Top Ten College Basketball Games of 2012

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In the spirit of the fast-approaching New Year and the end of the world on Friday, Busting Brackets is looking back at the top college basketball games of the 2012 calendar year. Note that the list covers games from both the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons, but omits such classics as the Indiana-Kentucky, Duke-Kansas (Maui) and North Carolina-Kentucky games because they occurred during the 2011 calendar year.

10. Mizzou Rallies Late in Border War Win

February 4, 2012 — Missouri 74, Kansas 71 (Columbia, MO)

The opening act of last year’s two-part “Border War” series pitted fourth-ranked Missouri against eighth-ranked Kansas. The Jayhawks were in control late in the second half—thanks to breakout performances by the one-two punch of Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor—until the Tigers closed on a furious 11-0 run in the game’s final two minutes Playing his last home game against Kansas, Mizzou senior guard Marcus Denmon led the charged, burying a pair of off-balance, cold-blooded treys to give the Tigers the lead. Denmon finished with a game-high 29 points and forever cemented his name in Border War lore.

9. Orange Fights off Badgers Shooting Barrage, Advances to Elite Eight

March 22, 2012 — Syracuse 64, Wisconsin 63 (NCAA Tournament Sweet 16)

What was supposed to be a defensive struggle in which points were hard to come by unfolded into an unlikely barnburner instead. Syracuse and Wisconsin—owners of two of the top defenses in college basketball despite stark systematic differences in the defenses themselves—engaged in a shootout that sent the frenzied Boston crowd into a tizzy. The Orange survived 14 triples from the Badgers, including a string of six straight in the second half (Wisconsin hit 9 of its first 11 3-point shots in the period) to squeak out a 64-63 win. Jordan Taylor was spectacular all night, finishing with 17 points and burying five 3-pointers of his own, but the senior guard’s desperation heave as the clock winded down missed the mark, and Josh Gasser’s put-back attempt sailed long, preserving a nail-biting win for Syracuse and sending Jim Boeheim to the Elite Eight for the first time in nine years.

8. Cupid Strikes George Mason on Valentine’s Day

February 14, 2012 — George Mason 62, VCU 61 (Fairfax, VA)

Patriots sophomore Sherrod Wright hit what he dubbed “the shot of [his] dreams,” swishing a deep 3 from the left wing as time expired to lift George Mason over in-state rival VCU, 62-61. The Patriots scored six points in the final four seconds and 11 in the game’s final 30 to push past the Rams, which made seven of their last eight free throws to do their best to put away the game. Wright’s shot capped a wild last minute-and-a-half in which the two teams combined to score 21 points while making 12 of 15 shots, including free throws. The victory momentarily pulled George Mason into a two-team tie with VCU atop the Colonial.

7. Serious Le-high? Twice in one day.

March 16, 2012 – Lehigh 75, Duke 70 (NCAA Tournament Second Round)

So maybe it wasn’t a great game, but the upshot was legendary. Mere hours after Norfolk State knocked off Missouri in the first 15-over-2 tournament upset since 2001, Lehigh completed its rendition to mark the first time in NCAA history two 15-seeds downed a pair of 2-seeds on the same day (or in the same year). Riding the hot-hand of CJ McCollum (30 points), who was the best player on the floor, the Mountain Hawks shocked the Blue Devils to advance to the round of 32. Playing without Ryan Kelly, Duke struggled manufacturing offense despite its size advantage inside. The Blue Devils went away from Mason Plumlee (9-9 FG) and turned to their cold-shooting backcourt to carry the load in the second half. Their mistake. Duke didn’t have CJ like Lehigh did.

6. Walk-on Slays No. 1

December 15, 2012 — Butler 88, Indiana 86 (OT) (Indianapolis, IN)

Alex Barlow was a two-sport star in high school—recruited primarily as a shortstop, mostly overlooked as a basketball player. An aspiring hoops coach, Barlow walked onto Butler as a freshman last season in hopes of accelerating that track under the guidance of the game’s fastest rising young coach. He even did a little teaching of his own. Barlow’s runner in the lane with two seconds to play in overtime dealt Indiana its first loss of the season, knocking the Hoosiers off the top perch they had occupied since opening week. Speaking of Hoosiers, was this game a deleted scene from the movie?

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