Ten Most Pivotal Moments of the 2013-14 SeasonPosted by Bennet Hayes on April 16th, 2014
Within every 40 minutes of college basketball, there is a moment or two that sets a tone, shifts momentum, or otherwise dictates the game’s final result. If we think bigger picture, we’ll notice that the five-month college basketball season is also shaped by a number of similarly formative moments. We may not always know their full significance at the time, but these moments conspire to transform the course of a season. In 2013-14, these were those 10 moments – some occurring inside the lines, others far away from the hardwood – that proved most pivotal to the season’s final snapshot.
- 10. Tyler Ennis Downs Pitt at the Horn (February 12). The Syracuse freshman’s memorable game-winner extended the Orange’s inspiring perfect start, but might it have ended up wounding both teams? Pitt would never really find its way over the hump, while Syracuse’s continued chase of perfection may have shielded a few critical flaws that would later cause its sharp downfall.
- 9. Scottie Wilbekin Returns From Five-Game Suspension (November 25). A solid performance (12 points, seven assists, three steals) in a rout of Atlantic Sun also-ran Jacksonville was just the beginning of a redemptive season for Wilbekin, who overcame offseason turmoil to become the unquestioned leader and MVP of a team that, for the better part of 2014, played at a far loftier level than any other squad in the country.
- 8. Wichita State Comes Back Against Missouri State (January 11). Shockermania hadn’t yet grown into the hysteria it would become, but Wichita State overcame a 19-point second half road deficit in the most improbable of their season-opening 35 victories.
- 7. Shabazz Napier Beats Florida at the Buzzer (December 2). This game would turn out to be a Final Four preview, but in the season’s initial dosage of Napier late-game heroics, we all learned that this was Shabazz’s team. This result also set in motion Florida’s 30-game winning streak.
- 6. PJ Hairston Deemed Ineligible (December 20). Closure was needed for all parties in the drawn-out Hairston saga at North Carolina. The NCAA’s final ruling sent him off to the D-League (where he thrived), while the Tar Heels went on to win 13 ACC games, including a run of 12 in a row at one point. UNC found a way to survive the rigors of conference play without Hairston, but the interior-oriented Heels could have desperately used the dynamic perimeter scoring of their estranged leading scorer.
- 5. Arizona Loses Brandon Ashley (February 1). We’ll never know exactly how impactful the loss of Ashley was for the Wildcats, but what we do know is that with a shortened rotation and a sudden dearth of perimeter shooters, Arizona, after beginning the year 21-0, went just 12-5 without its talented sophomore power forward.
- 4. Traevon Jackson, Wisconsin Beat Michigan State (February 9). The Badgers’ 16-0 start had entered them into the national title conversation, but five losses in their next seven games made even an NCAA Tournament appearance something of an uncertainty. The Badgers desperately needed a ship-righting victory and Traevon Jackson helped supply just that. His game-winning jumper with two seconds remaining got the Badgers rolling again: They won their next six games en route to their first Final Four appearance under Bo Ryan.
- 3. Virginia Pounds Syracuse, Wins Outright ACC Title (March 1). Syracuse manufactured victory after victory in running out to a 25-0 start, but the magic ran dry, as Jim Boeheim’s team won just three of its final nine games. Never was it more apparent than in Charlottesville on March 1, when Virginia blasted the Orange 75-56, and in the process ended their far-too-lengthy flight under the national radar. The Cavaliers’ hard-earned crown was the program’s first outright ACC title in 33 years.
- 2. Oklahoma State Beats Kansas, Jayhawks Lose Embiid (March 1). On March’s first night, we thought the story out of Stillwater was salvation-seeking Oklahoma State’s big step towards the field of 68. With the luxury of hindsight, the real story to emerge from this game was Kansas big man Joel Embiid’s aggravation of a back injury. His status was day-to-day on March 2, but the star freshman would never play another game in a Jayhawks uniform. Kansas fell to Stanford in the NCAA Tournament’s third round, and Embiid declared for the 2014 NBA Draft just three weeks later.
- 1. Kentucky Beats Wichita State (March 23). In ending one of the most memorable and historic college basketball seasons of recent memory, the young Wildcats finally exhibited the extent of their dazzling potential. We didn’t know it at tip-off, but this first-weekend NCAA Tournament game featured two legitimate national title contenders. Kentucky’s survival of the Shockers set off their now famous run to the National Title game.