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Sam Richmond | | February 8, 2016

March Madness: Most dramatic finishes from NCAA tournament games this decade

  Aaron Harrison helped Kentucky topple Wisconsin in the 2014 tournament with an incredible 3.

There's nothing quite like March Madness.

It creates the most incredible, unpredictable and dramatic moments of them all, and that’s why we love it.

So let’s take a quick trip down memory lane and relive the best NCAA tournament finishes from this decade (2010-2015).

2010 Round of 32: (9) Northern Iowa vs. (1)Kansas

Ali Farokhmanesh’s game-sealing 3-pointer vs. Kansas will go down as one of the ultimate did-that-really-just-happen moments in NCAA tournament history. Up a point with the ball and time running down, one would have expected the Panthers to run down the clock as much as possible. Farokhmanesh had other ideas, launching a three-pointer with 30 seconds left on the shot clock. Splash. Northern Iowa hung on, and Farokhmanesh is now a March Madness legend.


2010 Sweet 16:  (6) Xavier vs. (2) Kansas State

Words can’t even do this game justice, so let’s keep this brief. Clutch shots. A lot of them. Now watch.


2010 championship game: (5) Butler vs. (1) Duke

Brad Stevens’ Bulldogs looked finished. They trailed by five with two minutes left and hadn’t made a field goal in more than seven minutes against a Coach K-led Duke team. But Matt Howard sparked Butler, and the Bulldogs had a chance to take the lead on a Gordon Hayward fadeaway jumper attempt with under 10 seconds to go. It missed, but Hayward would have another chance to help Butler claim its first national title. With his team now trailing by two, the future Utah Jazz star had a great look on a halfcourt shot at the buzzer. It again missed, but it sure seemed like it was going in on first watch. The Butler comeback, the hectic final possessions and the close half-court shot attempt with a title on the line make this one to remember.


2011 Round of 64: (13) Morehead State vs. (4) Louisville

March Madness buzzer beaters are always awesome, but they’re especially great when they feature an underdog toppling a powerhouse. Morehead State, out of the Ohio Valley Conference, trailed Louisville by two with the shot clock off in the first round of the 2011 tournament. Instead of playing for the safe two. Demonte Harper, who had been 0-5 from 3-point land heading into the possession, decided to let it rip from beyond the arc with seconds left. Ballgame.


2011 Round of 32: (8) Butler vs. (1) Pittsburgh

Just about every finish on this list was made dramatic as a result of great play down the stretch. This here is the outlier. This finish was simply insane. Case in point: Butler took a one-point lead on a layup with 2.2 seconds to go and the craziness hadn’t even begun yet. Butler followed up its potential game-winning score by unbelievably fouling Pittsburgh at half court on the Panthers' last-second effort to win the game. A boneheaded mistake that would cost Butler the game, right? Nope. Pittsburgh made the first free throw, missed the second and then promptly fouled Butler with .8 seconds left under its own basket in a tie game. Yes, this actually happened. Matt Howard hit the one free-throw that mattered and Butler won, rounding out one of the strangest finishes ever.


2013 Sweet 16: (4) Michigan vs. (1) Kansas

Are you serious, Trey Burke? That’s surely the question every college basketball fan was asking after this one. With his team down five with under 20 seconds left, Burke drove to the basket and cut the deficit to three with an easy layup. The degree of difficulty on his next shot was considerably higher. After Kansas failed to increase their lead at the foul line, Michigan had one more chance. Burke decided to take a three from way downtown, forcing overtime. In overtime, the roles were reversed. The Wolverines held a five-point lead with under a minute left. But the Jayhawks stormed back and, down two points, took a three for the win as time expired. However, there would be no miracle for Kansas as the shot would miss, and the Wolverines advanced.


2014 Round of 64: (12) Stephen F. Austin vs. VCU (5)

Don’t foul. That’s all VCU had to do with a four-point lead and less than five seconds left, and they would be on their way to the Round of 32. Unfortunately for VCU, this game wouldn't end in traditional fashion. Stephen F. Austin’s Desmond Haymond got open for a three, drilled it and was fouled on the late closeout from VCU. The Lumberjacks then took the game in overtime, but not before VCU’s JeQuan Lewis took a possible game-winning 3 with five seconds left. It was an incredible win for Stephen F. Austin and surely one of the most haunting defeats in VCU history.


2014 Elite Eight: (8) Kentucky vs. (2) Michigan

Aaron Harrison’s performance in the 2014 NCAA tournament will go down as the stuff of legends. The 6-6 guard hit clutch shot after clutch shot to help his “underdog” Wildcats advance to the national championship game as a No. 8 seed. One of his biggest shots came in the Elite Eight, when he drilled a well-contested game-winning 3 against Michigan. Harrison created just enough space for himself, and bang, the Wildcats headed to the Final Four.


2014 Final Four: (8) Kentucky vs. (1) Wisconsin

This one had it all. The craziness, the high stakes and the big-time plays. In a tie game with 15 seconds left, Kentucky fouled Traevon Jackson on a 3-point attempt. Maybe during another time of year, that would be a game-crippling play. But this was March and Kentucky had Aaron Harrison. With Wisconsin leading by two, Harrison knocked home another deep 3 from a spot close to his game-winner against Michigan. Jackson had a great look at a game-winning jumper as time expired, but he missed and the legend of Aaron Harrison continued to grow.


2015 Round of 64: (14) Georgia State vs. (3) Baylor

The best upset, best buzzer beater and most heartwarming moment of the 2015 NCAA tournament rolled into one. No. 14 seeded Georgia State trailed Baylor by two with seconds left, before R.J. Hunter, son of Georgia State coach Ron Hunter, nailed a three-pointer from the parking lot to give the Panthers the win. There’s no doubt the defining visual of the tournament was Ron Hunter falling off his stool after his son made the shot. What a special moment.


2015 Elite Eight: (1) Kentucky vs. (3) Notre Dame

Entering the 2015 tournament, many pinpointed Notre Dame as one of the few teams that had a shot to knock out the undefeated Wildcats. They ultimately didn’t, but they came close and did so in the most exciting game of the year. The back-and-forth affair featured some fantastic basketball and its final few minutes were basketball nirvana. Aaron Harrison (of course) and Notre Dame’s Jerian Grant trading extremely deep 3-pointers, Karl-Anthony Towns muscling his way for a game-tying basket and Willie Cauley-Stein’s incredible block of Grant with just over 30 seconds left were among the highlights. The game came down to a Grant 3-point attempt at the buzzer while down two that went long, giving Kentucky the win. It was an awesome game, and the intensity of the final few minutes was truly something to behold.


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