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How did the Duke game get away from North Carolina?

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source: Getty ImagesAustin Rivers delivered for Duke when it mattered most. His buzzer-beating 3-pointer over 7-foot Tyler Zeller will be one of the season’s signature moments and an incredible cap to the game’s greatest rivalries. This sequence shows it all.

But how did it get to that point?

How did North Carolina, which had controlled so much of the second half, blow a 10-point lead in just over two minutes, at home? How is it possible?

The Heels led by 10 points until Duke’s Tyler Thornton hit a 3-pointer to make it 82-75 with 2:09 remaining to play. To that point, UNC had been on cruise control, using Tyler Zeller for points in the pain and getting jumper after jumper from Harrison Barnes. But Duke never went away.

“They’re really good and they can knock you out,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “And we didn’t get knocked out. And as a result, we hung in there and we won the last round. I’m not sure we won the whole fight, but the last round, we did, and we won the game. But we fought the entire time. We fought a really good fight.”

No kidding. According to this win probability chart on kenpom.com, the Heels had a 90 percent chance of winning the game after Thornton’s 3. It never got below 75 percent until Rivers hit his 3. The odds were in the home team’s favor for that long.

But maybe you prefer a play-by-play recap. For that, let’s turn to Andy Staples of SI.com:

Minutes earlier, none of this seemed possible. North Carolina led by 10 when Harrison Barnes scored with 2:35 to play. The following five things had to happen to set up Rivers’ rainbow.

  • North Carolina had to miss two of its final four free throws.
  • Tyler Thornton, who had shot five three-pointers and missed all five, had to bury one from the wing.
  • Curry had to drill an off-balance three-pointer from just inside the left sideline. “I was shocked by it,” Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “He was almost sitting in my lap.”
  • Duke forward Ryan Kelly had to miss a three-pointer, follow his shot and catch a ball bouncing directly to him before draining a baseline jumper.
  • North Carolina’s Zeller had to redirect a badly calibrated Kelly shot off the backboard and into the basket. How weird was the play? The ball barely even touched the net as it sailed through.

“I knew he was going to shoot a 3,” Barnes said. “I thought everyone in the gym knew. Z did a good job of contesting, but he made the shot.”

Did he ever. It created an “Oh my God!” moment that had the Devils reveling and the Heels hanging their heads.

“When the ball went through, it kind of took me a second to process it – to realize that we had lost the game,’’ Kendall Marshall told Robbi Pickeral. “I was stunned.”

Now things get even more interesting in the ACC. The Heels (20-4), Devils (20-4) and Florida State (16-7) are all tied atop the standings at 7-2. The ‘Noles have beaten both teams once, while Duke’s other loss was to Miami. With seven conference games remaining, it’s wide open. The Heels seemed to have the edge.

But now Duke’s remaining schedule is the most favorable. (A trip to VirginiaFlorida State and home against UNC are the biggest obstacles.) The Heels may have blown it. And that stings.

“It really hurts just because of how we played the whole game,” John Henson said. “For us in the last three minutes just to give it up like that is really depressing.”

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

Kentucky-Kansas headlines the 2017 SEC/Big 12 Challenge

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The Big 12 and the SEC announced the matchups for the 2017 SEC/Big 12 Challenge on Tuesday, and the highlight is, of course, Kansas and Kentucky.

The two schools, who played an instant classic in Phog Allen Fieldhouse last season, will square off in Lexington this season. If that wasn’t enough, Kentucky and Kansas are currently sitting second and third, respectively, in the NBCSports.com Preseason Top 25.

So that should be fun.

The game will be played on January 28th along with the rest of the matchups in the series. Those matchups are:

Texas at Georgia
Texas A&M at West Virginia
Florida at Oklahoma
Baylor at Ole Miss
Iowa State at Vanderbilt
Kansas State at Tennessee
Arkansas at Oklahoma State
Auburn at TCU
LSU at Texas Tech

To be frank, the rest of that schedule is not all that enticing. West Virginia should be a top 25 team, and they host a Texas A&M team that is talented but young. Florida and Georgia are arguably the two best non-Kentucky teams in the league, but they face off with a rebuilding Oklahoma and a young Texas squad, neither of whom are guaranteed to make the tournament.

The problem here?

Both the SEC and the Big 12 are likely going to be down this season, which puts a damper on just how excited we can get about this challenge.

Purdue forward to return to school, withdraw from NBA Draft

Purdue center A.J. Hammons (20) celebrates with forward Vince Edwards (12) in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Michigan State in West Lafayette, Ind., Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. Purdue defeated Michigan State 82-81 in overtime. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
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Purdue announced on Tuesday that forward Vince Edwards will be returning to school for his junior season.

Edwards declared for the NBA Draft without signing with an agent and went through the process to gauge his value at the next level.

“After getting the NBA experience and going through the evaluation process, I have talked with my family and Coach Painter and decided it is best for me to return for my junior year,” Edwards said in a statement. “Although the NBA is still a dream for me one day, I am coming back to Purdue to make next year a special one. Thank you to all the organizations who gave me the chance to not only showcase my talents, but also the chance to know me as a young man and not just an athlete.”

Edwards averaged 11.3 points and 5.4 boards last season.

Purdue now has to wait to hear from Caleb Swanigan, a rising sophomore that was a top 20 recruit in the Class of 2015. The deadline to withdraw from the draft is Wednesday.

Five-star 2017 forward Porter Jr. releases top five schools

Father Tolton Catholic's Michael Porter, Jr. (1) celebrates after sinking a basket and drawing a foul during the first half of the Missouri Class 3 boys high school championship basketball game against the Barstow Saturday, March 12, 2016, in Columbia, Mo. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
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As one of the top players in the Class of 2017, 6-foot-8 small forward Michael Porter Jr. has been on the receiving end of attention from many high-major programs. Monday night Porter, a native of Columbia, Missouri who’s ranked second in the class by Rivals.com, revealed his top five schools at this point in time.

The five schools that made the cut (in alphabetical order): Indiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, Virginia and Washington.

"Top 5 Top 5 Top 5" 🙏🏽 #Blessed

A photo posted by Michael Porter Jr. (@m1chael_porter) on

Of the five schools on Porter’s list Missouri and Washington may be the most interesting given the family connections. Not only is Missouri the hometown school, but Porter’s older sisters Bri and Cierra are members of the women’s basketball team.

And one of the assistants on that coaching staff was Porter’s father, who earlier this spring joined Lorenzo Romar’s staff at Washington. The elder Porter isn’t the only Washington connection either, with Michael’s younger brother Jontay being a commit in the Class of 2018.

Texas A&M lands Spanish forward Eric Vila

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With the loss of all-conference forward Jalen Jones, Texas A&M was in a position where they could afford to add another front court body alongside the likes of Tyler Davis and Tonny Trocha-Morelos. Thursday afternoon head coach Billy Kennedy and his staff managed to do just that, as 6-foot-9 forward Eric Martinez Vila made his pledge to the SEC program.

News of Vila’s commitment was first reported by TexAgs.com, and the FC Barcelona Lassa (that’s the club’s basketball program) product took visits to Texas A&M, Missouri and Wake Forest earlier this spring. Vila’s viewed as more of a combo forward, with the ability to step away from the basket and hit perimeter shots, giving the Aggies some added versatility in the front court.

Vila has plenty of experience playing for both FC Barcelona’s B team (however he did appear with the A-team during the 2014-15 season), and he represented Spain in the 2014 FIBA U16 EuroBasket and 2015 FIBA U18 EuroBasket events. Vila is the fifth member of Texas A&M’s 2016 class, joining guards J.J. Caldwell and J.C. Hampton, wing DeShawn Corprew and forward Robert Williams.

Nevada forward Cameron Oliver to return for sophomore season

LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 11: Angelo Chol #3 of the San Diego State Aztecs drives to the hoop against Cameron Oliver #0 of the Nevada Wolf Pack during a semifinal game of the Mountain West Conference basketball tournament at the Thomas & Mack Center on March 11, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Getty Images)
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With the deadline for early entrants to withdraw from the NBA Draft set for Wednesday, some college basketball teams will receive important news as it pertains to the 2016-17 campaign. One of those teams was Nevada, which surprised many last season by winning 24 games in Eric Musselman’s first season at the helm. And with one of the key contributors from that team deciding to withdraw from the NBA Draft, the Wolf Pack will be well positioned to be even better in 2016-17.

Forward Cameron Oliver, who was one of the Mountain West’s best freshmen this past season, will return to Reno for his sophomore season with Musselman making the news official Monday afternoon.

The 6-foot-8 Oliver averaged 13.4 points, 9.1 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game for Nevada, shooting 50.8 percent from the field in his debut season. Oliver was named third team All-Mountain West while also earning conference All-Defensive team honors.

Oliver and wing D.J. Fenner (13.7 ppg) are the team’s top two returning scorers, with guard Marqueze Coleman (15.1 ppg) out of eligibility, and they’ll lead the way for a team that can contend in the Mountain West next season.

In addition to Oliver and Fenner, Nevada adds two talented transfers in Leland King and Marcus Marshall, with the latter averaging 19.5 points per game at Missouri State in 2014-15.