By: Kels Dayton
Stan Van Gundy’s awkward interview with reporters after the Orlando Magic’s shootaround on Thursday. Van Gundy told reporters that he heard that Dwight Howard wanted him fired. The look on Van Gundy’s face when Howard comes in is priceless. Watch all the way through; it’s fantastically awkward.
It’s all coming together for Detroit point guard Ray McCallum Jr.
The 6-2 sophomore won the Roundball Daily.com Horizon League Player of the Year award Wednesday after a season in which he averaged 15.6 points, 4.5 boards and 3.9 assists per game and led the Titans to the Horizon League championship and their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1999.
McCallum came up big when it mattered most in 2012.
Although his Titans (22-14, 11-7) finished three games back of top-seeded Valparaiso in the regular season, they thoroughly dominated the Crusaders on Valpo’s own court in the Horizon League title game.
McCallum led the way with 21 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, and 4 steals in that game,which may have been the deciding factor in his edging out Valparaiso forward Ryan Broekhoff to win the award. (McCallum received 44% of the vote, Broekhoff 42%). The Titans erased a 27-24 halftime deficit by massacring the Crusaders, 46-23 in the second half of their 70-50 win.
This is exactly what UDM fans had envisioned for McCallum when he signed with the school as a McDonald’s All-American two springs ago.
The point guard from Detroit Country Day received offers from some of the top programs in the country, visiting Oklahoma, Arizona, UCLA and Florida before deciding to stay home and play for his father Ray McCallum Sr. at local Detroit-Mercy.
We caught up with the star guard and asked him about winning the award, playing for his father, and what it means to succeed at home.
ROUNDBALL DAILY: First off Ray, congratulations on winning our Horizon League Player of the Year Award. What are your thoughts on winning this honor, especially as a sophomore?
RAY McCALLUM: Thank you. I’m just happy to win this award and happy that we were able to win the Horizon League championship and make the NCAA Tournament. At the start of the year this was our goal. Actually…it’s been out goal for two years. Unfortunately, my freshman year we came up short…but as a team we got together and we knew that this was what we wanted to do.
We had four seniors on this team and my job, being the point guard… I just wanted to do anything that I could to help my seniors and this team to be able to say that they went out with a ring and a championship.
RD: So how do you view individual awards, do you really think of them as just a team thing?
McCALLUM: Well of course I couldn’t have done it without my teammates. As I said at the beginning of the year, there’s no way that I would get this award without my teammates. If it wasn’t for all of their help then it wouldn’t be possible. It’s really them…they helped me out at times during the season when I might not be playing so well. They kept me upbeat. They kept me going in practice each and every day. I owe it all to my teammates and coaching staff as well.
RD: What’s it like to play for your father?
McCALLUM: It’s a lot of fun. He gets the best out of me each and every day…in practice and in games. I’ve gotten a lot better in just two years playing under him and you know, he knows my game really well. So we have a really strong connection on the court. Anytime I’m not doing well, we’ll watch more film or we’ll be in the gym getting more shots up. It’s definitely tough…he pushes me, but he gets the best out of me and that’s what I wanted.
RD: Does he treat you any differently than everyone else on the team?
McCALLUM: I think he treats me tougher than anyone on the team. Of course… being his son, he’s gonna be hard on his son…but I’m also the point guard. I feel like the point guard is like the quarterback. You’ve gotta be on every night. You’ve got to get your teammates involved…you gotta play defense…you gotta score, and you gotta do all the little things to help your team win.
And be vocal. One thing’s for sure, he’s always on me about being vocal and being a leader. And of course he has to be tough on me in practice. He stresses to me how important it is being a point guard because he was a point guard himself. So he knows what it takes.
But it doesn’t bother me that he’s tough on me; I like it.
RD: Coming out of high school as a McDonald’s All-American, did you ever consider going anywhere else?
McCALLUM: Oh yeah. I was looking at four other schools and Detroit made my fifth. I actually took official visits to Oklahoma, UCLA, Arizona and Florida. I was really strongly considering all of those schools. I didn’t make my decision until like the last signing day in April, actually. It was definitely a tough process, but at the end of the day it came down to who I trust the most and who had my best interests [at heart]…and it came down to my father. I just couldn’t turn that down….to get the opportunity to stay home and learn from him and play in front of my family.
McCALLUM: Oh, he stayed out of it. He treated me just like a regular father-son…and he never pushed me either way. He maybe had like two talks with me about it. One was earlier in the year and then later in the year. He told me what he thought I could do here….and then basically let me make my own decision. He actually came on a couple of the visits I had to other schools, but he really left it up to me and gave me my space. But at the end of the day, I knew Detroit was where I wanted to go.
RD: What are your goals for the rest of your collegiate career? I know you’re only a sophomore…
McCALLUM: Well, my goals are to try and win the Horizon League championship again and get back to the NCAA Tournament and actually win some games. And to just keep doing what I’ve been doing and just get better each and every year.
RD: How tough was it to play Kansas in the first round of the tournament. Did you think they had that kind of a run in them, to make it to the national championship game?
McCALLUM: Yeah, Kansas was definitely a tough team…they have really good players at all positions. I think we battled with them early and then in the second half they just kind of took over. But their defense was….I thought they played really good defense. They were in front of you all game…put a lot of pressure on you, got in the lanes…with Robinson and Taylor and Withey and all those guys…it was definitely tough. Defense can win you games and I knew that once they beat us, if you looked at the bracket, they could make a run. I definitely didn’t have them in the national championship game…but they had a great team and they made an incredible run.
RD: Wait, you didn’t fill out a bracket did you?
McCALLUM: No, I didn’t fill one out…. I didn’t want to jinx us.
Roundball Daily surveyed over 3,300 Division 1 basketball coaches and sports information directors in naming the National Player of the Year, Danny Abbott Unsung Hero Award, and the players of the year in each of the 31 conferences. Voting was conducted by email via www.surveymonkey.com.
By: Kels Dayton
Of all of the awards we have just bestowed on some of the best collegiate basketball players in the nation, this is our favorite. The Danny Abbott Unsung Hero Award was voted on in a survey of over 3,300 college basketball coaches and sports information directors from across Division 1. It is given to the player who most impacted his team’s performance this season, even if his play was not dramatically reflected in the box score.
Danny Abbott was the man. He was an unbelievable athlete, hilarious personality, and at times an unwitting pain in the neck. He could make you laugh for 4 hours straight by saying the same thing over and over. There was never a dull moment when you were around him. Danny’s spirit embodied perseverance, youthful exuberance, and an insatiable enthusiasm for life that touched everyone within 250 feet of him. Abbott died in 2001 at the age of 16, but he could not have left a more lasting memory had he lived 120 years.
With Danny’s spirit in mind, Roundball Daily.com is proud to announce that the winner of the inaugural Danny Abbott Unsung Hero Award is Ohio State University point guard Aaron Craft.
Craft is the perfect candidate for what this award stands for. He averaged 8.8 points and 4.6 assists, 3.2 rebounds and 2.5 steals per game this season, but his impact on the Buckeyes could not be measured merely by those statistics.
The 6-2 sophomore was perhaps the nation’s best defensive point guard, hounding opponents with a non-stop, in-your-shorts relentlessness that embodies the passion Abbott had.
New Orleans Times-Picayune columnist John DeShazer described Craft as “the itch that can’t be scratched, the faucet with the never-ending drip, and the gnat that buzzes around your ear no matter how many times it’s the target of a swat.”
“He’s one of the best lead guards in the nation,” said Kansas head coach Bill Self.
Craft was possibly Ohio State’s most important player as he led the Buckeyes to a 31-8 record and an appearance in the Final Four. Perhaps most fitting is the fact that Aaron’s personality reflects Danny’s, as evidenced in this piece by Sports Illustrated. His father John Craft recalls Aaron playing in the driveway with former Ohio State guard Jon Diebler on the night before a big tournament in his freshman year of high school. (Diebler was getting ready to go off to Ohio State at the time).
“It was 2 a.m., and they were drenched in sweat, going at it as hard as they could go,” John Craft said. “I said Aaron, you’ve got to get up early tomorrow and play, and he said `I know, I’ll be ready.’ It reminded me of when he was in fourth or fifth grade – he was not going to back down, and he was out there trying to prove himself.”
“Both boys and my daughter just work relentlessly,” John Craft said. “If they had to sit out and not do something for two days, they would go stir crazy.”
Nothing could describe Abbott more accurately. And that’s one of the reasons that we at Roundball Daily.com are honored to present the Buckeye point guard with this award.
Craft garnered 39.3% of the vote, and edged out Purdue senior forward Robbie Hummel, who earned 33.5%. Louisville junior Peyton Siva picked up 15% of the vote, while Kansas junior guard Elijah Johnson came in at 5.3%.
Other top responses included Missouri senior guard Kim English, Long Beach State senior guard Casper Ware, Colorado State junior forward Pierce Hornung and Syracuse senior guard Scoop Jardine.
Congratulations to Aaron on an outstanding season and for winning the inagural Danny Abbott Unsung Hero Award.
Danny would be proud, although he’d never stop talking about it.
Award voting was conducted and votes tabulated by email via www.surveymonkey.com.
By: Kels Dayton
Here at Roundball Daily.com, we like to think of ourselves as a college basketball authority. But as supremely knowledgeable as we are, we can’t do it alone. So we surveyed over 3,300 Division 1 college basketball coaches and sports information directors and asked them for their picks on the National Player of the Year, Danny Abbott Unsung Hero Award, and the Player of the Year in each of their respective conferences. Today, we are proud to announce the winners of the Roundball Daily.com Conference Player of the Year Awards. Because that’s what you do when you’re an authority. Now, check out the well-deserving winners:
America East- Darryl Partin, G, Boston University (19.6 ppg, 3.9 rpg)- The senior guard was terrific for the Terriers this season. BU finished 12-4 in the America East.
ACC- Tyler Zeller, F, University of North Carolina (16.5 ppg, 9.3 rpg)- Zeller took home 33% of the vote, and captured the award over teammates Kendall Marshall and Harrison Barnes, and North Carolina State’s C.J. Leslie.
Zeller on winning the award: “This is certainly a great honor and one that I appreciate very much. I’d like to thank my coaches and teammates, without whom I wouldn’t have had the season I did. I wish our season could have lasted a couple games longer, but it wasn’t meant to be.”
Atlantic 10- Andrew Nicholson, F, Saint Bonaventure University (18.4 ppg, 8.5 rpg)-Nicholson dominated the award voting, capturing over 75% of the vote in the A-10. Saint Joseph’s C.J. Aiken finished in second.
Atlantic Sun- Torrey Craig, F, University of South Carolina-Upstate (16.8 ppg, 7.9 rpg)-Craig was the surprise winner in the A-Sun. He led little-known upstart USC-Upstate to a 13-5 record in the conference, which was good enough for a second-place tie with Mercer.
Big East- Jae Crowder, F, Marquette University (17.4 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 2.1 apg)-Crowder edged West Virginia’s Kevin Jones in a tight race, recieving 38% of the vote.
Big Twelve- Thomas Robinson, F, Kansas University (17.9 ppg, 11.8 rpg)- Robinson won the Big 12 Player of the Year by a wide margin and finished second in the voting for National Player of the Year (28.2%).
Big Ten- Draymond Green, F, Michigan State University (16.1 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 3.6 apg)- Green won the Big Ten POY award over Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger and Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor. He also finished third in the voting for National Player of the Year (13.1%).
Big Sky- Damian Lillard, G, Weber State University (24.5 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 4.0 apg)- The junior finished second in the nation in points per game (behind Oakland’s Reggie Hamilton) and beat out Montana’s Will Cherry for the RD Big Sky award.
Big South- Nick Barbour, G, High Point University (20.4 ppg,.484 3-Point FG Pct.)- UNC-Asheville’s J.P. Primm won the AP award, but Barbour won the Roundball Daily.com award with 44 percent of the vote.
Big West- Casper Ware, G, Long Beach State University (17.4 ppg, 3.3 apg)- The senior guard beat out UCSB’s Orlando Johnson for the award in leading the 49ers to the NCAA Tournament.
Casper on winning the award: “It is a big honor to be named the Big West Player of the Year by Roundball Daily.com, and I need to give thanks to my coaches and teammates for helping put me in position to win the award.”
Colonial Athletic Association- Bradford Burgess, G, Virginia Commonwealth University (13.3 ppg, 4.9 rpg)- The senior Burgess’ leadership was key in winning him this award in a tightly-contested battle with Drexel’s Frantz Massenat.
Conference USA- Will Barton, G, Memphis University (18.1 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 3.0 apg)- The do-everything sophomore guard ran away with the C-USA Player of the Year award.
Horizon League- Ray McCallum, Jr., G, Detroit University (15.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 3.9 apg)- McCallum won the Roundball Daily.com award in an extremely tight race with Valparaiso forward Ryan Broekhoff.
Independents-Antwan Carter, C, Longwood University (19.4 ppg, 9.2 rpg)- Carter was outstanding for Longwood, which went 10-21 this season as a Division 1 Independent.
Antwan on winning the award: ” I feel very honored to receive this award from Roundball Daily.com. I’d like to thank my coaches and teammates for making awards like this possible for me to receive, and I appreciate this recognition as a player on an Independent team this season.”
Ivy League- Zach Rosen, F, University of Pennsylvania (18.5 ppg, 5.2 apg)- The senior guard ran away with our award despite sharing AP honors with Harvard’s Kyle Casey.
Mid-American- Mitchell Watt, F, University of Buffalo (16.6 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 2.3 apg)- Watt ran away with the MAC Player of the Year award, receiving the highest percentage (79%) of votes of any player in the country. Ohio’s D.J. Cooper finished in second.
Watt on winning the award: “It’s an honor to win this award. It’s especially gratifying because it was voted on by coaches around the country. I truly appreciate the acknowledgment, but it couldn’t be possible without the help of my coaches and teammates. They have helped make this a truly special year.”
Metro Atlantic Athletic- Scott Machado, G, Iona College (13.6 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 9.9 apg)- The nation’s assists leader is an outstanding point guard and could be an NBA Lottery pick. He dominated the voting.
Mid-Eastern Athletic- Kyle O’Quinn, C, Norfolk State University (15.9 ppg, 10.4 rpg)- Not sure which is the greater honor for O’Quinn, leading Norfolk State to one of the biggest upsets in tournament history in defeating 2nd-seeded Missouri, or winning this award? Wait, don’t answer that.
O’Quinn on winning the award: “It feels great to be honored for the year I had and we had as a team. But I couldn’t have done this without my teammates, so this is like a team award to me. We all accomplished a lot this season and we’re proud to have been the first NSU team to win the MEAC title and an NCAA Division 1 tournament game.”
Missouri Valley Conference- Doug McDermott, F, Creighton University (23.2 ppg, 8.2 rpg)-The sophomore forward and coaches’ son was a national revelation this season, and was named as a first-team All-American.
Mountain West- Drew Gordon, F/C, University of New Mexico (13.4 ppg, 10.9 rpg)-The senior forward beat out San Diego State guard Jamal Franklin and Colorado State forward Dorian Green for this honor.
Northeast Conference- Julian Boyd, F, Long Island University-Brooklyn (17.4 ppg, 9.5 rpg)- Boyd edged teammate Jamal Olasewere and Robert Morris’ Velton Jones for the NEC Player of the Year honors.
Julian on winning the award: “It’s a great honor. I could not have done it without my teammates, especially Jason Brickman. He runs the team and gets me more than half my points.”
Ohio Valley Conference- Isaiah Canaan, G, Murray State University (19.2 ppg, 3.7 apg, 3.2 rpg)- The junior guard also finished fourth in our National Player of the Year voting, garnering 5.3% of the vote.
Pac-12- Andre Roberson, F, University of Colorado (11.6 ppg, 11.1 rpg)- Jorge Gutierrez won the Pac-12 AP Player of the Year award, but Roberson dominated this vote, which also took into account the postseason. Roberson was outstanding in leading Colorado to a Pac-12 tournament championship in the school’s first season in the conference. The Buffaloes then knocked off sixth-seeded UNLV to advance to the third round of the NCAA Tournament, while Cal was blown out by South Florida in a play-in game.
Andre on winning the award: “It means a lot to be recognized for what I accomplished in the Pac-12 Conference this year. I’m looking forward to the challenge of getting better this off-season and look to continue to build on what we did as a team in the Pac-12.”
Patriot League- C.J. McCollum, G, Lehigh University– (21.9 ppg, 6.5 rpg)-McCollum was the best player on the floor when the 15th-seeded Mountain Hawks took down Duke in the Round of 64 in the NCAAs. He won this award easily, capturing 77% of the vote.
SEC- Anthony Davis, F, University of Kentucky (14.3 ppg, 10.0 rpg, 4.7 bpg)- No duh. Just as a reminder, Davis put up 16 rebounds, 5 assists, 6 blocks, and 3 steals in UK’s national championship win over Kansas. He went 1-for-10 from the field and still completely dominated the game. Amazing.
Southern Conference- DeMon Brooks, F, Davidson College (16.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg)- The sophomore forward will be a player to keep an eye on next season in the SoCon.
Southland Conference-Patrick Richard, G, McNeese State University (18.1 ppg, 6.3 rpg)- Richard took home the award in one of the most hotly-contested of all of the conference races. Texas-Arlington’s LaMarcus Reed III (17.8 ppg) finished a very close second.
Richard on winning the award: “I am certainly excited to win the award and be named our conference player of the year. It’s an honor for me just to be considered in the same grouping of outstanding athletes that we have in our conference. To be named our league’s top player is an honor not only for me but for our entire team and our coaching staff.”
Southwestern Athletic- Paul Crosby, C, Mississippi Valley State (13.6 ppg, 7.4 rpg)-Crosby was the runaway winner in the SWAC, and earned a spot in Roundball Daily.com’s heart for his heart-wrenching press conference after the Delta Devils’ opening-round loss to Western Kentucky.
Crosby on winning the award: “It’s an honor to be recognized for my talent on the court. It was a thrilling senior year for me and I’ll always remember it.”
Summit League- Nate Wolters, G, South Dakota State University (21.3 ppg, 6.0 apg, 5.2 rpg)- This kid will be heard from next season. The junior guard is one of the nation’s most anonymous superstars, even after leading the Jackrabbits to the NCAA Tournament this year.
Nate on winning the award: “It’s a great honor to be named Player of the Year in the Summit League, especially in a league with some really good players this year. It was fun to compete against some of the top scorers in the country almost every week. Our goal as a team was to win the Summit League Tournament and play in the NCAA Tournament, and to accomplish that for the first time in school history was great.”
Sun Belt Conference- Tony Mitchell, F, University of North Texas (14.7 ppg, 10.3 rpg)-Speaking of players who will be heard from in the future, North Texas’ Mitchell won this award as a freshman, beating out Middle Tennessee State’s LeRon Dendy.
Western Athletic Conference-Raheem Appelby, G, Louisiana Tech University (13.9 ppg, 2.4 rpg)-Another freshman winner, the 6-2 guard was a surprise choice in the WAC. Appelby did come on strong in the conference tournament in leading the Bulldogs to the championship game.
West Coast Conference- Matthew Dellavedova, G, Saint Mary’s College (15.6 ppg, 6.4 apg)-The sweet-shooting Australian was a runaway winner in the WCC. It seems like Dellavedova has been with the Gaels forever, but he’s only a junior, which means that next season could be just as magical in Marauga.
Award voting was conducted and tabulated by e-mail via www.surveymonkey.com.
By: Kels Dayton
Q: How long will it take until this national championship is vacated by the NCAA?
Kels: Just kidding, ‘Cats fans. John Calipari did a great job recruiting and managing this group of freshmen, which has become the most remarkable one-and-done team in college basketball history. They did all of the things that naysayers criticized young teams for not doing in the past. They defended, they played unselfishly on the offensive end, and they completely bought in to what their coaching staff was telling them. I don’t know how Calipari gets all of these five-star blue chip guys to commit to him no matter where he is, but he has sure figured out how to manage them and guide them along as basketball players once he gets them on campus.
Q: Larry Brown said the team that drafts Anthony Davis will win 50 games next year. He couldn’t possibly be that good right away, could he?
Kels: He’s going to be pretty good, but we all need to calm down just a little bit. Davis hasn’t filled out yet–he might not have even stopped growing–and he’s not going to play the center position in the NBA. He’ll likely be a 3 or 4, and because he was only 6-2 just two years ago, he has the guard skills and shooting ability that are going to make him a unique player in the league. There’s no question that Davis is going to be a shotblocking force and a terrific defender at the next level, but it is going to take some time before he’s able to go body-to-body with the big boys in the NBA down low.
Q: What went wrong for Kansas in the title game?
Kels: Well…two turnovers by Elijah Johnson near the end, two missed dunks, some missed free throws, missed opportunities to turn Kentucky over, and the inability of Tyshawn Taylor to contain Marquis Teague really killed the Jayhawks. And of course, Anthony Davis was spectacular. Kentucky was too talented in every aspect of the game for Kansas, and they made the plays down the stretch necessary to win a national championship. Add in the fact that UK shot lights out from the field, and that was all she wrote for the Jayhawks.
Q: How does this championship game loss feel as a Kansas fan?
Kels: It’s always tough when your season ends. But it’s especially painful when your team loses in the national championship game. Being that close and then coming up short stings even worse than not getting there at all, although you can’t help but feel pride in the way your team competed.
This Kansas run was unlike any other I’ve experienced as a Jayhawk fan because, even though they were a No. 2 seed, I never imagined that they could reach the national championship game this season. Think about the fact that the Jayhawks lost four starters from last season’s team; that Thomas Robinson had started only three games in his career coming into this season, and that the ‘Hawks roster was filled with a bunch of role-players like Jeff Withey and Travis Releford.
This was supposed to be a down year in Lawrence, but head coach Bill Self did a remarkable job–probably the best of his career –in turning this group into the national runner-up. I would compare Kansas to the 2000 Florida Gators, 2002 Indiana, or 2009 Michigan State. The run was awesome, but in the end we all knew that Kentucky was the better team. You can’t be too upset about losing to them, no matter how much you’d like to take a hedge trimmer to Anthony Davis’ unibrow and punch the smug Calipari in the gut.
By: Kels Dayton
On the eve of the Final Four, how about we go back in time to some old-school college basketball? The Fab Five of Michigan take on this 1993 Kentucky squad led by Rick Pitino in one of the classic Final Four battles that people forget about.
By: Kels Dayton
The 2012 Kentucky Wildcats are clearly the best team in college basketball. It’s not even close. Kentucky has the best player (Anthony Davis), another top-five NBA draft pick (Michael Kidd-Glichrist), two other first-rounders (Terrence Jones and Marquis Teague) and a loaded bench.
Now, the question many people have been asking is, “Could Kentucky defeat a bad NBA team?”
Of course not. The worst team in the league in 2012 are the Washington Wizards, and they would run these Wildcats by 30 points–in D.C., in Rupp, on the moon- wherever.
Remember, UK may have four or five NBA players, but an NBA team has 13 NBA players. I know…it’s like a riddle or something. But seriously, how stupid can you be?
But are the Wildcats the best team of the past decade? We say–emphatically–no.
There are at least five other national champions that have taken the court since 2002 who would take down the Wildcats. They’re listed below. (And don’t forget 2009 Connecticut, 2008 UCLA, 2008 Memphis, 2008 North Carolina, 2006 Florida, and 2005 Illinois, all of whom would have given Big Blue a serious run).
2009 NORTH CAROLINA TAR HEELS (33-4, Def. Michigan State 89-72 in Nat’l Final)
C Tyler Hansbrough (20.7 ppg, 8.1 rpg, Nat’l Player of Year)- Now a key reserve for Indiana Pacers (9.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg)
F Danny Green (13.1 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 2.7 apg)- Now with the San Antonio Spurs (8.4 ppg, 3.7 rpg)
F Deon Thompson (10.6 ppg, 5.7 rpg)- Now plays professionally in Europe
Key Reserves: F Ed Davis (6.7 ppg, 6.6 rpg)- was the No. 11 pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, now a reserve for Toronto Raptors
TEAM OVERVIEW: The ’09 Tar Heels were the clear-cut class of college basketball in 2009, winning 33 games and obliterating everyone in their path on their way to the national title. The Heels rolled through the NCAAs, defeating opponents by an average of 20.1 points per game and embarrassing Michigan State, 89-72, in the title game in Detroit. Point guard Ty Lawson was the fastest man in college basketball, and has turned out to be a rising star in the NBA. Big man Tyler Hansbrough is a Carolina legend, and has turned out to be a pretty good NBA player in his own right. In all, the Heels had six players who are currently on NBA rosters.
WHY THEY’D BEAT KENTUCKY: This team is much more experienced, and every bit as talented. Tyler Hansbrough‘s muscle and indomitable will inside would neutralize the ever-improving Anthony Davis, who despite all his physical gifts would have a heck of a time trying to guard Hansbrough. Carolina also had tremendous length in Ed Davis and F Tyler Zeller coming off the bench, and a pair of terrific three-point shooters in Danny Green and the rattlesnake-deadly Wayne Ellington on the wing.
FINAL SCORE: 2009 North Carolina 95, 2012 Kentucky 85
2008 KANSAS JAYHAWKS (37-3, Def. Memphis, 75-68 in Nat’l Final)
G Mario Chalmers (12.8 ppg, 4.3 apg, 3.1 rpg, 2.5 spg)- Big-shot Mario was a defensive dynamo. Now the starting point guard and a three-point specialist for the Miami Heat (9.9 ppg, 3.4 apg, 1.5 spg)
G Russell Robinson (7.3 ppg, 4.1 apg, 2.0 spg)- One of the great defensive guards in Kansas history. Now plays in the NBDL.
C Darnell Jackson (11.2 ppg, 6.7 rpg)- Heart and soul of this Jayhawks team. Now plays for the Sacramento Kings (currently injured).
F Brandon Rush (13.3 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 2.1 apg)- Terrific defender and scorer, and unselfish passer. Now a key player with the Golden State Warriors.
F Darrell Arthur (12.8 ppg, 6.3 rpg)-Athletic, polished big man would be a very tough matchup for Kentucky. Now a key reserve with the Memphis Grizzlies.
G Sherron Collins (9.3 ppg, 4.1 apg)- Collins was a reserve in name only. Played in crunch time for Kansas, remains a legend with the Jayhawks for clutch steal and three-pointer in title game, 2009 first-team All-American. Signed a rookie contract with Charlotte Bobcats. Now plays in Europe.
C Sasha Kaun (7.1 ppg, 3.9 rpg)- Played big minutes for the ‘Hawks. Now plays professionally in Europe.
F Cole Aldrich (5.9 ppg, 4.7 rpg)- Had a coming-out party in ’08 Final Four. Now a reserve with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
TEAM OVERVIEW: The ’08 Jayhawks had six–count ’em–six players who saw time in the NBA. Five still remain on NBA rosters. This was an incredibly balanced team, with all four of the five starters averaging in double figures. Mario Chalmers and Russell Robinson made up probably the best defensive backcourt in the past decade in college hoops, and Sherron Collins was a big-time scorer and distributor coming off the bench.
The Jayhawks were absolutely loaded up front, with NBA guys Darrell Arthur, Darnell Jackson, and Cole Aldrich and key cog Sasha Kaun roaming the paint. This was probably the best defensive team of the past decade, and Kansas won the national title in a year in which Kevin Love’s UCLA team and Derrick Rose’s Memphis team each participated in the Final Four. The overall talent level in college hoops was better in ’08, as all four number one seeds reached the Final Four. Perhaps the best way to demonstrate how good this Kansas team was is to point out that it led virtually the exact same North Carolina team you just read about 40-12 at one point in the National Semifinal game.
WHY THEY’D BEAT KENTUCKY: Like the ’09 Tar Heels, this team was far more experienced than this year’s Kentucky squad. 2008 Kansas was absolutely menacing in the backcourt, and overpowering up front. The Jayhawks had so much balance and power that any one of their top eight guys could go for 25 and 10, but they played with such a cohesiveness and a togetherness that that never happened. Kansas would wear down today’s Wildcats and force them to shoot deep jumpers. They’d control the pace of the game, and pull away at the end in a decisive victory.
FINAL SCORE: 2008 Kansas 82, 2012 Kentucky 69
2007 FLORIDA GATORS (34-5, Def. Ohio State, 84-75 in Nat’l Final)
G Taurean Green (13.3 ppg, 3.7 apg, 1.7 spg)- Led the team in scoring, spent 3 seasons in NBA. Now plays in Europe.
G Lee Humphrey (10.3 ppg, .459 3-pt FG Pct)-Sharpshooting guard now plays in the NBDL.
C Joakim Noah (12.8 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 1.9 bpg)-Defensive menace, outstanding college player. Now starts for the Chicago Bulls.
F Corey Brewer (13.2 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 2.9 apg)- Solid defender, versatile scorer. Now with NBA’s Denver Nuggets.
F Al Horford (13.2 ppg, 9.5 rpg)-Best NBA player on this team. Great young forward with the Atlanta Hawks, although injured this year.
TEAM OVERVIEW: Has everyone forgotten about this Florida team, which won back-to-back national championships in 2006 and 2007? The Gators boasted three NBA players in their starting lineup, two of whom have gone on to outstanding careers in the league. Joakim Noah and Al Horford have both carved up quite a niche in the NBA, with Noah being a starter and defensive stalwart on the best team in the league (record-wise), and Horford twice earning a spot in the All-Star game.
WHY THEY’D BEAT KENTUCKY: These Gators would punch Kentucky in the mouth. 2006-07 Florida became the first team since 1991-92 Duke to repeat as national champions, and they were loaded with juniors and seniors, which is an anomaly in today’s college game. Florida had the size to overwhelm young Anthony Davis on the backboard, and sharpshooting Lee Humphrey was always there to knock down the big 3 when the Gators needed it. Although they had a habit of playing down to their competition, this Gators team showed up when it mattered most. They were just too good for the 2012 ‘Cats.
FINAL SCORE: 2007 Florida 82, 2012 Kentucky 73
2004 CONNECTICUT HUSKIES (27-6, Def. Georgia Tech, 82-73 in Nat’l Final)
G Taliek Brown (6.3 ppg, 7.5 apg, 3.9 rpg)- Maybe the best floor general in UConn history; uncanny defender. Now playing in Canada.
G Ben Gordon (18.5 ppg, 4.7 apg)- Gordon was the go-to scorer on this team, and the Huskies’ best offensive player. He now balls with the Detroit Pistons.
C Emeka Okafor (17.6 ppg, 11.5 rpg, 4.1 bpg, First team All-American)- Okafor was the best player in college basketball in 2004. He was taken with the No. 2 pick in the NBA draft, and now plays for the New Orleans Hornets.
F Rashad Anderson (11.2 ppg, 2.9 rpg)- Sharpshooting sniper for UConn in ’04, could catch fire and hit 9 threes in a row. Also a money crunch-time shooter.
F Josh Boone (5.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg)- Boone was just a freshman in ’04, but he became a big-time presence down low as the season wore on. Played four seasons with the Nets, now plays in Europe.
TEAM OVERVIEW: Anyone who watched college basketball in 2004 remembers that the Huskies were far and away the best team in America. UConn rolled through the NCAA Tournament, winning its first four games by margins of 17, 17, 20, and 16. The Huskies also barreled No. 3 Georgia Tech in the national championship game, leading by as many as 22 points in a convincing 82-73 victory. UConn was balanced both inside and out with Ben Gordon and Emeka Okafor, and became the first team since Kentucky in 1996 to go from Preseason No. 1 in September to national champion in April.
WHY THEY’D BEAT KENTUCKY: Once again, UConn was much more experienced than the Wildcats are, and the Huskies may have been just as talented. Okafor was as dominant a force as there has been in the past decade in college basketball. Connecticut had six players who went on to play in the NBA, and has four who are still balling there eight years later. Point guard Taliek Brown would abuse Marquis Teague in the backcourt, and Gordon is a better player than anyone Kentucky can put on the wing. (Yes, that includes Kidd-Gilchrist). Remember, Okafor and Gordon went No. 2 and No. 3 in the NBA Draft that year, and Villanueva was a lottery pick the following season.
FINAL SCORE: 2004 UConn 79, 2012 Kentucky 77
2003 SYRACUSE ORANGEMEN (24-5, Def. Kansas 81-78 in Nat’l Final)
G Gerry McNamara (13.3 ppg, 4.4 apg)- Only a freshman in ’03, McNamara hit a record six three-pointers in the NCAA championship game.
G Kueth Duany (11.0 ppg, 3.7 rpg)-Duany was a good shooter, but had the size at 6-6 to match up with UK’s Kidd-Gilchrist or Jones on the wing.
C Craig Forth (3.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg)- His size (7-1) would provide the biggest challenge to Davis, but Forth wasn’t a great collegian.
F Carmelo Anthony (22.2 ppg, 10.0 rpg)- The only name that really matters on this team, outside of McNamara. NBA superstar with the New York Knicks.
F Hakim Warrick (14.8 ppg, 8.5 rpg)- Just a sophomore that season, but came away with the biggest play in Syracuse history with his block on Kansas’ Michael Lee with 3 seconds to play. Now plays for the NBA’s Phoenix Suns.
Key Reserves: G Josh Pace (4.3 ppg, 2.7 rpg), G Billy Edelin (9.0 ppg, 3.4 rpg)
TEAM OVERVIEW: This wasn’t the best team in 2003, but Syracuse came together at the perfect time behind freshmen Gerry McNamara and Carmelo Anthony, who remains the lone one-and-done college superstar to lead his team to an NCAA championship. McNamara was a clutch shooter, and would go on to become one of the greatest guards in Syracuse history. He didn’t have a great professional career, and is now a Syracuse assistant, but McNamara was just plain scary in the big spot in college. Anthony of course led the way for this Syracuse team, coming through with a historic NCAA Tournament performance, averaging 20.8 points and 9.8 rebounds per game.
WHY THEY’D BEAT KENTUCKY: This is the best matchup of all of the teams we’ve listed. Much like 2012 Kentucky, ’03 Syracuse was loaded with talented freshmen and sophomores. Kentucky may have more NBA talent, but there’s little chance that any of the Wildcats will turn out to be as good as Carmelo Anthony in the pros. The ‘Cuse was just as long inside as Kentucky is, with Warrick, Anthony and Forth flanking the front line. Even Duany had size, and he was a capable defender. Throw in McNamara‘s shooting ability and propensity for making big plays, and Syracuse takes out the ‘Cats in an awesome game.
FINAL SCORE: 2003 Syracuse 85, 2012 Kentucky 84