Best Gifts of the 2019-20 College Basketball Season at the Holidays
From buzzer-beating shots and upsets to massive dunks and comeback stories, the beginning of the 2019-20 college basketball season has provided a few memorable gifts.
And in the spirit of the holiday season, we're taking a moment to relive some of these awesome moments.
In the grand scheme of the college year, these are similar to holiday presents. We'll probably forget them to March, but that's also why it's enjoyable to take one final look backward before college basketball heads into the most important games.
Tanner Groves' Disrespectful Putback Dunk
In mid-December, Eastern Washington hosted lower-division Multnomah for a game that ordinarily wouldn't be memorable.
Tanner Groves made sure we paid attention.
Despite the already-lopsided 120-71 scoreline, Groves crashed the basket for a highlight-reel play. He jumped over an unsuspecting Multnomah defender to throw down the putback slam.
The sophomore forward scored a career-high 17 points for Eastern Washington in the 146-89 victory.
NC State's Buzzer-Beater over UNC Greensboro
During the season opener, North Carolina State suffered a disappointing one-point loss. ACC foe Georgia Tech hit a pair of free throws in the closing seconds of overtime for an 82-81 win.
When the Wolfpack traveled to UNC Greensboro in mid-December, they seemed destined for another nerve-wracking extra session. Isaiah Miller hit a game-tying off-balance jumper that rattled around the rim, hit the backboard and eventually dropped in.
Markell Johnson didn't waste the final 2.1 seconds, though.
NC State's senior caught the inbounds pass, took one dribble and launched a half-court prayer that found nothing but net.
Andrew Jones Back Playing Big Minutes at Texas
As a freshman in 2016-17, Andrew Jones played an important role for Texas. He averaged 11.4 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.4 assists in 27.9 minutes per game.
But midway through his sophomore year, a diagnosis of leukemia ended his season. Jones underwent treatment, which kept him on the sideline for the remainder of 2017-18 and limited him to 11 total minutes during the 2018-19 campaign.
A key reserve, Jones is second on the team at 11.4 points per game while shooting 35.5 percent from three. He's helped the Longhorns get off to a 9-2 start and has put them on a path toward the NCAA tournament.
UC Davis' Comeback and Half-Court Winner
UC Davis has already found itself on the wrong side of several close finishes, but the Aggies won't easily forget the excitement of their victory over Loyola Marymount.
Trailing by 18 points with only 13 minutes left in the second half, they steadily began to trim the deficit. Over the following 10-minute stretch, UC Davis scored 30 of the next 40 points to take a two-point advantage with 3:13 remaining.
But as the final seconds ticked away, Loyola Marymount seemed to be pulling out the victory anyway. Erik Johannson dropped in a layup with only 3.4 seconds on the clock.
UC Davis leading scorer Joe Mooney then played the hero role, sprinting up the court and releasing a scissor-kick half-court shot.
Nothing but net.
Shareef O'Neal's Return from Heart Surgery
After arriving at UCLA, Shareef O'Neal "felt funny" in summer practices. Thankfully, the son of NBA legend Shaquille O'Neal began to wear a monitor that helped uncover a heart condition.
The young O'Neal ultimately missed the 2018-19 season because he underwent surgery to address the "electrical" issue.
Fast-forward a year, and he's a valuable reserve for the Bruins. O'Neal has played in nine games, averaging 2.8 minutes and 3.4 rebounds per appearance. His best appearance so far is an eight-point, 11-rebound showing at Notre Dame.
"When I got into the game," O'Neal said afterward, per Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times, "I was worrying about defense and rebounding and everything else just came to me."
Much simpler than worrying about his heart.
Colorado Upsets Dayton at the Horn
Dayton surged onto the national radar while compiling a 9-1 record in which the only setback was an overtime loss against Kansas. The Flyers soared all the way to 13th in the AP poll.
Then D'Shawn Schwartz happened.
Dayton star Obi Toppin drilled a game-tying three to force overtime against Colorado, and the extra period was full of emotional swings. Schwartz made a layup to give Colorado a 75-74 lead, but Jalen Crutcher responded with a go-ahead shot for Dayton.
Colorado sprinted down the court, and McKinley Wright IV passed to Tyler Bey in the post. Bey navigated a double-team to find Schwartz on the perimeter, and the lefty drained a triple as time expired.
No Top-Ranked Team Is Safe
Are you tired of the same old schools dominating the Top 25? If so, 2019-20 is your kind of season.
Less than two months into the campaign, we've already had six programs ranked No. 1. Michigan State, Kentucky, Duke, Louisville and Kansas all held the top position before current No. 1 Gonzaga, whose coach seemingly isn't thrilled about it anyway.
"I don't think they should do polls until March," Mark Few said, per the Associated Press. "It's an effort in futility."
If you support any of the previously mentioned teams, we understand you've been disappointed at times. But the upset-filled start to the season is only providing excitement for the rest of us.
Stephen F. Austin's Last-Second Layup to Stun Duke
Easily the most surprising of the marquee upsets, Stephen F. Austin traveled to national powerhouse Duke and ended a home nonconference winning streak of nearly two decades.
The visiting Lumberjacks forced overtime but needed a defensive stop in the closing seconds. Gavin Kensmil pounced on a loose ball and flipped it to Nathan Bain, who split two Duke defenders and began his one-man fast break toward the rim.
"I looked up at the clock and saw I had 2.6 seconds, just going as fast as I can to lay it up. Like a layup drill. Prayed it would go in," Bain said. "I wasn't sure if the guy was going to foul me or not. Get it on the rim to give us a chance."
The ball slipped through the net, Duke's 19-year nonconference home winning streak ended and the celebration began.