What are the longest NCAA games in March Madness history?

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March Madness is around the corner, and with it come the thrilling moments that have fans anxiously on the edge of their seats — sometimes for too long.

Dating back to 1939, when the first March Madness tournament occurred, countless men’s and women’s basketball games have gone to overtime. Double overtime happens occasionally, as well, like it did with UConn and NC State in the Elite Eight of the 2022 women’s tournament.

But triple and quadruple overtime? Those games had fans in stands for much longer than anticipated. Nine such games required three or four extra periods and therefore rank as the longest in March Madness history. Here’s a breakdown of those contests:

What is the standard time of an NCAA basketball game? 

A standard NCAA men’s basketball game has two 20-minute halves with a 30-second shot clock for each possession. Women’s basketball games have four 10-minute quarters.

What is the standard overtime procedure for an NCAA basketball game?

If both teams are tied at the end of the second half, the game goes into overtime. Each overtime period is five minutes long. Overtimes accumulate if neither team leads at the final buzzer.

What are some of the longest men’s basketball games in March Madness history?

T-1. Canisius vs. North Carolina State, 1956

In the first round of the 1956 tournament, the Canisius Golden Griffins squared off against the NC State Wolfpack at Madison Square Garden. This game set the record for the longest game in March Madness history, getting to quadruple overtime. Canisius squeaked by with a 79-78 win with Hank Nowak’s 29 points leading the way.

Fun fact: Both teams went scoreless in triple overtime. Canisius’ run ended in the East regional final against Temple.

T-1. St. Joseph’s vs. Utah, 1961

The St. Joseph’s Hawks met the Utah Utes to battle in the third-place game in 1961. This game tied the record set in 1956 since it also went to quadruple overtime in a high-scoring affair. St. Joseph’s outscored Utah 15-8 in the final period to win 127-120 behind Jack Egan’s 42-point outing. 

T-2. North Carolina vs. Michigan State, 1957

The 1957 Final Four was quite an eventful — and tiring — one for the University of North Carolina. The national semifinal against the Michigan State Spartans went into triple overtime and ended in a win behind Lennie Rosenbluth’s 31 points. UNC outscored Michigan State 8-4 in the final period.

T-2. North Carolina vs. Kansas, 1957

It didn’t get easier for UNC. The Tar Heels followed a triple-overtime game with another one, this time against Kansas in the championship game. After a scoreless second period, UNC topped the Jayhawks 6-5 in the third to claim the title. The final score was 54-53.

Rosenbluth once again led the squad with 20 points to cap off the season where he won ACC Player of the Year.

T-2. UCLA vs. Dayton, 1974

The UCLA Bruins faced off against the Dayton Flyers in the West region semifinals in 1974. This was a high-scoring affair in every period of play, but UCLA went on a big 13-2 run in the third overtime period to advance to the next round. The final score was 111-110.

Dave Meyers and Bill Walton combined for 55 points. UCLA, however, got eliminated in the national semifinal.

T-2. Villanova vs. Northeastern, 1982

The Villanova Wildcats and the Northeastern Huskies went to triple overtime in 1982 in the second round. Villanova outscored Northeastern 11-7 in the final period to claim the 76-72 win behind Dwayne McClain’s 20 points on 7-for-11 shooting. Stewart Granger also shot the same for 16 points.

Villanova’s run concluded in the East regional final against the eventual champions, UNC.

T-2. Villanova vs. Old Dominion, 1995

The most recent game in March Madness history to go to triple overtime was between Villanova and the Old Dominion Monarchs. Villanova came back in the second half to force overtime, but Old Dominion pulled off the upset after outscoring the Wildcats 17-9 in the final period. Petey Sessoms dropped 35 points to lead all scorers in the game.

Old Dominion didn’t have another upset in the tank, however, after a 12-point loss to Tulsa in the second round.

What are some of the longest women’s basketball games in March Madness history?

T-1. Tennessee vs. Mississippi, 1983

Tennessee and Mississippi set the record for the longest women’s basketball game in March Madness history. In the 1983 tournament, the two squads battled in the Mideast regional semifinal. The game went to triple overtime, with Tennessee coming out on top, 90-83.

T-1. Michigan State vs. Oklahoma State, 1991

Michigan State and Oklahoma State tied the record in the 1991 tournament. Both teams faced off in the second round of the Midwest regional and went to triple overtime. Oklahoma State pulled out the narrow victory, 96-94.

T-2. Kansas vs. Vanderbilt, 2000

Kansas and Vanderbilt went to double overtime in the 2000 tournament, standing as the only game to have just two extra periods in March Madness in women’s history. Vanderbilt edged Kansas in the first round of the Midwest regional, 71-69.

T-2. UConn vs. NC State, 2022

UConn and NC State battled in the first women’s tournament game to reach double OT in the Elite Eight or later. Playing in Bridgeport, Conn., UConn ultimately prevailed 91-87 and moved on to the Final Four.

What are some recent tournament games that went to overtime?

The most recent men’s double overtime game came in 2016. Two first-round matchups — No. 12 Little Rock vs. No. 5 Purdue and No. 3 Texas A&M vs. No. 11 Northern Iowa — required another 10 minutes of play. 

In 2021, there were four games:

First round: No. 15 Oral Roberts 75, No. 2 Ohio State 72

First round: No. 13 North Texas 78, No. 4 Purdue 69

First round: No. 7 Florida 75, No. 10 Virginia Tech 70

Final Four: No. 1 Gonzaga 93, No. 11 UCLA 90 

For women’s basketball, the 2021 tournament featured three single overtime games:

First round: No. 5 Georgia Tech 54, No. 12 Stephen F. Austin 52

Second round: No. 2 Texas A&M 84, No. 7 Iowa State 82

Regional semifinal: No. 2 Baylor 76, No. 6 Michigan 75

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