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2000s: The Decade in Sports
Posted: Wednesday December 16, 2009 12:10PM; Updated: Thursday December 17, 2009 11:44AM

College basketball: Highlights and lowlights of the decade

Story Highlights

UNC boasts the player (Tyler Hansbrough) and coach (Roy Williams) of the decade

There wasn't a better play than Mario Chalmers' game-tying three in 2008 final

J.J. Redick and Adam Morrison had a great rivalry without ever playing each other

By Seth Davis,

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Tyler Hansbrough (center) was usually right in the middle of the action during his four years at North Carolina.
Greg Nelson/SI
2000s: College Basketball
Davis: Highlights and lowlights
Wahl: All-Decade team
Winn: 10 signature moments
Anderson: Decade in women's hoops

PLAYER OF THE DECADE: Tyler Hansbrough, North Carolina
He was not the most talented player this decade, and if some other players had stayed in college for four years, they would have likely earned this honor. Hansbrough, however, kept giving it the old college try, thrice turning down the chance to be a first-round draft pick and compiling one of the most storied careers in history. By the time he left Chapel Hill in the spring of 2009, he was the leading scorer in ACC history, the only league player to be named first team All-America four times, a Naismith and Wooden Award winner as the national player of the year, and of course an NCAA champion. Last but not least, he was a college graduate. That's a pretty good four years.

BEST COACH: Roy Williams, North Carolina
Besides leading North Carolina to the NCAA championship in 2005 and 2009, Williams took three other teams to the Final Four: Kansas in '02 and '03, and UNC in '08.

Click here for Grant Wahl's All-Decade team

BEST SCHOOL: Michigan State
It's hard to go against North Carolina, which went to four Final Fours and won two titles, or Florida, which in 2006-07 became college basketball's first repeat champion in 15 years. But while the Spartans only won a single championship (in 2000), they also went to four Final Fours. Moreover, unlike the other two candidates, the Spartans made the NCAA tournament every year this decade. That is a remarkable achievement in an era when the best teams so frequently lose young players to the pros.

BEST SINGLE-SEASON TEAM: Saint Joseph's, 2004
St. Joe's didn't quite pull off a championship (losing to Oklahoma State in the Elite Eight), but the Hawks, led by incandescent point guard Jameer Nelson, became the first team to complete a perfect regular season since UNLV in 1991.

LEAST SUCCESSFUL PROGRAM: New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT)
NJIT didn't reach full Division I status until 2008-09, but during its three years as a provisional Division I team, the Highlanders set a benchmark for futility. In those three seasons they went 6-83, at one point losing 51 straight and failed to win a single game in 2007-08.


BEST REGULAR-SEASON GAME: Gonzaga 109, Michigan State 103, 3 OT; Nov. 22, 2005
It was just an early-season game in the quarterfinals of the Maui Invitational, but it was a classic nonetheless. Led by Adam Morrison's 43 points, Gonzaga outlasted the Spartans in a marathon that featured 13 lead changes in the final seven and half minutes of regulation, including four in the final 1:14.

BEST POSTSEASON GAME: Syracuse 127, UConn 117, 6 OT; March 12, 2009
Coming in the quarterfinals of the 2009 Big East tournament, this was the second-longest game in Division I basketball history, taking 3 hours, 46 minutes to play and ending at 1:22 a.m. The star of the night was Syracuse point guard Jonny Flynn, who played all but three minutes, but the game will be most remembered for the 30-foot shot that SU guard Eric Devendorf appeared to have made at the end of regulation to win the game, only to have the referees determine after a lengthy replay review that it had come after the buzzer. Perhaps most remarkable of all, Syracuse never led this game in any of the extra sessions until early in the sixth OT.

Click here for a gallery of the top 10 games of the decade

It's hard to go against 2006, when George Mason reached the Final Four, but the better tourney actually came the year before, when three of the four regional finals went to overtime. The tournament was capped by the second-best championship game of the decade (next to Kansas-Memphis in '08), when North Carolina eclipsed one-loss Illinois 75-70.

When Joakim Noah, Al Horford, Corey Brewer and Taurean Green all signed with Florida, nobody heralded this quartet as the Fab anything. Yet, by the end of their junior year, they had led the Gators to back-to-back national championships. All except Green had the opportunity to be first-round draft picks as sophomores, but they came back for the chance to make history -- and that's exactly what they did. They were known as the Oh-Fours.

As a senior at Broughton High in Raleigh, N.C., the 6-10 forward scored 70 points in a game to break a school record held by Pete Maravich. He was a two-time Parade and McDonald's All-American who was the 12th ranked prospect in the Class of 2002 by However, in three injury- and illness-plagued seasons in Durham, Randolph averaged just 6.3 points and 4.3 rebounds while starting less than half of Duke's games. After his junior season, he declared himself eligible for the NBA draft. He went undrafted and is currently playing 11.5 minutes per game for the Miami Heat, his third NBA team in five seasons.

SIGNATURE PLAY: Mario Chalmers' game-tying shot, 2008 NCAA final
You can't have a better shining moment than to sink a three-pointer as time is expiring in the national championship to send the game into overtime. That's what Kansas' Chalmers did -- following Memphis guard Derrick Rose's missed free throw -- in his final appearance as a Jayhawk. Kansas won 75-68 in OT.

He was a little-known player from a school that had made nary a peep in college basketball, but during the summer of 2003, Baylor forward Patrick Dennehy became a household name after he was murdered by his teammate Carlton Dotson. That tragedy led to revelations that Dennehy's coach, Dave Bliss, had set him up with a car and apartment in violation of NCAA rules and then asked his assistant coach to spread the rumor that Dennehy paid for those things by selling drugs. The assistant secretly taped those conversations, and when the tapes were made public, Bliss lost his job, Baylor was hit hard by NCAA sanctions and the sport suffered a major black eye.

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