They're the moments that make March Madness memorable.
The NCAA Tournament may be the most treasured of our postseason spectacles, with its single elimination format giving the biggest underdogs a chance against college basketball's elite. Sometimes, those contests come down to the final seconds and give us the most unforgettable finishes. As this year's tournament gets underway, here are some classic buzzer beaters:
Bryce Drew, Valparaiso vs. Ole Miss (1998)
It’s known in northern Indiana simply as “The Shot.” Drew’s 23-footer, off an inbounds play called “Pacer” that covered nearly the length of the court, gave little-known and 13th-seeded Valparaiso a stunning first-round win over Mississippi. The Crusaders then knocked off Florida State on their way to a memorable Sweet 16 run.
James Forrest, Georgia Tech vs. USC (1992)
Christian Laettner’s more famous buzzer beater the next weekend (see below) overshadows this one, but Forrest’s remarkable shot — off an inbounds play at midcourt with less than a second to go — was every bit as dramatic, sending the seventh-seeded Yellowjackets to the Sweet 16, where they would lose to Memphis State.
Richard Hamilton, Connecticut vs. Washington (1998)
The No. 11 seed Huskies saw their magical run as NCAA Tournament underdogs end in jarring fashion when Hamilton rebounded a teammate’s missed shot, then his own missed shot before finally getting the ball through the hoop while falling away from the basket as time expired. The shot won an East Regional semifinal for the Huskies, but they would go on to lose to top-seeded North Carolina two days later with a trip to the Final Four on the line.
Christian Laettner, Duke vs. Kentucky (1992)
In what’s widely regarded as one of the greatest college basketball games in history, Laettner didn’t miss a shot — 10-for-10 from the field, 10-for-10 from the free throw line — including his last one as time expired in overtime of the East Regional final. Laettner’s turnaround jumper from the foul line has lived on as one of the most iconic moments in tournament history.
Lorenzo Charles, N.C. State vs. Houston (1983)
One of the first Cinderella stories after the tournament’s expansion to 52 teams in 1980 climaxed in the championship game three years later when the Wolfpack, led by charismatic coach Jim Valvano, stunned a powerhouse Houston team that featured six players who would be drafted into the NBA, including future Hall of Famers Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler. Playing for the final shot, N.C. State nearly threw away a pass, forcing Dereck Whittenburg to heave up a desperation shot from 30 feet away. Charles’ tip-in dunk won the game and earned the sequence immortality in college basketball highlight reels.