March Madness 2011: The 15 Greatest Finishes in Sweet 16 History

Yaneek SmithContributor IIIMarch 25, 2011

March Madness 2011: The 15 Greatest Finishes in Sweet 16 History

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    While the second weekend of the NCAA tournament usually doesn't have very many Cinderellas remaining or the potential for a bevy of upsets, it does have an added benefit: The teams that survive this weekend earn a spot in the Final Four, thus adding drama to an already high-strung situation.

    These games mean more—the players know it, the coaches know it and the difference can be seen on the court.

    With the Sweet 16 upon us, I figured that we would look back at some of the most frantic finishes we've had from these games throughout the past, from 1979 to the present. (1979 was the year in which the Selection Committee began seeding teams in the NCAA Tournament.)

No. 15: Levance Fields' 3-Pointer Gives Pitt the Lead Late over Xavier (2009)

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    The Pitt Panthers found themselves in an all-too-familiar position.

    They were on the brink of making it past the Sweet 16 but trailed late and were running out of time.

    Levance Fields did something about that.

    With his team trailing, 54-52, Fields rolled right off a screen, dribbled between his legs and pulled up for a three-pointer, nailing it with 50.1 seconds remaining to give the Panthers a 55-54 lead. 

    But that wasn't all.

    On the ensuing play, he stole the ball and drove in for a layup, extending the lead to 57-54 and assuring the Panthers of the victory over Xavier.

No. 14: Jacob Pullen's 3-Pointer Gives K. State Lead for Good over Xavier (2010)

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    The headline for one article about the game read: "Kansas State, Xavier put on show for the ages."

    One of the most exciting games in tournament history, the clash between Kansas State and Xavier saw big shot after big shot made before the Wildcats' Jacob Pullen gave his team the lead for good late in the second overtime.

    Down three points late in regulation and then again in the first overtime, the Musketeers found a way to tie it up both times, sending the game to a second overtime.

    But Pullen made sure it did not go any further than that.

    With the game tied at 94 and time winding down in the second overtime, Kansas State's star guard nailed a three-pointer from the top of the key with 31.2 seconds remaining to give the Wildcats the victory.

No. 13: Anderson's 3-Pointer Sends the Game into OT as UConn Defeats Wash (2006)

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    After Washington's Brandon Roy made two free throws to push the lead to three, 82-79, with 7.9 seconds to play, UConn point guard Marcus Williams drove and flipped the ball to Rashad Anderson, who drilled a three-pointer from the right wing with 1.8 seconds remaining. 

    On the ensuing play, Washington's Ryan Appleby missed a three-pointer, sending the game into overtime, where Connecticut would take control, winning 98-92.

    It was an especially bitter defeat for Washington, seeing as it had lost seven years before in the Sweet 16 to Connecticut on a buzzer-beater, not to mention the fact that it led 78-72 with 1:53 to play and 80-76 with 21 seconds remaining in this contest.

No. 12: Will Sheridan Scores Inside to Give 'Nova a 60-59 Lead Late (2006)

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    With his team trailing 59-58 in the closing seconds of overtime and about to inbound the ball underneath the opponent's basket, forward Will Sheridan set a pick for teammate Allen Ray and moved toward the hoop to find himself wide open.

    After receiving the pass, he laid the ball up off the glass as it was blocked by Boston College's Sean Williams, who was whistled for goaltending.

    After Boston College's Louis Hinnant's desperation three-pointer missed at the buzzer, Villanova advanced to the Elite Eight.

No. 11: Stoudamire's Jumper with 2.8 Seconds Left Wins It for Arizona (2005)

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    [To view the finish, please click here.]

    In a game that saw the lead change several times in the final minutes, Arizona's Salim Stoudamire nailed an off-balance jumper from the left side with 2.8 seconds remaining, giving Arizona a dramatic 79-78 victory over Oklahoma State.

    Oklahoma State's John Lucas III, whose three-pointer the year before against St. Joseph's (PA) sent the Cowboys to the Final Four, missed a jumper from the corner that would've won it as time expired.

No. 10: Green Banks in a Leaner to Give Georgetown the Win over Vandy (2007)

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    Down one point with 14.4 seconds remaining, Georgetown fed Jeff Green in the post, and after fumbling the ball, he regained control and banked in a jumper with 2.5 seconds remaining to give Georgetown the dramatic victory over Vanderbilt.

    Replays seemed to indicate that Green may have traveled, possibly moving his pivot foot.

    Vanderbilt had taken the lead on two Dan Cage free throws with 17.9 seconds remaining, only to see its dreams of advancing to the Elite Eight be taken away in such heartbreaking fashion.

No. 9: Cameron Dollar's Runner in the Lane Sends UCLA to the Elite Eight (1997)

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    UCLA point guard Cameron Dollar, who had subbed for injured starter Tyus Edney two years before in the national championship victory over Arkansas, hit a difficult runner in the lane over the outstretched arms of Iowa State's 6'11" center Kelvin Cato with 1.9 seconds remaining to give the Bruins a 74-73 victory.

    The play came just after Shawn Bankhead had scored a layup off an inbounds pass to give the Cyclones the lead back.

    It was an incredible comeback victory for the Bruins, who had trailed by 16 points with 16:43 remaining in the second half.

No. 8: Greg Oden Blocks Shot at the Buzzer, Giving Ohio State the Victory (2007)

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    The Buckeyes were down 17 points, and things looked bleak.

    They were being significantly outplayed, and their best player, center Greg Oden, was in foul trouble.

    But Ohio State hung in there and clawed its way back, taking the lead when Mike Conley, Jr. made a free throw with 6.5 seconds remaining. He missed the second, however, which set Tennessee up for a chance to win it, but Lamar Smith's runner was blocked by Oden as time expired.

No. 7: UCLA Rallies from 17-Point Deficit to Defeat Gonzaga in a Wild One (2006)

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    The Bruins, who had trailed by 17 points in the first half and were down by nine with just over three minutes remaining, embarked on a frantic comeback, somehow finding a way to pull out the victory over Gonzaga.

    They took their first lead of the game when Jordan Farmar stole the ball and found Luc Richard Mbah a Moute underneath for the go-ahead basket with 9.9 seconds remaining.

    On the ensuing play, there was a loose ball that resulted in a tie-up, and the possession arrow favored UCLA. Aaron Afflalo, who was fouled on the ensuing possession, made one free throw to extend the lead to 73-71 with 1.9 seconds.

    That left the Bulldogs with one more chance, but J.P. Batista missed a 16-footer at the buzzer that would have sent the game into overtime.

No. 6: Calvary's Tip-in with 4.4 Seconds Remaining Extends Gonzaga's Run (1999)

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    This was the Zags' introduction to the world of sports.

    An unknown 10th seed, they had defeated Minnesota and Stanford to advance to the Sweet 16 and engaged in a great duel with the Gators.

    Down one, the Bulldogs forced a turnover with just over 10 seconds remaining, giving them one last chance to continue their run. On the ensuing play, point guard Quentin Hall shot a 10-foot runner that missed, only to see center Casey Calvary tip in the shot with 4.4 seconds to play.

    On the other end, Florida's Eddie Shannon missed a three-pointer as time expired.

No. 5: Kenton Paulino's 3-Pointer at the Buzzer Ends a Dramatic Finish (2006)

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    Trailing 70-65 with 26.9 seconds to play, the West Virginia Mountaineers staged a furious rally, cutting the lead to two on Mike Gansey's three-pointer. After a Texas free throw made it 71-68, Kevin Pittsnoggle made his fifth three-pointer of the night to tie the game with five seconds remaining.

    With a chance to win it before overtime, Texas guard A.J. Abrams drove the floor and found Kenton Paulino, who hit the game-winning three-pointer from the left wing as time expired to give the Longhorns the victory.

No. 4: John Wallace's 3-Pointer with 2.8 Seconds Left Gives 'Cuse the Win (1996)

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    This game was full of drama.

    With 2.8 seconds remaining in the second half, Syracuse's John Wallace threw a pass from three-quarter-court and found Jason Cipolla, who hit a baseline jumper as time expired to send the game into overtime.

    But it didn't end there.

    With the game tied at 78, Wallace scored underneath with 14.8 seconds to play to put the Orangemen up two, only to see Georgia respond with a three-pointer on the other end.

    With 7.1 seconds remaining, Wallace, who finished with 29 points and 15 rebounds, did what all great players do.

    He took over.

    After receiving the ball in front of mid-court, he drove, pulled up at the top of the key and swished a three-pointer with 2.8 seconds to send the Orangemen to the Elite Eight.

No. 3: Tate George Hits Baseline Jumper to Give UConn the Dramatic Win (1990)

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    Things did not look good for the Huskies.

    They had blown a 19-point lead and were 94 feet away from the basket with just one second to play.

    They needed a miracle.

    And they got just that.

    Scott Burrell heaved a pass downcourt for Tate George, who caught the ball, turned around and nailed a 16-foot baseline jumper to give UConn the victory.

No. 2: Ainge Drives the Length of the Floor to End Notre Dame's Season (1981)

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    With the Irish leading 48-47 and a less than a minute remaining, the teams traded baskets, leaving Brigham Young University down 50-49 with eight seconds remaining.

    That set the stage for one of the greatest moments in BYU history.

    Danny Ainge took the ball coast-to-coast, eluding defenders along the way before laying the ball in the basket with three seconds remaining to give the No. 6-seeded Cougars a dramatic 51-50 victory.

No. 1: Rip Hamilton's Fallaway Jumper in the Lane Gives UConn the Victory (1998)

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    Washington appeared to be in good shape when Donald Watts hit a three-pointer with 33.2 seconds left to give his team a 74-73 lead.

    All it did, however, was give UConn one last chance to take back the lead.

    After UConn missed its first two shots on the final possession, Richard "Rip" Hamilton grabbed the rebound and nailed a tough fallaway jumper from the dotted line as time expired, sending Connecticut to the next round and ending Washington's Cinderella run.