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Stan Becton | | December 23, 2022

9 gifts men's basketball has given us entering the holiday season

Andy Katz's bracket predictions 1 month into the season

It's the holiday season and men's basketball is fittingly wrapping up non-conference play. But before that comes to an end, let's all get into the holiday spirit by reflecting on the gift-like moments men's basketball has given us so far.

9 gifts men's basketball has given us entering the holiday season

3 Undefeated teams

Three men's basketball teams remain undefeated entering the holidays as of Dec. 20. No. 1 Purdue is 11-0, No. 2 UConn is 13-0 and New Mexico is 13-0. The Lobos are the only unranked and unbeaten team in the latest AP Poll, but they did receive 64 votes. 

Only five teams have finished a regular season undefeated since 1976, the last time an undefeated team won a national championship. That said, men's basketball has treated us to a gift of 3 undefeated teams entering the holidays.

UNDEFEATED: The 7 undefeated college basketball national champions in the NCAA tournament era

A touching moment 

At a Kentucky game earlier this year, coach John Calipari spotted a coal miner at the Blue-White preseason scrimmage, still dirty from work. The miner showed up to the game to make sure his son didn't miss any of the action, so he didn't have time to freshen up after work and before the game. When Coach Calipari saw this, he ensured the miner got VIP access to a Kentucky game, recognizing his efforts as a father.

The return of the Armed Forces Classic

On Nov. 11, Veterans Day, the Armed Forces Classic returned for the first time since 2019. It also marked the first time in 10 years that college basketball was played on a U.S. military ship. The USS Abraham Lincoln hosted then-No. 2 Gonzaga and Michigan State. Gonzaga trailed by as many as 12 points in the second half but ultimately prevailed with a second-half comeback to win 64-63. Men's basketball gifted an exciting finish to fans everywhere, but more importantly, a veteran crowd.

SALUTE: No. 2 Gonzaga survives Michigan State in the Armed Forces Classic

Blueblood battles down to the wire to start the season 

The Champions Classic didn't kick off the season because of Election Day, but on Nov. 16, men's basketball granted us the gift of two blueblood battles. 

First came a double-overtime thriller as Michigan State knocked off then-No. 4 Kentucky 86-77. The Spartans also spoiled the debut of reigning National Player of the Year Oscar Tshiebwe, getting him to foul out despite scoring 22 points and grabbing 18 rebounds.

In the second game, then-No. 6 Kansas escaped No. 7 Duke in a top-10 matchup between two 2022 Final Four teams. The Jayhawks went on a 15-5 run to close the game and rally from a five-point deficit with 4:37 to play.

Men's basketball gave us a Champions Classic that lived up to the hype.

MORE: 11 numbers to remember from the Champions Classic

HBCUs landing upsets

HBCU basketball programs have played teams from traditional powerhouse conferences tough this year, landing multiple upsets. Take a look at some of the notable wins below:

  • Grambling State beat Colorado 83-74 on Nov. 11
  • Texas Southern beat Arizona State 67-66 on Nov. 13
  • Prairie View A&M beat Washington State 70-59 on Nov. 15
  • Southern beat Cal 74-66 on Nov. 18
  • Grambling State beat Vanderbilt 64-62 on Dec. 9
  • Howard beat Harvard 66-54 on Dec. 18

CROSS-CONFERENCE: A guide to the Pac-12/SWAC Legacy Series in men's and women's basketball

The SWAC split the Pac-12/SWAC Legacy Series 3-3 in the series' first year. Southern beat Cal in a game that wasn't a part of the series, and Grambling State knocked off Vanderbilt a little less than a month after that. Even the MEAC got in on the action, as Howard became the first HBCU to beat Harvard in men's basketball. 

These HBCU wins are like stocking stuffers from men's basketball, giving fans a preview gift of Cinderella magic to come in March.

SWAC: The SWAC is one of the early winners in men's college basketball in 2022

A 4OT upset of a No. 1 team

An upset of the No. 1 team in college basketball is a gift for many fans of the game, but for the losing team, it probably feels like coal. That's perhaps how then-No. 18 Alabama and then-No. 1 North Carolina felt, respectively, after a quadruple-overtime upset on Nov. 27 in the 2022 Phil Knight Invitational. 

The game was a back-and-forth affair, featuring 15 ties and 14 lead changes. The game had a fitting ending, as a lob pass proved to be the game-winning basket. Alabama ultimately won 103-101 in a memorable four-overtime game.

ROLL TIDE: No. 18 Alabama men's basketball downs No. 1 North Carolina in 4OT thriller

Basketball across the pond

Men's basketball gave us a game in London, England to start the holiday month when then-No. 19 Kentucky battled Michigan at O2 Arena. Fans across the pond witnessed a matchup of two of the most talented big men in the country as Wildcat Oscar Tshiebwe and Wolverine Hunter Dickinson went head-to-head. Dickson outscored Tshiebwe 23-13, but Tshiebwe finished with a double-double and the win. Kentucky defeated Michigan 73-69, thanks to five players scoring in double-figures.

Another 3,000-point scorer

Men's basketball gave us its 11th 3,000-point scorer in history. Detroit Mercy's Antoine Davis scored his 3,000th point against Charlotte on Dec. 10. He made 10 three-pointers in that game to reach the mark. Davis currently sits 10th all-time with 3,031 points through Dec. 20. 

Davis averages 24.8 points per game this season, and Detroit Mercy has 19 regular season games remaining. If Davis continues to score at that rate, he'll finish the regular season with 3,502 points, trailing only "Pistol" Pete Maravich's record of 3,667. 

RELATED: Detroit Mercy's Antoine Davis becomes 11th men's basketball player to reach 3,000 career points

A top-five holiday treat

A week before Christmas Eve, basketball fans were treated to a top-five matchup between undefeated then-No. 2 Virginia and then-No. 5 Houston. The Cavaliers entered the game undefeated, while the Cougars were coming off their first loss.

MORE: Houston drops Virginia in top-5, non-conference college basketball battle

Houston upset the No. 2 team in the country, convincingly beating Virginia 69-61. Every member of Houston's starting five finished in double figures in the win, with basketball fans getting one last gift before the holidays.

Detroit Mercy's Antoine Davis finishes career as second-leading scorer in Division I history

Detroit Mercy's Antoine Davis fell just four points shy of breaking "Pistol" Pete Maravich's record 3,667 points in the Titans' season-ending 71-66 loss to Youngstown State in the Horizon League quarterfinals

Detroit Mercy's Antoine Davis, coach Mike enjoying the father-son moments as star chases 'Pistol Pete' Maravich

Detroit Mercy's Antoine Davis is one of only two players with 3,000 points and 500 assists. He ranks second all-time in scoring, behind "Pistol Pete" Maravich.

No. 14 TCU beats No. 2 Kansas for first time in Lawrence, Duke outlasts No. 17 Miami and more from a college hoops Saturday

Here's everything you need to know from men's college basketball on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023.

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