The calendar is flipping ahead to 2019, and the most intriguing parts of an already strong college basketball season lie ahead of us, but we’d be remiss in not taking the moment to look back over the last 12 months of ball, which featured not only some great games, but some truly historic ones as well. Here are the top-10 2018 had to offer.
Here are the 12 best dunks from the last 12 months.
And here are the 12 most memorable moments from 2018.
10. Feb. 27: St. Bonaventure 117, Davidson 114, 3OT
This list wouldn’t be complete without a game featuring multiple overtimes, and this late-February matchup between two of the A-10s NCAA tournament teams is the best of the bunch.
Davidson star Kellan Grady scored 39 points, but it was teammate Peyton Aldridge who led the team in scoring with 45 as both players logged more than 50 minutes in a losing effort. On the other side, the Bonnies had three players register at least 30 points in Courtney Stockard (31), Matt Mobley (33) and Jaylen Adams (34) as a 10-0 run in the final minute powered St. Bonaventure to victory.
9. Dec. 9: Tennessee 76, Gonzaga 73
Both of these teams will make appearances later in this list – with opposite results – but there battle in the final month of the year warrants inclusion.
Gonzaga was just a few weeks removed from a win against Duke and a Maui Invitatoinal title, ranked No. 1 and undefeated with games against the Vols and North Carolina the only things standing in the way of legitimate run-the-table talk. Admiral Schofield was having none of it.
The Tennessee senior scored 30 points, making 6 of 12 shots from distance, while grabbing six rebounds in 30 minutes and the Vols announced themselves are true national title contenders and Gonzaga saw any discussion of a perfect season come to a halt, with coach Mark Few probably not too beat up over that last development.
8. March 17, Second Round: Loyola (Chicago) 63, Tennessee 62
This game is important for a lot of reasons. One, it unlocked a Final Four run on par with those by George Mason, VCU and Butler in recent memory. Two, it was a great game, decided in the final second. Third, and most importantly, it made Sister Jean an international celebrity.
7. Jan. 20: Oklahoma State 83, Oklahoma 81, OT
This game might have been the moment where the nation’s relationship with Trae Young went from infatuation and intrigue to doubt and degradation.
The freshman guard scored 48 points and had eight assists, five rebounds and two steals while going 12 of 12 from the free-throw line in 43 minutes…but took 39 shots (20 from distance) and had seven turnovers in what ultimately was a loss. If you were a Young believer, it was evidence of his talent and his teammates’ shortcomings. If you were a Young doubter, it was further proof that his game was big but the team results were small.
Whichever side was right – and there will never be agreement to which was – the final results are indisputable – the Sooners lost 12 of their final 16 games and bowed out of the NCAA tournament in the first round – while Young led the country in scoring and assists.
6. April 2, Title Game: Villanova 79, Michigan 62
Frankly, the game that crowned a champion for the 2017-18 season wasn’t all that compelling. After a strong start from Michigan, Villanova spent the game’s final 30 minutes just dismantling the Wolverines.
There was more to this game than 40 minutes of basketball, though.
It established Villanova as a no-doubt blue blood, putting it at the top of the college basketball hierarchy with a second title in three years. Jay Wright’s team did it again with a different kind of blueprint, relying on season vets rather than talented one-and-dones. Villanova, though, didn’t win on pluck and grit. The Wildcats had experience and elite talent, with four players from its title team – Miikal Bridges, Omari Spellman, Jalen Brunson and title game star Donte DiVincenzo – all off to the NBA after cutting down the nets.
This game was a coronation for Wright and the Villanova program.
5. March 18, Second Round: Nevada 75, Cincinnati 73
There was a time that it looked like Nevada’s NCAA tournament highlight would be knocking off Mo Bamba and Texas in the first round. That’s not a bad trip through the sport’s premier event, even if it doesn’t last longer than a weekend. Down 22 in the second half to two-seed Cincinnati, though, it appeared that the Wolf Pack’s time had run its course. Eric Musselman’s team wasn’t done, though.
The Wolf Pack underwent a wild 32-8 run against the Bearcats in the final 10 minutes, getting a go-head bucket – Nevada’s only lead of the game – with nine seconds to play to complete the second-largest comeback in tourney history.
What Nevada showed that day – and what it returned on its roster – makes its 12-0 start to this season considerably less surprising than that Sunday tilt in Nashville.
4. March 17, First Round: Michigan 64, Houston 63
Great games are nice, but iconic finishes are better. This game had it both.
A seesaw affair that was never separated by more than six points, Michigan and Houston delivered a great second-round game that pitted an under-appreciated Michigan team against an upstart Houston team. Ultimately, though, this game will be remembered for Jordan Poole.
The freshman from Milwaukee played just 11 minutes and scored only eight points, but he put himself among legends in Ann Arbor and NCAA tournament lore when as the final 3.6 seconds slipped off the clock, he set up beyond the trip point line and waited impatiently for the ball to find him. When it did, he caught, gathered and let his future fly, connecting on a buzzer-beater that edged the Cougars and put the Wolverines on the path to John Beilein’s second national championship game.
3. Nov. 21: Gonzaga 89, Duke 87
It’s hard for a game in the first month of the season to register this high on the list, but given the teams, programs and tournament involved, this game earned this spot.
Just a couple weeks earlier, Duke opened the season and eyes with its dominant performance against Kentucky in which the raw talent and uncanny cohesion of its top-ranked recruiting class announced itself as not only a force to be reckoned with not only for presumably their one season in college but in the history books. Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett, Cam Reddish and Tre Jones were that good that early. On the other side of the ledger sat the Bulldogs, just 18 months or so removed from a national title game with a top-five team and a transcendent player in Rui Hachimura. The setting was the title game of the Maui Invitational, an notable game every year but maybe never more so than this with an amazing field battling at the Lahaina Civic Center.
Gonzaga looked as though it may pull away early, but the Blue Devils battled back to make it not only a game but an event. The two teams looked ready to compete for a national title, not just a November tournament championship. It was extremely high-level hoops with two of the best programs of the last two decades operating at perhaps the height of their powers. Gonzaga won, and it’s not hard to imagine a potential March or April rematch topping this list come 2019.
2. March 25, Elite Eight: Kansas 85, Duke 81, OT
Just by virtue of these two programs meeting with a Final Four on the line, this game was destined to be a classic. The Jayhawks and the Blue Devils battling for a spot in the sport’s pinnacle weekend, that by itself is a historic occurrence. Add in storylines like Grayson Allen’s final season, Kansas’ flawed-but-successful-roster, Duke’s first-round freshmen and the two coaches leading both teams, the setup was a dream.
The 45 minutes of action actually lived up to it, too.
Allen narrowly missed a potential game-winner at the end of regulation, and the Jayhawks out-muscled Duke in the extra frame to claim a victory and the third Final Four under coach Bill Self. The game had 18 lead changes and 11 ties, keeping even the most-casual bracketologists on the edge of their couches on a Sunday afternoon that won’t soon be forgotten.
1. March 16, First Round: UMBC 74, Virginia 54
In a sport that’s often defined by upsets and underdogs, it can be hard to truly separate yourself as a special Cinderella. College basketball just has had so many memorable ones over the years. UMBC, though, found a way to join the pantheon of of historic spoilers when the Retrievers (the name alone is notable) became the first-ever 16-seed to topple a No. 1 when they downed Virginia, which was not only the top seed in the south region but of the entire tournament.
And it was an absolute shellacking.
There were 135 16-seeds that came before the Retrievers (I can hardly write that name with a straight face), and all were sent home by the top seeds, usually in cursory fashion with a few close shaves mixed in. This time, though, UMBC just thrashed Virginia, connecting on 12 3s while holding the Cavaliers to 4 of 22 from distance. Tony Bennett’s team just crumbled in a way we’ve truly never seen before. The game wasn’t so much good as it was completely shocking and unprecedented. It’s hard to be surprised in 2018, but a team called Retrievers found a way.