Monaco: The best of college basketball (Feb. 11)
Mike Monaco | Monday, February 11, 2013
And … exhale. Wow. How’s your bracket looking? Gosh, isn’t March Madness great?
Wait, it’s only February? This is the regular season?
It’s one of just the few words acceptable to describe what has transpired so far in the college basketball season.
It seems every day there’s another buzzer-beater, another clutch shot at the end of regulation, another upset, another Goliath slayed, another court stormed.
Chaos can be great, and it certainly is right now.
But I’m here to help make sense of what has happened this year. Sure, the games have been exhilarating, but which ones have been the best?
Let’s break down the five best games of the season. My primary criterion here is thrill. Broad, I know. But let’s dive in.
1. Saturday: No. 25 Notre Dame 104, No. 11 Louisville 101 (5 OTs)
Unbelievable. I won’t spend too much time on this because you can read all about this on the back page, and (I would hope) you’ve heard by now. But, here are the essentials: Five overtimes. Notre Dame trailed by eight with 50 seconds left in regulation. Jerian Grant scored 12 points in roughly 44 seconds. Oh, and did I mention five overtimes?
2. Dec. 15: Butler 88, No. 1 Indiana 86 (OT)
With a pair of Indiana schools duking it out in Indianapolis, this game was back and forth throughout. Butler led by five with 38 seconds left in regulation, but Indiana stormed back and cut the lead to one on buckets from Yogi Ferrell and Victor Oladipo. Ferrell then drilled a three-pointer with 10 seconds left to tie it at 76. In overtime with the game deadlocked at 86, Butler sophomore walk-on guard Alex Barlow maneuvered into the lane and buried a short jumper to win it for the Bulldogs.
3. Saturday: Wisconsin 65, No. 3 Michigan 62 (OT)
With Michigan leading 55-54 with about a minute to play in regulation, Wolverine guard Trey Burke stroked a jumper to give Michigan a three-point edge. But Wisconsin’s Jared Berggren posterized Burke at the other end, slammed home the dunk and made it a three-point play to tie the game. With three seconds left in regulation, Michigan’s Tim Hardaway Jr. nailed a three to give the Wolverines the win. Or so we thought. Badgers guard Ben Brust hit a running half-court shot as time expired to force overtime, where he also hit the eventual game-winning triple.
4. Tuesday: No. 3 Michigan 76, No. 10 Ohio State 74 (OT)
What a week for Michigan. Ohio State led by as many as eight in the second half, but Hardaway Jr. made five straight threes to bring the Wolverines back. Burke and Ohio State’s Deshaun Thomas each hit a three down the stretch. The game went to overtime, where point guards Burke and Aaron Craft squared off with relentless defense. Burke got the last laugh, however, as Craft, who tried to tie the game at 76 with his team down by two, was blocked by Hardaway Jr. as time expired.
5. Jan. 19: No. 13 Butler 64, No. 8 Gonzaga 63
Relax. Just because it didn’t go to overtime doesn’t knock it from the top five. Gonzaga led by one with about 90 seconds left. Butler’s Roosevelt Jones hit a jumper to take a one-point lead, but the Zags stole the lead right back, as Elias Harris used the window to drill the jumper. Barlow (remember him?) scored with 27 seconds left to give Butler a 62-61 lead. But, Gonzaga’s Kelly Olynyk hit a pair of free throws with four ticks left on the clock to seemingly win it for the Zags. Butler had a last chance, but Barlow traveled. Game over. Not so fast. Gonzaga threw away the inbounds pass. Jones caught it, weaved in to the lane and threw up a floater for the win as time expired. Students, meet the court.
Whew, I’m out of breath. There are another half-dozen or so tilts that could have made the list as well, but these are my top five.
No. 1 on the list was a timeless classic. Any time you play five overtimes, you’ve reserved a chapter in the history book.
I put Butler-Indiana at No. 2 because of the matchup. Butler was unranked. Indiana was No. 1. And the teams matched each other shot for shot down the stretch until the unknown Barlow ended things.
No. 3 earned its spot because of the half-court shot. Simply remarkable.
Among other things, No. 4 had tremendous defense between Craft, Burke and Hardaway Jr.
And No. 5 made the cut because of the quick changes in the last four seconds. Free throws, travel, turnover, game-winner.
Man, if only games were like this in March.
Contact Mike Monaco at [email protected]
The views expressed in this Sports Authority are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.