The NCAA tournament is historic for it’s countless last second thrillers and unforgettable final shots. These moments have changed history and created NCAA tournament legends in the blink of a few seconds. But the really special last second wins don’t just seal upsets or form heroes. They happen in moments that determine a national champion and take place on the biggest NCAA tournament stage. With that, last second moments like Bryce Drew’s winning shot for Valpo in 1998, or Tate George’s impossible catch and shoot for Uconn in 1990 fall just a big short. These are the five best NCAA tournament last second wins, which also forever changed the course of that year’s tournament.
5. Michael Jordan leads North Carolina over Georgetown, 1982 final.
The North Carolina/Georgetown NCAA title game is widely regarded as the beginning of the Jordan era. Although this was not a last second shot, Jordan’s jumper was still good enough for the long suffering Dean Smith, who had yet to win an NCAA title. With the Hoyas up by one, Jordan was shockingly left pretty much alone to take his winning shot with 17 seconds to go. The Hoyas Fred Brown went down in a more infamous kind of history with his failed pass on Georgetown’s next possession. But it was Jordan who began his legacy with his shoot, and sealed Smith’s place among the legends of NCAA coaches.
4. Tyus Edney’s coast to coast buzzer beater, 1995 second round.
In 1995, UCLA returned to it’s traditional glory with it’s first championship since the Wooden days. But UCLA’s newest title would not have been possible without escaping the scare of their lives in round 2. The 8-seeded Missouri Tigers were on the verge of knocking the Bruins out, and providing yet another disappointing end to a UCLA season. With an upset looking very likely, UCLA guard Tyus Edney had only 4.7 seconds to run 94 feet down the whole court. That was all he needed as he blew past every Tigers in sight and laid in the last second winning shot. From that point on, the Bruins were never that seriously challenged as they added to the UCLA mystique at long last.
3. Keith Smart wins it all for Indiana, 1987 final.
Bob Knight’s third and last championship with the Hoosiers was the hardest one of all. Down for much of the second half to upstart Syracuse in the NCAA final, Keith Smart led the Hoosiers nearly all the way back. With the Hoosiers down by one, Smart led them completely back. Smart’s flawless jumper with five seconds left gave the Hoosiers the lead for good. Having scored 12 of the Hoosiers last 15 points, Smart was the hero as the Hoosiers took the national championship away from Syracuse.
2. Christian Laettner’s catch and shoot, 1992 East Regional Final.
Defending national champion Duke met Kentucky in Philadelphia for the right to go back to the Final Four. In what is regarded as the greatest game in NCAA tournament history, Duke and Kentucky shot their lights out, with Christian Laettner not missing a single shot or free throw. The high scoring thriller went to overtime as Kentucky seemingly sealed a victory with 2.1 seconds left. With Grant Hill needed to pass the length of the court, only a perfect catch and last second shoot could possibly win it for Duke. And Laettner, who finished off the perfect game, did exactly that. The 104-103 classic win propelled Duke to their second consecutive national championship.
1. N.C State wins it on the dunk, 1983 final.
The Houston Cougars were overwhelming favorites to win it all, especially against lowly Cinderella N.C State in the final. A 10 loss Wolfpack team was facing Olajuwon and Drexler at the peak of their great college careers. And yet, the Wolfpack were not instantly blown out of the arena just like more highly regarded Louisville was by Houston in the semifinal. In fact, the score was tied at 52 with under a minute left. The Wolfpack held for the last shot as Houston tried to send it to overtime and finish off these pretenders to their throne. And as Dereck Whittenberg threw up a desperation three point attempt, that looked to be where this game was going. Until Lorenzo Charles jumped up t that last second and dunked the ball just before it fell harmlessly short. One Jim Valvano run through the court later, impossible history was made by the Wolfpack.
Wikipedia- “1982 NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1982_NCAA_Men’s_Division_I_Basketball_Tournament#The_championship_game
New York Times- “U.C.L.A Dash Knocks Wind Out Of Missouri” query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html
New York Times- “Indiana Takes It All Smartly With Shot At.005” query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html
Big Blue History- “Kentucky vs. Duke (March 28, 1992)” www.bigbluehistory.net/bb/Statistics/Games/19920328Duke.html
ESPN.com- “ESPN 25- 15: N.C State dunks Houston in NCAA final” sports.espn.go.com/espn/espn25/story