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HOOPS & HELMETS: Ranking the best combo
Tearing down the goalposts and cutting down the nets. It's only the most fortunate college fan that gets a chance to see his school do both in the same year. From the period of November to January, the collegiate football and basketball seasons overlap, sending some backers into a state of euphoria and others into a state of depression.
It's quite uncommon for one
university to be home to national contenders in both sports in the
same season. By some
twist of fate, most of our traditional football powerhouses have had
only limited success over the years on the hardwood.
Sure, programs like
Likewise, many of the elite college
basketball programs that have gobbled up their share of top seeds
and titles over the years won't be contending for a New Year's
Day bowl game anytime soon. Schools
With the madness of March about to
grip a nation, it's time to celebrate those schools that have
given their fans the most to cheer about since the dog days of
Hoops - Since arriving in Norman in 1994, Kelvin Sampson has built the Sooners into a perennial power with his tireless work ethic. Riding the momentum of their third consecutive Big 12 Tournament crown, Hollis Price-led OU earned the East region's No 1 seed as they begin their quest for a return engagement to the Final Four.
- For the second consecutive year, a late season upset
derailed the Sooners' hopes for a national title.
In 2002, it was actually a pair of losses to Texas A&M
Hoops - The inside-outside combo of T.J. Ford and James Thomas helped make the Longhorns one of the most intimidating teams in the nation this winter. In Ford, coach Rick Barnes simply has simply one of the most dynamic playmakers in the country. The top seeded team from the South bracket finished 22-6, including a pair of wins over rival Oklahoma.
- Not unlike the past couple of seasons, UT started fast, lost
to Oklahoma and finished with a flurry.
For most any other school, an 11-2 record and an impressive
Cotton Bowl win over
Hoops - After getting knocked off in the final the past two years, Pitt finally broke through on Saturday and grabbed the school's first Big East basketball championship. The 26-4 Panthers are a balanced, veteran bunch that could make some serious noise as the No. 2 seed out of the Midwest.
- The Panthers' best season since the early eighties was
marked by wins over
Hoops - Had it not been for alleged improprieties by the Harricks, Georgia would have settled in at no worse than No 3 in this ranking. Even without the excitement of the SEC or NCAA tournament, the Dawgs gave their fans plenty to bark about this season. Fueled by Jarvis Hayes and Ezra Williams, Georgia was the third best team in the stacked SEC.
- It wasn't a perfect season, but it came darn close for the
third ranked Bulldogs and their faithful.
In one of the most memorable seasons in program history,
Georgia went 13-1, losing only to hated Florida in the Cocktail
Party. The school's
SEC championship title was its first in two decades.
Hoops - Their 24-7 regular season was highlighted by an impressive 14-game winning streak that stretched from December 6 to February 4. Had it not been for three close losses against Georgia,
- In a role reversal, it was the Gator basketball team that
propped up the football squad this past season.
Under first-year head coach Ron Zook, Florida sputtered to an
8-5 record, their worst in more than a decade.
Wins over SEC East rivals
Hoops - After losing Juan Dixon and Lonny Baxter from 2002's National Championship squad, a letdown was to be expected. Still, the Terps battled hard in the always tough ACC and finished tied with Duke behind
- After stumbling out of the gate,
Hoops - The Irish are limping into the tournament, but were good enough in December to bounce Marquette, Texas and
- Viewed in its entirety, 2002 was a special season for the
Irish. With almost no
expectations and an average talent base, Tyrone Willingham led his
new team to an unthinkable 8-0 start out of the gate. Naturally, we all know that a 2-3 finish ended any
championship chatter, but, for a time, ND ascended to No. 4 in the
country and that was far more than anyone could have imagined.
Hoops - The 21-9 Cowboys had plenty of moments this year, going 10-6 in the Big 12 and finishing only behind the Kansas-Texas-Oklahoma triumvirate in the conference. OSU was near perfect at home, where they knocked off
- Few teams were a more pleasant surprise than Les Miles' 2002
squad. Behind the
Hoops - The favorite heading into the tournament, UK is riding a 23-game winning streak. In running the conference table, the 29-3 Cats became just the second team in SEC history to finish the regular season 16-0. Keith Bogans is the undisputed leader of a team that can shut down an opponent's offense like no other defense in the country.
- An NCAA probation ensured that UK would not be bowling in 2002,
yet all was not lost last season.
The Cats finished a surprising 7-5 and were a tough out in
nearly every contest. Had
it not been for a bizarre tip drill at the conclusion of the
Hoops - Picked by many in the pre-season to finish in the lower tier of the conference, Skip Prosser's Deacons shocked the ACC by winning the regular season title with a gaudy 13-3 mark. Star forward Josh Howard led the Deacons in scoring, rebounding, steals and blocks and is a legitimate candidate for player of the year honors.
The Ducks slipped a bit, but still got to a bowl game in football and won the Pac 10 basketball tournament.