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2012 Hoops & Helmets Rankings - Part 2
Posted Mar 12, 2012

Which schools have the best combination of football and basketball programs? Part 2

Hoops & Helmets 2012

Football & Hoops Schools - Part 2

By Richard Cirminiello

Oooooops & Helmets 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008
Hoops & Helmets 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007

- 2012 Hoops & Helmets
- 2012 Hoops & Helmets, Part 2
- 2012 Oooooops & Helmets

NCAA Tourney Picks East | Midwest | South | West

It’s March, and it’s time to re-rank the nation’s athletic programs, Hoops and Helmets style.

If you’re a graduate, 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 income into basketball. That’s especially true when the month on your calendar tells you it’s March and there’s nothing else going on.

If your program happens to be Baylor or Michigan, for instance, chances are good that you haven’t stopped cheering since Labor Day, giving you plenty of reasons to grin, belt out fight songs, and pump out your chest over the past six months.

Some campuses, such as Oklahoma State, USC and Arkansas, for example, have had little to crow about since the bowl season ended. Countless others, like Kentucky, Indiana, and Kansas, couldn’t wait until the football season wrapped up 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.

*With one notable exception, only schools that received a bowl bid and an NCAA tournament berth were considered.

16. Notre Dame
The football season didn’t quite go as planned. Mike Brey’s basketball squad, even without injured star Tim Abromaitis, helped pick up some of the slack. The Irish, the only team to upend Syracuse during the regular season, finished in third place in the Big East. Well-coached in the finer points of the game, 22-11 Notre Dame is going to be a real nuisance as it begins the NCAA tournament as a No. 7 seed.

If the hoops team overachieved, the helmets underachieved. Pegged by some as a candidate for an at-large BCS bid, the Irish were saddled by turnover problems in a disappointing campaign. Quality wins were scarce for a program that traded that potential eight-digit postseason payday in January for an eight-win, Champs Sports Bowl-capped season.

15. Louisville
Though there were stumbles along the way, such as the Jan. 10 blowout loss to Providence, the Cardinals still managed to nab the Big East tournament crown and a solid No. 4 seed in next week’s tourney. Just how far this team can go before will depend on the execution of an offense that too often lacked consistency throughout the regular season.

In the fall, Charlie Strong guided Louisville to its second consecutive bowl game, the first time that had happened in five years. Despite using a true freshman quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville scrapped its way to five conference victories and an improbable tie atop the Big East standings. Now that the football program is pointed in the right direction, the Cards have a chance to become regulars in these parts in the coming years.

14. Southern Miss
There’s home cooking. And then there’s home cooking in Hattiesburg. The Golden Eagles are the only Division I program to not lose a home game in either basketball or football this year, combining for an impeccable 21-0 mark. Larry Eustachy’s eighth hoops squad has been a very pleasant surprise this season, riding a 25-8 record and a second-place finish in Conference USA to its first tournament bid since 1991.

The football team established new milestones of its own in 2011, scoring a school-record 516 points in its first-ever 12-win campaign. Southern Miss closed out the campaign in glorious fashion, shocking undefeated Houston on Dec. 3 to capture the Conference USA title, before knocking off Nevada in the Hawaii Bowl.

13. Cincinnati
The Bearcats rebounded in Butch Jones’ second season as the head football coach, winning at least 10 games for the fourth time in the last five years. For a long while, it appeared that the program might capture the Big East crown—and the BCS bowl bid that goes with it—before QB Zach Collaros suffered a regular season-ending ankle injury in a crucial Nov. 12 loss to West Virginia. Cincy closed with three straight wins, capped by a 31-24 defeat of Vanderbilt in the Liberty Bowl.

While there were some tense moments, especially in late January, the Bearcats basketball team has played its way into the NCAA tournament as a No. 6 seed. Cincinnati finished the regular season tied for fourth place in the well-stocked Big East, capturing red-letter wins over Marquette, Louisville and Georgetown—twice—along the way.

12. North Carolina
As is often the case in Chapel Hill, Roy Williams’ basketball team did the majority of the heavy lifting in the fall and the winter. The Tar Heels are once again one of the nation’s premier programs, following the lead of All-ACC first-teamers Tyler Zeller, John Henson and Harrison Barnes to a 29-5 record and No. 1 seed. Carolina has been picking up a head of steam lately, a promising omen for a school seeking its third national championship in the last eight years.

The football team did about as well as could be expected considering head coach Butch Davis was sacked shortly before the start of the season. Interim coach Everett Withers did just enough to get the Heels over the .500 mark and into the school’s fourth straight postseason game, a 41-21 loss to Missouri in the Independence Bowl.

11. Temple
No athletic program has enjoyed a better run in the state of Pennsylvania over the past six months than Temple. Certainly not Penn State. Not Pitt. No one. In his first season on the sidelines, head coach Steve Addazio added another layer to what Al Golden built on North Broad Street, piloting the Owls to a 9-4 record and their first bowl win in 32 years. For an exclamation point, the program was invited back to the Big East, ending a five-year relationship with the MAC.

In basketball, 24-7 Temple won the Atlantic 10 regular-season title, while notching red-letter non-conference wins over Duke, Wichita State and St. Louis. The Owls’ quest for a national title will begin as the No. 5 seed in the Midwest region.

10. Harvard
In a year when current New York Knicks—and former Crimson—G Jeremy Lin has become a household name across the country, it goes to figure that his alma mater would enjoy one of its best single-season athletic stints ever. In his fifth go-round with the program, head coach Tommy Amaker has guided the Crimson to just its second NCAA tournament appearance, the first coming way back in 1946. The Ivy League champs not only dominated their neighborhood, but also posted impressive non-conference wins over Florida State, UCF and Saint Joseph’s.

Not to be outdone during this memorable run for the University, Tim Murphy’s 9-1 team swept through the Ivy slate in the fall, helping Harvard become just the fifth school in the Ancient Eight to ever win a football and basketball title in the same year.

9. West Virginia
The Mountaineers have made their final season in the Big East a memorable one. In the fall, the 17th-ranked football team overcame a couple of missteps midway through the year to capture the conference crown for the first time since Rich Rodriguez was at the helm. And proving it was not content simply to appear in a BCS bowl game, West Virginia put Clemson over its knee in an epic 70-33 spanking in the Orange Bowl. The program will be carrying a head of steam into its first season in the Big 12 in 2012.

Although the ‘neers had to sweat out Selection Sunday, they did receive an invitation to the dance as a No. 10 seed. The Mountaineers spent the entire year in the middle of the Big East pack, but close calls with the likes of Syracuse, Baylor, Marquette and Louisville gave a glimpse into this squad’s considerable potential.

- 2012 Hoops & Helmets
- 2012 Hoops & Helmets, Part 2
- 2012 Oooooops & Helmets

NCAA Tourney Picks East | Midwest | South | West