Giving Thanks in College Basketball

Posted by Henry Bushnell on November 27th, 2014

It’s Turkey Day! For many, that’s just an excuse to gather with family, eat good food and watch football. But it’s also a time to give thanks. So what are we thankful for in college basketball?


Happy Turkey Day Everyone!

The short answer is “a lot.” But here are some specifics:

  • Variety – Why do we love college basketball? Rush the Court counted down the ways in the buildup to the 2014-15 season. But if there’s one word that’s not ‘excitement’ or ‘passion,’ it might be variety. Those 30 reasons conveyed that. Every team has its own identity. There are so many different offensive systems, so many unorthodox players, so many different coaching philosophies, so many distinct home court advantages… I could go on and on. But the point is, you can go to any game between any two of 351 teams, and the experience will be unique. And for that we are thankful.
  • The unexpected – In the NBA, despite it being a mere month into the season, you can all but rule out 20-25 teams from legitimately competing for a championship. You know who is going to be there in the end. On the other hand, the college game is defined by the unexpected. We are thankful for every single upset, whether it’s the Davidson-like NCAA tournament run, the double-digit seed winning its conference tournament, or even just the Eastern Washingtons beating the Indianas.
  • Legendary coaches – Naturally, there is a lot of year-to-year turnover in college basketball. But it’s the everlasting coaches that provide some necessary consistency. Guys like Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Boeheim, Bo Ryan and Tom Izzo give you a single entity to which to attach yourself as a fan. And for them we are thankful.

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Syracuse-Georgetown Possible Nonconference Rivalry Provides Hope For Others

Posted by Chris Johnson on September 13th, 2013

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.

Conference realignment is destructive and all-powerful. It is not all-conquering. The most recent frenzy of shifting league alliances, fueled by a nauseating blend of football, greedy athletic department officials and lavish broadcast rights deals, prompted all kinds of doomsday scenarios for college basketball. At one point, as the Big 12 inched closer and closer to a landscape-altering implosion, it looked as if Kansas, one of the true bluebloods of the sport, would be left without a conference to play hoops in. We actually reached the point where Kansas joining the Mountain West was a real, imminent thing. You know what happened next. The Big 12 survived, and the Jayhawks continued to win conference championships without blinking. The Border War – Missouri and Kansas’ long-standing rivalry, which dates back to a bitter slavery-motivated Civil War-era feud – was lost with Missouri’s move to the SEC, and a host of defections from the old Big East led to the creation of a new hoops-only Big East and a super-charged ACC. But in hindsight, the movement was less injurious for college hoops than most predicted early on.

The extension of the SU-GU rivalry should motivate others to remake similar games into annual nonconference fixtures (AP Photo).

The extension of the SU-GU rivalry should motivate others to remake similar games into annual nonconference fixtures (AP Photo).

The biggest casualty? Rivalries. I mentioned the Border war, but the GeorgetownSyracuse hatefest – which reached peak intensity in 1980 when John Thompson II ended the Orange’s 57-game winning streak at the old Manley Fieldhouse, Syracuse’s home before the Carrier Dome – was also cast aside by conference switches. The Hoyas and Orange had played their last game as co-members of the Big East last season – including a thrilling, emotional overtime match-up in the Big East Tournament semifinals – and unless the two schools came together and decided to rekindle the rivalry outside of league play, college basketball would lose another of its great annual hate-filled match-ups. Syracuse and Georgetown were parting ways, but was there a legitimate reason they couldn’t they toss scheduling logistics and lopsided recruiting benefits (the Orange playing in talent-rich Washington D.C. is eons more valuable than the Hoyas traveling up to the great rural countryside of Syracuse, NY) aside, and agree to some sort of home-and-home arrangement? Was there really no hope? Syracuse had already schedule out-of-conference series with former Big East rivals Syracuse and Villanova, after all. Setting something up with Georgetown seemed like the logical next move.

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At Michigan State, Tom Izzo’s Words Are Not to be Ignored

Posted by Chris Johnson on September 9th, 2013

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.

If there was any debate about who is the most influential sports figure on Michigan State’s campus, a funny exchange before Saturday’s Spartans home football game against South Florida effectively ended it. One week after some Michigan State students refused to leave the student section when inclement weather prompted an evacuation from Spartan Stadium bleachers, athletic director Mark Hollis – known to college hoops fans more for his innovative non-conference scheduling endeavors than anything else – used a different method to urge fans to depart the bleachers when thunderstorms approached the area. He summoned basketball coach Tom Izzo, a man no Spartans fan (or even college basketball fan) could possibly ignore (or even slightly resent), to hasten students’ exodus from Spartan Stadium. Only there was a trade-off: in exchange for leaving their seats, Izzo vowed to return to the student section when the game began. beat writer Diamond Leung captured this little back-and-forth, and Izzo, per usual, offered a few candidly humorous quips:

“I’m going to ask you for respect for of our university, myself and you guys,” Izzo told the crowd. “If you can just walk out and abide by it, I promise I’m going to come back and sit right in the middle of you when this game starts, all right?

“I’m going to watch you guys. Please do this for you, for me, for the university, as we show ourselves across the nation as the university that can get it done right. 

“I’m going to be right in the middle of you! Come on guys! I love you! I love you! Thank you so much for doing this! And you adults over there, all you adults, same thing! You adults, you better get out of here! It’s coming right over here! It’s coming, and it’s coming fast. Thank you so much. You’re the greatest fans in America, and I love you!”

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Ohio State and LeBron James Sort of Like One Another

Posted by Chris Johnson on September 4th, 2013

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.

Back when he was Cleveland’s homegrown basketball superstar, leading the Cavaliers to 60-win seasons and stoking hopes of a cathartic end to the city’s tortuously long championship drought, arguably no professional basketball player identified with his home state more conspicuously than LeBron James. LeBron wasn’t just the Cavaliers best player – he was a prodigiously gifted Ohio-born talent, a player no Cleveland fan could possibly dislike, whose selection as the No. 1 pick to Cleveland in the 2003 draft felt equal parts suspicious and fortuitous. Then, the relationship between state and player was severed on contentious and disdainful terms; James, an unrestricted free agent following the 2009-10 NBA season, went on national television and spurned his hometown team in favor of joining the Miami Heat, where he would go on to win two (and counting) NBA Championships. The antipathy seems to have receded with the perspective of time – people aren’t burning LeBron jerseys in parking lots anymore, for starters — and reasoned fans (there are outlandish exceptions, to be sure) have seemed to come to grips with the basketball-related motivations for James’ decision. There is even speculation LeBron would return to Cleveland if he decides to leave the Heat in free agency next summer. His ties with Cleveland, and the greater Ohio basketball scene, were never completely broken, in other words. James always had a soft spot for Buckeye State hoops. Which leads us to Tuesday, when Ohio State – the state’s premier Division I college hoops program – treated a score of media to a tour of the Buckeyes’ freshly renovated practice facility, where a soon-to-go-viral LeBron-related surprise was lurking amid the locker room nameplates:

Another symbol of LeBron's OSU love, placed prominently in the team locker room, isn't a bad way to boost coach That Matta's recruiting efforts (Doug Lesmerises, Cleveland Plain Dealer).

Another symbol of LeBron’s OSU love, placed prominently in the team locker room, isn’t a bad way to boost coach That Matta’s recruiting efforts (Doug Lesmerises, Cleveland Plain Dealer).

Just one more little recruiting flourish for a program already pulling in top Midwest talent on an annual basis? That’s the most obvious explanation. But the nameplate represents something larger than mere prep prospect eye candy. LeBron and Ohio State basketball have forged an interesting relationship over the years, a link that runs deeper than sheer geographical commonality. In 2007, when Nike created a James-Branded apparel line, Ohio State became the first program to swap Nike logos for the King’s unique emblem. James has openly discussed his Buckeyes fandom, and repeatedly said he would have chosen to play basketball at OSU, were the NBA’s 19-year-old age limit – which forces otherwise pro-ready high school players to play somewhere other than the NBA (re: college, but for a few exceptions) for one year after high school – imposed three years earlier. The bitter taste James left in plenty of Cavaliers fans’ (and, given the location and lack of local professional alternatives, probably a few Buckeyes fans’) mouths when he “took his talents to South Beach” did not ruin his relationship with Cleveland, much less OSU, and so he continues to share a special relationship with the program. From attending Buckeyes home games, to receiving an honorary No. 23 Buckeyes jersey, to earning the praise of football coach Urban Meyer – LeBron has made no secret of his affinity for all things OSU, and the program has reciprocated his attention and support not only with public praise and courtside seats, but also by serving as a court-stomping billboard for his trademark footwear, including this season, when the Buckeyes plan to sport this collection of flashy kicks for games. When the best basketball player in the world has cast his lot with your basketball program, a relationship encompassing everything from public endorsements to live appearances to custom gear, slapping his name above a locker and discussing his ability to help your team on the court this season faux-hypothetically is a small price to pay for his continued support.

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Logistics Doesn’t Always Tell You Who Is #1

Posted by nvr1983 on January 21st, 2013

As college basketball fans we like to poke fun at college football for its use of computers to determine its champion (or at least its championship match-up), but we have to be fair and note that we use computers fairly often particularly when looking at Ken Pomeroy’s ratings, which are probably the most trusted computer ranking system in all of sports. At other times computers can be less reliable as the public was made aware after the BCS Championship Game when The Colley Matrix still ranked Notre Dame #1 even after it got destroyed by Alabama. It appears that we have our own flawed computer system in college basketball and frankly it might even be more embarrassing than Colley telling us that Notre Dame was still the best football team in the country. Earlier today we received an e-mail announcement from STATS LLC promoting its new ranking system. The e-mail began like this:

UPS (NYSE:UPS), a global logistics leader, today announced it has joined with STATS LLC, the world’s largest sports technology, data and content company, in expanding its proprietary UPS Team Performance Index (TPI) efficiency measurement platform to men’s and women’s college basketball.

Sometimes The UPS Truck Gets Lost

Sometimes The UPS Truck Gets Lost

It then went into detail about how the UPS TPI was calculated using a database that “will comprehensively measure offensive and defensive efficiency” and “will include six key statistical components with a proven correlation to a team’s overall success.” Here are those six key statistical components:

  • Offensive Measure – Effective Field Goal Percentage
  • Defensive Measure – Effective Field Goal Percentage Against
  • Rebounding – Rebounding percentage amongst all rebounds in a game (If there are 100 rebounds in a game, and your team grabs 60, your rebounding percentage is 60 %.)
  • Ball Handling – Assists/game, steals/game, opponent assists/game, opponent steals/game
  • Overall Miscues Measure – “Non-steal” turnovers/game, fouls/game, opponent non-steal turnovers/game, opponent fouls per game
  • Success Measure – Winning Percentage

On the surface it seems a little too rudimentary and appears to stress some unnecessary statistics, but being mathematically inclined and analytic individuals we were intrigued by this new rating system. That is until we saw the results. On the women’s side they had what appeared to be a reasonable top four: Connecticut, Baylor, Duke, and Notre Dame. [Ed. Note: In the interest of full disclosure, the extent of our women’s basketball knowledge is being “tricked” by women’s scores on ESPN’s scroll every night.] The men’s rankings, on the other hand, are a little more questionable.

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McDermott Steals the Show, But Creighton’s Defense Is the Story

Posted by dnspewak on January 12th, 2013

Danny Spewak is an RTC correspondent. You can follow him on Twitter @dspewak.

That white towel. That’s the universal basketball signal for “My Night is Over.” When he plopped himself on the Creighton bench with three minutes remaining in regulation on Friday night, Doug McDermott draped this white towel over his shoulders and stared blankly at his teammates on the floor of JQH Arena. His night was indeed over, and judging by the sweat stains on both sides of his jersey, it looked like he’d played pretty hard.

For all of the sweat, McDermott didn’t even set any records in his team’s 74-52 victory over Missouri State. He didn’t score a career high in points, nor did he set record marks for field goals or three-pointers made. Such a bum, that All-American. He only managed 39 points, 28 of which came in the second half. He only scored the Bluejays’ first 18 points of the second half, only made 14 consecutive field goals at one point and only outscored the entire Missouri State team by three points in the second half. Rough night, huh? “He’s making fade-away threes off one foot,” Missouri State guard Anthony Downing said. “You can’t do anything about that. God-given talent.” Sometimes, McDermott would abuse his defender off the dribble for an easy layup. Other times, he’d roll off a screen and fire a three-pointer, and other times he’d convert easy layups. “That was pretty incredible tonight,” said Greg McDermott, brimming with pride as both his head coach and father. Even when it finally looked like McDermott had missed a shot from beyond the arc, one of the Bears’ defenders collided with him and sent him to the free throw line. Missouri State coach Paul Lusk constantly switched defenders on him, and he threw everything from junk zone defenses to double teams at McDermott. Nothing worked. “We could have ran the whole arena out at him,” Lusk said. “It doesn’t matter.” Had his father not pulled him out of the game after the final television timeout, McDermott surely could have broken the career high of 44 points he set against Bradley last season. Instead, he’ll have to settle for the second-most points in career history. “I blame it on him,” he said, pointing to his dad. “That’s one of the better games I’ve ever played in my life.”

Doug McDermott's Own Dad Ruined His Chance for a Career High (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Doug McDermott’s Own Dad Ruined His Chance for a Career High (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

It’s hard to argue with that. McDermott finished 15-19 from the floor and even grabbed 10 boards to complete a double-double. Just another modest night for the guy who entered the game averaging 22.6 points per game, the fourth-best mark in college basketball. Sarcasm aside, McDermott has done this so many times it’s become almost commonplace. He hung 30 on Wisconsin and 29 on Arizona State out in Las Vegas this November, and his 33 points in the Missouri Valley title game against Illinois State last March set a tournament record. Similar to the likes of, say, Adam Morrison, McDermott moved from obscurity to fame a long time ago. It’s still appropriate to gawk at this sort of performance, but it’s not appropriate to dwell on it.

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Temple Beats Syracuse and Shows Signs Of A-10 Dominance

Posted by Chris Johnson on December 22nd, 2012

Chris Johnson is an RTC Correspondent. He was at Madison Square Garden for Temple’s 83-79 victory over Syracuse. You can follow him @ChrisDJohnsonn

If Jim Boeheim’s 900th career victory was a nervous frenzy, the next game was a stroke of unfamiliarity. Over 50 times Syracuse played a non-conference game, and over 50 times Syracuse won. On Saturday, the Orange met their match in soon-to-be Big East member Temple. It was an upset insofar as Syracuse’s No. 3 ranking denotes national standing, and Temple’s unranked status confers inferiority. More shocking was the fact that Temple was itself upended by Canisius at home just three days prior.


The Owls rebounded from a humbling home loss to upset the undefeated Orange, thanks in large part to Khalif Wyatt’s 33 points. (Photo credit: Getty Images).

The odds were stacked high against Fran Dunphy’s Owls – not just in the broader historical context of Syracuse’s non-conference success (not to mention its overwhelming home court advantage in the building ‘Cuse fans deem “The Other Carrier Dome”), but also in relation to the event that directly preceded Saturday’s upset. As unsettling and eyebrow-raising as Wednesday’s home loss was, Temple needed that wake-up call to knock off the then-No. 3 Orange. “I don’t know if we would have won today if we didn’t lose Wednesday,” Dunphy said. “Wednesday catapulted us into today. We needed to learn a lesson.”

Lesson learned. Temple picked apart Boeheim’s patented 2-3 zone with precise high-post flares, efficient floor spacing, and timely shooting. It was a textbook takedown of one of the best zone defenses in college basketball. And none of it would have been possible without the steady efforts of senior Khalif Wyatt. In the Canisius loss, Wyatt finished 6-of-16 from the field for 17 points, including 0-of-6 from three. Three days later, the senior had the game of his life, literally and figuratively. The box score paints a flattering statistical portrait: 33 points, 8-of-17 from the field, 15-of-15 from the free throw line. But to fully appreciate Wyatt’s performance, one must indulge in visual description.

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Ewing, Reed, Ford, Hall, Monroe, Others Recognized By College Hall Of Fame

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 19th, 2012

Brian Goodman is an editor and contributing writer to RTC.

The National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame enshrined its seventh class of inductees Sunday night in Kansas City, paying tribute to 10 players, coaches and contributors who helped shape the game we all love into what it is today. Georgetown legend Patrick Ewing led the star-studded group, which also included Kansas great Clyde Lovellette, North Carolina‘s Phil FordKenny Sailors of WyomingEarl “The Pearl” Monroe of Winston-Salem State and another Knicks great, Willis Reed. In addition, former coaches Joe. B Hall of Kentucky and Dave Robbins of Virginia Union were honored as well as contributors Joe Dean and Jim Host.

Patrick Ewing

Patrick Ewing led the Hoyas to three straight NCAA Tournament final appearances and captured the 1984 title. (SI Photo/A. Hayt)

You Might Know Him As… A lockdown defender who brought Hoya Paranoia to Washington and one of the best centers the game has ever known. Despite not picking up a ball until he was 12 years old, Ewing flourished under John Thompson. To this day, Ewing remains the school’s all-time leader in blocks, rebounds and games played. The dominant center was a mainstay of the Hoyas for four memorable seasons, including Georgetown’s 1984 title run. He went on to win two gold medals for Team USA and was an 11-time all-star with the New York Knicks.

Quotable: “I chose Georgetown because of Coach Thompson. (He) was a great man and afforded me the opportunity to come in as a boy and leave as a man.”

Phil Ford

You Might Know Him As… One of the most beloved players in North Carolina basketball history. Ford was the first freshman to start the first game of his career in Chapel Hill, and by the time his collegiate career ended, Ford would rack up three All-America selections and capture the 1977 Wooden Award along with consensus Player of the Year honors. Until he was overtaken by Tyler Hansbrough in 2009, Ford was UNC’s all-time leading scorer and a master of Smith’s “Four Corners” offense.

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John Calipari Gives “You” A Tour Of Kentucky’s Basketball Dorms

Posted by nvr1983 on September 8th, 2012

Yesterday, John Calipari posted a video on his personal site giving the first public tour of Kentucky‘s Wildcat Coal Lodge, a new dormitory for the men’s basketball team and “other UK students”. Outside of it being a very nice dormitory (let’s just say it is several steps above what either of RTC’s editors lived in as freshmen) it is pretty clear that this just a recruiting tool that is aimed at the top recruits in the nation (or world).

After watching it we only have two questions:

  1. How does this compare to the basketball/football dorms for other top programs?
  2. Who are these “other UK students”?

While there were some issues with athletic dorms in the past–to the point that the NCAA ruled in 1991 that they had to be phased out by 1996–we have seen photos of several well-appointed facilities. If Kentucky can put together the money for this for their basketball team we are sure that at places like LSU and Alabama they put their football players in more than your typical freshman dorm.

This is more like what our freshman dorm looked like (Credit:

There are probably more than a few of you who are like a couple of the people leaving comments on Calipari’s site who are questioning the appropriateness of spending that much money on housing for basketball players given the state of the economy including at Kentucky where 140 employees were recently laid off and tuition is being raised to help correct a $43 million budget deficit. We won’t get into the argument over whether athletes should get special treatment in comparison to the revenue they get, but this $8 million dorm was funded through money given by private donors. Still we are certain that displays like this will only serve to enrage certain individuals.

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The Sponsored Tournament Sticker Scourge Is On Its Last Legs…

Posted by rtmsf on May 15th, 2012

There are few things in college basketball where you will find consensus among coaches, players, fans and the media, but if you ever want to see unified outrage in action, check in with Twitter in the immediate moments after a player slips and falls awkwardly on one of those sponsored decals that populate floors around the country during the preseason November tournaments. From Maui to Kansas City to Madison Square Garden, these plastic logos that adhere to the hardwood have long been decried by just about everyone as dangerously slippery, needlessly intrusive, and a horrific accident waiting to happen. Fervor against the corporate sponsorships reached a fever pitch last season during the Carrier Classic when Michigan State’s Branden Dawson twisted his right knee awkwardly on one of the Quicken Loans decals and writhed around in pain for a couple of minutes while everyone in attendance watched in horror.

Luckily Dawson Was OK, But His Near-Miss Clearly Exhibited the Problem

Luckily for everyone involved, most notably Dawson (who ironically tore his ACL in March against Ohio State when he knocked knees with another player), he walked away uninjured from that slip, but his scare along with another one a few days later when Memphis’ Chris Crawford slipped on an EA Sports Maui Invitational logo at FedEx Forum crystallized the need for the NCAA to get involved. On Monday, the governing organization did the right thing and made a clear recommendation to the Playing Rules Oversight Panel (which meets in June) that “the court be ‘of a consistent surface’ so student-athlete safety is not compromised.” If approved, and there’s little doubt that it will be, this means that corporations sponsoring tournaments like the Coaches vs. Cancer, the Preseason NIT, and others, had better look into hiring some contract painters next winter.

The NCAA is nothing if not reactionary, but luckily in this case, the near-injuries of several players last season were enough to inspire the reaction. Now… back to our lair to figure out a way to tie player injuries to the 1-and-done rule, inconsistent block/charge calls, and the lack of a true opening night.

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RTC Has Truly Arrived: Spotted in the Cameron Crazies Section on Saturday Night…

Posted by rtmsf on March 5th, 2012

Consider this an open letter to the Cameron Crazie who painted “RUSH THE COURT” on his chest and stomach during Saturday night’s game against UNC. We don’t know who you are, or why you made this plea for our attention, but we saw you (h/t @matt_poindexter) and we’re ready to offer you permanent status on our Board of Directors for your free advertising (or a t-shirt, if you prefer).

Great Product Placement in the Cameron Crazies Section (credit: News-Observer)

And who says that the Cameron Crazies are lame and unoriginal? Contact us at for your prize.

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Be My Valentine – 14 Iconic Moments We’ve Loved This Season

Posted by EJacoby on February 14th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter.

Are you riding solo this Valentine’s Day? If you can’t have a significant other, you can always love sports. What is more beautiful to watch than a buzzer-beating shot, an unlikely upset win, or a swarm of students rushing the court? Here to cheer you up, we present a reminder of 14 lovely moments in college basketball this season, in honor of the 14th:

Be Our Hoops Valentine...

1. Racers’ Pursuit of Perfection (December 11) – Murray State beat then-ranked Memphis on the road to improve their record to 10-0, and fans and analysts immediately began to take notice of this OVC school. This win set off the idea that the Racers could perhaps run the table this season, and while it did not happen, it would be two full months before they lost a game.

2. Teach Us How to Dougie (January 7) – Creighton has now lost three straight games to drop out of the Top 25 rankings for the first time in weeks, but they’d been providing a great story all season in the form of Doug McDermott. The sophomore forward, son of Creighton head coach Greg McDermott, and former teammate of Harrison Barnes in high school, went for 44 points and eight rebounds in a road win over Bradley that kickstarted his campaign for National Player of the Year. His candidacy for the award has since died down, but he’s still third in the nation in points per game (22.9).

3. Watford’s Buzzer-Beater (December 10) – Indiana got off to a fast start this season, but the Hoosiers took it to another level when they knocked off #1 Kentucky at home to improve to 9-0 back in December. Down by two, it took this shot by Christian Watford to beat the buzzer and provide us with one of the most memorable highlights of the year. The shot signified that IU basketball is officially back. See it below.

4. Rivers’ Buzzer-Beater (February 8) – Perhaps the only more recognizable moment of this season than Watford’s shot was a similar one from Duke’s Austin Rivers. Down by two at Chapel Hill on the final possession, the freshman provided this season’s iconic moment thus far by nailing a game-winner at the buzzer to beat North Carolina. The main difference between the two shots? Rivers’ came on the road, silencing the UNC crowd and sending them into shock.

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