Thursday, March 9, 2017

My Five Favorite College Basketball Games

Championship Week is in full force and the selection show is just over 72 hours away. With March upon us, it seems like an appropriate time to look back at some of my favorite college basketball games.

5. Connecticut def. Cincinnati 104-97 4 OT- 2016 American Athletic Conference Tournament Quarterfinal: This one’s a little bit out of left field to get started. As a Temple student, I’ve seen plenty of bad basketball in the American Athletic Conference. But this game was simply amazing. With eight tenths of a second remaining in the third overtime, UConn’s Jalen Adams hit a shot from three-quarters court to send the game into its fourth overtime. It’s the type of play you could watch repeatedly and still not believe it. Daniel Hamilton flirted with a triple double for the Huskies posting a stat line of 32 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists while Troy Caupain dropped 37 points and 10 boards for Cincinnati. Over the last two decades, UConn has certainly been involved in plenty of thrillers. This one might not be the first that comes to mind, but every second of it was worth watching.

4. Wisconsin def. Kentucky 71-64- 2015 National Semifinal: This wasn’t really a huge upset given Wisconsin was a number one seed in the big dance, but it sure felt like one. Kentucky had been rolling through opponent after opponent all season and 40-0 looked imminent. After surviving a scare in its regional final against Notre Dame, nobody was touching the Wildcats, right? Until Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker carried the Badgers to a spot in the national championship game. It would have been cool for Bo Ryan to go out with a title, but in his last full season on the Wisconsin sideline, this was a shocker.

3. Kansas def. Memphis 75-68 OT- 2008 National Championship: In a game with two of the more accomplished coaches in the nation and a future number one overall draft pick, Mario Chalmers stole the show. Go figure. This is what the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament is all about. Chalmers had 18 points in the game, but none bigger than his three-pointer at the end of regulation to send the game into overtime. A missed free throw by Derrick Rose left the door ajar for Kansas and Chalmers seized the moment and Kansas rolled in the overtime. Ironically, nearly a decade after ruining the Memphis Tigers’ hopes of a national championship, Chalmers now plays for the Memphis Grizzlies in the NBA.

2. Villanova def. North Carolina 77-74- 2016 National Championship: Hard to think of a better way to win a national championship. After Marcus Paige buried an improbable triple to tie the game at 74, Ryan Arcidiacono found Kris Jenkins trailing on the ensuing inbound play and Villanova won its first national championship in 31 years. It might be easy to forget about Phil Booth’s 20 points off the bench for Villanova in this one, given the hysteria at the end. Booth missed one shot in the entire game going 6 of 7 from the field and connecting on both of his three pointers and all six of his free throws.


                                                       Getty Images/Michael Heiman
1. Syracuse def. Connecticut 127-117 6 OT- 2009 Big East Tournament Quarterfinal: I am not sure I will ever enjoy watching a college basketball game more than I enjoyed this one. There are so many memorable moments and unsung heroes from this game. It looked like Eric Devendorf had the game won in regulation when he drained a three off a broken inbound play. But, replay showed the ball was just barely touching his fingertips as the clock expired. An extra tenth of a second and the game’s over but instead it was just beginning. Perhaps the craziest statistic from this game is that Syracuse never had the lead in any of the first five overtimes. Andy Rautins kept launching away from beyond the arc. Paul Harris struggled all night around the cup but had a crucial three-point play in the sixth overtime to propel Syracuse to victory. There will never be anything quite like the old Big East conference and this game is one of the biggest reasons why.