We find ourselves in unprecedented times, and those of us who turn to sports as our outlet have been forced to look for creative ways to get our fix.
As the self-isolations and stay-at-home orders pile up and drag on, many are longing for opportunities to get outside while trying to find ways to pass the time indoors. For me, I’ve been grabbing snacks and filling my stainless steel water bottle with all types of fluids and rewatching the best college basketball of the season.
I parsed through the terrible games and the great ones and narrowed down a list of five games from the 2019-20 season that will be worth scavenging around the internet for the highlights. You’re welcome.
Nov. 26: Stephen F. Austin 85, No. 1 Duke 83 (OT)
One of the biggest letdowns of not having an NCAA Tournament is the missed opportunity for shocking upsets. Thanks to the Lumberjacks of Stephen F. Austin, we have this gem from late November. The Lumberjacks headed to Cameron Indoor Stadium as massive 27.5 point underdogs, but they must have missed the memo.
For a while, it looked as though the top-ranked Blue Devils would easily cover that spread, building a 15-point lead midway through the first half. But the Lumberjacks had the deficit down to five at the half and managed to force overtime. Then Nathan Bain did this…
The loss was the first for Duke at home to a non-conference opponent since 2000, a span of 150 games. This game also marked the biggest upset, in terms of the point spread, in 15 years. One for the record books for sure, and one we can enjoy again in lieu of March Madness.
Jan. 4: No. 21 Penn State 89, No. 23 Iowa 86
This one had a special feel even before the teams played one of the most entertaining games of the season. For the Nittany Lions, it was the first time since 1996 that they took on a ranked opponent as a ranked team. In addition, the game was played at one of the cathedrals of college hoops, the Palestra in Philadelphia. Penn State has several players on its roster that hail from Philadelphia.
The game itself did not disappoint. The atmosphere was electric and the teams were never separated by more than seven points. Iowa’s Player of the Year candidate Luka Garza was fantastic, hitting 13-of-19 shots for 34 points. He also collected 12 rebounds.
But it was Penn State that got the last laugh, earning one the bigger wins in recent program history with Philly-native Izaiah Brockington leading the way with 23 points off the bench.
Jan. 17: No. 13 Dayton 78, St. Louis 76 (OT)
One of the most disappointing things about the cancellation of the NCAA Tournament is the schools that were having special seasons that didn’t get rewarded with a tournament berth and an opportunity to play on the sport’s biggest stage. The Dayton Flyers are one of those teams.
While fighting for respect all season, the Flyers kept winning, running up a 29-2 record and a perfect 18-0 mark in A10 play led by AP Player of the Year Obi Toppin. They would rise to No. 3 in the polls by the end of the season.
Dayton didn’t get the chance to prove its worth in the Tournament, but we can still toss the Flyers some respect by appreciating their stellar season. This game is a perfect one to watch.
St. Louis gave Dayton all it could handle early, leading by as many as 11 before taking an eight-point lead into the break. The Billiken lead would get as big as 13 in the second half, but Dayton erased an 11-point deficit over a five-minute stretch late in the second half and took a lead before the game ultimately went to overtime.
Toppin garnered the headlines all season, and he was great in this game with 20 points and 10 rebounds. But it was Jalen Crutcher who came up big in OT, scoring seven of Dayton’s nine points on the way to the narrow victory.
Feb. 22: No. 14 Oregon 73, No. 24 Arizona 72
With the late East Coast start times, the Pac-12 sometimes gets lost in the shuffle. Whether you missed this one or not, it’s worth your time.
A tight affair throughout, this game featured a stunning performance from another POY candidate and All-American Payton Pritchard as well as a somewhat unlikely hero for the Ducks.
Pritchard played all 45 minutes, pouring in 38 points to go with six rebounds and four assists. But as all those minutes started to catch up with him down the stretch, it was Shakur Juiston who stepped up and saved the day in overtime.
Juiston, who averaged 7.9 points per game for the season, scored all nine of Oregon’s points in overtime to help the Ducks to the one-point victory.
If the tightly contested game and big-time performances from Pritchard and Juiston aren’t enough to intrigue you, you can also get a look at a trio of NBA prospects on Arizona in Nico Mannion, Josh Green, and Zeke Nnaji.
Mar. 7: Butler 72, Xavier 71
We won’t get any tournament buzzer-beaters this season, but Butler and Xavier provided a preview of March Madness in this classic regular-season finale.
After falling behind by nine midway through the second half, Xavier ripped off a 16-6 run to take a one-point lead with 7:30 to play, setting the stage for a wild finish as these two teams jockeyed for final positioning in the Big East.
The teams would trade blows down the stretch, with an old-fashioned 3-point play by Naji Marshall putting the Musketeers up two with eight seconds to go. Then Kamar Baldwin happened.
Baldwin calmly drained a game-winning 3 with less than a second to play, giving the Bulldogs the victory. He was fantastic, finishing with 36 points, six rebounds and three assists while hitting 5-of-7 shots from beyond the arc. It wasn’t his first game-winner of the season, as he also sunk Villanova with a buzzer-beater. This time he simply solidified his reputation as a cold-blooded closer.
Josh Naso aka The Silver Fox has a love for all things sports that borders on disorder. Here, he aims to share his thoughts on and passion for those sports with you.