Minute Men Awards
Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college basketball (dancing shoes sold separately in Ithaca, N.Y.; Johnson City, Tenn.; Murray, Ky.; Rock Hill, S.C.; Cedar Falls, Iowa; Loudonville, N.Y.; Norfolk, Va.; Moraga, Calif.; and Spartanburg, S.C.):
First-timersThe Big Dance finally tossed a bone to the Wofford Terriers (1). They earned their first NCAA tournament bid Monday night by stomping Appalachian State in the final of the Southern Conference tournament. It has been a long series of baby steps to reach this point. Fact is, the school with just 1,400 students had never even come close to an NCAA bid. It had only advanced as far as the SoCon semifinals once in 12 years in the league, and last year's 16-14 season was its first with a winning record as a Division I school. This year, the Terriers removed all doubt. After a 7-7 start against a rigorous schedule, they have won 18 of their past 19 games. Coach Mike Young (2), the school's fifth coach in the past 60 years, earns the Big Dance invite in his eighth year in charge. The bracket gods were less kind to William & Mary (3), which lost in the final of the Colonial Athletic Association tourney and remain 0-for-forever with the NCAA tourney. And for Will & Mary, forever extends a lot further back than it does for Wofford. Northwestern (4), your turn to try to win your way into this thing for the first time ever.
What, you were expecting Alec Baldwin?
It's awards time but sorry, there are no red carpets here. And no tuxes. And only one movie star -- take a bow, Ashley (5).But you won't have to endure hours of choreography, cinematography and makeup awards here. And you won't have to stay up until midnight to see who wins the Minute Men awards, given both nationally and by conference. Let's start with a Sweet 16 national awards:
Player of the year: Evan Turner (6), Ohio State. He's the clear choice over John Wall, who will get his own hardware in a couple of paragraphs. Turner doesn't just dominate his own team's stat sheet. He dominates the entire Big Ten: leads the league in scoring (19.5 ppg) and rebounding (9.4) and is second in assists (5.8) and steals (1.8). Perhaps most amazing, given his position and the scoring burden upon him, Turner is sixth in the league in field goal percentage (.538). If those numbers aren't enough for you, consider that his team won a share of the conference title and he overcame a broken back earlier in the season.Nineteen-minute player of the year: Kyle Kuric (7), Louisville. Low-profile bench jockey blew up for 22 spectacular points in 19 minutes Saturday, shockingly carrying the Cardinals to a sweep of Syracuse, into the NCAA tournament, and out of Freedom Hall in Hollywood style. Coach of the year: Jim Boeheim (8), Syracuse. He's been a successful head coach since the Earth cooled but he's never won a national coach of the year award. That will change this year, after taking a team that began the season unranked and guiding it to a 28-3 record, an outright Big East title and a No. 3 ranking. Freshman of the year: John Wall (9), Kentucky. Tremendously talented. Fearless and composed at crunch time; his go-to status makes him the choice here over teammate DeMarcus Cousins. And the dude turned a Midnight Madness arm-flex into a statewide dance craze. Futile freshman of the year: Renardo Sidney (10), Mississippi State. After a marathon effort to make a semipro look like an amateur, the NCAA told Sidney, his lawyer and the school to get that weak stuff out of here and come back nine games into next year. And bring a check for close to 12 grand with you. Bust of the year: North Carolina (11). The preseason No. 4 team in the ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll is now curled in the fetal position after completing a 16-15 regular season, including a 5-11 debacle in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The coup de (dis)grace was delivered by none other than Duke on Saturday night, when it pounded the Tar Heels through the Cameron Indoor Stadium floorboards. This season might be the worst by a defending national champion ever.
Game of the year: Maryland 79, Duke 72 (12). Excellently played in a charged atmosphere with a lot on the line. The Terrapins grabbed a share of their first ACC title since 2002, and Greivis Vasquez might have snatched league player of the year honors away from Jon Scheyer in the process of making two heroic shots down the stretch.Obscure game of the year: Cal State Fullerton 113, Cal State Northridge 112, 3 OT (13). After all manner of dramatics, things really got weird at the end of the third overtime. Up three points, Northridge fouled with four seconds left to avoid allowing a tying shot. That didn't work out too well. Fullerton's Gerard Anderson made the first free throw, missed the second intentionally, then watched teammate Eric Williams grab an offensive rebound, score and get fouled. He made the free throw to win the game, as Northridge went from trying to prevent a game-tying 3 to giving up a game-winning 4. Shot of the year: By Murray State's Isaiah Canaan (14). When the freshman threw one in against Southeast Missouri State from half court while on one knee, we got a 2010 ESPY clubhouse leader. Conference of the year: Big East (15). Six different teams have been ranked 11th or higher in the coaches' poll. Eight are currently in Joe Lunardi's bracket. A ninth could squeeze in by Sunday. And the league tourney in Madison Square Garden should be the most compelling theater of the week. Non-marquee conference of the year: Atlantic 10 (16). Vigorous infighting has reduced this conference from a potential six bids to a probable three, but it's still been a great season in the A-10. And the league tourney should be a blast as well, with a couple of bubble teams in the mix and Rick Majerus hovering in spoiler mode. Lousy conference of the year: Pacific-10 (17). The shoddy state of the bubble is evident when you consider that the Pac-10 could still land multiple bids, possibly as many as three. Washington wants in based on what? A home victory over Texas A&M? What about home losses to Oregon and USC? Arizona State can say it beat San Diego State at home, but otherwise has nothing but a 12-6 record against horrid conference competition to brag about. California is the only team truly deserving of an at-large bid. Injury of the year: Robbie Hummel (18). When the Purdue junior went down with a torn ACL, he took 30-year-old dreams of a Final Four run in the Boilermakers' home state down with him. Overrated injury of the year: Luke Harangody (19). Notre Dame's big man went from potential Big East Player of the Year to the leader of a disappointing team to cheerleader for a surprisingly resurgent Fighting Irish squad. Harangody has played 11 minutes in the past six games, and the Irish have won four of them, playing their best ball of the season. Overrated player dismissal of the year: Tyler Smith (20). When Tennessee's alleged best player was busted in the great pot-and-guns-in-the-rental-car fiasco 12 games into the season, the Volunteers seemed headed for a collapse. Instead, they went on to beat No. 1 Kansas, No. 2 Kentucky and 11 other teams in their final 18 games. Crisis averted. Comp ticket recipient of the year: Samantha Ryan (21). Hey, adult film stars like basketball, too. And there was former Kansas student Ryan -- who has a cinematic body of work (so to speak) that would make Hugh Hefner blush -- at courtside when the Jayhawks played Kansas State. Ryan said via Twitter that the tickets were left for her by KU assistant coach Kurtis Townsend. Rock, chalk, Pornhawk!
And now a conference call
Awards and tournament predictions for the big six conferences, plus picks for the other tourney automatic bids that will be decided this week:
Player of the year: Greivis Vasquez (22), Maryland. The numbers are strikingly similar between Vasquez (19.1 points, 4.6 rebounds, 6.3 assists, 1.6 steals, 1.28 points per shot) and Jon Scheyer (18.9 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 5.2 apg, 1.6 spg, 1.39 pps). The slight difference is in the level of importance to his team: The Terrapins aren't close to this season's success without Vasquez, whereas the Blue Devils can also lean on Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler.
Coach of the year: Gary Williams, Maryland. The Terps were picked to finish fifth in the league; sharing a league championship revalidates Williams, whose star has waned since the 2002 national title. Honorable mention to Mike Krzyzewski and Seth Greenberg.
Freshman of the year: Derrick Favors, Georgia Tech. He didn't dominate the league as some had envisioned, but he made an impact (11.9 points, 8.4 rebounds, two blocks, 60 percent accuracy from the field). If Paul Hewitt had constructed this team a little more wisely, Favors' production would have been greater.
Bust of the year: North Carolina. See above. Oh, and add this misery stat: In league scoring margin, the Tar Heels are dead last (minus-5.6 points per game).
Tournament winner: Duke. The best team, with a long history of playing well in this tournament.
Dark horse: Georgia Tech. The No. 7 seed Yellow Jackets could draw Maryland in the quarterfinals, and they had the Terps all but beaten in College Park a few weeks ago.
Early upset candidate: Fifth-seeded Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons beat Clemson on Sunday to end a four-game losing streak, but does anyone really trust them in the postseason?
Player of the year: James Anderson (23), Oklahoma State. Great scorer who diversified his game this season, becoming a more aggressive driver. Anderson has attempted 241 foul shots in 30 games, after trying 269 free throws in his first 68 college games. He's especially torrid heading into the postseason, having scored 25 or more points in seven of his past 10 games.
Coach of the year: Frank Martin, Kansas State. He has competition from Baylor's Scott Drew and Texas A&M's Mark Turgeon, but who among us expected the Wildcats to win 24 regular-season games and lock up the No. 2 seed in the Big 12 tourney? (If you're raising your hand, put it back down. You're lying.)
Freshman of the year: Xavier Henry, Kansas. Henry looked as if he'd hit the freshman wall in late January and early February, but he's broken through it and had a productive last month. In the Jayhawks' past eight games he's averaged nearly 17 points and five rebounds.
Bust of the year: Texas. It takes a special kind of collapse to plummet from No. 1 in the nation to unranked. The Longhorns stagger into the postseason having lost eight of their past 14.
Tournament winner: Baylor. The Jayhawks are the best team in the league and are playing well over the past week, but their motivation is low with a No. 1 seed sewn up. They know the next tournament is all that matters. The athletic Bears, meanwhile, want to improve their NCAA seeding and could be extremely dangerous in both tournaments.
Dark horse: Baylor. The third-seeded Bears have won seven of their past eight.
Early upset candidate: Texas. The Longhorns face an 11th-seeded Iowa State team that won at Kansas State to close the regular season and gave Texas a scare back in January.
Player of the year: Scottie Reynolds ( 24), Villanova. There is no right answer to this question. Reynolds has averaged 20 points per game in league play, but his team has struggled to the finish line. Wesley Johnson's team won the league, but he was only the No. 16 scorer in conference play. Da'Sean Butler has been instrumental for West Virginia, but his rebounding tailed off in Big East games. Dominique Jones and Jeremy Hazell have lit it up, but play for lower-division teams. But you've got to pick someone, so Reynolds is the guy.
Coach of the year: Jim Boeheim. See national award section.
Freshman of the year: Not many true high-impact freshmen to choose from. The Minutes' choice is Cincinnati's Lance Stephenson, though it remains completely plausible that his presence was as much of a chemistry problem as a talent benefit. But Stephenson's play was sufficiently spotty that he'd be wise to return to UC for a second year -- something he probably never foresaw coming in as an All-Everything rookie.
Bust of the year: Connecticut. The Huskies began the regular season ranked in the top 15 and ended it with 11 league losses. That's poor.
Tournament winner: Syracuse. Best team. Tolerable draw. And we know from last year that the Orange can hold up over a multiday grind.
Dark horse: Notre Dame. Has to be the scariest No. 7 seed in any conference tournament. The Fighting Irish have scored four straight rousing wins.
Early upset candidate: Georgetown. The Hoyas have lost four of their past six and could face a South Florida team in the second round that beat them in Washington, D.C.
Player of the year: Evan Turner. See national award section.
Coach of the year: Bo Ryan (25), Wisconsin. Expectations were lowered for the Badgers this season, but keeping them down is like keeping helium down. Doesn't work. Not even losing big man Jon Leuer for nine games has kept Wisconsin from a 12th consecutive NCAA bid.
Freshman of the year: Talk about an uninspiring field. The Minutes gives a tepid vote to Illinois' D.J. Richardson, who ended the regular season in a significant offensive slump (like most of his teammates).
Bust of the year: Michigan. The free fall from preseason Top 25 to 14-16 has been so dispiriting that coach John Beilein said this week that the Wolverines would turn down a CBI invitation. That's code for "Just end this misery now."
Tournament winner: Michigan State. With Purdue diminished by the Robbie Hummel injury, either the Spartans or Buckeyes should win this thing. Tom Izzo's team has had some puzzling performances over the past five weeks, but it also enters the tourney on a three-game winning streak.
Dark horse: Quite frankly, none of the lower-division teams bring any significant momentum into the tournament, so it's hard to find a spoiler. But take a flier on Indiana to beat Northwestern for the second time in a week and then shock Purdue.
Early upset candidate: The Boilermakers are susceptible, if either the Wildcats or Hoosiers are good enough to beat them in the quarterfinals.
Player of the year: Jerome Randle (26). The diminutive California guard with deep range and no fear averages a career-best 18.7 points per game for the league's dominant team.
Coach of the year: Herb Sendek, Arizona State. Sendek lost lottery pick James Harden and fellow NBA draftee Jeff Pendergraph from last year's team, but still managed to guide the Sun Devils to a second-place finish in the league and a fighting chance at an NCAA bid in the final week.
Freshman of the year: Derrick Williams, Arizona. He was a season-saver for the Wildcats, leading them in scoring (15.7) and rebounding (7.0) and providing a cornerstone of Sean Miller's rebuilding project in the desert.
Bust of the year: UCLA. After another season of heavy personnel losses, everyone expected the Bruins to backslide but all the way to 13-17, with losses to Cal State Fullerton, Long Beach State and Portland? Yeesh.
Tournament winner: Washington. Of the three teams with at-large aspirations in the league, the Huskies are the most desperately in need of wins. And they're fairly hot, having won four straight coming in.
Dark horse: Oregon. Clearly, The Minutes is grasping here. But maybe the Ducks send Ernie Kent out with a quarterfinal upset stunner over the Golden Bears. Then again, maybe not.
Early upset candidate: Cal, though none of the top four seeds should be beaten in the quarterfinals.
Player of the year: John Wall. See national awards section.
Coach of the year: John Calipari (27). He has excelled once again as a team-builder, taking over an underachieving team and integrating young talent without any chemistry problems. What the Wildcats have occasionally lacked in full-game dominance they have made up for with spectacular bursts of brilliance and an ability to put games away at crunch time.
Freshman of the year: Wall. See national awards section.
Bust of the year: LSU. In Year 2 under Trent Johnson, the Tigers collapsed from league champions to the worst team in the conference. They're 0-12 away from home, which should pretty well guarantee a first-round knockout in the SEC tourney.
Tournament winner: Kentucky. The first two games could be rematches with the only teams that beat the Wildcats: South Carolina in the quarters and Tennessee in the semis. The final could be Round 3 against a team desperate to win the automatic bid. None of that should be enough to derail the Cats.
Dark horse: Florida. The Minutes can easily see the Gators winning three games to reach the SEC final.
Early upset candidate: Mississippi State. The Bulldogs enter off two very bad losses and haven't beaten anyone of note since November. No reason that should change now.
Top seed: Temple.
Dark horse: Saint Louis. The Billikens crept up on everyone, winning eight of their past 10 to earn a No. 4 seed and a potential semifinal shot at the Owls.
Winner: Richmond (28). The Spiders' only loss since Jan. 20 was by two points in overtime at Xavier. If they win their quarterfinal game, they'll likely get a chance to avenge that loss and could play a Temple team they beat by 17 for the tourney title.
Top seed: UC-Santa Barbara.
Dark horse: Long Beach State. The third-seeded 49ers played an incredibly tough nonconference schedule and could be seasoned for a run here.
Winner: Pacific (29). This balanced, well-coached team drew the No. 2 seed and a double-bye, which could produce a third game against UCSB. After losing the first two, the Tigers could turn the tables this time.
Top seed: UTEP.
Dark horse: Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane underachieved during the regular season but have a chance to atone at home -- and playing at home has been a great advantage in years past in this tourney.
Winner: Memphis (30). The Tigers could have a tricky quarterfinal game against Houston, but get past that and they're looking at a date with sagging UAB. Make the final and institutional memory should take over from there. Memphis just knows how to win this thing.
Top seed: Kent State
Dark horse: Miami (Ohio). Veteran coach Charlie Coles shouldn't be underestimated, and his RedHawks did split with the Golden Flashes during the regular season.
Winner: Kent State (31). If Kent plays the way it did at Akron last week to clinch the regular-season title and No. 1 seed, it will dominate this tournament and win at least one game in the NCAAs. That was a brilliant performance.
Top seed: Morgan State.
Dark horse: South Carolina State. When in doubt, go with the only team to beat the Bears during conference play.
Winner: Morgan State (32). There really shouldn't be too much doubt after all.
Top seed: New Mexico.
Dark horse: San Diego State. The Aztecs could meet up with the Lobos in the semifinals, which would be a favorable matchup. They split the two regular-season meetings, with New Mexico's home win coming in overtime.
Winner: San Diego State (33). A matchup in the finals with either UNLV (playing at home) or BYU (which beat the Aztecs twice) could be problematic. But this tournament has seen some surprises in recent years, so what's one more?
Top seed: Sam Houston State.
Dark horse: Texas San Antonio. The Roadrunners are only a No. 6 seed, but they did manage to beat both Sam Houston and No. 2 seed Stephen F. Austin during the regular season.
Winner: Sam Houston State (34). The Bearkats lost only two league games, by a total of five points, both in overtime. They were very much the best all season and will reinforce that fact this week.
Top seed: Jackson State.
Dark horse: Texas Southern. If the Tigers can beat Prairie View for the first time this season, they get a shot at big dog Jackson State. And which SWAC school owns the only victory over Jackson this season? Yep.
Winner: Texas Southern (35). With eight losses by five points or less, the Tigers are due for some good luck at tournament time.
Top seed: Utah State.
Dark horse: None. This looks like Chalk City until the final, when things could get interesting.
Winner: Nevada (36). Utah State has had a tremendous season, rolling undefeated since Jan. 4, and that includes a season sweep of the Wolfpack. But the tournament is in Reno, Nev., and the game there in January went into overtime, and advancing to the final of this tourney might be enough to get the Aggies into the NCAAs, which would make Nevada the more motivated team. In other words, you can create a scenario in which the Wolfpack win. If you try hard enough.
Coach who earned his comp car this week
Fran McCaffery (37), Siena, for presiding over three straight comeback victories to win the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tourney and the NCAA bid. Two of those comebacks were from double digits, including the rally to beat Fairfield in overtime in the final. The Saints performed under pressure, having to win the tourney for a bid despite dominating the regular season.
Coach who should find a ride to work
Rick Stansbury (38), Mississippi State. With his team on the bubble and needing a big week, the Bulldogs laid an egg at Auburn and then swooned at home against Tennessee. State was so galvanized to play the Volunteers that it fell behind 17-0 right out of the box.
Buzzer-beaterWhen hungry and thirsty in St. Louis, The Minutes recommends a visit to the vividly named Bleeding Deacon Public House (39). There is no overt evidence of religious mayhem at the place, but there is a lavish beer selection and a surprisingly exotic menu. The Minutes recommends the Castro sandwich, which the Deacon describes as its version of a Cuban, with the spicy cole slaw. If you want to go local with the beer, try a 5-Day IPA (40) from the nearby O'Fallon Brewery. If you want to go international, they can handle that too, with a great selection of beer on tap (including Chimay). The place is pleasantly quirky, with menus taped inside old double album covers (young folks, ask your parents what a double album was). The Minutes was handed a menu in an Emerson, Lake & Palmer album. Warning: If you're in St. Louis a couple of weeks hence for the NCAA regional, don't go there expecting to see hoops. There are no TVs. And be prepared for cigarette smoke.
Pat Forde is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at ESPN4D@aol.com.
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