Looking ahead to Friday's NCAA Tournament action and the best of Thursday's games:
CALIFORNIA FACING DISTRACTIONS
One of the most intriguing issues in Friday's NCAA Tournament action is how California will respond after two major losses in the last few days.
California fired assistant coach Yann Hufnagel on Monday for violating the school's sexual harassment policy and lost its leading scorer when Tyrone Wallace broke his right hand in practice.
The 23rd-ranked Golden Bears face Hawaii at Spokane, Washington.
"It's been a rough week for the team and everything," California guard Jabari Bird said. "But we have had up-and-downs throughout the whole entire year, so it's nothing new for us. The main thing is putting it behind us and focusing on (Friday's) game."
The Golden Bears announced Thursday that Wallace is expected to miss three to five weeks, which would keep him out for the remainder of the season. Wallace averages 15.3 points, 5.4 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game.
The Hufnagel firing could have bigger long-term implications. California announced Wednesday that it is reviewing whether head coach Cuonzo Martin correctly handled the allegations against Hufnagel.
MORE 5-12 MAGIC
Maryland has reason to feel very wary as the No. 5 seed in the West Region heading into Friday's game with No. 12 seed South Dakota State.
No. 12 seeds won two of their three matchups with No. 5 seeds on Thursday to continue an NCAA Tournament tradition. Yale upset Baylor 79-75 and Little Rock edged Purdue 85-83 in double overtime. Of the three No. 5 seeds to play Thursday, the only one to survive was Indiana, which trounced Chattanooga 99-74.
At least one No. 12 seed has beaten a No. 5 seed in 28 of the 32 years since the NCAA field expanded to 64 teams (it has since expanded again to 68 teams).
TOP BUZZER-BEATERS IN MARCH MADNESS HISTORY:
28 buzzer beaters march madness
TIPPING OFF: What to watch in second day of NCAA Tournament
28: A coach trusts his senior
Not many people have heard of Morehead State, a small school in Kentucky. But in 2011, one kid put this school’s name on the map as he upset Louisville with a pull up jumper to win the game.
His name was Demonte Harper. A senior guard from Nashville, Tennessee who, with the help of his team, led the Eagles to an NCAA tournament berth after winning the Ohio Valley Conference tournament. The stage was set for something crazy to happen as they were paired up against heavily favored Louisville led by their experienced coach Rick Pitinio in the round of 64.
Morehead State remained possession with the shot clock off, trailing by two points. Coach Donnie Tyndall called a timeout and set up his final play.
“He said, 'I know exactly who I’m going to,'” Harper said during a post-game press conference remembering what his coach said during those final moments. “I’m going to put the ball in your hands, Demonte, and you’re going to pull up for a 3-point shot and win us the game. So then I said, 'Coach, I’m gonna hit the shot.'”
And he did just that. A perfectly executed hesitation move got his defender off him for just a second. Long enough for Harper to pull up and sink a three point jumper to pull off one of the greatest upsets and buzzer beaters in the history of college basketball.
Pretty risky move, considering Harper was 0-for-5 that game from beyond the arc. But coach Tyndall had confidence in his senior, and it paid off.
Morehead State went on to lose to Richmond in the round of 32, but a school with an enrollment of only 9,000 will forever remember upsetting Louisville on the biggest stage in college basketball.
(AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)
27: 1981 Danny Ainge pushes BYU past Notre Dame
Back in the 1981 NCAA tournament, Bob Knight was still coaching, Isiah Thomas was the most outstanding player of the year, and the NCAA tournament only allowed 48 teams to compete. But buzzer beaters were as relevant then as they are today. In the third round, #6 seed Brigham Young University took on the #2 Fighting Irish of Notre Dame in a game for the ages.
BYU found themselves down by one point with just seconds remaining. They had the whole court to go and needed a bucket to keep their tournament hopes alive. The ball was inbounded to none other than Danny Ainge who traveled the length of the court maneuvering between three different defenders before finally finishing on the left side of the basket as time expired.
BYU ended up losing in the second round of the playoffs to Virginia. But Danny Ainge ended up going on to do big things in the NBA playing 15 seasons. BYU fans will forever remember him as the kid who drove them past a national powerhouse in the NCAA tournament. Just another incredible instance of madness taking over in March.
The 17-16 Seton Hall Pirates had one chance at playing ball in late March and that is winning their conference tournament. Unfortunately they reside in the Big East, one of the most competitive conferences in the NCAA. The Big East tournament quarterfinals featured Seton Hall against a heavily favored Villanova team.
Before the conference tournament, Villanova was widely considered to be a favorite to win a National Title. But Seton Hall hung around all game, coming within one point with just over three seconds left and with possession of the ball. As Coach Kevin Willard called an out-of-bounds play that featured Sterling Gibbs, the lights fell upon the young shooting guard.
Gibbs came off a screen in the lane then jumped to the top of the key where he received the ball. As the clock started to expire, Gibbs took two dribbles towards the basket, stepped back and sunk a perfect jumper knocking the #1 seeded Villanova out of the conference tournament.
Even though Seton Hall didn’t make it to the NCAA tournament that year, this shot ultimately prevented Villanova from getting a #1 seed. They settled for a #2 seed, which made them see a talented and underrated UCONN Huskies team in the round of 32 who cruised to a National Title after defeating Villanova. Who knows what could have happened if Sterling Gibbs would have missed that jumper as time trickled off the clock in the Big East conference tournament.
(AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
25: 2011 Frazier for temple
In 2011, the Temple Owls were looking for revenge from the way their season from the year prior ended. After going 29-6 and earning a #5 seed in 2010, they got upset by #12 seed Cornell in the round of 64. Even though they have the lamest mascot in the history of mascots, they were returning three seniors for the next season with high hopes.
This time around, it wasn’t going to be Temple’s heart that would break, as it gave Penn State a taste of what it had felt the year before.
The game was tied with 10 seconds left in the second half, 64-64. It seemed like overtime was unavoidable, as guard Juan Fernandez picked up his dribble on the right wing. He frantically looked for a teammate as he pivoted around his defender. As he looked up at the clock and noticed he would have to throw up an off-balance shot, he rose up only to sink a mid-range contested jumper with 0.4 seconds remaining.
Despite winning this game in such a dramatic fashion, Temple’s season ended a little earlier than the Owls would have wanted. They were quite easily thwarted in the round of 32 by a San Diego State team’s up-tempo basketball style. Nonetheless, this off-balance shot reminded Temple and college basketball fans everywhere why we love March so much.
(AP Photo/Mel Evans)
24: 2015 Peter Hooley sends Albany to tourney
The NCAA tournament hasn’t even started this year and we already have some ridiculous buzzer beaters. Albany, a team that wasn’t even a Division I program 15 years ago, has made the NCAA tournament for the third year in a row. They accomplished this by taking advantage of a crazy series of plays in the American East Conference championship game. Thus, Albany will be returning to the NCAA tournament.
Facing Stony Brook in the championship game, Albany started fouling in order to regain possession in the final minute. They sent Carson Puriefoy to the line, a man who has shot 80% from the free throw line this year. But the basketball God’s wanted Albany to have one more chance at victory as Puriefoy missed the second of two free throws.
Albany trailed by two with 17 seconds left. Ray Sanders traveled the length of the court and put up a contested runner that bounced off the rim and in a scruff under the basket was tipped to the top of the key which, coincidentally, was exactly where Peter Hooley resided. Hooley caught, set himself, then released a beautiful three point jumper as the Albany bench held their breath with anticipation before the ball swished through the bottom of the net.
Albany will get a chance to upset the #3 seed Oklahoma in the NCAA tournament all because of this incredible buzzer beater. The past two years, they haven’t managed to get out of the round of 64. But with a little luck and a few more buckets from Peter Hooley, who knows what can happen.
(AP Photo/Skip Peterson)
23: 1998 Richard “Rip” Hamilton’s floater
Before Richard Hamilton got nicknamed “The Mask” and played 14 season in the NBA, winning one NBA title, he played for coach Jim Calhoun and the Connecticut Huskies. He averaged 19.8 points and led UCONN to a National Title in 1999. But perhaps his most awe-inspiring moment in college came during the Huskies' matchup with underdog Washington in the 1998 NCAA tournament.
Washington led by one point with 16 seconds remaining. A series of four offensive rebounds, two of which by Hamilton himself, led to a fade away put back that silenced Washington and earned UCONN an Elite Eight berth.
An unfortunate end to what could have been a Cinderella-like finish for a young Washington team.
The Huskies would end up losing in the elite 8 to the North Carolina Tar Heels. A team that featured a young Vince Carter and Antawn Jamison. But this epic shot will go down in NCAA history as one of the most suspenseful moments in tournament history.
(Photo by: Matthew Stockman /Getty Images)
22: 1990 Rick Fox: Clutch player and excellent actor
Before Rick Fox launched his acting career, that was as phenomenal as it was short lived in his stellar performance as “Sweetfeet” in the heartwarming kid’s movie Holes, he played professional basketball for the Los Angeles Lakers. But even before he played professional basketball with Kobe and Shaq in LA, he was hitting buzzer beaters for Dean Smith at the University of North Carolina.
The 1990 NCAA season was dominated by the Oklahoma Sooners. They had gone 27-5 in the regular season and were eyeing a National Title as they cruised past Towson State in the first round. But the UNC Tarheels, led by Fox, met the Sooners in the round of 32 in an instant classic.
With eight seconds left, the game was all tied up as the Tarheels in-bounded the ball under their own hoop. They found their main man, Rick Fox on the opposite baseline where he drove down the lane and rose up and stayed in the air for what seemed like forever until finally releasing the ball before time expired, kissing it off the backboard to win the game.
Fox reflected on the play later saying “As I caught the ball on the weak side, I remembered what coach had told me: ‘Don’t take a three, we only need two points.’ To this day I don’t know what I would have done if he hadn’t told me that.”
I guess that is why Dean Smith is one of the all-time greats. He knows the situation and he knows his players. Maybe Rick Fox wouldn’t have had as a successful basketball career if it wasn’t for Dean Smith. But we all know his acting career was the consequence of a God-given talent for being in front of a camera, something Coach Smith could have never have given Fox any advice on.
(Photo by North Carolina/Collegiate Images/Getty Images)
21: 2011 Kemba Walker is not human
The 2011 season started off as strong as ever for a Kemba Walker led UCONN Huskies team, as they won the Maui Invitational beating Witchita State, Michigan State, and Kentucky. Through January, they were considered one of the best teams in the nation. Then, for whatever reason, the Huskies went cold. They won just four of their nine games in the month of February. Probably the worst time a streak like this could happen, as the Big East conference tournament was just around the corner.
But they got hot winning five games in five days during the tournament. The quarterfinals game was against heavily favored Pittsburgh which was #3 in the nation at the time. The UCONN Huskies seemed to all of a sudden remember what made them so good earlier in the season as they gave the ball to Kemba Walker for their final possession in regulation during a tie ball game.
After a switch on a ball screen, Kemba was guarded by Gary McGhee. After putting the 6-foot-11 center on ice skates a couple of times, Walker stepped back, pulled up, and found nothing but the bottom of the net to win the game.
The Huskies would go on to win the National Title that year. And it all started with that buzzer beater from Kemba Walker in the Big East conference tournament.
(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
20: 2010 Danero Thomas comes up huge
Part of the reason fans are so upset Murray State may have gotten snubbed this year is the fact that they have had a strong tournament presence when it comes to upsets and exciting games. One of the most memorable times comes in 2010, when they took on #4 seed Vanderbilt in the first round.
Murray State fought the heavily favored Commodores tooth and nail all game. As Murray State found themselves with their backs against the wall, their leading scorer, B.J. Jenkins, pulled up for a three with about 12 seconds remaining. While the ball did miss the mark, it did get knocked out of bounds by a Vanderbilt player leaving 4.2 seconds left on the clock.
After inbounding the ball to Isaac Miles, all that was needed was a little penetration to the bucket and a kick out to Danero Thomas for an easy mid-range jump shot to put Vanderbilt away.
(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
19: 2000 Mike Miller
The Florida Gators had quite the basketball team in 2000. Billy Donovan’s team featured Mike Miller, Udonis Haslem, and Matt Bonner. They made the school’s first ever appearance in the National Title Game. Definitely a year to remember for Florida, but none of it would have happened if Mike Miller didn’t get a little love from the rim in the first round.
The Gators were on the verge of being upset by the #12 seed Butler. After a Butler missed free throw with eight seconds left, Florida was down one and looking to push the ball to regain the lead. Point guard Teddy Dupay rushed up the court and found Mike Miller on the wing. A shot fake and a quick speed dribble got Miller in the lane where he was met by three Butler defenders. As time expired, Miller threw up an acrobatic lay-up nearly hitting the shot-blocking hands of Butler’s big men. As the ball rolled around the rim, Miller watched as his season flashed before his eyes before it finally found the bottom of the net.
Without this shot, the National Title Game drought that Florida had felt since its inception would have continued. But because of Miller and his teammates, Florida basketball got to dance a little longer in March, which paved the way for Joakim Noah and company to win back to back championships in 2005 and 2006.
(AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
18: 2009 Demetri Goodson answers the call
The #4 Gonzaga Bulldogs took on #12 Western Kentucky in what must have been the biggest emotional rollercoaster either team has ever gone through. Western Kentucky was just coming off a huge upset victory over Illinois and had no plans on stopping there as they came out of the gates firing.
But to their dismay, they were down by two points with no time on the shot clock left. Holding the ball for the last shot, A.J. Slaughter drove to the left side of the lane before heaving up a prayer that clanged off the rim. But no one on Gonzaga’s team boxed out Western Kentucky big man, Stepphon Pettigrew, as he put back the brick to tie the game up at 81 with moments left on the clock.
It was panic mode for Gonzaga. Demetri Goodson caught the end bounds pass with seven seconds left going coast to coast, not being stopped by the celebratory Western Kentucky team. He laid in an easy lay-up as the clock struck zero to avoid the upset.
What really kills me about this is it seems the Western Kentucky players don’t even want to guard Goodson. After Pettigrew’s put-back the Hilltoppers were more focused on not fouling than allowing a bucket. But props to Goodson for not skipping a beat, even after his teammates let up an easy offensive board, taking the ball all the way down the court and win the game for the Bulldogs.
(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
17: 1990 Christian Laettner’s other shot
Everyone has heard of Christian Laettner’s famous buzzer beater, “The Shot” to beat Kentucky in the 1992 tournament. But because of how huge this buzzer beater was, no one really appreciates his other miraculous plays he had while at Duke.
One of which came during the 1990 NCAA tournament when Laettner was just a sophomore. The Blue Devils were really finding their groove that year, advancing to the Elite Eight only to meet #1 seed Connecticut.
Laettner was finally starting to excel under Coach K’s program, averaging 16.3 points that season, so it only made sense to go to him when there was two seconds left and they were down by one to UCONN. So as Laettner entered the ball, he was left unguarded as the ball quickly came back to him. He took one dribble and double pumped from 15 feet away only to sink the jumper and move on to the final four.
Duke would go on to get demolished by UNLV in the National Championship Game. But the following two years they won back-to-back titles with Laettner proving again and again how clutch he really is. This dynasty that Duke had in the early 90s has yet to really be recreated (with the exception of maybe Florida in 2005-06). When the Blue Devils stepped on the court, it would take every effort of the opposing team to take them down. UNLV was one of the only teams to do so in Laettner’s four years at Duke.
(AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
16: 2015 Davidson beats LaSalle
Davidson entered the Atlantic 10 tournament as the favorite, but ended up losing in the semis to VCU. In order to rightfully claim a berth in the NCAA tournament, the Wildcats needed at least one win, which seemed like it wouldn’t happen for a while as time trickled away in the second half against LaSalle. They were trailing by 17 at one point before going on a 13-2 run to end the game.
The 13th point came when Davidson was trailing by one with 17 seconds remaining with possession of the ball. Senior guard, Tyler Kalinoski penetrated to the left side of the basket before lobbing up an underhanded scoop shot as he fell towards the baseline. The ball bounced off the backboard before slamming down on the rim and dropping in the bucket as time expired.
What remains to be seen in Davidson’s game this year is if they can compete against good competition. While winning the Atlantic 10 is a solid feat, Davidson hasn’t really beaten anyone except Dayton, so going up against Iowa in the round of 64 will be a good test. Additionally, Davidson has yet to get out of the round of 64 since Steph Curry left the program in 2008. A tournament run this year could prove that Davidson is for real or not.
(Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
15: 2010 Korie Lucious comes out of nowhere
In 2010, Michigan State faced off against a tough Maryland team in the round of 32. Everything seemed to be going as planned for the Spartans as the jumped out to a 16 point lead in the first half. Unfortunately, their star point guard and leading scorer, Kalin Lucas, went down with an injury and could not finish the game. So, on the biggest stage in college basketball, coach Tom Izzo called upon Korie Lucious to fill in for Lucas.
Blowing a 16 point lead and letting Maryland all the way back in the game wasn’t really the coming-out party Lucious had expected for his first time getting significant minutes in the NCAA tournament. But as Maryland took the lead with eight seconds to go, Lucious had to step up and make a big play.
Michigan State forward, Draymond Green frantically pushed the ball up court but was stopped by a Maryland defender at the three point line. He whizzed a pass by the head of teammate Delvon Roe, and found Lucious on the opposite wing as the clock was wasting away. Lucious took one dribble and pulled up with confidence sinking his first ever buzzer beater.
This is the type of play that makes March Madness such a spectacle to watch. A kid comes off the bench for Coach Izzo, scores 13 points and hits the game-winning jumper. Michigan State ended up not being able to overcome the injury of Lucas, who had a torn Achilles tendon, and fell to Butler in the Final Four. But what a shot by an unsuspecting little shooting guard in Korie Lucious.
(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
14: 2011 Another Butler upset
In the last decade, there has not been a team who has supplied NCAA basketball fans with more exciting upsets and nail-biting endings than Butler. In 2011, Butler went up against a hot Old Dominion team who had just won eight straight games to capture the #9 seed in the tournament. So in the round of 64, Butler squared off against the Monarchs in another addition to the book that is Butler thrillers.
With six seconds left, star point guard Shelvin Mack drove the ball to the bucket but was cut off by the Old Dominium defense. He heaved up a prayer that tipped off the hands of about four players before landing gracefully in the hands of Matt Howard with about 0.5 seconds left. Howard caught the ball and threw it off the backboard to seal the victory and send Old Dominium home.
The Butler Bulldogs were far from done that year. Some thought the 2010 run that Butler went on ended when Gordon Hayward entered the NBA draft. But Butler proceeded to beat #1 Pittsburgh, #4 Wisconsin, #2 Florida, and #11 VCU before finally falling to UCONN in the championship game. Back-to-back title appearances isn’t half bad for a mid-major like Butler.
(Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
13: 2006 Kenton Paulino knocks down a big one
Way back when, during LaMarcus Aldridge’s playing days for Texas, the Longhorns were a premiere college basketball program every year. In 2006, the earned themselves a #2 seed in the NCAA tournament where they easily cruised through the first two rounds only to play West Virginia in the Sweet 16.
But as Texas went up against West Virginia, they struggled from beyond the arc shooting just 21 percent (4-19). They had to rely on their post players to score in the paint and defense to have any chance against the sharp-shooting West Virginia Mountaineers.
As the second half was coming to a close they found themselves with a three-point lead with just 13 seconds left. But West Virginia went to their star forward Kevin Pittsnogle who nailed a three to tie up the game with 5 seconds left. The Longhorns point guard, A.J. Abrams pushed the ball up the court only to find Kenton Paulino on the wing. A nothing-but-net game winner followed as Texas stormed the court.
It is only fitting that Paulino hit the game-winning three. After all he was due to make one after going 1-6 from 3-point range until the game winner. Paulino finished his career at Texas second all-time in career 3-point percentage. Quite a feat considering sharp-shooting NBA forward Kevin Durant’s alma mater is Texas.
(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
12: 2008 A sweet, sweet Razorback victory
There is something about that #12 seed in college basketball that always upsets the #5 seed in the first round. In the 2008 NCAA tournament, Drake paid the price of this trend.
The Drake Bulldogs had been trailing all game, even by as much as 16 with 8 minutes left. But as the momentum shifted, and Western Kentucky had their backs against the wall, Drake took a one point lead on a couple of free throws.
With just six seconds remaining, Tyrone Brazelton, who finished with 33 points, pushed the ball across half court before running into a cloud of Drake defenders. As the defenders collapsed on him, Ty Rogers was free about 30 feet from the basket. With just seconds remaining, Brazelton handed the ball off to Rogers who calmly sank a deep three to win Western Kentucky’s first tournament game since 1995.
A year later, the Gonzaga Bulldogs did the same thing to Western Kentucky that they did to Drake (#18 on this list). But this shot, being an upset and coming from deeper out, lands higher than Demetri Goodwin’s lay-in as time expired.
Western Kentucky is never going to get the same recruits that Duke, Kentucky, and Kansas get every year. So if they want to compete at the Division I level, they are going to have to get lucky from time to time. This was just one of those scenarios. Unfortunately, it came at the expense of a solid Drake team.
(AP Photo/Steve Nesius)
11: 2009 Scottie Reynolds does his thing
Villanova had been making a statement throughout the first three rounds of the 2009 tournament, blowing teams out by an average of 18.6 points. They even beat #2 seed Duke by 23 points, shocking Blue Devil fans everywhere.
But as the Wildcats entered the Elite Eight, they finally met a team who could compete with them. Pittsburgh’s Sam Young and Dejuan Blair absolutely destroyed the Wildcats, scoring 28 and 20 points, respectively. Villanova just didn’t have an answer for the big men all game. Pittsburgh even had a 3 point lead with just over 3 minutes left to play.
But as the game was tied with 5.5 seconds left, Villanova’s star point guard took over. A lob pass at half court went to big man Dante Cunningham who immediately handed it off to Scottie Reynolds, causing trouble for Pittsburgh. The junior guard took five dribbles before muscling his way into the lane and taking an off-balance shot with his left hand that counted for 2 points.
Villanova would finally be stopped that year by a Ty Lawson-led UNC team that ended up winning the National Title. Since Reynolds' impressive buzzer beating lay-up, Villanova has yet to return to the Final Four. They are the #1 seed this year in the East division, and the way the Wildcats have been playing, maybe they can harness their inner-Scottie Reynolds and pull off some miraculous wins in the NCAA tournament.
(AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
10: 2006 Jermaine Wallace
Northwestern State finished the regular season 26-7 and had beaten solid teams all year including Mississippi State, Oklahoma State, and Oregon. But because they resided in the Southland Conference, they didn’t get a respectable seed. Iowa probably underestimated the #14 seed during the round of 64 matchup.
Even when Iowa went up by 17 late in the second half, the Demons managed to come back and come within 1 point with 1:03 left. This set the stage for Northwestern State to break the hearts of Iowa fans everywhere.
As a missed free throw clanged off the rim, the Demons were within 2 points of the #3 seed and pushed the ball up the court. Kerwin Forges missed a three that would have won the game, but the rebound bounced long, allowing Jermaine Wallace to snag the board, dribble towards the baseline and heave up a prayer that fell through the rim to complete the upset.
Wallace ended the game with 10 points, pushing Northwestern to the round of 32. They would eventually get blown out by a tough West Virginia team, but this hardly takes away from the incredible play Jermaine Wallace made as time expired in the 2006 NCAA tournament.
(Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
9: 1995 Run Tyus, run
The No. 1 team in the country was in jeopardy of going home earlier than expected in the round of 32. The #8 seed Missouri took charge late in the second quarter causing fans everywhere to be on the edge of their seats as these classic final moments took place.
Ed O’Bannon was leading the way all game for the Bruins with 24 points, but despite his best effort, the Bruins were down by one with 4.8 seconds to go. UCLA coach Jim Harrick called upon senior guard, Tyus Edney instead of O’Bannon to come up with a play to save their season.
The ball was passed to Edney at the free throw line and he took off down the court in a hurry. As he got to the top of the key, he did a nifty little behind the back dribble making a Missouri defender miss the steal placing him in the middle of the lane where all he had to do was push the ball off the backboard and start the celebration with his team.
UCLA ended up beating Arkansas in the national championship game a week later. This was the school’s first national title since John Wooden left the school in 1975. All because Tyus Edney had the speed, basketball IQ, and soft touch to put in one of the greatest buzzer beaters of all time.
(Photo by Getty)
8: 2003 Drew Nicholas from the corner
Maryland came into the 2003 season looking to do one thing, repeat a national title. Entering the season as a #6 seed, they were less favored to win the title as they were the year before. They were led by point guard Steve Blake into the tournament looking to make a long run.
But they got quite a scare in the first round against UNC Wilmington. This was the Seahawks' third appearance in the NCAA tournament in four years, but they had yet to make it out of the round of 32. This year, they had their eyes set on taking down the reigning national champions.
UNC Wilmington guard Aaron Combs made two free throws to put the Seahawks up one point with 5 seconds remaining. Maryland then set up an out of bounds play. The ball was meant for Blake, but as the defense proved to be too much for the future NBA point guard to shake, Drew Nicholas made himself available and got a pass around mid-court. He took three dribbles towards the opposite corner and leaped off one foot for a fade away to give the ball a chance. Swish.
UNC Wilmington has been back to the tournament once, which was in 2006, where they were once again eliminated in the first round. A game in which the #8 seed Washington stunned the Seahawks in overtime breaking the hearts of this small school for the second time in three years. UNC Wilmington has yet to come back to the NCAA tournament. Perhaps the program has said “enough is enough” with all the awful heartbreak that college basketball’s biggest tournament brings.
Maryland ended up being knocked out in the Sweet 16 that year. But the Terrapins will never forget this astounding moment where Drew Nicholas beat the buzzer to help his team advance to the round of 32.
(AP Photo/Roberto Borea)
7: 2008 Mario Chalmers sends it to overtime
The 2008 NCAA tournament saw so many crazy things happen. Western Kentucky got its first NCAA tournament victory since 1995 in buzzer beater fashion (#12 on this list). For the first time since seeding began, all four #1 seeds made the Final Four. And Memphis won a record-setting 38 games.
All of this craziness culminated into the National Title game, where a hungry Kansas basketball team led by Mario Chalmers looked to upset favorite Memphis and give them their second loss of the season.
Memphis, led by Derrick Rose, had been having troubles at the free throw line all season. Every critic kept saying it would come back to bite them in the butt. But the talent level that Memphis had was too much for most teams.
That is until the final moments of the second half when Derrick Rose stepped to the line with a chance to make it a four point game. The star guard sunk the first, but missed the second giving Kansas a chance to tie. Mario Chalmers after receiving a pass from Russel Robinson, took two dribbles towards the top of the key and tied the game up with a big three.
After Mario Chalmers’ amazing shot to send it to overtime, the Memphis free throw shooting only got worse, and Kansas ended up winning by seven.
While the Kansas basketball team has seen an Elite Eight and championship appearances since 2008, Memphis has been less successful only making it to the Sweet 16 once.
Additionally, all the wins by Memphis in 2008 were vacated due to eligibility issues with Derrick Rose. So maybe it’s a good thing Mario Chalmers hit that shot. After all, that National Championship banner hung in Memphis wouldn’t have lasted too long.
(AP Photo/Eric Gay)
6: 1998 The Coach’s kid
Bryce Drew practiced shooting a last-second three every day in practice during Valparaiso’s 1998 season. In their first round tournament game against #4 Ole Miss, Valpo would finally get a chance to perform what they so tirelessly practiced.
The Southeastern Conference West champions were ready to take down small town Valpo and move on to a better opponent in the later rounds. But we have heard this story time and time again in March. Valpo stuck with Ole Miss the whole way, setting themselves up for one of the greatest plays in college basketball history.
With just 2.5 seconds remaining and Valparaiso trailing by 2, Jamie Sykes heaved a ball the length of the court only to find Bill Jenkins who delivered a perfect pass to a trailing Bryce Drew who knocked down the biggest shot of his life.
One of the things that makes this play special in my mind is the celebration afterward. The kids absolutely pummel Bryce Drew after he made his shot. And that is what March Madness is all about. Upsets making kids so excited that they literally maul their own teammates.
As Bryce emerged from the pile, he was greeted by Coach Drew, his father. While Valpo only won one more game that year in the tournament, they solidified their position in the minds of fans as one of the most memorable plays in college basketball history.
(AP Photo/John Gaps III)
5: 1980 Ulysses “U.S.” Reed
Ulysses “U.S.” Reed is known for having one of the most American nicknames in the history of nicknames and hitting a half court buzzer beater to take down favorite Louisville in the 1981 NCAA tournament.
After taking down Mercer University in the first round, Arkansas was matched up against Louisville who were the defending national champs. With six seconds to go, the Razorbacks were down by one and needed a miracle. Reed received the ball on the opposite free throw line, before dribbling towards the right sideline, crossing over between two defenders going back towards the sideline and throwing up a Hail Mary before time expired.
The half-court shot is something every kid aspiring to be a college basketball player practices. The shooting percentage on this type of shot is typically pretty low. But Reed made it when it mattered most and on the biggest stage in college basketball. The Razorbacks ended up losing to LSU the following game. But this shot will forever go down in NCAA tournament history as one of the most difficult buzzer beaters ever.
4: 1990 Tate George
In the 1990 NCAA tournament, the #1 ranked UCONN Huskies came out firing, beating their first two opponents by an average of 22 points. The first real test really came in the Sweet 16 as they faced a tough-nosed Clemson team.
As the second half was concluding, the game was coming down to the wire. After a Clemson bucket with just 1.0 second left, the Huskies tournament hopes seemed all but gone. UCONN had to take the ball out on the opposite baseline. But that’s when Tate George made one of the most athletic plays ever.
As Scott Burrell heaved an 85 foot pass praying one of his teammates would come up with it, Tate George came out of nowhere, grabbed the pass, spun, and shot.
This shot by George put a stop to a 19-point comeback by Clemson, the biggest of their season. Unfortunately for the Huskies, they would play the Duke Blue Devils next, where Christian Laettner would hit a buzzer beater of his own (#17 on this list), stopping the UCONN Huskies dead in their tracks.
(Photo By: Clarence Sheppard/NY Daily News via Getty Images)
3: 1992 James Forrest’s first career 3-ball
Georgia Tech beating USC in the round of 32 was perhaps one of the most surprising things to happen in the history of college basketball. Georgia Tech needed the stars to align if they even wanted a shot at winning this one, and boy did they.
Coach Bobby Cremins led the Yellow Jackets to a 23-12 record that landed them a #7 seed, where they faced off against the heavily favored USC Trojans in the round of 32. They were able to hang around for most of the game until Rodney Chatman hit a shot with 2 seconds remaining giving USC a two point advantage. Georgia Tech had to travel the length of the floor and make any shot in order to keep their tournament hopes alive against USC.
After a pass was deflected out of bounds, leaving 0.8 seconds left, the Yellow Jackets inbounded the ball at half court. Matt Geiger was the in-bounder and as the referee handed him the ball, he could not find one of his guards to pass it to. So, to avoid the five-second violation, he threw the ball to forward James Forrest at the three point line. Mind you, Forrest had only attempted three, 3-point shots that year and had not found the bottom of the net on any of them. But as the clock hit zero and he released his shot, the ball sailed through the air and swished for 3 points.
This game will forever go down in the history of NCAA basketball as one of the all-time greats. It had all the proper elements: a David vs. Goliath story, back and forth scoring, and an unlikely hero that saved the day. USC fans to this day cannot believe Forrest made that shot. And I’m sure there is a certain disbelief in the mind of Forrest as well.
(AP Photo/Leita Cowart)
2: 1983 Alley-oop
The Houston Cougars were by far the best team in college basketball in 1983. Led by future NBA legends, Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon, Houston beat teams by an average of 18 points that year.
They were met in the National Championship game by the #6 seed NC State.
The game was tied with 45 seconds left, when Coach Valvano told NC State guard, Dereck Whittenburg to run the clock out. But after a broken play that eventually caused Whittenburg to receive the ball 40 feet from the basket with mere seconds remaining, the guard lobbed the ball up only to fall two feet short. Luckily, Lorenzo Charles had escaped the box out of Olajuwon, leaving him uncontested for the alley-oop dunk as time expired.
What makes this play so great is the fact that it was a complete accident, yet looked so smooth. An alley-oop pass that was way before its time. We see this all the time in the NBA and college in today’s basketball games. But in 1983, it was virtually non-existent. Then to do it on the last play of a National Championship game to upset a #1 seed that produced some of the NBA’s finest players makes it even more impressive.
1: 1992 The Shot
We all know “The Shot.” The famous full court pass from Grant Hill to Christian Laettner for Duke to topple Kentucky. Perhaps one of the most memorable moments in all of sports is Christian Laettner running down the court with arms extended and fists clenched after he hit the fade away jumper.
But why is this the most memorable shot in all of the rich history of March Madness?
Maybe because it was beginning of a perfect end to Christian Laettner’s amazing career at Duke totaling 2,460 points (third all time) and 1,149 rebounds. Or maybe it had something to do with the way in which it was done.
But in all honesty, it is most likely the feeling you get when you watch the clip of Laettner catching that ball at the free throw line, spinning on his pivot foot and nailing the jumper. Because as sports fans, we don’t remember the stat lines, offensive sets, or even sometimes the names of players. We remember the excitement we feel as the ball is released from the underdog’s hand. Or the surprise as a half-court shot rattles around the rim and drops to win the game. And Christian Laettner’s shot at the end of regulation encapsulates this feeling, making it the most memorable buzzer beater in the history of March madness.
(AP Photo/Carol Francavilla)
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WILDCATS SEEK REDEMPTION
Villanova wants to shed its reputation as an NCAA Tournament underachiever.
The Wildcats were a No. 1 seed last season and a No. 2 seed in 2014 but lost in the round of 32 both years. They're a No. 2 seed in the South Region and face UNC Asheville on Friday at Brooklyn, New York.
Villanova hasn't advanced beyond the tournament's first weekend since reaching the Final Four in 2009.
"We can't really harp on the past so much," Villanova forward Daniel Ochefu said. "I think we've done a great job of eliminating that from our memories."
Apparently all it takes for Oregon State to reach the NCAA Tournament is to have a Gary Payton on the roster.
Oregon State will play its first NCAA Tournament game since 1990 when the Beavers face VCU at Oklahoma City. That 1989-90 Oregon State team featured Hall of Fame guard Gary Payton.
Payton's son, Oregon State senior Gary Payton II, is the only Division I player to average at least 15.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 5 assists and 2.5 steals per game. Payton said his dad will attend Friday and has given him some advice on what to expect.
"He just told me just to play my game, don't let everything outside the court get to me," Payton said. "It's going to be a little crazy, a little havoc just because our program hasn't been here in a while and we're getting back here for the first time. So he said just treat it like a regular game, any other ordinary game."
Yale's upset of Baylor and Texas Tech's loss to Butler on Thursday continued the recent NCAA Tournament struggles of teams from the state of Texas.
No schools from Texas won any NCAA Tournament games last season, according to STATS LLC. Texas, Baylor, Texas Southern, SMU and Stephen F. Austin all went one-and-done last year. Baylor and Texas Tech both fell to lower-seeded teams Thursday.
Three more Lone Star State schools play Friday. Stephen F. Austin faces West Virginia, Texas A&M takes on Green Bay and Texas meets Northern Iowa.
DRINK UP, TONY! (BUT ONLY FROM AN NCAA-APPROVED CUP)
The top priority for Virginia between now and Saturday has to be making sure coach Tony Bennett drinks plenty of water.
In the only thing resembling a scare for the Cavaliers in their first-round 81-45 rout of Hampton, Bennett collapsed in the final minute of the first half. Bennett said after the game he "blacked out" and became light-headed due to dehydration.
Bennett wound up being well enough to coach the second half and was a good sport about it afterward, with forward Anthony Gill saying he prayed for his coach, then joking that "I healed him."
The Cavaliers will need Bennett at his lubricated best Saturday when they figure to get more of a test from ninth-seeded Butler in the second round.
HE SAID IT
The most interesting postgame press conference exchange of the tournament's opening day came when a reporter asked Baylor's Taurean Prince how Yale had out-rebounded the Bears.
Prince's response: "Um, you go up and grab the ball off the rim when it comes off, and then you grab it with two hands, and you come down with it, and that's considered a rebound. So they got more of those than we did."