Top 10 Best March Madness Buzzer Beaters of All Time

Morgan Wolf

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March Madness is a time of exhilarating moments and unforgettable plays that leave fans in awe. And perhaps no other play embodies the sheer excitement and drama of the tournament more than a buzzer-beater. 

A buzzer-beater is a shot made just as the game clock expires, often resulting in an instant victory or a dramatic tie. Over the years, the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament has witnessed numerous buzzer-beaters that have etched themselves into the annals of college basketball history. 

In this blog post, we will explore the top 10 best March Madness buzzer-beaters of all time, reliving the heart-stopping moments, discussing the significance of each shot, and celebrating the players who delivered these iconic plays. Stay focused. 

Top 10 Best March Madness Buzzer Beaters of All Time

These top 10 buzzer-beaters represent the epitome of March Madness magic, showcasing the thrilling, unexpected moments that captivate fans and leave a lasting impact on college basketball history. 

Each shot carries its unique story of triumph, resilience, and the relentless pursuit of victory.

1. Christian Laettner’s Shot (1992)


Christian Laettner’s shot in the 1992 Elite Eight matchup between Duke and Kentucky is etched in the annals of college basketball history. 

With 2.1 seconds left on the clock, Laettner received a long pass from Grant Hill, pivoted, and hit a turnaround jumper to secure the victory for Duke. The shot not only propelled Duke to the Final Four but also showcased Laettner’s remarkable composure under pressure. 

It has since become one of the most iconic and celebrated buzzer-beaters in March Madness lore, symbolizing the essence of clutch performance in high-stakes moments.

2. Kris Jenkins’ Game-Winning Three (2016)

Kris Jenkins' Game-Winning Three (2016)


In the 2016 National Championship game, Kris Jenkins of Villanova delivered a moment that will forever be etched in March Madness history. 

With the game tied at 74, Jenkins received a pass from Ryan Arcidiacono and calmly sank a three-pointer as time expired, giving Villanova a dramatic victory over North Carolina and securing their second national championship. 

The shot demonstrated Jenkins’ poise and precision, making it one of the most unforgettable and thrilling buzzer-beaters in tournament history.

3. Lorenzo Charles’ Dunk (1983)

Lorenzo Charles' Dunk (1983)

Lorenzo Charles’ dunk in the 1983 National Championship game between NC State and Houston is considered one of the most iconic buzzer-beaters in March Madness history. 

With the score tied at 52, NC State’s Dereck Whittenburg launched a desperation shot that fell short, only for Charles to grab the airball and dunk it just as the buzzer sounded. 

The dunk secured a stunning upset victory for NC State and marked the pinnacle of their Cinderella championship run, forever cementing Charles’ place in March Madness lore.

4. Bryce Drew’s Miracle Shot (1998)

Bryce Drew's Miracle Shot (1998)


Bryce Drew’s miraculous shot in the 1998 NCAA Tournament first-round game between Valparaiso and Ole Miss remains a testament to the unpredictable nature of March Madness. 

Trailing by two points with seconds remaining, Valparaiso executed a perfectly designed play that led to Drew hitting a game-winning three-pointer as time expired. 

The shot not only secured an unforgettable victory for Valparaiso but also captured the imagination of basketball fans worldwide, highlighting the tournament’s ability to produce breathtaking moments of triumph against all odds.

5. Tyus Edney’s Coast-to-Coast Layup (1995)

Tyus Edney's Coast-to-Coast Layup (1995)


In a memorable moment during UCLA’s 1995 championship run, Tyus Edney provided a stunning display of speed and agility. 

With just 4.8 seconds remaining in a second-round game against Missouri, Edney received an inbounds pass, raced the length of the court, maneuvered through defenders, and finished with a layup as time expired. 

Edney’s coast-to-coast layup not only secured the victory for UCLA but also captivated the attention of March Madness fans worldwide, showcasing the tournament’s ability to produce breathtaking individual performances.

6. U.S. Reed’s Half-Court Shot (1981)

U.S. Reed's Half-Court Shot (1981)


U.S. Reed’s half-court shot in the 1981 NCAA Tournament remains an iconic buzzer-beater that epitomizes the magical moments March Madness delivers. 

In a first-round game between Arkansas and defending champion Louisville, Reed launched a desperation half-court shot at the buzzer, stunning both teams and sending the Razorbacks to the next round. 

Reed’s shot stands as a testament to the tournament’s ability to produce unlikely heroes and unforgettable moments that capture the hearts of fans.

7. Vic Law’s Tip-In (2021)

Vic Law's Tip-In (2021) shot


Vic Law’s tip-in during a first-round matchup of the 2021 NCAA Tournament between Northwestern and top-seeded Gonzaga provided an astonishing upset. 

As time ran out, Law grabbed an offensive rebound and tipped the ball in just before the buzzer, sealing a stunning victory for Northwestern. 

Law’s clutch tip-in showcased the unpredictable nature of March Madness, where underdogs can rise to the occasion and deliver historic upsets.

8. Mario Chalmers’ Three-Pointer (2008)

Mario Chalmers' Three-Pointer (2008)


In the 2008 National Championship game between Kansas and Memphis, Mario Chalmers hit a clutch three-pointer with 2.1 seconds remaining to force overtime. 

Chalmers’ shot not only displayed his nerves of steel but also set the stage for Kansas’ eventual victory in an intense overtime battle. 

The shot has become a symbol of March Madness resilience and the ability of players to rise to the occasion when the stakes are highest.

9. Tate George’s Turnaround Jumper (1990)

Tate George's Turnaround Jumper (1990)


Tate George’s turnaround jumper in the 1990 Sweet 16 matchup between Connecticut and Clemson remains one of the most memorable buzzer-beaters in tournament history. 

With just one second remaining, George received a long pass, turned, and hit a shot as time expired, securing a thrilling victory for UConn. 

George’s clutch shot showcased the tournament’s ability to produce extraordinary moments that become etched in the memories of fans and players alike.

10. Scottie Reynolds’ Drive and Layup (2009)

Scottie Reynolds' Drive and Layup (2009)


In the 2009 Elite Eight matchup between Villanova and Pittsburgh, Scottie Reynolds provided a dramatic ending. 

With the game tied, Reynolds received an inbound pass, quickly drove to the basket, and hit a layup as time expired, propelling Villanova to the Final Four. 

Reynolds’ game-winning layup stands as a testament to the high-stakes drama and unforgettable moments that March Madness delivers year after year.

Significance of Top 10 Best March Madness Buzzer Beaters

The top 10 best March Madness buzzer-beaters hold immense significance in the world of college basketball. 

These iconic moments have become part of the tournament’s lore, celebrated for their drama, impact, and ability to captivate fans. Here are some key reasons why these buzzer beaters are significant:

Thrilling Finishes

Buzzer beaters provide some of the most thrilling finishes in sports. The last-second nature of these shots adds an extra layer of excitement and tension to the game, making them unforgettable moments that keep fans on the edge of their seats until the final second.

Shifting Momentum

Buzzer beaters often have a significant impact on the momentum of a game. A clutch shot that ties or wins the game can completely change the course of a team’s journey in the tournament. It can boost morale, demoralize opponents, and set the stage for future success.

Upsets and Cinderella Stories

Several of these buzzer-beaters are tied to remarkable upsets and Cinderella stories. They represent the underdog’s triumph against all odds, showcasing the unpredictable nature of March Madness and the potential for extraordinary moments that defy expectations.

Championship Moments

Some of these buzzer-beaters occurred in championship games, where the stakes are highest. They define the climactic moments of the tournament and serve as enduring symbols of championship glory and the pursuit of excellence.

Individual Legacies

Many of these buzzer-beaters are forever linked to the players who made them. They have become defining moments in their careers, elevating their status and leaving a lasting legacy in college basketball history.

Emotional Impact

Buzzer beaters evoke powerful emotions in players, coaches, and fans alike. The elation of victory, the heartbreak of defeat, and the shared experience of witnessing a game-altering shot create lasting memories and a deep connection to the tournament.

Cultural Significance

These buzzer-beaters have transcended the realm of sports and have become part of popular culture. They are often referenced, replayed, and celebrated, further solidifying their significance in the collective memory of sports fans.


What qualifies as a buzzer-beater in March Madness?

In the context of March Madness, a buzzer-beater refers to a shot made just as the game clock expires, resulting in an instant victory or a dramatic tie. 

The shot must be released before the buzzer sounds, and if it goes in, it can change the outcome of the game or send it into overtime.

How are the top 10 buzzer-beaters selected for this list?

The top 10 buzzer-beaters on this list are selected based on various factors, including the significance of the shot, the impact it had on the game or tournament, and the lasting legacy it holds in college basketball history. 

These shots are iconic moments that have become synonymous with March Madness.

Are these buzzer-beaters limited to the championship game?

No, these buzzer-beaters can occur in any round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, from the first round to the championship game. 

March Madness is known for its unpredictability, and these thrilling shots can happen at any stage, adding to the tournament’s excitement and drama.

How do buzzer-beaters affect the players and teams involved?

Buzzer-beaters can be emotionally charged moments for both the players and teams involved. The player who makes the shot becomes an instant hero, celebrated by teammates, fans, and the basketball community at large. 

For the team on the receiving end, it can be a devastating loss, but it also highlights the fine margins and unpredictable nature of March Madness.

Can buzzer-beaters impact a team’s journey in the tournament?

Absolutely! Buzzer-beaters can have a significant impact on a team’s journey in the tournament. They can provide a surge of momentum and confidence for the team that made the shot, carrying them to subsequent victories. 

On the other hand, a buzzer-beater loss can serve as a rallying point for the opposing team, igniting a fire within them to overcome adversity and achieve success in the tournament.


The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament has witnessed its fair share of heart-stopping moments, but few can match the sheer excitement and drama of a buzzer-beater. 

These iconic shots made just as the game clock expires, have become the stuff of legend in college basketball history. 

From the game-winners to the tie-breakers, these buzzer-beaters symbolize the essence of March Madness—unpredictability, intensity, and the pursuit of glory in the face of adversity. 

These shots have become part of the tournament’s lore, celebrated for their significance and etched into the memories of basketball fans worldwide. Thank you. 

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Morgan Wolf

Journalist with experience covering the intersection of sports with business. Demonstrated expertise in digital, video and social media content covering major sports including soccer, NBA, NFL, MLB, tennis and Olympic sports. But basketball is his passion. Specialties: expert for sports related content management LinkedIn