Ranking the Most Memorable Moments from the 2017-18 College Basketball Season

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistApril 3, 2018

Ranking the Most Memorable Moments from the 2017-18 College Basketball Season

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    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    Villanova's 79-62 victory over Michigan closed the book on the 2017-18 men's college basketball season.

    On the court, the campaign provided buzzer-beaters, improbable comebacks, upsets, breakout stars and records.

    Yes, the FBI investigation into college basketball was (and is) the most notable development of the season. But there are several layers and unresolved pieces to that ongoing situation.

    So instead, we're focusing on on-court action here. Although the ranking order is subjective, it's reasonable to suggest no list would be complete without this season's Cinderella run or historic NCAA tournament upset. And they're near the top for us.

10. Wofford Upsets North Carolina

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    Three days after North Carolina defeated Tennesseean eventual No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournamenton the road, the fifth-ranked Tar Heels had an enormous letdown at the Dean Dome.

    Powered by under-the-radar star Fletcher Magee, Wofford pulled off a 79-75 upset against the defending national champions.

    Magee scored 27 points in the matchup, and Cameron Jackson stuffed the stat sheet with 18 points, nine rebounds, six blocks, three assists and three steals. The visiting Terriers forced 14 turnovers and limited the Heels to a 7-of-25 three-point clip.

    "That team outworked us," UNC coach Roy Williams said.

9. Nevada's Comeback Against Cincinnati

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    As the midway point of the second half neared, Cincinnati held a commanding 65-43 lead over Nevada. The Sweet 16 was within reach for the second-seeded Bearcats.

    Less than four minutes later, however, their 22-point advantage dwindled to a mere six. And thanks to a putback by Josh Hall with 9.1 seconds remaining, Nevada celebrated an improbable 75-73 triumph as the buzzer sounded.

    "It's the happiest I've ever been in my life," Wolf Pack coach Eric Musselman said, per Tom Groeschen of the Cincinnati Enquirer.

    Nevada now owns the largest second-half comeback in NCAA tournament history. 

8. Trae Young Sweeps the Nation

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    In a year filled with expected one-and-done players, Oklahoma boasted the most unlikely star freshman.

    Though he was a prized recruit, Trae Young outperformed all expectations and wasted no time doing it. He notched double-doubles in his first two games, scored 43 in his fifth career outing and racked up 26 points and 22 assists in a mid-December tilt.

    At the end of January, Young boasted per-game averages of 30.3 points and 9.5 assists while shooting 40.9 percent from three. He ended the year at 27.4 points and 8.7 assists per game.

    Oklahoma fizzled down the stretch, but for two-plus months, Young was the most intriguing player in college basketball.

7. Freshmen Rule the AP All-America Ballot

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    Young wasn't the only electrifying debutant, though.

    For the first time in the 70-year history of the AP All-America ballot, a trio of freshmen secured first-team spots. Arizona's Deandre Ayton and Duke's Marvin Bagley joined Young.

    Ayton collected 20.1 points, 11.6 points and 1.9 blocks per game en route to earning Pac-12 Player of the Year honors. Bagley earned the same title in the ACC, tallying 21.0 points and 11.1 rebounds. Young ranked first nationally in points and assists per game.

    They've all officially declared for the NBA draft and are expected to hear their names called early in the first round.

6. Mike Krzyzewski Sets D-I Wins Record

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    When the Blue Devils knocked off Rhode Island during the second round of the NCAA tournament, longtime head coach Mike Krzyzewski took over a remarkable place in coaching history.

    The victory gave him 1,099 wins for his career, which passed Tennessee legend Pat Summitt (1,098) for the most in Division I.

    "It's an honor because she was a pioneer in her sport," Krzyzewski said of the achievement, per Ben Leonard of the Duke Chronicle. "Her sport, women's college basketball, took off because of her."

    Krzyzewski's record, wherever it ends, may eventually be broken. But unless Syracuse's Jim Boeheim (1,027) outlasts Coach K by several years, that's not going to happen anytime soon.

5. Underdog-Filled Elite Eight

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    As the 2017-18 season progressed, the tournament bracket looked more and more muddy. No team seemed to be an obvious choice to advance in March Madness.

    But we certainly didn't expect this level of drama. After an adventurous opening weekend and chaotic Sweet 16, three of the eight remaining schools were seeded ninth or lower.

    Since the NCAA tournament expanded to 64 in 1985, never before had the Elite Eight featured three such teams. Additionally, Kansas State's matchup with Loyola-Chicago marked the first time a No. 9 seed had ever played a No. 11.

    Villanova eventually earned the national title, but the overall road to the championship included was flat-out wild.

4. Jordan Poole's Buzzer Beater

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    During the second round of March Madness, Michigan needed a minor miracle. Trailing 63-61 to the sixth-ranked Houston Cougars in the closing seconds, a missed game-tying shot seemed to end the Wolverines' pursuit of a title.

    But Houston failed to seal the win.

    After a pair of missed free throws, Michigan had 3.6 seconds to cover 94 feet. Isaiah Livers whipped the in-bounds pass to Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rakhman, who took two dribbles before firing a pass to Jordan Poole. And the freshman became a legend.

    Leg kick and all, Poole drained a 30-footer at the buzzer to give the Wolverines a 64-63 victory and a ticket to the Sweet 16.

3. Villanova Wins the National Title

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    Wildcats fans won't easily forget the moment their beloved Villanova secured a place atop men's college basketball. Donte DiVincenzo poured in 31 points off the bench, Mikal Bridges scored 19 and the Big East power cruised to a 79-62 victory.

    So, why is the champion at No. 3?

    Five, 10, 15 years from now, when someone asks which team won the national title in 2018, it's entirely foreseeable the popular responses are, "Oh, the year 11th-seeded Loyola reached the Final Four?" or "When UMBC beat Virginia?"

    Those accomplishments don't happen every year; championships do. Still, the Wildcats will always be a part of a prestigious club.

2. Loyola's Final Four Run

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Loyola-Chicago brought an impressive resume into the tournament, boasting a 28-5 record, a conference title and a road victory over Florida. Stat forecasts and analysts agreed the Ramblers had a terrific chance to knock off sixth-seeded Miami in the first round.

    What was their ceiling, though? Well, this is March.

    Sparked by a last-second shot against Miami in Game 1, Loyola duplicated the feat in Game 2 opposite No. 3 Tennessee. History effectively repeated itself with a game-sealing three-pointer to push the Ramblers past Nevada in the Sweet 16, and they toppled Kansas State in the Elite Eight to earn a spot in San Antonio.

    Michigan ultimately knocked out Porter Moser's squad, but the Missouri Valley school solidified its place in history as a rare double-digit seed to reach the Final Four.

1. No. 16 UMBC Upsets No. 1 Virginia

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    This was bound to happen eventually. But a 20-point demolition? UMBC simply left no doubt which team deserved this victory.

    Jairus Lyles poured in 28 points to propel the Retrievers, whose 74-54 victory over No. 1 Virginia cemented the University of Maryland Baltimore County's place in college basketball lore.

    "It felt like my soul left my body, man," UMBC's Jourdan Grant said. "When I walked over to the sideline and up in front of the sea of yellow of our fan section, they were going crazy with us. And to look back and see my teammates going crazy, too, man it's unbelievable."

    UMBC bowed out to Kansas State in the second round, but college basketball fans will always remember 2018 as the year a No. 16 seed finally broke through.


    Follow Bleacher Report writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.