“Once again it’s on” – Ice Cube
It is that time a year once again, where marriages get strained, less work is accomplished (for those lucky enough to be employed), and the girl at work who could careless about sports, let alone college basketball, wins the office pool because she likes a certain teams colors. It’s all about crazy upsets, putting chores off till monday, and Gus Johnson losing his mind live on air. What could be better than this?
Like with all of the top 11 lists I had to set up a criteria choosing the 11 best NCAA tournament buzzer beaters . It had to be a game winner, not a game tying shot. So Mario Chalmers vs. Memphis a few years back that forced overtime did not make the list. It had to be in the actual tournament game. And lastly it had to be the final shot taken in the game (See Indiana vs. Syracuse.). MIchael Jordan vs. Georgetown did not make it for that very same reason. After he hit the game clinching shot the Hoyas turned the ball over and James Worthy sealed the deal at the free throw line.
Ranking the buzzer beaters was also tough as well due to the fact that there are so many fantastic moments through out the NCAA tournaments glorious history. So I took into account the importance of the game (national championship or led to one), the game itself (how exciting it was) and the player themselves making the shot. As always I am sure we will all agree on some and disagree on others.
To the list: (It should be noted that some video is not available i.e. Mike Miller vs. Butler or Laettner vs U Conn.)
1. Christian Laettner vs. Kentucky:
Regardless of how much I despise the Blue Devils and everything they stand for, there is no denying how great of a moment this was in college history. Yes, Pitino should have had someone defending Grant Hill as he inbounded the ball, but you have to respect Laettner’s composure in such a pressure filled moment. Duke was the #1 team in the country and trying to repeat as national champions. Instead of rushing an off balance shot, he took his time, made a shoulder fake and knocked down the turnaround jumper:
2. N.C. State vs. Houston:
What a pass! Yeah right, this was the hail mary of jump shots. Hakeem, who went by Akeem then, who was one of the greatest shot blockers in NCAA history, simply stood by as his heavily favored Houston Cougars (Psi Slamma Jamma) lost to the N.C. State Wolfpack. Who can forget Jimmy V (RIP) running in circles looking for someone to hug?
3. Keith Smart vs. Syracuse:
This technically isn’t a “buzzer beater” but it is one of the most memorable game winners in NCAA tournament history. Notice after the Syracuse timeout, Smart steals the inbound pass, and Sherman Douglass (the best alley oop thrower of all time) tries to trip him. After the game I vividly remember Bobby Knight barely giving any props to Smart, ushering him out of the way to instead praising Steve Alford after the victory.
4. Bryce Drew vs. Mississippi:
What a great play design, what a great moment, what great madness. Who can forget the scene of Bryce Drew diving on to the floor after hitting the game winner vs. Mississippi and his teammates swarming on top of him. Unless you are a Rebel’s fan this is why you love March madness so much.
5. Tyus Edney vs. Missouri:
Was this great offense or horrendous defense? Either way, Tyus Edney heroics saved UCLA’s national championship with a running floater that broke Missouri’s heart.
6. Danny Ainge vs. Notre Dame:
Danny Ainge, currently the Boston Celtics general manager who insists upon trading away his best player (Rajan Rondo), but long before that he was an annoying Celtic guard, and even before that he was a star player at BYU. Watch here as he goes right around another future NBA champion John Paxson and leads the Cougars on to the next round:
7. James Forrest vs. USC:
If you look closely you can see, Harold – Baby Jordan – Minor on the court, as Forrest, an All American power forward for Ga. Tech, hits what would be his first three point shot of the season: (The late great Al Mcguire on the call):
8. Rip Hamilton vs Washington:
It took 3 different shots but after a couple unlucky bounces Richard Rip Hamilton (pre mask) hit the fall away jumper and let the country know his name. One of the best part about this clip is seeing the chubby former Huskie point guard Khalid El-Amin again. He was the original Raymond Felton:
9. Tate George vs. Clemson:
Talk about a blast form a past, former UConn shooting guard Tate George ran the post corner route like Randy Moss and hit a turnaround jumper against the Elden Campbell led Clemson Tigers as the horn sounded. This was one of the wins that helped Jim Calhoun build Connecticut into the dominant program that it is today. Ironically the Huskies lost the next game on a Christian Laettner off balance buzzer beater.
10. Matt Howard vs. Old Dominion:
For Butler University to make the championship game of the NCAA tournament back to back years, it took, great talent, great coaching, and lucky bounce or two. Here Matt Howard, the ultra hustle player, did what he did best, never giving up on the play and getting the shot off just in time:
11. Korie Lucious vs Mayrland:
What made this a great shot was, the possession before Vasquez for Maryland just hit what looked to be the game winner on an off balance runner in the lane. Draymond Green smartly pushed the ball up the court and had the presence of mind, even though he is a power forward, to not force a wild shot and look for a shooter. Lucious demonstrated great poise as well and used the shot fake to create a little space and in perfect rhythm rise up and take what turned out to be a pure jumper. Sparty on.