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March Madness: Ranking the top-11 men's NCAA Tournament buzzer-beaters

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The madness of March: It’s as exhilarating as it is exhausting,as mesmerizing as it is memorable. The abrupt ending of an entirecareer, a legacy defined in two to three seconds. It almost seemsunfair, but that’s the beauty of the win-or-go-hometournament.

Every game is a Game 7. The unpredictability, the passion, thetears, the celebration. The NCAA Tournament is one of the fewsporting events that’s more defined by the incomparable upsets thanthe eventual champion.

Even non-basketball fans get in on the fun each year, withoffice pools and bracket challenges. While college sports andamateurism are under a drastic transformation, “The Tournament”still has a nostalgic feel to it. The incredible buzzer-beaters areone of the many reasons why.

Narrowing this list down was a tall task, so before we getstarted, it’s important that we establish the criteria:

It has to be a game-winning or game-tying shotin the final seconds.It has to be in the “modern era” (i.e. since thethree-point line and shot clock).The later in the tournament, the higher thestakes, the more the shot means.

With that being said, here are the 11 most memorablebuzzer-beaters in modern men's NCAA Tournament history.

11. Michigan State vs. Maryland, Korie Lucious (2010Second Round)

In one of the rare times Tom Izzo didn’t call timeout in thewaning seconds of a game, it paid off for him big time. You mightrecognize that big fella bringing the ball up the court; that’s aslightly heavier Draymond Green, doing what he’s been doing for thelast decade in the Bay, pushing the tempo, drawing attention andthen getting the ball to a knockdown shooter.

Maryland never properly matched up, and Korie Lucious onlyneeded one rhythm dribble to send the Spartans to the SweetSixteen.

10. Wisconsin vs. Xavier, Bronson Koenig (2016 SecondRound)

The Musketeers had the ball in a tie game but turned it over,which led to one of the smoothest walk-off game-winners you willever see.

Looking like he was in the gym shooting all by himself,All-Big-Ten guard Bronson Koenig caught the ball on the sideline,smartly took an escape dribble and hit the corner three that sentthe Badgers to the Sweet Sixteen.

9. Connecticut vs. Washington, Richard Hamilton (1998Sweet Sixteen)

This entire sequence was amazing. I love how the refs swallowedtheir whistle on the first two attempts. Those may have been foulcalls earlier in the game, but not with the championship on theline. Washington had a huge frontline that year, but ultimatelyended up one rebound short.

Also, this is good coaching by Hall-of-Famer Jim Calhoun. Incollege, you have to go early because the opposing team cannotadvance the ball to halfcourt with a timeout, so there’s no pointin waiting too long and eliminating the chance of getting anoffensive rebound.

Rip Hamilton would go on to win both an NCAA championship andNBA championship with the Detroit Pistons.

8.Valparaiso vs. Ole Miss, Bryce Drew (1998 FirstRound)

This is definitely the most schematic of any buzzer-beaters onthis list. The son of the coach coming through in the clutch seemsperfectly scripted for a Disney movie.

As with most of these incredible shots, it involves missed freethrows and an underrated pass. The defense on this play wasphenomenal (which can’t be said for another historic shot thatwe’ll get to in a bit).

7. Michigan vs. Houston, Jordan Poole (2018 SecondRound)

Long before he was a spark plug off the bench for theworld-champion Golden State Warriors, Jordan Poole was hitting bigshots in Ann Arbor. He drove Coach John Beilein crazy with his shotselection, but one of the reasons he earned such a long leash washis uncanny ability to hit shots from anywhere and at anyangle.

6. UCLA vs. Mizzou, Tyus Edney (1995 SecondRound)

Every national champion has one of “those” games where despitehaving the superior roster, they probably should have lost. TheBruins were loaded! This roster featured eight guys who eventuallyplayed in the NBA. But the longer the game stays close, the morethe pressure shifts to the No. 1 seed.

5. Michigan vs. Kansas, Trey Burke (2013 SweetSixteen)

In 2013, Trey Burke was named the National Player of the Yearand he carried the Wolverines all season long. The debate ofwhether to foul when up three points is for another column, butthis was a Damian-Lillard-range three, and no one wants to risk afoul that far from the basket.

4. Kansas vs. Memphis, Mario Chalmers (2008 NCAAChampionship Game)

Mario Chalmers is a legend in Lawrence for as long as he lives.The Memphis Tigers were led by soon-to-be-first-overall-pickDerrick Rose and the silky smooth Chris Douglas-Roberts, and theyhad the game won until – and stop me if you have read this before –crucial free-throw misses opened the door for Kansas. This allowedChalmers to force overtime, and the rest is history.

Coach Cal has gone on to win a national championship atKentucky, but I bet if you caught him in a hotel bar on arecruiting trip, he would admit that he should have fouled Kansasbefore Chalmers even had the opportunity to hoist up this miraclethree-point attempt.

3. Gonzaga vs. UCLA, Jalen Suggs (2021 FinalFour)

Gonzaga truly seemed like a team of destiny after Jalen Suggshit the running bank shot against UCLA to remain undefeated andadvance to the national championship game. While they wouldultimately fall to Baylor two days later, the shot wasridiculous.

And unlike many of the plays on this list, UCLA didn’t really doanything wrong. They didn’t miss a free throw or look confused ondefense. They lost on a straight-in bank from half-court, whicheven seemed to cause Gonzaga head coach Mark Few to feel a bitguilty.

2. Duke vs. Kentucky, Christian Laettner (1992 EliteEight)

Kentucky fans, look away. Hate him or really hate him, ChristianLaettner was one of the greatest college players ofall-time.

This game was one for the ages. Duke was the defending nationalchampion. They were led by the aforementioned Laettner,All-American pest/point guard Bobby Hurley and buddingsuperstar/future Hall-of-Famer Grant HIll.

Somewhat lost in the dramatic ending is the fact that Laettnerwas literally perfect on the night. He shot 10-of-10 from the fieldand 10-of-10 from the free-throw line, and he finished with a stateline of 31 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals.

1. Villanova vs. UNC, Kris Jenkins (2016 NCAAChampionship Game)

The dream of all dreams. This is the scenario that every boy orgirl who has ever played basketball at any level has imaginedhundreds of times. A few seconds left. The ball in your hands. Atitle on the line. Three, two, one… You drill the game-winner andbecome a champion.

On April 4, 2016, Kris Jenkins turned this dream into reality.The timing is an underrated aspect of this play. The pass was righton time, and right on target – soft and chest-high. This letJenkins shoot in rhythm – a shot that he had made thousands oftimes before. You gotta love how Jay Wright showed the emotion ofJohn Wick as he walked to shake Roy Williams’ hand.

HONORABLE MENTION

Connecticut vs. Clemson, Tate George (1990 SweetSixteen)

Duke vs. Connecticut, Christian Laettner (1990 EliteEight)

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