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HOOPS & HELMETS: Ranking the best combo

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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 , , Miami, Florida, , Texas, , , and USC have had their moments in March, but how many championships have they won?  Or Final 4 trips have they made?  Try zero and nine, respectively.

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 like Duke, , North Carolina, , Kansas and fall into this category.  Toss in the fact that college basketball has 209 eligible teams that don't even have a I-A football program and the hoops-helmets equation gets muddled even further.         

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 summer.

1.
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. 

Helmets - 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 and that had OU packing for Pasadena instead of Tempe.  However dissatisfied the school may have been, winning the Big 12 championship and the Rose Bowl is not a bad way to drown your sorrows.  

2.
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.

Helmets - 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 would constitute a fine season.  Of course, Texas is not most any other school.  

3.
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.

Helmets - The Panthers' best season since the early eighties was marked by wins over and and a near upset at then No. 1 Miami on national TV.  A convincing 38-13 win over in the Insight Bowl vaulted the team to No. 19 in the final AP poll.   

4.
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.

Helmets - 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.     

5.
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, and to end the year, the Gators would have had a valid argument for a No. 1 seed.  Instead, they'll begin their quest for New Orleans out of the No. 2 hole. 

Helmets - 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 and Georgia were the two bright spots in an otherwise disappointing season.

6.
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 in the regular season standings.  In an off year, 11-5 in the ACC is not too shabby.

Helmets - After stumbling out of the gate, caught fire, winning eight consecutive games before getting spanked by Virginia.  A resounding 30-3 thumping of in the Peach Bowl and a No. 13 ranking in the final AP poll capped the Terps ¿ 11-3 season. 

7.
Hoops - The Irish are limping into the tournament, but were good enough in December to bounce Marquette, Texas and in a span of six days and finish the regular season with 22 wins.  The fifth seed out of the West are led by their backcourt tandem of Chris Thomas and Matt Carroll.

Helmets - 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.    

8.
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 , Oklahoma, Texas and .  A 4-8 finish kept Eddie Sutton's kids from do better than a No. 6 seed in the East.

Helmets - Few teams were a more pleasant surprise than Les Miles' 2002 squad.  Behind the to aerial connection, the Cowboys wrapped up an 8-5 season with wins over , Texas A&M, Oklahoma and Southern Miss in the inaugural Houston Bowl.  The Bedlam victory was a blowout that saw OSU leading OU 35-6 at one point in the third.  

9.
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.

Helmets - 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 game, would have had their first 8-win season since 1984.  

10.
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.

Helmets - By Deacon standards, head coach Jim Grobe has got a thing going in Winston-Salem.  Wake capped last year's 7-6 campaign with a blowout of Oregon in the Seattle Bowl.  The team also won at , had their way with in-state rivals Duke and North Carolina and took heavily favored to the wire in November.

11.
Won the regular season Big Ten hoops title and beat Colorado in the Alamo Bowl.
12.
Julius Hodge got the Wolfpack to the ACC Championship game and a No. 9 seed. The football team had won of its best seasons ever complete with a bowl blowout over .
13.
The Tigers got to the Cotton Bowl and earned a No. 8 seed in the basketball tournament after a great SEC Tournament run.
14. Oregon
The Ducks slipped a bit, but still got to a bowl game in football and won the Pac 10 basketball tournament.
15.
The basketball team didn't get in the NCAA tournament, but it did get into the Big Ten Tournament title game. The success of the football team gets the Buckeyes into the H&H top 25.
16.
This was a disappointing year for the football team, but it did get to a bowl game. Rick Pitino has UL basketball back winning the Conference USA title.
17.
This was a bit of a resurgent year for Gene Keady and the basketball team, while Joe Tiller's gridiron squad finished the season strong with a big win over Washington.
18.
The Tigers died down the stretch in basketball, but at least they got into the tournament as a No. 10 seed. The football team beat . What more does the football team need? It also beat a good team in the post-season.
19.
helped carry the Buffs to the Big XII North title, but they lost in the Alamo Bowl. The basketball team got into the tournament with a No. 10 seed.
20.
The Rams won the Mountain West title in both sports getting a No. 14 seed in hoops.
22.
Ron Turner and the football team came on at the end of the year, but it was too little too late. The Illini won the Big Ten basketball tournament and came .4 seconds away from winning the regular season title.
21.
Bobby Knight's team was the bubble team that many of the experts thought should've gotten into the Big Dance. capped a magnificent football season with a blowout bowl win over .
23.
has given the Mizzou football program a renewed excitement. The basketball team made a great run in the Big XII tournament and is peaking at the right time.
24.
Husky football fans have to be ecstatic over the performances to end the season including a road win over . The basketball team got to the Big East title game and earned a No. 5 seed in the tournament.
25.
Probation and a loss to put a damper on a big football season. The basketball team underachieved all year, but still got a No. 10 seed.

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