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.

hide

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

Photo: Alan Diaz, Associated Press

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

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...

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Kansas City 4 Top 4th Inning
San Francisco 2
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Atlanta
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Cleveland
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Pittsburgh
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Washington 10/27/14 7:30 PM
Dallas
New Orleans 10/30/14 7:25 PM
Carolina
Buffalo 2 FINAL
San Jose 1
Boston 4 FINAL
Toronto 1
NY Rangers 1 3rd Prd :59
Montreal 3
New Jersey 2 3rd Prd
Ottawa 2
Dallas 5 3rd Prd
NY Islanders 7
Detroit 2 FINAL
Philadelphia 4
Chicago 1 2nd Prd 1:19
St. Louis 2
Pittsburgh 1 3rd Prd
Nashville 0
Tampa Bay 2 3rd Prd
Minnesota 6
Florida 0 2nd Prd
Arizona 0
Washington 9:00 PM
Calgary
So Florida 17 FINAL
Cincinnati 34
Troy 13 FINAL
South Alabama 27
BYU 30 FINAL
Boise State 55
(6) Oregon 59 FINAL
California 41
North Texas 21 FINAL
Rice 41
UAB 17 FINAL
Arkansas 45
Rutgers 24 FINAL
(16) Nebraska 42
Maryland 7 FINAL
Wisconsin 52
Texas 0 FINAL
(11) Kansas State 23
Minnesota 24 FINAL
Illinois 28
Memphis 48 FINAL
SMU 10
North Carolina 28 FINAL
Virginia 27
San Jose St 31 FINAL
Navy 41
Northern Ill 28 FINAL
Eastern Mich 17
(25) UCLA 40 FINAL
Colorado 37
Akron 21 FINAL
Ball State 35
Massachusetts 35 FINAL
Toledo 42
Ohio U 21 FINAL
Western Mich 42
Ga Southern 69 FINAL
Georgia State 31
Kent State 3 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 10
Oregon State 14 FINAL
Stanford 38
Fla Atlantic 16 FINAL
(23) Marshall 35
Louisiana Tech 31 FINAL
Southern Miss 20
(1) Miss State 45 FINAL
Kentucky 31
Georgia Tech 56 FINAL
Pittsburgh 28
(22) West Virginia 34 FINAL
Oklahoma State 10
Texas Tech 27 FINAL
(10) TCU 82
Michigan 11 FINAL
(8) Michigan State 35
Boston College 23 FINAL
Wake Forest 17
Central Mich 20 FINAL
Buffalo 14
Vanderbilt 14 FINAL
Missouri 24
Old Dominion 51 FINAL
Western Ky 66
UNLV 20 FINAL
Utah State 34
Temple 14 FINAL
UCF 34
(15) Arizona 59 FINAL
Washington St 37
Texas-El Paso 34 4th Qtr 4:30
TX-San Antonio 0
Wyoming 10 4th Qtr 13:21
Colorado State 38
Syracuse 6 4th Qtr 14:38
(21) Clemson 9
Texas State 15 4th Qtr 4:55
ULM 18
(3) Ole Miss 7 3rd Qtr 2:22
(24) LSU 3
(4) Alabama 27 3rd Qtr 8:10
Tennessee 10
So Carolina 28 3rd Qtr 6:15
(5) Auburn 35
(13) Ohio State 17 3rd Qtr
Penn State 0
(20) USC 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 9:45 PM
Washington
Nevada 10:59 PM
Hawaii
(2) Florida State 10/30/14 6:30 PM
Louisville
Troy 10/30/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
Cincinnati 10/31/14 7:00 PM
Tulane
Tulsa 10/31/14 7:00 PM
Memphis
Purdue 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
(17) Oklahoma 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Iowa State
Oklahoma State 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
(10) TCU 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(22) West Virginia
Texas 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Texas Tech
Northwestern 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Iowa
Maryland 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Penn State
Air Force 11/1/14 10:30 AM
Army
ULM 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Texas A&M
Duke 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Wisconsin 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
Rice 11/1/14 11:00 AM
FIU
(18) 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
Texas State 11/1/14 2:00 PM
New Mexico St
Virginia 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Georgia Tech
BYU 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Middle Tennessee
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
Houston 11/1/14 3:00 PM
So Florida
(20) 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
(5) Auburn 11/1/14 6:00 PM
(3) Ole Miss
Arkansas 11/1/14 6:00 PM
(1) Miss State
Old Dominion 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Vanderbilt
Colorado State 11/1/14 6:00 PM
San Jose St
Stanford 11/1/14 6:30 PM
(6) Oregon
Tennessee 11/1/14 6:30 PM
So Carolina
Southern Miss 11/1/14 7:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
(7) Notre Dame 11/1/14 7:00 PM
Navy
Illinois 11/1/14 7:00 PM
(13) Ohio State
(15) 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
(19) Utah 11/1/14 10:00 PM
(14) Arizona State
Utah State 11/1/14 10:00 PM
Hawaii
Los Angeles 0 FINAL
Seattle 2
D.C. 1 FINAL
Montreal 1
Toronto FC 0 FINAL
New England 1
Portland 1 2nd Half 44:55
FC Dallas 0
Colorado 9:00 PM
Vancouver FC
Montreal 23 FINAL
Ottawa 17
Saskatchewan 27 FINAL
Calgary 40
Hamilton 24 FINAL
Toronto 26
Brt Columbia 20 6:48
Winnipeg 17
Hamilton 10/31/14 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
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pmX35-24
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pmX30-7
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. 3 p.m.X24-7
Sep 27 - at Michigan 2:30 pmX30-14
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern 11 amX24-17
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 amX39-38
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 amX28-24
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa TBA
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State TBA
Nov 22 - at Nebraska TBA
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin TBA

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who wins and loses in football this weekend?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close