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Andy Wittry | | March 23, 2022

See 34 NCAA tournament buzzer-beaters from 1977 to 2021

Greatest buzzer beaters in March Madness history

It's the biggest moment on the biggest stage: a buzzer-beater in the NCAA tournament.

We don't get one every year but some years we're spoiled and we get multiple. Well, here's your one-stop shop to re-watch and reminisce upon 34 true buzzer-beaters in NCAA tournament history. By "true" buzzer-beater, we mean a shot that gave a team the win, or forced overtime, as time expired or the clock ran out shortly after the shot was made, leaving no time for the opposition to run a full, final play of their own.


Marquette 51, UNC Charlotte 49 (1977)

Marquette won its first-ever NCAA national championship in 1977 under Al McGuire after beating Kansas State in the regional semifinal by one point, then beating UNC Charlotte in the national semifinal by two points after this full-court heave, which set up the game-winning shot.

Arkansas 74, Louisville 73 (1981)

Louisville took a 73-72 lead with five seconds left in the second round of the 1981 NCAA Tournament on a short, fadeaway jumper in the lane. The Cardinals, trailing by three, had hit a baseline jumper to cut the deficit to one with 23 seconds left in the game. Facing full-court pressure, the Razorbacks responded by throwing a full-court outlet pass out of bounds on the opposite baseline, allowing Louisville to take that one-point lead.

Well, it turned out alright for Arkansas. U.S. Reed, who was being double-teamed as he tried to dribble across halfcourt, pulled up just shy of midcourt and launched a buzzer-beater that allowed the Razorbacks to advance to the regional semifinal, where they lost to No. 1 seed LSU.

(Yes, that's Marv Albert on the call.)

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Kansas State 50, Oregon State 48 (1981)

Kansas State made an Elite Eight run as a No. 8 seed in 1981 thanks to a trio of close victories — 64-60 over No. 9 seed San Francisco, 50-48 over No. 1 seed Oregon State and 57-52 over No. 4 seed Illinois. Playing top-seeded Oregon State at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion, Rolando Blackman took the ball on the right wing, faced a help-side defender and hit a baseline jumper for the win.

Look at Blackman look up and check how much time is remaining on the clock with roughly eight seconds left.

BYU 51, Notre Dame 49 (1981)

Ever heard of a guy named Danny Ainge? Well, Ainge sent his BYU Cougars to the regional final in 1981 after he dribbled through/around/between all five Notre Dame defenders in the game's final eight seconds and captured the win with a pretty finger roll that just eluded the outstretched arm of the fifth defender.

N.C. State 54, Houston 52 (1983)

As a 10-loss No. 6 seed, N.C. State won its second national championship in 1983, thanks to Lorenzo Charles cleaning up teammate Dereck Whittenburg's last-ditch heave to the basket to beat No. 1 seed Houston. The Wolfpack beat two No. 1 seeds (also, No. 1 seed Virginia), No. 3 seed UNLV and No. 4 seed Georgia on their way to the title.

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Northern Iowa 74, Missouri 71 (1990)

Northern Iowa was responsible for one of the first big NCAA tournament upsets after the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985. The Panthers seem to have a knack for big moments in March, whether it was their upset of No. 1 seed Kansas in 2010 (Ali Farokhmanesh says hello) or their buzzer-beater against Texas in 2016, which is also on this list.

In the school's first-ever NCAA tournament appearance as a DI program, the No. 14-seeded Panthers beat No. 3 seed Missouri on a last-second 3-pointer.

UConn 71, Clemson 70 (1990)

Back in 1990, when UConn earned a No. 1 seed for the first time in program history, the Huskies coasted to the Sweet 16 after winning their first two games by at least 20 points. But No. 5 seed Clemson posed a much harder challenge. After UConn rebounded a missed free throw from Clemson and called a timeout, the Huskies drew up a full-court pass to senior Tate George, who hit the game-winner.

Duke 79, UConn 78 (1990)

UConn's NCAA tournament goodwill quickly came to an end as No. 3 seed Duke beat the top-seeded Huskies 79-78 in the Elite Eight.

Sure, everyone knows about that Christian Laettner shot, but what about his other NCAA tournament buzzer-beater?

Laettner was the inbounder and as the broadcast notes, UConn declined to defend him, which proved to be the Huskies' downfall. He took a quick give-and-go, dribbled once and hit a hanging jumper to win by one and go to the Final Four.

Duke 104, Kentucky 103 (1992)

Lorenzo Charles and Kris Jenkins' buzzer-beaters go in a special category as shots that each won a national championship but Christian Laettner's second NCAA tournament buzzer-beater — the one to beat Kentucky — isn't far behind. The Blue Devils were the reigning national champions and they were national runners-up in 1990. These were two powers playing in overtime with the chance to go to the Final Four on the line.

The game was played in the 100s with the two sides trading shots down the stretch.

With 2.1 seconds left, Laettner caught a baseball pass at the opposite free-throw line, dribbled once, then turned and hit a fadeaway jumper at the buzzer.

Duke went on to win the national championship for the second year in a row.

Georgia Tech 79, USC 78 (1992)

Georgia Tech initially had 2.2 seconds for its final play and it put four players around the circle at midcourt but the ball was knocked out of bounds, giving the Yellow Jackets the ball near halfcourt. Forward James Forrest caught the ball on the left wing with two defenders near him, he cocked the ball and threw up the game-winning three, which went in the basket.

According to the broadcast, someone from USC argued that Georgia Tech took a timeout prior to the play, when the Yellow Jackets didn't have any timeouts remaining, which would have resulted in a technical foul shot for USC if called.

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Georgetown-Weber State (1995)

No. 14 seed Weber State could've made the Sweet 16 in 1995 but No. 6 seed Georgetown had other intentions. The Hoyas broke a 51-all tie with this last-second finish off the glass.

UCLA 75, Missouri 74 (1995)

In 4.8 seconds, UCLA's Tyus Edney was able to dribble all the way down the court and get an off-balance layup off the glass to drop in the basket for a one-point win.

That was a No. 1 seed vs. a No. 8 seed matchup with the better-ranked Bruins escaping the second round. They went on to win the national championship — the school's only national championship won outside of the John Wooden era.

Valparaiso 70, Ole Miss 69 (1998)

This was an all-time buzzer-beater for several reasons. It was a No. 14 seed over a No. 3 seed and at the time, there had only been three 15-over-2 upsets, making a victory for a No. 14 seed resonate a little more than it would today in a post-UMBC-over-Virginia world.

It also involved a three-quarters-court pass and a 3-pointer — two elements that would independently lead to a memorable finish, let alone a buzzer-beater that involved both. Plus, Bryce Drew, who hit the shot, was playing for his father Homer, who coached at Valpo from 1988 until 2011. Bryce Drew most recently coached at Vanderbilt, while his brother is at the helm at Baylor, which set the record as the seventh team to reach AP No. 1 in the 2019-20 season.

UConn 75, Washington 74 (1998)

Every buzzer-beater in the NCAA tournament is a big deal. But not every play is pretty, necessarily.

In 1998, No. 2 seed UConn faced a one-point deficit against No. 11 seed Washington in the Sweet 16. The Huskies had the ball and the final possession but they missed their first two game-winning shot attempts and the ball was batted around a few more times before Richard Hamilton gathered the ball and made a short fadeaway jumper in the lane as time expired.

Florida 69, Butler 68 (2000)

Before Florida was a two-time (and back-to-back) NCAA men's basketball national champion and before Butler was a two-time (and back-to-back) NCAA men's basketball runner-up, the two schools met in the first round of the 2000 NCAA Tournament, where the No. 5-seeded Gators needed a buzzer-beater from Mike Miller in overtime to escape No. 12 seed Butler. Florida ultimately made the national championship game, where it lost to Michigan State.

Maryland 75, UNC Wilmington 73 (2003)

One year after Maryland won the national championship, the Terrapins were nearly upset in the first round by No. 11 seed UNC Wilmington.

Trailing 73-72 with five seconds left, the Terps had to go the length of the court and that's exactly what Drew Nicholas did, making a leaning 3-pointer at the buzzer for the win.

Texas 74, West Virginia 71 (2006)

Texas is one of the few schools on this list that has been on both ends of an NCAA tournament buzzer-beater. In 2006, the No. 2-seeded Longhorns beat No. 15 seed Penn by just eight points in the first round, coasted to a 21-point win over NC State in the second round and then they needed a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Kenton Paulino as time expired to make the Elite Eight.

Seconds earlier, West Virginia's Kevin Pittsnogle made a game-tying 3 but the Mountaineers didn't get to celebrate the shot for long as Paulino and the Longhorns eliminated them seconds later.

Western Kentucky 101, Drake 99 (2008)

Poor Drake, which earned a program-best No. 5 seed in the 2008 NCAA tournament, only for upset-minded Western Kentucky to knock off the Bulldogs on Ty Rogers' game-winning three. (By the way, doesn't this play look similar to Villanova's game-winner from Kris Jenkins in 2016?)

It was certainly a difficult shot, with three defenders in the area, including two who jumped to contest it.

Villanova 78, Pittsburgh 76 (2009)

The 2009 NCAA tournament marked a breakthrough for Villanova coach Jay Wright, who made his first Final Four in his eighth season at the school. The Wildcats were bounced in the Elite Eight as a No. 1 seed in 2006 and as a No. 3 seed in 2009, they beat No. 1 seed and Big East foe Pittsburgh 78-76 on Scottie Reynolds' last-second layup.

Murray State 66, Vanderbilt 65 (2010)

Well before Ja Morant arrived at Murray State, the Racers had a knack for upsetting a better-ranked opponent in the first round of the NCAA tournament. In 2010, No. 13 Murray State downed No. 4 seed Vanderbilt with this buzzer-beater off of an inbounds play.

Michigan State 85, Maryland 83 (2010)

This season, Michigan State and Maryland were among the schools battling for a Big Ten regular-season title and 10 years ago, the two schools were matched up in the second round of the 2010 NCAA tournament in a 4/5 game. Draymond Green found Korie Lucious (nearly hitting teammate Durrell Summers in the process), setting up Lucious to send the Spartans to the Sweet 16.

Butler-Old Dominion 2011

One year after Butler lost to Duke in the national championship game, the Bulldogs made another run at a national title. But first, they needed to escape No. 9 seed Old Dominion in the first round thanks to Matt Howard's putback layup. In Butler's first four NCAA tournament wins in 2011, the Bulldogs won by a combined 13 points.

Cincinnati 66, Purdue 65 (2015)

The 8/9 matchups are often considered to be toss-ups and the game between Cincinnati and Purdue in 2015 certainly fit the bill with Bearcats point guard Troy Caupain going the length of the court in the final 7.4 seconds and getting his last-second layup attempt to roll in the hoop. Cincinnati lost to then-undefeated Kentucky in the second round.

Iowa 72, Temple 70 (2016)

Man, what a year the 2016 NCAA tournament was for buzzer-beaters. The tournament ended with maybe the greatest buzzer-beater ever, from Villanova's Kris Jenkins, but there were several others, starting in the first weekend. No. 7 seed Iowa downed No. 10 seed Temple in overtime in the first round on Adam Woodbury's tip-in.

Wisconsin 66, Xavier 63 (2016)

Wisconsin has been on both ends of a buzzer-beater in recent years with the No. 7-seeded Badgers knocking off No. 2 seed Xavier in the second round in 2016, only for the Badgers to lose on a buzzer-beater the following season. Bronson Koenig's 3-pointer in the corner pushed Wisconsin on to the Sweet 16.

Northern Iowa 73, Texas 72 (2016)

This is Northern Iowa's second appearance on this list. The Panthers missed a free throw with the chance to go up 73-70 against the Longhorns with just over 10 seconds remaining, then Texas came down the floor and tied the game. But that was no problem for Northern Iowa's Paul Jesperson, who wasn't guarded on the inbounds pass, then cut past two defenders before launching a halfcourt, banked-in buzzer-beater for the win over the No. 6-seeded Longhorns.

Villanova 77, North Carolina 74 (2016)

Kris Jenkins' title-winning 3-pointer is the gold standard for buzzer-beaters in the NCAA tournament. His trailing three gave Villanova its first national championship since 1985 and it served as the Wildcats' coronation as maybe the best program in the sport from 2016 to 2018.

Florida 84, Wisconsin 83 (2017)

This Sweet 16 game was played inside Madison Square Garden and it was a finish fitting for the stage. With the Gators trailing by two, Florida's Chris Chiozza ran down his own baseline, caught the inbounds pass with Nigel Hayes trailing him and Chiozza hit a running 3-pointer at the buzzer for the win.

North Carolina 75, Kentucky (2017)

This was Luke Maye's coming-out party as he scored 17 points, including the game-winning jumper with 0.3 seconds left to send the Tar Heels to the Final Four, where they eventually cut down the nets. So sure, it wasn't quite a true buzzer-beater but it left Kentucky with too little time to rally, especially after the Wildcats threw the ball out of bounds.

Loyola Chicago 64, Miami (FL) 62 (2018)

Loyola Chicago's Cinderella run to the Final Four in 2018 wouldn't have been possible without Donte Ingram's buzzer-beating 3-pointer against Miami (FL) in the first round. The officials ultimately put 0.3 seconds back on the clock, which was enough time for Miami to attempt a full-court pass but the pass was tipped and Loyola Chicago advanced. While this was a split second shy of being a true buzzer-beater, it was a memorable one and fueled an incredible tournament run.

Michigan 64, Houston 63 (2018)

Make your free throws, kids. Houston's Devin Davis made just 1-of-2 free throws to put Houston up 63-61, then he missed two more, which allowed Michigan's Jordan Poole to hit a game-winning 3-pointer from the right wing.

The Wolverines went on to advance to to the national championship game.

Virginia 80, Purdue 75 (OT) (2019)

Virginia doesn't win the 2019 national championship without Mamadi Diakite's overtime-forcing jumper at the buzzer at the end of regulation against Purdue in the Elite Eight. After Ty Jerome missed a free throw with Virginia down by two, Diakite tapped out the rebound, freshman Kihei Clark tracked it down and made the heady play of finding Diakite, who quickly fired a jumper.

No. 11 seed UCLA 88, No. 2 seed Alabama 78 (OT)

During UCLA's historic First Four-to-Final Four run in the 2021 NCAA Tournament, the Bruins won two of their first four tournament games in overtime and the second of those games, in the Elite Eight against No. 2 seed Alabama, needed five extra minutes because Alabama senior Alex Reese hit a game-tying 3-pointer at the end of regulation.

Just seconds earlier, UCLA's David Singleton made a pair of free throws to put the Bruins ahead by three, 65-62, with 4.2 seconds left. Alabama called a timeout, knowing it needed a three to extend its season and force overtime. The Crimson Tide was one of the most prolific 3-point shooting teams in the country in terms of attempts — 46.5 percent of its shots were 3-pointers, according to — and surprisingly, it ended up being Reese, who was a 28.2-percent 3-point shooter that season, who hit the overtime-forcing shot. He caught a pass from teammate Jahvon Quinerly and was left relatively unguarded by UCLA's, so he fired from the lower lefthand corner of the March Madness logo at midcourt and drained it. However, UCLA scored 23 points in overtime and won the game.

No. 1 seed Gonzaga 93, No. 11 seed UCLA 90 (OT)

In what was immediately apparent as one of the biggest shots in the history of the sport, Gonzaga freshman guard Jalen Suggs sent the then-undefeated Zags to the national championship game on the third-longest game-winning buzzer-beater in the history of the NCAA men's basketball tournament. UCLA's Johnny Juzang had tied the game at 90 with a put-back layup just moments earlier and with 3.3 seconds left in overtime, Gonzaga's Corey Kispert inbounded the ball to Suggs, who didn't face any significant resistance from the Bruins, so he was able to take three dribbles and pull up for a long, but manageable game-winner, which he banked in for the win.

Did we miss any NCAA tournament buzzer-beaters? Let us know at

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