The Top 10 CBB Stories Of 2012: Wrapping Up Our List

Posted by Chris Johnson on December 31st, 2012

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.

The turning of the calendar to a new year provides an occasion to stop and reflect on the highlights and lowlights from the year that was. Over the last five days, we’ve fed out a steady stream of 2012’s biggest college hoops stories. Some of them are fond memories that will forever ingrain themselves in the sport’s fabric in a totally positive way. Others were less cheerful tales in passing. All of them bore the common thread of being memorable, and to wrap up our countdown, here’s a layout of the 10 that stood out most.

  • 10. It won’t be until next season that Jabari Parker sets foot on Duke’s campus, but he’s already a household name amongst college hoops fans thanks to one of the most high-profile recruitments in years, and his decision to commit to the Blue Devils represents a direct threat on Kentucky’s and other contenders’ 2013-14 national title hopes.
  • 9. The days of college basketball’s opening day being tucked away under the fall football hysteria are dwindling. With patriotic fixtures like this year’s Ramstein Air Force Base game, and innovative event planners like Michigan State AD Mark Hollis, the start non-conference season feels more than ever like a well-defined commencement.
  • 8. The rebirth of Indiana basketball was an eventuality, and the proud program finally returned to its historic heights in 2012 thanks to coach Tom Crean, talented big man Cody Zeller and one of the deepest and most versatile rotations in the country.
  • 7. Railing on NCAA enforcement procedure has become the most popular and most frequent go-to media critique out there. Shabazz Muhammad’s slow and obscure eligibility clearance gave columnists endless ammo to tee off on the organization’s protocol.
  • 6. Some are reluctant to put Jim Boeheim among the sport’s all-time great coaches based on a shortage of postseason accomplishments. A fair gripe, sure, but you can’t quibble with the man’s historic consistency – Boeheim reached 900 wins when his then-No. 3 Syracuse team beat Detroit on December 17.
  • 5. People will remember him for different reasons – boundless basketball knowledge, self-damaging personal habits, verbal and physical abuse of players – but there’s one thing we can all agree on with Rick Majerus: he was one of his own kind.
  • 4. When Jim Calhoun made his retirement official in September, it was no shock he left without giving AD Warde Manuel much of a chance to conduct a thorough job search. Calhoun bolted on his own terms, because, well, that’s the imperative Calhoun we know, the one who built UConn basketball from a Yankee Conference afterthought into a national powerhouse.
  • 3. The chances we see two #15-seeds win their round-of-64 matchups on the same day again are meager. Odds are that the long-awaited 16-1 upset will happen before another Kyle O’Quinn and CJ McCollum team up to cause bracket-shredding chaos in office pools across the country.
  • 2. The verbal takedowns of John Calipari’s MO at Kentucky – recruit the nation’s best freshmen, glue together championship contenders contender, churn out NBA Draft picks, turn the roster over and do it all again the next year – would stick with the Wildcats’ coach until his patented formula produced a national champion. Sure enough, coach Cal got his wish in 2012.
  • 1. It wasn’t a shock when the Big East finally burst at the seams. The conference’s implosion was a long time coming, and for the first time in this new shifting college athletics landscape, basketball ruled the day. The Catholic 7 were long since fed up with their football partners, and they’ll forward to a new league – after adding up to five other basketball-only schools – without them.

Happy New Year and here’s to looking forward to a great 2013!

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The 10 Biggest CBB Stories of 2012 — #1: The End of the Big East As We Know It

Posted by Chris Johnson on December 31st, 2012

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

College basketball gave us plenty of memorable moments and stories in 2012. After sorting through the main headlines, we’ve come up with the 10 most consequential items and, for the sake of maintaining publishing sequence symmetry, releasing two per-day over the next five days to lead into the New Year. It was an excellent year for the sport, though I can’t promise you won’t regret reliving at least one or two of the choices. In any case, here’s to summing up a great year and to hoping that 2013 is better than the 365 days that preceded it.

Of all the stories that gripped the college athletics world in 2012, none was more powerful than conference realignment. Programs shuttled between leagues and switched allegiances to chase television money and improved positioning in the new football playoff landscape. In the face of multi-million-dollar deals and ego-tripping conference commissioners, other sports were silenced, dragged along without a choice, and forced to deal with the consequences. It was a low point for college sports, and it marked a significant shift in the longstanding values that used to define conferences – geographic proximity, cultural coherence, academic solidarity, like-minded schools of thought. None of that mattered; the new forces ruling the land ran twofold: broadcast rights and football.

Victims were manifold, ranging from leagues big to small, east to west, monied to impoverished. The most public martyr was the Big East, whose slow deconstruction culminated this year when the seven non-football playing Catholic schools – DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall and Villanova – agreed to pack up, ditch their football counterparts, and strike out to form a new basketball-only league. Long aggravated with being shoved around by pigskin-motivated leaders who had lost sight of the league’s original mission – the Big East was founded in 1979 as a way to bring together elite basketball programs along the eastern seaboard – the seven schools banded together to salvage their unity and common mission from the Big East’s crumbling infrastructure. The conference was a shell of its former self, robbed of its original identity, replaced by a transnational hodgepodge of C-USA transplants and new western emigres.

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The 10 Biggest CBB Stories Of 2012 — #2: Kentucky Gets Over The Hump to Win Its Eighth NCAA Title

Posted by Chris Johnson on December 31st, 2012

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

College basketball gave us plenty of memorable moments and stories in 2012. After sorting through the main headlines, we’ve come up with the 10 most consequential items and, for the sake of maintaining publishing sequence symmetry, releasing two per-day over the next five days to lead into the New Year. It was an excellent year for the sport, though I can’t promise you won’t regret reliving at least one or two of the choices. In any case, here’s to summing up a great year and to hoping that 2013 is better than the 365 days that preceded it.

Over the first two years of John Calipari’s tenure, Kentucky inched closer toward a national championship breakthrough – from an Elite Eight appearance in 2010 to a Final Four berth in 2011. Calipari reeled in the most decorated recruiting class of his career the following season, one built on the backs of center Anthony Davis and supplemented by forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, point guard Marquis Teague, and shooting specialist Kyle Wiltjer. He was locked and loaded for the third go-round of his one-and-done experiment, the yearly cycle of turning over the nation’s best freshmen talent and crafting national title contenders as he marshals players through the Wildcats’ historic program, maximizes their national acclaim and exposure, and ferries them into the NBA Draft.

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The 10 Biggest CBB Stories of 2012 — #3: Norfolk State and Lehigh Shock the World

Posted by Chris Johnson on December 30th, 2012

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

College basketball gave us plenty of memorable moments and stories in 2012. After sorting through the main headlines, we’ve come up with the 10 most consequential items and, for the sake of maintaining publishing sequence symmetry, releasing two per-day over the next five days to lead into the New Year. It was an excellent year for the sport, though I can’t promise you won’t regret reliving at least one or two of the choices. In any case, here’s to summing up a great year and to hoping that 2013 is better than the 365 days that preceded it.

The ocean of opportunity that awaits mid and low-major programs in the NCAA Tournament is typically stifled by the superior talent, resources and coaching acumen of high-major powerhouses. Upsets do happen – you can usually bank at least one 7-10 or 8-9 or 5-12 shocker each year, and it feels like we’re seeing more and more close games in putatively uneven first-round draws – but the gap between a #15 seed and a #2 seed is so far as to draw into question the fairness of even playing the game in the first place. You usually get a national contender from a power six conference going up against a minuscule hoops entity from a lesser league, many of which just happened to get hot enough at the right time to barrel through a conference tournament and into the Big Dance.

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The 10 Biggest CBB Stories of 2012 — #4: Jim Calhoun Retires

Posted by Chris Johnson on December 30th, 2012

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

College basketball gave us plenty of memorable moments and stories in 2012. After sorting through the main headlines, we’ve come up with the 10 most consequential items and, for the sake of maintaining publishing sequence symmetry, releasing two per-day over the next five days to lead into the New Year. It was an excellent year for the sport, though I can’t promise you won’t regret reliving at least one or two of the choices. In any case, here’s to summing up a great year and to hoping that 2013 is better than the 365 days that preceded it.

Few programs are tied as strongly to one coach as UConn is to Jim Calhoun. The 70-year old legend not only won three national championships, nine Big East regular season titles and three conference tournament titles, but Calhoun built the program from scratch and cultivated the UConn brand in his own image. Any discussion of Huskies basketball inevitably reverts to Calhoun’s architectural imprint. The coach and program are inextricably linked.

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The 10 Biggest CBB Stories of 2012 — #5: Rick Majerus Passes Away

Posted by Chris Johnson on December 29th, 2012

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

College basketball gave us plenty of memorable moments and stories in 2012. After sorting through the main headlines, we’ve come up with the 10 most consequential items and, for the sake of maintaining publishing sequence symmetry, releasing two per-day over the next five days to lead into the New Year. It was an excellent year for the sport, though I can’t promise you won’t regret reliving at least one or two of the choices. In any case, here’s to summing up a great year and to hoping that 2013 is better than the 365 days that preceded it.

The outpouring of nostalgic literature produced in the immediate aftermath of Rick Majerus’ passing bore a common theme. Everyone had a personal anecdote to relate, a unique encounter that spoke louder than general platitudes and standard obituary prose. For some, the stories dealt with Majerus’ shameless discussion of personal toils with health issues. Others described his astounding disregard for normative comportment Majerus would often receive guests in his hotel residence with nothing but a towel cloaking his massive figure – or the wacky recruiting tactics, or the borderline obsessive eagerness to talk hoops at all times. The post-mortem compendium of Majerus remembrances painted a picture of a basketball coach, teacher of the game and man whose underlying trait was an adherence to the obscure and the outlandish, and a resistance to the conventional.

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The 10 Biggest CBB Stories Of 2012 — #6: Jim Boeheim’s 900th Win

Posted by Chris Johnson on December 29th, 2012

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

College basketball gave us plenty of memorable moments and stories in 2012. After sorting through the main headlines, we’ve come up with the 10 most consequential items and, for the sake of maintaining publishing sequence symmetry, releasing two per-day over the next five days to lead into the New Year. It was an excellent year for the sport, though I can’t promise you won’t regret reliving at least one or two of the choices. In any case, here’s to summing up a great year and to hoping that 2013 is better than the 365 days that preceded it.

I could rattle off the statistical highlights, or harp on the timeless value of Boeheim’s trademark zone defense, his ability to lure NBA talent to a (let’s be kind) rural locale and chilly climate. But I’d much rather share with you a short exchange that illustrates what makes Boeheim one of the sport’s all-time greats. Moments after his team lost an uncharacteristic non-conference game at Madison Square Garden, esteemed ESPN writer Dana O’Neil asked Boeheim about the deliberate and calculated offensive performance of Temple guard Khalif Wyatt, who scored 33 points in the upset. Boeheim turned towards O’Neill, paused and offered this retort: “That’s how he always plays. I didn’t notice anything.” O’Neil didn’t back down, and Boeheim brushed off her ensuing inquiries with a firm dissatisfaction.

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The 10 Biggest CBB Stories of 2012 — #7: The Shabazz Muhammad Saga

Posted by Chris Johnson on December 28th, 2012

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

College basketball gave us plenty of memorable moments and stories in 2012. After sorting through the main headlines, we’ve come up with the 10 most consequential items and, for the sake of maintaining publishing sequence symmetry, releasing two per-day over the next five days to lead into the New Year. It was an excellent year for the sport, though I can’t promise you won’t regret reliving at least one or two of the choices. In any case, here’s to summing up a great year and to hoping that 2013 is better than the 365 days that preceded it.

When Muhammad announced his commitment alongside to UCLA last spring on an ESPNU special, it was seen not only as a huge boost to the Bruins’ 2012-13 prospects, but as a turning point in coach Ben Howland’s tenure. Howland, whose old school approach hit an all-time reputational low after a scathing Sports Illustrated report shed light on his leadership failures and an overall lack of control over the storied program, needed the infusion of good news. Muhammad, along with other top recruits Kyle Anderson, Tony Parker and Jordan Adams, were to lead an epic revival commensurate with the success Howland captured last decade when he managed three consecutive Final Four teams and churned out consistent NBA talent along the way.

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The 10 Biggest CBB Stories of 2012 — #8: Indiana’s Resurgence

Posted by Chris Johnson on December 28th, 2012

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

College basketball gave us plenty of memorable moments and stories in 2012. After sorting through the main headlines, we’ve come up with the 10 most consequential items and, for the sake of maintaining publishing sequence symmetry, releasing two per-day over the next five days to lead into the New Year. It was an excellent year for the sport, though I can’t promise you won’t regret reliving at least one or two of the choices. In any case, here’s to summing up a great year and to hoping that 2013 is better than the 365 days that preceded it.

Parity is the force used to describe equality in college basketball. It inheres the sport in every conference in cyclical and sometimes predictable ways, and it allows mid-major teams to dream and perform big in the NCAA Tournament. But there’s no disputing the obvious: College basketball is just plain better when its historically great programs are challenging for conference and national championships. In 2010 and 2011, as Tom Crean methodically reconstructed Indiana’s basketball strength after the Kelvin Sampson mess, college basketball didn’t feel normal without one of its traditional giants. The Hoosiers won 10 and 11 games, respectively, as a nearby program, Butler, ruled the state with consecutive National Championship game appearances.

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The 10 Biggest Stories of 2012 — #9: College Basketball Opens Season With a Bang

Posted by Chris Johnson on December 27th, 2012

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

College basketball gave us plenty of memorable moments and stories in 2012. After sorting through the main headlines, we’ve come up with the 10 most consequential items and, for the sake of maintaining publishing sequence symmetry, releasing two per-day over the next five days to lead into the New Year. It was an excellent year for the sport, though I can’t promise you won’t regret reliving at least one or two of the choices. In any case, here’s to summing up a great year and to hoping that 2013 is better than the 365 days that preceded it.

Probably the most common gripe raised about college basketball’s marginally popular stature is the feeling that the season tips off without a momentous opening game or event. Fans bemoan weak non-conference competition and the long drag of conference play with the perceived insignificance of the regular season, resulting in most fans preferring to tune in around late February and into March as intensity heightens and games draw do-or-die implications. But above all else, the most frequent dig strikes at the absence of a grand season tip-off bonanza.

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The 10 Biggest CBB Stories Of 2012 — #10: The Recruitment of Jabari Parker

Posted by Chris Johnson on December 27th, 2012

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

College basketball gave us plenty of memorable moments and stories in 2012. After sorting through the main headlines, we’ve come up with the 10 most consequential items and, for the sake of maintaining publishing sequence symmetry, releasing two per-day over the next five days to lead into the New Year. It was an excellent year for the sport, though I can’t promise you won’t regret reliving at least one or two of the choices. In any case, here’s to summing up a great year and to hoping that 2013 is better than the 365 days that preceded it.

The legend of Jabari Parker hit the mainstream before his likeness landed smack dab on the cover of Sports Illustrated, abutted with the title “The Best High School Basketball Player Since Lebron James…” and followed by his name. Parker became a household name in recruiting circles when he earned the first starting spot ever awarded to a freshman at famed Chicago basketball powerhouse Simeon Career Academy. He went on to win three Illinois state championships and was named the state’s “Mr. Basketball” as a junior, the only non-senior recipient in the award’s 32-year history. Parker is a very good basketball player, but living up to that lofty SI catchphrase is an enormous burden. And in today’s social media-infused sports scene, in which the thirst for recruiting news is abundant and relentless, Parker had his every move and statement dissected, analyzed and magnified on message boards and recruiting sites across the country.

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