Selection Sunday is mere days away and the excitement in our office is palpable. Today, we’re spreading the cheer with a look back at some of the most memorable buzzer beaters in recent history.
The 2017 NCAA Tournament wasn’t a banner year for clutch shots, unlike 2016. So, in an effort to make this list maximally entertaining, we’ve reached back a little further, compiling the six best from the last three tournaments. In an effort to be slightly unique, we’ve also included the worst game-winning attempt from the March Madness annals, and the top buzzer-beater defensive play.
If you can’t guess what’s #1 in the best-of portion, your fan credentials are revoked.
Best Buzzer Beaters: 2015 – Present
6. Paul Jesperson: Northern Iowa vs Texas (2016)
When it comes to buzzer beaters, I’ll always take a well-designed play or a slick finish at the rim over a half-court heave, but Paul Jesperson’s bomb against Texas deserves a spot on this list. First of all, Matt Bohannon has the wherewithal to inbound the ball as far as possible, and then Jesperson gets evasive to open up a window to launch. It was desperation, yes, but clever desperation.
5. Bronson Koenig: Wisconsin vs Xavier (2016)
All Bronson Koenig did during his time at Wisconsin was hit big shots. None were bigger than this triple, which sent the Badgers to the Sweet 16.
4. Luke Maye: UNC vs Kentucky (2017)
I can tell you one thing that Roy Williams’ was definitely not screaming as Theo Pinson streaked down the floor in the dying seconds: “Get the ball to Luke!” But that’s what Pinson did, and Maye came up clutch, far more clutch than his tweezers.
3. Chris Chiozza: Florida vs Wisconsin (2017)
Chris Chiozza’s game-winning three in OT against Wisconsin would have been legendary on its own. The fact that it came shortly after the Badgers’ Zak Showalter sent the game to overtime with his own crazy buzzer beater made this ending downright mythical.
2. RJ Hunter: Georgia St vs Baylor (2015)
My favorite part of this play is not the shot, itself, which led Georgia State to one of the biggest first-round upsets ever. It wasn’t even RJ’s hobbled dad/coach, Ron, falling out of his chair in jubilation after it goes in. It’s how quickly a terrified TJ Shipes (#31) passes the ball back to Hunter after Hunter gives it up. “Get this thing away from me!” screams his hot-potato-like return pass.
You can’t really blame him; he hadn’t attempted a three all season.
1. Kris Jenkins: Villanova vs UNC (2016, title game)
What else could it be? This shot cost me first place in my 2016 pool, and not even I can deny its supremacy. Kris Jenkins title-winning triple would be #1 no matter what time frame you’re dealing with … and I’m including both past and future.
Adam Woodbury: Temple vs Iowa (2016)
Rodney Bullock: Providence vs USC (2016)
Rex Pflueger: Notre Dame vs SFA (2016)
Troy Caupain: Cincinnati vs Purdue (2015)
Beejay Anya: NC State vs LSU (2015)
*Skip to the 1:34 mark for the final play.
Worst Buzzer-Beater Ever
Jevon Carter: West Virginia vs Gonzaga (2017)
*Skip to the 50-second mark for the final sequence.
As tournament approaches, the clips of Jenkins and Hunter will be ubiquitous. It’s going to create a false reality that these 19 and 20-year-old kids always have veteran-like poise in the biggest moments of the biggest games of their lives. They don’t and, more often than not, would-be buzzer beaters either rim out, clank off the side of the backboard, or miss everything entirely. Eh, Jevon?
Best Buzzer-Beater Defense
Pat Connaughton: Notre Dame vs Butler (2015)
There’s a reason Pat Connaughton was drafted 41st overall in 2015 and is playing almost 20 minutes a night in the NBA: he pairs three-point prowess with a shocking amount of athleticism, and he put the latter on full display in the dying seconds against Butler. This courtside clip showcases it even better.