs, and played in just one All-Star Game. Carr, whose nickname as a pro was "Mr. Cavalier," later served as the team's director for community relations and worked as a color commentator for Cavs games (via Ohio Memory).

Tennessee's Chamique Holdsclaw owns the women's March Madness career scoring record

University of Tennessee's Chamique Holdsclaw outdid Christian Laettner in more ways than one. For starters, she has 479 points to his 407 as the leading career scorer in the women's tournament. She also has one more title than Laettner, as the Volunteers won three NCAA Division I women's basketball championships during her time with the team. And while Laettner won the tournament's Most Outstanding Player award once, in 1991, Holdsclaw did it twice, bagging the award in 1997 and 1998. There's no denying that she was one of the most dominant players in women's college basketball history, and some even referred to her as the "female Michael Jordan."

That's practically the highest form of praise for any female basketball player, though the comparison was a bit of a stretch in some ways — Jordan was a 6-foot-6-inch shooting guard, while Holdsclaw was a 6-foot-2-inch forward. She was, however, a superstar in her own right in the pros, as she played in six All-Star Games after being selected with the top pick by the Washington Mystics in the 1999 WNBA Draft. Holdsclaw finished her WNBA career with averages of 16.9 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.3 steals across 10 seasons, per Basketball-Reference. She was inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2018.

While Holdsclaw was certainly a decorated college basketball player, there's one notable March Madness record she doesn't hold — the single-game scoring record. During a 1982 game against the Maryland Terrapins, Lorri Bauman of the Drake Bulldogs scored 50 points, and no one has topped that in the four decades since.