You can view the moments that are highlighted in either green or blue.
10. Austin Rivers’ Buzzer Beater at UNC(Feb. 8, 2012)
Austin Rivers, son of great NBA coach Doc Rivers, provided us with quite possibly the most iconic moment in the history of the best rivalry in college basketball, Duke and North Carolina. In 2012, Duke and North Carolina were both in the top 10, at the top of the ACC and as usual, were full of NBA prospects. Duke was led by Rivers, Seth Curry and current Denver Nuggets’ center, Mason Plumlee. North Carolina was led by current Sacramento Kings’ forward Harrison Barnes, and big men John Henson and Tyler Zeller.
On February 9, 2012, the ninth-ranked Blue Devils met the fifth-ranked Tar Heels in Chapel Hill, the home of North Carolina. North Carolina was the better team through the first 37 and a half minutes, holding a 10-point lead and was in control. But Duke rallied to make it a two-point game and had possession with 10 seconds left. Then, star freshman Austin Rivers dribbled the ball up the court with the opposing fans cheering loudly. With three seconds left, his teammate, Seth Curry, was screaming at him to shoot the ball. Rivers then shot it over 7-foot center Tyler Zeller from the three-point line and splashed it through the net as time expired to give Duke a thrilling 85-84 victory.
What puts this on the list is not only the difficulty and shock of the shot, but the atmosphere. This is Duke and North Carolina where every game is big and hyped. For Rivers to hit the shot like that over a 7-foot center as a freshman is incredible and Dick Vitale going crazy went the shot was made is the cherry on top. – Sean Clark
For context, the 2014 Kentucky Wildcats were not the elite squad that won the national title in 2012 or the fun and exciting squads that we have seen in the last couple of years. John Calipari was going through the rebuild on this program that had just missed the tournament in the previous year. This team consisted of Julius Randle, Willie Cauley-Stein and twins Aaron and Andrew Harrison. While this team had some potential, they did not seem like a championship contender. Oh man, did that ever change.
In the 2014 NCAA Tournament, Kentucky would take 50 years of their fans’ lives by winning in the narrowest of margins before coming up short in the national title game against UConn. From the Sweet 16 to the Final Four, the Wildcats were lifted to wins thanks to one man with the most clutch gene in March Madness history: Aaron Harrison. Harrison would hit buzzer-beating shots consecutively against Louisville, Michigan and Wisconsin to help his 8th-seeded team reach the national championship game in one of the most remarkable feats in college basketball history. – Cameron Richardson
8. Texas A&M comeback vs Northern Iowa(Mar. 20, 2016)
Let me start with a question. If a team in the sport of basketball had a 12-point lead with 35 seconds left, would you consider that game over? Most likely, you would say yes. Well, there was one such time in college basketball where a team, against 99.99 percent odds, actually came back and tied the game.
On March 20, 2016, in the Round of 32 of the NCAA Tournament, 11 seed Northern Iowa, who won their previous game over Texas on a half-court buzzer beater, took on three seed Texas A&M. Northern Iowa controlled the game and led 69-57 with 35 seconds left. Seth Davis, a college basketball reporter, filled out his results bracket by advancing Northern Iowa with his sharpie. It’s hard to fault him for that as that lead seems way too much to overcome in that little time.
But the improbable happened. One aspect that led to this was after A&M scored a basket to cut the deficit to 10, Northern Iowa called their final timeout. This caused this chain of events: turnover on the inbounds, A&M scores two, turnover on the inbounds, another A&M two points, turnover on the inbounds, A&M hits a three. At this point, it is a three point game. But then, Northern Iowa scores a quick two to make it a five point game. But then, current Laker Alex Caruso scores on a three-point play to make it a two point game. Then Northern Iowa turns the ball over yet again and it leads to the game tying bucket for A&M. In 33 seconds, Texas A&M turned a 69-57 deficit into a 71-71 draw.
It was one of the most shocking collapses we had ever seen. Northern Iowa had a 99.99 percent chance to win the game and blew it. What is even crazier is that they still have overtime to play, and Northern Iowa led most of the first overtime. But they couldn’t hold leads of five and three points and it was sent into double overtime. Northern Iowa there just ran out of gas and Texas A&M won 92-88.
While A&M would lose their next game to Oklahoma, the fact that a 12 point lead was blown in that short of time in the way it happened was beyond incredible. The shock of the collapse was so incredible and that is why it makes this list. No one who saw it will forget it. LeBron James perfectly sums up how devastating and shocking this was: “If I was on Northern Iowa, I would quit basketball.” – Sean Clark
7. (15)Middle Tennessee State upsets (2)Michigan State(Mar. 18, 2016)
Usually, in every NCAA Tournament, we have the major upset that turns fans’ worlds upside down and I have to say that this was the most shocked I have ever been at an upset, aside from one we will talk about later.
Michigan State had the second-best odds to win this 2016 tournament, behind Kansas and were led by one of the Spartans’ greatest players ever Denzel Valentine.
Middle Tennessee State was good but no one would have expected them to upset the team that many people, including myself, picked to win the tournament that year. But thanks to the freckled GOAT Reggie Upshaw, the Blue Raiders pulled off the unthinkable. – Cameron Richardson
Continuing on with another 15 seed upset over a two seed, we have Dunk City in 2013. Florida Gulf Coast University is located in Fort Myers, Florida and was established in 1991. Yet they were in the national spotlight as they became a sensation during the 2013 NCAA Tournament.
FGCU took on two seeded Georgetown in the first round and were expected to lose like most 15 seeds. But they came in high-flying and took it to the Hoyas. With great energy on defense and a great display of crazy dunks, which gave them the nickname of Dunk City, the Eagles controlled the game. Their dunks were phenomenal, including a ridiculous alley-oop from Brett Comer to Chase Fielder with two minutes to go in the game while up seven that sealed the game. FGCU defeated Georgetown 78-68 and immediately became the darlings of America.
Usually, after a 14,15 or later a 16 seed wins in the first round, they are promptly dismantled in the next round, like Middle Tennessee was after beating Michigan State. But FGCU was different. They not only played well in the next round against seven seeded San Diego State, but defeated the Aztecs 81-71 to become the only 15 seed to ever reach the Sweet 16. They continued to be high flying and put on a dunk show and showed their win over Georgetown wasn’t just a fluke.
While FGCU would lose to Florida 62-50 in the Sweet 16, the impact would be felt across the country. Their head coach Andy Enfield would take the job at USC after the tournament and would take a last-place team and build them into the respectable program they are today. The fact FGCU remains the only 15 seed to ever reach the Sweet 16 and the fact they did it in such a fun manner, is why this run makes this list. – Sean Clark
5. Trey Burke’s Shot vs Kansas(Mar. 29, 2013)
This is one of those moments where you just have to watch it to appreciate it. I care about this shot more than others because I was one of the very few people that had picked the Wolverines to knock off the top-seeded Jayhawks in this tournament. Not only did Trey Burke eliminate Kansas in the Sweet 16 but they should now be named national champions after the team they lost to the title game, Louisville, was stripped and disqualified for recruitment violations. – Cameron Richardson
4. Loyola-Chicago makes it to the Final Four(2018 NCAA Tournament)
Loyola of Chicago won the National Championship in 1963 and would make the NCAA Tournament three more times during the decade. After that, the Ramblers would only make the tournament once between 1969 and 2017. But in 2018, the Ramblers would break through to win the Missouri Valley tournament. They would enter the tournament as an 11 seed and would embark on a run for the ages.
Led by a balanced lineup that included guards Clayton Custer, the Missouri Valley Player of the Year, Marques Townes, forwards Donte Ingram and Aundre Jackson, and center Cameron Krutwig, the Ramblers were considered a dark horse for the Sweet 16. But the path to get there would be anything by smooth. Against sixth seeded Miami in the first round, the Ramblers were down one in the final seconds. But Ingram drained a three-point shot at the top of the key as time expired to give the Ramblers a 64-62 win.
Up next was the third seeded Tennessee Volunteers. Once again, they were trailing 62-61 in the final seconds. But it was Custer’s turn to be the hero as his shot bounced off the rim and in with three seconds to go and the Ramblers advanced to the Sweet 16.
During this, the Ramblers became a sensation as 98-year-old nun Sister Jean became the face of this run. She was the inspiration for this run and the Ramblers became America’s darlings for the second weekend of the tournament. The magical run would continue as Townes would become the hero this time. Up one with 8 seconds left against seventh-seeded Nevada, Townes drained a three with the shot clock winding down and the Ramblers survived the Wolfpack 69-68.
In the Elite 8 against ninth-seeded Kansas State, no hero was needed as they dominated the Wildcats 78-62 to reach the Final Four. The Ramblers captured the collective hearts of America. They won their first three games in thrilling fashion and had Sister Jean to help make this team lovable and famous. They would fall 69-57 in the Final Four to Michigan, but their run provided us moments that we will never forget. – Sean Clark
3. Wisconsin defeats undefeated Kentucky(Apr. 4, 2015)
38-and-done. The 38-0 Kentucky Wildcats proved to be human in the Final Four of the 2015 NCAA Tournament as a Wisconsin team led by Frank Kaminsky, Nigel Hayes, Sam Dekker and Bronson Koenig. It was a star-studded game as Kentucky had Karl Anthony-Towns, the Harrison twins, Willie Cauley-Stein and a bench player by the name of DEVIN BOOKER. In the end, it would be a late three and a 20-point performance from Kaminsky that lifted the Badgers over the Wildcats. – Cameron Richardson
2. Villanova-UNC National Championship Game(Apr. 4, 2016)
Throughout the 2016 NCAA Tournament, North Carolina and Villanova proved themselves as the two best teams in the tournament. In the Final Four, Villanova dominated Oklahoma by a record of 45 points, and North Carolina dominated Syracuse by 17. The two met in the National Championship, and were led by seniors with a lot to prove.
For North Carolina, Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson were seniors that had lost in the Round of 32 and the Sweet 16 the last three seasons, and this was their last chance to bring a championship back to Chapel Hill. Villanova was led by Ryan Archidiacano, a senior who was on the 2014 and 2015 Villanova teams, who was a number two and one seed respectively and lost in the Round of 32. This was both teams’ chance to make up for previous failures with a championship.
It was back and forth for most of the game. Villanova with 4:42 to go had a 10-point lead, but the Tar Heels would claw their way back into the game. With six seconds left, the Tar Heels were down three and needed a clutch shot. Paige, while in the air, would pump a shot and then release a prayer. The three-point shot miraculously rattled in and the game was tied with five seconds to go.
Villanova took possession and Archidiacano dribbled it up the court and passed it to forward Kris Jenkins. Jenkins then shot a long-ranged three point shot for the championship, and it went in as time expired! Jenkins became the second player to hit a buzzer beater to win the National Championship, the first since Lorenzo Charles for NC State in 1983.
Villanova overcame previous failure to win the National Championship and North Carolina, despite an incredible shot from Paige, just fell short. It was a tremendous finish and this game provided two legendary moments. North Carolina would win the championship a year later and Villanova would win again the year after that. But these two will forever be connected to one of the greatest finishes in the sport of college basketball. It is number two on this list as there is something truly historic that happened in 2018 that tops even this thrilling finish. – Sean Clark
1. 16 UMBC Stuns 1 Virginia by 20(Mar. 16, 2018)
The most improbable of upsets occurred in the 2018 NCAA Tournament as the America East Champion UMBC Retrievers knocked off the overall number one national seed Virginia Cavaliers in a blowout of a first-round matchup.
The 16 defeating a 1 seed upset was made fun of multiple times because no one believed we would ever see it. However, this tiny school and a guard by the name of Jairus Lyles would go on to shock the world in the greatest upset in college basketball history. UMBC had more effort and they hit a plethora of threes to, not only make this a close game, but to assert their dominance over this defensive juggernaut.
Virginia may have redeemed themselves in the next year by winning the national championship but they will always be remembered as the first team to fall to a 16 seed. – Cameron Richardson