Hoops & Helmets 2013
Football & Hoops Schools
Oooooops & Helmets
2010 | 2009
Hoops & Helmets
- 2013 Hoops & Helmets, Part
2, No. 8 to 16
- 2013 Oooooops &
Spring lurks just around the corner, which means it’s once again time to rank the nation’s athletic programs, with both Hoops and Helmets serving as the barometer.
If you’re an alum 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 the basketball team as well. The latter is especially true when the month on your calendar tells you it is March. If that program happens to be Louisville or Kansas 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 chest over the past six months.
Some campuses, such as Georgia, South Carolina and Clemson, for example, have had little to crow about since the bowl season ended. Countless others, like Indiana, Kansas and New Mexico 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.
Football slipped a notch following its breakthrough debut season under Brady Hoke in 2011. Basketball was there to pick up the slack. The Wolverines are enjoying one of their best seasons in a very long time, flourishing behind the backcourt of Tim Hardaway Jr. and Big Ten Player of the Year Trey Burke. The nation’s last team to fall from the unbeaten ranks, fourth-seeded Michigan is 26-7, with dreams of its first Final Four appearance in two decades. It wasn’t a bad year at the Big House, as the Maize and Blue went 8-5, but true quality wins were scarce in the fall. Plus, the Wolverines fell to rivals Notre Dame and Ohio State, and squandered a late lead to South Carolina in the Outback Bowl.
Wisconsin. The oft-overlooked and underrated athletic program watches can be set to. The Badgers were unranked at the start of the basketball season, yet once again exceeded forecasts behind the guidance of Big Ten Coach of the Year Bo Ryan. This team is hardly loaded beyond big man Jared Berggren, but was still able to win 23 games and capture a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament. It was a strange, hardly vintage year for the football team. Wisky was erratic, and lost six games by no more than a touchdown. But when it really mattered, the Badgers made the most of a fortuitous Leaders Division crown by stampeding Nebraska, 70-31, to win the Big Ten Championship and head to a third straight Rose Bowl.
6. Kansas State
It’s been a very special year in Manhattan. One of the best in school history, in fact. The Wildcats weren’t expected to win their first Big 12 title in almost a decade. They did, getting statement wins over Oklahoma, West Virginia and Texas, and one final MVP-type season from linchpin QB Collin Klein. Kansas State has gone 21-5 over the last two seasons for tireless head coach Bill Snyder. G Rodney McGruder has been the sparkplug of a K-State basketball team that tied Kansas atop the Big 12 standings during the regular season. The entire Wildcats backcourt has gotten the job done this season, paving the road for a crisp 27-7 record and a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
The Ducks were once again one of college football’s premier squads, falling four points shy of a perfect season. After rolling through Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl, its four straight BCS appearance, Oregon landed No. 2 behind Alabama in the final polls. The only downer in Eugene, besides the Nov. 17 loss to eventual Pac-12 champ Stanford, was the news in January that architect Chip Kelly was leaving for the Philadelphia Eagles. The 26-8 Ducks basketball team, which has earned a No. 12 seed in the NCAA Tournament, has been a gritty group for Pac-12 Coach of the Year Dana Altman. After rising deep into the Top 25 in late January, and then slumping down the stretch, Oregon rallied to win the Pac-12 Tournament over UCLA Saturday night. It’ll look to stay hot when the tourney kicks off on Thursday.
4. Notre Dame
No one, not even the most blindly optimistic Golden Domer, could have imagined the season that the Irish delivered in the fall. Unranked and uncertain when the year began, Notre Dame went unbeaten in the regular season for the first time since 1988, navigating each landmine of a challenging slate. Yeah, the Irish got smoked by Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game, but 2012 will forever be remembered as a turning point for Brian Kelly and the program. Kelly’s kids were paced by the D, with Manti Te’o as the ringleader. Mike Brey’s squad is driven by a balanced offense that distributes the ball and shoots the three well. Despite lacking consistency on the road, the 25-9 Irish have earned a No. 7 seed for this week’s NCAA Tournament.
Yeah, it was admittedly an odd year in Gainesville for the football team. The same squad that defeated Texas A&M, LSU, South Carolina and Florida State also struggled late with UL-Lafayette and Jacksonville State. And got embarrassed by Louisville, 33-23, in the Jan. 2 Sugar Bowl. Still, it was a major upgrade in Year 2 for head coach Will Muschamp, whose team rose from 7-6 in 2011 to national championship contention by midseason and a No. 9 final AP ranking. In hoops, the Gators won the SEC regular-season crown, sweeping all 16 games at the O’Dome. Third-seeded Florida begins the NCAA Tournament 26-7, with an eye on a Final Four appearance in the Georgia Dome next April.
2. Ohio State
It’s been a memorable fall and winter in Columbus … and the Buckeyes weren’t even eligible for a bowl game. Ohio State christened the Urban Meyer era with its tenth undefeated season and first in a decade. In fact, the Buckeyes were the nation’s only unbeaten program, regaining control of “The Game” with a victory over rival Michigan. OSU’s season ended on Nov. 24 because of NCAA sanctions, but the future is bright with Meyer on the sidelines and Braxton Miller under center. Thad Matta has no such postseason worries, as his youthful basketball squad prepares for its fifth straight NCAA Tournament appearance. Behind the play of F Deshaun Thomas, 26-7 Ohio State begins pursuit of its first national title in more than a half-century as a surging No. 2 seed.
These are heady times for Cardinals football under head coach Charlie Strong. In one memorable fall that’ll pay dividends for years, Louisville learned it was escaping the Big East for the ACC, won a conference championship and validated its Sugar Bowl berth by shocking heavily-favored Florida. The Cards went 11-2, paving the way for even grander expectations for the team and QB Teddy Bridgewater in 2013. Louisville is poised for yet another March run under legendary head coach Rick Pitino. Fueled by G Russ Smith, C Gorgui Deng and one of the country’s tightest defenses, the No. 1 overall seeded Cardinals have already won 29 games, capped by an epic second half against Syracuse in the Big East Tournament title game Saturday night.
- 2013 Hoops & Helmets, Part
2, No. 8 to 16
- 2013 Oooooops &