The 20th annual ESPY Awards take place on Wednesday, July 11, and college basketball is well represented at this year’s show. Eight different men’s college hoops players, coaches, teams, or moments are nominated in major awards categories, such as “Best NCAA Male” or “Best Record-Breaking Performance.” Winners are selected through fan voting, which is accessible by clicking here. Besides encouraging all our readers to ‘get out’ and vote for the college basketball nominees, we’d also like to break down why each selection was significant in the world of sports over the past year.
Anthony Davis is nominated for two ESPY Awards (AP Photo)
Best Breakthrough Athlete: Anthony Davis - It’s hard to argue against Davis in this category, as the Kentucky forward became the first basketball player since Lew Alcindor (later-to-be-named Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) in 1969 to win a National Championship as the National Player of the Year and become the #1 overall NBA Draft selection in the same season. And Davis is the first to ever do it as a freshman. AD is also a true breakthrough performer since he wasn’t even on the radar as a major prospect until as recently as two years ago. Nonetheless, he faces stiff competition, mainly in the form of New York Knicks guard and worldwide phenomenon Jeremy Lin.
Best Record-Breaking Performance: Coach K’s Wins Milestone – Back in November, one of the great images of the sports year took place when Mike Krzyzewski passed his mentor and former coach, Bob Knight, for first on the all-time wins list. Even better, he did so at Madison Square Garden with Coach Knight in attendance and awaiting Coach K with a congratulatory hug. Krzyzewski is widely regarded as one of the greatest coaches of all time in any sport, and the wins record confirms his spot in history. However, he’s up against Mariano Rivera, the greatest closer in baseball history, who also broke a milestone mark this past year with the saves record. Read the rest of this entry »
If there’s one thing to take away from this year’s Rush the Court All-America team, it’s that none of us are as smart as we think.
Back in November, our voters were on the same page as the majority of national writers, pegging Jared Sullinger, Harrison Barnes, Jordan Taylor, Terrence Jones and Tu Holloway for our preseason All-America first team. Only Sullinger followed that up with a spot on the postseason squad. As for our Ashton Gibbs-John Jenkins-Jeremy Lamb-Perry Jones-Tyler Zeller second team, only Zeller lived up to the billing. Nostradamus is not walking through that door.
Rather than discussing players who failed to match those high hopes, let’s delve into the players who exceeded or met expectations. After tallying the votes and discarding any hanging chads, here are our postseason 2011-12 RTC All-Americans:
Note: voters took conference and NCAA Tournament results into consideration.
Anthony Davis edged out Thomas Robinson for player of the year
First Team All-America
Anthony Davis, Kentucky (RTC National Player of the Year)- A near-unanimous player of the year selection, Davis made more of an impact on the defensive end of the floor than any other contender for the award. His 4.6 blocks per game doesn’t adequately account for how many shots he altered, turnovers he caused and general fear he struck in the minds of opponents. Causing havoc on defense is one thing, but Davis also showed off a rapidly improving post-up and face-up repertoire, displaying incredible offensive versatility in an efficient manner. Davis picked his spots well on a loaded Kentucky team, shooting 67% from inside the arc, grabbing 10 rebounds per game and shooting 71% from the charity stripe. From overlooked recruit to McDonald’s All-American to Final Four to Player of the Year frontrunner and soon the number one overall pick, it’s been quite the magical ride for Davis.
Thomas Robinson, Kansas- After coming off the bench behind the Morris twins last season, Robinson was pegged as the popular pick to break out in a big way in 2011-12. Robinson delivered on those predictions and more, averaging 17.9 points, 11.8 rebounds and shooting 51% from inside the arc. Robinson, who was asked to carry the load for a Jayhawks squad ravaged by early entry and graduation, quickly emerged as the premier low-post scorer in America. Robinson is flush with gifted athleticism, an NBA veteran’s body and unstoppable post moves. For a player who overcame indescribable adversity a season ago, any neutral observer during this year’s Final Four could do a lot worse than root for Robinson.
The Bob Cousy Award list was whittled down from its original 60+ names in the preseason to a more manageable 20 on Wednesday afternoon. In case you’ve lost track of what the Cousy is specifically for, it is the award given to the nation’s top point guard/floor general in college basketball. Often that player will also be in the running for National Player of the Year honors, as in the recent cases of Jameer Nelson (2004), Ty Lawson (2009), and Kemba Walker (2011). Last year, you might recall that Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor was somewhat infamously left off the February list of 10 finalists, causing the Naismith Hall of Fame brass to reconsider and eventually reinstating the All-America Badger onto the list where he advanced to become one of the five finalists before Walker was selected for the award. To be clear, this version represents the preliminary finalists before the super-finalists before the super-duper-finalists list. The committee will make two more cuts over the next eight weeks before awarding the prize to the winner during Final Four weekend in New Orleans.
The Cousy Award Is Prestigious Because It Is Given By the Naismith HOF
Let’s take a look at the current list, and signify using (10) or (5) the players who we expect to advance further. A few notes follow after the jump:
With an onslaught of coverage devoted to the new season and players to come, it can be easy to lose sight of the game’s storied past that made fans and followers out of so many of us to begin with. Sunday night was a time for the game to honor its illustrious history with the induction of some of the sport’s most beloved players, coaches and contributors, into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in Kansas City. This year’s inductees included Chris Mullin, James Worthy, Ralph Sampson and Cazzie Russell as players, BobKnight and Eddie Sutton as coaches, and contributors Eddie Einhorn and Joe Vancisin. In a ceremony emceed by Dick Enberg, one of the classic voices of college hoops and Sports Illustrated contributing writer Seth Davis, the Class of 2011 was enshrined. A recap of RTC’s coverage comes after the jump.
The National Collegiate Basketball Hall Of Fame Added Some Highly Impressive Names To Its Membership Sunday Night
The editors and correspondents here at RTC were quite a happy bunch today upon taking a gander at Sports Illustrated’s Twitter 100. SI polled 50 of their reporters, editors, and writers and, after distilling the numerous possibilities, they refined it down to a list of the 100 Twitter accounts the queried 50 consider “essential to their daily routine for finding news, information and entertainment from the sports world.” It looks like SI finally took note of the 300 subscriptions to the magazine we maintain, and the weekly bribery money we send to Davis, Winn and Glockner finally paid off, because…we’re on the list.
Our Twitter feed is manned pretty much ’round the clock by at least one of our three executive editors, but the Twitter feed wouldn’t be worth anything if the site itself wasn’t something we thought was worth our readers’ time, and much of the site’s quality is due to our cadre of correspondents around the country covering every conference for us. It may be one guy out of only a possible three doing the tweeting at any given time, but we count this as an honor for the whole RTC crew.
The 2011-2012 season — our fifth — will be here before we know it, and we think we’ve got some fun stuff in store for our faithful. We’ll keep tweeting as long as you keep engaging us in conversation, since that’s the point of this whole endeavor. So, many thanks, SI. We greatly appreciate the mention, and we’re proud to be on a list with so many people whose work (and tweets) we’ve long admired.
A little over a week ago, the Naismith Hall of Fame announced its Class of 2011 during the NCAA Final Four festivities in Houston. Chris Mullin, Dennis Rodman, and Arvydas Sabonis were among the individuals selected to join the list of luminaries in Springfield, Massachusetts in August. We would have a difficult time arguing against any of the individuals selected this year or previous years, but when we looked at the list of those currently enshrined in the Hall of Fame we were shocked to see which players the HOF voting committee (done anonymously) left out. Cases can certainly be made for at least a dozen individuals who have not already been inducted to the Hall, with many of them being some of the African-American pioneers of the game who played in less well-recognized venues and leagues, but the two who stand out for us — Ralph Sampson and Christian Laettner – do not fall into that group by any measure.
Sampson soared over the competition in college
Both players already meet the Naismith Hall of Fame’s requirement of being retired for five years, so they are eligible for selection. There will be some who will argue that neither player had a great NBA career, and we will not even try to argue that because there is little debate that both had disappointing pro careers although both had their moments. But that misses the point of the Hall of Fame. It is not solely a forum to recognize achievement at the professional level. As its own site states, since 1959 it has “honored and celebrated the game’s greatest moments and brightest stars.” There is nothing on its website stating that it is specifically for professional basketball either at the NBA level or overseas. Another argument you will hear is that both Sampson and Laettner were exceptional college basketball players who already have been honored at the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in Kansas City, Missouri in the past two years. Once again, that misses the point, as there are multiple coaches in both Halls of Fame, including Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Calhoun, and Lute Olson, none of whom ever coached at the professional level. The fact that neither player has been selected yet is simply a travesty and raises questions about the utility of the Naismith Hall of Fame when two of the greatest college basketball players of all-time (probably both in the top ten on most lists) are not included.
Amidst all the hullabaloo about conference tournament action this week, it might have been easy to overlook the major conference awards that were handed out earlier this week. We thought it would be a good idea to get them all in one place and see if anything weird happened. We’ll first list the teams from each of the BCS conferences plus the Atlantic 10 and Mountain West, and then add some quick thoughts after each one.
ACC All-Conference Team
Nolan Smith- Guard- Duke
Malcolm Delaney- Guard- Virginia Tech
Reggie Jackson- Guard- Boston College
Kyle Singler- Forward- Duke
Jordan Williams- Forward- Maryland
Player of the Year- Nolan Smith- Guard- Duke
Coach of the Year- Roy Williams- North Carolina
Freshman of the Year- Harrison Barnes- Forward- North Carolina
Quick Thoughts. We have no issues with these selections. It is interesting that North Carolina won the regular season title and had zero guys on the first team, although, the Heels put Barnes, Tyler Zeller and John Henson on the conference’s second team, and Kendall Marshall on the third team (even though he didn’t start half the season). And as much as Barnes was criticized this year for not living up to oversized expectations, he still managed to win ACC FrOY and make the second team.
Big East All-Conference Team
Ben Hansbrough- Guard- Notre Dame
Kemba Walker- Guard- Connecticut
Dwight Hardy- Guard- St. John’s
Marshon Brooks- Guard- Providence
Ashton Gibbs- Guard- Pittsburgh
Austin Freeman- Guard- Georgetown
Player of the Year- Ben Hansbrough – Guard- Notre Dame
Coach of the Year- Mike Brey- Notre Dame
Freshman of the Year- Cleveland Melvin- Forward- DePaul
Quick Thoughts. An argument could be made that Kemba Walker should have been player of the year, but Hansbrough was the best player on a team that finished second in the conference; Connecticut finished ninth (notwithstanding his play this week thus far). An argument can also be made that Syracuse big man Rick Jackson deserved a spot on the first team, as he was an inside scoring and rebounding stalwart for the third place Orange. While Brey was probably the strongest candidate for coach of the year, it would have been reasonable to consider Pittsburgh’s Jamie Dixon, Louisville’s Rick Pitino and St. John’s Steve Lavin.
It may not technically be March yet, but the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame ushered in college basketball’s biggest month on Monday when it announced its Class of 2011. In November, the Hall will enshrine Bob Knight, Ralph Sampson, James Worthy and Chris Mullin among its class of eight inductees.
Bob Knight, now a popular commentator for ESPN, racked up a Division I record 902 wins in tenures at the helm of Army, Indiana and Texas Tech. Collecting three national championships along the way, Knight also made waves internationally, leading Team USA to Olympic gold in 1984.
One of this season’s biggest storylines is the rebirth of St. John’s basketball, so it’s fitting to hear former Redman Chris Mullin included in this year’s class. Mullin was a three-time Big East Player of the Year for Lou Carnesecca, and led his team to the Final Four in 1985 including the personal honor of the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. The all-time leading scorer in St. John’s history, Mullin went on to a successful career in the pro ranks and was a member of the original USA Dream Team that brought home the gold in Barcelona in 1992.
2011 inductee Chris Mullin was a dominant scorer in the early days of the Big East
Seven-foot four center Ralph Sampson enjoyed a college career at Virginia that left coaches in awe. A dominant player, Sampson is a three-time Naismith College Player of the Year Award recipient and two-time Wooden Award winner. With Sampson, Virginia won the 1980 NIT and took a trip to the Final Four in 1981. Though his pro career was limited by knee troubles after being selected as the top overall pick in the 1983 draft, he remains a collegiate legend as one of the best players to ever take the court for an ACC team.
Another ACC inductee comes in the person of James Worthy. Worthy led the 1981-82 Tar Heels to the national title, averaging over 15 points per game and sealing the championship by intercepting an inadvertent pass from Georgetown’s Fred Brown. Worthy left UNC after his junior year for a prolific life in the NBA, where he collected three titles and made the all-star team seven years in a row as a member of the Lakers’ “Showtime” dynasty.
Earlier this month the Basketball Hall of Fame announced its list of ten finalists for the Bob Cousy Award, given annually to the nation’s top point guard, and created a minor controversy when it left off Wisconsin star Jordan Taylor. At the time, the ten finalists appeared to be deserving although some might question Jimmer Fredette‘s passing ability/frequency and Demetri McCamey‘s play recently:
Norris Cole, Cleveland State
Corey Fisher, Villanova
Jimmer Fredette, BYU
DJ Gay, San Diego State
Brandon Knight, Kentucky
Demetri McCamey, Illinois
Mickey McConnell, St. Mary’s
Nolan Smith, Duke
Isaiah Thomas, Washington
Kemba Walker, UConn
The Cousy Award committee eventually came to its senses on Taylor
Ok. Maybe this is a little bit later than most of the 2010 retrospectives that you have seen over the past month or so, but just consider our countdown very thoroughly reviewed. We decided to focus on the defining moments of the past year. These weren’t necessarily the most exciting moments, but the ones that made us hold our breath, run around our respective RTC-funded mansions, bury our head in our hands, or reflect on the sport. Even though we think we did a good job of reviewing the biggest moments of the year and ranking them appropriately it is possible that you may disagree with us on either the ranking or inclusion/exclusion of certain moments. If you feel that way, leave a comment and we will respond to you. If you have a strong enough argument we may even update the post.
#10. Izzo Sticks at Michigan State: In the universe of potential train-wreck decisions, Tom Izzo’s summer dalliance with the Cleveland Cavaliers ranks alongside Justin Bieber’s hair and Sarah Palin’s Alaska as near-misses of epic proportions. (Wha? you mean they actually exist? ughhhhh…) With his six Final Four appearances and a national title in the last twelve seasons, Izzo is already one of the best coaches in the game; by turning down the additional millions to coach Boobie Gibson and Mo Williams to twenty-five wins for the next several seasons, he has a great chance to cement himself as one of the greatest of all-time. Frankly, it was surprising to most that the fiery Michigander so strongly considered leaving East Lansing without a promise from LeBron James that he would stick around, but in the end, we believe Izzo’s choice to remain in the college game was the right one. After all, few coaches make the transition from college to pro successfully, and even among those who do (Larry Brown) there is a lingering sense that true greatness was never achieved in either domain. As for us, we’re happy to see Izzo stalking the sidelines in the college game again, and we’re quite certain that Michigan State fans are too.
#9. Hummel tears ACL and breaks Boilermaker Hearts…Again: Wasn’t it bad enough the first time? It’s not like Purdue fans had totally climbed out from under the fate-dropped anvil that landed on them on February 24th last season, 27 games into the schedule, ranked third and the holy month of March merely DAYS away, when Robbie Hummel‘s right ACL tendered its resignation and removed the Boilermakers from any discussion of likely title contenders. I mean, that’s just cruel, right? Sure, bad luck sometimes befalls even the best kids and eventually finds all teams. But there was always the NEXT year, because there’s no way that something else could happen that would ruin the 2010-11 squad, right? Um…sure. Even to basketball fans neutral toward the Purdue program, the news was hard to fathom on the Saturday morning after this year’s Midnight Madness night (or whatever) when it was announced that Hummel had torn the same damn ligament AGAIN. The very serious and justified championship talk had returned to West Lafayette as fall settled in. At least it was there was up until the morning of October 16th. By noon, it was all gone. That’s one season-changing moment.
#8. Pearls of Untruth: A lie, by definition, is not accidental. At some point, whether it’s a week or a millisecond before it happens, there is a decision point. There is that moment where you make the call to tell the truth or — usually because of something you stand to gain or lose — to deceive. Bruce Pearl was already under suspicion for his telephoning and party-hosting skills, which is what put him in the position to lie to NCAA investigators back in June while they were investigating his program. We don’t know when his decision point was, and it really doesn’t matter. When he deceived the NCAA, at that very moment he violated the trust of a huge sports-loving fan base, not to mention that of every player who hoped he could teach them something about being a being a better basketball player and a better man. Some people want to give Pearl a pass because he went back later and told the truth. But that’s like the moment in the outstanding film Quiz Show when, after Charles Van Doren confesses to the Senate that he lied to America and he receives kudos from various Senators for his courageous statement, the Senator from New York tells him that a grown man does not deserve praise for finally telling the truth. We are not saying Pearl is a bad person — just that he made some bad decisions here. We all do that, just as we all lie. And we all know that after the lie, there is usually punishment and a chance to learn from it. The hole Bruce Pearl has dug for himself only tells us a small something about him. It is whether or not he climbs out of it in the years to come that will tell us what we really need to know about this man.
This should make for some interesting in-game chants next season for opponents of the Duke Blue Devils, especially if Butler, Michigan State, or West Virginia is the opponent.
Of the squads taking part in the Final Four in Indianapolis this past March, three of them — Butler, Michigan State, and West Virginia — achieved Academic Progress Rate (APR) scores good enough to put them in the top 10% of all men’s college basketball teams, and therefore earn themselves an NCAA Public Recognition Award. Yes, you read that right. The only Final Four team not earning the award this time around: Duke.
Da'Sean and his 'Eer teammates are in the Top 10% of the NCAA's APR scores, which should silence some of Huggins' detractors. (K. Binder/Blueandgoldnews.com)
At this moment, if you’re a Duke fan, you are probably positioning yourself at your computer, ready to fire off to us what’s sure to be a nasty e-mail or comment, indeed. Well, sheathe your keyboards. The APR is one of the tools used by the NCAA to monitor academic progress of each individual student-athlete, but keep in mind that it’s not perfect. According to the linked AP article above from ESPN.com, each student-athlete earns a point for his program by simply staying at the school, and another point for doing well enough academically to stay eligible. Each graduating player also earns a point. The team loses a point for each player who transfers, and another for each player who leaves for the NBA, though we’re not sure what those things have to do with academic performance. If a player isn’t in good academic standing when they leave/transfer, that’s another point lost. All these points are then thrown into some mathematical formula, and every team in every sport is given a score. A score of 1,000 is perfect, and 925 is considered the “minimum level of academic success.” Fall below 925 for a semester or two, and you could be facing a slap from the NCAA’s pimp hand of sanctions.
In a ceremony at the Los Angeles Athletic Club earlier tonight, Ohio State’s Evan Turner was presented with the 2010 John R. Wooden Award as the men’s college basketball player of the year. With this one, he is 6-of-6 in player of the year awards, taking the Associated Press, Naismith, National Association of Basketball Coaches, Sporting News, and US Basketball Writers Association honors as well.
Turner, Syracuse’s Wesley Johnson and Kentucky’s John Wall were also in attendance at the ceremony, with the former two making an in-audience appearance on ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live last night. Wall was also scheduled to appear on the show, but missed the taping due to an exam.