ATLANTA — College basketball in 2012-13 gave us a mixed bag: Low scoring games, Big Ten excellence, Marshall Henderson, Florida Gulf Coast, Kevin Ware and Mike Rice.
By BLAIR KERKHOFF
The Kansas City Star
But the game was never boring, nor was it, as Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds reportedly said, “in shambles.”
No super team, like Kentucky’s 2012 national champions, emerged. But there were plenty of surprises, like Kentucky’s 2013 first-round NIT exit.
Players such as Michigan’s Trey Burke, Indiana’s Victor Oladipo and Gonzaga’s Kelly Olynyk introduced themselves to a national audience, although if projections are any indication, the first two NBA Draft selections could be college freshmen who didn’t make the All-America team — Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel and Kansas’ Ben McLemore.
Noel, like Ware, suffered a heart-breaking season-ending injury. The difference was we couldn’t bear to see a replay of Ware’s broken leg against Duke in the NCAA Tournament.
Ah, the tournament. Upsets, drama, Cinderellas, the usual fare, only the names changed. One team few recognized, Florida Gulf Coast, became the first No. 15 seed to crash the Sweet 16. Before the NCAA Tournament ended, the coach, Andy Enfield, had moved on to Southern California.
Ninth-seeded Wichita State played angry, as coach Gregg Marshall instructed, all the way to the Final Four.
And on the final night, teams representing the best conferences this season — the Big Ten with Michigan and the Big East with Louisville — battled for the title.
Basketball had its issues. But in shambles? Nah.
Biggest surprises, regular season
• Gonzaga: From preseason No. 21 to the final Associated Press No. 1, the Zags’ regular season was its best ever. But we’re still waiting on that first Final Four.
• Miami: Raise your hand if in the preseason you had the Hurricanes winning the ACC regular season and conference tournament. This was Miami’s greatest basketball season.
• Saint Louis: The Billikens were expected to be good, but coach Jim Crews did a masterful job keeping the program on track, taking over before the season for Rick Majerus, who died in December. Saint Louis finished first and won the conference tournament in a solid Atlantic-10.
• Kentucky: Sure, the Wildcats were wildly overrated after losing the boatload of talent, but missing the NCAA Tournament? Nobody saw that coming.
• North Carolina State: High hopes greeted a Wolfpack program that reached the Sweet 16 last year, but although there were some victories, a first-game bounce in the NCAA Tournament isn’t what anybody expected.
• Mike Rice: When a Rutgers coach winds up the subject of a “Saturday Night Live” parody for his out-of-control antics, it’s not a good thing.
All-NCAA Tournament team
There’s no shortage of all-this or all-that in basketball, and the NCAA does its part with all-regional and all-Final Four teams. But there is no official All-NCAA Tournament team that includes March Madness in its entirety. If there was, here’s how I’d vote:
• Trey Burke, Michigan: His 28-foot bomb to send the Wolverines’ Sweet 16 game against Kansas into overtime was the shot of the tournament heading into the championship.
• Brett Comer, Florida Gulf Coast: Playmaker from upstart Eagles leads the NCAA Tournament in assists (10.3)
• Cleanthony Early, Wichita State: Everybody stepped up in the Shockers’ Final Four run, nobody more than Early.
• Mitch McGary, Michigan: Started two games before NCAA Tournament, but the Wolverines wouldn’t have played for the title without him.
• Russ Smith, Louisville: The constant producer for the tournament favorite.
Their postseason performance just may put a few more bucks in their pocket if and when they decide to enter the NBA Draft:
• Mitch McGary, Michigan: Just a remarkable tournament for the Wolverines freshman who leads the team in scoring (16.0) and rebounding (11.6) in the NCAA Tournament, when he became a starter.
• Cory Jefferson, Baylor: Jefferson was sensational in the Bears’ run to the NIT championship, averaging 21.2 points and shooting better than 72 percent from the floor. The junior is jumped up mock draft boards.
• Gorgui Dieng, Louisville: The Cards’ shot-blocking specialist can be magnificent (14 points, 11 rebounds vs. Duke) and maddening (zero points vs. Wichita State) in consecutive games.
Final Big 12/SEC hybrid rankings
|3. Kansas State||0-1||27-8|
|5. Oklahoma State||0-1||24-9|
|6. Iowa State||1-1||23-12|
College basketball GPS
We dispense with the 2013-14 preseason top 10, except to report Kentucky, Louisville, Michigan State and Duke will be the Final Four favorites, to provide a locator service. Where will they be next season? Here’s a partial list:
|School||Old conference||New conference|
|Creighton||Missouri Valley||Big East|
|Memphis||Conference USA||American Athletic|
|Notre Dame||Big East||Atlantic Coast*|
|Pittsburgh||Big East||Atlantic Coast|
|Syracuse||Big East||Atlantic Coast|
*will remain independent in football