The Dagger's most popular posts of 2014

FILE - In this March 16, 2014, file photo, Michigan State forward Adreian Payne, left, cuts the net with Lacey Holsworth, who is battling cancer and has become close to Payne, after Michigan State defeated Michigan 69-55 in an NCAA college basketball game in the championship of the Big Ten Conference tournament in Indianapolis. Dick Vitale Vitale told Lacey Holsworth's father, Matt Holsworth, that he would raise $250,000 in Lacey's name that would be for a pediatric cancer research grant through The V Foundation for Cancer Research. He would do it by the night of his fundraising gala this Friday, May 16, in Sarasota, Florida. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy, File)

College basketball produced its usual eclectic mix of stories this year, and the Dagger covered all of them — from the poignant, to the hard-hitting, to the funny, to the bizarre. Here's a look at the 10 most popular stories of the year and a handful that just missed the cut:

1. Lacey Holsworth, friend of Michigan State's Adreian Payne, has died (April 9)

The eight-year-old cancer patient's death struck a chord wtih college basketball fans who had followed her battle and her friendship with Payne. The Michigan State forward visited Holsworth regularly in the hospital, brought her to games and even carried her on his shoulders on senior night and when he cut down the nets after the Spartans captured the Big Ten championship.

2. Northwestern's new jerseys are unlike anything we've ever seen (Jan. 10)

If Northwestern players didn't like the special jerseys they wore against Illinois, the Wildcats had nobody to blame but themselves. They helped design the special jerseys, which featured "By the Player" where the last names would normally be and everything from the Chcago skyline, to the word "excuses" crossed out, to a heart-shaped basketball symbolizing love of the game.

3. Brilliant inbound play saves Oakland in Horizon League tourney (March 5)

Sixth-seeded Oakland advanced to the quarterfinals thanks to one of last season's most clever inbound plays. The Golden Grizzlies trailed Youngstown State by two and needed to go the length of the floor in six tenths of a second, so coach Greg Kampe astutely figured he had a better chance of drawing a foul than sinking a shot. He had his inbound passer run the baseline and sent a player to stand stationary along the baseline, leading the defender guarding the pass to bowl over Bader and get called for a foul.

Lauren Hill (AP Photo/Tom Uhlman, File)
Lauren Hill (AP Photo/Tom Uhlman, File)

4. Terminally ill player hopes to live long enough to make her debut (Oct. 15)

Yahoo Sports was one of the first to do an in-depth piece on Lauren Hill, the Mount St. Joseph University freshman forward with the inoperable brain tumor whose courage has since become a source of inspiration nationally. In this piece, Hill, her family and coaches detail her quest to stave off the worsening symptoms long enough to play in Mount St. Joseph's season opener. 

5. There are no longer any perfect brackets in the Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge (March 21)

The contest that captured the imagination of fans seeking fabulous riches did not even produce an entry that survived this past season's round of 64. Most entries were done in by Mercer stunning Duke, Dayton ousting Ohio State or North Dakota State toppling Oklahoma. Memphis' win over George Washington eliminated the final three brackets that were eligible to win $1 billion.

6. Coach K criticizes President Obama's military strategy (Nov. 4)

This largely unconsequential story was a big clicker because of the subject matter and the stature of the two men involved. After receiving an award at the Association of the U.S. Army conference in October, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski told an audience of military officers, defense contractors and Army supporters that President Obama erred by pledging not to use ground troops to fight against ISIS.

Other popular posts in the Yahoo Sports Blog family
Ball Don't Lie (NBA) • Big League Stew (MLB) • Cagewriter (MMA) • The Dagger (NCAAB) • Devil Ball Golf • Dr. Saturday (NCAAF) • Fourth Place Medal (Olympics) • From The Marbles (NASCAR) • Puck Daddy (NHL) • Shutdown Corner (NFL)

7. Lauren Hill sinks inspirational layup in her college basketball debut (Nov. 2)

The most poignant moment of Hill's fight with terminal cancer so far came just after tip-off in Mount St. Joseph's season opener against Hiram College. In front of a sellout crowd at Xavier University's 10,000-seat Cintas Center and a national TV audience watching from their sofas, Hill summoned the strength to make a layup on the game's opening possession. She'd repeat that feat three more times in the coming weeks before agreeing to become an honorary coach earlier this month.

8. Cheerleader sinks incredible shot in mid-flip for a second time (Jan. 31)

If anyone thought Ashlee Arnau's amazing front-flip half-court shot was a fluke last year, she proved otherwise in late January. The cheerleader from tiny William Carey University in Hattiesburg, Miss. sank her signature shot a second time during halftime of her school's basketball game against fellow NAIA power Martin Methodist.

9. Genetic disorder ends the career of NBA prospect Isaiah Austin (June 22)

Only days before he was expected to be selected in the NBA draft, Austin learned he would not be able to fulfill that lifelong dream. Pre-draft medical testing revealed the former Baylor star has a genetic disorder known as Marfan syndrome that leads to problems in connective tissues throughout the body. The 7-foot-1 center's condition will not allow him to play basketball anymore.

10. Pauley Pavilion flooded after massive water main break at UCLA (July 29)

It wasn't my fine prose that made this a popular post. It was the crazy pictures. The flood occurred less than two years after UCLA completed a $136 million renovation to the venerable arena. Ankle-high rivers of water outside were deep enough that some people took off their shoes to wade across and a couple students showed up with skim and boogey boards.

Other popular posts:

Lauren Hill begins hospice care as symptoms worsen (Dec. 3) • Student who sank miraculous half-court shot likely won't get his prize money (Feb. 17) Will Manhattan take back Steve Masiello after lies on his resume cost him the USF job? (March 26) SMU headlines list of biggest NCAA tournament snubs (March 16) Virginia Tech's cluelessness nets Penn State a free basket (Dec. 3) Fred Hoiberg apologizes to his daughter for dancing after Iowa State win (March 23) How Utah landed fast-rising NBA prospect Jakob Poeltl (Dec. 8)

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Jeff Eisenberg

is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!