Best of 2016: Top college basketball games over the past calendar year
The 2015-16 men's basketball season fittingly came to a close on a buzzer-beating shot by Kris Jenkins to stun North Carolina and give Villanova its first national title since 1985.
But that game was only the cream of the crop in what's been a calendar year full of improbable finishes and out-of-this-world performances in college basketball. Now as we prepare to turn the calendar over to 2017, here's a roundup of some of the best games that fans were spoiled with in 2016:
Kansas vs. Oklahoma | Jan. 4, 2016
In what was arguably the greatest regular season game of the calendar year, then-No. 1 Kansas met up with then-No. 2 Oklahoma in a must-watch Big 12 classic at the Phog last season just four days after the Times Square Ball dropped to mark the end of 2015. The first No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup in two years surely lived up to the hype, as the Jayhawks outlasted the Sooners in triple overtime 109-106. Eventual Naismith Award winner Buddy Hield played out of his mind with 46 points for Oklahoma but couldn't connect on the potential game-tying 3-pointer to send the game into its fourth overtime.
Duke vs. Virginia | Feb. 13, 2016
Come February last season, Duke was facing the meat of its trying conference schedule, including then-ranked No. 7 Virginia as one of four straight ranked ACC foes on the docket. The Cavaliers were looking for its first win at Cameron Indoor Stadium of the Tony Bennett era and were 9.9 seconds away from doing so after Malcolm Brogdon connected on a reverse layup to put the Hoos up by one. But then with six seconds left off an inbound, Grayson Allen powered his way into the lane and put up an off-balanced shot up for the buzzer-beating 63-62 win.
North Carolina vs. Duke | Feb. 17, 2016
Of course this storied rivalry makes the list. Just four days after Duke escaped over Virginia, the Blue Devils hit the road for Chapel Hill and once again came out with a victory in thrilling fashion over the then-No. 5 Tar Heels. With Duke leading 74-73 with under 10 seconds left, UNC's Joel Berry had one final attempt at protecting home court and coming away with the last-second win. But his shot was blocked by Derryck Thornton as time expired and the Blue Devils hurried to the bench to celebrate a second top-10 win in four days.
UConn vs. Cincinnati | March 11, 2016
Conference tournament time is when the craziness really arrived, and it started in the AAC quarterfinals between UConn and Cincinnati. Already three overtimes deep, it finally appeared Cincinnati had gotten the final word after Kevin Johnson hit a 3-pointer with 0.8 seconds left on the clock to put the Bearcats up 88-85. But Jalen Adams wasn't done in what would be a career day for the Huskies guard. Adams caught the ensuing inbounds pass and threw up a 3/4-court prayer that somehow banked in to tie the game and send it to a fourth overtime. Adams then scored eight points in the next period and the Huskies survived 104-97 in an instant classic.
Yale vs. Baylor | March 17, 2016
The lore behind the No. 5 seed vs. No. 12 seed first round NCAA tournament matchups lived up to the hype with some more upsets and entertaining games in 2016. Out in Providence for Yale vs. Baylor, that's where America was introduced to Makai Mason. The 6-1 guard lit up the Bears for 31 points on 9-of-18 shooting en route to leading the Bulldogs to a 79-75 upset. Following the game, we all also learned how rebounding works, courtesy of former Baylor standout Taurean Prince in a postgame interview.
Arkansas Little Rock vs. Purdue | March 17, 2016
The 12-over-5 upsets didn't stop with Yale, however. That same day on the opening weekend of the 2016 tournament, Little Rock surged back from 13 points down with less than four minutes remaining in regulation to top the Boilermakers in double overtime. Josh Hagins played hero, making a game-tying 3-pointer near half-court at the end of regulation as well as a bank shot to send the game into a second overtime en route to scoring 31 points in the 85-83 victory.
Notre Dame vs. Stephen F. Austin | March 20, 2016
No. 14 seed Stephen F. Austin's Sweet 16 dreams fell just short thanks to a tip-in by Notre Dame's Rex Pflueger in the final seconds. The Lumberjacks led 75-74 with 17.5 seconds left and had two chances at a defensive rebound to close out the upset. Notre Dame guard Demetrius Jackson drove in the lane and put up a shot that never hit the rim. Irish center Zach Auguste was then there and put up a putback as he fell to the floor. Finally, as the ball bounced out, Pflueger was there with his right hand to tip it home with 1.5 seconds left for his lone points of the game and his first basket in nearly two weeks. College basketball is weird.
Wisconsin vs. Xavier | March 20, 2016
Out in St. Louis in the same side of the bracket, Wisconsin and Xavier tipped off soon after with a chance to earn a trip to play the Irish in the Sweet 16. That set the stage for Bronson Koenig to make two 3-pointers in the final 12 seconds to lift the Badgers to a 66-63 victory. The second of the two triples found net as the buzzer sounded, with him falling away in the corner off an inbounds pass. Wisconsin trailed by as much as nine points in that second half before surging back in the wild affair.
Texas A&M vs. Northern Iowa | March 20, 2016
With all the buzzer beaters and wild shots that are featured on this list of games, perhaps this round of 32 matchup classifies as the most improbable ending. The Aggies embarked on a 14-2 run in the final 44 seconds -- 44 seconds -- to dispatch the Panthers in incredible fashion. Texas A&M trailed 69-57 with less than a minute left in regulation before forcing four turnovers and capping the massive comeback with a game-tying Admon Gilder layup with 1.9 seconds on the clock. That 12-point surge marks the largest comeback with less than a minute remaining in NCAA history. The Aggies then won in double overtime thanks to free throws down the stretch and UNI foul trouble.
Villanova vs. North Carolina | April 4, 2016
Was this the greatest NCAA championship game in tournament history? That's up for debate. But one can say with great certainty that this year's title match was the top game of 2016. Moments after UNC's Marcus Paige got a circus shot 3-pointer to fall to tie the game, Villanova's Kris Jenkins came back the other way with a buzzer-beating national championship-winning jumper for the 77-74 win. In a tournament full of twists and turns and no shortage of thrilling finishes, Jenkins' newest addition to the "One Shining Moment" highlight reel was a suiting bookend.
Arizona vs. Michigan State | Nov. 11, 2016
The 2016-17 season didn't waste any time in presenting hoops fans with a premier matchup coming down to the last shot. Arizona and Michigan State met up for the first of the Armed Forces Classic double header on Veterans Day in Honolulu. Tied up at 63-63 with seven seconds left, the Wildcats' Kadeem Allen took the inbounds pass and went coast-to-coast in about five seconds for a lightning-quick layup on the other end. The opening night hero then got a hand on Michigan State's ensuing inbounds pass to seal the deal as Arizona opened up 1-0. While Michigan State has since floundered, that opening ranked matchup was certainly a thrill to watch.
Indiana vs. Kansas | Nov. 11, 2016
Not to be outdone, the nightcap of the Armed Forces Classic also put on a show that came down to overtime between two college basketball bluebloods. Indiana picked up the first of a couple statement wins this season with a 103-99 hard-fought victory in overtime. Two of the most talented backcourt players went head-to-head with IU's James Blackmon (26 points) and KU's Frank Mason III (30) trading baskets. It was Mason who brought the game to overtime with two free throws with two seconds left in regulation. But the Hoosiers seized control in the extra period, never trailing behind Blackmon's seven key points.
Kentucky vs. North Carolina | Dec. 17, 2016
Welcome to the national stage, Malik Monk. The freshman dazzled with 47 points against the Tar Heels last week in a narrow 103-100 offensive showdown. Justin Jackson, overshadowed by Monk's career day, finished with 34 points for UNC and actually gave the Tar Heels a brief lead with 45 seconds left in regulation. But Monk answered with one of his eight 3s on the day on the next possession, and Kentucky prevailed in a neutral site in Las Vegas.