The top 10 dunks of the college basketball season

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A hearty welcome to those of you just now joining the rest of us in following college basketball now that football season has ended. We’ll be running a series of posts to get all you football fans caught up on the season at-large. To read through them all, click here.

In case you’ve missed it, major media believes this is a down year in college hoops. There is no 2012 Kentucky Wildcats or 1976 Indiana Hoosiers. The NBA one-and-done rule is draining college hoops of all the major superstars.

Well guess what?

You don’t have to be Kevin Durant or LeBron James to throw down a highlight reel dunk.

The 2012-2013 college basketball season has been an exciting one, with comebacks, buzzer-beaters, and of course, huge dunks. The sport doesn’t need Carmelo Anthony or Anthony Davis in order to provide excitement, and the following videos are proof as to why.

Honorable Mention:
DJ Stephens – Memphis vs. VCU, 11/22/12
Archie Goodwin – Kentucky vs. Portland, 12/8/12
Elijah Pittman – Marshall vs. Cincinnati, 12/15/12
Victor Rudd Jr. – South Florida vs. Syracuse, 1/6/13 (Go to 1:17 mark)
Sam Thompson – Ohio State vs. Michigan, 1/13/13
Jared Berggren – Wisconsin vs. Indiana, 1/15/13
Nerlens Noel – Kentucky vs. Auburn, 1/19/13
John Daniels – Columbia vs. Cornell, 1/26/13
Alex Len – Maryland vs. Duke, 1/26/13
Akil Mitchell – Virginia vs. North Carolina State, 1/29/03
Adrien Payne – Michigan State vs. Illinois, 1/31/13
Victor Oladipo – Indiana vs. Michigan, 2/2/13
Kevin Young – Kansas vs. Oklahoma State, 2/2/13

Justin Glover – Winston Salem State vs. Elizabeth City State (D-II)

For all intents and purposes, this dunk should be in the top-5. Heck, it’s probably the best dunk of the season. But it took place in a D-II game, so it can’t crack the top-10. But HOLY MOLY, this is the craziest dunk of the year. And that’s saying something considering what our No. 1 dunk is.

Top-10 dunks of the college basketball season:

10. Chris Denson – Auburn vs. Tennessee Tech, 12/18/12

The SEC is not a good college basketball conference this season. True, Florida is dismantling teams left and right, but Missouri, Kentucky and Ole Miss are next in line and none of them ave inspired much confidence in the general public.

So if Ole Miss is 6-2 in conference play, and they aren’t as good as their record indicates, what does that say about Auburn, who sits at 8-13 overall and 2-6 in the SEC? The Tigers are not good, that’s what it says. But you wouldn’t think that based on this superb one-handed poster-dunk by 6-foot-2 guard Chris Denson.

9. Rodney Purvis – North Carolina State vs. Miami, 2/2/13

NC-State is one of the most puzzling teams in the country. They put together a 10-game winning streak which included a win over then-No.1 Duke. But since then, the Wolfpack have lost four of six, including losses to Virginia and Wake Forest.

Oh then there was also the recent issue of freshman Rodney Purvis re-tweeting a negative comment one of his former-teammates made about head coach Mark Gottfried. I think this sensational put-back dunk he had against Miami might be enough to get him out of the dog house.

8. Troy Huff – North Dakota vs. Idaho State, 2/2/13

There isn’t much you need to know about North Dakota or Idaho State. There are only two things you need to know about Troy Huff. First, he’s the team’s leading scorer, averaging 18.1ppg. Second, the kid can fly.

This dunk cracks the top-10 because of Huff’s in-flight transition from a two-handed slam to a one-handed jam. The mid-air transition is such an underrated part of the dunk game. Huff makes it look easy.

Thank God there wasn’t a defender in Huff’s way. Things would have gotten ugly. This was one of the strongest dunks I’ve seen in a long time.

7. Doug Anderson – Detroit vs. St. John’s, 11/13/12

Doug Anderson is the best dunker in the country. Plain and simple. There is not a player in the country who dunks with as much vertical height, velocity and frequency as the Detroit freak-show. On any given night, he’s good for a handful of highlight reel plays. Scouting for Doug Anderson is not all that complicated. Simply box him out on every shot or he will make you pay.

6. Mason Plumlee – Duke vs. Maryland, 1/26/13

Mason Plumlee is on the short-list of National Player of the Year candidates and this incredibly difficult reverse putback dunk is just one of the many reasons why. Plumlee has improved in all facets of the game. There aren’t many big-man as athletic or as agile as Plumlee, and this dunk shows why. The degree of difficulty of this dunk is off-the-charts, and Plumlee almost makes it look easy. But trust me, this dunk was not easy at all.

5. Brandon Paul – Illinois vs. Minnesota, 1/9/13

When Illinois played Minnesota during the second week of conference play, both teams were ranked and were thought to be legitimate contenders in the Big-Ten. While a lot has changed since then, the Illini have lost five of six, nothing changes the fact that Brandon Paul’s poster-jam over Trevor Mbakwe is one of the most violent dunks of the season. When you look up the definition of #POSTERIZED in the dictionary, a .GIF of this dunk shows up next to the word.

4. Victor Oladipo – Indiana vs. Central Connecticut State, 12/8/12

Three months into the season and it’s Victor Oladipo, not Cody Zeller, who is the Hooiser’s best player and likely candidate for Player of the Year. The junior is one of the most athletic players in the country, has improved his jumper, and is one of the best lockdown defenders in the country. Did I mention he was athletic? Central Connecticut State had to find out the hard way.

3. Deonte Burton – Nevada vs. UNLV, 1/30/13

Watch the video. Now watch it again. And again. I’m still in shock.

Burton is one of the most electrifying players that nobody knows about. He’s only 6-foot-1 yet can explode like somebody 6-foot-7 and has hit clutch shot after clutch shot. But look at this dunk. Look at how he get’s his arm cocked back for full extension. Remember, Burton is just 6-FOOT-1! This is an incredible dunk.

2. Marcus Lewis – Eastern Kentucky vs. Southeast Missouri, 2/2/13

Remember how I just said that Deonte Burton’s out-of-bounds ally-oop was incredible? Well it was. But Marcus Lewis’ out-of-bounds ally-oop was incredible on steroids.

First he burns the poor defender who gets caught peeking at the in-bounds pass. Then he jumps up, uses a defenders face as a springboard and dunks all over the entire team. Like I said: incredible on steroids.

1. Jamaal Franklin – San Diego State vs. Fresno State, 1/10/13

This is why the kids call him “Circus Time”.

Only Jamaal Franklin would toss himself a 25-foot self-ally-oop off the backboard in while splitting a double team. Who does something like that? Jamaal Franklin. That’s who.

This is…I just…The thing about it is…A month later, and I’m still speechless.

Just shut it down already. Game over.

I can’t even begin to imagine what has to take place in order for this dunk to not still be No. 1 at season’s end.

An Ode To Jevon Carter: The force behind Press Virginia never got the credit he deserved

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BOSTON — To the public-at-large, the legacy of Jevon Carter comes down to this: He’s been in college for 100 years, and he looks like it because of his hairline.

He’s the Perry Ellis redux.

To everyone in college basketball — from his coaching staff to his program to the teams and players that he has wreaked havoc on — what he did and who he was meant so much more.

Let’s start with this: Jevon Carter knows what his opponent’s are going to try to do better than they do.

“Jevon tells guys on the floor where to go when they don’t know the plays,” said West Virginia assistant coach Ron Everhart, and he’s not referring to his own team. “He sits there and studies their film. He knows their plays better than they do. It’s pretty funny, actually. ‘You go there, and you better get out there, coach is gonna take you out.'”

The opposition is not the only team he coaches up. On the court, in the huddle, in the locker room. He’s always talking, always helping, always leading.

“He always taught me what to do,” said West Virginia’s sophomore center Sagaba Konate, one of the most improved defenders in the country this year. “In the game, in the huddle, he always show what to do. If I’m on the wrong side in a game, he told me be there, go to the other side. At halftime he come up to me, show what I’m supposed to do, swing here, swing here, I’ll throw it to you here. All that kind of stuff.”

And then there’s the way that he’s viewed by the people he chews up, spits out and leaves with nothing but a turnover or a missed shot in the box score.

“None,” Donte Divincenzo, who turned the ball over six times in Villanova’s 90-78 win over West Virginia on Friday night, a win that ended Carter’s career and sent the Mountaineers home in the Sweet 16 for the third consecutive season, said when asked if he’s ever faced a better defender. “He’s the best ever.”

“Maybe Briante Weber at VCU,” added Villanova assistant Ashley Howard, the man that was tasked with putting together a scouting report to try and deal with Carter on Friday. “But in recent years? None.”

The quick hands. The lateral movement. The relentlessness. They say shot-blockers can change a game simply because shooters know they’re there, conscious of the fact that they may end up getting a layup put through the back board. It’s not often that you hear ball-handlers say the same about a guy out on the perimeter.

“Even when you get by him, you have that presence right behind you that can get the ball at any point,” Divincenzo said. “We were driving and he was still on our backs, still reaching and still getting his hands on balls.”

“He can have an off game but people still fear him on the defensive end.”

But to really understand what the man they call ‘JC’ has meant to this West Virginia program, you have to go all the way back to the very first moment that head coach Bob Huggins saw Carter play.

(Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

“I was in Orlando in Disney,” Huggy Bear said last week. “Got me a big cup of coffee to watch the 8 am game. He was in the furthest court away that you could be on. I’m trying to drink my coffee and wake up and this guy’s pressing at eight o’clock in the morning. No one else on his team’s pressing. Just him. He’s picking up the ball, pressuring people from end line to end line, and I pick up the phone and call my assistants and say, ‘We’ve got to sign this guy. I don’t know what he does well, but he sure tries to guard.'”

And he’s never stopped.

What you have to understand here is that Carter, as much as anyone, is to credit for West Virginia’s ascendance to being one of the best programs in the Big 12. When Huggins started recruiting Carter, West Virginia was in the midst of a transition that was not going well. In their first season in the Big 12 after leaving the Big East, the Mountaineers finished 13-19 overall, the first time that Huggs had a team finish a season below .500 since 1984-85, his very first year as a Division I head coach. The following year they were better, but their 17-16 mark was the second-most losses that Huggins has ever had in a season as a head coach.

“We were struggling,” Huggins said. “I underestimated the switch from the Big East and how they played in the Big East to the Big 12. We had the wrong kind of guys. We had guys that didn’t love to play.”

JC, and his four-year back court mate Daxter Miles, love to play. They were unheralded prospects that were brought in to replace guys like Eron Harris, who left the program after averaging 17 points as a sophomore, and completely changed the culture of West Virginia basketball.

It helps that their arrival sparked a change in philosophy — Press Virginia was born — but it bears asking: Would Press Virginia have worked without those two making their presence known?

“These two guys are — they’re at the head of that class,” Huggins said. “They work. They work every day in practice. They’re coachable. I’ve never had one complaint about either one of them. I’ve never had one issue with either one of them.”

Culture is a word that gets thrown around a lot in college basketball, sometimes unnecessarily so, but with Miles and, specifically, Carter, it is completely fair and justifiable to say that they changed the culture of West Virginia basketball.

“They’ve come into this situation and basically turned it around,” Everhart said. “Look at where we were four years ago when they got here and look at where we are today. We won 25 games four years in a row and three straight Sweet 16s, and I think that speaks volumes in terms of what they’ve meant to West Virginia basketball and our program, locker room, culture, where we are right now.”

“He’s the guy who really get me to play great defense,” Konate said, “because I never saw JC giving up or get tired. So I say, ‘if he’s doing it, why not me?'”

And that right there says all you need to know about Jevon Carter and the legacy that he will leave.

Bill Self’s least impressive Kansas team is 40 minutes away from the Final Four

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OMAHA, Neb. — Kansas is vulnerable, exploitable and limited. The Jayhawks have no depth, are without a superstar and possess a middling defense.

They are Bill Self’s worst team.

And they have won the Big 12 regular season and tournament titles, secured a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament and are a win away from the Final Four.

The Jayhawks shrugged off some late sluggishness to dispatch No. 5 Clemson 80-76 on Friday night in the Midwest Regional semifinal at CenturyLink Center to put themselves in the Elite Eight for the third-consecutive year with a date with Duke on Sunday.

This year has often been about what this Kansas team couldn’t do after the losses of Frank Mason and Josh Jackson and then the ineligibility of Billy Preston. Early-season losses to Washington and Arizona State, the latter at the usually impregnable Allen Fieldhouse, were the proof this Kansas team might finally be the one not to win a Big 12 title. Then Texas Tech beat the hell out of them in Lawrence and it looked like the streak was on its way to over.

Devonte Graham was a poor imitation of Mason.  Svi Mykhailiuk was too timid and inconsistent. Udoka Azubuike was foul-prone and unproven. The supporting cast was a rung or two lower than a team with national-championship aspirations could carry.

Those problems are real. Those issues are troublesome. Those deficiencies are critical.

In spite of it all, Kansas won the Big 12 by two games, ripped through the conference tournament and are on the doorstep of playing for a national championship.

Bill Self’s worst team has a chance to be the country’s best.

“I’m so proud of our team because I think of all the teams that we’ve had here, this would be the team that everyone would have thought would not be in this game,” Self said Friday. “And so, hey, we’re in this game. We’ve got a legitimate shot to go to San Antonio.

“You prepare the whole year to play in this game. So I think we’ll play with no what-ifs. I think we’ll let it go. I think we’ll be as loose as we can be and still you’ve got to make shots.

“I’d like nothing more than to take my team this year to San Antonio and let them experience what the best of the best is in college basketball.”

The key to Kansas’ season has been embracing its shortcomings. Azubuike is the only big they’ve got that can give them both scoring and defense consistently. It’s a 180 for a program that’s featured Thomas Robinson, Cole Aldrich, the Morris Twins and Jeff Withey. Kansas almost always plays through its bigs. This year, they’re playing around one.

“I never played like this,” Self said. “It just goes against the grain from the teams that we’ve had in the past, but these guys have figured it out. They’ve learned how to play through it, and we’ve had unbelievable guard play and unbelievable leadership from our vets, and had some guys have some outstanding seasons.

“There’s less margin for error but these guys have certainly rallied around that.”

Kansas’ shooting is why they’re in the Elite Eight. The Jayhawks are 10th nationally with a 40.5 3-point shooting percentage. It’s Azubuiike, though, that makes so many of those good looks possible. The man makes 77.5 percent of his shots from the floor. That demands defensive attention. And that means defenders aren’t shadowing shooters.

“He’s a guy we can throw the ball into and he can go get a basket,” Malik Newman, who had a team-high 17 points Friday, said. “I think his passing is underrated. That’s another big key for him. When we’re able to throw it in and the defense collapses on him, he is able to kick it out and find an open shooter.

“It just opens up the whole game for us.”

It’s opened up a whole world of possibility for Kansas and a world of hurt for their opponents.

“Most teams have somebody that you can kind of scratch off,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell mused. “So one of the reasons they’re so hard to guard is they’ve got a center that scores if he catches it deep, and he’s bigger than everybody on the floor so he does get position. And then you’ve got guards that can all make shots and drive by you and they play with great spacing.”

Now, Kansas isn’t full of slouches. Graham was the Big 12 player of the year, Azubuike’s talent was apparent even if it was raw before injury robbed him of a freshman year. Mykhailiuk is all-Big 12 while Malik Newman and LaGerald Vick were heralded prospects. Still, there’s not a lottery pick among them. No Andrew Wiggins or Ben McLemore or Josh Jackson. The fit is strange and the depth is zilch.

All that has eroded Kansas’ wiggle room for mistakes, but when they operate within their comfort zone, it can make for great offense. The first two minutes of the second half when the Jayhawks hit back-to-back 3s was a thing of beauty, ball movement and shot making. It was the blueprint for a buzzsaw.

Maybe Self’s worst team is pretty damn good.

Keenan Evans closes strong (again) as Texas Tech advances past Purdue to Elite Eight

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BOSTON — Second Half Keenan struck again on Friday night.

Keenan Evans scored 12 of his 16 points and handed out three of his four assists in the final 10 minutes of the game as No. 3-seed Texas Tech held off No. 2-seed Purdue, 78-65. Zach Smith and Justin Gray paced Tech early, combining for 26 points that helped the Red Raiders build a lead that reached as high as nine before Evans went into takeover mode. Zhaire Smith added 13 points of his own, while the Red Raiders forced 17 Purdue turnovers.

And with that, Texas Tech will to advance past the Sweet 16 for the first time since … ever.

This is uncharted territory for for the Red Raider program that has never been to an Elite Eight and will be playing for their first-ever trip to the Final Four.

“To build a program there has to be a lot of firsts so myself and Keenan have only been together for two years, so we’ve never been to the Elite Eight in two years,” Beard said. “That’s more accurate.”

It’s also fitting, really.

Because it more or less sums up what makes this Texas Tech program so interesting.

On a night where their three-leading scorers never really got going, the Red Raiders advanced on the stretch of two things: Their defense, and the fact that they can stay in a game on the nights when their best players don’t play their best.

With just over 10 minutes left in the game, when Purdue was getting ready to make one final run at advancing to the Elite Eight, is when Evans took over. And there’s no question about it: He closed out this game. Everything that the Red Raiders got on the offensive end of the floor came through Evans down the stretch, even the stuff that doesn’t show up in the score book; for example, the Red Raiders executed a pick-and-roll to perfection with three minutes left, but the lob that Evans threw to Zach Smith ended up as a missed dunk that Zhaire Smith was able to put right back in. Evans doesn’t get the assist, but he made that bucket possible.

I saw all that to say this: With 10 minutes left, the three leading scorers in the Tech program — Evans, Zhaire Smith and Jarrett Culver — were a combined 4-for-16 from the floor with just 11 points.

And Texas Tech held a 50-41 lead. If Evans is Texas Tech’s closer, this was a save that he earned with a three-run lead.

“It’s our identity,” Beard said. “We have a lot of faith in our whole roster, we use a lot of different guys and tonight was fitting. That is the way we have played all year.”

If that doesn’t sum up Chris Beard’s program, I don’t know what does.

No. 2 Duke goes inside to defeat No. 11 Syracuse

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OMAHA, Neb. — Second-seeded Duke made just 5 of its 26 3-point attempts against No. 11 Syracuse on Friday in the two ACC programs’ Sweet 16 matchup.

So the Blue Devils just went inside.

Marvin Bagley III and Wendel Carter, Jr. both had big games to help the Blue Devils outlast the Orange, 69-65, to put themselves in the Elite Eight on Sunday against top-seeded Kansas.

“This was a heck of a game,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “I thought both teams played their hearts out. A great game to win, a really difficult game to lose, because Syracuse played such winning basketball.”

While Duke couldn’t beat the zone that took Syracuse from the First Four to the second weekend with its outside shooting, its two big underclassmen provided plenty of production. Bagley had 22 points and eight rebounds while Carter added 14 points and 12 boards.

“It was a hard fought game. We knew they were going to compete every second of the game,” Bagley said, “and we just tried to compete as well. We had a little point in the game where we started turning it over, and things weren’t going our way, but we stayed tough mentally and we finished it out.”

Bagley was on the receiving end of a number of lobs behind the Syracuse zone that helped the Duke offense stay out in front.

“We practiced it all week,” Bagley said. “We try to look for different things and different ways to score against that zone, and we did a great job at that and got the win.”

Tyus Battle had 19 points to lead the Orange. Oshae Brissett added 15 points and seven boards while Marek Dolezaj had 13 points.

Syracuse shot 53.8 percent from the floor in the second half while Duke shot 36.4 percent (and 11.1 percent from distance), but it wasn’t enough to overcome the Orange’s 16 turnovers or Duke’s 17 second-chance points.

Grayson Allen had 15 points and eight assists for Duke. The Blue Devils had 32 points in the paint.

Duke will now turn its attention to the Jayhawks, who defeated Clemson earlier Friday to make it to their third-straight Elite Eight. The game will tipoff Sunday at 5:05 p.m. (ET).

“We just got to come out ready to play from the beginning,” Bagley said. “We were kind of slacking in this game. I think we’ll be ready for that game. Everybody’s going to be up. We should be coming out strong.”

VIDEO: Allen-to-Bagley oop beats the Syracuse zone

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Usually, you’ve got to shoot a team out of a zone.

Duke might be able to dunk Syracuse out of it.

Grayson Allen and Marvin Bagley connected for a beautiful alley-oop Friday in the second half of the Blue Devils’ Sweet 16 contest against the Orange.

That will work as a zone-buster.