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Which Buzzer Beater Has Been Crowned The Best March Madness Shot?

March Madness
Photo: ncaa.com

March Madness has produced some amazing moments within the basketball world, and since its inception some former college players have flourished to become household names. 

Pickswise decided to look at some of the best shots in March Madness history, and with the help of mathematicians, have determined just how tricky the shots are. 

Some of the key takeaways are:

  • Kris Jenkins tops the ranking with his three-pointer buzzer beater to win Villanova the Championship in 2016 
  • Legends Christian Laettner and Michael Jordan both rank in the top half for their iconic shots. 
  • Jalen Suggs narrowly missed the top spot with his game-winning buzzer-beater last year, which saw Gonzaga reach their second ever national championship game. 

To determine just how tricky the shots were, Sports Analyst and Professor Tim Chartier, and former College Basketball star and now Mathematics Professor Amy Langville, analyzed the shots with their students, ranking them based on pressure, probability and the expert rankings. 

The rankings from the three methods were aggregated using Borda count to come up with an overall ranking for the top 10 shots in March Madness history. In order of pressure, shot probability and expert rankings, the team weighted in a ratio of 3 : 1.5 : 2.

Final results: 

  1. Kris Jenkins- Villanova v North Carolina- 2016
  2. Jalen Suggs- Gonzaga v UCLA- 2021
  3. Christian Laettner- Duke v Kentucky- 1992
  4. Michael Jordan- North Carolina v Georgetown- 1982
  5. Chris Chiozza- Florida v Wisconsin- 2017
  6. Mamadi Diakite- Virginia v Purdue- 2019
  7. Paul Jesperson- Northern Iowa v Texas- 2016
  8. Jordan Poole- Michigan v Houston- 2018
  9. Trey Burke- Michigan v Kansas- 2013
  10. Tremont Waters- LSU v Maryland- 2019

Despite a somewhat high shot probability ranking of 6, the pressure placed on Kris Jenkins during his 2016 championship-winning three-pointer, and being the experts favorite, has put Jenkins in the top spot as the best March Madness shot. 

A game winning shot from Jalen Suggs which took Gonzaga to the championship game last year (2021) just misses the top spot. His near-half-court shot was given a probability ranking of two, placing the buzzer-beating shot in second place.  

Eight of the 10 shots that make the list are all from the last 10 years, however despite being nearly 30 years old, Christian Laettner’s legendary shot makes the top three. Whilst given a shot probability ranking of 11, the pressure of the shots and the experts opinion, makes “the shot” take third place. 

Meanwhile, Michael Jordan’s game winning jump shot from 1982 sits at fourth, with a pressure ranking of exactly the same. Jordan’s shot was the game winner that also threw then 19-year-old MJ into the limelight. 

Michigan alumni Trey Burke and Jordan Poole both make the list. Burke’s 2017 overtime-forcing shot against Kansas takes ninth spot, whilst Poole’s miraculous three-pointer against Houston puts him eighth. 

Tremont Waters (2019, LSU v Maryland), Paul Jesperson (2016, Northern Iowa v Texas),

Chris Choizza (2017, Florida v Wisconsin), and Mamadie Diakite (2019, Virginia v Purdue) all make the list with their spectacular shots.

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