Rayno's college basketball insider: Handing out the major awards

  • Updated: March 1, 2013 - 11:20 PM

  Even in this wide-open season, front-runners are in place for the major awards.

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Miami's head coach Jim Larranaga is congratulated by fans after a 67-59 win over Michigan State

Photo: Alan Diaz, Associated Press

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Every year it's the same.

At the beginning of the college basketball season, everything seems fresh and undecided. The first snows in Minneapolis are threatening, and the time when the eventual piles start to melt as the season concludes seems very far away.

So, like always, it's hard to believe that March is here, that the 2012-13 season is just weeks from being wrapped up, with a new national champion to be crowned and the memories tucked away for just a while.

But that's where the similarities end. Despite talk this season of college basketball being in a "down" year, filled with offensive struggles and unpredictability, it was also one of the more exciting ones in recent memory, if only because of the unforeseeable peaks and valleys that have shaped this year's story. Every year is unique, which is what makes college basketball great.

Here are my picks for this season -- knowing full well that unexpected things could happen and change in the next two weeks.

Coach of the Year:

How do you not pick Jim Larranaga? The 63-year-old Miami coach has taken the Hurricanes from irrelevant to a national championship contender in just two years, with this season coming out of nowhere. His players play poised and smart, and though the team doesn't have a lot of superstars, he's gotten the best out of all of them.

Player of the Year:

Trey Burke is Michigan, and Michigan is Trey Burke. He's propelled the Wolverines to another level, running this team to great heights despite some preseason doubts of Michigan's strength, by some. The sophomore point guard has scored in double digits in every game, and hasn't scored fewer than 16 since January. Victor Oladipo is trendy and extremely talented, but how do you pick someone who is still subject to the debate of whether he's even the best on his team? Burke's résumé is more than worthy -- and he is the one who makes the Wolverines tick.

Freshman of the Year:

Without Marcus Smart, where exactly would Oklahoma State be? The Cowboys should shudder to think about that. Smart can do just about it all. His decision-making, passing and overall terrific play on both ends of the floor make him one of the favorites.

Projected national champion:

I was tempted to name Gonzaga because quite simply I've really enjoyed watching the Zags this year and, well, who doesn't love an underdog? But I just can't do it with their weak schedule. Duke came to mind as well, but then I thought, "Would that mean I'd have to subliminally root for Duke to substantiate my pick?" I can't have that. So at long last, I settled with Miami, the team that has picked apart the ACC and rushed its way to the top. The loss to Wake Forest only takes off the pressure and keeps this bunch playing loose.

Best conference:

It's tough to consider any conference but the Big Ten, which has had at least three teams in the top 10 for most of the season, while beating up on everyone else. The question is whether the league's teams will be able to keep up the pace after wearing one another out for two months.

 

RAYNO'S SHORT TAKES

 

• Ever wonder when and why those giant heads started showing up at college basketball games? SI.com writer George Dohrmann reports that it all started in 2002 with a student section ringleader at San Diego State, who was watching the news when a close-up of the face of Michael Jackson -- who was in court at the time -- appeared on the screen, causing the 25-year-old Connor Mongan to shudder. Inspired, Mongan went to Kinko's to create a giant Jackson face with the hopes that free-throw shooters might have the same reaction. I wonder if he thought the trend would become as prevalent as it is today?

• Not content to simply debate whether Indiana coach Tom Crean is specifically instructing his players to flop, as it has been suggested by many, Deadspin took it to another level, hiring a lip-reader to try to determine what was said in a late-game huddle in the Hoosiers' loss at Minnesota. Soon after, Will Sheehey visibly faked getting elbowed in the eye by Andre Hollins, a hit that simply wasn't made. The lip-reading didn't find anything conclusive, except that Crean appeared to be saying "try to get a foul," while swinging up his elbow in demonstration, but the incident further opened a debate on flopping. There's nothing in the rules against it -- is it strategy or poor sportsmanship? The answer often depends on which team one is a fan of.

 

• Give it to Wisconsin's Ryan Evans for doing whatever it takes. After becoming the worst free-throw shooter in college basketball in January -- averaging just 38 percent from the stripe at that time -- Evans was desperate for some shred of change. Thus came the jump-shot free throw, which Evans unveiled in Wisconsin's game against Nebraska on Tuesday, in which Evans sank both opportunities he got from the line with a jumper -- a move that's perfectly legal and has been used by a few other struggling shooters over the years.

BIG TEN POWER POLL

1. Indiana: Who ISN'T coming off a loss this week? The Hoosiers didn't play badly, but Cody Zeller needs to step up.

2. Michigan State: Comparatively, the Spartans' two losses didn't look bad. They still haven't lost to an unranked team in the conference schedule.

3. Wisconsin: The Badgers have quietly put together quite the résumé.

4. Michigan: Get it together, Wolverines. Four consecutive road losses -- most recently at Penn State! -- do not spell "national champion."

5. Ohio State: The Buckeyes have rebounded nicely and worked their way back into the picture.

6. Minnesota: A win over No. 1 Indiana could give the Gophers the edge they need.

7. Illinois: A loss at Michigan doesn't stop the forward movement.

8. Iowa: Losing at Nebraska is something this team can't afford.

9. Purdue: Finishing at Wisconsin, against Michigan and against Minnesota isn't going to make life any easier.

10. Northwestern: When your spot is being threatened by Nebraska and Penn State, that's not good.

11. Penn State: Yes, it was their first, but that momentous win over Michigan gives them their first nod out of the basement.

12. Nebraska: The Huskers are showing they won't be a pushover forever.

  • related content

  • Rayno's Big Ten power poll

    Saturday March 2, 2013

    1. Indiana: Who ISN'T coming off a loss this week? The Hoosiers didn't play badly, but Cody Zeller needs to step up.

  • Rayno's college basketball short takes

    Saturday March 2, 2013

    • Ever wonder when and why those giant heads started showing up at college basketball games? SI.com writer George Dohrmann reports that it all started in 2002 with a student...

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New Orleans 28 FINAL
Carolina 10
Tampa Bay 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland
Arizona 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Dallas
Philadelphia 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Houston
NY Jets 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Jacksonville 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
San Diego 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Washington 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota
St. Louis 11/2/14 3:05 PM
San Francisco
Denver 11/2/14 3:25 PM
New England
Oakland 11/2/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Baltimore 11/2/14 7:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Indianapolis 11/3/14 7:30 PM
NY Giants
Washington 105 FINAL
Orlando 98
Detroit 91 FINAL
Minnesota 97
New York 95 FINAL
Cleveland 90
Utah 102 FINAL
Dallas 120
Oklahoma City 90 FINAL
LA Clippers 93
Boston 3 FINAL(OT)
Buffalo 2
Winnipeg 1 FINAL(SO)
New Jersey 2
Los Angeles 0 FINAL
Pittsburgh 3
Chicago 5 FINAL(SO)
Ottawa 4
Philadelphia 3 FINAL
Tampa Bay 4
Arizona 1 FINAL
Florida 2
San Jose 3 FINAL(SO)
Minnesota 4
Anaheim 0 FINAL
St. Louis 2
NY Islanders 0 FINAL
Colorado 5
Montreal 2 FINAL(OT)
Vancouver 3
(2) Florida State 42 FINAL
Louisville 31
Troy 10 FINAL
Ga Southern 42
Cincinnati 7:00 PM
Tulane
Tulsa 7:02 PM
Memphis
Air Force 11/1/14 10:30 AM
Army
ULM 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Texas A&M
(19) Oklahoma 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
Northwestern 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Iowa
(24) Duke 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Maryland 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Wisconsin 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
Rice 11/1/14 11:00 AM
FIU
(21) East Carolina 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Temple
UCF 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Connecticut
Boston College 11/1/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
North Carolina 11/1/14 11:30 AM
Miami-Florida
Washington 11/1/14 12:00 PM
Colorado
Central Mich 11/1/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
Western Mich 11/1/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Western Ky 11/1/14 2:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
NC State 11/1/14 2:00 PM
Syracuse
Virginia 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Georgia Tech
Purdue 11/1/14 2:30 PM
(17) Nebraska
BYU 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Middle Tennessee
(10) TCU 11/1/14 2:30 PM
(20) West Virginia
Indiana 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Florida 11/1/14 2:30 PM
(9) Georgia
Georgia State 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Appalachian St
Kentucky 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Missouri
Kansas 11/1/14 3:00 PM
(12) Baylor
Texas State 11/1/14 3:00 PM
New Mexico St
Houston 11/1/14 3:00 PM
So Florida
USC 11/1/14 3:30 PM
Washington St
Arkansas State 11/1/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
South Alabama 11/1/14 4:00 PM
Louisiana
New Mexico 11/1/14 4:30 PM
UNLV
UAB 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
(4) Auburn 11/1/14 6:00 PM
(7) Ole Miss
Old Dominion 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Vanderbilt
Colorado State 11/1/14 6:00 PM
San Jose St
Arkansas 11/1/14 6:15 PM
(1) Miss State
Stanford 11/1/14 6:30 PM
(5) Oregon
Tennessee 11/1/14 6:30 PM
So Carolina
Texas 11/1/14 6:30 PM
Texas Tech
Southern Miss 11/1/14 7:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
(6) Notre Dame 11/1/14 7:00 PM
Navy
Oklahoma State 11/1/14 7:00 PM
(11) Kansas State
Illinois 11/1/14 7:00 PM
(13) Ohio State
(14) Arizona 11/1/14 9:30 PM
(25) UCLA
California 11/1/14 9:30 PM
Oregon State
San Diego St 11/1/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Wyoming 11/1/14 9:45 PM
Fresno State
(18) Utah 11/1/14 10:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Utah State 11/1/14 10:00 PM
Hawaii
Bowling Green 11/4/14 7:00 PM
Akron
Toledo 11/4/14 7:00 PM
Kent State
Buffalo 11/5/14 7:00 PM
Ohio U
Northern Ill 11/5/14 7:00 PM
Ball State
(22) Clemson 11/6/14 6:30 PM
Wake Forest
Sporting Kansas City 1 FINAL
Red Bull New York 2
Hamilton 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Winnipeg 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Toronto 11/2/14 11:00 AM
Montreal
Ottawa 11/7/14 6:00 PM
Toronto
Calgary 11/7/14 9:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Montreal 11/8/14 3:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 11/8/14 6:00 PM
Saskatchewan
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