As another fulfilling college basketball season comes to a close, here’s a look back at some of the moments that stood out most. And there were plenty to choose from: Gonzaga chasing perfection and making its first Final Four, Kansas matching UCLA’s golden era with 13 consecutive regular-season conference titles, the 5-foot-9 of Campbell dropping 51 points on UNC Asheville in the Big South tournament, and Nevada’s comeback for the ages, erasing a 14-point deficit in the final 76 seconds of regulation for a 105-104 overtime victory at New Mexico.
We might look back and remember this as the season LaVar Ball became the most famous (infamous?) father in college basketball. Or the season when the flop jumped the shark, courtesy of the overdramatic fall by Oregon’s at Utah. Or the season Siena coach Jimmy Patsos shook hands with an invisible opponent after the Saints’ 78-68 victory over Rider. Here are 10 moments that shaped the 2016-17 season:
Duke’s disjointed journey
The overwhelming No. 1 team in preseason watched players fall like dominoes: , , , and Chase Jeter all missed time due to injuries. was suspended after his third tripping incident in a calendar year. And coach Mike Krzyzewski missed seven games in ACC play after undergoing back surgery. The Blue Devils did manage to win the ACC tournament, but that hardly registered for a team built to achieve more.
Michigan’s plane ride
Michigan’s charter flight to Washington was aborted during takeoff and skidded down the runway into a ditch. Thankfully, no one was seriously hurt. But the Wolverines’ luggage did stay behind a full day, and they were forced to begin the Big Ten tournament playing in practice jerseys. Michigan channeled its plane trauma into winning four games in four days and capturing the league tournament.
Central Michigan’s 5-foot-9 guard became the first player since Long Island’s Charles Jones in 1996-97 to average 30 points per game. Though technically Keene’s scoring average was 29.96875, which led the nation, the NCAA confirmed it rounded the number up in its record books.
Game of the year
It certainly wasn’t the national championship game, but it did involve the Tar Heels. scored a career-high 47 points, including the dagger 3-pointer with 16.7 seconds left, to lift Kentucky to a 103-100 victory over North Carolina in Las Vegas. The pace and scoring made it hard even for spectators to catch their collective breaths.
‘s delayed debut
Arizona’s sophomore guard missed the first 19 games of the season for an undisclosed suspension. When he finally returned to the lineup Jan. 21, it was revealed he had failed a drug test due to unknowingly taking a performance-enhancing drug. Despite winning an appeal with the NCAA, Trier could not play until the drug cleared his system. Trier played the final 18 games for the Wildcats.
Fans found out quickly you just can’t say anything to anybody and be a nameless face in the crowd. Rick Pitino had to be restrained after a spectator said the wrong thing while the Louisville coach walked through a tunnel at the Dean E. Smith Center in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Washington’s was suspended for slapping two heckling Colorado students at halftime. Dime apologized to the fans after the Huskies’ 81-66 loss Feb. 9 but was still suspended for the incident.
Old school is out
Morehead State’s Sean Woods and George Washington’s Mike Lonergan both lost head-coaching jobs for coaching methods that used to be the norm in decades past. Woods resigned after allegations he shoved one player and hit another in the chest. Lonergan was fired after an investigation claimed he verbally abused players.
Officials under fire
Florida Gulf Coast lost a game at Michigan State because the clock started while the ball was in the air, forcing its player to take a rushed shot. Georgia lost a game at Texas A&M because the clocked stopped and the Bulldogs didn’t take a shot in time.
Kentucky fans unhappy with the way John Higgins officiated their 75-73 loss to North Carolina in the Elite Eight began giving his roofing company bad reviews. It escalated from there to phone calls and some threatening messages. Police in Omaha, Nebraska, are investigating those threats by many “with Kentucky area codes.”
Long time coming
Northwestern became the last major-conference team to make the NCAA tournament. The Wildcats earned their first bid and even won their first-round game 68-66 over Vanderbilt.
South Carolina ended its 44-year drought by winning an NCAA tournament game. It didn’t stop with the first round, either. The Gamecocks upset Duke and rolled all the way to the Final Four.
Oregon won the first NCAA tournament title in 1939, long before the semifinals became referred to as the Final Four. The Ducks carried that trophy to Phoenix, where they were among the last four playing for the first time since then.
Jordan: “The ceiling is the roof”
It’s a good thing GOAT does not stand for the Greatest Orator of All Time, or Michael Jordan’s halftime speech to the Tar Heels football team really would have been clowned. In true GOAT fashion, “The ceiling is the roof” has become the Michael Jordan of inspirational phrases. T-shirts have , and UNC athletic director Bubba Cunningham even had a belt made for the Final Four with “ceiling = roof” and “23 = (goat silhouette)” on it.
Think the Heels turned one of the most devastating defeats ever in NCAA championship game history into a satisfying run to their sixth national title on their own? Think again.