College Basketball’s Five Best Games of 2013-14Posted by Bennet Hayes (@HoopsTraveler) on April 15th, 2014
As we continue to sift through the memories of the 2013-14 college basketball season, we take a look back at some of the best games of the season. In order, here are the five best games from 2013-14. We covered the five best stories of the season last week, if you’re interested.
- November 12: Kansas 94, Duke 83 – Two of the most anticipated freshmen in recent college hoops history matched up in the Champions Classic nightcap, and neither Wiggins (22 points, eight rebounds) nor Parker (27 points, nine rebounds ) disappointed. Kansas broke open a close game behind a late push from Wiggins and Perry Ellis (24 points, nine rebounds), in the process earning one of the season’s first true statement victories. The young Jayhawks would go on to win 25 games and the Big 12 regular season title, but their finest (and most entertaining) win may have come in their second outing of the year.
- March 29: Wisconsin 64, Arizona 63 (OT) – The low-possession game that everyone expected came to fruition, but both the Badgers (1.05 PPP) and Wildcats (1.03 PPP) managed solid offensive efforts in this Elite Eight battle. Neither team was able to build more than a three-point lead during the final 17 minutes of play (including overtime) in a tangibly tense seesaw battle, but it was the offensive clinic put on by the Badgers’ Frank Kaminsky (28 points, 11 rebounds) that proved to be the ultimate difference. After a controversial replay review in the final seconds that gave the ball back to Arizona, Nick Johnson was unable to get up a winning shot attempt in time, and Wisconsin was headed to the Final Four for the first time under Bo Ryan.
- February 1: Syracuse 91, Duke 89 (OT) – There was plenty of build-up for the inaugural Duke/Syracuse ACC confrontation, but this game exceeded all the hype. The lethally efficient offensive display put on by both teams (each scored over 1.30 PPP) could have been qualification enough for this one to count as a classic, but unexpected heroes (Tyler Thornton, Rashid Sulaimon), late game foul trouble (three Blue Devils, including Jabari Parker, fouled out), and the largest crowd in regular season college basketball history ensured that this overtime battle wouldn’t soon be forgotten. CJ Fair and Jerami Grant dominated the extra period to push the Orange to victory, but in a game this good, it’s hard to believe that either team truly lost. Without a doubt, this was the best game of the regular season.
- March 20: First Day Of The NCAA Tournament – Apologies for the cop-out, but the opening day of the NCAA Tournament was too across-the-board incredible to pick just one game. Four games demanded overtime (Oklahoma vs. North Dakota State, San Diego State vs. New Mexico State, NC State vs. Saint Louis, and UConn vs. Saint Joe’s), but let’s not stop there. Texas defeated Arizona State on a Cameron Ridley putback with two seconds to play; Dayton and Harvard both engineered convincing upsets; and pre-Tournament favorite (in many eyes, and sports books) Louisville was pushed all the way to the wire by Manhattan. Even #1 overall seed Florida had its hands full with Albany for 30 minutes. No matter which way you looked at it, day one of the 2014 NCAA Tournament had it all.
- March 23: Kentucky 78, Wichita State 76 – Two teams that occupied the national spotlight all season (albeit for drastically different reasons) shared that stage on Sunday afternoon of the NCAA Tournament’s first weekend, and the result was glorious. In the end, Kentucky’s band of freshmen proved ready for a Sweet Sixteen appearance (and then some), but this game was so good that even in defeat, Wichita State silenced more doubters than it had in the 35 consecutive wins that preceded its first loss. This was college basketball’s ultimate juxtaposition – the program that lives off of one-and-done freshmen facing off against the overachieving mid-major power – but even with that juicy pregame subplot, this game delivered theater well beyond our wildest dreams. One of the best college basketball games of recent memory.
Honorable Mention: Syracuse 58, Pittsburgh 56 (February 12); Sacramento State 78, Weber State 75 (February 1); Connecticut 65, Florida 64 (December 2); Michigan State 61, Virginia 59 (March 28); Kentucky 74, Wisconsin 73 (April 5); Kentucky 75, Michigan 72 (March 30); Kentucky 74, Louisville 69 (March 28); San Diego State 51, New Mexico 48 (March 8).