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TGS SPECIAL REPORT...2014 TGS COLLEGE HOOPS SUPERLATIVES!
by Bruce Marshall, Goldsheet.com Editor and TGS Staff


2014 TGS ALL-AMERICAN TEAM


SHABAZZ NAPIER, 6-1 Sr., UConn

BRYCE COTTON, 6-1 Sr., Providence

SCOTTIE WILBEKIN, 6-2 Sr., Florida

XAVIER THAMES, 6-3 Sr., San Diego State

SEAN KILPATRICK, 6-4 Sr., Cincinnati

FRANK KAMINSKY, 7-0 Jr., Wisconsin

JULIUS RANDLE, 6-9 Fr., Kentucky

JABARI PARKER, 6-8 Fr., Duke

DOUG McDERMOTT, 6-8 Sr., Creighton

T.J. WARREN, 6-8 Soph, NC State


(Editor's Note: Six seniors on this year's TGS All-American team--a throwback to the old days, and four more than appeared a year ago!)

TGS PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Doug McDermott, Creighton...Usually we don't like to follow the herd with such selections, but there are so many reasons to honor McDermott that it would have been very hard not to feature him as our Player of the Year. Let's state the statistically obvious...his 26.5 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 53% FGs, 87% FTs, 45% triples. All achieved as the main focus of every opposing defense his Bluejays faced this season. Moreover, in a season in which several schools (Butler, George Mason, etc.) had issues "moving up" the conference ladder, McDermott carried his somewhat flawed team to second place in the revised Big East, handing champ Villanova its only two league losses (by 28 & 21 points)! Thanks to McDermott, all of the players on his team had it easier. Without a true C or standout PG, McDermott lifted his team, as his long-range shooting and intelligent post-up play made him the best dual-scoring threat in the country. Never hesitated to pass to open teammates. Also never suspended, and a model teammate and student-athlete. Played for his father in college (not always so easy). Stayed all four years at the same school. No special connections to Jay-Z or others. And finally, was there another player in the country who could have almost single-handedly turned Creighton into a powerhouse, Big East runner-up, and a number three NCAA regional seed?

Runner-up: Shabazz Napier, UConn...We have to admit that we weren't counting UConn among even the couple of dozen teams we believed had a chance to make the Final Four when the Big Dance commenced. But thanks mainly to Napier, the Huskies caught fire after a harrowing escape at the top of the sub-regionals against St. Joe's, knocking off a succession of favored, heavyweight foes (Villanova, Iowa State, Michigan State, and Florida), convincingly so, to qualify for the finale. Napier took almost every big shot along the way for the Huskies and orchestrated the pace of every one of those games. Even when not scoring big (as was the case in the national semifinal vs. Florida), his presence dictated the flow of the game. Rarely have we seen a college guard dominate the action in such a high-stakes environment.

TGS COACH OF THE YEAR: Bo Ryan, Wisconsin...Several years ago, while still at Kentucky, Rick Pitino lamented the Wildcats', and his own, first-round coaching dilemma in the NCAA Tourney against the College of Charleston. "Nobody outcoaches (Cougar HC) John Kresse," said Pitino. The same could 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 13 straight Big Dance trips since taking over from Dick Bennett in 2001, capped by a Final Four appearance this season.

In truth, we would be justified in giving this award to Ryan almost every year. Although we admit partiality to "lifer" coaches such as the 66-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. After playing college ball at the modest Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, PA, Bo would slowly work his way up the coaching profession's food chain, first as an assistant at Dominican College of Racine, WI, then as a high school coach at Sun Valley High in Aston, PA, then as an assistant to Bill Cofield and Steve Yoder at Wisconsin, then to 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. Much like Michigan counterpart John Beilein, 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. Bo was finally lured from Platteville to UW-Milwaukee, and after one year, Ryan was then 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 the way. Pacing each game to his team's liking. Demonstrating the absolute definition of teamwork. Physical and non-compromising while perfecting the art of the "Pack Line" defense, the ultimate testament to the "team" concept. And deftly able to speed up the Wiscy offense this season. We've also rarely honored one of Ryan's players as a TGS All-American, although this season, partly in deference to Ryan and the accomplishments of the Final Four Badgers, we included C Frank Kaminsky.

The final validation for Ryan? Can you imagine any other coach in the country taking this year's collection of Badgers to the Final Four?

Runners-up: Kevin Ollie, UConn...Has in quick order established his coaching chops in Storrs after being thrust into a difficult-at-best situation a year ago following Jim Calhoun's abrupt resignation prior to the 2012-13 season and the APR-related probation for his first UConn team, which he coached in an interim role. Ollie stayed the course, however, and was eventually rewarded with the full-time appointment after keeping his first Huskie team afloat and competitive despite losing some key components from the 2011 championship team (such as Fs Alex Oriakhi and Roscoe Smith) to transfers, and would eventually have his second Huskie team peaking at exactly the right time in an unexpected run to the title game. Along the way, UConn has knocked off several heavyweight sides and dissected powerhouse Michigan State and Florida entries in the Elite Eight and Final Four, respectively. Instilled a "controlled" swagger and confidence to his team while proving tactically astute. No-nonsense, and doesn't appear to be overly swayed by the celebrity spotlight. He's a keeper.

John Calipari, Kentucky...We understand as well as any why Calipari is such a lightning rod and why he is so despised, including by many of those in his profession. For good reason, the Kentucky hoops culture has for decades been under the microscope, and "Coach Cal" has done nothing to turn off the spotlight with his succession of "one and done" players, exploitation of the same, and the program's connections to sorts such as rap mogul Jay-Z. We'll shed further light on the history of those Kentucky shenanigans (and those of other storied programs) sometime in the future. And Calipari has left behind a trail of trouble at past UMass and Memphis locales. Ask John Chaney, Bob Knight, and other veteran coaches what they think of "Coach Cal" the operator, salesman and self-promoter. But ask many of the same old coaches what they think about Calipari's coaching ability, and most will rave, amazed that he almost always gets his teams to sacrifice and play together for a greater good, teaching his creative "dribble-drive motion" offense to a new bunch of high-level recruits each season. One veteran coach we know recently commented on how well Calipari melds his blue-chip talent, while noting that getting those often head-strong types to play together in a productive system is not the easiest thing to do. We certainly concur, as we cannot think of many coaches who could mold even the highest level of recruits into championship-level squads before being forced to do it all over again with a different batch of freshman the next season. In Calipari's five seasons at Kentucky, he's reached three Final Fours and an Elite Eight, and is on the verge of winning a second national title in that span if his Wildcats can beat UConn on Monday night. We don't have to approve of Calipari to recognize he is a superb coach. And, in Coach Cal's defense, even he has decried the "one and done" framework, being critical of the NBA's rule, although it can be argued that no one has been able to exploit the situation better than Calipari.

Tony Bennett, Virginia...Leading the Cavs to an ACC title and into the Sweet 16, and coming within a last-second shot from advancing past Michigan State into the Elite Eight, confirms Bennett as one of the true stars of the college coaching ranks. But we have considered Bennett in such company for a good while now, especially considering his success at his previous stop of Washington State, noting the almost-immediate hard times the Cougars fell upon under well-regarded Bennett successor Ken Bone, who was recently dismissed. Any coach who can win consistently in the Palouse, as did Bennett a few years ago, is truly special. Now, Bennett has been able to raise Virginia above established ACC powers Duke and North Carolina, not to mention new big kids on the league block Syracuse and Pitt, to the top of a hoops-centric conference. Unless we're maybe talking about Wisconsin, there was no better-coached team in the country this season than the Cavs, whose patient offense and sticky "Pack-Line" defense have been further perfected by Bennett after being handed down by dad Dick Bennett, his college coach at UW-Green Bay and former Wisconsin and Washington State mentor himself. Hoop aficionados everywhere were mesmerized by this year's Virginia and have confirmed Bennett's expertise.

Gregg Marshall, Wichita State...Last year's winner of our award deserves special mention again this season for steering his Shockers to an undefeated regular season and best-ever record (34-0) entering the Big Dance. The win streak would grow to 35 straight before a bitter two-point loss to Kentucky in the sub-regional at St. Louis. Except for three players, his team wasn't all that talented. But it played well every game, wearing a huge target in the Missouri Valley, was rarely challenged, and definitely handled pointspread expectations. We will concede that the competition wasn't that tough this year. However, in the last two years of NCAA play, when the competition was tough and the lose-and-out pressure was on, undaunted Wichita was 5-2 SU, 6-1 vs. the spread, 4-0 as a dog. The only two losses were by 4 to eventual 2013 champ Louisville and by 2 to 2014 finalist Kentucky, which could end up as the national champ.

John Beilein, Michigan...Like Wisconsin's Ryan, one of a handful of those "master coaches" who should be honored every season. But this year's job with the Wolverines might have been one of Beilein's best in a long career that includes jobs at Canisius, Richmond, West Virginia, and now Ann Arbor. Michigan entered 2013-14 minus two of the key cogs to last year's title game run--Gs Tim Hardaway, Jr. (now NBA Knicks) and Trey Burke (now NBA Jazz)--and then lost last year's frosh sensation, 6-10 C Mitch McGary, to a back injury in December. At that point Michigan would not have been a popular pick to run away with the Big Ten regular-season title. But it did so, anyway, and advanced all the way to the Elite Eight and was a couple of seconds from an overtime period to determine if UM or star-studded Kentucky would advance to the Final Four, before Wildcat G Aaron Harrison canned that deep three-pointer to send UK to North Texas instead. Beilein remains one of our favorites.

Billy Donovan, Florida...In the end, it was disappointing in Gainesville, as the Gators exited rather meekly in the Final Four against underdog UConn. But between bookend losses to the Huskies on December 2 and April 5, Donovan's Florida won 30 games in a row and reached the Elite Eight for the fourth straight season, finally advancing to the Final Four this term. The consensus among insiders was that despite a star performer in G Scottie Wilbekin, the sum of Donovan's Gators was again greater than the parts. And marching undefeated through a better-than-advertised SEC was no easy chore, especially with suspensions, eligibility isues, and injuries. All of that while wearing big target and the nation's No. 1 ranking late in the season. There's nothing for Donovan or Gator Nation to be ashamed about after another superb campaign.

Larry Brown, SMU...A lot of basketball insiders thought the veteran Brown was nuts to take over operations at SMU. Instead, he has helped author one of the best revival stories in the country, with the Mustangs becoming season-long contenders in the newly-formed American Athletic Conference. Although Brown's team was good enough to beat national semifinalist UConn twice, it was controversially bypassed on Selection Sunday, yet was still able to regroup in the NIT and reach the Final before losing a bitter 65-63 decision vs. Minnesota. The "Godfather" has so energized basketball at SMU (thought to be a near-impossibility by many longtime regional observers) that the school recently completed a refurbishment of its historic homecourt, Moody Coliseum, and hoops optimism is suddenly sky-high at a school better-known (historically, at least) for football. We're not sure how much longer Brown stays on the job (coach-in-waiting Tim Jankovich is currently on the staff), but old Larry has managed to author one more exciting late chapter in his personal half-century-in-hoops book.

Honorable mention (in no particular order): Sean Miller, Arizona; Mark Fox, Georgia; Steve Fisher, San Diego State; Tim Miles, Nebraska; Ron Hunter, Georgia State; Rick Pitino, Louisville; Tony Shaver, William & Mary; Derek Kellogg, UMass; James Jones, Yale; Fran McCaffery, Iowa; Michael White, La Tech; Bob Hoffman, Mercer; Russell Turner, UC Irvine; Steve Alford, UCLA; Rodney Terry, Fresno State; Bob Marlin, UL-Lafayette; Richard Pitino, Minnesota; Tad Boyle, Colorado; Johnny Dawkins, Stanford; Saul Phillips, North Dakota State; Dana Altman, Oregon; Rex Walters, San Francisco; Kermit Davis, Middle Tennessee; Archie Miller, Dayton; Brad Underwood, Stephen F. Austin; Donnie Tyndall, Southern Miss; Bob McKillop, Davidson; Mike Montgomery, Cal; Dan Majerle, Grand Canyon; Jay Wright, Villanova; Ted Kowalczyk, Toledo; Tim Floyd, UTEP; Fred Hoiberg, Iowa State; Jeff Neubauer, Eastern Kentucky; Tony Jasick, IPFW; Roy Williams, North Carolina; LeVelle Moton, NC Central; Steve Lavin, St. John's; Brad Brownell, Clemson; Bobby Hurley, Buffalo; Bob Williams, UCSB; Dick Hunsaker, Utah Valley; Mike Lonergan, George Washington; Mark Few, Gonzaga; Jimmy Patsos, Siena; Tommy Amaker, Harvard; Andy Toole, Robert Morris; Steve Prohm, Murray State; Will White, Chattanooga; Steve Pickell, Stony Brook; Jim Crews, Saint Louis; Marvin Menzies, New Mexico State; Scott Drew, Baylor; Lon Kruger, Oklahoma; Rick Byrd, Belmont; Mike Brennan, American; Jack Murphy, Northern Arizona; Rick Barnes, Texas; Tom Moore, Quinnipiac; Bruce Weber, Kansas State; Cuonzo Martin, Tennessee; Mike Young, Wofford; Steve Masiello, Manhattan; Phil Martelli, St. Joe's; Ed Cooley, Providence; Rob Jeter, UW-Milwaukee; Cliff Ellis, Coastal Carolina; Tom Izzo, Michigan State; Joe Calero, Cal Poly; Monte Ross, Delaware; Danny Manning, Tulsa; Pat Skerry, Towson; Steve Hawkins, Western Michigan.

TGS ALL-DEFENSE TEAM


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

RYAN BOATRIGHT, 6-0 Jr., UConn

JORDAIR JETT, 6-1 Sr., Saint Louis

AARON CRAFT, 6-2 Sr., Ohio State

BRIANTE WEBER, 6-2 Jr., VCU

TEKELE COTTON, 6-2 Jr., Wichita State

NICK JOHNSON, 6-3 Jr., Arizona

JORDAN BACHYNSKI, 7-2 Sr., Arizona State

JOEL EMBIID, 7-0 Fr., Kansas

KHEM BIRCH, 6-9 Jr., UNLV

MICHALE KYSER, 6-9 Jr., La Tech

AKIL MITCHELL, 6-8 Sr., Virginia

RYAN WATKINS, 6-8 Sr., Boise State

JUSTIN JACKSON, 6-8 Sr., Cincinnati

RHAMEL BROWN, 6-7 Sr., Manhattan

K.J. McDANIELS, 6-7 Jr., Clemson


TGS DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Jordair Jett, Saint Louis...Jett's contributions to the Billikens have been immeasurable over the past few seasons. His prowess as a stopper is well-documented and feared in the Atlantic 10, but it's Jett's ability to trigger offense directly from his defensive plays that makes him so special. Scoring 14 ppg--many of those in transition after steals or forced turnovers he caused on the stop end--Jett has been the quintessential "offensive-defensive" player during his decorated SLU career. We don't expect to hear from the Billkens (who graduate four seniors, including Jett) for a while, and expect that Jett will be the hardest among those departing players for HC Jim Crews to replace.

TGS MID-MAJOR ALL-AMERICAN TEAM


Another overlooked collection that we at TGS believe warrants special attention; hence another expanded group.

FRED VANVLEET, 5-11 Soph, Wichita State

KEIFER SYKES, 5-11 Jr., Green Bay

BILLY BARON, 6-2 Sr., Canisius

CAMERON PAYNE, 6-2 Fr., Murray State

DEVON SADDLER, 6-2 Sr., Delaware

ELFRID PAYTON, 6-3 Jr., UL-Lafayette

GEORGE BEAMON, 6-4 Sr., Manhattan

R.J. HUNTER, 6-5 Soph, Georgia State

WESLEY SAUNDERS, 6-5 Jr. Harvard

TYLER HAWS, 6-5 Jr., BYU

CLEANTHONY EARLY, 6-8 Sr., Wichita State

JERRELLE BENIMON, 6-8 Sr., Towson

JAVON McCREA, 6-7 Sr., Buffalo

ALAN WILLIAMS, 6-7 Jr., UCSB

TAYLOR BRAUN, 6-7 Sr., North Dakota State


TGS MID-MAJOR PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Fred VanVleet, Wichita State...The engine behind the Shockers' undefeated regular season, VanVleet emerged from a supporting role on last year's Final Four team to become the sparkplug and quarterback on the floor, as Wichita continued to punch above its weight all season. Formed a great backcourt combination with teammate Ron Baker. VanVleet further excelled on the defensive end, where he emerged as one of HC Gregg Marshall's stoppers.

TGS GAME OF THE YEAR: Kentucky 74, Wisconsin 73 in the Final Four at Arlington, TX (April 5)...Take your pick from numerous Big Dance classics over the past few weeks, several of those featuring Kentucky, which has also been involved in memorable survival tests against Wichita State, Louisville, and Michigan en route to the championship game vs. UConn. But the national semifinal vs. Wisconsin would be hard to top, a back-and-forth slugfest analogous to one of Rocky Balboa's long-ago battles vs. Apollo Creed on the silver screen. The second half was special, as the Wildcats appeared to take control with a 15-0 run to assume a 51-43 lead five minutes into the second half. Like Balboa vs. Creed in Rocky I or II, the Badgers seemed out on their feet. But their own version of Burgess Meredith--HC Bo Ryan--coaxed a rally spurred by 6-8 frontline reserve Duje Dukan, to reassume the lead and stretch it to 5 points at 67-62 with six minutes to play. Baskets down the stretch by UK frontliners Julius Randle and Alex Poythress brought the Cats level until Badger G Traevon Jackson was fouled (although a bit dubiously so) on a 3-point shot with just 16 seconds to play. Jackson, however, left a slight crack for UK by making only two of the three charity tosses (the miss being Wisconsin's only one of the day from the FT line, where it converted an astounding 19 of 20), before UK's Aaron Harrison stepped well behind the three-point line and from NBA-range on the left wing and let fly with a triple that connected with just 5.7 seconds to play. The Cats then had to survive Jackson's last-second attempt, a decent look from inside of the three-point line (and similar to his game-winner earlier in the season vs. Michigan State) before finally exhaling and qualifying for their second national title game in three seasons for HC John Calipari.

GAME OF THE YEAR II: Creighton 96, Villanova 68 (January 20 at Wells Fargo Center)...We wanted to save space for this game only because it was one of the most stunning performances of the season, with a three-point shooting barrage for the ages conducted by the visiting Bluejays. When the smoke finally cleared on this Monday night, Creighton had nailed a school and Big East-record 21 triples, nine of those by 6-7 Ethan Wragge (accounting for all 27 of his points), as the Bluejays hit an incredible 14 of 22 beyond the arc in the first half alone, surging to a 40-17 lead after only 11 minutes of action!. The lead would stretch to 40 points (90-50) late in the second half before Creighton HC Greg McDermott called off the dogs with six minutes to play. Philadelphia fans had not seen that kind of shooting on the Wells Fargo Center court all season, certainly not by their NBA Sixers. This matchup vs. the Bluejays obviously proved a bit problematic for the Wildcats, who would subsequently lose a 21-point decision (101-80) vs. the Bluejays at Omaha on February 16, marking the only two 'Nova defeats during the Big East regular season!

GAME OF THE YEAR III: Utah State 73, Colorado State 69 (Mountain West Tournament March 12 at Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas)...We witnessed this one in person, and while this opening-round MW Tourney afternoon clash was not especially memorable for anything other than its pointspread consequences, that alone is reason to mention it on these pages. The 2½ -point underdog Rams were comfortably ahead 62-51 with 2:40 to play, and those holding Ram tickets at the local Las Vegas sports books had to be counting their winnings. The Utags, however, began to chip away, cutting the lead to 7 points with a minute to play. Then in rapid-fire succession, a converted a triple by Jalen Moore cut the lead to 66-62; a quick steal, missed shot, USU rebound, and a three-pointer by G Spencer Butterfield made it 66-65; and then came an immediate technical foul assessed against Ram G Daniel Bejarano, resulting in two Butterfield free throws. In a span of 1:20, USU had not only erased an 11-point deficit, but had forged a lead of 67-66 with that 16-4 run (including an 8-point spurt in 18 seconds), and would convert its free throws in the final seconds for an improbable 73-69 win...and pointspread cover! CSU HC Larry Eustachy would look tranquilized in the media interview room after the game. There's no wagering lesson to be learned from this game other than to not count your winnings--or your losses--until the game concludes!

TGS DISAPPOINTING TEAMS OF THE SEASON: Kansas, Marquette and Georgetown...The difficulties of molding high-profile frosh into a cohesive, championship-caliber unit was exemplified by Kansas, a team everyone seemed to be waiting to emerge as the nation's best all season long, but never quite did so. In the end, a knee injury to one of those frosh stars, 7-0 C Joel Embiid, would keep him out of the NCAA South sub-regional and contribute to an upset loss vs. Stanford, in a game in which the other ballyhooed frosh, 6-8 Andrew Wiggins, effectively disappeared, making only one of six FG attempts and scoring a paltry four points. While Embiid's injury was a valid excuse, KU still rarely approached juggernaut status, while at the same time confirming the genius of another coach, Kentucky's John Calipari, who seems to have mastered the "one and done" challenge a bit better than Jayhawk counterpart Bill Self. But Kansas at least made the Big Dance, which Big East entries Marquette and Georgetown could not.

The Golden Eagles, ranked in preseason polls, never took flight, as they struggled to replace key departed components Gs Vander Blue, Junior Cadougan, and Trent Lockett, who took almost all of the big shots in Marquette's wild ride to the Sweet 16 last season. No one emerged as a go-to scorer for the Golden Eagles, who struggled just above the .500 level for most of the season before HC Buzz Williams high-tailed it to Virginia Tech and a big-bucks offer from the Hokies after the season.

As for Georgetown, its expected challenge in the newly-configured Big East never materialized, with the late-December academic suspension of 6-10 UCLA transfer C Joshua Smith robbing JT III of his best post scoring threat. The Hoyas claimed their share of high-profile scalps (Kansas State, VCU, Michigan State, Creighton), but without the burly Smith in the lineup, ended up relying instead upon erratic Gs Markel Starks and D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera to carry the scoring burden, and their performances registered a 9.0 on the erratic scale. An awful effort in the opening round of the Big East tourney vs. lowly DePaul scuttled any longshot Big Dance hopes, and allowing 101 points in a second-round NIT loss at Florida State completed a disappointing campaign.

GEORGE O'LEARY AWARD: Manhattan HC Stave Masiello...The acknowledged "flavor" of the coaching carousel in March, Manhattan HC Steve Masiello--a Rick Pitino disciple who almost knocked off his mentor in the sub-regionals and impressed all with his Pitino-like style and manner while resurrecting the Jasper program--seemed ticketed for bigger and better things and was subsequently offered the job at South Florida after Stan Heath's dismissal. But in an episode that reminded of George O'Leary's debacle with Notre Dame football almost a decade earlier, a background check by the Bulls revealed that Masiello had never graduated from Kentucky, as the coach had claimed as part of on his resume'. Mind you, this is not a criminal development, and Masiello can obviously coach. But we have to wonder what Masiello was thinking, as a background check would obviously have uncovered that he had fudged that diploma info on his application. USF summarily rescinded the offer, and Masiello was subsequently put on a leave of absence by Manhattan. The school announced Monday that Masiello will be on unpaid leave until he gets the degree at Kentucky. During his absence, associate head coach Matt Grady will lead the program (Masiello is expected to complete his degree work in summer).

Remember, O'Leary would eventually resurrect his football coaching career at UCF, and we'll be hearing from Masiello again soon.

WORST COACHING DEBUT: Andy Enfield, Southern Cal...Enfield arrived in Los Angeles with amid fanfare, having led unknown Florida Gulf Coast University of Fort Myers Florida into the 2013 NCAA tournament, and then to shocking upsets over 13½-point favorite Georgetown and 7½-point favorite San Diego State into the Sweet 16. Enfield's high-flying, "Dunk City" Eagles finally lost (but covered) in the tournament vs. the well-drilled, defensively-staunch Gators from Gainesville. Enfield, wealthy from his previous time spent in the financial industry and accompanied by his supermodel wife--Amanda Marcum--seemed like the perfect choice to revive the moribund Trojan program, which had flagged, becoming beset by a series of coaching sourpusses and some NCAA problems. Enfield was featured prominently in an ad campaign to promote ticket sales at the Trojans' relatively-new Galen Center. And he took over a team with that returned its leading scorer, a sr. 7-footer, and veteran transfer with extensive starting experience. The team even got off to a 4-1, 7-3 and then 9-4 start. However, when Pac-12 play commenced, Dunk City was nowhere to be seen, as the Trojans ended a sorry 2-16 in league action, enduring a 10-game losing streak, with 11 of their 16 Pac-12 losses by 10 points or more. Enfield also made no friends in the coaching ranks due to early-season insults directed toward UTEP's well-respected Tim Floyd regarding a tampering dispute over Mienr recruit Isaac Hamilton (who would eventually land at UCLA). There will be new blood on the USC roster next season, but also new pressure for Enfield to produce.

WELCOME BACK: Bruce Pearl and Kelvin Sampson...Two of the notorious rule-benders of the past decade, Pearl and Sampson, were immediately hired after the season by Auburn (Pearl) and Houston (Sampson) once their "show-cause" probationary periods, as mandated by the NCAA, had expired. Which only proves that no matter what transgressions in the past, as long as a coach can win, he likely gets another chance.

WHAT THE HELL'S GOING ON BACK THERE?: The Minnesota bench in the NIT Final. With Rick Pitino's defending champion Louisville team having been eliminated from the NCAA tournament a few days earlier by Kentucky, the Cardinals' coach--who owns NCAA championships at both schools--was in New York to support his son Richard, head coach of Minnesota, in the Final of the NIT vs. Larry Brown's SMU Mustangs. Pitino's presence seemed quite natural, even more so since father Rick was a New York native and a former assistant and head coach of the Knicks, the primary tenant at Madison Square Garden. Father Rick was accompanied at the game by former Louisville star point guard Peyton Siva, currently a rookie with the Detroit Pistons, who were in town to play the Brooklyn Nets the following day. Nothing peculiar there. What was a bit strange was that 61-year-old Rick--with a seat virtually directly behind son Richard--was serving as a de facto assistant coach (at least) for the Gophers, not only giving advice to son Richard, but also at times shouting instructions and giving directions to Gopher players on the floor! It probably didn't make much difference in the outcome (a narrow 65-63 victory by Minnesota). But Rick's presence, encouragement, and instructions likely gave great confidence to the Gophers, and Rick's actions surely provided great amusement to the laughing Siva, who watched his old coach in action once again, giving advice to Richard and orchestrating the Minnesota players at times from the stands.

TREY OR BUST PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Ethan Wragge, Creighton...Wragge, whose long-distance shooting vs. Villanova was previously noted in our Game of the Year II above, deserves special mention for his unique shot selection. Throughout virtually all of the 2013-14 season Wragge succeeded in doing the exact opposite of Magic Johnson's famous "take it to the hoop" credo when the Showtime Lakers of the 80s needed an important basket or to win a crucial game. Wragge, a starting forward at 6-7, 225--big enough to mix it up a bit down low--attempted 242 FGs this season, 234 of those shots from downtown!!! That's only eight two-point FG attempts for Wragge in 35 games!

POINTSPREAD CHAMP: William & Mary (18-7). Other spread champs...Utah 20-8, Duquesne 15-6, Tulsa 22-9, Harvard 18-8, Cleveland State 20-9, Buffalo 17-9, Nebraska 20-11, Portland 20-11.

POINTSPREAD CHUMP: La Salle (7-20). Other spread chumps...Colorado State (7-19...fittingly concluding its miserable spread season with that aforementioned, hard-to-believe Mountain West Tourney loss to Utah State!), James Madison 8-18, Boston College 9-20, Saint Louis 10-21, Akron 10-20, NC-Wilmington 8-16, Penn 8-16, Coll. of Charleston 10-19, Oakland 10-19.


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