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2018 College Hoops Year In Review: The 10 best games from the last 12 months

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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.

(Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

 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.

N.C. State forward Jericole Hellems released from hospital

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RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina State says sophomore forward Jericole Hellems has been released from a hospital and is in “good spirits” after an injury in Saturday’s win at Wake Forest.

The team announced the news Sunday on Twitter. Hellems had fallen on a rebound attempt and banged the back of his head on the court with 28 seconds left. He was alert but had to be carried from the court on a stretcher. Then he was taken to a hospital for precautionary reasons to rule out a possible lower back injury as well as to be evaluated for a possible concussion.

The team says Hellems will meet with NC State doctors in the coming days, while coach Kevin Keatts will address his status later in the week.

NC State travels to UNC Greensboro next Sunday.

AP Poll: Louisville remains No. 1, Ohio State jumps to No. 3

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Louisville and Kansas finally provided some consistency to what has been a volatile Top 25 poll this season, while perennial bluebloods Michigan State and North Carolina continued to tumble after another wave of defeats.

The Cardinals solidified thier place at No. 1 in the AP Top 25 released Monday by routing then-No. 4 Michigan in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge and breezing past Pittsburgh over the past week. The Jayhawks stayed at No. 2 after returning from their Maui Invitaitonal title to thump former Big 12 member Colorado.

“I think it’s two games in a row, where we got stops,” Louisville coach Chris Mack said. “We didn’t allow second shots. We ran the clock on offense. We got great looks. We got layups, and that’s a killer.”

Ohio State jumped from sixth to third following its 74-49 rout of then-No. 7 North Carolina and a Big Ten blowout of Penn State. Maryland dropped one spot to fourth despite continuing to pile up wins, while Michigan slid one spot to round out the top five after Juwan Howard’s bunch ran into the Louisville buzzsaw for their first loss of the season.

The Spartans continued their fall from preseason No. 1 after losing to Duke, this time dropping from 11th to No. 16. The Tar Heels tumbled 10 spots to No. 17 after getting crushed by Ohio State and losing to No. 9 Virginia.

San Diego State joined the rankings at No. 25.

1. Louisville (55)

2. Kansas (4)

3. Ohio St. (5)

4. Maryland

5. Michigan

6. Gonzaga

7. Duke

8. Kentucky

9. Virginia

10. Oregon

11. Baylor

12. Auburn

13. Memphis

14. Dayton

15. Arizona

16. Michigan St.

17. North Carolina

18. Butler

19. Tennessee

20. Villanova

21. Florida St.

22. Seton Hall

23. Xavier

24. Colorado

25. San Diego St.

Others receiving votes: Utah St. 160, Washington 144, Purdue 130, Indiana 13, Marquette 11, Liberty 9, Saint Mary’s (Cal) 8, Texas 6, Florida 5, Penn St. 5, Georgetown 4, West Virginia 3, Richmond 3, LSU 2, Duquesne 1, DePaul 1, VCU 1.

Monday’s Overreactions: Naji Marshall owns Cincinnati, Ohio State is No. 1, Joel Ayayi

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PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Naji Marshall, Xavier

Marshall has lived up to the hype through the first month of the season, but the biggest and best game that he has played in 2019 happened on Saturday. Squaring off with archrival Cincinnati, Marshall went off for 31 points, eight boards, five steals and three assists, hitting four threes and totally outplaying his Bearcat counterpart, Jarron Cumberland.

As a team, Xavier has been a little bit up and down this season. Their issues shooting the ball have been prevalent all season long, and as good as the likes of Tyrique Jones, Quentin Goodin and Paul Scruggs – hell, and Marshall himself – can be, there has been some inconsistency to date.

There was not any on Saturday.

Marshall took over and led Xavier to their biggest win of the season.

TEAM OF THE WEEK: Ohio State Buckeyes

Can we even consider anyone else?

On Wednesday, the Buckeyes went into Chapel Hill and ran North Carolina out of their own gym, leaving with a 74-49 win. On Saturday, Chris Holtmann’s club hosted Penn State, and that did not go well for the Nittany Lions, who lost by 32 points while giving up 106.

This team is starting to look scary, and there’s a valid argument to make that they should be sitting at No. 1 in the AP poll this morning.

Speaking of which …

OVERREACTIONS

1. OHIO STATE HAS THE MOST IMPRESSIVE RESUME IN THE COUNTRY

If we ranked teams solely based on resume at this point in the season, I don’t think there is any way to leave the Buckeyes out of the top spot.

They are undefeated. They have beaten Villanova by 25 at home. They have beaten North Carolina by 25 on the road. They have beaten Penn State by 32 at home. Those are three of the top 24 teams in the country, according to KenPom. No one else can match that. Hell, the Buckeyes are currently sitting at No. 1 in KenPom’s rankings.

To put those wins into context, consider this, via Jordan Sperber of Hoop Vision: There have been six instances this season of a top 50 KenPom team losing by 20 or more points. Ohio State is responsible for three of them.

To be honest, I’m not ready to actually call Ohio State the best team in college basketball – I explain why in the podcast below at the 11:20 mark – but they are certainly playing like it.

2. WE FINALLY SAW THE ANTHONY COWAN WE NEED TO SEE FOR MARYLAND TO REACH THEIR POTENTIAL

Look, I know how ridiculous this is going to sound.

Coming off of a performance where Anthony Cowan shot 6-for-14 from the floor in a game where Maryland needed something bordering on a miracle to erase a 15 point second half deficit at home against unranked Illinois, I’m finally convinced?

Well, kinda?

Here’s my logic: I am not sold on Mark Turgeon being the best coach in college basketball, and I am hardly alone in that sentiment. But he does have a roster with some talent, and it is always a good sign when a team’s talent takes over and wins a game where, frankly, they played like crap. That’s exactly what happened on Saturday. In the past, Cowan would not have taken over. In the past, he would not have put the team on his back, scored 20 points in the final 23 minutes and finished with seven boards, six assists and the game-tying and winning points in the final 20 seconds.

All-Americans bail their team out in games they are not supposed to win. Final Four teams win games where they don’t show up until they are getting thoroughly embarrassed. The Terps did both of those things.

Now, would I like to see them finally figure out how to win without sleepwalking through the first half of games?

Absolutely!

But it’s hardly a bad sign to be sitting at 10-0 as you’re still figuring things out.

3. BUTLER IS THE MOST UNDERRATED TEAM IN THE COUNTRY

After taking down Florida in Indianapolis on Saturday afternoon, Butler has a surprisingly impressive crop of wins this season. They beat Minnesota at home. They beat Missouri in Kansas City. They beat Stanford on a neutral. They won at Ole Miss. And now they have that win over the Gators, who we just can’t quite seem to quit.

Either way, the Bulldogs play at Baylor on Tuesday night and then take on Purdue in the Crossroads Classic next Saturday.

We’ll know more about them then, but for now, this is a team that we have to talk about.

That said …

4. … NO ONE HAS MADE US A BELIEVER IN MORE TEAMS THAN FLORIDA

Florida State beat Florida in Gainesville?

The Seminoles must be awesome!

UConn beat Florida in Storrs?

The Huskies are back, baby!

Butler knocks off the Gators in Hinkle?

The Bulldogs are the most underrated team in the country?

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5. JOEL AYAYI IS THE X-FACTOR THAT WILL MAKE GONZAGA A TITLE CONTENDER

Listen, I’m not saying that Ayayi is the best player on this Gonzaga roster.

I think that he’s probably their third-best player, and even that might be generous.

What he is, however, is a guy that fills a role that the Zags didn’t have anyone to fill. The issue with this Gonzaga team heading into the season was in their backcourt. We wondered if they had enough point guard play, perimeter shooting and playmaking to be able to compete with the best teams in the country. It’s one thing to have a great frontline with guards that can get them the rock where they need it. It’s another thing to have a great frontline and no one that an initiate offense or keep defenses honest.

Ayayi has done those things to date this season. He’s averaging 10.1 points, 6.6 boards and 3.8 assists, which is second on the team to Ryan Woolridge, who is quietly having a solid start to the season as well. He provides length, athleticism, floor-spacing, a second ball-handler and creator. He takes the pressure off of Woolridge to carry the lead guard load.

He is more or less everything that Gonzaga fans were hoping Admon Gilder would turn into.

We’ll see if this lasts, but his performance against Washington on Saturday was really promising. Ayayi didn’t play or shoot particularly well, but he stepped up with 20 seconds left and buried the biggest shot of the game, a three to give the Zags a 82-76 lead and bury U-Dub.

Mamukelashvili breaks wrist as No. 16 Seton Hall loses to Iowa State

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AMES, Iowa — No. 16 Seton Hall lost much more than a game in Ames, as starter Sandro Mamukelashvili broke his right wrist in the first half of a loss at Iowa State.

Tyrese Haliburton scored 17 points, George Conditt had a season-high 17 off the bench and the Cyclones knocked off Seton Hall 76-66 on Sunday for its second straight victory.

Rasir Bolton scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half to help the Cyclones avenge an 84-76 loss on Nov. 29 to the Pirates (6-3) in the Bahamas. The rematch was part of the Big East/Big 12 Alliance series.

Mamukelashvili, a 6-foot-11 forward and a facilitator who averaged 12.3 points and 5.3 rebounds a game entering play, went down hard with 15:14 to go in the first half and didn’t return.

Coach Kevin Willard said after the game that it was too soon to know how long Mamukelashvili might be out.

“I don’t know for sure. It’s definitely broken. But we … have to go get an MRI tomorrow and let our doctors and radiologists read it,” Willard said. “There’s definitely a break in there, it’s just that we don’t know where it is.”

Conditt’s free throws pushed Iowa State’s lead to 59-53 with 2:56 left. Haliburton then drew an offensive foul and freed himself for a wide-open 3 at the top of the key. Haliburton drilled it, making it a nine-point game at the 2:23 mark.

Seton Hall fouled Prentiss Nixon from beyond the arc with 1:27 left. Nixon hit all three from the line to push Iowa State back up by nine, and Conditt’s transition dunk sealed the win.

Iowa State won despite shooting just 4 of 19 on 3s.

“Every good team needs a signature win and this was the first one for us,” Iowa State coach Steve Prohm said. “It felt really good beat a ranked team, but also a team that beat us before.”

Myles Powell scored 19 points with eight rebounds for Seton Hall. But Powell was 7 of 20 shooting, had five turnovers and fouled out with 54.4 seconds to go on an offensive foul. The Pirates’ previous defeats came against Michigan State and Oregon by just five combined points.

Seton Hall committed 20 turnovers and was outrebounded 43-40 despite having a major size advantage. The Pirates also gave Iowa State 33 tries from the line, and Cyclones made 26 of them.

“We turned the ball over too much and we fouled,” Willard said. “You can’t go on the road against a good team and turn the basketball over and foul.”

THE BIG PICTURE

Seton Hall: On losing Mamukelashvili, Willard said that “it changes things a lot. But the good thing is, we have some guys that need to get comfortable in that role and step up in that role…we’re going to need everyone to step up.”

Iowa State: The Cyclones have been strangely awful at times this season shooting jump shots — even though they supposedly have enough shooters. It’s a problem that Iowa State will need to get sorted out before it threatens to sink their season. On the plus side, the Cyclones were active with their hands in forcing Seton Hall’s bigs to turn it over, and Haliburton delivered yet another signature performance.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Losing on the road to a Big 12 team that had the opportunity to play them 10 days ago shouldn’t cost the Pirates too much. Iowa State’s Hilton Coliseum can be a brutal place for opponents — especially one that didn’t necessarily know what it was walking into.

HE SAID IT

“It’s a hell of a win for us.” —- Prohm said.

UP NEXT

Seton Hall: At Rutgers on Saturday.

Iowa State: Hosts Iowa on Thursday night.

Monday Overreactions Podcast: Ohio State’s the best, Travis Steele’s the GOAT, is Anthony Cowan good?

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Rob Dauster and Bobby Reagan are back to walk through everything that happened in college basketball this weekend. Is Ohio State the best team in college basketball? Is it actually Maryland? Just how good is Anthony Cowan? Just how bad is Florida? And did Travis Steele do the greatest thing in the history of coaching on Saturday night? He might have.