Hoops & Helmets 2010
The Best Football & Hoops Schools
- Hoops & Helmets 2010 -
- Hoops & Helmets 2009
- Ooops & Helmets 2009
- Hoops & Helmets 2008
- Ooops & Helmets 2008 -
The Worst BCS School Combinations
- Hoops & Helmets 2007
It's March, which means it's once again 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 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 Texas or Oklahoma, for instance, the odds are even better that you haven't stopped cheering 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 over the last six months.
Some campuses, such as Alabama and TCU, for example, have had little to howl about since the bowl season ended. Countless others, like Kansas and Syracuse, could not 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 soft shoe into the postseason for at least one more game of a memorable winter.
16. Florida State – It's been a somewhat unconventional year in Tallahassee in that the basketball team has carried the Hoops and Helmets banner. Despite modest expectations before the season began, the ‘Noles used a blue-collar work ethic to scrap out a 22-9 mark and an unexpected second straight at-large invite to the NCAA Tournament. No matter how far they go, this was an important building block season for the program. While the football team continued to underachieve, finishing 7-6 and in third place in the ACC Atlantic, it did send Bobby Bowden off with a 33-21 Gator Bowl upset of West Virginia. It was the biggest moment in an otherwise inconsistent year.
15. Temple – It's been a very good year for college sports in Philadelphia. The Owls' inclusion in the prosperity has been somewhat of a surprise. In the fall, Al Golden continued to do a magnificent job of leading the football team out of the ashes. With a lot of help from freshman RB Bernard Pierce and an underrated defense, Temple shocked a lot of people by turning a nine-game winning streak into its first bowl appearance since 1979. In basketball, the Owls are the class of the Atlantic 10, winning the regular season title and spending most of the year ranked in the Top 25. This is a team that's already beaten Villanova, Virginia Tech, and Seton Hall, and will be dangerous as a No. 5 seed.
14. California – Down year for the Pac-10 or not, the Bears are absolutely giddy about their first regular season conference title in a half-century. Spearheaded by league Player of the Year Jerome Randle, Cal compiled a 23-10 mark to end a three-year NCAA Tournament drought. While Jeff Tedford's football squad still can't seem to get over the hump and earn a Pac-10 title of its own, it did finish 8-5 and appear in the Poinsettia Bowl, a loss to Utah. Before losing their final two games, the Bears had played well in the second half, climbing into the Top 25 with an upset of red-hot rival Stanford in the Big Game.
13. Michigan State – As long as Tom Izzo is in East Lansing, the Spartans are pretty much assured of being halfway to earning a spot on this list. Michigan State hung around the top 10 all year, rising as high as No. 5 before cooling off in February. Tied with Ohio State and Purdue for the Big Ten regular season championship, it opens the tournament with a No. 5 seed. The football carried its weight in the fall—barely. The Spartans entered the postseason through the back door, eking out a sixth win to become eligible and then slipping back below .500 with a 41-31 Alamo Bowl loss to Mike Leach-less Texas Tech.
12. Kentucky – All hail John Calipari. Brought in to revive the basketball program, he's done exactly that, with more than a little help from freshman phenom John Wall. The SEC champs have a spiffy 32-2 record and a top seed in the East entering the NCAA Tournament. It's been quite a turnaround for a team that went 22-14 last year and labored badly in conference play. In Rich Brooks' final season in Lexington, the football team continued to do a solid job of competing in the nation's toughest conference. The Wildcats went 7-6, beating Auburn and Georgia in the same year, and qualifying for a respectable fourth straight bowl invite.
11. Oklahoma State – This ranking could have been much higher had things not unraveled somewhat in the fall. A trendy pick in the preseason, the Cowboys lost WR Dez Bryant, RB Kendall Hunter, and QB Zac Robinson for varying lengths of time and were never quite the same. They'd go 9-4, sans a true quality win, finishing with feeble losses to Oklahoma and Ole Miss in the Cotton Bowl. Travis Ford's basketball team used a soft non-conference schedule and an upset of No. 1 Kansas on Feb. 27 to overcome some spotty play in the Big 12 and earn an at-large berth as a No. 7 seed. Junior G James Anderson was named league Player of the Year, prompting Poke fans to beg him to return for his senior year.
10. Villanova – For the second year in-a-row, the Wildcats have been fantastic from the beginning of the fall and right through the winter. In fact, there isn't another school in America with a shot at winning a championship in both sports in 2009-10. Behind the all-purpose heroics of WR Matt Szczur, Andy Talley's football squad went 14-1, closing the season with nine wins and an upset of top-ranked Montana for the school's first-ever FCS title. Indoors, ‘Nova begins the NCAA tournament as one of the nation's premier teams, riding the sharp-shooting of Scottie Reynolds and Corey Stokes to a 24-7 record and No. 2 seed in the South.
9. Clemson – So close to a coveted ACC championship in football. The Tigers won the Atlantic Division, riding the multi-purpose heroics of RB C.J. Spiller, but were unable to get past Georgia Tech in a 39-34 thriller in Tampa. The school settled for a Music City Bowl win over Kentucky, a 9-5 finish, and a spot in the Top 25. The basketball team didn't win a league title this year either, but it was able to parlay a school-record fourth straight 20-win season into a No. 7 seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament. F Trevor Booker has been an indoor version of Spiller, ranking first or second on the team in scoring, rebounds, blocks, and steals.
8. Georgia Tech – For the first time in almost two decades, the Yellow Jackets were ACC champions in football, an incredible ascent in Paul Johnson's second year with the program. Tech went on a mid-season tear, winning eight straight, but its title game win over Clemson was sandwiched between a loss to rival Georgia and an Orange Bowl defeat at the hands of Iowa. Yeah, it took an awful lot of sweat and heavy lifting, but a 22-12 mark and some key conference wins in February were enough to net the Jackets an at-large invitation to the NCAA Tournament as a No. 10 seed. Paul Hewitt has a big front line that could be pesky in March.
7. Florida – So close to a perfect season in football. So close to the NIT in basketball. In the fall, the Gators were a single blemish from running the table, losing to Alabama in the SEC Championship game. Still, they rebounded with a 51-24 demolition of Cincinnati in the Sugar Bowl and a No. 3 final ranking in the polls. Billy Donovan's basketball team has snapped its two-year absence from the NCAA Tournament, but it sure wasn't easy getting there. The Gators had to grind out a 21-12 mark and overcome a late-season slump in order to earn a No. 10 seed. While it may not seem like much, after the last two years, it's a reason to exhale in Gainesville.
6. BYU – Year-in and year-out, consistency continues to be the calling card for Cougar athletics. With G Jimmer Fredette shooting the lights out all year, BYU finished second to red-hot New Mexico in the Mountain West and beat both Arizona State and Arizona in non-conference games. It enters the NCAA Tournament 29-5 and with a No. 7 seed. Football, too, was a runner-up in the conference race, lagging just a game behind BCS-busting TCU. The Cougs still managed to go 11-2 and finish No. 12 nationally, closing with five straight wins and a 44-20 Las Vegas Bowl spanking of Oregon State.
5. Pittsburgh – The Panther basketball team has become a given under Jamie Dixon, perennially playing great defense and challenging for supremacy in the rugged Big East. This season has been no different. Led by the guard play of Ashton Gibbs and Brad Wanamaker, third-seeded Pitt has compiled a nifty 24-8 record, handing Syracuse its first loss on Jan. 2. In the fall, Dave Wannstedt's team pitched in a little more than in the past. The Panthers finished No. 15 in the polls, closing with a bowl win over North Carolina and giving birth to freshman sensation RB Dion Lewis. Pitt came within a whisker of wearing the conference crown and challenging for the top spot of Hoops and Helmets.
4. Wisconsin – Over the past few years, the Badgers have become a fixture in this debate consistently producing quality in both sports. The big story in 2009-10 has been the play of Bo Ryan's basketball team, which navigated an injury to F Jon Leuer to remain one of the Big Ten's most formidable squads. Ranked for much of the season, Wisconsin carries a solid 23-8 record and a No. 4 seed into the NCAA Tournament. Bret Bielema's football team, too, began the regular season unranked, yet finished it deep inside the Top 25. Although back-to-back losses to Ohio State and Iowa ended dreams of the Rose Bowl, the Badgers regrouped to win 10 games, capped by a mild upset of Miami in the Champs Sports Bowl.
3. West Virginia – The next best thing to Syracuse in the Big East this regular season, the Mountaineers validated a preseason top 10 ranking by going 27-6, winning the league tournament for the first time, and landing a heady No. 2 seed. Da'Sean Butler, Kevin Jones, Devin Ebanks, and Darryl Bryant all average more than 10 points for a team that ‘s capable of going very deep in the NCAA Tournament. For the second straight year, West Virginia was good on grass, but greatness—and a Big East title—eluded it. Even after losing the Gator Bowl to Florida State, the ‘eers finished 9-4, including a Backyard Brawl win over Pitt, and just inside the final AP and Coaches Polls.
2. Texas – If you only watched the Longhorns in the BCS Championship game loss to Alabama, you missed a terrific regular season. QB Colt McCoy capped a brilliant career in Austin by leading Texas to a 13-0 start and another Big 12 title. A No. 2 finish in the AP and Coaches Polls was its reward for remaining the class of a tough football conference. Rick Barnes' basketball team has had a rough second half of the year, going 7-9 after a 17-0 start, No. 1 ranking, and wins over Pitt and Michigan State. Had the season lasted another month, the ‘Horns might have played their way completely out of the NCAA Tournament, but instead will enter it as a No. 8 seed.
1. Ohio State – The Buckeyes needed a few miracles to get to the Big Ten title before blowing away Minnesota, but the hoops team remains strong and is coming off another great season. The class of the Big Ten entering the NCAA Tournament, Ohio State has ridden the heroics of Evan Turner and William Buford to a 27-7 mark and a No. 2 seed. If it can stay on track, Thad Matta's team is capable of cutting down the nets. The Bucks were atop the Big Ten standings in football as well, losing just one conference game and beating Oregon for their first Rose Bowl victory since 1996. A No. 5 ranking in the final polls has the program positioned for more than just a season-ending trip to Pasadena in 2010.