2011 Hoops & Helmets Rankings
Terrelle Pryor & Jared Sullinger
Terrelle Pryor & Jared Sullinger
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Mar 14, 2011


Scandal? Whatever. Who cares when Terrelle Pryor and Jared Sullinger are bringing in titles? What fan base got to have the most fun this year? Which schools have the best combination of football and basketball programs, at least in terms of results? Richard Cirminiello gives his annual look at the star athletic departments in the 2011 version of hoops and helmets.


Hoops & Helmets 2011

The Best Football & Hoops Schools

By Richard Cirminiello
 
- Ooops & Helmets 2011 - Notable Misses

- Hoops & Helmets 2010
- Ooops & Helmets 2010
- Hoops & Helmets 2009
- Ooops & Helmets 2009
- Hoops & Helmets 2008

- Ooops & Helmets 2008
- Hoops & Helmets 2007

It’s the month of March, which means it’s once again time to rerank the nation’s athletic programs, Hoops and Helmets style.

If you’re a grad, current student, or fervent supporter of a particular school’s football program, it’s a rather safe bet that you’re investing some discretionary time and money into the basketball team as well. That’s especially true when the month on your calendar tells you it’s March. If that program happens to be Ohio State or San Diego State, for instance, chances are even better that you haven’t stopped cheering since Labor Day. As a fan, your school has given you plenty of reasons to grin, belt out fight songs, and pump out your two-tone chest over the past six months.

Some campuses, such as Oregon, Auburn, and TCU, for example, have had little to gloat about since the bowl season ended. Countless others, such as Duke, Purdue, and Kansas, couldn’t wait until the football season was over and Midnight Madness kicked off. Only the truly fortunate backers have feasted their eyes and their emotions on quality products in both major sports.

As in the past, the focus of this unconventional ranking amalgam is on those fans who’ve had their cake and dunked it, too. They bowled around the holidays and now they’re preparing to waltz into the postseason for at least one more game of a memorable winter of athletic patronage.

16. Washington
The Huskies are making their H&H debut, thanks to the football team’s first bowl berth since 2002. While there were plenty of rough patches, there was also a strong finish that earned Steve Sarkisian a postseason game in his second year on campus. U-Dub won its final three regular season games before exacting revenge on Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl for a lopsided loss three months earlier. Lorenzo Romar’s basketball squad showed a strong final kick as well, using a frenetic style and the play of Isaiah Thomas to take the Pac-10 Tournament. Washington is one of those No. 7 seeds that’s capable of being a real nuisance in the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament.

15. BYU
There was a time in the middle of October when the Cougars looked as if they’d have no realistic shot of contending for one of these spots. The football team was 2-5 and had just been spanked by TCU, 31-3. However, the schedule lightened up and the team started to heat up around rookie QB Jake Heaps, capping a 5-1 finish with a New Mexico Bowl blowout of UTEP. The basketball team took the baton and raised the school’s athletic profile from there. With G Jimmer Fredette raining three-pointers on opponents, third-seeded BYU has won 30-of-34 games and the Mountain West regular season title. Even without suspended F Brandon Davies, the program believes it can go deep in the NCAA Tournament.

14. West Virginia
The Mountaineer football team finished in a tie atop the Big East along with Connecticut and Pittsburgh, but an Oct. 29 loss to the Huskies meant the Champs Sports Bowl and not a BCS bowl. West Virginia fell to NC State, squandering an opportunity for a 10-win season and a spot in the final Top 25. Dana Holgorsen has since been named as the successor to Bill Stewart, who’ll coach his final year in 2011. Bob Huggins became the school’s first coach to win 20 games in each of his first four years, guiding the ‘neers through a brutal schedule. Though a modest 20-11, West Virginia had a knack for saving its best efforts for its toughest opponents.

13. Syracuse
For years, Jim Boeheim’s team needed help from the football squad to get any recognition here. For a change, it got it. The Orange enjoyed a breakout year for Doug Marrone, going 8-5 and making that long-awaited return to the postseason. Syracuse didn’t just show up at the inaugural Pinstripe Bowl, it knocked off Kansas State in one of the more entertaining games of the postseason. As usual, the basketball half of this equation has carried its weight in Upstate New York. Third seeded and in third place of the Big East during the regular season, the Orange is 26-7, getting consistent effort from veteran forwards Rick Jackson and Kris Joseph.

12. Missouri
Strong starts weren’t an issue for Mizzou. It was an ability to finish that kept the school from ascending any higher. The Tiger basketball team opened 14-1, with quality wins over Vandy and Illinois, rising into the top 10. However, it was unable to keep the momentum going, closing at a dismal 9-9 and feeling fortunate to land one of the final at-large bids. Gary Pinkel’s football squad, too, raised expectations with the help of QB Blaine Gabbert, opening 7-0 and evoking chatter about a possible BCS bowl run. Back-to-back losses to Nebraska and Texas Tech put an end to that possibility, and an Insight Bowl loss to Iowa bumped the program to 10-3 and a final ranking of No. 18.

11. North Carolina
Had it not been for all of those preseason suspensions of football players, the Tar Heels might have risen into the top four or five duets. The team was gutted, especially on defense, yet still managed to win eight games, defeating Tennessee in the Music City Bowl. If nothing else, Butch Davis’ kids displayed a ton of perseverance by battling through some difficult times. In hoops, 26-7 Carolina is in a familiar position, ranked and rolling in time for the NCAA Tournament. The ACC regular season champs and No. 2 seed out of the East bracket, they were unranked in the middle of January before riding rookie sensation Harrison Barnes and finishing on a 14-2 run.

10. Florida
It’s taken a few years, but Billy Donovan has the Gators competing for a shot at a national title once again. The second-seeded team out of the Southeast, they’ve got balance and will bang the boards with authority. After a slow start that included December losses to UCF and Jacksonville, Florida tore through the rest of the SEC, going 15-4 versus league competition. Urban Meyer’s final football team in Gainesville was a little slow out of the gates as well, but lacked the kick and the offensive consistency to truly turn things around. The Gators sent Meyer off with an Outback Bowl win over Penn State, but at 8-5, the program stumbled to its worst year since 2004.

9. Pittsburgh
Even after falling in the Big East Tournament, the Panthers, the league’s regular season champs, still got the No. 1 seed they coveted. Back in the dance for a 10th year in-a-row, Pitt stands at 27-5, having handled Texas, Connecticut, Syracuse, Villanova, and rival West Virginia twice to get to this point. The situation on grass was far more uncertain for a school that’s had four different men in charge since Thanksgiving. Dave Wannstedt got canned after stumbling to a 7-5 mark, Phil Bennett led the team to a bowl win on an interim basis, and Mike Haywood lasted 17 days after a domestic violence charge. Todd Graham finally settled in on a permanent basis. When all was said and done, the Panthers wound up with eight wins and tied atop the league standings.

8. Michigan State
The Spartans underwent a role reversal in sports over the past six months. The football team flew past expectations, while the cagers missed the mark in a big way. Mark Dantonio’s kids were one of last season’s big surprises, copping a share of the Big Ten title for the first time in two decades and winning an improbable 11 games. Using some magic before getting thumped by Alabama in the Capital One Bowl, Michigan State ended the year ranked No. 14 in the country. While not a vintage Tom Izzo production on the court, the Spartans did enough en route to a 19-14 record to land a No. 10 seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament, their 14th straight appearance. The schedule was thorny, but wins over Wisconsin and Purdue and Izzo’s reputation helped put the team in the field of 68.

7. Notre Dame
Just because the Irish didn’t land a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament doesn’t mean it didn’t perform like a No. 1 seed throughout the year. One of the most experienced and well-coached teams in the country, Notre Dame finished in second place in the rugged Big East, having beaten Connecticut twice and regular season champ Pittsburgh on the road. While Brian Kelly’s debut on the sidelines in South Bend was a rocky one, the Irish football team finished strong and will carry a head of steam into 2011. After falling below .500 just before Halloween, ND rallied for successive wins over Utah, Army, USC, and Miami in the Sun Bowl to carve out a respectable 8-5 mark.

6. Connecticut
It’s been a banner year all-around for the Huskies, which have created points on the school timeline in both major sports. For the first time ever, Connecticut won a Big East championship in football, going 8-5 and earning a spot in the Fiesta Bowl. While it was no match for Oklahoma in Glendale, simply appearing in a BCS bowl game was a major step forward for the program. This past week, Jim Calhoun’s basketball team hopped on the shoulders of G Kemba Walker and became the first Big East team to win five tournament games in five days, beating four ranked opponents along the way. No. 3 in the West Region, the Huskies are dangerous and streaking.

5. Florida State
Although the record, 21-10, isn’t eye-popping and the ‘Noles aren’t ranked, a third place finish behind Duke and North Carolina in the ACC was enough to cop a No. 10 seed in the Southwest region. With F Chris Singleton doing a little bit of everything all winter, Florida State snapped the top-ranked Blue Devils’ 25-game winning streak on Jan. 12. The football team made a terrific transition in Jimbo Fisher’s first year succeeding Bobby Bowden, capping a 10-4 season with a Chick-fil-A Bowl win over South Carolina. The school’s first 10-win campaign since 2003 also included routs over rivals Miami and Florida.

4. Texas A&M
More than anything else, this lofty ranking ought to be credited to Mike Sherman’s football team, which broke through beyond most forecasts. After starting slowly, the Aggies went on a tear, winning their final six regular season games before falling to LSU in the Cotton Bowl. Included in the run to a 9-4 campaign were defeats of Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Texas fueled by a revamped backfield. On the hardwood, seventh-seeded A&M finished in a third place tie in the Big 12 during the regular season and on the fringe of the Top 25. Texas proved to be the Ags’ biggest hurdle throughout the year, beating them three times, including last Friday in the conference tournament.

3. San Diego State
For fans on the Mesa, this is about as good as it gets ... ever. Until now, the Aztecs have never bowled and appeared in the NCAA Tournament in the same academic year, bringing rare national attention to the school. Before leaving for Ann Arbor, head coach Brady Hoke guided San Diego State to a 9-4 mark and its first bowl appearance since 1998, a 35-14 rout of Navy. The Aztec basketball team was even better in 2010-11, parlaying a 32-2 record and a Mountain West title into a lofty No. 2 seed. F Kahwi Leonard and the gang will be barreling into the tournament after plowing BYU Saturday night to avenge their only two losses of the year.

2. Wisconsin
The Badgers continue to be a fixture in this discussion and quietly one of the nation’s most complete athletic programs. In the fall, Bret Bielema’s football team finished in a three-way tie atop the Big Ten, going 11-1 in the regular season before falling to TCU in a Rose Bowl thriller. It ended up ranked in the top 10 after completing one of the most successful seasons in school history. Led by PG Jordan Taylor, the Wisconsin basketball team has spent most of the season around the top 10 as well. At 23-8, with a solid third place finish in the Big Ten behind Ohio State and Purdue, it’ll open the NCAA Tournament as a No. 4 seed out of the Midwest.

1. Ohio State
The Buckeyes have had their share of off-field scandals lately, but on the field—and the court—there’s been little to moan about. For the second straight year, the program cops the top spot in Hoops & Helmets. Fresh off a Big Ten Tournament title, 32-2 Ohio State will begin the NCAA Tourney as the No. 1 overall seed. One of the deepest and most experienced squads in America, their only losses were on the road at ranked Purdue and Wisconsin. Jim Tressel’s troubles aside, it was another typical year in Columbus for the football team. The Bucks suffered just one loss, copping a share of yet another Big Ten championship, beating Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl, and finishing No. 5 in the final polls.
  
- Ooops & Helmets 2011 - Notable Misses

- Hoops & Helmets 2010
- Ooops & Helmets 2010
- Hoops & Helmets 2009
- Ooops & Helmets 2009
- Hoops & Helmets 2008
- Ooops & Helmets 2008
- Hoops & Helmets 2007