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.
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.
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.