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2008 Hoops & Helmets Rankings
Tennessee, Wisconsin, Kansas, someone else? 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 2008 version of hoops and helmets.
Hoops & Helmets 2008
Which schools had the best year in football and basketball?
- Ooops & Helmets 2008 -
The Worst BCS School Combinations
- Hoops & Helmets 2007
it’s time to rerank the nation’s 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 pretty safe bet that you’re
investing some discretionary time 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 Kansas or Tennessee, for instance,
the odds are even better that you haven’t stopped howling since Labor
Day. As a fan, your school has given you plenty of reasons to smile,
sing fight songs and pump out your two-tone chest these past six months.
Some campuses like LSU and Boston College, for instance, have had little
to crow about since the bowl season ended. Countless others, like North
Carolina, Duke, and Washington State, could not wait until the football
season was over and Midnight Madness kicked off. And then there are
Miami and Notre Dame fans, neither of whom can understand how their
football teams dragged down the basketball squads in 2007. Only the
truly fortunate have feasted their eyes and their emotions on quality
products in both major sports.
As in the past, the focus of this unconventional ranking is on those
fans that have had their cake and dunked it, too. They bowled in the
winter and now they’re preparing to soft shoe into the postseason for at
least one more game.
20. Boise State – The 10-3 Bronco football team took a back
seat to Hawaii in the WAC and East Carolina in the Hawaii Bowl, but the
basketball team was there to pick up the slack. Boise State capped a
solid 25-8 season under Greg Graham by winning the WAC tournament with a
thrilling triple-overtime victory against New Mexico State in Las
Cruces. Following one of the most amazing wins in program history, the
Broncos ended a 14-year drought in the tournament by landing a No. 14
seed in the East Regional.
19. Arizona State – Surprise squared. Both hoops and helmets
delivered their best seasons in years in Tempe. In football, Dennis
Erickson sparked a revival in the desert, leading the Sun Devils to
their first 10-win season in a decade and an unexpected No. 13 ranking
in the final Coaches poll. On the hardwood, James Harden led a young
ASU squad into the Top 25 for the first time in 13 years, taking nine
league games in the rugged Pac-10 a year after winning just eight total
games. The Devils’ season moves on in the NIT Tournament.
18. Mississippi State – Although the Bulldogs are headed back to
the NCAA Tournament behind the play of Jamont Gordon and Charles Rhodes,
the biggest news in Starkville occurred in the fall. The Mississippi
State football team authored its best season since 2000, going 8-5 with
signature wins over Auburn, Alabama, rival Ole Miss, and UCF in the
Liberty Bowl. For a program that had won three or fewer games in six
straight seasons, it was just the kind of turning point that Mississippi
State needed under head coach Sylvester Croom.
17. Oregon – It was not easy, but the Ducks grabbed a No. 9
seed in the South, despite winning just 18 games and finishing 9-9 in
the Pac-10. Oregon navigated a very difficult schedule to get to this
point, and have a group of seasoned sharpshooters that could surprise
for a couple of rounds. Football was headed toward a possible national
championship berth before Heisman contender Dennis Dixon tore his ACL in
November. The Ducks slumped to three losses down the stretch before
ending the skid with a 56-21 rout of South Florida in the Sun Bowl.
16. Georgia – Are you kidding? About a week ago, Georgia had
no business even being in this discussion. And then the impossible
happened, four wins in four days and an SEC tournament title for a hoops
team that was 13-16 and not even on the NIT’s radar. Not much is
expected of the 14th-seeded Dawgs, but last week’s run, which
included two wins on Saturday, will live for many years in school lore.
In the fall, the football team also showed quite a final kick, winning
its final seven games, including games against Florida, Auburn, Georgia
Tech, and Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl.
15. Arkansas – The Hogs haven’t been spectacular this past year,
but they have been steady, going 8-5 in football and 22-11 in
basketball. Houston Nutt’s kids featured the running tandem of Darren
McFadden and Felix Jones, and were one of two teams to knock off the
eventual national champs, LSU. Although Arkansas didn’t beat a Top 25
team during the regular season in hoops, it did handle Tennessee and
Vanderbilt in the conference tournament, providing momentum for the No.
9 seed in the East regional.
14. Michigan State – The Spartans never quite met preseason
expectations in basketball, finishing in fourth place in the regular,
but the play of Drew Neitzel and Raymar Morgan was good enough for 25
wins and a No. 5 seed. In recent years, the fly in the ointment in East
Lansing has always been the football program. That, however, might be
changing. In his first season at Michigan State, Mark Dantonio guided
the school to seven wins and its first bowl berth in four years.
13. Virginia Tech – For the second time in their first four years
in the league, the Hokies were ACC champs in football, avenging an
earlier loss to Boston College in the title game for win No. 11.
Indoors, Virginia Tech was streaky all season, riding the hot hand of
A.D. Vassallo late in the year, yet falling just short of the NCAA
Tournament. Still, for a football school, a fourth-place finish in the
ACC is something Tech and conference Coach of the Year Seth Greenberg
can crow about.
12. Purdue – Football had a decent season, going 8-5 and beating
Central Michigan in the Motor City Bowl, but it’s the basketball team
that has really boosted Purdue’s H&H resume. The Boilermakers are 24-8,
carrying a No. 6 seed into the NCAA Tournament. Freshmen Robbie Hummel
and E’Twaun Moore have been the catalysts for Matt Painter, the Big Ten
Coach of the Year and a finalist for the Naismith Award.
11. Indiana – If nothing else, the Hoosiers have proven to be
resilient, rallying from the death of football coach Terry Hoeppner and
the late-season resignation of basketball coach Kelvin Sampson for NCAA
rules violations. In the fall, IU fulfilled Hoeppner’s dream of playing
in a 13th game, securing a bowl berth for the first time in
14 years after knocking off Purdue, 27-24. In the winter, the Hoosiers
have remained on course all year, going 25-7 and landing a No. 8 seed in
10. Connecticut – It’s been a glorious winter for Husky fans,
who’ve witnessed their football team shockingly finish second in the Big
East and their cagers crank out 24 wins and a No.4 seed in the
tournament. Defense was a key for both programs, as the helmets held
all but one opponent below 27 points and hoops boasted massive center
Hasheem Thabeet, a modern day Dikembe Motumbo and the Big East Defensive
Player of the Year.
9. Clemson – While a championship has escaped the school in
2007-2008, it’s been a nice, solid half-year of athletics at Clemson.
In football, the Tigers went 9-4, just missing out on winning the ACC
Atlantic division. Cullen Harper developed into an unexpected star at
quarterback, throwing for almost 3,000 yards and 27 touchdown passes.
In hoops, Clemson third in the ACC in the regular season, and begins the
NCAA Tournament 24-9 and fifth-seeded in the Midwest bracket.
8. Oklahoma – For the fifth time this decade, the Sooners were
Big 12 champions in football, pounding Missouri a month before getting
dumped by West Virginia in the Fiesta Bowl. Oklahoma was No. 5
nationally in scoring, getting a magnificent year from freshman QB Sam
Bradford. Jeff Capel’s basketball squad enters the tournament 22-11
behind a monster season from Blake Griffin, who looks like he belongs on
Bob Stoops’ roster.
7. West Virginia – Forward Joe Alexander and the Mountaineers got
hot when it mattered, using a strong final kick to go 24-10 and earn a
spot in the Big Dance. For West Virginia, it’s been the second straight
solid season under head coach Bob Huggins. While football had some
dramatic swings during the season, it’ll be remembered for the way it
ended, with a Big East championship and an upset of Oklahoma in the
6. USC – With the exception of a mind-blowing loss to Stanford on
Oct. 6, it was a typical season for the Trojan football team that
included 11 wins, a sixth straight Pac-10 title in-a-row, and a rout of
Illinois in the Rose Bowl. Freshman wunderkind O.J. Mayo has been a
scoring machine for the 21-11 basketball team, averaging more than 20
points a game, while earning a spot on the All-Pac-10 First Team. The
Trojans will begin the tournament this week as a No. 6 seed.
5. BYU – Whether the ball was round or made of pigskin, BYU has
owned the rest of the Mountain West this winter. The Cougars swept the
league in football and won 11 games for the second straight year,
surpassing BCS-buster Hawaii in the final rankings. In hoops, BYU ran
away with the regular season title, going 27-7 behind the sharp-shooting
trio of Lee Cummard, Trent Plaisted, and Jonathan Tavernari. The Cougs
begin the tournament as a respectable No. 8 seed.
4. Wisconsin – A Hoops and Helmets fixture through the years, the
Badgers are back again with teams that have combined to go 38-7 this
winter. On Saturdays, Bret Bielema’s team went 9-4, but struggled to
get past the Big Ten’s better teams and lost to Tennessee in the Outback
Bowl. Wisky finished the season ranked in both the AP and Coaches
polls. On hardwood, Wisconsin has been one of the nation’s premier
teams, rolling down the stretch to a Big Ten regular season and
conference championship and a 29-4 record. Brian Butch was named
All-Big Ten, the seventh straight year a Badger has landed on the First
3. Texas – One of the steadiest Hoops and Helmets programs of
this decade, the Longhorns are one of just two schools ranked in the top
10 in both sports. Mack Brown’s kids rallied from back-to-back losses
to finish 6-1, capped by a blowout of Arizona State in the Holiday
Bowl. Rick Barnes’ basketball team also went on a tear down the
stretch, heading into the tournament with a 28-6 record and a No. 2
seed. Sharp-shooting sophomore D.J. Augustin is a finalist for national
player of the year awards.
2. Tennessee – Rocky Top has been rocking since September,
cranking out wins at an impressive pace. The helmets were good, winning
10 games, including the Outback Bowl, and nearly tripping up LSU in the
SEC title game. For a change, hoops was even better in Knoxville. The
Vols have been streaking behind the trio of Chris Lofton, JaJuan Smith,
and Tyler Smith, going 29-4 and earning a No. 2 seed in the NCAA
1. Kansas – All hail the Jayhawks. A basketball school for
decades, Kansas got unexpected help from Mark Mangino’s upstart football
program. The Jayhawks were the surprise of the 2007 season, going 12-1
and finishing No. 7 in the country with an upset of Virginia Tech in the
Orange Bowl. The basketball team has been predictably tough to beat,
going 31-3, winning the Big 12 regular season and tournament title, and
copping a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.