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March Madness Betting – 5 Worst Bad Beats We’ve Ever Seen

By Dan Vasta in March Madness
| January 15, 2022 8:48 am PDT

There have been several thrillers over the years in the NCAA Tournament. Some baskets are more impactful than others.

March is known for the chaos on the first weekend of the big dance. However, we have often seen buzzer-beaters impact the point spread and point total. Sometimes, that directly affects sports bettors in a negative way. That can lead to bets turning into some of the worst March Madness bad beats in history.

Ready for the worst of the worst? Here are the top five bad beats in March Madness betting history.

Michigan vs. Kansas – 2013 Sweet 16

  • Final Point Spread: Kansas -2

This was a heartbreaking finish that seemed like a lock victory for Kansas. Covering the spread seemed imminent with the way the game was shaking out towards the end.

The Jayhawks led 74-66 with 1:22 left in regulation. The chances for Michigan to pull off a comeback and even force overtime seemed slim to none. After a pair of free throws by Kansas, Trey Burke raised, fired, and connected from distance.

After Kansas missed a contested shot in the paint, there was a mad scramble for a loose ball on the other end. Glenn Robinson III eventually picked it up and pulled off a reverse layup to cut the lead to three.

The point guards traded a pair of points with Kansas getting another crack at a pair of free throws if Elijah Johnson could make the first of a one-and-one bonus. Until ten fouls occur, the double is not in effect. Johnson missed the first with only 12.6 seconds remaining.

Burke drove down the court and pulled up ten feet behind the arc and buried a three to tie the game. Kansas missed their potential game-winning three in the closing seconds and we got free basketball. Overtime began and the Jayhawks only had to win by three points.

Favorites often prevail in overtime, but momentum is pivotal once regulation ends. The team that came from behind to send it into overtime often prevail and survive.

The Michigan superstar point guard dominated the overtime session, but the momentum from the second half carried him down the stretch.

Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III chipped in along the way in a game that went back and forth. Kansas was out of all sorts on the offensive end. The closest we saw Kansas get to taking a lead over Michigan was when it was 83-82 with under 90 seconds left.

After Burke missed a left-handed shot in the paint, McGary had an offensive putback that pushed the lead to an 85-82 lead. Kansas never got any closer and their chances of covering were immediately thrown out the door.

Michigan would go all the way to the national championship before falling to Louisville. The Wolverines looked like they were nearly going to get blown out by Kansas, but the inept offense for the Jayhawks proved costly.

Throw in the heroics by Burke and this was a bad beat once the end of regulation began.

Iowa State vs. Michigan State – 2000 Elite 8

  • Final Point Spread: Michigan State -5

The Cyclones blew a 7-point lead with six minutes to go against Tom Izzo and the eventual national champions. Michigan State was struggling until the final minutes of regulation.

Iowa State had Marcus Fizer and Jamaal Tinsley that season, which was one of the better duos in the nation.

Michael Nurse was a solid guard and the three were exceptional throughout the season. They failed to put together their most efficient performance in the loss to the Spartans.

The lack of a fourth scorer reared its ugly head. There was 5:30 remaining in regulation and Iowa State led 59-52, but the official quickly called three seconds in the lane on the Cyclones.

Larry Eustachy was not pleased with the call, and it seemed to impact his team a bit as the game would get closer.

A.J. Granger connected on a threat at the top of the key to cut the deficit to five points. Fizer fouled it up with an and-one opportunity, but Iowa State was called for a lane violation that wiped away the free throw Fizer made.

It all went downhill after that free throw that was taken off the board. The final six minutes of the games was where disaster began. Look at the disparity from every which way in favor of Sparty.

  • ISU Points: 7 points
  • MSU Points: 24 points

Throw in a few costly turnovers and ill-advised shot attempts on top of the questionable calls that went against Iowa State, it was a challenge to watch as a Cyclone fan.

They were seemingly a lock to cover the spread since they were leading down the stretch. Blowing the game, the way they did was highly unlikely.

Eustachy was ejected as the unraveling continued to snowball by the minutes. Fizer missed a few bunnies and then was called for two fouls at the end of the game, which fouled him out. To go from a seven-point lead to down double figures is uncommon.

Many believed that Iowa State was good enough to win it all that season, but they gagged in the final six minutes and have not come overly close to reaching a Final Four.

Boston College vs. Pacific – 2006 Round of 64

  • Final Point Spread: Boston College -8

The Eagles were a solid squad in their first season in the ACC. There were four future NBA players that had respectable college careers in this game for Boston College.

  • Jared Dudley (No. 22 pick in 2007, ACC Player of Year, Second Team All-American)
  • Craig Smith (No. 36 in 2006, Third Team All-American)
  • Tyrese Rice (Undrafted, Two-time All-ACC)
  • Sean Williams (No. 17 pick in 2007)

Dudley and Smith were one of the top duos in America that season. Dudley could step back and light it up from three-point territory. Smith was a back to the basket scorer with the athleticism to finish at the rim.

These four were seemingly unstoppable for BC, but Williams and Rice came off the bench and struggled in this matchup.

This 4-seed against 13-seed first round matchup was enjoyable. Nothing screams NCAA Tournament more than a weekday game in the middle of the day in Salt Lake City.

Christian Maraker hit a pick and pop three to tie the game in the closing seconds of regulation. Both teams couldn’t get respectable shots off in the final seconds of regulation. The game headed to overtime and chaos soon began.

The game was sent to overtime after Johnny Gray hit a dagger three to put the Tigers up five with a minute to go in the first overtime. Pacific then sagged off Dudley, who buried a triple to cut the deficit to two points.

After a missed shot by Pacific, Smith of Boston College drew a foul and hit both free throws to send the game into a second overtime. The favorites seemingly always cover the spread when games continue.

The crazy part was that BC was laying an absurd 8-point in the first-round matchup. Normally we could see spreads with higher point totals, but 8 points is nearly impossible to cover in overtime.

That is what made this matchup a bad beat. Pacific was covering for nearly the entire game. They should have won the game outright in overtime, but this game didn’t want to end. Tyrece Rice came up clutch in the second overtime, drilling a three to put BC up five with 3:17 left in the second overtime.

The game had an ugly ending for all that backed Pacific. The second overtime finally turned out how it was expected to on paper. BC was a Top 20 squad all year and should have dominated from the start.

Luckily, they were fortunate enough to be playing in a second overtime in which the Tigers were lackluster.

Tyrece Rice made some clutch free throws, but the second overtime was all about the ability of Sean Williams. Plus, no shots were falling.

Williams had a monster slam dunk to go along with a rim protecting denying block. The prayer outside shots were not falling and Boston College was winning by a few buckets for most of the second overtime.

In a seven-point game, Dudley had a three-point play to push the lead up to 10. The bad beat was complete, and BC hung for the 12-point victory in a game where it looked the Eagles had no shot at any point of the game of covering the 8 points until there was a few minutes left in the second overtime.

Kansas vs. Memphis – 2008 National Championship

  • Final Point Spread: Memphis -2

In a game that was a defensive struggle, Kansas led by five at halftime. The Jayhawks were the slight underdogs against a Memphis-led team that had Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts.

The dynamic duo in the backcourt was dominating the competition. Other than a close victory over Mississippi State in the round of 32, the Tigers handled Michigan State and Texas in the Sweet 16 and Elite 8.

Memphis led Kansas 60-51 with 2:12 left in regulation. I mention regulation because this game miraculously went to overtime. Had it not been for horrendous free-throw shooting down the stretch of the game, the Tigers would have captured the national title.

After Robert Dozier made a pair from the charity stripe to go up by nine, Darrell Arthuer made a challenging line two. The worst shot in basketball was nothing, but net and Arthur was one of the unsung heroes of the night.

After a great steal by Kansas after the in-bounds pass was stolen by Sherron Collins. The Chicago product would get a clean look for a corner three and he knocked it down to cut the deficit to four with 1:40 left in regulation.

After both teams exchanged free throws, Douglas-Roberts went to the line for a one-and-one with a four-point lead. CDR hit the front of the rim and Kansas went to Arthur on the block for an easy bucket. Kansas was down only two with a minute left.

Joey Dorsey recently fouled out of the game 25-plus feet away from the basket chase after Mario Chalmers. There was no need for that, but Kansas caught the break they needed. Collins and CDR then exchanged wild shots that resulted in air balls and empty possessions. 

Up two with the ball, Memphis had Douglas-Roberts to the line for two shots. He missed both, but Dozier was able to grab the offensive board and kick it out to Rose. Going to the line for two, the Freshman All-American split the two to give Memphis a three-point lead.

The rest was history. Chalmer hit a three to send it to overtime and Kansas dominated from there. KU grabbed a quick six-point lead thanks to the dominance of their frontcourt.

Memphis could not knock down enough shots from the outside and lacked the inside game without Joey Dorsey. KU held on for the 75-68 victory and it was all because of Chalmers connecting on a three after three huge missed free throws by the Tigers.

Had they made at least two of them, they probably would have covered as Kansas may not have even hoisted up a three. It is a challenge to predict ahead how things would have ended up, but a victory for Memphis seemed imminent.

Practicing free throws was talked about throughout the season. It all came to boiling point at the end of regulation and was a tough one to swallow for all that backed Memphis.

Duke vs. Connecticut – 2004 Final Four

  • Final Point Spread: Connecticut -2

This tops the list as one of the bigger bad beats in the history of the NCAA Tournament. The odds entering the NCAA Tournament had these two meeting up.

The top March Madness betting sites favored this matchup going into the NCAA tournament. We often see the top seeds match up late in the dance, but it is a crapshoot every season. The number of upsets makes it more challenging every season.

Here were the top favorites entering the 2004 NCAA Tournament.


The Blue Devils and Huskies were winning every game by double-figures. Only the Dukies Elite 8 matchup was one that came down to the wire. Duke led UCONN by 8 points in the final 3:15 of regulation.

Shelden Williams and Shavlik Randolph both fouled out and were thin on their frontline trying to defend Emeka Okafor. Okafor missed a one-and-one bonus free throw to keep it a 5-point deficit.

After some ill-advised shots from Duke, UCONN cut the lead to a point and Okaford was able to hit crucial buckets down the stretch. During a loose ball under 30 ticks to go, Okafor grabbed the mad scramble and layed it in to grab the lead.

J.J. Redick had a shot to grab the lead with 15 seconds to go but coughed up the ball and Duke was forced to foul. Rashad Anderson made both free throws to put them up three. Redick then was short on a potential game-tying three under five seconds remaining.  

That was an all-time bad beat happened and many are still bewildered on how it all went down. Okafor missed the first but drilled the second with 3.2 left on the clock. UCONN led by 4 points until Chris Duhon came through for the Blue Devils. He banked in three-pointer ten feet behind the line.

I still remember to this day with Jim Nance mentioning Duhon’s basket didn’t matter. Duhon’s career came to an end, but the shot mattered for some. How about the shot that mattered for most that enjoyed the game of risk?

I even knew as a kid that the shot by Duhon mattered and was laughing at Nance, who enjoys ending a pivotal game with a storyline statement.

Many forgot that Duhon nearly hit a game-winning half-court heave in 2001 as a freshman against North Carolina. Instead, he banked in a bomb at the buzzer to bring home the cash for so many that backed the Blue Devils.

It was a monumental banked shot that came through in a game where Duke was winning for most of it. Their inability to value the basketball and take high percentage shots proved costly.

Connecticut made the necessary free throws and clutch shots when it counted to win. However, winning on such a shot is always remarkable. It ranks as the top backdoor cover and bad beat in NCAA Tournament history.


There you have it, your top bad beats in March Madness history. There were a few others that could have made the list.

North Carolina lost to Villanova at the gun in one of the more entertaining national championships back in 2017. The Tar Heels were only favored by a bucket in consensus sportsbooks, but it was a bad beat for a team that came back and looked destined to win the national title and perhaps cover in overtime.

They exact some revenge the following year by dethroning Kentucky, Oregon, and Gonzaga in dramatic fashions. Duke and Kentucky have been involved in several games that came down to the wire as well.

The Duke-Connecticut Final Four in 2004 was one of the craziest shots and backdoor covers I have seen in all of sports. There will be plenty of future chaos down the road in the NCAA Tournament.

One of the more hectic sporting events of the season, the amount of money being thrown at sportsbooks has been off the charts recently.

It can often be tough to know how to bet on March Madness. You can’t be afraid of taking on a little risk, however. That certainly was the case with some of the biggest March Madness bets ever placed. See the wild wagers below.

What Are the Biggest March Madness Bets Ever Placed?

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