November 24, 2009
As the decade winds down, The Dagger will celebrate the past 10 years of college basketball with various top 10 lists. Today, we at look at the 10 best games of the 2000s:
10. Villanova 78, Pittsburgh 76 -- Regional final, 2009 NCAA tournament
The Big East battle featured six lead changes in the final six minutes, game-tying free throws with 5.3 seconds on the clock and the memorable Scottie Reynolds near-buzzer beater that catapulted Villanova to its first Final Four since 1985.
9. Duke 98, Maryland 96 (OT) -- Regular season, 2001
With 54 seconds left, the Terps held a 10-point lead over the No. 2 Blue Devils. Fourteen seconds later, the lead was two, thanks to eight points from Jason (don't call him Jay) Williams. Duke eventually tied it up and the game went to overtime where, amazingly, Maryland didn't fold and had a chance to win at the end. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the catalyst for the comeback: a bogus fifth foul on Steve Blake, who had blanketed Williams on defense all night.
8. Connecticut 79, Duke 78 -- National semifinal, 2004 NCAA tournament
Duke led by eight with four minutes to go, but UConn scored 12 straight to close out the game (save for a garbage-time 3 by Chris Duhon). Emeka Okafor scored 18 points in the second half after sitting for nearly the entire first session because of two quick fouls.
7. Oklahoma State 64, St. Joseph's 62 -- Regional final, 2004 NCAA tournament
Never before had a No. 1 seed been as disrespected as St. Joe's, but the 30-1 squad came within a jumpshot of the Final Four.
6. Gonzaga 109, Michigan State 106 (3OT) -- Regular season, 2005
Even though it took place the day before Thanksgiving in a small gym in Maui, this game had all the intensity of a Final Four contest and was played even better. Jim O'Connell wrote for The Associated Press after the game: "If the game was played in March instead of late November, it would have gone down as one of the sport's all-time classics. It still should."
5. George Mason 86, Connecticut 84 (OT) -- Regional final, 2006 NCAA tournament
It had already bested Michigan State and North Carolina. Nobody really thought George Mason could continue its magical run against Connecticut, another college basketball powerhouse, one that had entered March as the No. 1 team in the land. Surely UConn would realize it couldn't take Mason lightly and overrun the Patriots with its superior talent, right? Right??
4. UCLA 73, Gonzaga 71 -- Regional semifinal, 2006 NCAA tournament
A transcript of Gus Johnson's call of the final 15 seconds of the game:
And a steal! Farmar! Inside! The freshman ... up and ... (unintelligible) they go in front! Ravio! Last chance to dance. OH WHAT A GAME!!! WHAT. A. GAME! UCLA! UNBELIEVABLE! AFTER BEING DOWN BY 17, HEARTBREAK CITY!
And then Adam Morrison cried.
3. Syracuse 127, Connecticut 117 (6 OT) -- Quarterfinal, 2009 Big East tournament
The headline here on The Dagger read: "This is why we love college hoops." Couldn't have said it better myself.
2. Kansas 75, Memphis 68 (OT) -- National championship, 2008 NCAA tournament
All season long people wondered whether the free-throw shooting ability (or lack thereof) would be the undoing of a one-loss Memphis team. They were right. Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts missed 4 of 5 attempts from the line in the game's final 90 seconds, which allowed Mario Chalmers to hit the game-tying 3 with 2.1 seconds on the clock. After that, the Jayhawks rocked and chalked with ease in the extra session.
1. Illinois 90, Arizona 89 (OT) -- Regional final, 2005 NCAA tournament
It was the wildest comeback the NCAA tournament has ever seen. Down 15 with four minutes to go, No. 1 seed Illinois stormed back to send its Elite Eight matchup with Arizona to overtime. The game had been tight through the first 30 minutes before the Wildcats pulled away, seemingly on their way to the Final Four. But some Deron Williams heroics saved the Illini, who would go on to lose in the finals to North Carolina, possibly becoming the best team of the decade to not win the title.