Most Overtimes in March Madness: Exploring the longest NCAA Tournament games

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Oregon v Creighton
Creighton needed two overtimes to beat Oregon in its second-round NCAA Tournament duel on Saturday.

March Madness has had its fair share of games that needed extra minutes to decide the outcome.

This season is no different from the rest as it has seen two overtimes already with Northwestern needing an extra five minutes to beat Florida Atlantic 77-65 on Friday and Creighton ousting Oregon 86-73 in double OT the following day.

These games, however, pale in comparison to the most memorable overtime games in NCAA Tournament history, with two games reaching four OTs to determine the winner.


How many overtime periods does the longest March Madness game have?

Two March Madness games lasted four overtime periods.

The first was between Canisius and NC State in the opening round of the 1956 NCAA Tournament at the Madison Square Garden in New York City.

Regulation play ended at 65-65, and both teams scored six points each in the first two overtimes. The Wolfpack and the Golden Griffins failed to score in the third OT to force another five-minute extension.

After 60 minutes of play, Canisius emerged victorious 79-78. Hank Nowak led the Golden Griffins with 29 points.

That length was repeated five years later when the St. Joseph's Hawks outplayed Utah Utes 127-120 in a high-scoring third-place game. The Hawks outscored the Utes 15-8 in the fourth overtime to win. Jack Egan led St. Joseph's with 42 points.

Also read: What were the scores of last 5 NCAA basketball championship games? Revisiting March Madness title game showdowns ft. UConn vs San Diego State


How many overtime periods are there in March Madness games?

According to the NCAA rulebook, there is no limit to the number of OT periods.


How long is an overtime period in March Madness games?

Just like games in the regular season, an overtime period in March Madness lasts five minutes.


Most memorable overtime games in NCAA Tournament

Northwestern defeated Florida Atlantic in overtime 77-65 in the first round of March Madness.
Northwestern defeated Florida Atlantic in overtime 77-65 in the first round of March Madness.

Eight national championship games have needed an extension to decide the winner.

One was on April 7, 2008, when Kansas beat Memphis 75-68 in overtime.

The Tigers, led by Derrick Rose, led by nine points with over two minutes remaining in regulation, but the Jayhawks rallied to cut the deficit to two with 10 seconds left. Rose split his foul shots, allowing Mario Chalmers to knock down a triple with 2.1 ticks left to force OT. Kansas was unstoppable in the five-minute extension to capture its first national title in 20 years.

Eleven years earlier, on March 31, 1997, Arizona defied all odds to defeat the Rick Pitino-led Kentucky Wildcats 84-79. Despite failing to make a field goal in overtime, Arizona converted 10 free throws to win the game. Miles Simon led Arizona with 30 points. It was the first team to beat three No. 1-seed teams in the same tournament since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985.

The North Carolina Tar Heels won their first national championship with a 54-53 triple-overtime game against Wilt Chamberlain-led Kansas on March 23, 1957. Both teams combined for 15 points in those overtime periods. Joe Quigg made both foul shots to hand the Tar Heels a one-point lead with six ticks left in the third OT. Quigg preserved the win for North Carolina by stealing the pass intended for Chamberlain.

Read more: How good was Derrick Rose in NCAA basketball? We take a look at his college stats, career, and highlights

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Edited by Joseph Schiefelbein
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