The Best Of 2013 In College BasketballPosted by Bennet Hayes on December 31st, 2013
With 2013 winding to a close, it’s time to take a look back at the year that was in college basketball. There were too many memorable moments to recount ‘em all, but here’s our honor roll for the last calendar year — a list laced with games, plays, and performances that will long struggle to escape our memory banks.
Best Game: Michigan vs. Kansas, NCAA Tournament, Sweet Sixteen
Gonzaga-Butler may have given us the best final seconds of regulation (see below), and Louisville-Notre Dame definitely donated the most riveting 25 minutes of action after regulation, but when talking games of the year, Michigan vs. Kansas was simply unmatched when it came to elevated stakes and elite talent. We won’t soon forget Trey Burke’s comeback-capping, game-tying three to force overtime, but it would be a shame if that’s all that lived on from this classic. Sweet Sixteen match-ups between national title contenders don’t come around every March; would you have bet against Kansas to get to Championship Monday if Burke’s three hadn’t found the bottom of the net on that Friday night?
Honorable Mention: Gonzaga at Butler, Louisville at Notre Dame.
Biggest Upset: TCU over Kansas
TCU was 0-8 in Big 12 play. Its closest loss was a nine-point home defeat to a Texas Tech team that would finish the season at 11-20. They wouldn’t score 70 points in a game until March 9. And their KenPom ranking was some 265 (!!!) spots below Kansas entering last February 6. But on that fateful Wednesday night, none of that mattered. The Jayhawks sputtered to a 13-point first half and ultimately couldn’t overcome a nine-point halftime deficit, falling 62-55 in Fort Worth. Bill Self called his Jayhawks “the worst team that Kansas ever put on the floor,” and even Horned Frogs’ head coach Trent Johnson looked stunned after the game as he rather emotionlessly shuffled through the on-court celebration. Could you blame him?
Honorable Mention: FGCU over Georgetown, Georgia Tech at Miami.
Best Finish: Gonzaga at Butler
Dick Vitale called the game one of the five best he’s ever called, and you could easily mount an argument that Roosevelt Jones’ push shot and all the drama of the final 3.5 seconds should have also earned it recognition for game of the year. That’s an argument for another time (probably about 90 seconds ago), but savor the capricious turn of final-second events with Dan Shulman and Dickie V one more time, because it never fails to deliver. And could you think of a better place than Hinkle Fieldhouse for the buzzer-beater of the year to happen? It’s only fitting that one of college basketball’s most iconic home floors played host to 2013’s most memorable finish.
Best Individual Performance: Otto Porter at Syracuse
Apparently February 23 was a good day to be brilliant in 2013. On that Saturday, Otto Porter and Kendall Williams put forth the two finest individual displays that the year had to offer. Porter gets the nod in this space though, and really, it didn’t take much thought. Porter’s 33-point, five-steal, four-rebound effort came in Georgetown’s final Big East visit to the Carrier Dome, against one of the 10 best defensive teams in the country. It was a performance desperately needed for a Georgetown team on a day that, apart from Porter, shot just 7-of-42 from the field. Williams was resplendent in his own right versus Colorado State with 46 points on 10-of-13 shooting from distance, but in 2013, no player dominated a game like Otto did in Georgetown’s final visit to the Dome.
Honorable Mention: Kendall Williams at Colorado State (2/23/13), Marcus Smart vs Memphis (11/19/13).
Best Dunk: San Diego State’s Jamaal Franklin at Fresno State
The self-pass, off the backboard, finish with a dunk, dunk, is a routine typically reserved for three-on-zero fast breaks, All-Star Games, and the 20 minutes after practice. But last January 9, San Diego State’s Jamaal Franklin decided it might work better in the second half of a close game at Fresno State. He wasn’t wrong. There is nothing improper about this finish, and somehow, Franklin manages to complete a classically contrived sequence without leaving a scent of predesign in his wake. Just a little slice of Franklin at his explosive, spontaneous best.
Best Rush the Court: Miami vs. Duke
Finally, it’s only appropriate that we recognize the fans who RTC’d the best in 2013. Butler’s flood of fans that took to the floor after its dramatic victory over Gonzaga were textbook in their spontaneity, but the Bulldogs have had too much recent success to make them a classic court-rushing candidate. There’s also nothing wrong with a student section taking to the hardwood when their team topples the #1 team in the country, so kudos to Illinois on a flawless executed rush as well (and Tyler Griffey for enabling it). But I’ll tip my cap here to the Hurricanes of Miami and their suddenly enthused fan base, who rightly and thoroughly celebrated Miami’s coming-out-party victory over the most classic of college basketball titans: Duke.
Honorable Mention: Butler vs. Gonzaga, Illinois vs. Indiana.
That’ll do it. The year of 2013 took care of college basketball fans pretty nicely, if I do say so myself. Your turn, 2014. Let’s see what you’ve got in store.