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TGS SPECIAL REPORT...2011 COLLEGE HOOPS SUPERLATIVES!
by Bruce Marshall, Goldsheet.com Editor






As we come to the close of another publishing season at THE GOLD SHEET, it's time for what has become one of our favorite exercises of the year. Once again, we conclude things with our College Hoop Superlatives.





Following are our TGS Hoops Superlatives, as compiled by our college hoops staff, for the 2010-11 campaign.





2011 TGS ALL-AMERICAN TEAM






TALOR BATTLE, 6-0 Sr., Penn State


KEMBA WALKER, 6-1 Jr., UConn


JIMMER FREDETTE, 6-2 Sr., BYU


NOLAN SMITH, 6-2 Sr., Duke


SHELVIN MACK, 6-3 Jr., Butler


JAJUAN JOHNSON, 6-10 Sr., Purdue


JARED SULLINGER, 6-9 Fr., Ohio State


DERRICK WILLIAMS, 6-8 So., Arizona


KENNETH FARIED, 6-8 Sr., Morehead State


KAWHI LEONARD, 6-7 So., San Diego State






We're a bit guard-heavy on our team, but with many squads opting for three or even four-guard lineups these days, we have no trouble making room for another backcourt performer. We'll go to war with the above ten any day of the week.





PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Kemba Walker, UConn...It's a close call with Jimmer Fredette, but when the dust finally settled this year, no player impacted proceedings in big games and in clutch situations quite like Walker. It can be argued that his UConn team might not even have made the NCAA Tournament out of the rugged Big East (where the Huskies finished only 9-9 in the regular season) if not for Walker's presence, which was consistently excellent from the first week of the season at the Maui Classic through the Final Four in Houston. Walker continued to make the big shots all season and even seemed to improve his all-around game another notch when the many newcomers on the Huskies roster (frosh Jeremy Lamb, Shabazz Napier, and Roscoe Smith in particular) began to make more of an impact as the season progressed. Further, Walker's presence seemed to elevate his teammates when UConn needed it most, especially the unprecedented five wins in as many days at the Big East Tourney followed by six straight wins in the Big Dance. Combined with the Maui Classic, the Huskies posted a 14-0 mark in knockout format tourney games this season. Walker was the most important ingredient throughout, and scored at a 24.6 ppg pace in the postseason. It takes some kind of a special player to take a team to the national championship that was picked tenth in its preseason conference polls!





COACH OF THE YEAR: Brad Stevens, Butler...Never mind the Bulldogs' ugly 18% shooting performance in the finale vs. UConn. The fact that Butler has made it into the title game two years running might be enough to get Stevens on the way to the Hall of Fame in Springfield, much less a mere Coach of the Year honor. In all of our years covering college hoops, we cannot recall a more unlikely development than the Bulldogs making it back to championship night after an unexpected run to the finale vs. Duke a year ago. Especially with top 2010 performer Gordon Hayward having taken his act to the NBA's Utah Jazz after his highly-decorated sophomore season. Butler didn't even look like it was going to make the NIT when sitting at 14-9 in early February, yet ran off 14 straight victories to make it back to the final night. The tactically-shrewd Stevens never panicked, and eventually was rewarded as the Bulldogs once again picked the exact right time to peak. And his cool sideline demeanor was consistently reflected in the performance of his team, which parlayed defensive tenacity and uncanny poise under pressure to win several nailbiters while advancing to the Final Four, including an unlikely win in the Elite Eight vs. favored Florida when erasing an 11-point deficit late in the second half to force overtime before finally prevailing over the Gators. Moreover, the 34-year-old Stevens seems in no hurry to leave Butler, to this point following the leads of Mark Few and Jim Larranaga and other mid-major kingpins who have resisted opportunities to move to "bigger" jobs. As we are reminded every year, the grass isn't always greener on the other side. And that fact is apparently not lost upon the young Stevens, who seems refreshingly content at Butler, just 20 or so miles from his hometown of Zionsville, and (so far) content to raise his young family close to home. Stevens' lead might also have had something to do with in-demand mid-major mentors such as VCU's Shaka Smart, Richmond's Chris Mooney, and Wichita State's Gregg Marshall deciding to stay put and re-up in their current jobs after the just-completed season.





Honorable mention (in no particular order): Steve Lavin, St. John's; Jim Calhoun, UConn; Chis Mooney, Richmond; Thad Matta, Ohio State; Shaka Smart, Virginia Commonwealth; Jamie Dixon, Pitt; Dave Rose, BYU; Matt Painter, Purdue; Ron Everhard, Duquesne; Fran Dunphy, Temple; Donnie Tyndall, Morehead State; Mick Cronin, Cincinnati; Sydney Johnson, Princeton; Dave Paulsen, Bucknell; John Beilein, Michigan; Sean Miller, Arizona; Stew Morrill, Utah State; Kerry Keating, Santa Clara; Greg Lansing, Indiana State; Jim Ferry, Long Island; Steve Donahue, Boston College; Jim Larranaga, George Mason; Chris Mack, Xavier; Rick Byrd, Belmont; Tommy Amaker, Harvard; Blaine Taylor, Old Dominion; Brad Brownell, Clemson; Tad Boyle, Colorado; George Nessman, San Jose State; Greg Kampe, Oakland; Bob Marlin, UL-Lafayette; Steve Fisher, San Diego State; Charlie Coles, Miami-Ohio; Anthony Grant, Alabama; Rick Pitino, Louisville; Mike Young, Wofford; Tim Miles, Colorado State; Gary Waters, Cleveland State; Mike Bray, Notre Dame; Tim Cluess, Iona; Josh Pastner, Memphis; Leonard Hamilton, Florida State; Keith Dambrot, Akron; Rex Walters, San Francisco; John Calipari, Kentucky; Tony Bennett, Virginia; Bill Carmody, Northwestern; Dana Altman, Oregon; Roy Williams, North Carolina; Gregg Marshall, Wichita State; Rob Jeter, UW-Milwaukee.





NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR: Jared Sullinger, Ohio State...No newcomer distorted proceedings quite like Sullinger, whose presence helped keep the Buckeyes on top of the polls for most of the season. Best of all for college hoops fans (but not for Big Ten opponents), Sullinger has indicated that he wants to stick around Columbus for his sophomore season. Is that a smile we detect on Ohio State HC Thad Matt's face?





2011 TGS ALL-DEFENSE TEAM





RONALD NORED, 6-0 Jr., Butler


DOGUS BALBAY, 6-1 Sr., Texas


KENT BAZEMORE, 6-5 Jr., Old Dominion


TYLER NEWBOLD, 6-5 Sr., Utah State


JOHN HENSON, 6-10 Soph., North Carolina


JAJUAN JOHNSON, 6-10 Sr., Purdue


RICK JACKSON, 6-9 Sr., Syracuse


SAM MULDROW, 6-9 Sr., South Carolina


DAMIAN SAUNDERS, 6-7 Sr., Duquesne


DEANDRE LIGGINS, 6-6 Jr., Kentucky






DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Kent Bazemore, Old Dominion...With so much offense working from "outside-in" these days, and so many three-point bombers in the college ranks, the premium on top-notch perimeter defenders has never been greater. And none is better than ODU's Bazemore, a rare great athlete who doesn't mind working on the stop end, and rated by many aficionados as the premier "arc" defender in the country. His rare combination of length, quickness, and sass continually frustrated opponents.











2011 TGS MID-MAJOR ALL-AMERICAN TEAM





ANDREW GOUDELOCK, 6-2 Sr., College of Charleston


NORRIS COLE, 6-2 Sr., Cleveland State


KEVIN FOSTER, 6-2 Soph., Santa Clara


SHELVIN MACK, 6-3 Jr., Butler


KEITH BENSON, 6-11 Sr., Oakland


FRANK HASSELL, 6-8 Sr., Old Dominion


JAMIE SKEEN, 6-9 Sr., Virginia Commonwealth


MATT HOWARD, 6-8 Sr., Butler


KENNETH FARIED, 6-8 Sr., Morehead State


NOAH DAHLMAN, 6-6 Sr., Wofford






MID-MAJOR PLAYER OF YEAR: Kenneth Faried, Morehead State...The Eagles' pony-tailed senior took on all comers, doing yeoman's work on the blocks and ending as the nation's leading rebounder at 14.5 caroms pg. And even when missing 13 of 17 shots from the floor in Morehead's NCAA Tourney opener vs. in-state Louisville, Faried still managed to play a key role in the Eagles' 62-61 upset over the Cards (the top shocker of the Big Dance) when gobbling a whopping 17 rebounds.





DISAPPOINTING TEAM OF THE YEAR: Michigan State...Many were predicting a return to the Final Four, and perhaps an appearance in the title game, for the Spartans. And why not? MSU was returning the core of its team that made the Final Four in 2010--plus G Kalin Lucas, who missed the Big Dance a year ago with an injured Achilles tendon--and was ranked as high as second in some preseason polls. Add in a touted recruiting class and the coaching wizardry of Tom Izzo, and it's no wonder that F Draymond Green told some scribes at the Big Ten Media Day that he expected the Spartans to win the national title. But the seeds of disappointment were planted in the summer, when G Chris Allen was dismissed from the team. Allen's absence robbed the Spartans of their one true long-range gunner, but there were more problems, including Izzo's bizarre one-game suspension in pre-league play for a silly violation at his camp. Durrell Summers, a key 6-5 senior, was inconsistent and benched for a time by Izzo, and F Derrick Nix almost left the team early in the season as he complained about lack of playing time. Then, in late January, Izzo booted G Korie Lucious off the team. Along the way, MSU was bothered by turnovers and didn't score at an efficient rate all season. All things considered, Izzo did a good job merely steering the Spartans into the Big Dance, although even that was probably more the result of reputation; at 19-14 entering the NCAA Tourney, Izzo's team never won more than two games in a row after the first week of season. As a No. 10 seed, MSU proceeded to play an awful first 32 minutes of its Big Dance opener vs. UCLA, which led by as many as 23 points before missing a succession of free throws down the stretch that allowed the Spartans to cut the margin to 2, but no closer. "I have to decide how much did we lay an egg, and how much of it was the cards we were dealt?," said Izzo after MSU finished a disappointing 19-15. We don't expect the Spartans and Izzo to stay down for long, but this season was a huge bummer in East Lansing.





INJURY OF THE YEAR: Robbie Hummel, Purdue...Hummel, whose knee injury the previous February knocked him out of the last month and a half of the 2009-10 season, was KO'd for the entire 2010-11 campaign when suffering yet another serious knee injury in preseason workouts. The Boilermakers adjusted admirably to Hummel's absence but could not replace the many dimensions Hummel supplied, especially on the offensive end. Purdue was an acknowledged Final Four threat with Hummel, but in the end couldn't make it out of the sub-regionals without him.





SUSPENSION OF THE YEAR: Brandon Davies, BYU...After an 80-67 win at San Diego State on Feb. 26 when the Cougars looked every bit as good (if not better) than their number-seven ranking entering the game, the Provo-based school suspended the agile 6-9 frontliner for breaking a provision of the school's honor code. Although the Cougars still managed to advance to the Sweet 16, they lacked the same dimensions minus Davies, who was a valuable interior complement to Jimmer Fredette as BYU's only post player who could play with his back to the basket, not to mention the only Cougar "big" athletic enough to deal with other mobile frontliners. Some saw BYU as a legit Final Four threat with Davies in the lineup, but we'll never know what might have happened because of the suspension. Not to be judgmental, but not even BYU athletes can be expected to behave like Tibetan monks, and the school effectively came under more criticism than Davies after the suspension. By the way, did Jim McMahon really abide by the honor code for his career at BYU many years ago?





BEST PLAY-BY-PLAY ANNOUNCER: Gus Johnson, CBS...Some know-it-alls complain that Johnson gets "too excited" when he works a telecast. "So what?," we say. We've got some oceanfront property in Phoenix for anyone who thinks Jim Nantz is a better play-by-play man than Johnson, whose electric delivery seems to come in handy every March when the inevitable nailbiters occur in his Big Dance games. The fact Johnson happened to be working another Butler Elite Eight game a few weeks ago vs. Florida added some extra drama to the Bulldogs' overtime win and second straight trip to the Final Four. Indeed, we're not sure Butler's exploits would have been quite the same without Johnson's description. And we still think that Johnson's "Touchdown George Mason!" call from the Patriots' surprise Final Four run five years ago, when Jai Lewis completed a long inbounds pass to a streaking Tony Skinn, rates as one of the best calls we've heard in college hoops over the last decade. We know that countless college hoops followers check the announcing teams for each of the Big Dance games, looking for the games Johnson will work. Not to pick on Jim Nantz again, but does he have a similar following of fans?





Honorable mention: Dave Woloshin, Memphis Tigers...It's about time we honor some regional play-by-play favorites on these pages, too. And of those, none has a more smooth delivery than fan-favorite Woloshin, the voice of the Tigers for over two decades and as much as part of the Memphis landscape these days as the Rendezvous and Corky's BBQ.





Special commendation: Jack Cristil, Mississippi State Bulldogs...We save a little space for the venerable Cristil, who in late February finally hung 'em up after 58 years (that's right, 58 years!) as the voice of the Bulldogs. Octogenarian Cristil had been on the job so long that he was already in his tenth year as the voice of MSU when the Bulldogs played Loyola-Chicago in that epic 1963 Sweet Sixteen game, an account of which was detailed earlier this season on these same pages as an excerpt from the upcoming "Ramblers vs. Bearcats" book, in which we interviewed Cristil in his hometown of Tupelo. Cristil was also the last link to a generation of great SEC play-by-play voices that included legendary names such as John Ward, Larry Munson, John Forney, and Cawood Ledford, among others.





What we like most about Cristil is how sharp he has remained after all of these years. Not long ago, Jack was questioned about his smoking habits by a listener. "Do you know my Daddy lived until he was 98 years old?," said Cristil. To which the questioner asked, "Did he live that long because he smoked?" "No," said Jack, "he lived that long because he minded his own business!"





A NEW ORDER NEXT SEASON. Get ready for numerous conference changes in 2011-12, including aforementioned BYU leaving the Mountain West for the WCC, while state rival Utah bolts the MWC for the newly-named Pac-12. Joining the Utes in the Pac-12 will be Colorado, which along with Nebraska (off to the Big Ten) is abandoning the Big XII. Which means that the Big Ten will have twelve teams next season, and the Big XII will have only ten teams. Got that? And the Atlantic 10 still won't have ten teams, either, which it hasn't had since the '80s. What's in a number, anyway? Boise State also abandons the WAC for the Mountain West, which next year will lose TCU to the Big East, but gains Nevada and Fresno State (plus Hawaii for football only) from the WAC in 2012.





Times, they are a changin'.


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