Will Thomas and George Mason made a run for the ages, reach the Final Four of the 2005 NCAA tournament.
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BIGGEST CINDERELLA: George Mason
The Patriots captured the heart of America when they stunned top-seeded Connecticut in overtime to advance to the 2006 Final Four. They were the first mid-major team to reach the Final Four since 1979.
Click here for a gallery of the 10 biggest upsets of the decade
MOST OUTSTANDING SINGLE-GAME PERFORMANCE: Dwyane Wade's triple-double vs. Kentucky; March 29, 2003
Few casual basketball fans had heard the name Dwyane Wade (much less learned how to spell it) before the 2003 Midwest regional final in Minneapolis, but the 6-5 junior guard from Marquette made quite a name for himself that day. Wade had 29 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists in the Golden Eagles' 83-69 upset of top-seeded Kentucky. The runner-up in this category goes to Syracuse freshman Carmelo Anthony for his 20-point, 10-rebound, seven-assist performance in the Orange's victory over Kansas in that season's NCAA championship game.
BIGGEST VILLAIN: The NBA agent
Think of it this way: Agents are to college basketball what steroids are to baseball. The problem is, if a player or his relative gets improper help from an agent, it doesn't show up in a urine test. Simply put, agents and their runners are everywhere, filtering money and influence through summertime AAU programs and vying for influence over impressionable and often disadvantaged young teenagers. If the NCAA, in conjunction with the NBA and its players' association, don't step in and do something about it, college basketball could be consumed by an agent-related scandal from which it might not recover.
BEST TEAM RIVALRY: Duke vs. North Carolina
In college basketball, this is always going to be the answer. No rivalry in all of sports consistently delivers such memorable, intense, meaningful contests.
BEST INDIVIDUAL RIVALRY: J.J. Redick vs. Adam Morrison
Their teams never played each other, but Duke's Redick and Gonzaga's Morrison waged a scintillating battle from opposite coasts during the 2005-06 season. Morrison edged out Redick for the national scoring title (28.4 ppg to Redick's 27.4), but Redick walked away with the Naismith and Wooden awards. Alas, neither player got what he wanted, which was a chance to play for a national championship. Both of their teams lost in the Sweet 16.
BEST COACHING RIVALRY: John Calipari vs. Bruce Pearl
Calipari has been at loggerheads with lots of coaches over the years, from Lou Carnesecca to John Chaney to Jim Calhoun to his current doppelganger at Louisville, Rick Pitino. But the state of Tennessee was truly not big enough for both Pearl and Calipari, whose constant jabs at each other in the media, on the recruiting trail and on the court made for great theater. The rivalry crested on Feb. 23, 2008, when Pearl's Vols, who were ranked No. 2 in the country, edged top-ranked and undefeated Memphis 66-62.
OUTSIZED PERSONALITY: Dick Vitale
Love him or hate him, but ESPN's Vitale is undoubtedly the definitive voice of college basketball. His effort to enlist anyone and everyone to campaign for him to get into the Hall of Fame was unseemly, but he deserved to be enshrined.
BEST NEW ARENA: John Paul Jones Arena, Charlottesville, Va.
The University of Virginia spent $140 million to build John Paul Jones Arena, which opened in 2006. The arena is a perfect size (capacity 14,593), includes state-of-the-art practice, training and academic facilities, and it blends perfectly into UVA's stately campus.
BEST SMALL-SCHOOL STORY: Gonzaga
Gonzaga has the third-highest winning percentage of the decade, trailing only Duke and Kansas. The Zags have won their conference all nine years, going undefeated three times and have made 11 consecutive NCAA tournaments, reaching the Sweet 16 five times and the Elite Eight once. Almost any power-conference school would be proud of that profile, but the little team from Spokane, Wash., trumps all the big boys. Normally, when a mid-major makes a run in the NCAA tournament, it crashes back to earth and has to wait a few years before getting back. Even the most prestigious schools have their down years. Not these Zags, who under coach Mark Few have built one of the most remarkable stories in all of sports.
BEST INNOVATION: Dribble-drive motion offense
Nobody noticed that a little-known coach at Fresno (Calif.) City College college named Vance Wahlberg had been deploying a lethal, exciting attack. Calipari got wind of it and implemented it at Memphis. From there, the DDM became a national craze. Incidentally, as Calipari was using the offense to help Memphis reach the 2008 NCAA title game, Wahlberg lost his job at Pepperdine with six weeks remaining in the regular season.
WORST INNOVATION: Social networking
Remember the sickening feeling you had when you handed your kid the keys to the car for the first time? That's how parents and coaches should feel whenever their son/player sits in front of a computer. Facebook, MySpace, Twitter et al. give youngsters a high-profile, unfettered forum to air controversial views, confess to immature behavior and reveal their unsightly spelling and grammar skills. Players also use the sites (and video sites like ustream) to manipulate the recruiting process and maximize attention. Moreover, the networking sites (along with the advent of text messaging) introduce potential for NCAA violations as well as legal-but-non-kosher avenues for agents to approach prospective clients. Is it too late to go back to the dark ages of snail mail and landline phones?
BIGGEST NEAR-MISS: Memphis in the 2008 NCAA final
A month after Kansas defeated Memphis for the 2008 title, the standardized test score of Memphis freshman point guard Derrick Rose was invalidated because of suspicions that somebody else took it for him. A year later, the NCAA ordered the Tigers' entire 2007-08 season to be vacated. Had Chalmers missed his three-point attempt at the end of regulation in the 2008 final, the NCAA would have had to vacate a national championship for the first time.
|2000s: The Decade in College Basketball|