2012 Hoops & Helmets Rankings
Alabama QB AJ McCarron
Alabama QB AJ McCarron
Posted Mar 12, 2012

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 2012 version of hoops and helmets.

Hoops & Helmets 2012

Football & Hoops Schools

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.

*Only schools that received a bowl bid and an NCAA tournament berth were considered. 

8. Kansas State
No disrespect to Frank Martin's hoops team, but this lofty ranking was largely made possible by Bill Snyder's gridders, who were one of the biggest surprises of the 2011 football season. Pegged as an also-ran before the year began, the 15th-ranked Wildcats went on to win 10 games for the first time since 2003. Behind the multi-dimensional heroics of QB Collin Klein, K-State thrilled the locals with edge-of-the-seat wins over Miami, Baylor, Mizzou, Texas A&M and Texas.

While not quite as dramatic, the eighth-seeded basketball squad has won 21 games, knocking off Missouri twice and No. 9 Baylor in Waco on Feb. 18. This is a dangerous team, with the depth and athleticism to deliver an upset or two in the upcoming NCAA tournament.

7. Missouri
The winter wasn't perfect for Mizzou athletics, but it was pretty darn close. Rookie head coach Frank Haith has done an unexpectedly brilliant job with the Tigers basketball team, guiding a squad that has only seven scholarship players to a 30-4 mark and a No. 2 seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament. Using an attacking offense, the Marcus Denmon-led team piled up the quality victories, winning more regular season games than any edition in school history.

Despite breaking in a new quarterback, the Tigers still went 8-5 in a year that got progressively better as it unfolded. Mizzou finished the campaign 5-1, beating Texas A&M, Texas and North Carolina in the Independence Bowl. Oh, and the icing on the cake in Columbia was the news that the school would be moving its athletic programs to the far more stable and prominent SEC beginning in 2012.

6. Florida State
Football missed its mark. Basketball exceeded its. Put it all together, and you've got a solid showing for Florida State since the beginning of September. Jimbo Fisher's second team in Tallahassee fell short of expectations, failing to win the ACC in a year it was heavily favored to do so. A three-game losing streak during the first half lowered the bar significantly, crushing dreams of wearing any crown in 2011. Still, the ‘Noles did rally to win seven of their eight games, beating Miami, Florida and Notre Dame along the way, and finished ranked No. 23 in the country.

Indoors, Florida State continues to roll for Leonard Hamilton, the ACC Coach of the Year. The third-seeded Seminoles have already knocked off North Carolina and Duke twice, the second round of upsets giving them the ACC tournament title this past weekend.

5. Wisconsin
By now, the Badgers, one of the country's most underrated athletic programs, have taken up squatter's rights in these parts. The Big Ten champs in football went 11-3, appearing in a second straight Rose Bowl for the second time in school history. The backfield tandem of QB Russell Wilson and RB Montee Ball was arguably the most prolific in the nation, helping lead Wisconsin to a No. 10 ranking in the final AP poll.

Badger basketball was every bit as successful, going 24-9 and finishing just a game out of first place in the Big Ten regular-season race. Fourth-seeded in the upcoming NCAA tournament, Bucky has shown its mettle with victories over UNLV, Ohio State and Indiana—twice. And seven of their nine losses have come against teams ranked in the top dozen of the RPI.

4. Alabama
The Tide did not win the SEC football title in 2011, but did cop the BCS National Championship for the second time in three years under Nick Saban. ‘Bama sought—and got—redemption versus LSU in New Orleans, shutting out the last of the nation's unbeaten programs, 21-0, to end all debates about the nation's No. 1 team. The D belongs in any discussion about the best units in recent history, holding opponents to just 183 yards and eight points a game.

Alabama has played some feisty defense in shorts as well, ranking No. 9 nationally in points allowed. Execution on offense, though, has been inconsistent, resulting in intermittent rough patches, such as a four-game losing streak in January. The 21-11 Tide begins the NCAA tournament outside the Top 25 and seeded ninth in the Midwest region.

3. Michigan
Without the help of the Wolverines football program, which had circled the drain for three years under Rich Rodriguez, the maize and blue would have no business scaling these heights. John Beilein's basketball team was supposed to be a contender in the Big Ten race, and didn't disappoint. Michigan finished in a three-way tie atop the conference during the regular season, en route to a 24-9 mark and a solid No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament. Wins over Michigan State, Ohio State, Memphis, Indiana, Wisconsin and Iowa State have stamped the Wolverines as a dangerous squad. However, it took a resurgence in the fall for the program to reach the Hoops and Helmets penthouse.

Brady Hoke's first team in Ann Arbor capped the year with its first 11-win campaign in five years, its first defeat of the Buckeyes in eight years and its first BCS bowl win, a rousing Sugar Bowl defeat of Virginia Tech, in 12 years.

2. Baylor
The Bears have delivered the type of euphoric winter that their fans have only been able to dream about in recent years. Art Briles' football team won 10 games for just the second time in school history behind a record-setting offense that normed 587 yards and 45 points a game. Topping off the epic season in Waco was the Heisman victory for Robert Griffin III, the first ever for the Baylor program.

Scott Drew's hoops team has kept Bears fans giddy right into early March by posting a 27-7 mark, and remaining ranked from wire-to-wire. Now, the Bears have cooled off somewhat since starting the campaign 17-0, but the No. 3 seed is going to be very dangerous as long as G Pierre Jackson and forwards Perry Jones III, Quincy Acy and Quincy Miller are sinking their shots.

1. Michigan State
The Spartans weren't too fancy this winter. What else is new? Still, they've produced results from the opening kickoff of the opening game. In the fall, 11-3 Michigan State captured the Legends Division half of the Big Ten, posting notable wins over Ohio State, rival Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa. And while Mark Dantonio's team lost the rematch with the Badgers in the league championship game, it did rally to beat Georgia in overtime in the Outback Bowl. The reward? A top-10 finish in the final coaches' poll.

The basketball team in East Lansing has taken the baton and jetted with it. The Spartans are one of the country's elite programs, a No. 1 seed out of the West bracket, with a legitimate shot of winning the school's third national championship. Senior F Draymond Green is the kind of dominant player who can put a team on his back and take them on a ride.  

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

NCAA Tourney Picks East | Midwest | South | West