The college basketball season came to an end, Monday night when tournament overall number one seed Louisville Cardinals won the National Championship 82-76 over the Michigan Wolverines.
This year, college basketball fans have seen major conference realignment. NCAA sanctions placed on players, surprising teams on the rise, teams who disappointed; abusive coaches and even an age hoax discovered.
John Calipari and his defending champion Kentucky Wildcats, known for producing freshman phenomenon, didn’t even make the Big Dance. They were upset by Robert Morris in the National Invitational Tournament first round. The Cats became the biggest disappointment of the season, as they found themselves on bubble watch the entire season. After freshman big man Nerlens Noel tore his ACL, their tournament aspirations died.
After a Sweet 16 appearance, North Carolina State supporters had themselves thinking, “it’s our year.” The Wolf pack found themselves ranked in the preseason top 10 and was returning junior forward Calvin “CJ” Leslie. The season never materialized and NC State finished fifth in the Atlantic Coast Conference and were upended in the first round of the tournament. This reality is pretty disappointing, for a team who claimed itself as taking over the state of North Carolina.
Freshman Shabazz Muhammad was disappointing for a different reason. The Nevada native was named the top high school talent in the nation, as an 18 year old, in 2012. Come to find out Muhammad had shaved a year off his life, to get a leg up on the competition and was 20 by seasons’ end. The age hoax was a complete disappointment, simply because his father cheated his son into the best player of his classification status.
The most disappointing story of the season is a recent development. The Rutgers University head coach, Mike Rice was a cancer to his team. The man was simply not fit to lead a team of young men. He verbally abused, as well as physically abused his players. Videotapes surfaced of Rice, using gay slurs, kicking, pushing and hurling basketballs at his players. Bully ball is not expectable, in any form from anyone and resulted in his termination.
The Gonzaga Bulldogs, preseason twenty-first ranked team, ended the regular season as the number 1 team in the country. Behind Kelly Olynyk, a stretch four man, the Zags had their best season ever, finishing 32-3, although they were upset by the Wichita State Shockers, in the round of 32.
The Miami Hurricanes won the ACC regular and tournament championship. The school known as a football powerhouse, up until the early 2000s had an exceptional basketball season. Upstart sophomore Shane Larkin the ACC player of the year and Lute Olsen National Player of the Year, led the Canes to the schools best season. The Hurricanes beat the class of the ACC, the Duke Blue Devils and North Carolina Tar Heels, each by 20 points this season. A seemingly impossible task, for two schools that combined, has won 37 of 60 ACC championships. Behind the tutelage of its second year head coach Jim Larranaga, the Hurricanes evolved from, preseason unranked to a number one ranking during the regular season and a school best 29 wins cultivating a No. 2 seed in the Big Dance.
The feel good story of the season was “ Dunk City,” Florida Gulf Coast University, a 21-year-old University, that found itself make the Big Dance, in just its second year of Division 1 eligibility. The upstart high-flying school won the Atlantic Sun conference and earned a No. 15 seed in the tournament. Once the Cinderella team got in, proved it belonged. Dunking its way to an upset over No. 2 seed Georgetown and becoming the first 15 seed to advance to the Sweet 16. The team played so well its coach, Andy Enfield, was hired as the new coach of the University of Southern California.
This season we said goodbye to one of the most competitive basketball conferences, of the past 34 years in the Big East. The end of the Big East means the end of the Syracuse and Georgetown rivalry, one of the greatest sport rivalries in college basketball history.
Louisville closed the Big East legacy the best way it could, by winning the National Championship and effectively ending the conferences reign on top.