The top five craziest endings in the last five years of March Madness
By Jed Mabazza, Staff Writer
With March Madness well underway, let’s take a stroll down memory lane and look back at the top five best game endings over the last five years.
Florida vs. Wisconsin (2017)
The fourth-seeded Florida Gators went head-to-head with the eighth-seeded Wisconsin Badgers with a ticket to the Elite Eight on the line for both teams. For much of the first half, Wisconsin led the game. Eventually, the Badgers ran out of gas and were trailing by two at the end of the first half. The Gators took advantage of this opportunity in the second half and led by as much as 12 points with five minutes left in the frame. But Florida went on a scoring slump and much to their surprise, Wisconsin responded by cutting the lead down by three with 6.5 seconds left in regulation.
Nigel Hayes inbounds the ball to Zak Showalter who drains a contested three-pointer to send the game into overtime. The teams go back and forth in overtime with Wisconsin edging out in front after two made free throws from Hayes, giving Wisconsin a two-point lead. With four seconds left and trailing by two, Chris Chiozza runs down the court with a full head of steam and leans forwards to heave a three pointer. Swish! The Gators narrowly make it out by one point to advance to the Elite Eight.
Kentucky vs. North Carolina (2017)
The Kentucky Wildcats matched up with the North Carolina Tar Heels in a game that would award the winning team a spot in the Final Four. The Tar Heels took care of business for all of the first half and most of the second half maintaining a consistent lead. But the Wildcats were able to get their first lead of the night with six minutes and 41 seconds left in regulation, and went up by a thin margin of five points. The teams seesawed against each other in the final minute of the game.
Kentucky’s lead vanished and North Carolina went up by three points with 34 seconds left in the second half. After a few turnovers, missed shots and timeouts, Isaiah Briscoe passes the ball to Mailk Monk who drains a three with 7.2 seconds left in regulation. But the real kicker here is how quickly North Carolina responds on the inbound.
While the crowd is still cheering, Theo Pinson quickly brings the ball down the court and passes to Luke May. May shoots a long two-pointer and yup, dagger! North Carolina wins by two points on clutch shooting from bench player Luke May. I’m surprised Kentucky lost this one considering they had Bam Adebayo and De’Aaron Fox, both of whom are considered future NBA stars.
Houston vs. Michigan (2018)
The third-seeded Michigan Wolverines matched up against the sixth-seeded Houston Cougars. The stakes were high for both teams as a win would seal them a spot in the Final Four. Dare I say, both teams put their blood, sweat and tears into this game.
It was a nail-biting night as both teams went back and forth with 16 lead changes and 12 ties. But it was the 17th lead change that sealed the fate of the Wolverines. In the final 16 seconds of the game, Michigan had possession of the ball and was down two points. The score was 63-61. Moe Wagner inbounds the ball to Zavier Simpson. Simpson passes it to Isaiah Livers. Livers quickly passes it to team captain Muhammad-Ali-Abdur-Rakman who drives in for a non-contested layup to try to tie the game. And no go with 3.8 seconds remaining! Michigan intentionally fouls Houston to send Devin Davis to the line.
All seems lost for Michigan, but Davis pulls a Ben Simmons at the line and chokes both free throws. Michigan calls time to draw the final play. The ball is inbounded to Abdur-Rakman at midcourt, Abdur-Rakman passes to Jordan Poole and launches a three pointer at the last second. And bang! Michigan’s season is saved by the hands of a freshman. At the time of writing, Poole actually drained back-to-back threes after trailing against the Denver Nuggets to give the Golden State Warriors the dub on March 10, 2022. The kid is still clutch when it matters.
North Carolina vs Villanova (2016)
With a championship on the line, the North Carolina Tar Heels and the Villanova Wildcats knew what was at stake. Neither team had a substantial lead in this game, it was a hard-fought battle through and through.
North Carolina trailed by six points with a minute and 39 seconds left in regulation. But they were not going to give up easily.
North Carolina bounced back and tied the game on the heels of a Marcus Paige three-pointer. Villanova calls timeout with only 4.7 seconds left in regulation. The ball is inbounded to Ryan Arcidiacono. He runs down court while forward Daniel Ochefu sets the screen to clear the defender. Arcidiacono shovels it to Kris Jenkins for the three! Bang! The Villanova Wildcats beat the buzzer!
Jenkins’ clutch game-winner gave Villanova their first national title in 31 years.
However, Jenkins, who drained one of the biggest shots in Villanova’s history, went undrafted in the 2017 NBA Draft. He may have made a long shot to win the championship, but I guess he was a longshot for the NBA.
University of Central Florida vs. Duke (2019)
This is by far one of my favorite endings in the 2019 NCAA Tournament. The University of Central Florida (UCF) Knights and the Duke Blue Devils went to battle to earn a spot in the Sweet 16.
For the most part, the entire game remained competitive for both teams. UCF took an early lead in the first half and then lost it to Duke. Both teams went back and forth exchanging single-digit leads without any signs of letting up from either team in the final minute of regulation.
With 45 seconds left in the game, UCF was up by three points after two successful free throws from B.J. Taylor. Zion Williamson attempts to tie the game with a three-pointer but the shot rattles out. Javin DeLaurier grabs the offensive rebound and passes to Cam Reddish. Reddish hogs the ball for five seconds and decides to pass to Williamson again. Williamson drives into the paint to lay it up over seven-foot-six Tacko Fall at the rim.
Zion draws the foul and gets an and-1! Zion misses the free throw, which is ironic because Williamson is now missing many games for the New Orleans Pelicans. But RJ Barret cleans it up at the rim with a putback to give Duke a one-point lead. UCF tries to get the lead back with 8.1 seconds left but B.J. Taylor misses the layup and his teammate, Aubrey Dawkins misses the two-point tip shot. Duke narrowly wins by one point on the shoulders of Willamson and Barret who went on to be drafted first and third overall in the NBA Draft that year.