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!