Wait a minute, you’re saying, the tournament was months ago. It’s MARCH Madness for a reason. Well it’s still real to me, dammit. If you don’t have love in your heart for buzzer beaters the whole year round then you gotta grow that heart, Grinch. The 90’s provided some wonderful buzzer beater tournament moments. Those that lifted the underdog, those that crushed underdog dreams, those that were stepping stones to championships, those that sent broadcasters into frenzied screams. A true smorgasboard of what makes it the most wonderful time of the year. In my research there were 9 true tournament buzzer beaters in the 90’s and we know the golden rule: the Internet loves a list. Going from 9 to 1, here are the DEFINITIVE buzzer beater rankings. The rankings are based on importance of the game, skillfulness of the buzzer beater and whatever other arbitrary criteria I decide. @ me, don’t @ me it doesn’t really change anything because I’m legally protected with the definitive title, it’s ironclad.
9. 1995 Southeast Regional 2nd Round – (6) Georgetown vs. (14) Weber State
No one likes to see the underdog go down in heartbreaking fashion. Particularly when it’s the 14th seeded underdog knocking on the door of the Sweet 16. Even if college Allen Iverson is prominently involved. Weber State dispatched Michigan State in the first round, ending Jud Heathcote’s coaching career at that. And then they’re going to take out Georgetown and have North Carolina in their sights? Talk about having to climb the Mortal Kombat ladder. The man, the myth, the legend himself Uncle Verne Lundquist sums it up best with “And the other side of the coin, the sad story of a 14 seed who’s dream comes to an end.” Uncle Verne should be there to describe all of life’s moments, good and bad. Full credit to Don Reid for the poor man’s version of the Lorenzo Charles winner but let’s face it, outside of Hoyas fans no one wanted to see this one happen.
8. 1990 Southeast Regional 1st Round – (3) Missouri vs. (14) Northern Iowa
Missouri, ohhhh Missouri doesn’t have much luck in the tournament. They’ve never made the Final Four and in addition to this one they’ve lost their fair share of games in heartbreaking fashion. You might even see them pop up again later (foreshadowing!). I particularly enjoy this one for a plethora of reasons: 1) It’s in the 90’s but looks like it might as well have been 40 years ago. 2) A quality broadcast reaction to the shot (yes, yes, not technically a buzzer beater but back off). 3) Northern Iowa had never even been to the tournament before. Well you’re just gonna show up and run this town then ain’t ya? 4.) The hair, oh the hair.
Wild times I tell ya.
7. 1992 Midwest Regional 2nd Round (2) USC vs. (7) Georgia Tech
Man, I’d really like to elevate this one more. First off, let’s pour one out to Al McGuire on the call. I can’t say enough about his reaction to the shot. No manufactured call, trying to come up with something clever within the moment, it’s just pure jubilation. And Dick Stockton just hops on for the ride with “HOLY MACKEREL! HOLY MACKEREL!” That’s all you really need from a good call. Shouldn’t come as a surprise from a guy willing to dance like this in front of millions of people.
Second, some great names involved in this game, including Jon Barry, Matt Geiger, Travis Best (who 6 years later could still portray a high schooler) and the one and only BABY JORDAN.
And oh yeah a guy that hadn’t made a 3 pointer the whole year made one to win the game with 0.8 seconds left. I don’t want to rate this game 7th so much as 1G.
6. 1998 East Regional Semifinal – (2) Connecticut vs. (11) Washington
This one gets points for its fun in replicability. I must have re-enacted this play a thousand times with some friends. Also, lots of credit to Sean McDonough to for the perfect play-by-play. No credit to Jim Calhoun, who has been rocking the Simpsons Gil look for damn near 30+ years now.
5. 1990 East Regional Semifinal – (1) Connecticut vs. (5) Clemson
Ole Gil is already making another appearance, in what I will say is a pretty underrated shot. Making anything with one second is hard enough, let alone full court in a Sweet 16 game. Dick Stockton not bringing quite the amount of ruckus that I would like for such an occasion, but at least we get enthusiasm out of the Husky mascot in which the inside of it was probably running at a brisk temperature of 250 degrees.
….and the ultimate looks of befuddlement from Clemson coaches and players
Because really that’s what the tournament does to you; it either turns you into a hysterical lunatic without a care that you’re in a costume that’s hotter than the surface of the sun, or into a dumbfounded mess, frozen in place and unsure what to do with your life. So basically, the most wonderful time of the year.
But hey this Gil fella is living a little too well, I think he needs to be brought down a peg or two. He’ll get his (foreshadowing again!).
4. 1998 Midwest Regional 1st Round – (4) Mississippi vs. (13) Valparaiso
THIS is what you hope for before every tournament. That wonderful double digit seed pulling off a 1 in 100 shot to win it (Although every high school coach wouldn’t have you believe it that way as they all tried to implement this play into their arsenal after this game). Bryce Drew has made a very nice coaching career for himself but I’d be willing to bet a good chunk of sports fans would know him solely for this moment. And there’s nothing wrong with that! As Bryce’s Wikipedia page says, “Drew secured his place as a Valparaiso, Indiana, celebrity along with popcorn guru Orville Redenbacher.”
That’s esteemed company if I’ve ever heard it.
3. 1990 East Regional Final – (1) Connecticut vs. (3) Duke
Well it’s about time Ole Gil got his just desserts. I don’t think I really need to spoiler alert number 1 for this list but while Duke-Kentucky is certainly tops and rightfully so, this moment doesn’t get near the credit it deserves. Like Duke-UK it sends Duke to the Final Four, down 1 at the buzzer. And the difficulty level on Laettner’s shot is not exactly on easy either. But Dick Stockton drops the ball again! You would have thought it was a shot to end the first half with the level of enthusiasm he shows. Now, some are more inclined to the subdued Pat Summerall reactions to big moments but I feel the tournament is the one realm you have free reign to lose it. At least Hubie Brown is involved. It also probably doesn’t help that Duke would go on to lose to UNLV by approximately 150 points.
2. 1995 West Regional 2nd Round – (1) UCLA vs. (8) Missouri
I had some weird affinity for this UCLA team as an 8 year old child. I was moving into a new bedroom at the time and unsuccessfully tried lobbying my parents into allowing me to get Bruin wallpaper. Can’t see why they said no. All that aside, what a play! I’m fairly certain if I attempted this play today I would not make it to half court before the buzzer sounded. But Edney gets all the way there to convert what appears to be an easy layup but is in fact, sorcery. And you get to see a quick shot of a member of the all-time tournament name team, Cameron Dollar. And poor Missouri! One minute they’re losing to Northern Iowa hair, the next they’re losing on a blue and orange court. Their all-time tournament experience could best be ummed up in the 1997 Andy Katzenmoyer tackle: So close to success, then hitting the wall that is life.
1. 1992 East Regional Final – (1) Duke vs. (2) Kentucky
And I buy in to all of it. I’m in the “greatest game in the history of sports” camp for a whole host of reasons that this space probably can’t contain. Nevermind that Laettner mayyyyyybe (probably) should have been kicked out of the game. Just take solace that his punishment was having to wear this suit.