The 11 Best NCAA Tournament Buzzer-beaters of the Millennium

Kris Jenkins makes last-second shot to win championship for Villanova over UNC
Ronald Martinez / Getty Images

There’s nothing more exciting in college basketball than hitting a game-winning shot to send your team to the next round of the NCAA Tournament—or to win a championship.

Heck, that’s one reason March Madness got its name in the first place.

Whether it’s a half-court desperation shot, a quick turn-around jumper, or a 3-pointer from the corner, one shot can put a player in the history books forever. 

Here are the most exciting, most dramatic buzzer-beater wins of the 2000s:

11. North Carolina vs. Kentucky, 2017 Elite Eight

The end of the North Carolina-Kentucky game was one of the best final 30 seconds in college basketball in recent memory. Kentucky phenom Malik Monk hit a 3-point shot to tie the game 73-73 with just 7.2 seconds to go, but that left plenty of time on the clock for a response from the Tar Heels.

Instead of taking a timeout and getting a play together, UNC ran down the court and Luke Maye pulled up for what would be the biggest shot of his life—and drained it with 0.3 seconds left. North Carolina held on for the 75-73 win to earn a Final Four appearance. Maye didn’t let his newfound stardom get to his head: He showed up to his 8 am class on Monday the day after the game.


10. Florida vs. Wisconsin, 2017 Sweet 16

In every buzzer-beater game, one team is left heartbroken, knowing a win was just seconds away from their grasp. Wisconsin learned this the hard way in the 2017 tournament.

After coming back from an eight-point deficit to force overtime by making a desperation 3-pointer with six seconds left, Wisconsin was on the cusp of the Elite Eight. The Badgers were up 83-81 when Florida inbounded the ball for its final possession, but some lackadaisical defense allowed Gators guard Chris Chiozza a completely clean look from beyond the 3-point arc.

With one flick of the wrist—and a Michael Jordan-esque pose in his shot—Chiozza put himself into March Madness lore, and sent Wisconsin home for good.


9. Western Kentucky v. Drake, 2008 First Round

The only better handoff you’ll see than this happens in the NFL.

Down 99-98 with less than six seconds to play, Western Kentucky’s Tyrone Brazelton raced down the court and flipped the ball to Ty Rogers, who heaved up a 26-foot 3-pointer to get the No. 12-seeded Hilltoppers the 101-99 win in overtime.


8. Kentucky vs. Michigan, 2014 Elite Eight

Two high-profile teams battling for a spot in the Final Four made this matchup between Michigan and Kentucky a great one before either team hit the court.

The game turned out to be even better. With the game tied 72-72 and the seconds slipping away, Aaron Harrison stepped back and launched a 3-pointer with a hand in his face—draining it to take the 75-72 lead with 2.3 seconds left to seal the win.


7. Georgia State vs. Baylor, 2015 First Round

As far as feel-good stories go in March Madness, this one had it all.

With No. 14 seed Georgia State down two with less than three seconds left, R.J. Hunter—who happened to be the son of his head coach, Ron Hunter—launched an NBA-length 3-point shot to give his team the win. It was one of the biggest upsets of the tournament and quite the moment for father and son.


6. Villanova vs. Pittsburgh, 2009 Elite Eight

This rough-and-tumble battle was more than just an exciting buzzer-beater finish, with two teams playing a physical, hard-fought game that could have gone either way, but the last shot is what stands as the defining memory of this game.

No. 1-seeded Pittsburgh tied things up with 5.5 seconds left, but that was just enough time for Villanova point guard Scottie Reynolds to go coast-to-coast for the winning shot to earn the 78-76 victory.


5. Morehead State vs. Louisville, 2011 First Round

Any time an Ohio Valley Conference team can give a power conference a good matchup, it makes for great basketball. This game was on another level.

Down by two against the Cardinals, Morehead State decided to go for the win instead of the tie, with Demonte Harper hitting an absolutely clutch 3-point shot with less than five seconds left. Making it even more impressive? He missed all five of his previous shots from 3-point land.


4. Northern Iowa vs. Texas, 2016 First Round

Northern Iowa was in great position to win this game against Texas—it was up three with just 12 seconds left—but the Longhorns refused to give up, hitting a game-tying 3-pointer with less than three seconds on the clock.

The Panthers needed a miracle of a shot to win and that’s exactly what they got. Paul Jesperson ran down the court and heaved a halfcourt shot for the win, and boom, he made it.


3. Northwestern State vs. Iowa, 2006 First Round

Down 63-61 with less than 10 seconds to go against No. 3-seeded Iowa, 12th-seeded Northwestern State needed a miracle.

After hoisting up a desperation 3-pointer, Demons guard Jermaine Wallace found the ball in his hands and nowhere to go but the far corner of the court. Wallace flung up a shot that left 0.5 seconds on the clock, clinching the 64-63 victory and making their 17-point comeback stand.


2. Tennessee vs. Winthrop, 2006 First Round

Tennessee was desperately trying to avoid an embarrassing 15-seed-over-No. 2-seed loss in the 2006 tournament when Chris Lofton stepped in for the rescue.

With the game tied 61-61, Lofton took an inbounds pass and put up a long 3-point shot from the corner, leaving 0.4 seconds on the clock to help clinch the 64-61 victory.


1. Villanova vs. North Carolina, 2016 National Championship

There’s nothing more dramatic than a last-second shot to win a championship. After North Carolina’s Marcus Paige hit a game-tying 3-pointer with less than 10 seconds left, Villanova pushed its way into history.

Wildcats guard Ryan Arcidiacono sped down the court with the score 74-74 and quickly handed off the ball to Kris Jenkins, who threw up a miracle heave with 0.6 seconds on the clock. The shot swished through the net and Villanova took home the title on a buzzer-beater.

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