With 2016 coming to a close, it’s time for us to take a look back and all the good things that happened to us. The best dunks, the best games and, today, the most unforgettable moments, both good and bad, from college basketball games from the last 365 days.
This will be interesting to reminisce about. Here are the top 12:
13. Coach K vs. Dillon Brooks: It the history of stupid sports beefs, this has to take the cake. It started with Dillon Brooks, who hit a deep, late three in a Sweet 16 game that was already decided and celebrated the make. Then, as the game ended, he bumped into Duke’s Grayson Allen, incidental contact that meant nothing to either player but set twitter ablaze thanks to an announcer saying that Allen “shoved” Brooks.
Then, cameras caught Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski saying something to Brooks in the postgame handshake line. Brooks told reporters that Coach K said he was too good of a player to showboat like that. Coach K said all he told Brooks was that he was “a terrific player,” and that set off the firestorm. It was dumb, but it was Duke and it was Coach K and it was the NCAA tournament, and it was something that I’m sure everyone involved – including me! – wishes they could just forget.
12. Jon Coffman’s thanks Indiana after beating them: Coffman is one of the good guys in college hoops, and his reaction after a career-defining upset of Indiana by his Fort Wayne Mastadons went viral. The man has his finger on the pulse of his city, and he knows that one win is going to be talked about in Fort Wayne for a long, long time. Not only did the Hoosiers come to down to play, they left with a loss:
11. Matt Farrell’s brother returns from Afghanistan: I know this only happened a few weeks ago, but these moments always get me:
10. Wayne Selden’s uncle losing his mind: Selden’s dunk against Baylor in the NCAA tournament bordered on being eligible for this list, but it paled in comparison to the reaction of Selden’s uncle, who seemed to be going through some kind of religious awakening in the stands:
9. No. 15 Middle Tennessee upsets No. 2 seed Michigan State: If you didn’t know any better, you would think that MTSU was the team that was the higher seed in this game. They never trailed against the Spartans. They shot 11-for-19 from three. They answered every Sparty run with a three or an and-one. And, in the process, they landed what is arguably the biggest upset in the history of the NCAA tournament.
It wasn’t the biggest difference in spread and MTSU was hardly the worst team to ever win a game, but Michigan State was everyone’s pick to win the national title despite being a No. 2 seed who just so happened to have the National Player of the Year on a roster coached by Mr. March, Tom Izzo. I went back through every No. 2 seed that has lost a first round game in the tournament. None of them compare.
8. NCAA tournament pulls out of North Carolina: The NCAA made an unusually politically-charged stand over the summer when they joined forces with the likes of the NBA, PayPal and Bruce Springsteen to pull their events out of the state of North Carolina in protest of HB2, a discriminatory law that, among other things, forces transgendered people from using the bathroom with the gender they identify with. The event that truly mattered was men’s college basketball, since so many in that state value college hoops above all else.
The move itself did not do much to change any laws – that has a lot to do with the fact that North Carolina politics are a complete disaster right now – but it may have helped changed who the elected officials are that make those laws.
7. Baylor Taurean Waller-Prince owning a reporter that asked a stupid question: Pro-tip: don’t ask stupid questions to players that just had their college career come to an end. Otherwise this might happen:
6. Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes lead the way with social activism: I love the way that Koenig and Hayes have embraced the platform that they’ve been given as stars for the Badgers. Koenig, who is the most well-known Native American currently playing college basketball, was at the forefront of the push to get attention for the protests of the Dakota Access Pipeline. He even put his money where his mouth is, road-tripping 13 hours to bring supplies and support to his people.
He’s been outspoken on everything from the hypocrisy of amateurism and the NCAA to the Black Lives Matter movement and the injustices that black people face in America. Not everyone is going to agree with the stance that these two players are taking, especially not in a state like Wisconsin, which voted for Donald Trump. It’s the fact that they would publicly take these positions with that in mind that makes it all the more impressive and memorable.
How often do we see college athletes take public stands like this?
5. UNI’s wild NCAA tournament trip: The swing of emotions for Northern Iowa over the course of their 48 hours in the NCAA tournament are as wild as any that I can ever remember seeing. Let’s start from the beginning, where Paul Jespersen buried a half court shot as time expired to give the Panthers an upset win over No. 6 seed Texas and send them on to the second round to face Texas A&M:
In the second round, UNI would build a 12-point lead with 44 seconds left in regulation … and then blow it all. The Aggies would rally to force overtime, the biggest collapse in the history of college basketball, and eventually, Texas A&M would advance in double OT.
Our Travis Hines wrote a really good story earlier this year on the Panthers and their attempt to bounce-back from such a catastrophic loss. It’s not an easy thing to do.
4. Grayson Allen’s and the trips seen ’round the world: Twice, in the span of 17 days last February, Duke guard Grayson Allen appeared to intentionally trip an opponent. First, it was Louisville’s Ray Spalding. Then, it was Xavier Rathan-Mayes. And that seemed like it would be the end of it. Allen had tripped his way into being the Most Hated Dookie Since Redick, but that seemed like it would more or less be the end of it. He would still get jeered at games and trolled on Instagram, but he was the NBCSports.com Preseason National Player of the Year and a potential first round pick in June. This would be forgotten by the time Duke hit their stride in ACC play.
Then last Wednesday happened:
And I don’t know what will happen with Allen now. Everyone in the world has an opinion on how something like this will affect the psyche of a 21-year old, and the only one with the correct answer is currently suspended from Duke.
But the bigger issue is that this is how Allen will be remembered. He’s always going to be thought of as the tripper, the dirty player. It doesn’t matter that he’s an all-american and a future NBA player and, in three months time, possibly the first Duke player to win two titles since Christian Laettner and Bobby Hurley. His legacy has been sealed.
3. Louisville’s self-imposed postseason ban: There’s an element of normalization that has come with Louisville’s latest brush with the NCAA, something that is only natural when a topic gets discussed over and over and over again. But let’s think about this, for a second. Let’s break it down step-by-step:
In February of 2016, a Louisville team ranked in the top 15 with a legitimate chance to get to a Final Four self-imposed a postseason ban six weeks before Selection Sunday to try and satiate the NCAA’s thirst for blood as they looked into allegations that a member of Rick Pitino’s coaching staff was paying to bring hookers and strippers into the team dorm in order to entice recruits and entertain members of the team.
Those allegations, the ones that were made in a book written by the self-proclaimed ‘madame’, turned out to be true, which seems more like the plot of an episode from the remake of ‘Friday Night Lights’ than it does real life.
2. Marcus Paige’s double-clutch three caps North Carolina’s title game comeback: This was the hardest moment for me to rank here because, quite frankly, it is probably one of the ten greatest shots in national title game history. Maybe top five. How many times have there been three-pointers hit inside the final ten seconds that either tied a game or gave one team the lead? If it wasn’t from Kris Jenkins’ heroics, this would be the shot that gets replayed over and over and over every March:
But Jenkins hit his shot.
Which means that Paige’s miracle three will go down in history as … what? One of the most fascinating things about that title game will be how we view the shot that Paige buried in five year, or ten years, or 20 years, and I have a feeling that history won’t be as kind as I’ve been here.
1. And then … BANG: Tell me, honestly, will anything ever top a national title-clinching buzzer-beater?