Ranking the Top 10 Moments of the 2013-14 NCAA Basketball Season
Have you caught your breath yet?
This NCAA tournament will go down as one of the best ever with so many epic games and one of the most improbable runs ever by Connecticut.
And the regular season wasn't bad either.
From Wichita State's pursuit of perfection to Doug McDermott's chase of 3,000 points, we had plenty of reasons to celebrate college hoops this season.
Now, it's time to get reflective.
Trying to come up with a list of the 10 best moments was not easy, but I tried to look ahead to the future and ask, "What will we remember about this season 10 years from now?"
These 10 moments will stand the test of time.
10. Champions Classic
So much talent in one gym on one night.
Duke and Kansas may have turned out to be disappointments in the tournament and Michigan State may not have ever played as well as it did that night, but it felt like we were witnessing greatness that night in Chicago.
Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins traded blows in the nightcap with Wiggins dominating down the stretch, and the collective experience of the Spartans got the better of Julius Randle on the night he introduced himself as the beast of college basketball.
The games were great, and the talent was even better.
Parker, Wiggins, Joel Embiid and Randle could all end up as top-five picks this year, and you could see as many as 11 players drafted in the first round this year from those four teams with several others appearing in future drafts.
The Final Four was awesome, but the best display of talent in one gym we saw this year was in early November at the United Center.
9. Wichita State Finishes Perfect Regular Season
Wichita State was the first team to enter the tournament undefeated since UNLV in 1991.
You can talk about the schedule. You can talk about what happened in the tournament. But you can't take away what those kids accomplished, and it was a pretty cool moment at Koch Arena on March 1 when the Shockers celebrated a perfect regular season, holding up pre-printed newspapers with "31-0!" on the cover.
"Discounting what we've done and not giving credence to how hard it is...that's ridiculous," Gregg Marshall told Bleacher Report's Jason King that day. "I don't care who you play or what league you're in, (going undefeated) isn't something to be taken lightly."
He's right. And what the Shockers pulled off is right up there with what UConn did as the greatest accomplishments of the 2013-14 season.
8. Tyler Ennis' Buzzer-Beater at Pitt
It wouldn't be right not to get the best buzzer-beater of the season on the list.
Syracuse freshman Tyler Ennis kept his team's undefeated season alive with a 35-footer at he buzzer to knock off Pitt.
The shot made enough of an impact on vice president Joe Biden, a Syracuse alum, that he called Ennis the next day.
"It was cool," Ennis told Bleacher Report of the call.
Talk about the understatement of the year. But that's Ennis. He was one cool customer. Syracuse's season went downhill from there, but 'Cuse fans will never forget his shot at Pitt.
7. Mercer Beats Duke
Apologies to Dayton, but the most memorable Cinderella once again came from the Atlantic Sun.
The Mercer Bears didn't capture our hearts like Duke City, but they were close. From coach Bob Hoffman's postgame interview to little senior guard Kevin Canevari's dance, this team made the most of its one shining moment.
6. Jim Boeheim Goes Nuts at Duke
The first two rounds of Duke-Syracuse were epic and both games were good enough to be considered for this list, but it was the way the second one finished—with Jim Boeheim going nuclear—that will be remembered most.
For a brief recap, here's what went down: Syracuse's C.J. Fair drove baseline with his team trailing by two, Duke's Rodney Hood slid in to take the charge and Fair's basket was waved off by official Tony Greene, who called the charge.
Then Boeheim did a jacket dance, a jump stop and yelled at Greene, "That's the new rule," followed by some other unpleasantries.
It was the first time in Boeheim's 38-year career that he was ejected from a game that counted—he had been ejected from one exhibition game.
"People will remember this one for 30 years," Boeheim said, "because the old coach went out there and got a little excited."
5. Michigan State's Adreian Payne Accompanied by Princess Lacey on Senior Day
College basketball lost its sweetest fan on Tuesday when eight-year-old Lacey Holsworth died from her battle with neuroblastoma, an aggressive form of childhood cancer. Lacey had become Michigan State's Adreian Payne's biggest fan and good buddy.
It pulled at our heartstrings on March 6 when Lacey accompanied Payne on his Senior Day. She was also with him this past weekend at the Final Four.
My colleague Jason King wrote about Payne and Lacey's relationship earlier this year. It is the most touching story you may ever read on college basketball.
After her death on Tuesday, Payne released this statement:
Words can't express how much I already miss Lacey. She is my sister, and will always be a part of my life. She taught me how to fight through everything with a smile on my face even when things were going wrong. I'm a better man because of her. She said she first liked me because of my smile, but it's her smile that made America fall in love with her. I know she's smiling and dancing in heaven right now. My princess is now an angel.
4. Kentucky-Wichita State
This was an instant classic. Kentucky would go on to play in three more classics—against Louisville, Michigan and Wisconsin—but none of those games were this good.
It was played at such a high level that those involved immediately had an understanding of how good the game was, so let's hear from them.
My colleague Jason King was there, and here's a collection of quotes from his story:
- Kentucky freshman Dakari Johnson: "We knew Wichita State was good, but we didn't know they were that good."
- Wichita State's Ron Baker: "All year, we tried turning nonbelievers into believers. To end like this is kind of depressing. But overall, we proved a point. We're a good team. We just came up one play short."
- Kentucky coach John Calipari: "This was an Elite Eight game where the winner should've gone to the Final Four. That's how good they are and that's how good we're playing right now."
- Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall: "I don't have any control over what folks want to believe or think they saw. I know what's in my heart. I know what I saw. I saw a very high-level basketball game between two incredibly gifted teams—a game that one team won by one basket, two points. I hope it goes down as a great one. I'm not ashamed to come out on the losing end. I just feel badly that I can't coach these guys anymore this year."
3. Aaron Harrison's Game-Winners
Aaron Harrison had the shots of the NCAA tournament, and it's hard to tell the two apart.
The first was a deep three from the left side to beat Michigan in the Elite Eight. The second was a deep three from the left side to beat Wisconsin in the Final Four.
Harrison had so much confidence after hitting clutch shot after clutch shot in the tournament that his brother, Andrew, said he smiled before he released the game-winner against the Badgers with his team trailing by two.
"Is he crazy?" Andrew, feet away, thought to himself. "I was trying to tell him to attack the basket."
Nah. Aaron Harrison preferred game-winners. And his shots will likely be playing in commercials for years to come. They were that clutch, that memorable.
2. UConn Wins Title
From banned to champs.
Everything about UConn's title run felt improbable. The team that wasn't even allowed to be invited the year before, that lost by 33 to Louisville on the final day of the regular season, the first No. 7 seed to ever win it and Kevin Ollie in only his second season as the head coach.
The Huskies were essentially underdogs in each of their final five games of the tournament, but Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright sure didn't play like it.
Napier's tourney run turned him into a college basketball legend, and the Huskies join NC State in 1983, Villanova in 1985 and Kansas in 1988 as one of the most improbable champs.
"They've got something special inside of them and I just wanted them to step outside of their egos and play basketball the right way," Ollie said. "That's what they've been doing through this magical run. When we lost by 33 to Louisville, everybody said we were over with. These guys have been through so much.
"When there were dark days, they stayed together and now we're seeing the light and it's real good to see the emotions in our faces. Because they're the ones that stayed with it and believed and a lot of other people didn't."
1. Doug McDermott's Senior Night
Doug McDermott needed 34 points on his senior night to become the eighth player in NCAA history to score 3,000 points. He got 45.
You could not have written the script any better that night. McDermott's season did not end in storybook fashion—Creighton was blown out by Baylor in the round of 32—but his senior night was like a Disney production.
I was lucky enough to be there. And everyone, including the NBA scouts in attendance, felt like they'd won the lottery that night just getting to be there.
"That's the most fun I've had watching a basketball game," an NBA front-office executive sitting next to me on press row said in the final minute.
The signature moment, the one that should be blown up and put on a billboard, was father and son embracing after McDermott topped 3,000.
He needed just two more points, and the Creighton students held up two fingers and chanted "two more points! Two more points!"
McDermott was all about giving more that night. He gave them three, and then he went ahead and topped his old career high by one point. Thirty-one seconds after eclipsing 3,000, his dad called timeout to recognize the moment and gave his son a hug in front of the Creighton bench.
"It was without question a moment of time I'll never forget," Greg said.
Us too, Greg. Us too.
C.J. Moore covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @CJMooreBR.
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