Villanova's escape tops packed Tuesday

It wasn't the prettiest game of the day. It wasn't the most fluid, the cleanest, or most mistake-free. But Villanova 60, Michigan 55 was easily the best, and certainly the most intense, college basketball contest of Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2014 -- and if you missed even one moment of the action Tuesday, rest assured that was no small feat.

On the same day that gave us Arizona's last-minute Maui Invitational escape and a top-15 upset by a team that lost four transfers in the summer, Villanova's Progressive Legends Classic victory still managed to end things with a bang. From a distance, a 60-55 game (contested in about 62 possessions) probably doesn't sound like a barn burner, but was it ever. The two teams traded three huge runs: In the first half, when Michigan led 20-18, Villanova scored 15 straight. When Wildcats forward JayVaughn Pinkston put his team up 33-20 early in the second half, Wolverines coach John Beilein called timeout, at which point his team put 31 of the game's next 41 points on the board.

When Michigan went up 51-43 -- the product of a flurry of Zak Irvin buckets and a Spike Albrecht 3 and two makes apiece from Ricky Doyle and Kameron Chatman -- Villanova had the last run still waiting. The Wildcats would finish the game 17-4. That stretch would include a couple of the season's best moments to date. Daniel Ochefu's over-the-shoulder skip pass to a wide-open Ryan Arcidiacono for a corner 3 (who knew Ochefu had *that* in his game?). Michigan guard Caris LeVert making one go-ahead jumper after the first, and spending a little extra time after going up 54-53 to flex at defenders who couldn't stop him.

And then Pinkston: a gorgeous, compact post spin move on the offensive end, which gave Villanova a 56-55 lead. One possession later, his completely clean block of Irvin's almost-certain game-winning layup at the rim.

Neither team scored more than a point per possession, neither team shot better than 30 percent from 3, and both teams will leave with plenty to point at on the film reel. In the first half, Villanova committed two over-and-back violations within a minute of each other. But Villanova 60, Michigan 55 also had a thrilling finish in front of a surprisingly intense Barclays Center crowd, and featured plenty of well-executed defense and a few of the best plays of the season to date. It was a classic game -- at least in those regards -- which is all you can ask for on a Tuesday in late November.

Not that it's all we got. The nightcap wound down just a few minutes after Maryland completed a marquee win in its toppling of No. 13-ranked Iowa State, 72-63. If it wasn't fourth-year coach Mark Turgeon's best win, period, it may well have been the most important -- a massive step forward at a time when the Terps and Turgeon desperately needed it.

On May 6, 2014, Maryland announced that Seth Allen, its second-leading scorer in 2013-14, would transfer out of the program that spring. That would have been bummer enough, except Allen was the fourth -- yes, fourth -- player to leave Maryland that season. Shaquille Cleare, Nick Faust, and Rodney Peters all contributed in varying degrees to Maryland's 17-15 2013-14 season, and all three had already left College Park, Maryland, by the time Allen joined the exodus. At the time, Terrapins athletic director Kevin Anderson had to give Turgeon a public display of support, and Turgeon told reporters he was "surprised, angry, disappointed." Maryland's first season in the Big Ten was shaping up to be a disaster.

What about now? Despite a few late mistakes that nearly let the Cyclones back in the game -- Dez Wells is not exactly Fred VanVleet, let's say -- the Terps were thoroughly impressive in Tuesday's win over Iowa State. The Cyclones entered the game a clear favorite -- Turgeon told the media postgame that when he received the advance from his coaches, he asked whether they should just forfeit. Instead, Iowa State had an uncharacteristically cold night from 3 (just 6-of-27) and Maryland was uncharacteristically hot (8-of-19). Freshman Melo Trimble scored 31 points on 11 shots against Arizona State on Monday night (and shot 13-of-14 from the line), and when he follows that up with a quiet 11 and Wells goes 5-of-20 from the field (with four turnovers to boot) -- and you beat Iowa State anyway, you're living right. Or playing great defense. Maybe both.

Either way: Huge win for Maryland. And Mark Turgeon.

Kansas State nearly got one of its own before losing 72-68 to No. 3 Arizona. Things were tight in Maui early. K-State held the lead for sizable chunks of the first half. It wasn't until the 12-minute mark in the second that Arizona started to look like Arizona: Brandon Ashley found Kaleb Tarczewski for a bucket, then earned two foul shots of his own, followed by 3s from T.J. McConnell and Gabe York. Great passing. Balanced basketball. Within two minutes, Arizona turned a 1-point deficit into a 9-point lead, and aloha to Kansas State.

Except that K-State didn't go away. Marcus Foster would go on something like a one-man run, hitting four 3s in the final 10 minutes of the game to keep his team within a possession of UA from the 5-minute mark on.

"We watched Marcus quite a bit on film as much as we could in one day, and we scouted Kansas State ahead of time," Arizona coach Sean Miller said. "Respect isn't a good enough word to describe how we categorize him as a player."

It wasn't enough, but respect was earned. That's what this time of year is about, when you really think about it. Michigan and Iowa State will be fine. Villanova could be a No. 1 seed. Maybe Maryland gets in the tournament. Foster will scare a handful of title contenders before the year is out. There is always more to gain than there is to lose.