May 20, 2024

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Dribble Handoff: What was the best game during the 2021-22 college basketball postseason?

The 2022 NCAA Tournament was filled with great games and memorable moments, as they typically are. But this season’s event was more special than usual because of how normal it felt. After the tournament’s cancelation in 2020 and a 2021 Big Dance held in a controlled environment, fans filled arenas all over the country once again to add a life-giving ambiance to the annual celebration of college basketball.

There were upsets, comebacks and plenty of emotional moments. Even going back to the conference tournaments, it was a March to remember as the sport thrived once again. In the end, Kansas hoisted the national championship trophy with a win over North Carolina in the national title game. But the journey to get there featured unforgettable twists and turns.

For this edition of the Dribble Handoff, our writers are debating which college basketball game from the 2021-22 postseason was the best — using whatever criteria they want. Let’s take a trip down memory lane and relieve the best games of the best time of year, according to the CBS Sports writers who were locked in on the action.

Saint Peter’s vs. Kentucky

The first Thursday of the NCAA Tournament is a day folks plan around every year. It doesn’t always deliver memorable games — but it often does. And it clearly did this year. In prime time. On CBS.

Final score: Saint Peter’s 85, Kentucky 79 in OT.

Just like that, the Peacocks became a phenomenon. They’ll always be remembered because of their coach with the bright future (Shaheen Holloway), because of their little guard with the big mustache (Doug Edert), because of their mascot that inspired impersonations and because they were the first No.15 seed in NCAA Tournament history to advance to the Elite Eight. And it all started on that Thursday night, when Saint Peter’s just hung around and hung around and hung around until it was clear the MAAC Tournament champions weren’t going anywhere. The Peacocks took the game to overtime, then took control of it — ending John Calipari’s latest attempt to become a two-time national champion and solidifying themselves as March legends forever. — Gary Parrish

Duke vs. North Carolina

I still don’t think the scope, consequence and everything surrounding the before, during and after of this era-ending game has fully sunk into the collective sport’s consciousness. It will take much more time. The idea that, somehow, eighth-seeded North Carolina had wormed its way from a skittish season all the way to the Final Four … and it was going to meet Duke on the biggest stage of all? This was going to happen for the first time in the rivalry’s history, an NCAA Tournament head-to-head, and for it to happen at the Final Four? In what could be — and did prove to be — the final game of Mike Krzyzewski’s career? It’s the peak game of any American sports rivalry, as far as I’m concerned, and that’s because of the question at hand. What was the best game of the 2022 postseason? 

North Carolina 81, Duke 77 featured 18 lead changes and 12 ties. The teams shot well (UNC averaging 1.17 points per possession, Duke 1.12) and the stars showed up. Paolo Banchero had 20 points and put on displays to, again, keep him in the convo for the No. 1 pick. Armando Bacot was injured late, fouled out, but left with 11 points and 21 rebounds to his name. Caleb Love hit a shot that will live on in Carolina history. Forever. UNC managed to one-up a victory that seemed impossible to one-up: four weeks removed from winning at Cameron Indoor Stadium, the team threw Krzyzewski into another nightmare and ended his career. This game, somehow, exceeded expectation. It did so in a way that few games truly do. It had been three years since a Final Four had a crowd like that. To be gifted such a classic was a reminder that, at its frenzied best, nothing compares to the NCAA Tournament. — Matt Norlander

Baylor vs. North Carolina

If you can ignore the horrid officiating in this game — and believe me, I know that’s a big ask — then on the other side you’ll see one of the tournament’s biggest and most consequential game of 2022. This game had everything: a huge comeback, a blown lead on the other side, questionable (at best) officiating, overtime, physicality, an ejection and one helluva shootout that tilted in UNC’s favor with a 93-86 escape.

UNC blew a 25-point lead in the second half as No. 1 seed Baylor asserted its dominance down the stretch. Baylor, though, ran out of steam after forcing overtime, falling by seven points despite Tar Heels star Brady Manek getting tossed before the extra period. It was a pivotal — and maybe the most pivotal — moment in the tournament as UNC established itself as a real challenger to the championship. It went on to win three games after that before falling to Kansas in the national title game. — Kyle Boone

Arizona vs. TCU

The final game of the NCAA Tournament’s first weekend delivered in a major way as No. 1 seed Arizona held on to beat No. 9 seed TCU 85-80 in overtime. The down side to this game was that the teams combined to shoot 11 of 53 from 3-point range. But despite their collectively poor outside shooting, the squads traded blow after blow late in the game before one of the most dramatic endings to regulation imaginable.

TCU had the ball with the game tied at 75 in the final seconds when it appeared that Horned Frogs point guard Mike Miles was fouled near mid-court by Arizona wing Dalen Terry. Instead, the officials let play continue when Terry’s bump sent Miles to the floor. As the basketball came loose, Terry scooped it up and barreled toward the basket for a potential game-winning lay-up at the buzzer. He made it, but it was just a fraction of a second too late.

Ultimately, after a few more twists and turns, Arizona got it done in overtime. If TCU had pulled the upset or if Arizona had gone on to win the national title game, this second-round game would have gone down in history. Nevertheless, it was a thrilling game with drama, emotion, upset potential, overtime, controversy and everything that makes college basketball great. It’s a shame that much of America went to sleep before it ended. — David Cobb