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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.

Villanova’s Jenkins to return for senior season

Villanova forward Kris Jenkins (2) reacts to play against North Carolina during the second half of the NCAA Final Four tournament college basketball championship game Monday, April 4, 2016, in Houston. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
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After briefly taking part in the NBA Draft evaluation process, Villanova forward Kris Jenkins announced Monday night that he’s decided to withdraw and return to school for his senior year. Jenkins, whose three-pointer as time expired gave the Wildcats the win over North Carolina in the national title game, announced the news via Twitter.

2015-16 was a breakout season for Jenkins, who moved into the starting lineup and averaged 13.6 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game. The 6-foot-6 forward shot 45.9 percent from the field and 38.6 percent from beyond the arc, and with starters Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu graduating he’ll have even more opportunities to produce next season.

Jenkins’ decision to return leaves wing Josh Hart as the lone Wildcats going through the early entry process at this time. Hart was a first team All-Big East selection as a junior, and his return would be the final piece to the puzzle for a team that many expect to be a national title contender in 2016-17.

Jenkins and Hart wouldn’t be the only returnees who had a part in the national title run, with guards Jalen Brunson and Phil Booth, wing Mikal Bridges and forward Darryl Reynolds back as well. To that group Villanova adds Fordham transfer Eric Paschall and a recruiting class anchored by Omari Spellman and Dylan Painter with Donte DiVincenzo and Tim Delaney available after being hampered by injuries last season.

Delaney missed all of last year after undergoing surgical procedures on his hips, and DiVincenzo played a total of 74 minutes over the first nine games before having to sit due to a broken foot.

Florida State guard Rathan-Mayes to return for junior season

Florida State guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes (22) drives past Notre Dame guard Rex Pflueger, left, for a score in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Tallahassee, Fla., Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016. (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)
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With their top three scorers from last season all deciding to declare for the NBA Draft, Florida State was facing the possibility of having to rebuild their backcourt ahead of the 2016-17 season. However two of those three have decided to return to Tallahassee, with rising junior Xavier Rathan-Mayes announcing on Monday that he will be back in school.

Rathan-Mayes joins rising sophomore Dwayne Bacon in returning to play another season for head coach Leonard Hamilton, with Malik Beasley hiring representation and remaining in the draft.

Rathan-Mayes had more scoring help last season and as a result was able to concentrate more on the distribution aspects of the point guard position, as he averaged 11.8 points and 4.4 assists per contest. With the return of Rathan-Mayes and Bacon, Florida State will have two of its top three scorers from last season back on campus.

The Seminoles did lose some veteran players, most notably guard Devon Bookert and center Boris Bojanovsky, but the returnees and a recruiting class led by McDonald’s All-American forward Jonathan Isaac means that they won’t lack for options next season.

Auburn lands third transfer within the last week

Auburn guard T.J. Dunans (4) and coach Bruce Pearl celebrate a 75-74 win over UAB in an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Nov. 13, 2015, at Auburn Arena in Auburn, Ala.  (Julie Bennett/AL.com via AP)
Julie Bennett/AL.com via AP
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After receiving commitments from former Purdue/Houston guard Ronnie Johnson and former Presbyterian forward DeSean Murray, Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl continued to load up on the transfer market Monday. Forward LaRon Smith, who was named MEAC Defensive Player of the Year at Bethune-Cookman last season, announced that he will use his final season of eligibility at the SEC program.

Like Smith, Johnson will also be eligible to compete immediately for the Tigers while Murray will have to sit out next season before having two years of eligibility remaining.

The 6-foot-8 Smith played two seasons at Georgia State before transferring to Bethune-Cookman, where he averaged 7.1 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per contest in 2015-16. Smith played just over 25 minutes per game for the Wildcats, shooting 58.5 percent from the field.

Smith reached double figures in scoring in four of the Wildcats’ final seven games, including a 20-point, 11-rebound, three-block outing in an overtime win over North Carolina A&T. He joins a front court in need of depth following the departures of the likes of Cinmeon Bowers and Tyler Harris, with Horace Spencer, Trayvon Reed and incoming freshman Anfernee McLemore also competing for minutes in 2016-17.

SMU lands former Arkansas guard Jimmy Whitt

Arkansas guard Jimmy Whitt (24) leaps for a layup past Tennessee guard Shembari Phillips (25) during an NCAA college basketball game in Knoxville, Tenn., Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016. Arkansas won 75-65. (Adam Lau/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP)
Adam Lau/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP
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With a five-member recruiting class set to arrive on campus this summer, SMU added a talented transfer Monday afternoon. Jimmy Whitt, who played his freshman season at Arkansas, committed to join Larry Brown’s program. Whitt, a 6-foot-4 guard from Columbia, Missouri, will have three seasons of eligibility remaining after sitting out the 2016-17 campaign.

As a freshman at Arkansas, Whitt averaged 6.1 points and 1.7 rebounds in just over 17 minutes of action per game. He reached double figures in scoring nine time, with the high being a 15-point outing in a blowout win over Missouri in mid-January. Whitt produced a stretch of four consecutive games in double figures during non-conference play, but he struggled to maintain that consistency against SEC competition.

At SMU he’ll join a perimeter rotation that will lose rising senior Sterling Brown following the 2016-17 season. Among those who will have eligibility remaining when Whitt becomes eligible are Ben Emelogu, Shake Milton, Jarrey Foster and incoming freshmen Tom Wilson and Dashawn McDowell.

 

Boise State assistant named head coach at Northern Colorado

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Courtesy UNCBears.com
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GREELEY, Colo. (AP) Jeff Linder is the new basketball coach at Northern Colorado. He spent the last six seasons at Boise State, where he was associate head coach for the Broncos since 2013-14.

Linder replaces B.J. Hill, who was fired last month amid an NCAA investigation into allegations of violations in the program.

University President Kay Norton and Athletic Director Darren Dunn announced Linder’s hiring Sunday.

Linder played high school ball in Lafayette, Colorado, and college ball at Mesa State and Western Colorado State. He began his coaching career under Colorado head coach Ricardo Patton.

In a statement, Linder said, “I look forward to returning home to the state of Colorado and continuing to build this program into something everyone can be proud of.”

Hill was 86-98 in six seasons at UNC.