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.

College Basketball Power Rankings: Duke to No. 1, Xavier and Minnesota climb

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At this point, there really is no choice but to put Duke at No. 1 in the Power Rankings this week.

That’s what happens when you’re a consensus top three team in the preseason and, five days into the regular season, you pick off another top three team. Hell, we had Michigan State ranked No. 1 in the NBC Sports Power Rankings last week.

At this point, Michigan State is still No. 2 for me. Their one loss this season came on a night where Grayson Allen went crazy and they gave up 25 offensive rebounds and committed 18 turnovers, and they still were in the game down the stretch. Beyond that, the only teams in the top 25 that have lost so far this season are Kentucky, Northwestern and Providence. The Wildcats fell to Kansas while playing their best game of the season, while Northwestern and Providence both dropped out of the top 25.

But the truth is that, as of today, we still don’t really know anything about these teams. Arizona, Villanova and Wichita State didn’t have to play anywhere near their best basketball to start the season 3-0. The same can be said for anyone that is currently sitting at or near the top of these rankings.

This week is when we start to really find out about them. Arizona is playing in the Battle 4 Atlantis. Duke, Michigan State, North Carolina and Florida are in the PK80. Wichita State is out in Maui. There are events in New York City all week. UCLA, Creighton, Baylor and Wisconsin are in Kansas City. There are games in Las Vegas and Orlando and California

And while my opinion on the glut of exempt events still stands, I do think that we learn more about, say, Wichita State seeing them play potentially overmatched opponents in Maui over the course of three straight days than we do seeing them beat the brakes off of mid-major competition in Koch Arena.

Anyway, here is the NBC Sports Top 25 in its entirety:

1. Duke, 4-0 (Last Week: No. 2)
2. Michigan State, 3-1 (1)
3. Arizona, 3-0 (3)
4. Kansas, 3-0 (4)
5. Villanova, 3-0 (5)
6. Wichita State, 2-0 (6)
7. Florida, 3-0 (7)
8. Cincinnati, 3-0 (8)
9. USC, 4-0 (9)
10. Miami, 3-0 (10)
11. Xavier, 3-0 (14)
12. Texas A&M, 2-0 (11)
13. Minnesota, 4-0 (19)
14. Louisville, 2-0 (12)
15. Notre Dame, 3-0 (13)
16. Seton Hall, 4-0 (15)
17. Kentucky, 3-1 (16)
18. North Carolina, 2-0 (17)
19. Saint Mary’s, 4-0 (21)
20. Alabama, 3-0 (22)
21. Purdue, 4-0 (24)
22. Gonzaga, 3-0 (23)
23. UCLA, 3-0 (18)
24. Texas, 3-0 (NR)
25. Texas Tech, 4-0 (NR)

NEW ADDITIONS: 24. Texas, 25. Texas Tech
DROPPED OUT: 20. Northwestern, No. 25 Providence

Texas Tech mollywhops No. 21 Northwestern, stakes claim to second-best in Big 12

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No. 21 Northwestern was, technically, never even tied with Texas Tech on Sunday evening.

The Wildcats were given a technical foul at the start of the game because their players were not in the scorebook, which was more than adequate foreshadowing for what was to come. Keenan Evans made a free throw before the ball was tipped, the Red Raiders would then score the next eight points and jump out to a 23-5 lead that Chris Collins’ club never recovered.

Northwestern never was within single-digits again, let alone close enough to make this a game. They lost 85-49, the worst loss for the Northwestern program in nearly a decade, since Nov. 27th, 2007.

I could recite the stats to you, if you’d like. Northwestern shot 26.7 percent from the floor. They were 6-for-23 from three. Texas Tech forced 17 turnovers, and Northwestern had 12 field goals to 11 steals for the Red Raiders.

It was as bad of a beatdown as you’ll see between two teams in the NCAA tournament discussion.

It’s easy to read into this loss, and the loss that Northwestern suffered at home against Creighton on Wednesday, and think that the Wildcats are not yet cut out for being the hunted, and that might be fair. As cliché as it is, there is something to be said for the way an opponent plays when you are the quality win. At some point, Northwestern is going to have to prove they can handle that.

But Sunday was not about Northwestern.

Sunday was about Texas Tech.

It was about Chris Beard putting the Big 12 on notice.

This team is tough and they are old. They have size and athleticism. They have a star in lead guard Keenan Evans and a roster that is more than willing to put in the work on the defensive end of the floor. Most importantly, however, is that Beard has built a team full of guys that all have something to prove. There aren’t any four or five-star freshmen on his roster. The elite recruits that he does have are all transfers, cast-offs from other programs.

That’s just how Beard like it.

Now I don’t think the Red Raiders are going to be winning the Big 12 and ending Kansas’ streak of 14 straight Big 12 titles. But I do think that they’ll be right there in the mix for the title of second-best in the Big 12, and I’m not sure I would have felt that way before the start of the season.

Miles Bridges hurt as No. 2 Michigan State cruises past Stony Brook

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EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Miles Bridges stayed in school to chase a national championship instead of cashing in on his potential in the NBA.

Three games into his sophomore season, he is hurt.

Bridges scored 20 points before limping off the court after injuring his left ankle, casting a pall over No. 2 Michigan State as it beat Stony Brook 93-71 on Sunday night.

“Thank God it’s not a high-ankle sprain,” coach Tom Izzo said. “It’s just a sprain where he rolled it. He’ll be day to day.”

The Spartans (2-1) bounced back from their loss to top-ranked Duke with a win that will be remembered as being costly if Bridges’ injury lingers.

Bridges was fouled with 8:32 left in the game as he went into the lane with the ball and awkwardly planted his left foot, rolling his ankle. After trying to stay in the game to shoot free throws, the preseason All-America player went back to the bench briefly before walking toward the locker room.

“By Tuesday morning, I’ll know more,” Izzo said. “Miles is tough enough to play through it but we’re not going to take any chances.”

Nick Ward scored a season-high 22 points, Joshua Langford had a career-high 19 points and Cassius Winston scored a season-high 13 points and had six assists for the Spartans.

The Seawolves (0-4) led for much of the first half, holding Bridges to two points as they led 22-15 midway through the first half.

Stony Brook’s Elijah Olaniyi scored 16, Akwasi Yeboah had 15 points, UC Iroegbu scored 12 and Tyrell Sturdivant added 10 points.

“The biggest positive was coming out and competing for 40 minutes,” coach Jeff Boals said. “We kept on fighting. I think we led 12 1/2 minutes in the first half. Our biggest thing was coming out and getting off to a good start, just to build some confidence.”

BIG PICTURE

Stony Brook: The America East Conference team made 13 of 26 3-pointers against one of the top teams in the country. That kind of shooting can help the Seawolves pull off an upset, something they had a chance to do in setbacks against Maryland and Connecticut.

“We’re 0-4 right now and it doesn’t look good on wins and losses, but we’ve competed in every game we’ve played,” Boals said.

Michigan State: Bridges’ health is a key factor for the team, and for himself. Izzo isn’t sure how long Bridges will be out.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Spartans will slip in The Associated Press poll after losing to the top-ranked Blue Devils and perhaps because Bridges is injured.

HUMBLED AT HOME

Michigan State standout freshman Jaren Jackson fouled out in 14 scoreless minutes. He missed his only shot, a 3-pointer, and had a team-high three turnovers.

“This might be the only time in that kid’s career he doesn’t score,” Boals said. “He is an unbelievable talent.”

The 6-foot-11 Jackson, rated as one of the top prospects for the 2018 NBA draft, was averaging 16 points and 10 rebounds.

“Jaren’s a great player, but he is a young player,” Langford said. “He’s way ahead of where I was.”

UP NEXT

Stony Brook: In its home opener on Wednesday night, hosts Brown.

Michigan State: Plays DePaul on Thursday night in Oregon at the Phil Knight Invitational. The Spartans will play the Ducks or Connecticut in the semifinals on Friday and could face No. 9 North Carolina on Sunday.

“It’s not the biggest stage like Duke was, but it’s time to get back to what we lost against Duke,” Langford said.

Donald Trump’s response to LaVar Ball: ‘I should’ve left them in jail!’

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I told you this was going to happen.

After LaVar Ball downplayed Donald Trump’s role in bringing home his son, LiAngelo, and the three other UCLA players that were arrested for shoplifting in China last week, Trump responded by taking to twitter and saying that he should have left American citizens in prison in a non-democratic, authoritarian country because they will not personally acknowledge his efforts enough:

Sigh.

Now we await LaVar’s response.

Five-star 2018 recruit Anfernee Simons could test NBA Draft process

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Five-star Class of 2018 guard Anfernee Simons is interested in potentially entering the 2018 NBA Draft.

According to a report from Jonathan Givony of ESPN, the former Louisville commit will likely be eligible to jump to the NBA straight out of high school since he graduated high school last year while turning 19 next June. The 6-foot-4 Simons, considered the No. 16 overall prospect in the Rivals’ Class of 2018 national rankings, is playing a post-grad season at IMG Academy for 2017-18 after reclassifying as a sophomore.

If Simons opts to go pro than college basketball loses a potential star as he’s been shooting up the national rankings over the past year. Simons was committed to the Cardinals since the beginning of his junior year but he opened things up once former head coach Rick Pitino lost his job in a fallout from the FBI investigation on college basketball.

Simons started his season at the National Prep Showcase this weekend as six NBA teams sent people to watch him play, according to Givony’s report.

It’ll be fascinating to see what happens in this situation as Simons hasn’t done much with the recruiting process over the last several months. Now that NBA teams are already watching him play, Simons could follow in Thon Maker’s footsteps and turn pro right away.