Is anything in college basketball more exciting than the successful desperation heave that propels a team to victory as the clock expires? You saw it happen 14 tournaments ago, when Duke's Christian Laettner beat Kentucky. Go back nine more seasons to get to Lorenzo Charles nailing the last-second bucket for North Carolina State. And how about Danny Ainge taking the ball right down the court to score for BYU in 1981?

Buzzer-beaters are part of March Madness lore, but that doesn't mean investors can't get in on the fun, too. You probably know about someone who got in on a high-flying stock just before it took off, for example. The ground-floor investing opportunity is the cliched equivalent of basketball's buzzer-beaters, just with a little less athleticism, media coverage, and sweat.

It's still every bit as sweet, though. Just a few years ago, Apple Computer (NASDAQ:AAPL) was trading for little more than the cash and investments on its balance sheet. The market figured that the company's dwindling market share in computing would be permanent. But what a difference 42 million iPods -- and counting -- can make. Anyone willing to give Steve Jobs a shot three years ago would be sitting on a nine-bagger right now.

Better Laettner than late
As sharp-shooting investors were snapping up shares of Apple at a split-adjusted price of just $7 in March of 2003, new SanDisk (NASDAQ:SNDK) shareholders were also getting in at a split-adjusted price in the single digits.

Who didn't know -- even back then -- that flash memory was taking over everything from digital-camera storage to portable-data drives? Scooping some SanDisk then would have you owning shares worth some 500% more today.

An even bigger opportunity took place a few years ago in China, when the world's most populous nation was starting to come into its own. A country with more than 1.3 billion residents was beginning to awaken to the convergence of leisure and technology, and the potential was obvious. Stateside, meanwhile, sat (NASDAQ:NTES), a major provider of online email and mobile phone entertainment.

In March of 2002, you could have picked up shares of NetEase for all of $0.65 a share. If you'd had the foresight to take a shot back then, you would be sitting on a 130-bagger now. The shares were recommended in December 2004 to subscribers of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers newsletter. It hasn't been a 130-bagger since then, though followers of the premium-growth stock selection are sitting on a respectable 67% gain, 10 times better than the S&P 500's performance in that time.

Ainge you glad you're early?
The key to spotting these fiscal buzzer-beaters is to recognize where certain trends are going and then pick out the logical beneficiaries. Don't worry; I didn't take you this deep into this analogy only to taunt you with winning picks that you and I missed. Let's take a closer look at a few trends that are shaping our future and discover where the opportunities are sitting.

Digital distribution is taking over physical distribution.

You have seen Apple's success here. You don't sell more than a billion song downloads without moving the earth beneath your feet. Digital distribution offers some huge advantages. Without the layers of packaging or the shipping and stocking costs, margins are as wide as the consumer's hunger for entertainment. FYI, we're a hungry lot.

It's not just music now. There are bold initiatives to distribute videos and books online, too. Yes, content owners are still skeptical, but we know better. Digital distribution is the way of the future, and the skeptics will come around. So who is leading the way? Well, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) and (NASDAQ:AMZN) have been garnering headlines for their virtual-book-retailing efforts. In terms of video, Google is already selling those streams, and it's only a matter of time before Amazon also dives in with gusto.

Radio in 2006 will be like television in 1986, only better.

When cable television made inroads in the 1980s -- and mini-dish satellite companies in the 1990s -- cynics argued that we didn't need all that clutter. Getting the major networks on free TV through a rabbit-eared antenna was just fine. Remember when Bruce Springsteen was singing about 57 channels and nothin' on? That was 14 years ago. Times change.

The way that shares of XM Satellite Radio (NASDAQ:XMSR) and Sirius (NASDAQ:SIRI) have been beaten down in recent months, one would think this was a sector in decline. But that would be a peculiar choice of words for a sector that grew from 4.3 million subscribers in 2004 to 9.2 million by the end of 2005. The two companies project more than 15 million combined subscribers by the end of the year.

That's not the kind of trend that an investor should ignore, especially as the satellite-radio providers earn a little more flexibility in their revenue streams to make far more than the $12.95 a month that they are currently charging their users. And that's why one of these players, XM, was a Rule Breakers newsletter recommendation last year.

One more time to beat the buzzer
Today also happens to be the third Wednesday of the month. That's when the new monthly issue of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers newsletter service goes out, with two brand new stock picks in a high-octane growth sector that is also trending toward a more relevant role in our future.

The ball is in your hands. You've got a wide-open shot to get into a newsletter that has thoroughly crushed the market with its forward-thinking stock ideas. The average Rule Breakers selection is up 27.8%, while the market has gained an average of just 6.8% in that time. Will these two fresh new picks continue to add to the lore of Laettner, Charles, and Ainge -- fiscally speaking? You can even take a free throw if you want, by signing up for a free 30-day trial subscription.

So give it a shot or pass the rock. The last thing you would want is to hear the buzzer go off with the ball still in your hands.

Amazon is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz finds that eating, sleeping, and breathing growth stocks will work wonders for your financial health. He does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story. The Fool has a disclosure policy. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.