Which college basketball teams need a The Last Dance documentary?

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The Last Dance has taken the sports world by storm.

In a time where we don’t actually have any access to live sports due to the coronavirus pandemic shutting down the entire world, airing 10 hours of archival, all-access, never-before-seen footage from the Chicago Bulls’ 1997-98 season — one that was complete with Scottie Pippen demanding a trade, Phil Jackson getting run out of town and Michael Jordan winning a title and retiring because Jerry Krause couldn’t play nice — has been, quite literally, the best thing that’s ever happened to me.

And it got me to thinking.

If I could pick any single college basketball season to discover hours and hours and hours of all-access footage from, what seasons would I pick?

These are my top 12.

THE LAST DANCE | Preseason Top 25Early Entry Tracker

12. KENTUCKY, 2008-09

There are some absolutely insane stories floating around the college basketball world from Billy Gillespie’s time in Lexington. Some of them have been told. Many more have not. And all of them would make for absolutely phenomenal television, all the way up until the moment he, quite literally, ran away from reporters while pretending to be on the phone when he was fired.

I’m all in.

11. MEMPHIS, 2007-08

The best team that John Calipari ever had in Memphis.

The Tigers went 38-2 this season. They lost to then-No. 2 Tennessee as the No. 1 team in the country in late-February and they lost to Kansas, in overtime, in the national title game. That’s it. They won everything else, including the fights they got into with fans at UAB.

10. NORTH CAROLINA, 2004-05

This was arguably Roy Williams’ best team at North Carolina. It was his first team to win a national title. It featured a quartet of lottery picks — Marvin Williams, Rashad McCants, Ray Felton and Sean May.

And the fact that McCants is on this roster shouldn’t just be glossed over. He was a loose cannon, and allowing a camera crew to document his life in Chapel Hill — especially the time he went from nearly ineligible to getting straight-As — would be quite entertaining. Should I mention that this was right around the time that the Tar Heels really started funneling players into those so-called “paper-classes”?

Hmm.

That could be interesting, couldn’t it?

9. KENTUCKY, 1995-96

There are some people that will tell you that the 1996 Kentucky Wildcats — The Untouchables — were the single greatest college basketball team ever assembled. There were six first round picks on the roster (Ron Mercer, Walter McCarty, Antoine Walker, Tony Delk, Nazr Mohammed and Derek Anderson), a seventh second round pick (Mark Pope) and two more guys (Wayne Turner, Jeff Sheppard) that had cups of coffee in the NBA. They were coached by one of the greatest to ever do it in Rick Pitino. They went 34-2 on the season, losing to UMass — who was coached by John Calipari — in November before getting their revenge in the Final Four, and to Mississippi State — another Final Four team — in the SEC title game.

THE LAST DANCE RECAP

8. FLORIDA, 2006-07

Only one team since 1992 has won back-to-back national titles, and it was the Florida Gators in 2006 and 2007. I would love to have a camera crew along for the ride that season, starting from the moment when Joakim Noah, Corey Brewer, Al Horford and Taurean Green all decided to come back to school for another season all the way up to the point when they beat Greg Oden and Mike Conley’s Ohio State team for the national title.

And it doesn’t hurt that Noah would provide plenty of incredible content. There’s no doubt about that.

7. GONZAGA, 2005-06

Adam Morrison exploded onto the college basketball scene with a stirring performance in the 2005 Maui Invitational, becoming a sensation nationally as he competed — in a Player of the Year race as well as Call of Duty — with J.J. Redick of Duke.

Morrison was to the 2006 season what Zion Williamson was to 2019, what Trae Young was to 2018. When Gonzaga would play road games, it wasn’t “Gonzaga is coming to town,” the headlines were “Adam Morrison is playing in town tonight.” It was no different than when LeBron, or Steph Curry, or James Harden plays on the road. He was a sensation.

I wrote a long feature on that season for both of those guys a few years back, and some of the stories that Morrison told about that year were incredible. People were in the ceiling rafters for a game at San Francisco. He had pennies thrown at him at Loyola-Marymount. He had water bottles thrown at him at San Diego. That would be phenomenal television.

NBA DRAFT PROSPECT PROFILES

6. INDIANA, 1992-93

There are plenty of options for the Bob Knight era, but I think the 1993 season might be the most interesting. It was Knight’s last Big Ten regular season title, and he had a loaded roster to do it with, including Player of the Year Calbert Cheaney.

But there are two other reasons I want this season over some others.

For starters, Knight really went off the rails in the mid-80s, and the 90s version of Knight would likely be the most entertaining version of Knight. We’re watching this to see the ridiculous outbursts, and they’re more likely late in his career.

But I’m also enthralled by this story: In February of 1993, Knight said on his radio show that Indiana had gotten a commitment from a player from Yugoslavia named Ivan Renko. Renko was completely made up, but he still popped up on recruiting services with scouting reports and all. The goal was, simply, to make that industry look foolish.

And he did.

5. DUKE, 1991-92

A year after Duke shocked UNLV in the Final four to win their first national title under Mike Krzyzewski, they returned Christian Laettner, Bobby Hurley and Grant Hill to a team that was the favorite to win the title again.

They would eventually win back-to-back titles with the backdrop of Laettner becoming the most hated player in the history of the sport while playing the greatest NCAA tournament game of all-time — an overtime win over Kentucky in the Elite Eight — in the process.

4. KENTUCKY, 2013-14

There are plenty of options for the John Calipari era in Lexington, but for me, 2014 takes the cake.

Not only was this team touted as the best recruiting class of all-time, but they were expected to go 40-0 and cruise to a national title. Instead, the likes of Julius Randle, Willie Cauley-Stein and the Harrison twins went 22-9 in the regular season, finished six full games out of first in the SEC and then made a run to the national title game.

Why couldn’t everyone get along?

What changed in March?

What did Cal have to do to get everyone on the same page?

I’m sure I’m not the only one that would love to see that in a The Last Dance documentary.

3. VIRGINIA, 2018-19

Maybe the great sports story of my lifetime.

Virginia went from being the first team to lose to a No. 16 seed as a No. 1 seed in 2018 to winning the program’s first national title in 2019. I’m sure that if Tony Bennett knew that was going to be how the story would turn out, he would have hired the documentary crew himself.

The only downside here is that this Virginia team doesn’t have the kind of characters that some of the others teams on this list have. Bennett himself is kind of bland, and his teams do take after their coach in a way.

That’s the only reason it’s No. 3 on this list and not the No. 1 potential The Last Dance documentary.

2. MICHIGAN, the Fab Five era

Who wouldn’t want to see an all-access show centered around the Fab Five and their time at Michigan?

There already has been one documentary done on them, and it was actually quite enjoyable, but I want more. I want behind-the-scenes footage of Steve Fisher trying to convince a freshman version of Juwan Howard to allow Jalen Rose and Chris Webber to shine. I want to see a reaction from inside the locker room of Webber’s teammates after he calls a timeout that Michigan didn’t have in the 1993 national title game. I want to see what was done to convince all five of these guys not only to make it to campus, but to stay there for a second season as well.

There is only one era of college basketball that could be more entertaining than this, and it’s obvious.

1. UNLV, 1990-1991

Led by famed head coach Jerry Tarkanian, the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels won the 1990 national title, putting up massive scoring totals with the likes of Larry Johnson, Stacey Augman and Greg Anthony on the roster. All of those guys were on the roster the following season, and they entered the NCAA tournament at 30-0. They were undefeated entering the Final Four, where they lost to a Duke team that they had A) beaten in the previous year’s Final Four, and B) would go on to win the next two national titles.

All of this was happening at a point in time where Tark was getting run out of Vegas. He had accepted a commitment from Lloyd Daniels, a New York City prep star, a few years earlier, but Daniels was arrested buying crack from an undercover cop. That eventually led to the NCAA opening an investigation into Daniels’, Tark and UNLV where it showed that Daniels had built a relationship with Richard Perry, a gambler who had been convicted of sports bribery. UNLV was initially banned from the 1991 NCAA Tournament, but they appealed the ruling and were eventually allowed to defend their title with the ban being deferred for a year. The 1992 season would eventually be the end of Tark’s tenure in Vegas after a picture surfaced showing Perry in a hot tub with three of Tark’s players.

Imagine that all of that in the background of a team trying to become the first (and only) program since Indiana in 1976 to go undefeated for an entire season.

Imagine an inside look at what a powerhouse in Las Vegas had going on outside of basketball.

That would almost be too good to be true.

The Last Dance: UNLV.

I can only imagine.

Gardner, No. 3 Virginia rally for 70-68 win at Michigan

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Tony Bennett’s team passed all its tests in the opening month of the season.

Jayden Gardner made a go-ahead jumper with 39.9 seconds left and blocked Jett Howard’s 3-point shot just before the buzzer, allowing No. 3 Virginia to stay undefeated with a 70-68 win over Michigan in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Tuesday night.

The Cavaliers (6-0) won their first true road game against a team that was ranked in the first two polls this season, a little more than a week after beating then-No. 5 Baylor and then-No. 19 Illinois in Las Vegas.

“It got pretty intense in here,” Bennett said.

Virginia trailed by 11 points at halftime, rallied to go ahead with 7:25 left and built a five-point lead that didn’t last.

The Wolverines (5-2) went ahead 66-65 at the 1:42 mark when Hunter Dickinson made one of two free throws.

Michigan missed chances to stay or go ahead when Dickinson missed a hook shot with 1:01 to go and Princeton transfer Jaelin Llewellyn turned the ball over with 16 seconds left.

“Hunter has made that running hook before,” coach Juwan Howard said. “The turnover, yes, down the stretch, it hurt, but overall that’s not the reason we lost the ballgame.

“We could’ve easily put our heads down when they came out in the second half and made a run.”

Reece Beekman, who finished with 18 points, stepped in front of Llewellyn’s pass in the final minute and made one of two free throws.

Virginia’s Armaan Franklin missed two free throws with 5.7 seconds left, giving Michigan a chance to extend or win the game. Howard took a contested shot beyond the 3-point arc on the right wing – near his father, Michigan’s coach – and Gardner came up with the block against the freshman guard while Wolverines coaches and players screamed for a foul call.

It appeared that Gardner got all ball on the block.

Kihei Clark scored 16 points, Gardner had 12, Kadin Shedrick fouled out with 12 points and Ben Vander Plas added 10 for the balanced Cavaliers.

“You need different guys, and that’s what it takes, to make plays offensively and defensively,” Bennett said.

Dickinson scored 23 points, Jett Howard had 11 of his 15 in the first half and Kobe Bufkin added 11 points for Michigan.

“Jett is a gamer, he’s going to compete no matter what,” Juwan Howard said. “He’s loved basketball since he was a little baby boy.

“He’s going to help us win a lot of games this year.”

The Wolverines started slowly, trailing 9-2 in the opening minutes, before Howard scored eight points to lead a 13-2 run. Michigan led 45-34 at halftime when Bufkin made a layup after a steal.

“We can’t be sloppy like that on the defensive end, but we did battle hard in the second half,” Bennett said.

Vander Plas scored nine points during an 11-2 run that put Virginia ahead 65-60. The Cavaliers then went 4 1/2 minutes without a basket before Gardner’s big shot.

THE TAKEAWAY

Virginia: The Cavaliers have their highest ranking since the 2018-19 season – which ended with a national title – and are off to their best start since being 7-0 three years ago. The team continues to honor the memory of three football players who were fatally shot on campus earlier this month, wearing warmup jerseys with their names.

Michigan: Juwan Howard’s team matched up well in its first game against a ranked opponent this season.

“When we come out with the effort like we did today for 40 minutes, I love our chances against any college team in the country,” he said.

UP NEXT

Virginia: Hosts Florida State (1-7) on Saturday.

Michigan: Plays No. 19 Kentucky (5-2) on Sunday in London.

Marquette’s defense overwhelms No. 6 Baylor in 96-70 win

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
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MILWAUKEE – Marquette has developed a habit under Shaka Smart of saving its top performances for the best opponents on its schedule.

Olivier-Maxence Prosper scored 24 points and Marquette capitalized on a dominant start from its defense to roll past No. 6 Baylor 96-70 on Tuesday night in the Big 12-Big East Battle. This was the highest-ranked team Marquette (6-2) has beaten under Smart and the Golden Eagles improved to to 7-6 against AP Top 25 squads in his tenure.

“Most of the time against these great teams, they don’t have us winning that game,” said David Joplin, who scored 19 points. “We just come out, we want to go out and prove everybody wrong. And that feeling, that chip makes us play so much better.”

Marquette nearly produced its most lopsided victory against a Top 25 team. The Golden Eagles trounced No. 16 Providence 88-56 on Jan. 4 in Smart’s debut season.

“When you go into a game and the game is bigger in the minds of your players than anything else, to me that’s the best recipe for winning,” Smart said. “It should be that way all the time, but human nature sometimes messes with that.”

Marquette’s defense embarrassed a highly regarded Baylor backcourt.

The Golden Eagles raced to a 51-25 halftime lead thanks to a 24-0 edge in points off turnovers. Baylor (5-2) already had a season-high 16 turnovers by halftime.

Baylor entered Tuesday ranked third among Division I teams in assist-turnover margin. The Bears had 20 turnovers and 12 assists against Marquette.

“I didn’t see that coming,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “Credit the crowd. Credit them for building momentum. Credit Shaka for having them prepared and how hard they played. At the end of the day, we fed to the fire by turning it over and making some uncharacteristic mistakes.”

Prosper scored 10 points and sank two 3-pointers during a 23-2 run that turned an early 7-2 deficit into a 25-9 advantage. Chase Ross capped the spurt by getting a steal and throwing down a left-handed dunk.

Baylor never cut Marquette’s lead below 22 points in the second half.

Kam Jones had 20 points as Marquette shot 58.3% overall to win its third straight. The Golden Eagles shot 12 of 25 from 3-point range, with Jones going 4 of 7 and Prosper and Joplin each going 3 of 4.

Baylor’s LJ Cryer had 17 of his 19 points, in the second half. Adam Flagler had 16 and Keyonte George added 12 for the Bears.

BIG PICTURE

Baylor: The Bears shot 48.2% (27 of 56) but had no answers for Marquette’s defense and dug too deep a hole. Baylor rallied from a 25-deficit to force overtime in an NCAA Tournament loss to North Carolina last season, but the Bears never mounted any kind of comeback Tuesday.

Marquette: After losing to Purdue and Mississippi State earlier this season, the Golden Eagles delivered the kind of performance that showed they’re capable of beating anyone. Marquette will try to prove that again when it hosts Wisconsin on Saturday.

BIG 12 VS. BIG EAST

The Big 12-Big East Battle started Tuesday and runs through Sunday. Last season’s Big 12-Big East Battle ended in a 5-5 tie.

HONORING THOMPSON

Marquette came out of its locker room wearing shirts with No. 24 to honor George Thompson, who died in June of complications from diabetes. Thompson played for Marquette from 1967-69, and he was the school’s career scoring leader for 40 years.

Tuesday would have been Thompson’s 75th birthday. A No. 24 banner with Thompson’s name hangs from the Fiserv Forum rafters.

“I really felt like we needed to win tonight to honor George,” Smart said. “If you make it George Thompson Night, you couldn’t lose.”

UP NEXT

Baylor: Faces No. 14 Gonzaga on Friday in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Marquette: Hosts Wisconsin on Saturday.

Houston reaches No. 1 in AP poll for first time since 1983

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Make some room, Phi Slama Jama. Another Houston team has reached the top of men’s college basketball.

Nearly four decades after Clyde Drexler and Akeem Olajuwon took the Cougars to No. 1, the latest bunch led by Marcus Sasser and star freshman Jarace Walker took over the top spot in the AP Top 25. They received 45 of 63 first-place votes from the national media panel, easily outdistancing second-place Texas and third-place Virginia.

“It’s not like we went online and applied for it and waited for a response back. We’ve been working for this,” said Houston coach Kelvin Sampson, whose team is coming off a Final Four and Elite Eight trip the past two seasons. “But remember, it’s a rental. You don’t own it. You’re just renting it because someday somebody else is going to be No. 1.”

North Carolina had been No. 1 all season, but the Tar Heels lost to Iowa State and in a four-overtime thriller to Alabama at the Phil Knight Invitational to cede the top spot to Houston, which beat Kent State in its only game last week.

The last time the Cougars ascended to No. 1 was the final poll of the 1982-83 season, when “The Glide” and “The Dream” along with coach Guy Lewis were the favorites to win it all. They rolled through the NCAA Tournament before falling to Jim Valvano and North Carolina State in an iconic championship game in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

“I’ve never been ranked No. 1,” said Sampson, now in his 34th season as a college basketball coach. “We were ranked all 12 years at Oklahoma. I’m sure we were ranked at Indiana. Then we’ve been ranked five or six straight years. We’re used to having a high level of success.”

Texas received eight first-place votes and Virginia received two. Arizona climbed from 14th to fourth after emerging from a stacked field to win the Maui Invitational. Purdue jumped from 24th all the way to fifth and scooped up eight first-place votes after beating West Virginia, Gonzaga and Duke at the Phil Knight Legacy tourney.

“Our guys are competitive. They’re fun to coach. They get along. They’re out there playing with purpose and that’s what you have to have,” said Boilermakers coach Matt Painter, whose team was briefly No. 1 about this time last season.

“Early in the season, very few teams play with the purpose collectively,” he said. “I thought our guys played with a purpose.”

Baylor was sixth, Creighton seventh and U Conn climbed from 20th to eighth after beating Oregon, Alabama and Iowa State to win the Phil Knight Invitational. Kansas fell from third to ninth after losing to Tennessee in the championship game of the Battle 4 Atlantis, while Indiana rounded out the top 10.

There was a tie for 11th between SEC rivals Alabama and Arkansas with the Volunteers, another conference foe, right behind them. Gonzaga dropped from sixth to 14th, its first time outside the top 10 since Feb. 5, 2018, and Auburn was 15th.

Illinois was next followed by Duke and North Carolina in a tough week for Tobacco Road. The Blue Devils fell from eighth after their 75-56 loss to the Boilermakers.

Kentucky and Michigan State joined UCLA, Maryland, Iowa State, San Diego State and Ohio State in rounding out the poll.

RISING AND FALLING

Purdue made a rare 19-spot jump as the poll underwent a massive shakeup. UConn climbed 12 spots, Arizona moved up 10, Tennessee climbed nine and Alabama seven. On the flip side, the Tar Heels tumbled 17 spots, Duke dropped nine, Gonzaga fell eight and San Diego State fell seven.

IN AND OUT

Despite all the movement, Iowa State was the only newcomer this week, checking in at No. 23 after beating Villanova and North Carolina before falling to UConn. The Cyclones replaced Iowa, which dropped out after a one-week stay following its loss to TCU in the title game of the Emerald Coast Classic.

CONFERENCE WATCH

There are six difference conferences represented in the first seven teams in the poll. The Big Ten leads the way with six in the Top 25 while the SEC has five and the Big 12 has four, though three of them are in the top 10.

South Carolina tops women’s AP Top 25; Stanford, UConn next

Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports
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South Carolina remained the unanimous No. 1 choice in The Associated Press women’s poll, as the Gamecocks keep close watch on the foot injury of reigning Player of the Year Aliyah Boston.

The Gamecocks received all 29 first-place votes in the poll, a day after Boston left a game with her injury. Coach Dawn Staley said Boston was “questionable” going forward but added that the “team doctor wasn’t too, too concerned.”

South Carolina’s next game is at home against No. 15 UCLA.

Stanford remained No. 2 after cruising through a tournament in Hawaii. It’s the 618th appearance for Cardinal coach Tara VanDerveer, tying the late Pat Summitt for most all-time. Summitt’s teams only missed being in the poll 14 times during her Hall of Fame career at Tennessee.

UConn, Ohio State and Indiana rounded out the top five.

The Huskies are one of four Big East teams to be ranked this week as Marquette entered the poll at No. 24. It’s the first time the Big East has four ranked teams since the conference realigned in 2014. The league is 56-14 so far this season, including going 8-2 against ranked teams.

“We’ve been trying to earn a little more respect,” Marquette coach Megan Duffy said of the Big East. “Tried to schedule tougher non-conference (games). ‘Nova’s playing people. Us going to the Bahamas was great. Creighton’s doing what they’ve been doing since last season. Getting some of those quality wins is everything.”

North Carolina moved up two spots to No. 6 after rallying to beat then-No. 5 Iowa State in the Phil Knight tournament. The Cyclones fell to eighth.

The Tar Heels visit the Hoosiers on Tuesday in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. Indiana returns home after winning two games in Las Vegas at a subpar venue that lacked basic necessities.

Notre Dame remained No. 7 while Virginia Tech and Iowa finished off the top 10. At No. 9, Virginia Tech has matched its best ranking ever and is in the top 10 for the first time since 1999.

Tennessee fell out of the poll this week marking the 56th time in the 827-week history of the poll that the Lady Vols weren’t ranked. Kansas State also fell out with Gonzaga moving in at No. 23.

FALLING CARDINALS

Louisville dropped to 18th in the poll this week after falling to South Dakota State in the fifth place game at the Battle 4 Atlantis last week. It’s the Cardinals lowest ranking since Jan. 11, 2016.

Louisville entered the top 10 in the preseason poll in 2017 and hadn’t been out since, a span of 98 consecutive weeks. It was the longest active streak.

“It’s a compliment to the consistency that we built here,” Louisville coach Jeff Walz said of being ranked in the top 10 for so long. “Obviously are goal would have been to stay in the top 10, but it’s a new team and growing.”

Edey scores 21 as No. 24 Purdue beats No. 8 Duke 75-56

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PORTLAND, Ore. – Zach Edey and No. 24 Purdue shook off a slow start. When No. 8 Duke tried to rally in the second half, the Boilermakers finished strong.

Edey had 21 points and 12 rebounds, and Purdue beat Duke 75-56 on Sunday in the championship game of the Phil Knight Legacy men’s tournament.

Fletcher Loyer scored 18 points for Purdue (6-0), and reserve Caleb Furst finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds.

“I feel like we weren’t getting the looks we wanted early. As we settled into the game, we kept our poise and kept getting the shots that we wanted,” Edey said. “They were making some tough twos at the beginning of the game, shots we’re OK with all season.”

The 7-foot-4 Edey was 7 for 13 from the field and 7 for 8 at the line. He was named tournament MVP.

“They have the most unique player in the country,” Duke coach Jon Scheyer said of Edey. “He’s a hard guy to prepare for because there’s nobody else like him.”

Duke (6-2) shot 36.2% (21 for 58) from the field. Tyres Proctor scored 16 points for the Blue Devils. Kyle Filipowski and Jeremy Roach each had 14.

Ethan Morton had a steal and a dunk to help Purdue open a 58-41 lead with 15:37 left in the second half.

Duke countered with an 8-0 run, capped by two foul shots by Dariq Whitehead. But Furst made a layup and a jumper to help hold off the Blue Devils.

A hook by Edey and a 3-pointer by Loyer made it 68-56 with 5:03 remaining.

Duke got off to a 14-7 start before Purdue worked its way back into the game.

“I don’t feel like we came out bad today, but they matched our energy,” Edey said.

A 3-pointer by Brandon Newman pushed the Purdue lead to 46-28. A late run by Duke cut the Boilermakers’ lead to 46-35 at halftime.

BIG PICTURE

Duke: It looked as if Roach had an issue with his left foot at one point, but he went back into the game. Scheyer said Roach had hurt his toe.

Purdue: Although neither team had great offensive games, Purdue was the better team from range. Purdue made seven 3-pointers to just two for Duke.

UP NEXT

Duke: Hosts Ohio State on Wednesday.

Purdue: Visits Florida State on Wednesday.