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2018 College Hoops Year In Review: The 12 most memorable moments from the last year

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College basketball had a lot of memorable happenings during 2018 as on-court drama and off-court changes led to a lot of major headlines for the sport. The FBI’s investigation and trials about corruption in college hoops cast a light on some of the sport’s big issues while the NCAA tournament featured a monster upset and some great runs from new and old characters.

Here are some of the major things to remember in 2018 from college basketball as the sport will surely have more on some of these storylines in the upcoming year.

Here are the 12 best dunks from the last 12 months

And here are the 10 best games from 2018.

1. No. 16 seed UMBC shocks No. 1 seed Virginia in the NCAA tournament

When we look back on 2018, it will always be associated with one of the greatest upsets in the history of sports. Many believed a No. 16 seed would never take down a No. 1 seed.

And it happened. And it happened in blowout fashion to a team that rolled through a great ACC.

The stunning UMBC win was enhanced by a national audience that kept slowly tuning in as the realization set in that crazy history was happening. Time seemed to stop. Twitter went ballistic. UMBC helped seize the moment by going on a social media run that enhanced their exploding national reputation.

Some questioned Tony Bennett’s style of play. Others made jokes on Virginia’s behalf that will likely continue for decades. Unless No. 16 upsets over No. 1 seeds become more common — or Virginia wins a national title — the Cavaliers will forever be associated with this game.

2. Villanova captures its second national title in three years by beating Michigan

Etching its name into the blueblood equation with a second national championship in three seasons, Villanova marched its way through the 2018 NCAA tournament with a dominating effort. The Wildcats culminated their efforts with a big win over Michigan in the title game.

Although Villanova’s 2018 title wasn’t as exciting as the buzzer-beating win in 2016, this group will be remembered for its incredible group of veteran talent. Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges and Donte DiVincenzo helped the Wildcats win multiple national titles before all three left school with eligibility remaining to become NBA draft picks. Omari Spellman quickly developed into a draft pick of his own after a redshirt year and only one season with the team.

The 2018 title team spoke to Villanova’s ability to develop talent and bring elite groups together despite losing key pieces from a title team two seasons before.

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3. Notre Dame’s Arike Ogunbowale knocks down back-to-back game-winners during women’s Final Four

The women’s Final Four had better games than the men’s side this year. Ogunbowale’s heroics were a huge reason why.

The junior guard buried the game-winning jumper to eliminate previously-unbeaten UConn in the semifinals. Then she one-upped that by hitting another game-winning jumper in the national title game to give the Irish the win over Mississippi State.

For her Final Four MOP efforts, Ogunbowale appeared on Ellen and met Kobe Bryant. She also made national headlines, once again, when Ogunbowale was allowed by the NCAA to compete on Dancing With the Stars. Ogunbowale placed seventh in the competition. She’s currently in her senior season for the top-five Irish as Ogunbowale recently passed 2,000 points for her college career.

4. No. 1 Kansas beats No. 2 Duke in overtime during the Elite Eight

Since the Final Four didn’t produce many memorable individual moments, this clash of bluebloods was probably the game of the 2018 NCAA tournament.

The Jayhawks had huge performances from Malik Newman and Svi Mykhailiuk as they reached the Final Four for the first time since 2012. Although Duke had tons of one-and-done freshman talent — led by Marvin Bagley, Wendell Carter Jr. and Gary Trent Jr. — this game also served as the final time Grayson Allen took the floor in a Blue Devil uniform.

Ultimately, it had a thrilling regulation finish with two Hall of Fame coaches, many memorable college players and a trip to the Final Four on the line.

5. The national emergence of Loyola (Chicago) and Sister Jean during a Cinderella run

College basketball has increasingly become a sport of blueblood programs and elite players. Which is why Loyola captured the nation’s attention as the fun underdog during an improbable run to the 2018 Final Four.

The Missouri Valley Conference champions hadn’t been to the NCAA tournament since 1985. But the No. 11 seed Ramblers showed a special ability to win in tight games thanks in-part to a tremendous, unselfish veteran core and Sister Jean, the school’s 98-year-old nun who became a national sensation.

Loyola won its opening-round game against No. 6 seed Miami on a Donte Ingram three-pointer and followed that up with back-to-back one-point wins over No. 3 seed Tennessee and No. 7 seed Nevada. After dispatching No. 9 seed Kansas State by double digits in the Elite Eight, Loyola became just the fifth double-digit seed to make the Final Four.

The Ramblers lost to Michigan in the national semifinals, but they made a huge imprint on college hoops. Head coach Porter Moser earned well-deserved praise and a contract extension. Recruiting has picked up at Loyola.

And Sister Jean got a bobblehead, her own signature shoes, became friends with Charles Barkley and got recruited by the Atlanta Falcons before throwing out the first pitch at Wrigley Field.

Nobody had a better 2018 than Sister Jean.

6. Michigan’s Jordan Poole knocks out Houston with buzzer-beater to fuel Wolverine Final Four push

The 2018 NCAA tournament didn’t have many true buzzer-beaters. Which is part of what made Michigan’s win over Houston so special. Jordan Poole’s loooong three-pointer gave the Wolverines a one-point win. It also gave Michigan a huge jolt of confidence as they ended up in the title game against Villanova.

7. Memphis brings back Penny Hardaway as he eventually lands five-star center James Wiseman

Coaching carousel movement always has some big names. Chris Mack went from Xavier to Louisville. UConn nabbed Rhode Island’s Dan Hurley and Jeff Capel upgraded from Duke assistant to Pitt head coach.

None of those hirings made as much of a national splash as Penny Hardaway replacing Tubby Smith at Memphis. Revitalizing a hungry fanbase right away, Hardaway has taken local Memphis high school connections and used them to immediately bring in local talent.

While Memphis isn’t a juggernaut this season, they’ve improved enough to have the city excited. Perhaps more importantly, the Tigers have a recruiting class to be reckoned with. This is especially true after Penny went toe-to-toe with John Calipari and Kentucky and ended up with local top-three center James Wiseman.

Memphis currently has a top-ten recruiting class with the potential to add more. Hardaway is going to be fun to watch as he tries to restore Memphis into a national powerhouse.

8. Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett usher in new Duke superteam during Champions Classic blowout over Kentucky

The 2018-19 season opened with a bang this season as the Champions Classic ushered in the first day of the season. And in front of a national audience, Duke freshmen Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett put on a show in a Blue Devil blowout win over the Wildcats.

Potentially the top two players in the Player of the Year race and the 2019 NBA Draft, these two superstar freshman had some monster plays as the Blue Devils ran past the Wildcats in a matchup of preseason top-five teams. Duke was so good that some questioned if they would go undefeated (they ultimately lost to Gonzaga at Maui).

Even if Duke lost to another top-five team, they’re a major national title contender. Williamson and Barrett continue to put up huge highlights nearly every game.

9. The first FBI college basketball trial verdict is delivered

Late October saw the first verdict in the FBI’s investigation into college basketball corruption. Adidas executives James Gatto and Merl Code and former runner Christian Dawkins were all found guilty on conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Sentencing takes place in March 2019 as appeals will likely take place.

While the guilty counts were always likely to happen, the trial did get interesting at certain points when some took the witness stand. Former five-star recruit Brian Bowen’s father testified about some of the alleged offers he received for his son while former Adidas AAU coach and runner T.J. Gassnola also revealed some intriguing details. Some big-name programs and players like Kansas and Arizona’s Deandre Ayton ended up being named during testimony.

We’ll hear a lot more about the college basketball corruptions cases in 2019 as two more trials are supposed to happen in February and April. Former college coaches and others remain heavily involved as more information could be revealed if a plea agreement isn’t reached before trial.

(Kevin Hagen/Getty Images)

10. Texas guard Andrew Jones returns to action following leukemia diagnosis

A very sad story turned into an uplifting one as Texas guard Andrew Jones continued a remarkable fight against leukemia.

Announced publicly on Jan. 10, Jones left the Longhorns to start chemotherapy as he spent the spring and summer recovering and working to get better. Along the way, Jones had encouraging signs of recovery, including his first dunk, practicing with Texas again, and finally entering his first game competition in November.

Jones played in two games early in the 2018-19 season and hasn’t appeared in a game since mid-November as he’s leaving the team for several weeks to continue treatment.

11. Buffalo smashes Arizona in NCAA tournament first-round upset to end a bizarre March for the Wildcats

Arizona had a truly bizarre final month to the season in 2017-18 as they had numerous highs and lows. The ride finally ended when No. 13 seed Buffalo completely ran the Wildcats out of the tournament with a stunning first round blowout.

But before one of the biggest upsets of the first round, Arizona looked like a potential national title contender after rolling through the Pac-12 Tournament after head coach Sean Miller’s triumphant return following reports that he was on potential wiretaps talking about payments star center Deandre Ayton.

Miller has remained on the Arizona sidelines since returning as Wildcat recruiting recovered nicely with multiple five-star prospects committed in the Class of 2019.

12. The Commission on College Basketball speaks

One of the responses to the FBI’s investigation into college basketball involved the formation of the Commission on College Basketball.

Headed by Condoleezza Rice, the Commission finally delivered its recommendations in late April, as they addressed many of the hot topics in the sport. Recruiting, shoe companies, agents, the one-and-done rule, the NBA Draft and summer basketball events were just some of the things touched on when the Commission dropped its findings and proposals.

The basketball world responded with deserved skepticism, as many of the changes called for other governing bodies outside of the NCAA to change rules to accommodate what’s best for college basketball. Amateurism was also one of the topics that wasn’t touched on. While the recruiting calendar has seen some changes in June and July, there haven’t been a lot of sweeping changes yet to other areas of the game.

Miami lands Florida grad-transfer Keith Stone

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Keith Stone is leaving the SEC but not the state of Florida.

The former Gator will finish his career at Miami as a graduate transfer, he announced Monday via social media.

The 6-foot-8 Stone is from Deerfield, Fla., less than an hour’s ride from Miami Beach. He averaged 6.1 points and 3.9 rebounds per game last season before tearing his ACL in January. With Dewan Hernandez, Ebuka Izundu, and Anthony Lawrence all gone from the Canes, Stone could be in line for a major role right from the jump if his knee gets back to full strength.

Miami went 14-18 last season to finish under .500 for the first time in Jim Larranaga’s eight seasons, and it was just the second time the Canes failed to win at least 20 games.

Kyle Guy says he’s staying in the draft, will not return to Virginia

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Kyle Guy is off to the professional ranks.

The Virginia junior had already declared for the NBA draft, but announced Monday that he plans to stay in the draft and not return to the Cavaliers next season, as he would be allowed to under NCAA rules.

“I am officially keeping my name in the draft. I know it’s the right step after much prayer and thought with my family,” Guy wrote on social media.

Players retain the option to return to school up until the end of next month, but Guy’s announcement makes it clear he has no intention of utilizing that avenue as he plows ahead toward a professional career after being named the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player as Virginia won its first-ever national championship earlier this month in Minneapolis.

The 6-foot-2 guard averaged 15.4 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game in Virginia’s slow-paced offense while shooting 49.5 percent from 3-point range. Right now, Guy’s draft ceiling would appear to be in the second round with going undrafted a possibility as well. If he does make it at the next level, it’s pretty clear it’ll be the 3-point shooting that gets and keeps him there in a league that covets that skill now more than ever.

For Virginia, Guy’s decision simply crystalizes what was likely the reality already – they’re going to have a completely remade roster, which certainly isn’t uncommon for national championship winners. There’s a reason no one since Florida in 2006 and 2007 has repeated as champions. With Guy gone and Ty Jerome, De’Andre Hunter and Mamadi Diakite all having declared, Tony Bennett and Co. could be looking at more modest expectations following the greatest season in program history.

Duke adds to 2019 class with top-30 guard Cassius Stanley

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Duke’s already monster 2019 class got even stronger Monday.

Cassius Stanley, a four-star guard from California, pledged to the Blue Devils to give them their fifth recruit rated in the top-35 nationally in the class.

“I’ll be joining the brotherhood. Go Duke,” Stanley said in his announcement video posted to social media.

“He wants to come in and start or contribute as a starter on a highly competitive team,” Jerome Stanley, Cassius’ father, told 247Sports. “He’s used to winning and he plans to come in there and win. He doesn’t plan to be a project, he wants to step on the floor immediately and help them win.”

Stanley’s commitment only further reinforces how strong Duke is on the recruiting trail as it now has five-stars Vernon Carey, Matthew Hurt and Wendell Moore signed along with top-40 Boogie Ellis of San Diego.

The Blue Devils may have lost their high-profile trio of Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish, but with these major additions along with Tre Jones, Marques Bolden and Alex O’Connell slated to return, they’ll be looking at another top-10 (and maybe higher) preseason ranking after a disappointing Elite Eight departure from the NCAA tournament last month.

Udoka Azubuike returning to Kansas for senior season

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Injuries have robbed Kansas center Udoka Azubuike of nearly two full seasons of college basketball. They also likely played a major part on while he’ll be back for his fourth year on campus.

The 7-footer will return to Lawrence and the Jayhawks for his senior season rather than declare for the NBA draft, the school announced Monday.

“We’re all very excited about Udoka making the decision not to enter the draft,” Kansas coach Bill Self said in a statement released by the school. “Unfortunately for him, injury is the reason as he still cannot participate (at) what would be the NBA combine or workouts for the NBA teams. We really anticipated that this would be the year he would enter the draft but that was also based on him having an injury-free year.”

Azubuike was averaging 13.4 points and 6.8 rebounds per game while shooting 70.5 percent from the field before a wrist injury cut his season short in January after just nine games. He also played just 11 games as a freshman due to injury.

In his lone full healthy season, Azubuike averaged 13 points and 7 rebounds per game as he made 77 percent of his shots from the field, making him nearly an unstoppable force for teams across the Big 12. His return makes Kansas, the 10th-ranked team in our preseason Top 25, an even stronger favorite to regain its Big 12 crown after Texas Tech and Kansas State shared the league title last year to deprive Kansas of its spot atop the league for the first time in 14 years as it battled injuries, suspensions and lackluster play.

The 21 most important ‘stay-or-go’ NBA draft early entry decisions

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This single most important and influential decision when if came to this year’s NBA draft belonged to Cassius Winston.

The Grand Maester of the Michigan State offense, Winston put together an All-American season as he led Michigan State to the 2019 Big Ten regular season title, tournament title and a trip to the Final Four. Over the weekend, the 6-foot point guard announced that he will be returning to school for his senior season, immediately ensuring that the Spartans will be the No. 1 team in the NBC Sports preseason top 25 and locking them in as favorites to win next year’s national title.

But he is far from the only important decision that is left to be made in this year’s NBA draft process. At 11:59 p.m. on April 21st, the deadline to declare for the NBA draft came and went. The players who put there name into the mix — more than 130 that we know of — will have until May 29th to pull their names out of the draft.

Here are 21 decisions that will have the biggest impact on the 2019-2020 college basketball season.

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KERRY BLACKSHEAR

Blackshear might be the single-most influential player in all of college basketball, but to figure out where he is going to have influence, the 6-foot-10, 250 pound forward has a couple of decisions to make. For starters, he has declared for the NBA draft, and given that he is 22 years old and more or less fully developed as a player, now may be the best time for him to make the jump to the professional ranks. If he does decide to return to school, he’s going to have to decide where to play: He’s a redshirt junior and a graduate transfer, which means that the Virginia Tech big man may end up being a former Virginia Tech big man. Every school in college basketball will want to get involved. We’ll see where he ends up.

IGNAS BRAZDEIKIS and JORDAN POOLE, Michigan

Michigan essentially had two players on their roster last season that you could trust to be threats on the offensive end of the floor night in and night out: Poole and Brazdeikis. Now it looks like there is a real chance that both of them to could end following Charles Matthews lead and remain in the NBA draft despite the fact that neither look like they will be a first round pick.

That’s a major concern for John Beilein, because with Zavier Simpson, Jon Teske and Isaiah Livers all back, Michigan will have a case to be the preseason No. 1 team in the country if both Iggy and Swaggy Poole return. If both end up gone, the Wolverines may never break 60 points in a game next year.

DEVON DOTSON, QUENTIN GRIMES and UDOKA AZUBUIKE, Kansas

This one is tricky because we have yet to get official word on whether or not Azubuike has actually declared for the draft*; he did last season and ultimately opted to return to school. Of the three, I think Dotson is probably the most important, as the Jayhawks don’t have anyone nearly as good as he is at the point. If Azubuike opts to enter the draft, Bill Self does still have David McCormack on his roster, who will be an adequate replacement. Grimes is the x-factor here. A former top ten recruit, I think he’s probably the most likely to keep his name in the draft this year even if it’s as a second round pick. I’m not sure if that’s necessarily the best plan of action — I do think there is still a chance that he could come back to Kansas and play his way into the first round with a big sophomore year — but I get it. If he’s gone, the Jayhawks do have some perimeter pieces that will be able to fill the void in Ochai Agbaji and Marcus Garrett.

With all three back, we’re talking about Kansas as the surefire best team in the Big 12 and potentially as a top five team. If they’re all gone, then it is going to be a long, long season in Lawrence.

*(Since this posting, Azubuike has announced that he is returning to school.)

Grant Williams (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

GRANT WILLIAMS and JORDAN BONE, Tennessee

This may sound counterintuitive, but I think that it is true: Bone is the more likely of the two to leave school this year, but Williams would have a much bigger impact on the Tennessee program if he opts to return. Bone was a bit inconsistent as a junior, but when he was at his best, he was the best guard in the SEC. Losing that hurts, but the truth is that with Lamonte Turner, Jordan Bowden and Josiah James in the mix, there is enough backcourt talent in Knoxville to withstand his departure.

I’m not sure that is true with Williams. Tennessee does have some big bodies on their roster, but Williams would be in the conversation with Cassius Winston for preseason National Player of the Year if he opts to come back to Tennessee for another run at a national title. And with Williams back, they would very much be in that conversation. As it stands, Tennessee is No. 22 in the NBC Sports Preseason Top 25.

A source close to the situation told NBC Sports that they think there’s a “50-50” chance that Williams is back.

KYLE GUY and MAMADI DIAKITE, Virginia

I fully expect that both Ty Jerome and De’Andre Hunter will remain in the NBA draft for good. That leaves Guy and Diakite as the players who are up in the air. Everyone should know about Guy by now. The reigning Final Four MOP, Guy led Virginia in scoring last season and is one of the best shooters in all of college basketball. For a program that lacks perimeter depth, Guy’s return would obviously be enormous.

But Diakite’s return is just as impactful. He’s such a monster on the defensive end of the floor, and I’m not sure people realize just how good he is. His offensive game is coming along, but the value is that he would be a perfect pairing next to Jay Huff if Virginia wants to play big and that he is versatile enough to defend on the perimeter if needed when Virginia plays small. It’s not a coincidence that the most productive six-game stretch of Diakite’s career came during the run to the NCAA title, when he averaged 10.5 points, 8.2 boards and 2.7 blocks.

Kyle Guy (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

JORDAN NWORA, Louisville

There are a few Louisville players that have declared for the NBA draft, but for my money, Nwora is the one that matters the most, and it is not close. One of college basketball’s most improved players, Nwora is will be a first-team All-ACC player and a potential All-American if he comes back. He will be the veteran scorer that the Cardinals need as Chris Mack brings in a loaded, six-man recruiting class. With Nwora back, the Cards will be a top ten team.

KILLIAN TILLIE and ZACH NORVELL, Gonzaga

Assuming that Rui Hachimura and Brandon Clarke are both gone, Tillie becomes the most important player on Gonzaga’s frontcourt if he opts to return to school. And Norvell slides right in as the projected leading scorer. Frankly, with those two and Corey Kispert on the roster, I think the Zags will have more than enough scoring to keep things rolling as their talented six-man recruiting class gets some experience.

The reason they are as low on this list as they are is that I still think there is a ceiling to what Gonzaga can be because of their point guard situation. Right now, they are in a position where they’ll have to decide between freshman Brock Ravet and sophomores Greg Foster Jr. and Joel Ayayi. I would not be surprised if there was a grad transfer that was in the mix here at some point.

ANTHONY COWAN, Maryland

The Terps already got word that they are getting Jalen Smith back for his sophomore season. With the rest of last year’s promising recruiting class in the mix — Aaron Wiggins, Eric Ayala, Ricky Lindo — the only thing they need to ensure that they are a preseason top ten team is their star point guard. Cowan, if he returns, will be in the mix for preseason All-American honors.

MYLES POWELL, Seton Hall

This one isn’t difficult. Seton Hall returns basically everyone from last season if Powell comes back. They should still be relevant in the Big East if he doesn’t, but he was arguably the most dangerous scorer in college basketball this side of Markus Howard last year, and assuming he’s back in the fold, we have the Pirates at No. 12 in the NBC Sports Preseason Top 25.

Myles Powell (Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

PAYTON PRITCHARD and KENNY WOOTEN, Oregon

Assuming that Louis King ends up staying in the draft, Pritchard and Wooten are the two guys that will matter for Oregon next season. They are the two pieces that allow Dana Altman’s system to work the way that it is supposed to work — a high-scoring lead guard and an uber-athletic five that can protect the rim and finish lobs. With both of them back, I think Oregon is a top 10-15 team and the best team in the Pac-12.

E.J. MONTGOMERY, Kentucky

Montgomery is interesting here. He’s super-talented, and he plays a position for Kentucky where the Wildcats are going to really lack some depth this season, but we’ve yet to see him prove that he is anything more than ‘loaded with potential’ at the SEC level. I think Kentucky needs him because they need to keep bodies in their frontcourt, but I’m on a wait-and-see mode before I decide just how much of an impact I think that he is going to make.

CHUMA OKEKE and JARED HARPER, Auburn

I would make the argument that these two were the two most important players on Auburn’s team this past season. If I had to guess, I would say that Okeke is probably gone. He proved just how good he is this past season, and his recovery from the torn ACL he suffered in the NCAA tournament likely won’t be complete until December. If he returns to school, it might end up being a two-year decision, but if he comes back and is fully healthy, he is miles better than Danjel Purifoy, Anfernee McLemore and the other options the Tigers have in their frontcourt.

Harper is a bit more up in the air, and while he was terrific this past season, especially in March, I do think that J’Von McCormick’s emergence has given Bruce Pearl some breathing room. He can do a lot of the things that Harper does, just not quite as well.

NEEMIAS QUETA, Utah State

Utah State is currently the No. 16 team in the NBC Sports preseason top 25, and much of that has to do with the fact that we are assuming Queta ends up returning to school. His size, his ability to protect the rim and how well he finishes makes him extremely valuable in the Mountain West and helps the Aggies matchup with teams from bigger conferences.