During March Madness, the excitement level and hype surrounding games is only amplified by 50. So when a player does fulfill that dream of knocking down a buzzer-beater three, it truly is something special.
28 buzzer beaters march madness
Counting down the 28 most memorable buzzer beaters in March Madness history
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)
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)
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)
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)
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Of course, there are the classics. Bryce Drew hitting a game-winning three off of the play that his dad set up for him. Ulyssess "U.S." Reed making a half court shot to win the National title. And, of course, Christian Laettners' turn-around jumper to beat Kentucky to win his second consecutive national title.
But what makes a buzzer beater most memorable? Is it the roar of the crowd? Or perhaps it is the celebration of the athletes after the ball falls through the net. Whatever it is, 28 buzzer beater shots have been made in March Madness history that stick out more than any others.