We're in the middle of the greatest basketball week of the greatest basketball month of the year. There is no debating this. Sure, the quality of play may get better during the NCAA Tournament's second weekend but there's really nothing like the quantity, drama and excitement provided by the first four days of the NCAA Tournament. As sports fans, we love the games, the upsets and the buzzer beaters. Oh the buzzer beaters.
Well, I'm here to rain on the buzzer beating parade a bit. Buzzer beaters aren't always great. With the jubilation that comes from a buzzer beating shot also comes despair. The despair of a team on the edge of victory who suddenly, improbably has that victory snatched from them on what quite often is a lucky shot. I can speak to this...because I lost two games during my high school career on highly improbable buzzer beaters.
The first occurred during my senior year. We were playing one of the better teams in our conference on the road. I scored my career high and knocked down two free throws with 6 seconds left to put us up by two. We were right on the edge of securing a major victory in what had been a seemingly cursed season (our best player tore his ACL for the second time during the summer and our second best player died in a car accident). Yet, it was not to be. Our opponent (Cocoa High) had one last possession. And on that last possession a player who had been scoreless all game long received a pass at just beyond half court, took two dribbles and flung a 25 footer. Bang. His three pointer was good. The crowd went nuts and rushed the floor. My teammates and I walked off with another loss in a season that quite often went from bad to worse.
Somehow, that's not the most heartbreaking loss of my high school career. That would come one year earlier against our biggest rival (Greg's alma mater). These two school were separated by only a few miles so most of the kids knew each other. And this year, both teams were really good. In fact, both teams were ranked in the state during various times throughout the year (in Florida's two highest classifications at the time)and this game would determine the conference leader. The game was a tightly contested game played in our home gym. Both teams traded the lead back and forth. Until our starting point guard (I was more of a two guard as a junior) hit a three to put us up one with just over a second left. What followed is something that is still burned into my memory almost twenty years later. Our opponent inbounded the ball to their point guard (who I went to junior high with) who took one dribble and then jumped off of one foot from in between the free throw line and three point line as he launched a shot from 75-80 feet from his basket. You can guess what happened next. The ball was in the air forever. At least that's what it felt like. And when it came down, it hit nothing but the bottom of the net. If it wasn't a miracle, it's the closest I've ever seen. Since both schools were located so close to one another, there were plenty of opposing fans at our gym. They rushed the floor and mobbed their team. All I saw was a see of green (their main color) rushing the floor. I was on the court at the time of the shot and simply fell backwards as it went through the net. Fans rushed past me, one of my teammates came over to help me up. It was the worst I've ever felt on a basketball court. As a 17 year old, I thought it was the worst I'd ever feel. Our team struggled to ever recover. We lost the next two games and later lost one of our best players to an ACL tear. We were truly never the same after that heartbreaking loss. I'll never forget it.
As if that wasn't bad enough, I woke up the next morning to find out that the play had made it on to Good Morning America and was also named CNN's 'Play of the Day'. My aunt who lived in Japan called my Mom to say she had seen my high school on CNN. Of course, my Mom had to explain to her that my team wasn't the one who won the game. I tried to stay home from school the next day. I literally didn't want to talk to, or see anybody. Of course, time heals all wounds. Well, mostly. I still haven't forgotten seeing that prayer being answered. And I doubt I ever will.
With all that said, buzzer beaters are still pretty awesome. So enjoy this list of the 27 best buzzer beaters of the college basketball season.