Christian Laettner, Duke
1992 East Regional Finals (vs. Kentucky)
With 2.1 seconds on the clock, the son of a former Dallas Cowboy — sophomore Grant Hill (Calvin’s kid) — threw a touchdown pass roughly 80 feet to Christian Laettner. Kentucky coach Rick Pitino’s “Unforgettables,” along with Jamal Mashburn, went 5-on-4 rather than guarding Hill’s full court inbounds pass from the far baseline. The strategic move was a poor one, as Hill tossed a perfect pass to Laettner, who caught the ball cleanly, faked right, turned left and released a fade-away game-winner from the free-throw line with 0.3 left on the clock. The ball swished as time expired, stunning UK fans (and Duke’s Thomas Hill, whose memorable postgame expression summed up what we all felt). Thanks to Laettner’s late-game heroics, Coach K’s club advanced to the Final Four and went on to win its second straight national title.
Mario Chalmers, Kansas
2008 National Championship (vs. Memphis)
Twenty years after Danny Manning and the Miracles’ 1988 national championship, Kansas’ Mario Chalmers hit a miraculous 3-pointer to send the national title game against Memphis into overtime. Bill Self’s Jayhawks were given a sliver of daylight after the Tigers’ future No. 1 overall NBA Draft pick Derrick Rose missed one of two free throws with 10.8 seconds to play. Needing a 3-pointer to tie, KU’s Sherron Collins pushed the ball up the floor and stumbled while passing to Chalmers — whose one-dribble, top-of-the-key three tied the game at 63–63 with 2.1 seconds left in regulation. Kansas outlasted Memphis in overtime, winning 75–68 to cut down the nets on a championship comeback for the ages.
Lorenzo Charles, NC State
1983 National Championship (vs. Houston)
Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler had no answer for coach Jim Valvano’s NC State underdogs, who hung around and hung around until it was all over for the Cougars and their two future Hall of Fame stars. With the game knotted at 52–52, the Wolfpack’s Dereck Whittenburg launched a desperation heave from between half court and the top of the key with four seconds to play. An airball has never looked so good, as Lorenzo Charles turned the miss into an alley-oop dunk and gave the “Cardiac Pack” a 54–52 national title win — handing NC State its sixth consecutive come-from-behind victory and causing Jimmy V to run wild at the Pit in Albuquerque.
Bryce Drew, Valparaiso
1998 First Round (vs. Ole Miss)
Coach Homer Drew’s No. 13 seed Valparaiso trailed 69–67 with 2.5 seconds remaining against No. 4 seed Ole Miss. Against all odds, Jamie Sykes threw an on-target three-quarter-court pass to Bill Jenkins, who jumped to catch the ball before turning in mid-air and dishing to Bryce Drew. The coach’s son and Crusaders’ superstar caught the pass with 1.9 seconds left, launched a leaning 3-pointer from three-and-a-half feet behind the arc and dove to the floor to celebrate a thrilling 70–69 upset win — and one of the greatest Cinderella shots in Big Dance history.
Tyus Edney, UCLA
1995 Second Round (vs. Missouri)
With the No. 1 team in the country, UCLA, trailing 74–73 against No. 8 seed Missouri, diminutive 5'10" point guard Tyus Edney went coast-to-coast with 4.8 seconds to play for the game-winning layup — going off the glass and through the net as the buzzer sounded in Boise, Idaho. Following Edney’s do-or-die drive, coach Jim Harrick and M.O.P. Ed O’Bannon’s Bruins went on to win UCLA’s 11th national championship — the first (and only) since John Wooden’s run of 10 national
titles ended in 1975.