2023: The Year of the Buzzer Beater

It’s nearly impossible to think of something else in sports, or in general for that matter, that incapsulates the mystery and downright unpredictability that the finish to a college basketball game does. I’ve watched hundreds and hundreds of crunch time moments that have ranged from impossible comebacks to head-scratching blunders. I’ve seen the most entertaining of finishes… and I’ve seen the most boring, drawn-out, instant replay-ridden conclusions one could possibly imagine. But in the end, no matter how many free throw, foul-fest, ref-show travesties the average college basketball fan has to endure in a season, the buzzer beaters have always made it worth it. There is simply nothing better than the chaos and pandemonium of a game ending on a heave, a prayer, a beautiful set or a rhythm dagger. Buzzer beaters are the heartbeat of March… and it feels like we’ve had more of them this month than ever.

I’ve counted a staggering 14 true buzzer beaters since Saturday, February 25th. Not only have the buzzer beaters been plentiful (at least one daily for the last 9 days), they’ve been some of the most improbable shots I’ve ever seen in an actual game. Here is a running timeline of the buzzer beaters from this improbable stretch, starting with a crazy final Saturday of February.

Saturday, February 25th

There’s nothing like a crowd-silencer against an arch-rival to potentially save yourself from the doldrums of the NIT in late February… oh by the way.. add in the fact that it was a heave from well beyond the timeline! This is fine work here from Desmond Cambridge.

Florida State has had a brutal season, but they’ll be able to look back on this ringer from Matthew Cleveland to beat the Canes fondly. The craziest part about this one is that it took a 23-point rally from an 8-20 Noles team on the road! This was an absolutely insane game and one of the best the ACC had to offer this season.

This was the final nail in the coffin.. from a NCAA tournament resume standpoint.. for a Lobos team that has struggled all season long in late-game situations. Absolutely cold-blooded delivery on the triple from Lamont Butler.

Sunday, February 26th

This is the first buzzer beater on our timeline that tied the game and rewarded us with free basketball. Wild shot here by Dickinson and a harsh reminder to Greg Gard and company to foul up 3 in this situation. Michigan went on to win this game 87-79 in OT and keep their NCAA tournament hopes alive… for now.

Monday, February 27th

Tuesday, February 28th

Wednesday, March 1st

This is the first of two appearances on this timeline from the cardiac Nittany Lions… and the first of two appearances by none other than senior guard Cam Wynter. The Drexel transfer has been absolutely critical in crunch time to keep the Nittany Lions squarely on the bubble heading into the Big Ten Tournament.

Thursday, March 2nd

If Penn State is surging at the right time to keep their dreams of dancing alive, Rutgers is doing quite the opposite. The reeling Scarlet Knights will see this Jamison Battle trifecta in their nightmares if they end up on the wrong side of the bubble this March.

Friday, March 3rd

This is one of the more improbable buzzer beaters on this timeline… a steal on the inbounds down two… multiple erratic deflections out to the three-point line and a fading banker by Jordan Gainey to win it! One of the better finishes to a game I’ve seen all season… and complete heartbreak city for the Runnin’ Bulldogs.

Saturday, March 4th

On the scale of pure improbability, this shot right here takes the cake for me. There are very few times I’ve ever seen the full-court baseball pass work in college basketball. Admittedly, this was pretty porous defense by the Redhawks. But still, credit to Diante Wood and Tennessee Tech for executing one of the best plays of the season… even if they did fall short in overtime.

Senior big man B.J. Mack, who just entered the portal as a graduate transfer today, got the job done here for the Terriers as he rumbled, bumbled and stumbled to the tin! Once again, less than tenacious defense from the Spartans allowed for this to happen, but credit to Wofford for capitalizing.

Sunday, March 5th

This was a terrific call from Jim Nantz on this Jamal Shead buzzer beater, but all I could hear in my head when I saw this shot go down is Gus Johnson belting out “COLD BLOODED!” This was a big time answer to any of the skepticism surrounding Houston’s half-court offense and their ability to deliver in the clutch. The Cougars are No. 1 for a reason… and after this weekend it’s become very hard to find a weakness with Kelvin Sampson’s squad.

Cam Wynter Part 2!

Northern Arizona freshman guard Oakland Fort had not made a 3-pointer in 33 days until this deep dagger to send 1-seed Eastern Washington packing in the Big Sky Quarterfinals. Euphoria for the Lumberjacks… and brutality for the Eagles.

This concludes our running timeline of buzzer beaters for now. Hopefully this is just the beginning of a beautifully chaotic March on the hardwood.

Alex Wilcox