At the end of the NCAA tournament, college basketball crowns its national champion. Yet, before that one team overcomes the odds, staves off elimination, and cuts down the net, fans of the game will most likely bare witness to a new crop of individual heroes whose performances will become the talk of the town. Whether they’re scoring by the boatloads or rising to the moment, these players will capture the hearts of fans. And if any of them happen to knock down a big shot at the buzzer, well, then history will certainly remember their names.
There are few things in college basketball more exciting than watching a player put the ball in the bucket as the clock strikes zero — that’s right Northern Iowa, we were hyped on your game winner even though it shattered our bracket. Throughout its history, the NCAA tournament has seen its fair share of buzzer beaters.
5. Georgia Tech’s unlikely hero
With just 0.8 seconds left to play in their Midwest second-round clash against the No. 2 seed USC Trojans, it appeared as if No. 7 seed Georgia Tech’s run in the 1992 NCAA tournament was about to come to an end. As the Yellow Jackets prepared to take the ball out of bounds, all they could do was hope for a miracle. Which is exactly what happened when Tech’s James Forrest caught the inbounds pass and fired a turnaround three that hit nothing but net, giving the underdog a 79-78 victory. Talk about the perfect time for Forrest to knock down his first triple of the season.
4. Reed sinks the defending champs
Despite keeping the game close against the defending champion Louisville Cardinals, the Arkansas Razorbacks found themselves with the ball, trailing by one with three seconds left to play and the clock winding down in the Midwest Regional second round of the 1981 tournament. However, just when coach Eddie Sutton and the rest of the Razorbacks thought all hope was lost, U.S. Reed launched a buzzer-beating prayer from half-court that magically dropped through the bucket, giving Arkansas an improbable 74-73 upset victory. And just like that, March Madness was born.
3. Bryce Drew comes through
It was a play that the Valparaiso Crusaders had practiced before. And based on the outcome of their first-round showdown against the Ole Miss Rebels in the 1998 NCAA tournament, it’s clear that practice did make perfect. Down 69-67 with 2.5 seconds left to play, Valpo had the ball and was set to inbound from under its own basket. Then it happened: After a quick pump, Jamie Sykes launched the ball past mid-court, Bill Jenkins jumped up, caught it, and flipped it over to Bryce Drew — a three for the win … BANG. That’s how a No. 13 seed knocks off a No. 4 seed.
2. Tyus Edney goes coast to coast
College basketball enthusiasts know that the 1994-95 UCLA Bruins were crowned national champions. However, with 4.8 seconds left in their second-round clash against the Missouri Tigers, that outcome seemed highly unlikely. That was until point guard Tyus Edney decided to save the day.
Down 74-73, Edney took the inbounds pass, went coast to coast — putting the ball behind his back for good measure — and banked in the game-winning layup in traffic at the buzzer. From that point on, it became even more clear that no one was going to prevent the Bruins from capturing the game’s biggest prize.
1. “The Shot”
For the 1991-92 Duke Blue Devils, a chance at back-to-back national championships appeared to be slipping away. Down 103-102 to the Kentucky Wildcats with 2.1 seconds left to play in overtime in the East Regional final, the Blue Devils had the ball under their own basket and one shot to make something happen. And boy, did they ever.
Grant Hill launched a perfect inbounds pass which was caught by Christian Laettner at the free throw line. With his back to the basket, Laettner juked right, took one dribble, turned, and fired a shot at the buzzer. Nothing but net. Tears, pandemonium, and a 104-103 win for the Duke Blue Devils. History was made in that moment. And “The Shot” continues to remain the stuff of legends.
Statistics courtesy of SR/College Basketball.