- With another March Madness in the books, we look back on the most memorable moments of the 2019 tournament.
And just like that, March Madness is over. The nets have been cut. "One Shining Moment" rings throughout the college basketball world. Many people are already on to next year. But before college hoops drifts off the national radar for a few months, let’s look back on a 2019 tournament that featured some spectacular games and stories. From final collegiate looks at top NBA prospects to major upsets to crowning a first-time champion, this year’s tournament was one for the books.
Here are the top moments from the latest iteration of college basketball’s annual showcase.
10. Tremont Waters beats Maryland
LSU and Maryland squared off in a Round of 32 matchup that featured a Terrapin comeback, a thrilling back-and-forth sequence in the final minutes and a Tremont Waters game-winner to send the Tigers to the Sweet 16. LSU led by as much as 15 points in the second half, but Maryland clawed all the way back to hold multiple leads in the final five minutes. In the final 40 seconds alone, Skylar Mays hit a triple to put LSU up three and Jalen Smith hit a three of his own to tie the game, which set up one of the one of the tournament’s best finishes. On the Tigers’ final possession of the game, Waters froze Smith with a hesitation, got to the rim and scooped in a layup with 1.6 seconds left to ice the win.
9. Ja Morant goes off
Murray State’s Ja Morant was one of the best mid-major talents college basketball has seen in a while, and he lived up to the hype in the NCAA tournament. Morant controlled the entirety of the Racers’ Round of 64 win over Marquette, posting a triple double (17 points, 16 assists and 11 rebounds) in the 12–5 upset. Florida State had too much size and depth for Racers in the next round, but Morant acquitted himself well nonetheless with 28 points. While his next competitive game will be in the NBA, Ja Morant capped his spectacular season with an impressive performance in March.
8. Duke escapes (again)
After getting fortunate with a last-second shot missing by inches in the second round against UCF, Duke survived again in a Sweet 16 bout with Virginia Tech. The Hokies built an early lead and led by four at halftime, but Duke took control in the second half on the backs of Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett. Trailing by seven with seven minutes left, Virginia Tech chipped away at the deficit by playing through Justin Robinson on the perimeter and Kerry Blackshear Jr. inside. Virginia Tech ultimately found itself down by two and in-bounding beside the Duke basket with 1.1 seconds on the clock. Robinson threw a perfect lob to Ahmed Hill, who left the shot just short despite being all alone at the rim.
7. The crazy finish to Auburn-New Mexico State
Before Auburn made its first Final Four in program history, it nearly lost its first game of the tournament. Facing No. 12 seed New Mexico State, Auburn held multiple double-digit leads in the second half and led the Aggies by nine with 5:46 left. Thanks to four-second half threes from NMSU’s Trevelin Queen and some sloppy play down the stretch from the Tigers, the Aggies trimmed the Auburn lead to two with six seconds left with the ball under its own basket. NMSU point guard AJ Harris went coast-to-coast on the ensuing possession, though he inexplicably passed up what looked like an open layup to kick out to his teammate Terrell Brown on the wing. Brown got fouled shooting a three, but he missed two of three shots at the line.
After the ball went out of bounds off Auburn, NMSU got one final chance, and Queen got a good look from three, but the shot sailed long. Auburn advanced and America got two more weekends of Charles Barkley fandom.
6. The Ryan Cline game, sprinkled with controversy
A Sweet 16 battle between the Boilermakers and the Volunteers featured many of the key ingredients for an enthralling NCAA tournament game: a second half comeback, late-game controversy and overtime. Purdue led by 12 at halftime, paced by star guard Carsen Edwards (who makes another appearance further down). But Grant Williams and Tennessee wouldn’t go away, and the Vols stormed back after halftime and even led for the majority of the final five minutes before OT. In the final 5:05 of regulation, Ryan Cline made four threes to keep Purdue alive, all of which either tied the game or gave the Boilermakers the lead. The controversy came in regulation’s waning seconds, when Lamonte Turner fouled Carsen Edwards on a three-point shot with 1.7 seconds to play. Edwards missed the first attempt but made the next two to force overtime.
The Boilermakers outscored the Vols 13–5 to start the extra period and advanced to the Elite Eight.
5. The Carsen Edwards game
Purdue may have lost to Virginia in the Elite Eight, but that shouldn’t take away from a Herculean effort from Carsen Edwards that was the best individual performance of the tournament.
Facing one of the country’s top defenses, Edwards was unconscious from deep. He hit 10 threes, many of which were deep and contested. It wasn’t like Virginia was playing poor defense; Edwards was just a flamethrower from beyond-the-arc. It took an improbable, unbelievable shot to neutralize Edwards’s eruption (see below), but Edwards’s offensive masterpiece shouldn’t be forgotten.
4. Zion vs. Tacko Fall
This was the tournament’s clash of the titans, a matchup of size and strength unmatched by any other. This was Zion Williamson, the high-flying, tank-like superstar dueling against Tacko Fall, a 7’ 6” behemoth of a rim-protector. We didn’t get to see the two players meet at the rim on a dunk attempt, but the game itself offered remarkable theater, in large part thanks to Williamson, Fall and the rare skills they possess. The game, which also pit Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski against his former player Johnny Dawkins, gave viewers gripping late-game drama as UCF’s two last-second shots fell just awry to send the star-studded Blue Devils to the Sweet 16.
3. Kyle Guy Sinks Three Free Throws to Beat Auburn
In the Final Four, Virginia looked dead in the water. After holding a 10-point lead with 5:24 left, then giving up a 12–0 run to lose the lead, the Cavaliers trailed by four with under 15 seconds to play. Enter Kyle Guy. With the clock ticking below 10 seconds left, the junior from Indianapolis drilled a contested three to cut the UVA deficit to one with 6.5 seconds left.
Then, after Jared Harper missed a free throw for Auburn, and the officials missed a double dribble on UVA guard Ty Jerome, Guy caught the ball in the opposite corner with 1.5 seconds left, this time with a three for the win. He missed.
But while some Auburn fans thought the win was clinched, it turned out Guy was fouled by Samir Doughty, and would go to the line for three.
Guy drained all three shots from the stripe to give Virginia the lead—and ultimately another narrow win.
2. De’Andre Hunter lifts Virginia to first national championship
The final game of the college basketball season may have been the best. Virginia and Texas Tech started cold offensively, but the players eventually settled in and the two teams turned in an instant classic of a final. Trailing by three with 15 seconds left, Jerome got into the lane and calmly dished to De’Andre Hunter, who splashed a three to tie the game at 68 with 12 seconds left.
The game went to overtime, where Hunter and the Hoos took control. After struggling early from the field, Hunter finished with a career-high 27 points, and Virginia completed its remarkable redemption story after losing to No. 16 seed UMBC in the 2018 tournament.
1. Kihei Clark, Mamadi Diakite Save Virginia at the buzzer
As if the fireworks between Edwards and Guy weren’t enough in Virginia-Purdue, the final play of regulation provided a capstone moment for March Madness.
With 5.9 seconds left in regulation and Purdue leading Virginia by three, the Boilermakers fouled Jerome to send him to the free throw line for a one-and-one. After hitting the first shot, Jerome intentionally missed the second. Virginia center Mamadi Diakite tapped the ball back past half-court, and, with the clock ticking down, point guard Kihei Clark chased it down with just over three seconds left. Clark turned, took a dribble and fired a laser of a pass to Diakite, who made the shot of the tournament to tie the game at the buzzer.
The play stands atop all others in the tournament because of its combination of improbability and importance. Clark’s wherewithal to find Diakite in the moment, rather than chuck up a half-court prayer with the clock winding down, was incredible. Couple that with Virginia ultimately cutting down the nets for the first time ever later in the tournament, and you’ve got March Madness perfection.