by Bruce Marshall, Goldsheet.com Editor and TGS Staff


JERIAN GRANT, 6-5 Sr., Notre Dame

D'ANGELO RUSSELL, 6-5 Fr., Ohio State

R.J. HUNTER, 6-6 Jr., Georgia State

JOSEPH YOUNG, 6-2 Sr., Oregon

JAHLIL OKAFOR, 7-0 Fr., Duke

KARL-ANTHONY TOWNS, 7-0 Fr., Kentucky

FRANK KAMINSKY, 7-0 Sr., Wisconsin

SETH TUTTLE, 6-8 Sr., Northern Iowa

SAM DEKKER, 6-9 Jr., Wisconsin

BOBBY PORTIS, 6-10 Soph, Arkansas

TGS PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin...We'd like to call Kaminsky a throw-back player, but he's really not, except that we used to regularly honor seniors like "Frank the Tank" who improved each year and stayed in school throughout their eligibility. Style-wise, however, Kaminsky is a unique offensive weapon who reminds, in some respects, of versatile Euro-style imports. He also got our unanimous vote as TGS MVP because few veteran players who returned for their senior season have done as much as Kaminsky, living up to the expectations, and rarely disappointing. Across-the-stat-line-excellence...18.7 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 55% FGs, 78% FTs, 41% triples, team-best 101 assists. He was also the only major-conference player to lead his team in points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals through the regular season! Moreover, led his team into the national title game. As mentioned, one of the more-versatile "bigs" in recent memory, with the ability to shoot from deep, put the ball on the floor and drive to rim, as well as play with his back to the basket if needed. Deft skill-set, with the ability to counter off of his dribbles (rare for a big) and a deadly drop-step. Hard-working on defense, able to hold his own vs. the Kentucky frontline and frosh star Karl-Anthony Towns in the Final Four. Unselfish, and a model teammate (and citizen). We used to honor these sorts of fourth-year seniors frequently in the past and are glad to do so again.

The ultimate validation for Kaminsky? In the one game he missed this season (due to a concussion), Wisconsin was upset on January 11 by Rutgers, which won only one other conference game in its first season as a member of the Big Ten. It was also one of only three Badger regular-season losses!

Runner-up: Jerian Grant, Notre Dame...The Fighting Irish weren't even ranked entering the campaign. But it became quickly apparent that with Grant having returned from the academic suspension that cost him the second half of the previous season, Notre Dame was a tourney-caliber team capable of making a deep run in March. At 6-5, Grant was able to overpower smaller point guards and could also dribble past them and careen into the paint where he wreaked havoc on Fighting Irish foes all season. The South Bend supporting cast (including F Pat Connaughton, C Zach Auguste, and fellow G Demetrius Jackson) was good, but each flourished more because of Grant's presence. Grant was the best redemption story of the season as he paced Notre Dame in points, assists and steals--and, most importantly--leading the Irish back to the center of the national discussion in their second season in the ACC and a near-miss vs. then top-ranked Kentucky in the Elite Eight.

COACH OF THE YEAR: Bo Ryan, Wisconsin...Forgive us, but we're going to use the same line we featured last April, because it is so appropriate. Several years ago, while still at Kentucky, Rick Pitino lamented over the Wildcats' first-round coaching matchup in the Big Dance against the College of Charleston. "Nobody outcoaches (Cougar HC) John Kresse," said Pitino. The same continues to be said today about Wisconsin's Ryan, overdue for this award from us after a hard-to-believe string of excellence with the Badgers that includes 14 straight Big Dance trips since taking over from Dick Bennett in 2001, capped by a Final Four appearance a year ago and a national title-game berth this season.

Ryan is no longer a regional secret, and we believe we could be justified in giving this award to Ryan every year. Moreover, Ryan's program at Madison remains a refreshing departure from the many mainstream college powerhouse locales where the one-and-done philosophy permeates the mindset of many elite players and even those who have no business thinking in those terms. Five-star recruits usually skip Madison; not one of Bo's last six recruiting classes has been ranked in the top 45 nationally, yet the Badgers have reached the Final Four twice and advanced as far as the Sweet 16 two other times in the last five seasons. On the recruiting trail, Ryan focuses as much attention as possible on the interaction between a player and his parents. Unlike many other well-known coaches, Bo usually will not talk to third parties and has limited contact with AAU coaches, and then only with those he has known for years.

We do admit partiality to "lifer" coaches such as the 67-year-old Ryan, a product of humble beginnings in Philadelphia territory (Chester, PA), where he learned the game from his dad Butch, a pipefitter, decorated World War II serviceman, and former youth sports league coach in Chester. Bo's coaching career began to gain notice during a 16-season stint as HC at UW-Platteville, where his teams moved up from the NAIA ranks while compiling an astounding .820 win percentage, and eventually four NCAA Division-III titles. Ryan aspired simply to coach, not to become a celebrity coach, but was so good at the lower levels that his talents made it hard to continue declining better jobs. After a quick stop at UW-Milwaukee, Ryan was hired at Madison and continued the victory parade, rarely with the blue-chip sorts that were always attracted to the Kentucky and UCLA and Kansas locales. Blue-collar all of the way, pacing each game to his liking, absolute definition of teamwork, physical and non-compromising, while perfecting the art of "Pack Line" defense, the ultimate testament to the "team" concept.

We are honoring two of Ryan's players, Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker, on our TGS All-American team, but much credit for their development must go to Ryan, as each has added more to his respective game each successive season. Kaminsky wasn't even among the nation's top 200 recruits coming out of high school. And guard Josh Gasser is a fifth-year senior originally recruited as a walk-on by Ryan. This season has been Bo's ultimate masterpiece.

Runners-up: Mike Brey, Notre Dame...Much of our endorsement for Brey was partially covered in our previous review of Irish PG Jerian Grant. But credit Brey for fitting together the pieces so effectively, as we do not know of a coach who made better use of his available weaponry this season. Absolutely maximized each element in the Notre Dame arsenal, turning not only Grant, but others such as versatile swingman Pat Connaughton and C Zach Auguste, into consistent threats. We're not sure we enjoyed watching a team this season as much as the Fighting Irish.

Mike Krzyzewski, Duke...Credit Coach K for learning to live with the "one and dones" that are so prevalent at the top level of college hoops. Also credit Krzyzewski for taking his youngest Duke team since his first significant frosh brigade in the early '80s all the way to the title game and a win in that one vs. Wisconsin, his fifth national crown. Along the way Coach K's Blue Devils had to overcome the internal disruption caused by key jr. G Rasheed Sulaimon's midseason dismissal as well as making significant use of four true frosh, three of those in the starting lineup. The sideline version of Krzyzewski was never better, evidenced by slowing the pace when required in the sub-regional and regional rounds when the Blue Devils would grind out wins after preferring an uptempo style for much of the season. Of all of the masterpieces in the Coach K pantheon, the 2014-15 Blue Devils remain one of his top works of art.

John Calipari, Kentucky...At the beginning of the past football season, we ran a TGS editorial entitled "Meet The Bag Men of College Football" in which we reviewed an SB Nation story first penned last April by Steven Godfrey, who exposed the corruptive influences in college football (specifically the SEC). Many of our sources have told us for years that the same tale applies to college hoops in which Kentucky (though certainly not alone) could run as a featured chapter. So, like Bob Knight, we're not about to gush about John Calipari's mastermind recruiting, especially considering the troubles Coach Cal left behind in previous career stops at UMass and Memphis. Stories perhaps for another day. But Calipari can coach, and never mind that his Kentucky finally tasted defeat in the national semis against Wisconsin. No college team had ever entered the Final Four with a record as good as 38-0. But it's how Calipari continues to do it in Lexington, with one-and-dones usually making up a considerable portion of his roster, with this season no different. It did help the Wildcats that the Harrison twins returned for their sophomore seasons, adding valuable experience to the backcourt, but no coach has been able to change the makeup of his teams yearly as has Calipari (who has made the Final Four in four of the past five seasons). We can't think of another coach who could get so many high school All-Americans to play together as selflessly, sacrificing minutes for one another, and committing themselves on the defensive end. In that regard, Calipari is almost singular among any coach we can recall over the past 30 years. Another top-flight recruiting class waits in the wings to comprise the core of the 2015-16 team that will almost surely be rebuilt, with rumors of as many as seven current underclassman Wildcats reportedly ready to declare for the NBA draft. Don't be surprised if Calipari does it all over again with another crop of "diaper dandies" (as Dickie V. likes to refer to star frosh) next season.

Tom Izzo, Michigan State...Izzo getting a Spartan team to peak in March is old news, as is MSU qualifying for the Final Four, which Izzo has now done seven times since taking over for Jud Heathcote in East Lansing. But getting the current Spartan edition to the final weekend might have been Izzo's greatest accomplishment yet, considering some of the shortcomings (no legit post scoring threat, poor FT shooting) that 2014-15 MSU had to overcome. Izzo was making lineup adjustments and concessions to the Spartan flaws all season. But in the end, with a predominantly perimeter-oriented offense, MSU, which did not firm up its Big Dance at-large credentials until deep into the season as it looked like a "bubble" team into late February, was somehow able to bang its way through the sub-regionals and East regional before its magical run was ended by Duke in the Final Four. No matter, this rated as one of Izzo's best of many superb coaching jobs over the past two decades.

Chris Holtmann, Butler...The Bulldog program appeared to be in steep decline following the departure of HC Brad Stevens two years ago and subsequent move into the Big East for the 2013-14 campaign. Then, in early October, second-year HC Brandon Miller was given a medical leave of absence, promoting Holtmann from assistant coach into an awkward interim HC role. But the Bulldogs would respond almost immediately to their fiery new interim coach, who wanted Butler to start running again and playing at a faster tempo. The dividends of the new style became evident early when the Bulldogs began the season with a flash, taking advantage of tough matchups 6-6 jr. Kellen Dunham and 6-4 jr. Roosevelt Jones, who became linchpins for a revitalized look. By mid-January, Butler had taken the interim tag away from Holtmann and named him the full-time coach, and the Bulldogs would steam into the Big Dance before exiting honorably in a Round of 32 battle vs. Notre Dame in overtime.

Jerod Haase, UAB...No one was expecting much this season from the Blazers, who would return only one starter from last year's 18-13 team and lost key G Chad Frazier (17.7 ppg in 2013-14) prior to the season due to off-court issues. But Haase would blend several newcomers, including Virginia Tech transfer G Robert Brown and 6-9 frosh William Lee, into a whirlwind of a team with several interchangeable parts that would improve as the season progressed. Brown (13.7 ppg) would be UAB's only double-digit scorer, but Haase could count on scoring from a variety of contributors, and the Blazers ended up one of the surprise stories in Conference USA before pulling a mild upset (in their hometown, though not on their home court) in the conference tourney before a rousing upset win over Fred Hoiberg's dangerous Iowa State, a chic pick by many to make the Final Four, at the top of the NCAA sub-regional round. The smallish Blazers would be overrun by bigger UCLA in the Round of 32, but by that time UAB was playing with house money. We are a bit surprised that Haase, who played at both Cal and Kansas and worked for several years as an assistant at the side of Roy Williams, both at Kansas and North Carolina, was not on the radar of some bigger coaching jobs (including a few in the region) that have recently opened up...he would be at or near the top of our list.

Bob McKillop, Davidson...McKillop had been winning for years at Davidson when the Wildcats were in the Southern Conference, and had taken teams to the Big Dance that did not include the decorated Steph Curry. But when Davidson announced its move to the tougher A-10 hoops neighborhood this season, many believed that "Leslie Nielsen" McKillop and the Wildcats were in for a struggle. Not quite; the Wildcats took the A-10 by storm and ended up winning the regular-season crown and comfortably earning an at-large invitation to the Dance. Along the way McKillop confounded many defense-oriented A-10 foes with an uptempo attack that would score 80 ppg (ranking sixth nationally) and connect upon 39% of its triples. Moreover, McKillop kept the Wildcats afloat when key G Jack Gibbs (16.2 ppg) missed a few weeks due to injury late in the season. A-10 observers were pleasantly surprised by Davidson's attractive style with its lineup filled with old-style shooters, led by Gibbs and fellow G Tyler Kalinoski (16.7 ppg).

Porter Moser, Loyola-Chicago...It has been a long time since Loyola (which won the national title in 1963, a tale highlighted several times on these pages in recent years) made much noise on the hardwood. And the Ramblers still haven't qualified for the Bg Dance since Gene Sullivan's 1984-85 team, led by Alfredrick Hughes, crashed the Sweet 16. But Loyola is stirring again thanks to HC Moser, a former top dog at UA-Little Rock and Illinois State and a Rick Majerus disciple who would have made his mentor proud with the job done this year at the small Jesuit school on the shore of Lake Michigan. Many in the region believed that the Ramblers bit off more than they could chew when they moved into the Missouri Valley Conference for the 2013-14 season, and Loyola would take its lumps during its maiden voyage in its new league last year. But Moser's rebuilding plan began to pay off this season, as Loyola worked like no one else on defense and shared the ball on offense. And once key G Milton Doyle returned from injury late in campaign, the Ramblers were ready to make some noise, advancing to the semifinals of "Arch Madness" (MVC Tourney) in St. Louis before taking flight in the CBI, rolling through a combative field and then recording only the second "sweep" in the eight-season history of the event when downing a combative ULM in the best-of-three finals.

Wayne Tinkle, Oregon State...For a while this season we were considering Tinkle for the overall coach of the year honors. Nobody did more with less, or at least what seemed to be less, when the season began, as Tinkle inherited a carcass of a program from predecessor Craig Robinson, with no returning starters and unanimously picked to finish last in the Pac-12. But Tinkle, hired from Montana, immediately transformed the Beavers into one of the toughest "outs" in the Pac-12, where they made their Gill Coliseum home a fortress and even knocked off heavily-favored Arizona this season. Juco find Gary Payton II (whose dad was a Beaver star a quarter-of-a-century ago) paced the renaissance, in which Tinkle's team would usually control the pace and stymie foes on the stop end with a sticky zone defense. Although a 17-14 final record doesn't sound like much, it was a shock to most Pac-12 insiders who thought OSU would be fortunate to reach as many as ten wins. With a decorated recruiting class due to enroll in the fall, it looks like Oregon State hoops is finally on the way back with Tinkle.

Honorable mention (in no particular order): Leon Rice, Boise State; Archie Miller, Dayton; Bobby Hurley, Buffalo; Andy Toole, Robert Morris; Jay Wright, Villanova; Frank Haith, Tulsa; Ben Jacobson, Northern Iowa, Sean Miller, Arizona; Mark Fox, Georgia; Larry Shyatt, Wyoming; Mark Byington, Georgia Southern; Keith Richard, ULM; Keno Davis, Central Michigan; Russell Turner, UC Irvine; Ed Cooley, Providence; Jack Murphy, Northern Arizona; Steve Prohm, Murray State; Lon Kruger, Oklahoma; Marty Simmons, Evansville; Mike Young, Wofford; Tony Bennett, Virginia; David Richman, North Dakota State; Ron Hunter, Georgia State; Bill Coen, Northeastern; Fred Hoiberg, Iowa State; Kevin Stallings, Vanderbilt; Rick Byrd, Belmont; Will Brown, Albany; James Jones, Yale; Michael White, La Tech; Tony Shaver, William & Mary; Steve Masiello, Manhattan; Mark Fox, Georgia; Edward Joyner, Jr., Hampton; Dan Hurley, Rhode Island; Larry Eustachy, Colorado State; Matt Painter, Purdue; Mark Turgeon, Maryland; Marvin Menzies, New Mexico State; Brad Underwood, Stephen F. Austin; Gregg Marshall, Wichita State; Matthew Driscoll, North Florida; Dana Altman, Oregon; Jim Les, UC Davis; Bryce Drew, Valparaiso; Jim Engle, NJIT; Fran O'Hanlon, Lafayette; Larry Krystowiak, Utah; Jeff Jones, Old Dominion; Scott Drew, Baylor; Steve Fisher, San Diego State; Jim Hayford, Eastern Washington; Rick Pitino, Louisville; Chris Mack, Xavier; LeVelle Moton, NC Central; Larry Davis (interim), Cincinnati; Tommy Amaker, Harvard; Mike Davis, Texas Southern; Mark Few, Gonzaga; Cliff Ellis, Coastal Carolina; Bob Huggins, West Virginia.


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

T.J. McCONNELL, 6-1 Sr., Arizona

GARY PAYTON II, 6-2 Jr., Oregon State

TEKELE COTTON, 6-2 Sr., Wichita State

GARY BELL, JR., 6-2 Sr., Gonzaga

JELANI HEWITT, 6-2 Sr., Georgia Southern

JOSH GASSER, 6-3 Sr., Wisconsin

RAPHEAL DAVIS, 6-5 Jr. Purdue

MALCOLM BROGDON, 6-5 Jr., Virginia

JOSH RICHARDSON, 6-6 Sr., Tennessee

WILLIE CAULEY-STEIN, 7-0 Jr., Kentucky

DAMIAN JONES, 6-10 Soph, Vanderbilt

JAMEEL MCKAY, 6-9 Jr., Iowa State

LARRY NANCE, JR., 6-9 Sr., Wyoming


RICO GATHERS, 6-8 Jr., Baylor


J.J. O'BRIEN, 6-7 Sr., San Diego State

JAYVAUGHN PINKSTON, 6-7 Sr., Villanova


STEVE MONDOU-MISSI, 6-7 Sr., Harvard

TGS DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky...
Still not a refined product on the offensive end, but Cauley-Stein's defensive prowess alone is likely to make him a top ten (or higher) pick in the upcoming NBA draft, one in which we are almost certain big Willie declares for in the next few weeks. Though he had plenty of help from a collection of other seven-footers on the Kentucky frontline, Cauley-Stein was the most intimidating presence on the most-intimidating team in the country.

HONORABLE MENTION: Briante Weber, 6-2 Sr., Virginia Commonwealth...Weber, a member of last year's TGS All-Defense team, would have been a slam-dunk repeater had he not injured a knee in January and then miss almost the entire last half of the season for the Rams. As the linchpin of Shaka Smart's "havoc" defense (which moves to Texas next season), Weber was one of the nation's most-disruptive defensive forces, and it is no concidence that the Ram pressure defense lost some of its bite after the Weber injury. Given that Weber was absent much of the year, we did not include him on the main team, but instead reserve this space for special mention.

(DIS)HONORABLE MENTION: Robert Upshaw, 6-11 Soph, Washington...The Huskies were one of the best storylines of the season into January, partly because of Upshaw, a shot-swatting 6-11 soph transfer from Fresno State who was leading the nation in blocked shots (by a good margin) at a whopping 4.5 pg and a major contender for our defensive player of the year honors. But that was before Upshaw was dismissed from the team in late January. At the time, the Huskies still looked to be a Big Dance at-large qualifier, but they would completely collapse down the stretch minus Upshaw, who effectively acted as a goalie behind the U-Dub defense, which could take chances on the perimeter knowing that Upshaw lurked in the key as a safety blanket. Coach Lorenzo Romar had nothing close to a comparable replacement after Upshaw's dismissal, and the Husky defenders could no longer gamble as much or funnel traffic into the key, where Upshaw was the ultimate roadblock. Minus Upshaw (who was also dismissed at Fresno in 2013), U-Dub's nosedive would be steep, all the way down to 11th-place in the Pac-12.


Another overlooked collection that we at TGS also believe warrants some extra attention, hence another expanded grouping...this time also to a full 20 honorees!

FRED VANVLEET, 5-11 Jr., Wichita State

KEIFER SYKES, 6-0 Sr., Green Bay

KARL COCHRAN, 6-1 Sr., Wofford

CAMERON PAYNE, 6-2 Soph, Murray State

D.J. BALENTINE, 6-2 Jr., Evansville

KEVIN PANGOS, 6-2 Sr., Gonzaga

LAWRENCE ALEXANDER, 6-3 Sr., North Dakota State

RON BAKER, 6-3 Jr., Wichita State

COREY HAWKINS, 6-3 Sr., UC Davis

TY GREENE, 6-3 Sr., USC-Upstate

MARCUS THORNTON, 6-4 Sr., William & Mary

TYLER HARVEY, 6-4 Soph, Eastern Washington


R.J. HUNTER, 6-6 Jr., Georgia State


KYLE WILTJER, 6-10 Jr., Gonzaga

BRAD WALDOW, 6-10 Sr., Saint Mary's

SETH TUTTLE, 6-8 Sr., Northern Iowa


JOHN BROWN, 6-8 Jr., High Point

JUSTIN MOSS, 6-7 Jr., Buffalo

TGS MID-MAJOR PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Seth Tuttle, 6-8 Sr., Northern Iowa...The versatile Tuttle was the focal point of a UNI team that battled well-regarded Wichita State all season and would enter the Dance as the automatic qualifier out of the Missouri Valley after winning "Arch Madness" in St. Louis. No Panther was more instrumental than the versatile Tuttle, a superb athlete (and multi-sport high school star) through whom the UNI offense would often run as an effective "point forward." Surrounded by shooters, Tuttle was the center-piece of Ben Jacobson's offense that would have counters to almost every pick-and-roll defense, with UNI executing to perfection. Having such a useful weapon as Tuttle made it all work in Cedar Falls, as Tuttle looms as one of the hardest players to replace in the entire country for next season.

DISAPPOINTING TEAMS OF THE SEASON: Texas, Nebraska, Syracuse...Considered a top ten in most preseason rankings after returning virtually everybody from last year's team and adding highly-touted 6-11 frosh Myles Turner, considered on par with Duke's Jahlil Okafor and Kentucky's Karl-Anthony Towns out of high school, the Horns would fail to gain traction and slip below .500 in Big 12 play, fortunate to qualify as one of the last at-large entries to the Dance before quickly hustled out of the tournament by Butler. It was no surprise that HC Rick Barnes walked the plank at the end of another disappointing season in Austin, where VCU's Shaka Smart will take the baton for next season. Likewise, Nebraska was expected to do big things after surprisingly qualifying for the Dance a year ago in HC Tim Miles' second season on the job. With most of the nucleus back, including two well-publicized double-digit scorers (6-6 Terran Petteway and 6-7 Shavon Shields), the Huskers would instead hiccup and stumble backward, finishing far down the Big Ten table and well clear of the postseason picture. Similarly, good things were expected as usual from Jim Boeheim's Syracuse, which adapted rather seamlessly to its new ACC neighborhood the previous season and was ranked entering the campaign. But Boeheim could never get consistent scoring from the perimeter, and the team lacked a spark all season amid whispers of upcoming NCAA penalties. The Cuse, which appeared to be falling short of Big Dance at-large considerations, would then self-impose a postseason ban (including the ACC Tourney) before sanctions were eventually announced that will suspend Boeheim for nine games next season and take away twelve scholarships over the next four years. Boeheim is appealing the penalties, but has also "announced" his future retirement after three more seasons in charge at the Carrier Dome. Unfortunately, things have gotten quite messy at the Cuse, and some ACC sources are not even sure that Boeheim will last for his stated three more years. Stay tuned. And in the end the 18-13 record was another downer for the Orange.

JIM CROCE MEMORIAL AWARD: Daxter Miles, West Virginia... Before the Mountaineers' Sweet 16 game vs. Kentucky, Miles boldly stated: "Salute them for being 36-0. But tomorrow they're gonna be 36-1." The Wildcats, sufficiently fired up, led 18-2 at the outset and 44-18 at the half before cruising to a merciful (in the full literal meaning of the word) 78-39 victory over West Virginia. After the game, Miles (0 for 3 with no points in 19 minutes) reportedly had to be convinced by teammates to leave his restroom hiding place to face the media, subsequently answering "Kentucky played good" to every question. The freshman thus became the latest in the sports world to learn the oft-proven Croce wisdom that "You don't tug on Superman's cape. You don't spit in the wind. You don't pull the mask off the ol' Lone Ranger." [And you don't mess around with Kentucky.]

POINTSPREAD CHAMP: Davidson (22-7). Other spread champs...Villanova 25-10, Bowling Green 20-9, Loyola-Chicago 22-11, Georgia Southern 16-8, Rice 17-9, Yale 15-8, St. Bonaventure 18-10.

POINTSPREAD CHUMP: Pittsburgh (8-22). Other spread chumps... Nebraska 8-20, Dartmouth 6-15, Saint Louis 8-19, College of Charleston 9-21, Texas State 7-15, Bradley 9-19, Wright State 9-19, Syracuse 9-18.

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