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TGS SPECIAL REPORT...2013 COLLEGE HOOPS SUPERLATIVES!
by Bruce Marshall, Goldsheet.com Editor, and TGS Staff


Imagine for a moment no "March Madness" as we know it. Instead, college basketball would limit its postseason championship tournament to two teams (expanding to a big four teams in the future!) based upon a complicated formula involving various computer rating systems and human polls.

The excitement of the conference tournaments to determine reps to a national elimination event would be non-existent. Some leagues might still conduct tourneys as money-generating endeavors, but fans would be unlikely to warm to such exhibitions and thus wouldn't show up in great numbers. Most of the leagues would abandon their own in-house events.

Teams that weren't invited to the 2-team "championship tourney" could still compete in a collection of one-off games at neutral sites once the regular-season concluded. Various conference champions not invited to the very limited national tourney could still face off against one another. Were Pac-12 and Big Ten winners not invited into the national tourney, they could participate in a sort of basketball "Rose Bowl" instead, which this year might have featured UCLA and Indiana at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Unless, of course, the Hoosiers were one of the chosen teams to play in the two-team national tourney, in which case Ohio State or Michigan State could have taken their place. And just to make sure the Spartans or Buckeyes had a game to look forward to after the regular season, there would also be a collection of games conducted at neutral sites in Florida against SEC runner-up sorts such as Ole Miss, Alabama, Missouri, or Tennessee.

Such postseason basketball events would number into the mid 30s, as winners and runners-up from a variety of leagues would square off. This season, for example, the Conference USA champion, Memphis, would get to play an extra game in its FedEx Forum home against a deep SEC also-ran (with the proviso that the team art least had a .500 record) such as Arkansas. And we'd all be "glued" to our TV sets to watch the Sun Belt regular-season champ, Middle Tennessee, host a Conference USA also-ran such as UTEP in the New Orleans Arena. The second-place C-USA team, say Southern Miss, might get rewarded with an extra game in Hawaii vs. a Mountain West runner-up, say San Diego State.

Moreover, for most of these "postseason" games, it would be local promoters staging the events and guaranteeing themselves profits. The participating schools themselves might lose money on the ventures.

We're only half-joking about the above scenario, because that's exactly what college football sells (successfully) to the sporting public at the end of each season.

All of the above is territory covered previously on these pages and addressed at length in various articles earlier this and past seasons, back to a few years ago when we first floated the idea of four "super conferences" emerging from the rubble in our much-acclaimed "The Big 64" editorial. But never has "King Football" so impacted college hoops as it has in the past 24 months and for the next couple of years, at least. Conference realignments have changed the landscape of college sports almost solely due to the football influence and the mad drive for TV dollars that have caused traditional alliances to be fractured. All for a piece of a TV pie that continues to grow for the "big boys" while leaving some of the little guys scrambling for leftover crumbs.

At the root of the conference shuffle and mad dash for TV dollars (which we do not necessarily condemn, by the way) is the ongoing inanity of college football's refusal to adopt a basketball-style playoff that would reap financial rewards that would dwarf the current football payouts. Which has been the inconsistency of the gridiron bowl system and rather-recent BCS dynamics that have instead protected the fiefdoms of a handful of power brokers and elites who would rather keep almost all of the riches to themselves rather than enhance their own take-home pay and concurrently allow a few more seats at the main table.

(For much insight into this mess, we again highly recommend the well-received book, Death to the BCS, penned by Yahoo Sports' Dan Wetzel and friends, which remains as good a read today as it was when hitting the book shelves almost three years ago.)

There has been some movement toward a more-representative playoff on the college football front with the announcement of "expansion" of the current BCS to a whopping four teams for the 2014 season. Still, however, the big schools continue to protect themselves and a handful of cohorts with a desire to call the shots, even if they are effectively costing themselves many dollars in the process.

The big leagues, however, don't seem to care much because many are now entering an era of big-money revenue due to their TV deals and conference-only networks that are padding their coffers in numbers that would have seemed pipe dreams just a few years ago. We have talked at length earlier in this season about the Big Ten's lucrative TV network model and how it is in the process of completely changing the college landscape.

With the huge TV deals now commonplace for the bigger leagues, perhaps the desire to implement a more-profitable football playoff than the current BCS is not an imperative these days. Whatever.

College basketball, however, is now directly in the crosshairs. And while we were not thrilled at the breakup of the Big East, we almost applauded the basketball-only "Catholic 7" schools in the league that had endured enough of the football-centric mindset that had altered the composition of the league to something wholly unrecognizable from its previous form.

Among other inane developments on the conference realignment subject, we suspect that the new Big East spinoff in the form of the recently-named "American Athletic Conference" (what a creative name!) to be one of the biggest wastes of time in college sports annals. The "AAC" is basically a morph of Conference USA, which at the outset will include a handful of Big East football holdovers who are going to look to bolt the new affiliation as soon as possible. While we suppose a hoops league including UConn, Cincinnati, Memphis and a variety of Conference USA refugees looks somewhat appealing, the football arm of the league hardly triggers much excitement. But, with UConn and Cincy waiting for invitations from the Atlantic Coast Conference or somewhere else (maybe the Big XII in the case of the Bearcats), the new "AAC" is soon to appear almost exactly like the old Conference USA.

By us, what an absolute waste of time this conference shuffle has become. And down the road, we have to wonder how much bigger the TV pie can become. As one Athletic Director once told us, there are no hours being added to the day, and at some point a saturation level on TV might be reached. But for the big leagues, each successive TV deal seems to be bigger than the last one, and the new frontier of conference-owned networks (like the Big Ten) has changed those dynamics completely.

Fortunately, college basketball will survive. While there were some tears shed this just-completed season when long-standing rivalries such as Texas-Texas A&M and Kansas-Missouri were severed (at least temporarily) because of conference realignment, college hoops didn't seem to suffer much from the changes. Although it will take some getting used to the new alignments emerging next year; beyond the aforementioned "Catholic 7" which has already added Xavier, Creighton, and (non-Catholic) Butler to the "new" Big East, get ready for some massive changes in the ACC, which will be welcoming Syracuse, Pitt, and Louisville in the future, and the Big Ten, which has annexed Maryland and Rutgers and remains in an expansion-minded mode (keep your eyes on Vanderbilt and Georgia Tech also getting calls from Jim Delany, and soon).

We do lament the dissolution of the Big East, especially for the inane gridiron-centric reasons, but we'll get used to the new alignments. It's just a shame that it's the convoluted football dog that continues to wag the tail of all college sports...basketball included.

But at least we still have March and a real NCAA tournament to determine a hoops champion. Let's just hope that never changes.

Now, on to the 2013 College Hoops Superlatives!

TGS ALL-AMERICAN TEAM

PIERRE JACKSON, 5-10 Sr., Baylor

TREY BURKE, 6-0 Soph, Michigan

RUSS SMITH, 6-0 Jr., Louisville

KHALIF WYATT, 6-1 Sr. Temple

KELLY OLYNYK, 7-0 Jr., Gonzaga

JEFF WITHEY, 7-0 Sr., Kansas

OTTO PORTER, 6-8 Soph, Georgetown

CLEANTHONY EARLY, 6-8 Jr., Wichita State

DESHAUN THOMAS, 6-7 Jr., Ohio State

DOUG McDERMOTT, 6-7 Jr., Creighton


TGS PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Trey Burke, Michigan... No clear-cut call this season. But we have a hard time envisioning a performer as impactful as Burke, who fueled the engine of a Michigan team that advanced to the title game while delivering perhaps the most special "Tyus Edney moment" of the Big Dance with his last-second heroics that forced an OT vs. Kansas in the Sweet 16 thanks to an improbable, 30-foot triple that leveled the score in the final second) and then finally subdued the Jayhawks (featuring another d-e-e-e-p three-pointer in the extra five minutes) in perhaps the most compelling and memorable game of the Big Dance. Burke subjugated his game all season to get a variety of teammates (who often included three true frosh) involved in the offensive flow, but was always ready to assume go-to status when needed, such as the memorable effort vs. Kansas. While John Beilein's team had a variety of important contributors, the Wolverines wouldn't have gotten near the Final Four without the season-long floor generalship of Burke.

Runner-up: Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga...We have a hard time recalling a player who transformed so dramatically into a dominant force during the course of the season as Olynyk, who emerged as the linchpin of a Gonzaga side that reached the top of the polls entering the Big Dance. The Canadian 7-footer, who redshirted a year ago due to a lack of playing time, suddenly emerged as an irresistible force for the Zags, a "big" who could play with his back to the basket as well as facing the rim, who could also put the ball on the floor and drive to the hoop. One of the most-versatile "big man" offensive threats in recent memory, more surprising in that no one (even HC Mark Few, we suspect) could have expected such a transformation within a few short months.

COACH OF THE YEAR: Gregg Marshall, Wichita State...Imagine losing your top five scorers from the previous season, and advancing to the Final Four regardless? John Wooden himself never had to overcome such obstacles. But Wichita's Marshall did in a season-long clinic conducted by the Shockers' coach, who changed the mindset of his team into a physical, grinding outfit to better fit the styles of juco All-American F Cleanthony Early and no-nonsense holdover F Carl Hall, while molding a team also featuring a final-year transfer (G Malcolm Armstead via Oregon) and a variety of frosh, redshirt frosh, and role player holdovers. Marshall, whose reputation as a shrewd talent evaluator and tactician was recognized earlier in his coaching career at Winthrop, might have coached his best in a game the Shockers narrowly lost in the Final Four vs. Louisville, forcing the Cards away from their gameplan and poising the Shockers on the verge of a memorable upset until 'Ville reserves Luke Hancock and Tim Henderson bailed out the Cards in the late going. Marshall's in-game adjustments, emphasis on defense, and sharing the ball are reminiscent of mentor John Kresse, the legendary longtime HC at College of Charleston, whose concepts were formed from his days on Lou Carnesecca's staffs at St. John's and the ABA New York Nets. Marshall's squads indeed resemble the best of the Kresse and Carnesecca teams...high praise indeed.

Runner-up: Jim Crews, Saint Louis...We admit to teetering in the direction of Crews for this top coaching award prior to Marshall's Wichita qualifying for the Final Four. The distracting circumstances surrounding this season's Billikens, including the absence and then the passing of HC Rick Majerus in December and various early-season injuries, made it quite a storyline that SLU emerged as the class of the A-10 in the second half of the season. The campaign was also a redemption for Crews, a former Indiana player and assistant for Bob Knight who had once been The General's preference to succeed him in Bloomington. Crews, who enjoyed several good seasons at Evansville (including four NCAA Tourney appearances) before taking over a no-win situation at Army that ended awkwardly when he was dismissed by then-AD Kevin Anderson, has thus rehabilitated his career. Although the 2012-13 Billikens were loaded and expected to be Majerus' crowning achievement at SLU, we're still waiting to see when Bills' AD Chris May takes the interim tag off Crews, which hadn't yet happened as of Final Four weekend.

Honorable mention (in no particular order): John Beilein, Michigan; John Giannini, La Salle; Jim Larranaga, Miami-Fla.; Rick Pitino, Louisville; Tom Izzo, Michigan State; Dave Pilipovich, Air Force; Andy Toole, Robert Morris; Travis Ford, Oklahoma State; Randy Rahe, Weber State; Greg McDermott, Creighton; Pat Skerry, Towson; Larry Eustachy, Colorado State; Randy Bennett, Saint Mary's; Ed Cooley, Providence; Dana Altman, Oregon; Bob Thomason, Pacific; Joe Scott, Denver; Shaka Smart, VCU; Scott Cherry, High Point; Tim Cluess, Iona; Russell Turner, UC Irvine; Bryce Drew, Valparaiso; Marvin Menzies, New Mexico State; Bill Self, Kansas; Fran McCaffery, Iowa; Tim O'Shea, Bryant; Mark Few, Gonzaga; Steve Alford, New Mexico; Danny Kaspar, Stephen F. Austin; Thad Matta, Ohio State; Jim Baron, Canisius; Bruce Weber, Kansas State; Don Monson, Long Beach State; Bo Ryan, Wisconsin; Donnie Tyndall, Southern Miss; Mike Brey, Notre Dame; Fred Hoiberg, Iowa State; Dave Paulsen, Bucknell; Kerry Keating, Santa Clara; Tommy Amaker, Harvard; Rick Byrd, Belmont; Fran Dunphy, Temple; Roman Banks, Southern U; Andy Kennedy, Ole Miss; Scott Drew, Baylor; Wayne Tinkle, Montana; Tom Crean, Indiana; Roy Williams, North Carolina; Matt Brady, James Madison; Alan Major, Charlotte; Jeff Lebo, East Carolina; Jay Wright, Villanova; Mike Krzyzewski, Duke; Lon Kruger, Oklahoma; Jim Boeheim, Syracuse; Keith Dambrot, Akron; Andy Enfield, Florida Gulf Coast; Ray Harper, Western Kentucky; Buzz Williams, Marquette; Brad Stevens, Butler; Bob McKillop, Davidson; Mike Montgomery, Cal.

TGS ALL-DEFENSE TEAM


An underrated category that we at TGS believe warrants extra attention. Which is why we have bloated our honors list to three full team's worth of top-notch defenders.

JORDAIR JETT, 6-1 Jr., Saint Louis

AARON CRAFT, 6-2 Jr., Ohio State

BRIANTE WEBER, 6-3 Soph, Virginia Commonwealth

DURAND SCOTT, 6-5 Sr., Miami-Florida

VICTOR OLADIPO, 6-5 Sr., Indiana

ZEKE MARSHALL, 7-0 Sr., Akron

JEFF WITHEY, 7-0 Sr., Kansas

GORGUI DIENG, 6-11 Jr., Louisville

NERLENS NOEL, 6-10 Frosh, Kentucky

REGINALD BUCKNER, 6-9 Sr., Ole Miss

KHEM BIRCH, 6-9 Soph, UNLV

ANDRE ROBERSON, 6-7 Jr., Colorado

PIERCE HORNUNG, 6-5 Sr., Colorado State

JOSH HUESTIS, 6-7 Jr., Stanford

D.J. STEPHENS, 6-5 Sr., Memphis


DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Jeff Withey, Kansas...Withey used defense to become a key contributor to the Jayhawks' successes the past two seasons. Mostly provided an impenetrable last line at the rim for Kansas, which was able to gamble defensively with the knowledge that a "goalie" like Withey (who blocked four shots per game, ranking second nationally) was always there as a safety net. Withey's defensive prowess, which altered most of Kansas's games, will likely be they key for what most expect to be a serviceable career in the NBA.

TGS MID-MAJOR ALL-AMERICAN TEAM


Another overlooked collection that we at TGS also believe warrants some extra attention, hence another expanded grouping.

ISAIAH CANAAN, 6-0 Sr., Murray State

MOMO JONES, 6-0 Sr., Iona

BILLY BARON, 6-2 Jr., Canisius

KEVIN FOSTER, 6-2 Sr., Santa Clara

COREY HAWKINS, 6-3 Soph, UC Davis

IAN CLARK, 6-3 Sr., Belmont

MATTHEW DELLAVEDOVA, 6-4 Sr., Saint Mary's

NATE WOLTERS, 6-4 Sr., South Dakota State

MIKE MUSCALA, 6-11 Sr., Bucknell

JAKE COHEN, 6-10 Sr., Davidson

JACKIE CARMICHAEL, 6-9 Sr., Illinois State

CLEANTHONY EARLY, 6-8 Jr., Wichita State

DOUG McDERMOTT, 6-7 Jr., Creighton

COLT RYAN, 6-5 Sr., Evansville

TYLER HAWS, 6-5 Soph, BYU


MID-MAJOR PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Doug McDermott, Creighton...A repeater from both last season's TGS A-A team as well as our 2011-12 Mid-Major Player of the Year, McDermott posted slightly better scoring numbers (23.2 ppg vs. 22.9 ppg) from a year ago and continued to impress with his poise and consistency. Not to mention dealing with a variety of defensive looks designed to keep the ball out of his hands and slow him down as the only DD scorer on the Bluejays' roster. McDermott's versatility continues to amaze as well, using a wide repertoire of shots including strong post moves on the blocks as well as shooting triples (49% beyond the arc!). One of the most-refined offensive weapons in the nation, a well-taught force who plays like he must be a coach's son (which, of course, he is!).

GAME OF THE YEAR: Michigan 87, Kansas 85 (OT) in Sweet 16 at Arlington, TX (March 29)...The Wolverines were behind for the entire game and looked hopelessly beaten when down by 14 with 7 minutes to play and still behind by 10 with just over two minutes remaining before a breathless late 14-4 run keyed by the aforementioned Trey Burke (who scored all of his 23 points in the second half and overtime) forced overtime, when Michigan finally prevailed. The game seemed to turn when Kansas' Ben McLemore picked up his fourth foul and went to bench with just over 7 minutes to play, although the Jayhawks could have won the game in regulation if not for a mindless ten-second backcourt violation (who could forget HC Bill Self's incredulous reaction on the sidelines; lip readers certainly could figure out what he said!) and a late missed FT by Elijah Johnson, which opened the door for Burke's last-second heroics. Kansas still had a chance to force another OT or perhaps win the game when Johnson drove the key in the final seconds of the first OT, only to kick the ball out to G Naadir Tharpe, who missed an awkward 3-point shot at the buzzer. The game was a real breakout for Michigan's thick 6-10, 250-lb. frosh C Mitch McGary, who scored an eye-opening 25 points, and the loss was a real kick in the gut to Kansas HC Bill Self and the Jayhawks, who looked on course for a spot in the Elite Eight and possible return to the Final Four after their runner-up finish to Kentucky last season.

DISAPPOINTING TEAMS OF THE SEASON: NC State and Kentucky...With almost everyone back (four starters, including G Lorenzo Brown & F C.J. Leslie, who each surprisingly bypassed last June's NBA Draft to return to Raleigh) from last year's Sweet 16 team, plus a collection of touted frosh newcomers including F T.J. Warren & G Rodney Purvis, the Wolfpack were a consensus top ten pick in the preseason and a chic pick by many to make the Final Four. Instead, the team proved wildly erratic, could do no better than an 8th seed in the Big Dance, and, true to form, dug itself too big of a hole to recover from in the sub-regionals vs. 9th-seeded Temple. All of which confirmed the long-held suspicions of many that HC Mark Gottfried is a much better recruiter than a game coach. As for Kentucky, perhaps we simply expected too much from the Wildcats and another group of diaper dandies for John Calipari after previous star frosh-laden sides in 2010 (featuring John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins, which advanced to the top of the polls before exiting in the Elite Eight) and last year's Anthony Davis Michael Kidd-Gilchrist-led side that won the national title. Although this year's UK would be dealt a cruel blow when star frosh C Nerlens Noel went down with a knee injury in mid-February, the Cats were at best a borderline Big Dance invitee all season, as Calipari's newest collection of young talent failed to measure up to past standards...expectations that were probably misplaced at the outset. In the end, the Cats' exit in the first round of the NIT at Robert Morris marked quite a drop from the heady nectar of last year's NCAA title.

WORST PERFORMANCE BY A TEAM: Marshall's 102-46 loss at Southern Miss (January 23)... Don't be deceived by the final score. This one was decided not soon after the lights were turned on in the gym, as USM led 47-7 after 14 minutes! The not-so-thundering Herd were coming off a 77-56 home victory over East Carolina and had three full days to prepare, but it didn't help in Hattiesburg, where Marshall turned the ball over a staggering 31 times and took the night off on the stop end, too, allowing the Golden Eagles to drain 36 of their 57 of their field goal attempts (63.2%). (More on Marshall to come.)

PEACH BASKET ERA GAME OF THE YEAR I: Eastern Michigan 42, Northern Illinois 25 at Ypsilanti (Jan. 26)...The latest confirmation for many that MAC basketball is really just MAC tackle football played with no pads, the Huskies set a record for futility in the first half, scoring only 4 points on an unprecedented 1 of 31 FGs (3.2% shooting!) in the first 20 minutes, the lowest FG percentage for a half in the history of the shot-clock era! Still, NIU (as opposed to Marshall above) was actually trying, trailing only 18-4 at intermission. For the game, the Huskies shot 13.1% (8 of 61), including 1 of 33 (!!!) from what can only be loosely described in their case as "three-point land." A hardy throng of 888 braved the cold and showed up at EMU's 8824-seat Convocation Center for the entertainment.

PEACH BASKET ERA GAME OF THE YEAR II: Fresno State 39, UC Riverside 30 at Riverside (November 14)...We're not sure if Dr. Naismith was rolling over in his grave when this score hit the wires, although we can say that the likes of former Fresno HC Boyd Grant and the mentor of current Bulldog HC Rodney Terry, Jerry Wainwright, must have appreciated the pace of this one at UCR's Student Recreation Center, where 806 brave souls had nothing better to do than watch the hoops version of a root canal on this particular Tuesday. The Bulldogs and Highlanders combined to miss 65 of their 88 field goal attempts, with UCR misfiring on 17 of its 19 tries beyond the arc. The teams also combined for 31 turnovers and just 8 assists (no surprise on the latter, since so few baskets were converted). When the dust settled, Fresno had shot 28.2% (11 of 39) from the floor, but that looked fine compared to UCR's 24.5% (12 of 49). Thank goodness for the Bulldogs' Allen Huddleston, who someone apparently forgot to tell about the 1930s-era theme for the game, and ended up scoring 17 points. This contest made the 1939 NCAA title game between Oregon's "Tall Firs" and Ohio State (a 46-33 win for the Webfoots), almost 74 years earlier, look jet-propelled by comparison!

FORGETTABLE DEVELOPMENT OF THE SEASON: Dismissal of Rutgers HC Mike Rice...We're certainly not here to defend the maniacal Rice, who got what he deserved when dismissed by the Scarlet Knights at the conclusion of the season when video of his abusive behavior resurfaced. In the bigger picture, however, the Rice storyline was symptomatic of a media culture that too often drives storylines rather than merely reporting; the recent dismissal of Pac-12 Coordinator of Basketball Officials Ed Rush is another example. Although the Rush storyline was driven largely by CBSSports.com, in these regards it is ESPN that is most often guilty. What's troubling is how the sports media continues to grant such wide berths to "progressives" who will not relent on demanding justice for those who conflict with their agendas, which in the Rutgers case would eventually result in the termination of Rice's contract and forced resignation of AD Tim Pernetti and could yet see a similar fate for embattled school president Robert Barchi. We're also finding out more disturbing details about scorned former assistant Eric Murdock; stay tuned for further details. When time and space permit, we'll elaborate further on all of the above. But the instances of selective journalism practices, and overlooking certain behavior that does not conflict as much with specific social agendas from various interest groups, create a double standard and hypocritical precedent in which the "sports leader" and other media outlets often regrettably become too involved.

POINTSPREAD CHAMP: Iowa (24-10). Other spread champs...James Madison 23-10, San Francisco 18-8, Saint Louis 22-11, Miami-Florida 21-11, Air Force 17-9, Troy 19-10, Wright State 21-12.

POINTSPREAD CHUMP: Marshall (7-20), proving its 102-46 loss at USM was no fluke! Other spread chumps...Duquesne 7-18, TCU 8-19, West Virginia 9-20, Old Dominion 9-18, Portland 9-18, Drexel 11-20, South Florida 11-19.


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