Greatest Game-Winners NCAA Tournament History

by Rob Joyce

On some level, this has been a relatively tame March Madness. Only one team seeded 1-through-5 (Minnesota) lost in the opening round, and there have only been two game-winning shots in the final seconds or at the buzzer. One was Chris Chiozza of Florida, whose wild runner from three pushed the Gators past Wisconsin in overtime in the Sweet 16.

The other came in the Elite 8 on Sunday. Kentucky’s Malik Monk hit a contested three to tie things up against North Carolina with just seconds left. UNC came down the other way and found big man Luke Maye to hit a deep two from the left wing with 0.3 seconds left, capping a career-best day for Maye, who finished with 17. It secured the Heels’ second straight Final Four appearance, and 20th overall. Already a soon-to-be fixture on future NCAA Tourney highlight reels, the shot will live on forever in Chapel Hill if the Tar Heels cut down the nets next Monday.

And it joins this list of the greatest NCAA Tournament buzzer-beaters of all-time:

5) Tate George, 1990:

Thus begins our list of full-court heaves. In the span of one second UConn’s Scott Burrell managed to perfectly place a full-court heave into the hands of Tate George, who found a way to turn, shot and score over a Clemson defender for the Sweet 16 win. The Huskies would get a taste of their own medicine two days later in the Elite 8 (see below).

4) Bryce Drew, 1998:

The current coach at Valparaiso, Bryce Drew also boasts the most famous shot in school history. Down a point with two seconds left and needing to go 94 feet, Bryce’s dad (then-head coach Homer Drew) drew up a play for his son, who converted on a perfectly-executed play as the 13th-seeded Crusaders shocked Ole Miss.

3) Lorenzo Charles, 1983:

Had NC State not won the ACC Tournament, they may not have even made the dance in 1983. But they managed to shock defending champ and No. 2 Virginia in the final to secure their autobid. And once they made the NCAA Tournament, after a first-round scare against Pepperdine, they went all the way to the final against Houston. Tied in the final seconds, Lorenzo Charles’ catch and layup off the Dereck Whittenburg desperation heave lifted the Wolfpack to victory and sent Jim Valvano running frantically around the court in joy.

2) Christian Laettner, 1992:

There was no bigger villain in college sports in the 1990s than Duke’s Laettner, who already had a tourney buzzer-beater to his resume before the 1992 Elite 8. In 1990 his buzzer-beater lifted Duke past UConn in the regional final. Two seasons later against Kentucky, Hill-to-Laettner is simply known as “The Shot”.

1) Kris Jenkins, 2016:

It was a perfectly executed play. After Marcus Paige hit a ludicrous double-pump three to tie things up between UNC and Villanova, the Wildcats went the length of the floor in four seconds, setting up Kris Jenkins to make the shot of his life, as ‘Nova won its second NCAA title.

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