Villanova-North Carolina tops NCAA games of the decade

National Sports

FILE – In this April 5, 2010, file photo, Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski and guard Lance Thomas embrace after Duke’s 61-59 win over Butler in the men’s NCAA Final Four college basketball championship game, in Indianapolis. The 2010s had some of the greatest NCAA Tournament games in college basketball history, from Duke’s epic win over Butler in 2010 to Villanova’s last-second win over North Carolina in 2016. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy, File)

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Increased parity in college basketball led to some of the greatest games in the sport’s history during the 2010s, from massive upsets to moments that had fans screaming from their couches.

The decade had so many great games, it’s hard to narrow it down to just the five best ones.

Well, Associated Press poll voters did just that, coming up with these five unforgettable games as the tops of the 2010s.

VILLANOVA-NORTH CAROLINA, 2016

The first 39 minutes, 55 seconds would have been enough to make the 2016 title game great.

The final 4.7 seconds turned it epic.

Trailing by 10, North Carolina staged a late comeback to pull within three with 13 seconds left. The Tar Heels worked the ball to Marcus Paige, who made an off-balance, double-clutch 3-pointer to tie the game with 4.7 seconds.

Paige’s shot will go down as one of the most memorable 3-pointers in NCAA Tournament history, but it was upstaged by what happened next.

Taking the ball the length of the floor, Villanova got the ball to Ryan Arcidiacono, who dropped it back to Kris Jenkins. The junior caught the ball, stepped into the 3-pointer and drained it at the buzzer, sending the Wildcats pouring onto the floor.

Villanova coach Jay Wright remained characteristically calm int the chaotic final seconds, simply saying “Bang” as Jenkins let the shot fly.

One of the greatest games of any decade.

DUKE-BUTLER, 2010

Duke’s run to the 2010 national championship game was no surprise. The Blue Devils are one of college basketball’s blue-blood programs.

Butler’s run was like something out of “Hoosiers.” The mid-major Bulldogs not only made a surprising run through the bracket, they were playing for a national title just a few miles from their campus in Indianapolis.

The feisty Bulldogs traded blows with mighty Duke throughout the game, keeping one of the nation’s premier programs within reach.

Duke built a five-point lead, but Matt Howard hit a couple of baskets to pull Butler within 60-59, the tension building as the seconds ticked off. Duke’s Brian Zoubek was fouled with 3.6 seconds left, made one free throw and intentionally missed the second.

Butler had one final shot.

Bulldogs star Gordon Hayward grabbed the rebound on Zoubek’s miss, dribbled to midcourt and let it fly. The ball seemed to hang in the air forever before bouncing off the backboard and front rim as a collective “Oh!” rang out in the arena and living rooms around the country.

UMBC-VIRGINIA, 2018

Through the first round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament, No. 1 seeds had been 135-0 against No. 16 seeds.

Maryland-Baltimore County made it 135-1 with one of the greatest upsets in sports history.

UMBC needed a buzzer beater in the America East title game just to get in the NCAA Tournament, but made the most of the opportunity despite being a 20-point underdog.

Playing aggressively instead of sitting back, the Retrievers kept it close in the first half and started stretching the lead to start the second. Word began to spread of the potential upset and fans across the country scrambled to find a TV.

By the time many tuned in, the Retrievers were well on their way to pulling off an upset that was compared to Buster Douglas knocking out Mike Tyson and the miracle-making U.S. hockey team beating the Soviets in the 1980 Olympics.

PURDUE-VIRGINIA, 2019

Virginia got the ultimate redemption a year after the UMBC loss, winning the program’s first national title.

Before they could do it, the Cavaliers had to get past Purdue and show-stopping guard Carsen Edwards.

The Cavaliers and Boilermakers spent that day in Louisville trading blows in a display of high-level basketball.

Virginia was led by Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome, who combined for 49 points. Edwards was unstoppable even against the nation’s best defensive team, dropping in 10 3-pointers and scoring 42 points.

The end of regulation dripped with drama.

His team leading by three, Purdue’s Matt Painter had them purposely foul Jerome. He made the first, purposely missed the second and the rebound was tipped out to midcourt. Freshman guard Kihei Clark ended up with the ball and whipped a long pass to Mamadi Diakite, who dropped in a tying jumper at the buzzer.

Virginia went on to win 80-75 in overtime to reach the Final Four for the first time since 1984.

KENTUCKY-WISCONSIN, 2015

Kentucky arrived in Indianapolis on the cusp of history, needing two wins to become the first undefeated team since Indiana in 1976.

In the way was Wisconsin in a Final Four rematch.

A year earlier, the Badgers were bounced from the bracket when Kentucky’s Aaron Harrison hit a last-second 3-pointer.

Let by national player of the year Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin stood toe to toe with coach John Calipari’s latest lineup of future pros in a entertaining game of back and forth.

The veteran Badgers never backed down from the moment, responding when the Wildcats went on a second-half run with one of their own to go up one.

After withstanding another late 3-point attempt by Harrison — he airballed this one — Wisconsin ended Kentucky’s run at history and earned a spot in the title game after coming up just short the year before.

___

For more AP college basketball coverage: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and http://twitter.com/AP_Top25

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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