The 15 best games from the 2011-2012 season

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1. December 10th: Indiana 73, No. 1 Kentucky 72: After the rematch that took place in the Sweet 16, we should all be well-versed in what happened on that Saturday afternoon. Indiana took advantage of foul trouble for Anthony Davis and a poor showing from Terrence Jones to jump ahead by as many as ten points during the second half, but Kentucky came storming back to take the lead in the final seconds. After missing a couple of free throws late, Kentucky missed on a chance to foul the Hoosiers when they were up two on the final possession, setting up this memorable buzzer-beater from Christian Watford.

There was more to this game than the simple fact that Indiana and Kentucky, two heated rivals, were playing. The Hoosiers made a statement for themselves that they were back and once again relevant nationally.

2. February 25th: No. 3 Kansas 87, No. 5 Missouri 86 OT: Playing in what could end up being the final edition of the Border War, the Tigers and the Jayhawks certainly did not disappoint. Missouri opened up a 19 point lead early in the second half, but Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor led Kansas back. The Jayhawks finished their rally when Robinson scored a three-point play with 16 seconds left. In overtime, Kansas jumped out to a lead, answering every Marcus Denmon jump shot, before Taylor won the game with two free throws with 8.3 seconds left.

3. December 3rd: No. 1 Kentucky 73, No. 5 North Carolina 72: This game had more preseason hype than any this year, and it certainly did not disappoint. The Tar Heels got up early and went into the halftime break with a 43-38 lead, but the Wildcats came back in the second half. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had a bit of a coming out party, finishing with 17 points and 11 boards, but it was Anthony Davis’ block of a John Henson jumper with six seconds left that sealed the game. UNC missed an opportunity to foul in the final seconds and extend the game.

4. February 8th: No. 9 Duke 85, No. 5 North Carolina 84: The Blue Devils hung around with a very impressive first half, but UNC seemed to turn things on in the second half of the first battle between the two Tobacco Road rivals this year. The Tar Heels kept control of the game, but couldn’t seem to pull away down the stretch, allowing Duke to stay within 8-to-10 points. That cost them, as the Blue Devils used an impressive run to erase a 10 point lead in the final 2:30. The comeback was capped with a 3-pointer from Austin Rivers at the buzzer.

5. February 4th: No. 4 Mizzou 74, No. 8 Kansas 71: In the first game of the rivalry this season, it was Missouri’s opportunity to make a run and comeback on the Jayhawks. Down eight with three minutes left in the game, the Tigers went on an 11-0 run sparked by Marcus Denmon. He hit two ridiculous three and also finished a 3-point play in that stretch.

6. March 16th: No. 15 Norfolk State 86, No. 2 Missouri 84: Like any upset of a No. 2 seed, Norfolk State just refused to go away. Every time it looked like the Tigers were going to make a bit of a run, the Spartans would answer with s tough pull-up jumper or a banked-in three. Missouri just couldn’t escape. With the score finally tied and just under a minute left, Kyle O’Quinn — who finished with 26 points and 14 boards — followed up a missed shot with an and-one, and Norfolk State had their win.

7. November 30th: UNLV 94, UCSB 88 2OT: The wildest part about this game is that it wasn’t even on TV. UNLV, fresh off of their upset of then-No. 1 North Carolina, got the best that Orlando Johnson had to offer, as he finished with 36 points. UCSB forced the first OT when they missed the second free throw and tied it on an offensive rebound putback with just a second left. The second overtime was forced with Chace Stanback hit a game-tying three with 1.7 seconds left. UNLV pulled away in overtime.

8. March 22nd: No. 1 Syracuse 64, No. 4 Wisconsin 63: Wisconsin was absolutely unconscious from three, hitting 14-27 on the game and making six in a row on six straight possessions midway through the second half. But through it all, Syracuse never went away, managing to take a one point lead into the final possession. Unfortunately for the Badgers, they couldn’t make a 15th three, as Jordan Taylor missed at the buzzer in the Sweet 16.

9. March 8th: Cincinnati 72, No. 14 Georgetown 70 2OT: The Hoyas and the Bearcats traded haymakers down the stretch as Cincinnati outlasted Georgetown when a Henry Rims three bounced harmlessly off the rim.

10. February 14th: George Mason 62, VCU 61: Mason erased a five-point lead in the final minute despite the fact that VCU went 5-6 from the free throw line and didn’t commit a single turnover. The game ended like this.

11. November 30th: No. 22 Creighton 85, San Diego State 83: Doug McDermott scored 25 points and grabbed 12 boards as Creighton fought all the way back from 17 down in the first half at Viejas Arena. SDSU was down three in the final seconds, but Creighton opted to foul.

12. March 18th: No. 6 Cincinnati 62, No. 3 Florida State 56: Cincy capped off a comeback when Dion Dixon slammed home a dunk off of a steal to give the Bearcats the lead for good with 1:32 left in the game.

13. January 12th: Manhattan 75, Iona 72: Manhattan was down 18 points with eight minutes left in the game, but they managed to put together a furious rally to knock off the Gaels at home. The run was capped by this game winning three.

14. February 18th: Creighton 81, Long Beach State 79: Doug McDermott scored 36 points and grabbed 11 boards as the Bluejays fought back at home in their BracketBusters game with the 49ers. Antoine Young ended up hitting the game-winning shot with 0.3 seconds left.

15. January 7th: Stanford 103, Oregon State 101 4OT: With 37 seconds left in the fourth overtime, Chasson Randle scored his 24th point to give the Cardinals the win over the Beavers. 12 players scored in double figures.

Texas Tech forward Zach Smith returns to school after withdrawing from NBA Draft

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Texas Tech forward Zach Smith will return for his senior season, the school confirmed on Monday.

The 6-foot-8 forward is one of the most intriguing athletes in college basketball as he’s been a double-figure scorer for the Red Raiders the past two seasons. As a junior, Smith put up 12.1 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game as he shot 50 percent from the field.

Three-point shooting was something that Smith improved dramatically last season as he increased it to 39 percent in a small sample size. If Smith can continue to show that he’s a perimeter shooting threat then he could be an ideal three-and-d candidate at the pro level.

By returning to Texas Tech, Smith gives head coach Chris Beard a potential all-league candidate who should be counted on to be a double-double threat next season.

 

Missouri lands five-star forward Jontay Porter

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Missouri has another member of the Porter family in the fold as forward Jontay Porter officially committed to the Tigers on Monday night.

Following in the footsteps of older brother Michael Porter Jr., and father Michael Porter Sr., Jontay is currently a member of the Class of 2018 who is rumored to be reclassifying to the Class of 2017.

A 6-foot-10 forward who was recently elevated to five-star status on Rivals.com, Porter is having a monster spring in the Nike EYBL with MoKan Elite. Porter has been one of the best players in the league, as he’s putting up 18.1 points and 12.7 rebounds per game while shooting 40 percent from three-point range.

If Jontay is able to join Missouri next season then he gives the Tigers another intriguing piece to play alongside his brother Michael, who is good enough to be a potential No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

Although Jontay isn’t the go-to player that his brother is, he could be a very effective SEC role player early in his career, as his ability to rebound and stretch the floor makes him an extremely intriguing piece on the floor.

Kevin Stallings is a tone-deaf clown

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Pitt guard Cameron Johnson is the most coveted transfer in college basketball this offseason.

The 6-foot-8 Johnson is coming off of a strong campaign with the Panthers in which he put up 11.9 points per game while shooting 42 percent from three-point range.

Not only is Johnson a proven double-figure scorer in a league like the ACC, but he’s eligible to play right away thanks to his graduation from Pitt. Johnson graduating from school in three years and missing one season due to injury also makes him the rare graduate transfer who has two seasons of eligibility remaining. So, not only can Johnson come in and make an immediate impact, but he’s also able to stay for another year after.

This sort of thing almost never happens, let alone with a 6-foot-8 shooter that could sway the national title race.

It’s why blueblood programs like Kentucky and UCLA are in hot pursuit of Johnson. It’s why another ACC school, reigning national champion North Carolina, is also intrigued by Johnson being on the market.

Except Johnson won’t be allowed to attend North Carolina, or any other school in the ACC, without first sitting out a season and losing one season of eligibility. At least that’s how things currently stand thanks to Pitt’s power over Johnson — despite Johnson graduating from the school and having no more formal educational ties to the school.

Here’s what Pitt said on the matter in a release to the News-Observer.

“Cameron Johnson and his father were informed of our policy as well as the appeals process when they elected to seek to transfer. They went through our transfer appeals process and were granted permission to contact ACC schools; however, the committee upheld the policy to limit immediate eligibility within the conference.

If Cameron were to transfer within the ACC, he would be eligible to receive financial aid immediately but would have to sit out a year of competition due to standard NCAA transfer regulations. Throughout this process, we have remained consistent to our department policy and we will continue to do so.”

Pitt head coach Kevin Stallings had a peculiar interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that was published about two weeks ago. During the interview, of which the full transcript was made public, Stallings went in-depth about Johnson’s transfer and the current state of college basketball. Stallings also made remarks about how the media holds programs accountable for trying to bully certain players.

Here’s a small sample of what Stallings had to say.

“But the unexpected departures are the things that are becoming more common than uncommon in college basketball. You have guys constantly trying to transfer up. You have guys going pro that have never played a minute of college basketball after they’ve sat out a year at a school. You have guys asking out of their letters of intent with frequency. We’re dealing in a landscape in college basketball right now that is as probably as difficult and peculiar as it’s ever been. It used to be if a kid signed his letter of intent and he wanted out of it, you had to play a year of junior-college ball to get out of it.

“The media didn’t basically force institutions to let people break a binding agreement. It’s kind of interesting now the media tries to put so much pressure on programs, whether it be athletic directors or coaches, saying ‘Well, the coaches can move.’ Well, hey, guess what? I’ve got a great big buyout in my deal that prevents me from moving. I’ve got something in my contract saying I can’t go to another league school. It’s not as easy for coaches to go. That’s everyone’s rationale — ‘Well, the coaches can leave.’ We’re dealing in an environment right now that is as fluid as it’s ever been. It’s just where we’re at in the whole thing with the unexpected departures.”

Stallings makes some sound points–particularly about coaches having buyouts and the general perception of coaching changes in basketball.

But Kevin Stallings mostly sounds like a tone-deaf clown here.

Nobody is going to feel sorry for a millionaire coach who willingly makes the decision to change jobs.

Nobody.

Especially if that same millionaire is comparing a choice to change jobs to the transfer decisions of unpaid student-athletes. It’s even more laughable now that Stallings is holding power over an unpaid student-athlete from going to play at another school because of purely basketball reasons.

Pitt and Stallings need to do the right thing and release Johnson to play at any school right away because Johnson has already done everything he needs to do to appease the program.

Things changed dramatically for Johnson during his three years at Pitt. He became one of the ACC’s better players and earned his degree. Johnson held up his end of the bargain when he signed his Letter of Intent.  Now Johnson just wants the chance improve his basketball future by playing with one of the nation’s elite programs.

Stallings can blame the current state of college basketball, the media, or whoever he wants for Johnson’s transfer from Pitt.

But Stallings also has to realize that he’s going to be the one who looks stupid if he continues to leave these restrictions in place for Johnson. Stallings already has a history of this sort of thing when he placed transfer restrictions on former player Sheldon Jeter. If Stallings continues to uphold transfer restrictions on Johnson, then he’s going to gain a permanent reputation in recruiting during a time when players continue to gain more freedom over their basketball futures.

If Johnson does happen to go to an ACC school like North Carolina, it’s not as if Pitt has any sort of competitive roster that is going to be fighting the Tar Heels for league supremacy during the next two seasons.

Stallings and Pitt need to just bite the bullet, let Johnson have his freedom, and hope it doesn’t come back to hurt them for one or two seasons in ACC play.

It surely beats the alternative of being labeled a head coach who limits player freedom after six players left Pitt during a single offseason. That type of burn lasts a lot longer than two years.

Presbyterian hires Wofford assistant Dustin Kerns as new head coach

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Presbyterian finally has its new head coach as the program is set to hire Wofford assistant coach Dustin Kerns, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com.

Kerns has been an assistant at Wofford for the past seven years during his second stint with the program. Also spending six seasons as an assistant coach at Santa Clara, the Tennessee native is getting his first shot at running his own program.

Finishing last in the Big South last season at 5-25 and 1-17 in conference play, Presbyterian is trying to rebuild after head coach Gregg Nibert resigned in April. Nibert was the head coach of the Blue Hens for 28 seasons, so Kerns is going to be a completely fresh start for the program.

Tennessee lands impact graduate transfer James Daniel

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Tennessee and head coach Rick Barnes earned a commitment from one of the top graduate transfers on the market on Monday when Howard guard James Daniel pledged to the Volunteers.

The 6-foot-0 Daniel was the nation’s leading scorer at 27.1 points per game his junior season in 2015-16. Daniel played in only two games last season as a left ankle injury caused him to have surgery.

With nearly 2,000 career points to his name, Daniel gives Tennessee an additional perimeter scorer who should come in and make an immediate impact right away. While Howard has low shooting percentages and a high usage rate during his time at Howard, it’ll be interesting to see how the year off and more talented teammates will alter his game.

If Howard can be a more efficient scorer in his final season, then he has a chance to be one of the better players for the Volunteers this season.