Last night’s Duke-North Carolina game was the most exciting contest of the 2011-12 college basketball regular season.

Duke overcame a late 10-point deficit to defeat North Carolina in buzzer-beating fashion before a stunned crowd of 21,750 at the Dean E. Smith Center in Chapel Hill.

Duke won as a six-point underdog, 85-84.

Trailing 82-72 with 2:10 remaining, Duke closed the game on a 16-4 run thanks to a pair of 3-pointers by Tyler Thornton and Seth Curry, a pair of jumpers from steady Ryan Kelly and a game-winning 3-point bomb as time expired from the game’s leading scorer Austin Rivers, who recorded a career-high 29 points.

Rivers, the 19-year-old son of Boston Celtics’ head coach Glenn “Doc” Rivers, nailed a 24-foot jumper over 7-foot senior center Tyler Zeller, who did a poor job contesting the game-winner.

As the scoreboard clock read 0:00, it was the only moment during the second half Duke held the lead.

In his post-game press conference, Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski applauded his players for their never-say-die attitude in enemy territory saying, “We fought a really good fight.”

Two quick gambling thoughts about last night’s result: 1) Expect UNC to put forth a big effort in the rematch at Cameron Indoor Stadium in early March and 2) Think about a second-half wager on the Duke Blue Devils in the NCAA tournament if they trail at halftime. “Coach K” undoubtedly will draw on last night’s experience to fuel his team with confidence and rally the troops when their tournament lives are on the line.

JUDGING COACHES…..EOG contributor PonyOne disagreed with my assessment of Tom Crean and Fran McCaffery as overrated coaches in the Big Ten. “Pony” supports the efforts put forth by Crean and McCaffery in trying to revive the once-proud programs at Indiana and Iowa.

I downgraded Crean for playing fast and loose in his first three seasons in Bloomington when he had no talent on the roster, thus leading to dismal records of 6-25, 10-21 and 12-20. Why not adjust to your subpar talent by playing at a slower pace? Crean is an excellent recruiter (Wade and Matthews to Marquette and Zeller to IU) and he does a good job charming the media and harassing the refs (though I like my coaches to focus on his team’s mistakes, not the officials’ mistakes), but I’ve never been impressed with his pre-game preparation or in-game adjustments.

I also disliked Crean’s hire of former Wyoming head coach Steve McClain as an assistant coach. The guy was a nutcase on the sidelines at Wyoming.

As for McCaffery, I feel Iowa fails to place enough emphasis on defensive stops. Iowa ranks dead last in the Big Ten in scoring defense (allowing 74.2 ppg) and next-to-last in field goal defense (allowing opponents to shoot 46% from the floor). In reading McCaffery’s press conference transcripts, I get the feeling he likes to point fingers at his players when his team loses. His outburst last month at Michigan State in which he slammed a chair to the floor and berated his players was an embarrassment to Iowa basketball. I like intensity but I think McCaffery crossed the line with his most recent tirade.

I’m not married to my positions and I pride myself on keeping an open mind with my assessments, but I’ll take Big Ten coaches John Beilein, Bo Ryan and Tom Izzo over the likes of Crean, McCaffery and Bruce Weber.

THURSDAY’S BEST BETS…..I love tonight’s card in college basketball. I could have six or seven plays when all is said and done. Here are three bets I’ve already placed and I plan to add at least three more selections in this space by mid-afternoon: 746 SAN FRANCISCO -12 over Santa Clara, 759 LOYOLA MARYMOUNT -4 over Portland and 763 STANFORD +6.5 over UCLA.

COMING FRIDAY……Some thoughts on the future of Eye On Gaming.

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