March Madness 2019: Best NCAA Tournament buzzer-beaters of the past decade

USA Today

March Madness 2019: Best NCAA Tournament buzzer-beaters of the past decade

March Madness is full of thrills, the most exhilarating of which is a buzzer-beater that puts your team through to the next round.

It is a moment of pure elation for anyone associated with the winning team -- the players, coaches, students, alumni, and fans -- and among the most deflating feelings in sports if you find yourself on the wrong end. For the fans with no allegiance, the more buzzer-beaters the better and there have been plenty of them over the last decade.

These ten NCAA Tournament buzzer-beaters from the past decade are the ones that stick out the most. 

10) Jordan Poole, #3 Michigan vs. #6 Houston (2018 Second Round) 

The Wolverines and Cougars traded blows all game. It was a tightly contested matchup in which neither team led by more than six at any point. Houston's Devin Davis was at the free throw line for two shots with four seconds remaining.

He made 68 percent of his free throws on the season, but he missed both of these to give Michigan a chance, though a bleak one at that. After a timeout, the Wolverines needed to go the length of the court with 3.6 seconds remaining. ESPN's win probability model was at 92.8 percent in favor of a Houston victory.

Jordan Poole had other ideas:

9) Korie Lucious, #5 Michigan State vs. #4 Maryland (2010 Second Round) 

Michigan State-Maryland is a matchup we have seen on an annual basis ever since the Terps migrated to the Big Ten, but it was a rare treat back in 2010 and this game lived up to the hype. Greivis Vasquez scored 26 points for Maryland, but it was all for naught. Draymond Green found Lucious in transition with the clock ticking down, and he buried a triple.

The ball nearly did not find its way to Lucious. Watch the video closely -- Green almost decapitated a teammate with the pass that found Lucious.

8) R.J. Hunter, #14 Georgia State vs. #3 Baylor (2015 First Round)

Over the last few years, upsets by teams seeded 14th and 15th have become more commonplace and this one was the most exciting of the bunch. A missed free throw by Baylor kept their lead at just two points. With the announcers calling for Georgia State to go for a quick two, Hunter pulled up from well beyond the arc and splashed the game-winner.

The best part of this occurs at the top of the screen.

Keep an eye on his father, head coach Ron Hunter.

7) Aaron Harrison, #8 Kentucky vs. #2 Michigan (2014 Elite Eight)

A year after missing the NCAA Tournament for just the second time since 1991, Kentucky found itself in a familiar position just one game away from the Final Four. The teams were tied at 37 at halftime and again at 72 with under 10 seconds remaining.

Aaron Harrison finished the game with 12 points on four made three-pointers, the last of which sent the Wildcats to Houston (where they eventually lost to UCONN in the championship game).

6) Donte Ingram, #11 Loyola Chicago vs. #6 Miami (2018 First Round)

Sister Jean and the Loyola Chicago Ramblers won over the hearts of the nation a year ago with their Cinderella run to the Final Four (just the fifth double-digit seed to accomplish that feat). That run nearly never got started.

After a missed free throw by Miami with the Hurricanes up 62-61, Donte Ingram pulled up from the logo and the rest is history.

5) Bronson Koenig, #7 Wisconsin vs. #2 Xavier (2016 Second Round)

This buzzer beater seems to have gone by the wayside over the last couple of years since Wisconsin failed to advance any further and a higher profile buzzer beater has hogged all of the attention, but this shot from Koenig was a thing of beauty. Game tied at 63, 2.0 seconds remaining, fading away into his own bench...onions.

4) Chris Chiozza, #4 Florida vs. #8 Wisconsin (2017 Sweet 16)

The buzzer-beater gods giveth, and the buzzer-beater gods taketh away. Just 369 days after Koenig lifted the Badgers past Xavier, Chiozza broke the hearts of Badger fans everywhere.

Wisconsin hit a three at the end of regulation to send the game to overtime, and they held an 83-81 lead with 4.0 seconds remaining. The Gators got the ball into Chiozza who jumped from beyond the three-point line, hung in the air for what seemed an eternity, and nailed a floater from the free-throw line to lift the Gators to the 84-83 victory.


3) Paul Jesperson, #11 Northern Iowa vs. #6 Texas (2016 First Round)

Of all the games on this list, this might have been the most irrelevant. It was that first-round matchup that you really didn't have any interest in, but you would flip to it from a higher profile game if it was close in the last minute because it's March and crazy things happen.

Well, something crazy happened.

Texas drained a mid-range floater with 2.7 seconds remaining to knot things up at 72, then Paul Jesperson's prayer was answered from half court. It's rare that we get a buzzer-beater that's also a half-court shot. 

That's why this buzzer-beater is so high on our list. 

2) Luke Maye, #1 UNC vs. #2 Kentucky (2017 Elite Eight)

There is a lot to unpack regarding the last 40 seconds of this game. It was 71-67 Tar Heels before Malik Monk hit a three to cut the deficit to one. Justin Jackson made a quick layup the other way off a long ball on the inbound to get the lead back up to three.

Bam Adebayo lost the ball for the Wildcats underneath the basket which resulted in a pileup and a jump ball with the possession arrow in UNC's favor. They failed to make anything of the possession and Monk splashed another three to tie. The Tar Heels went quickly the other way, and Luke Maye was money on a mid-range jumper to give the Tar Heels the win after the crazy sequence.

They would ultimately go on to win the National Championship.

1) Kris Jenkins, #2 Villanova vs. #1 UNC (2016 Championship)

There are no words to do this one justice. Greatest NCAA Tournament buzzer-beater of the past decade, and the greatest NCAA Tournament buzzer-beater of all time. Just watch.

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Patrick Mahomes celebrates Mac McClung picking his alma mater Texas Tech

Patrick Mahomes celebrates Mac McClung picking his alma mater Texas Tech

Wednesday was a good day for Red Raider fans when Mac McClung announced his transfer commitment to Texas Tech

Even former alum and Super Bowl MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes - who also was openly recruiting the star on Twitter - was excited about the big get. 

He was joined by fellow Texas Tech alum Jarrett Culver in sharing his excitement of getting the 6-foot-2 guard. Culver's style and skill set are very similar to McClung's. Under head coach Chris Beard, he helped transform the combo guard into a first-round NBA prospect.

Other professional athletes including Trae Young gave McClung their congratulations. 

As a late entry into the transfer portal, McClung was one of the biggest available players this offseason. While he is required to sit a season due to NCAA transfer rules, there is some buzz that he may get a waiver to compete next season in Lubbock. 

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Ever Wonder: How Midnight Madness got its start at the University of Maryland

Ever Wonder: How Midnight Madness got its start at the University of Maryland

For most college basketball programs across the country, Midnight Madness has become a major tradition. The late-night spectacle filled with basketball and showmanship signifies the start of a new season. 

But, how did Midnight Madness come to be? It turns out its humble beginnings took place at the University of Maryland.

In 1971, legendary head coach Lefty Driesell had been at the helm of the Terps basketball squad for two seasons. Helping the program reach a new prestige in his first couple of years, Driesell wanted to take Maryland to the next level and show the rest of college basketball they were legit contenders.

His idea: have his team be the first ones to practice on the season by participating in an event at midnight on the earliest possible date. This way, in Driesell's eyes, the Terps would the first team on the court at the beginning and the last one on it at the end when they held the National Championship trophy.

“This was Lefty’s way of saying, ‘Hey world, Maryland is here now. We got a great team and I’m going to be the first team in America to practice,'" Tom McMillen, who was a member of the 1971 team, said.

Besides sending a message to other programs, Driesell also used Midnight Madness as a way to drum up school spirit. If Maryland was going to become one of the top schools in the nation and a respected team, they needed fans to get involved and stay committed.

“Getting the campus to rally behind the basketball team," Tony Massenburg, who played under Driesell in 1985, said. “You don’t need a reason to get a bunch of college students to stay up until midnight."

The first Midnight Madness took place on October 15, 1971, at 12:03 a.m. Unlike a majority of the nights in modern times, the Maryland team wasn't in a gym, but rather out at Byrd Stadium running a mile. Still, the event got the attention of locals and a national audience. 

“It really set off a firestorm across the country," McMillen said.

In the third installment of Midnight Madness, Driesell had Maryland participate in a scrimmage open to the public, more in line with what is seen across the country now. It was that event that turned Midnight Madness into the popular spectacle it is today.

“The third year we ended up having a scrimmage. That’s really what launched midnight madness," McMillen said.

What began as Driesell's idea has transformed into a common night shared among campuses across the country. Every year Midnight Madness gets bigger, with scrimmages only being part of the action. Wild introductions, skits and more theatrics have turned the first practice of the season into much more than that.

Maryland still participates and even paid homage to the original Midnight Madness in 2018. In honor of the program's 100th season and Driesell's introduction into the Basketball Hall of Fame, the Midnight Mile made its return. 

While the night continues to grow in size, the original meaning still holds true. Driesell held Midnight Madness as a way to showcase Maryland and prove it was the best place to be. Coaches across the country are doing the same, trying to show that their campus is the place to be.

“What it’s become is a recruiting tool," Massenburg said. "It’s the means to sort of showcase your program.”

What began in College Park has turned into one of college basketball's best traditions. Despite Driesell being the creator, the start of Midnight Madness is sometimes relatively unknown by the public. If the head coach had known how big it would become back in 1971, that may have been different. 

“I tell Lefty my only regret is that you didn’t copyright Midnight Madness because it was a very valuable asset and literally just an idea he came up with just to be first," McMillen said.