Here are college basketball’s 10 most clutch March Madness players since 2011 — and why — ranked by Andy Katz on the March Madness 365 podcast.
Here’s who made the list:
10. Doron Lamb — Sophomore, Kentucky (2012)
Lamb was technically a veteran for Kentucky in just his sophomore year. But the extra season of experience proved to be even more meaningful come March. Lamb averaged 16.5 points per game during the 2012 NCAA tournament, starting all six games while knocking down an absurd 52 percent of his 3-point shots. On a roster that featured star freshmen Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Lamb shined through on the big stage with a game-high 22 points against Kansas in the national championship game. As a team, Kentucky shot 41 percent for the game while Lamb continued firing at a 57-percent clip.
9. Marcus Paige — Senior, North Carolina (2016)
Oh, what could have been. A double-clutch, game-tying circus shot in the closing seconds of the 2016 national championship. A shot that sounds (and looks) like something practiced in the driveway growing up. The difference is, that opportunity came for Marcus Paige and he delivered. Paige averaged 15 points per game in the tournament, but no shot was bigger than the final one of his UNC career.
Had Kris Jenkins not trumped Paige with a game-winning buzzer-beater seconds later, Paige’s shot would’ve passed Michael Jordan for the most famous shot in program history, Roy Williams told Katz on the May 27 episode of March Madness 365.
8. Jalen Brunson — Junior, Villanova (2018)
No buzzer-beater would be necessary this time for Villanova to cut down the nets. It was actually quite the opposite as the Wildcats won their six NCAA tournament games in 2018 by an average of 18 points. Instead, consistency is being rewarded as clutch here. And Jalen Brunson — the 2018 Wooden Award winner — was more than consistent in March, averaging 16.2 points and four assists during the NCAA tournament.
7. Tyus Jones — Freshman, Duke (2015)
When Duke trailed by as many as nine points in the second half of the 2015 national championship game, Tyus Jones helped keep the Blue Devils afloat. However, the freshman’s contributions steadily turned into a takeover as Duke pulled level, then ahead as Jones scored 19 of his 23 points after halftime. Jones put the Blue Devils ahead for good with a difficult 3-pointer, three of the eight points he netted during the final four-plus minutes.
6. Aaron Harrison — Freshman, Kentucky (2014)
Another first-year player makes the cut and with good reason. Aaron Harrison lived for the spotlight in late-game moments during the 2014 NCAA tournament. Harrison came up clutch on not one, but three different occasions for Kentucky. His back-to-back-to-back daggers against Louisville, Michigan and Wisconsin helped the No. 8 seed Wildcats reach the national championship game.
5. Carsen Edwards — Junior, Purdue (2019)
There’s hot hands. Then there’s whatever Carsen Edwards had going on during the 2019 NCAA tournament. The junior was pouring in just under 35 points per game while launching over 15 3-point attempts and playing an average of 42 minutes each time he stepped on the court. His quietest game of March was a 26-point showing in the round of 64 while he erupted for 42 points twice. If not for the heroics of Kihei Clark and Mamadi Diakite, it would’ve been Edwards and Purdue advancing to the Final Four.
4. Shabazz Napier — Senior, UConn (2014)
Shabazz Napier missed a potential game-winner during the NCAA tournament round of 64. Fortunately for Connecticut, he was able to shake off the miss and nearly outscore Saint Joseph’s in overtime by himself. There was no looking back after that as Napier paced the Huskies with 21 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 2.5 steals per game through the tournament. UConn became the first No. 7 seed to win a national title with Napier leading the way.
3. Kyle Guy — Junior, Virginia (2019)
Kyle Guy makes the list after saving some of his best moments at Virginia for his final games. The junior marksman connected on five 3-pointers in the Elite Eight, finishing with 25 points to help the Cavaliers hold off Purdue despite 42 points from Carsen Edwards.
He delivered again the next weekend, knocking down go-ahead free throws in the closing seconds of a Final Four win against Auburn. Guy finished his career with 24 points in an overtime win over Texas Tech to help Virginia win its first national championship.
2. Kris Jenkins — Junior, Villanova (2016)
Kris Jenkins was underneath the rim, boxed out when Marcus Paige tied the national championship game at 74. Less than five seconds of game time later, Paige’s circus shot had taken a backseat to Jenkins, the first player to end a title game with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer. The junior was consistent for the Wildcats throughout the tournament, scoring at least 12 points in each game. But his championship-winning shot will go down in history as one of the greatest clutch moments in NCAA tournament history.
1. Kemba Walker — Junior, UConn (2011)
Kemba Walker’s March magic began in New York City, one week before the NCAA tournament. Walker guided Connecticut to five wins in as many days, establishing momentum for a postseason run. When March Madness began, the junior didn’t miss a beat, averaging 38.5 minutes and 23.5 points per game as UConn won the 2011 national championship.