Can you feel that? There’s something in the air. The NCAA tournament starts next week, which means that we are decidedly in the Buzzer-Beater Zone. Kentucky got things going on Sunday, with a last gasp three-pointer from Dre’una Edwards to win the SEC tournament in the closing seconds. Chattanooga one-upped that on Monday night, though, as the 1-seed in the Southern Conference tournament took it down as close to the wire as a team possibly can to beat Furman and secure a spot in Da Big Dance:
There was a hell of a game played prior to the buzzer-beater, though, and Chattanooga and Furman delivered on the promise of mid-major conference tournament drama. First, Furman came back from six down to tie the game with roughly two minutes to go. The two teams traded baskets, with Furman tying the game to send it to overtime with a Mike Bothwell three-pointer with four seconds left:
Then, in overtime, the madness truly began. With Furman up three with 45 seconds left, Chattanooga guard A.J. Caldwell hit a huge three to tie the game at 61. That set the stage for Bothwell again, who drove past Darius Banks and laid the ball in with 4.3 seconds remaining. Though Chattanooga had a timeout, they decided to push the ball up without stopping to draw up a play, and David Jean-Baptiste dribbled as far as he could before ripping a desperation jumper from about 35 feet. It was nothing but net.
I have a confession to make: I am a fair-weather college basketball fan. I have watched maybe two games all season, and most of my knowledge comes from my friends in a soccer groupchat that actually follow college hoops. They’re the only reason I even tuned in to the SoCon championship last night; I saw some of them going wild as the game headed into overtime, and that’s good enough for me. I’ll watch any sort of elimination game in pretty much any sport—I am not a hockey fan, but I will always make an effort to watch any and all Game 7s—and that goes doubly for college basketball. There’s a reason March Madness is so popular.
Though the tournament proper is when the fun really begins, conference tournaments— especially the smaller conference tournaments, where winning is a lot of teams’ only shot at making the big one—always have a handful of wild finishes. They’re like a buzzer-beater amuse-bouche before the main course. You can see them coming, too; once teams begin to trade baskets like Chattanooga and Furman did on Monday, it becomes evident that this will come down to the last shot. Make or miss, that’s always appointment television.
We’ve still got a ton of conference play to go before Selection Sunday on March 13, and it would be shocking and unprecedented if there aren’t at least a handful of buzzer-beaters between now and then. It’ll be hard to top Jean-Baptiste’s heave, but that’s the best part of postseason college basketball: It’s always a possibility.