March Madness is defined by buzzer-beaters.
The sound alone is the selling point for the NCAA Tournament. The ball going up. The horn going off. The reaction from the players, coaches and crowd (on both sides) when that ball goes in. It’s amazing every time you see it and will never get old.
MORE: Sporting News’ March Madness Center
Christian Laettner. Kris Jenkins. Lorenzo Charles. These are the buzzer-beaters you think of first when March Madness rolls around — but not the only ones.
Sporting News ranked the best buzzer-beating shots in the NCAA Tournament. These are the shots that define March Madness. Watch all the clips. Relive these moments. And let’s hope we add a few more to the list this year.
24. Troy Caupain, Cincinnati
Matchup: No. 8 Cincinnati vs. No. 9 Purdue (2015 first round)
At the buzzer: The Bearcats trailed 59-57 with 7.4 seconds left before Caupain raced the length of the floor for a layup as time expired to send the game into overtime. The Bearcats won 66-65.
Best part: How slowly the ball spins around the rim. As SN’s Mike DeCourcy — who was at the game — puts it, “It looked for a moment like it might hang on that flat spot forever.”
23. Adam Woodbury, Iowa
Matchup: No. 7 Iowa vs. No. 10 (2016 first round)
At the buzzer: Iowa and Temple were knotted at 70 in overtime. The Hawkeyes had the last possession when Mike Gesell launched a shot from the corner in the final seconds. Woodbury came up with a two-handed tip for the victory.
Best part: Did he push off? Not on game point.
22. Don Reid, Georgetown
Matchup: No. 6 Georgetown vs. No. 14 Weber State (1995 second round)
At the buzzer: Georgetown was tied at 51 with Weber State with 7.4 seconds remaining when Allen Iverson launched a desperation leaner in the final seconds. Don Reid grabbed the shot in the midair and redirected it into the basket to give the Hoyas a trip to the Sweet 16.
Best part: The tip-in itself. Reid’s body control is amazing.
21. Matt Howard, Butler
Matchup: No. 8 Butler vs. No. 9 Old Dominion (2011 first round)
At the buzzer: Old Dominion gave national runner-up Butler all it wanted in the first round of the tournament, but they didn’t box out on the final possession, which Howard put back in at the buzzer to give the Bulldogs a 60-58 victory.
Best part: Howard’s quick reaction from the foul line to get to the basketball. That helped the Bulldogs reach their second NCAA championship game in as many years.
20. Danero Thomas, Murray State
Matchup: No. 4 Vanderbilt vs. No. 13 Murray State (2010 first round)
At the buzzer: The Racers trailed 65-64 with 4.2 seconds left before an under-the-basket inbounds pass. Thomas got the ball, took one dribble and swished the game-winning jumper.
Best part: The action around Thomas before the game winner. He was not bothered at all.
19. Korie Lucious, Michigan State
Matchup: No. 4 Maryland vs. No. 5 Michigan State (2010 second round)
At the buzzer: Maryland took an 83-82 lead on Michigan State in the final seconds. Instead of opting for a timeout, Draymond Green took the ball for the Spartans. He passed to Lucious, who drilled the game-winning 3-pointer. Michigan State used that shot to make a run to the Final Four.
Best part: The quick pump fake before the shot. Lucious stayed calm the whole way through.
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18. Mike Miller, Florida
Matchup: No. 5 Florida vs. No. 12 Butler (2000 first round)
At the buzzer: Butler led Florida 68-67 with 7.7 seconds left. Teddy Dupay dribbled down the floor before passing to Miller, who hit an off-balance leaner between Bulldog defenders at the buzzer. The Gators would make a run to the national championship game.
Best part: Miller is almost touching the floor when the shot goes off.
17. Bronson Koenig, Wisconsin
Matchup: No. 2 Xavier vs. No. 7 Wisconsin (2016 second round)
At the buzzer: The Badgers and Musketeers were tied at 63 with two seconds left when Koenig wheeled around the right baseline before shooting a fadeaway 3-pointer in the corner. It swished for a 66-63 victory to the send the Badgers to the Sweet 16.
Best part: Koenig hit the shot in front of his own bench, which made for an easy celebration.
16. Drew Nicholas, Maryland
Matchup: No. 6 Maryland vs. No. 11 UNC-Wilmington (2003 first round)
At the buzzer: The Terps trailed 73-72 to UNC-Wilmington with five seconds left before Nicholas dribbled to the three-point line and launched a fade-away 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded. The senior nailed it for a 75-73 victory. Maryland would make the Sweet 16.
Best part: Nicholas heading down the tunnel after making the shot.
15. Ty Rogers, Western Kentucky
Matchup: No. 5 Drake vs. No. 12 Western Kentucky (2008 first round)
At the buzzer: WKU and Drake played an overtime thriller, and the Hilltoppers trailed 99-98 with 5.7 seconds left. That’s when Tyrone Brazelton raced down the floor before pitching back to Rogers, who drilled the 26-footer for a 101-99 victory.
Best part: It’s a lot like the play Villanova would use in the NCAA championship game against North Carolina in 2016 (which might be on this list a little later).
14. Kenton Paulino, Texas
Matchup: No. 2 Texas vs. No. 6 West Virginia (2006 Sweet 16)
At the buzzer: West Virginia’s Kevin Pittsnogle drilled a game-tying 3-pointer with five seconds remaining, but Paulino answered with a long-range 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded to give the Longhorns the victory.
Best part: John Beilein’s stoic reaction to the bang-bang 3-pointers to end the game. That’s OK. He had a different reaction on the next buzzer-beater on this list.
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13. Jordan Poole, Michigan
Matchup: No. 3 Michigan vs. No. 6 Houston (2018 second round)
At the buzzer: Houston led 63-61 with 3.6 seconds left when Isaiah Livers ripped a pass to Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman at half court. Rahkman passed to Poole, who swished a 30-footer at the buzzer. Michigan used that run to make their second Final Four under Beilein.
Best part: Poole’s scissor kick and Beilein’s affirmation that the freshman had an “overdose of swag.”
12. Chris Chiozza, Florida
Matchup: No. 4 Florida vs. No. 8 Wisconsin (2017 Sweet 16)
At the buzzer: The Gators trailed Wisconsin 83-81 with five seconds left, when Chiozza tumbled down the court before launching an off-balance 3-pointer. It went in and sent the Gators to the Elite Eight.
Best part: The rainbow trajectory of the 3-pointer. You knew it was going in, somehow, when it left Chiozza’s hand.
11. James Forrest, Georgia Tech
Matchup: No. 2 USC vs. No. 7 Georgia Tech (1992 second round)
At the buzzer: The Yellow Jackets trailed 78-76 with 0.8 seconds left, and Forrest called for the ball after a botched inbounds play. He catches and launches the 3 over two USC defenders.
Best part: Forrest clapping his hands calling for the ball and the celebration afterward. It doesn’t get much better than that.
10. Richard Hamilton, UConn
Matchup: No. 2 UConn vs. No. 11 Washington (1998 Sweet 16)
At the buzzer: Washington led 74-73 on the game’s final possession, but Khalid El-Amin dished to Jake Voskuhl, who missed a shot in the lane. Hamilton missed too, but the ball was tipped back and forth several times in the final seconds. He grabbed the ball and nailed a fadeaway at the buzzer for the victory.
Best part: Hamilton sliding well past the 3-point line after the ball falls through the hoop.
9. Tate George, UConn
Matchup: No. 1 UConn vs. No. 5 Clemson (1990 Sweet 16)
At the buzzer: Clemson led UConn 70-69 with one second remaining when Scott Burrell heaved a full-court pass to George, who caught the ball on the right baseline for a desperation shot that fell at the buzzer.
Best part: The quick-fire shot. How did George get that off in one second? Unfortunately for the Huskies, this isn’t even the best buzzer-beater from The Meadowlands that weekend. The next one is.
8. Christian Laettner, Duke
Matchup: No. 1 UConn vs. No. 3 Duke (1990 Elite Eight)
At the buzzer: UConn led Duke 73-72 in overtime in the same regional, but Laettner took a quick pass off his own inbound, double-pumped and buried a jumper that sent the Blue Devils to the Final Four. Duke would make the first of three straight NCAA championship games.
Best part: This isn’t even Laettner’s best tournament buzzer-beater — but you already knew that.
7. Paul Jesperson, Northern Iowa
Matchup: No. 11 Northern Iowa vs. No. 6 Texas (2016 first round)
At the buzzer: Texas tied the score with 2.7 seconds remaining. Instead of opting for timeout, Jesperson split two defenders before launching a half-court shot, which banked in for a 75-72 victory.
Best part: Did he call bank?
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6. U.S. Reed, Arkansas
Matchup: No. 4 Louisville vs. No. 5 Arkansas (1981 second round)
At the buzzer: Reed took an inbound pass to half court before launching a desperation heave that gave Arkansas a 74-73 victory over defending national champion Louisville.
Best part: It was seen as part of a live cut-in on the television broadcast. Which is better: Bryant Gumbel’s flawless transition, or the horn going off for at least 15 seconds? This was part of a day when NBC showed this, No. 1 seed DePaul losing to St. Joe’s and Kansas State knocking off Oregon State on a jumper by Rolando Blackman. In other words, it introduced the world to “March Madness.”
5. Tyus Edney, UCLA
Matchup: No. 1 UCLA vs. No. 8 Missouri (1995 second round)
At the buzzer: The Bruins trailed Missouri 75-74 with 4.8 seconds remaining when Edney raced coast-to-coast for a layup at the buzzer. UCLA went on to beat defending national champion Arkansas 89-78 to win the national championship.
Best part: The behind-the-back dribble at midcourt Edney uses to seamlessly switch directions before delivering the game-winning basket.
4. Bryce Drew, Valparaiso
Matchup: No. 4 Ole Miss vs. No. 13 Valparaiso (1998 first round)
At the buzzer: Valpo trailed Ole Miss 69-67 with 2.5 seconds left. Jamie Sykes threw a three-quarter-court pass to Bill Jenkins, who perfectly timed another midair pass to Drew in transition. It set up for a magnificent, game-winning 3-pointer.
Best part: The precision of the passing. It’s the ultimate out-of-bounds play.
3. Lorenzo Charles, N.C. State
Matchup: No. 6 N.C. State vs. No. 1 Houston (1983 NCAA championship)
At the buzzer: With the score tied at 52 in the final seconds against Houston, N.C. State’s Dereck Whittenburg launched a deep jumpshot — which Lorenzo Charles plucked out of the air behind Akeem Olajuwon — and dunked for the game-winning basket.
Best part: Jim Valvano running around The Pit afterward looking for someone to hug.
2. Kris Jenkins, Villanova
Matchup: No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 2 Villanova (2016 NCAA championship)
At the buzzer: The Wildcats were tied with North Carolina with 4.1 seconds remaining thanks to an incredibly clutch shot by UNC’s Marcus Paige. Villanova guard Ryan Arcidiacono raced down the floor before flipping back to Jenkins, who shot the game-winning 3-pointer for a 77-74 victory.
Best part: The explosions and confetti, which clinched Villanova’s first championship since 1985.
1. Christian Laettner, Duke
Matchup: No. 1 Duke vs. No. 2 Kentucky (1992 Elite Eight)
At the buzzer: Duke trailed by one to Kentucky. Grant Hill delivered a full-court pass to Laettner, who hit a turn-around jumper at the buzzer to give the Blue Devils the 104-103 overtime victory in one of the greatest games — if not the greatest game — ever played. Duke went on to win the second of back-to-back national championships.
Best part: Take your pick. The pass. The shot. Verne Lundquist belting out, “Yessss!” The fact Laettner finished 10 of 10 from the field and 10 of 10 from the line says it all. This is the perfect “10” of buzzer-beaters, and the shot that best defines March Madness.
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