Top Ten College Basketball Games of 2012

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5. Revenge on the Border

February 25, 2012 Kansas 87, Missouri 86 (OT) (Lawrence, KS)

Kansas has owned the Border War’s hardwood series since the inception of the rivalry (172-95), so needless to say, the Jayhawks didn’t take too kindly to flubbing a game they felt they let slip away in Columbia three weeks prior. In the final game played as fellow Big XII members, Kansas axed its revenge in gutty fashion, sending Mizzou staggering to the SEC—forever haunted by the chants of Rock Chalk ringing in their ears. Missouri led by as many as 19 in the second half of this game, seemingly poised to complete the season sweep of a Kansas team supposedly stuck in a transition year. The Jayhawks didn’t cooperate. Led by T-Rob and T-squared, Kansas stormed back to force overtime, then leaned on a pair of Taylor free throws and a late Robinson block to eke out a win in overtime. It’s unclear when [whether even] these two teams will meet again. If the curtain is to be closed on the Border War for the foreseeable future, Kansas and Missouri certainly closed their longtime feud in style.

4. Marathon in Corvallis

January 7, 2012 — Stanford 103, Oregon State 101 (4OT) (Corvallis, OR)

The longest game of the season [and calendar year] wasn’t short on excitement or offense. The Cardinal and Beavers played the equivalent of a third half to settle their first clash. Twelve players scored in double figures; only three, somehow, fouled out. Chasson Randle’s layup with 37 seconds remaining in the fourth overtime proved to be the clincher for Stanford, which hadn’t played a game longer than three overtimes in the 99-year history of the program. The two teams hooked up again later in the season in another nip-and-tuck game, but that one was settled in regulation (87-82 Stanford). Ho hum.

3. Clarke leaves his mark

November 19, 2012 – Butler 72, Marquette 71 (Maui Invitational, First Round)

Who says Butler basketball is no fun to watch? The only team to appear on this list twice as a winner, Butler has been the cardiac kids so far this season. Blessed with one of the best in-game coaches in the sport roaming their sidelines, that should be no surprise. Undermanned Marquette gave the Bulldogs everything they could handle on a late morning in the Lahaina Civic Center. The Golden Eagles were in control late, until a late Junior Cadougan free throw opened the door for one of the nation’s deadliest 3-point shooters to snatch the game for the other guys. Rotnei Clarke didn’t squander the chance. The Arkansas transfer drove the length of the court with eight seconds to play, then canned an off-balance, one-handed 3-point heave while falling to his right to give Butler a thrilling 72-71 win as time expired. The very next day, the Bulldogs ran North Carolina off the court. Good coaches mitigate postgame hangovers. Great coaches avoid them altogether.

2. I told my mom I talked to Craig Sager and I wanted to talk to him again.”

March 16, 2012 – Norfolk State 86, Missouri 84 (NCAA Tournament, Second Round)

“We messed up some brackets! We messed up some brackets!” exclaimed Norfolk State do-everything forward Kyle O’Quinn as he paraded off the floor after his Spartans shocked the world (Missouri in particular) in the second round of the NCAA tournament. The senior finished with 26 points and 14 rebounds—one of the best individual performances of the entire tournament—to pace Norfolk State. In the first of two, mega 15-over-2 upsets, the Spartans blitzed by the Tigers in an offensive showdown. Each time it looked as if Missouri had made a game-changing play that would catapult a major Tigers run, Norfolk State, O’Quinn in particular, had an answer. Easily the most memorable game of the 2012 Big Dance, what’s most remarkable about it is that Missouri, at least on offense and excluding Kim English’s dud, actually played well! The Tigers shot 53-percent from the floor, only turned the ball over eight times and buried 13 treys. Too bad for them the defense wasn’t up to snuff. Three Norfolk State players (O’Quinn, Pendarvis Williams and Chris McEachin) notched at least 20 points apiece.

1. Rivers floods Dean Dome.

February 8, 2012 — Duke 85, North Carolina 84 (Chapel Hill, NC)

It’s okay to close the page before reading any further, Heels fans. In what was a mild transition year for the Blue Devils, which had sent Nolan Smith, Kyrie Irving and Kyle Singler to the pros months earlier, the thought of a Duke win over a loaded North Carolina team in Chapel Hill was unfathomable—as improbable as a freshman Tyler Hansbrough strutting into Cameron and spoiling senior night for J.J. Redick and Shelden Williams. Spotted a cushiony 10-point lead with little more than two minutes remaining, North Carolina slowly unraveled, and Duke didn’t miss its opening. Tyler Thornton drained a 3, Seth Curry followed suit, Ryan Kelly swished a long jumper and after a missed Tyler Zeller free throw, Austin Rivers had seized the most iconic moment in the history of college basketball’s greatest rivalry. Rivers sized up Zeller, then backed out before stepping into a cold-blooded 3 that sent a hush over a stunned Dean Dome crowd. It doesn’t erase Lehigh, but Duke’s season became an instant success—relative to tempered expectations—on one shot in early February alone. The Tar Heels would later axe some revenge, grabbing the ACC crown in a very forgettable double-digit win in Cameron to close out the regular season. Nine months later, however, all anyone remembers, or at least cares to talk about, is Rivers flooding the Dome.

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