Even though the sanctified 64 have been selected for the NCAA tournament, it's worth taking a timeout to review an eventful regular season. It was a year in which one player ( Kentucky's Jeff Sheppard) missed two games because of a sledding accident and another ( UTEP's Kevin Beal) played in a WAC tournament game because no one, including the school president and athletic director, told his coach that he was ineligible. As a result, the Miners had to forfeit their 77-69 victory over Hawaii in the tournament's first round. It was a year that was marked by an anti-Semitic incident (a message left on a locker room grease board at New Mexico State for Long Beach State coach Seth Greenberg) and was nearly marred by tragedy (five Michigan players and a recruit, driving home at 5 a.m. after partying, escaped serious injury after their vehicle rolled over).
It was also a season in which the following distinguished themselves, for better or worse:
Coach of the Year: Purdue's Gene Keady. Not only did he lead the starless Boilermakers to the Big Ten title for the third straight year, but he did so while coping with twin hardships. His daughter, Lisa, fell in her home and went into a coma for three weeks, and during that time his father died. Keady handled his tribulations with admirable grace.
Unknown Coach of the Year: Bart Bellairs, Virginia Military. Two years ago he took over a program that had produced only one winning season since 1978. This year the Keydets were 18-10, finished second in the North Division of the Southern Conference and lost a close semifinal game in the league tournament to eventual champion Western Carolina.
Freshman of the Year: Shareef Abdur-Rahim of California, in a photo finish with Stephon Marbury of Georgia Tech. Abdur-Rahim averaged 21.6 points and 8.7 rebounds and was the difference between Cal's being a sub-.500 team and its making the NCAA tournament. After a rough start Marbury led the Yellow Jackets to the ACC regular-season title.
Comeback Award: Duke senior guard Chris Collins. After scoring 109 points last season (3.9 a game) on 29.8% shooting, including 23.3% from three-point range, Collins came back to average 16.5 points on 46.9% and 43.8% shooting. He was the Blue Devils' MVP during a late-season run of success that got them back into the NCAAs after last year's collapse kept them out.
Most-Improved Player: Alabama fifth year senior Roy Rogers. He hadn't averaged in double figures at any time in his career until this season, when he scored 13.4 points, grabbed 9.1 rebounds and blocked 4.8 shots a game—and became a potential first-round pick in the NBA draft.
Player of the Year: With all due respect to Connecticut's Ray Allen, Massachusetts's Marcus Camby and Wake Forest's Tim Duncan, the top player in the country was Georgetown sophomore guard Allen Iverson. Take him away and Georgetown might have struggled in its annual grudge match against Morgan State. With Iverson the Hoyas are a Final Four threat—and perhaps the most exciting team in the nation. He has almost single-handedly revived the slumbering Georgetown program and shown remarkable maturity after his troubled high school years.
Overachievers: Iowa State (23-8), which was picked to finish eighth in the Big Eight, wound up second in the regular season and then upset Kansas in the conference tournament; Boston College (18-10), which was picked near the bottom of the 13-team Big East but finished with the fifth-best record in a very tough conference; and Clemson (18-10), which had four freshmen and one sophomore on the floor most of the time but beat all of the eight other ACC teams to make the NCAAs for the first time since 1990.
Underachievers: Virginia (12-15), which was picked to finish third in the ACC, came in seventh and had its second losing season in 19 years; Nebraska (16-13), which started 3-1 in the Big Eight, then collapsed and finished a dissension-racked 4-10 in league play; and USC (11-19), which was a respectable 11-10 before athletic director Mike Garrett suddenly—and unpardonably—fired coach Charlie Parker. The Trojans didn't win another game.