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Game Time: Ten Historically Significant March Madness Buzzer Beaters

In my effort to help everyone prepare for March Madness, I bring you the second installment of the March Madness Preview. (Click here for yesterday's first installment -- you know the part with my picks and what not.) Today, we look at some of the most historical buzzer beaters in tournament history. Without further ado....

10. U.S. REED, Arkansas vs Louisville, 1981 (Second Round)

FINAL SCORE: Arkansas 74, Louisville 73
HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE: Aside from being the first buzzer beater ever (and to my knowledge, to this day still the only) hit by a person named after our country, this half-court gem from Reed was a just part of a tournament that included Danny Ainge's buzzer beater against Notre Dame, St. Joe's knocking off DePaul (and number-one overall NBA draft choice that year Mark Aguirre) in the waning seconds, and Kansas State (and future Aguirre NBA teammate Rolando Blackman) making a deep run in the tourney, including knocking off one-seed Oregon State.


UNDERRATED COMEDY:
Reed became the first and only player to ever get off a half court buzzer beater after dribbling the ball like Stanley Hudson from The Office .


9. DANNY AINGE, BYU vs Notre Dame, 1981 (Sweet Sixteen)

FINAL SCORE: BYU 51, Notre Dame 50
HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE: Encapsulated perfectly the underachievement of Digger Phelps as a head basketball coach, as he somehow managed to parlay a team with two high first-round picks (Orlando Woolridge and Kelly Tripucka) and the future point guard of multiple NBA championship teams (John Paxson) into a Sweet 16 loss. Ainge would go on to play baseball for the Toronto Blue Jays for about three innings, and decide maybe basketball would suit him better. The Boston Celtics approved.
UNDERRATED COMEDY: Check out the BYU players already celebrating, arms in the air after Ainge's shot when there is still time left on the clock. Hell, Notre Dame actually gets a decent look at a half-court heave. If said heave had gone in it would have been one of the all time "counting your chickens" moment. Instead, the BYU players all celebrated by hitting the town to find their fourth wives.

8. JAMES FORREST Georgia Tech vs USC, 1992 (Second Round)

FINAL SCORE: Georgia Tech 79, USC 78
HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE: This was the appropriate ending to the college career of one of the most overrated players of our generation, Harold Miner. The completely inappropriately nicknamed "Baby Jordan" will best be remembered for some really cool dunks, and...well, looking maybe 10 percent like Michael Jordan. Oh, and for being the reason Rockets fans were pissed off after the team took Robert Horry in the 1992 draft and passed on Miner. It worked out all right for the Rockets.
UNDERRATED COMEDY: Al Maguire's color commentary is an easy choice. After begging Tech to throw it "undah the basket, UNDAH THE BASKET!!" (ignoring the fact that if they put someone in that open space, USC probably would have covered them), he then gives us a primal scream after the shot followed by a memorable barrage of "HOLY MACKAREL"'s. Great stuff.

7. BRYCE DREW (Valparaiso) vs Ole Miss, 1998 (First Round)

FINAL SCORE: Valpo 70, Ole Miss 69
HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE: Before this shot, most people had no idea who Bryce Drew was nor where Valparaiso was. Hell, most people still don't know the latter. (For the record, it's in Northwest Indiana about 45 minutes outside Chicago.) As for Drew, he rode the fame from this shot all the way to the Sweet Sixteen -- as in round of sixteen in the tournament and the 16th overall selection by the Rockets, where he stole money for a few years and has the dubious distinction of being one third of the answer to "Name the players the Rockets selected instead of Rashard Lewis in 1998?" (Michael Dickerson and Mirsad Turkcan being the other two, but you already knew that.)
UNDERRATED COMEDY: None. There's nothing funny about a story that winds up with the Rockets royally fucking up a first round in which they have three draft choices for a roster that had multiple future Hall of Famers. Nothing.

 

6. TYUS EDNEY, UCLA vs Missouri, 1995 (Second Round)

FINAL SCORE: UCLA 75, Missouri 74
HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE: After going twenty years without winning a title (after winning ten under John Wooden), UCLA's hopes were kept alive by this Edney end-to-end dash, and ultimately realized by beating Arkansas in the finals of the 1995 tournament.
UNDERRATED COMEDY: I mean...wow. What in the blue hell was Missouri doing defensively? First, they provide zero resistance to Edney getting the ball in the frontcourt, and then even with four bodies around him they allow him to get off a reasonable lay-up look (as the smallest guy on the court, no less). Missouri knew what was coming (like Jim Harrick was drawing up some extravagant play or something; uh, no), and they still didn't stop it.

5. RICHARD HAMILTON, Connecticut vs Washington, 1998 (Sweet Sixteen)

FINAL SCORE: Connecticut 75, Washington 74
HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE: This one probably is rated a tad high in terms of significance, but there is a logical flow for the next four entries so stay with me. Significance of this one, regardless, is that it was the sort of the last precursor to Jim Calhoun finally getting UConn on the map as a true national power, the final step taking place the next season when he would win his first title.
UNDERRATED COMEDY: UConn had three cracks at the winning bucket, the last two being off of rebounds. The first shot, essentially the "designed" part of the play, went to Jake Voshkuil, who was largely a banger with limited offensive skills (and from right here in Houston!). Rip Hamilton's man leaves him and El-Amin could have given it to Hamilton, but instead Voshkuil winds up with the rock. All's well that ends well, just funny that it took a couple cracks at it to finally get Hamilton to knock it down.

4. TATE GEORGE Connecticut vs Clemson, 1990 (Sweet Sixteen)

FINAL SCORE: Connecticut 71, Clemson 70
HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE: If Hamilton's putback was UConn announcing it was on the cusp of being a national power, then Tate George's shot with one second to go off a picture perfect, length-of-the-court pass from Scott Burrell was their introduction to the nation as a relevant program. Unless you lived and grew up in Connecticut in the `80's (which I did), you have no idea how miraculous Jim Calhoun's transformation of that program was. 1990 was the first year under Calhoun where they really prospered, getting a one seed in the East. The headline in the Hartford Courant the day after this shot: "It's Late, It's Tate, It's Great." Indeed.

(Little known fact Number 1: Clemson had gone on a 30-10 run, after being down 19 points, to take the lead 70-69. UConn had gone into a shell and couldn't make a shot for what felt like a week, if you were a UConn fan. They didn't play the second half like a team that deserved to win this game.)

(Little known fact Number 2: The inbounder on the play, Scott Burrell, was an MLB first-round choice of the Seattle Mariners; the arm came in handy on that final play.)
UNDERRATED COMEDY: Elden Campbell's blank stare after the shot. Elden Campbell's box haircut. Pretty much anything involving Elden Campbell.
 

 

3. CHRISTIAN LAETTNER vs Connecticut, 1990 (Elite Eight)

FINAL SCORE: Duke 79, Connecticut 78
HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE: Not only did UConn get a taste of its own medicine, falling victim to a heartbreaking last-second shot, but Christian Laettner fired his first big salvo in the debate of "Who is the greatest post-season player in NCAA history?" My answer is, was, and probably always will be "Laettner."
UNDERRATED COMEDY: Part of me is glad that Duke hit this shot because without this win, we don't have the "Bobby Hurley literally craps himself" game against UNLV in the Finals, a 103-73 thrashing which touched off about three days worth of immature jokes involving the word "Dukie" between me and my college buddies. (Didn't even need to look up that score by the way; when Duke loses by 30, you remember it.)

2. CHRISTIAN LAETTNER, Duke vs Kentucky, 1992 (Elite Eight)

FINAL SCORE: Duke 104, Kentucky 103
HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE: This entire game simultaneously cemented Laettner's place as college basketball's greatest villain and most cold blooded assassin. The villain part...


And the assassin part....


UNDERRATED COMEDY: Please tell me that nearly twenty years later, Thomas Hill's teammates give him shit about crying like a little five-year-old who can't find his parents at an amusement park after the shot went down. If not his old teammates, at least his co-workers wherever he works now? Please?

1. LORENZO CHARLES, North Carolina State vs Houston, 1983 (NCAA Finals)

FINAL SCORE: NC State 54, Houston 52
HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE: Where to begin? First, this finish (and NC State's run overall) is what really put the tournament on the map as "March Madness." NC State had to win the ACC Tournament just to make the field, and then closed the deal with a slew of tight games along the way (four of their six games were decided by one or two points). Michael Jordan and Georgetown in 1982 was the March Madness foreshadowing, but NC State's magical run and win over a loaded Phi Slamma Jamma Cougar team was tipping point. From there, it begat Georgetown-Villanova 1985, the rise of Coach K and Duke in the late 80's, Tark's UNLV bad boys, the Fab Five, Nolan Richardson's 40 minutes of hell, and the UConn NBA factory of the late 90's and early 2000's. Jordan's shot and Freddy Brown's gaffe in 1982 gave us the inkling; Lorenzo Charles and Jimmy V cemented it. (And if you think I didn't get wood typing that list of 80's/90's/00's basketball lore, you'd be wrong.)

Legacies were created and shattered that night. If NC State doesn't win that game, Valvano is more remembered for leaving NC State in disgrace in 1990 amidst a Chris Washburn-tainted loose ship. If Houston wins that game, Guy V. Lewis is probably in the Hall of Fame. This shot was that significant.

Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 3-7 p.m. weekdays on the Sean & John Show, and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian .


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