Best buzzer-beaters in March Madness history

/ by Tyler Byrum
Presented By Chasen Boscolo

On top of upsets, the Final Four, and Cinderella stories, there is one thing that March Madness is known for:


Nearly every NCAA Tournament we are treated to another marvel that is a mix of athleticism and a little bit of luck.

Whether they are a No. 15 seed overtaking a No. 2 or a simple No. 8/ No. 9 matchup or a championship-winning shot, there is nothing that beats the enjoyment of a ball going through the net at the last possible second. There is a reason why they call it March Madness.

Through the 2021 NCAA Tournament, here are the most memorable buzzer-beaters in March Madness history. The order is set by the tournament round. 

Most-Memorable Buzzer-Beaters in NCAA Tournament history

No. 11 Loyola Chicago over No. 6 Miami, 2018 First Round

Had Donte Ingram not drilled the deep straightaway three against the Hurricanes, one of the best Cinderella stories of the 2010s would not have occurred. 

Rambler Marques Townes took the ball full court after Miami's Lonnie Walker IV missed the front-end of a one-and-one. Townes then ran into a wall dumped it back to Ingram who took the NBA-range three. The win was the first of four for Loyola Chicago and Sister Jean en route to the Final Four. 

No. 11 Northern Iowa over No. 6 Texas, 2016 First Round

Texas-Northern Iowa had one of the best late-game sequences in the NCAA Tournament ever. Two clutch baskets and Paul Jesperson with the beautiful half-court heave for the Panthers. 


No. 13 Valparasio over No. 4 Ole Miss, 1998 First Round

There may not be a better late-game execution on a play design than what Valparaiso and Homer Drew drew up. One of his sons, Bryce, hit the game-winner.

Brother Scott (Butler alum) was not involved but would make his name known over 20 years later to lead Baylor to a championship.

No. 3 Michigan over No. 6 Houston, 2018 Second Round

One of the most complete NCAA Tournaments of late was the 2018 dance. Michigan, joining Loyola Chicago, also made the Final Four needing a buzzer-beater just to get out of one of the early rounds. 

Now an NBA star, Jordan Poole hit a clock-draining three to lift the Wolverines into the Sweet 16. Wide-legged form and all, the guard hit the most consequential shot that would lead Michigan to the Final Four. Two missed free throws cost Houston in a huge way. 

No. 1 UCLA over No. 8 Missouri, 1995 Second Round

All it took was 4.8 seconds for Tyus Edney to go full-court to get the win for UCLA. Nobody -- even if they attempted too -- could have stopped Edney from streaking down the court. 

It was the only UCLA victory decided within five points en route to their title. 

No. 6 Georgetown over No. 14 Weber State, 1995 Second Round

Here's one double-digit seed that Georgetown got past. Don Reid hung in the air and won the game with a lay-in off of an Allen Iverson airball to end a magical run for Weber State.

No. 5 Arkansas over No. 4 Louisville, 1981 Second Round

There's no better way to describe a 'desperation heave' than what the Razorbacks needed to knock off the defending national champions. 

U.S. Reed took the inbounds pass and had no where to go at half court. Looking to dribble back across his body, he noted the clock he just decided to pull up with two defenders on him. There was no 3-point arc back in 1981, so this shot had the same value as the go-head putback that Derek Smith made just prior. 

No. 2 Texas over No. 6 West Virginia, 2006 Sweet Sixteen

Kevin Pittsnogle already went down in NCAA history for his name and what he did in the NCAA Tournament. After Pittsnogle hit the game-tying basket and a chance to further his stake to March Madness lore, Texas' Kenton Paulino hit an NBA-range three to skate past the Mountaineers. 


No. 1 Connecticut over No. 5 Clemson, 1990 Sweet Sixteen

What if I told you there was a Grant Hill to Christian Laettner-type play just two tournaments before it happened. Scott Burrell launched the full-court pass to Tate George who drilled the turnaround bucket at the buzzer.

It was George's second attempt at the go-ahead basket in the final 20 seconds of the contest. 

No. 1 Duke over No. 2 Kentucky, 1992 Elite Eight

Known as one of the greatest college basketball games of all time, it came down to 'the shot' by Christian Laettner. Grant Hill connected with Laettner on the hail mary pass to end the overtime period with a spot to the Final Four on the line. 

As one of the most-famous (if not the most famous) plays in the sports' history, even non-college basketball fans will recognize it.

No. 1 Gonzaga over No. 11 UCLA, 2021 Final Four

Along with Laettner's famous shot, these last four buzzer-beaters will forever be in the annals of college basketball. 

Gonzaga, one of the most dominant regular-season teams of all-time, was on the ropes with a berth to the championship game on the line. UCLA's Johnny Juzang was having one of the best individual tournament runs of the time and was able to get the putback on his own miss to tie it up, potentially to send it to a second overtime period. 

But, then the incredibleness of Jalen Suggs took over. In a mere three dribbles, the point guard got it to half court and pulled up for a banked-in buzzer beater. 

You'd have no idea it was during college basketball's coronavirus season based on the reaction. 

No. 2. Villanova over No. 1 North Carolina, 2016 National Championship Game

A buzzer-beater for the championship? It doesn't get any better than that. Kris Jenkins with the clutchest shot in NCAA men's basketball history to give Villanova it's first of two championships in a three-year span. 

As Bill Raftery said, "How 'bout those onions?! Count it! Double ordered, sauteed."

No. 6 NC State over. No. 1 Houston, 1983 National Championship Game

There's 'The Shot,' but this is the ‘The Dunk’ to win the National Championship. The Wolfpack were the ultimate Cinderella that cemented Jim Valvano's and Lorenzo Charles's legacy in college basketball. It capped a phenomenal tournament as the fifth buzzer-beater of that year's March Madness.


A buzzer-beater for the national championship is every sports fan dream. It will not ever be beat.