Trey Burke, Anthony Davis, and Players of the Year winning National Titles

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When Kentucky ran through the 2012 NCAA tournament, winning the national title and finishing the season at 38-2, we all knew that the team was special.

Just how special they were became even more evident this season, as John Calipari’s newest crop of freshmen struggled throughout the year, lacking the leadership and maturity to even make the NCAA tournament. You see, what made that Kentucky team so special was that their two best players — the top two picks in the 2012 NBA Draft — were role players on that team.

And Anthony Davis, the No. 1 pick in the draft, was so good at his role — a shot-blocking force that averaged a double-double and could step out and hit a three — that he won National Player of the Year*.

*(There are currently six National Player of the Year awards, which can make things a bit confusing when talking about who won the award. For the most part, there is usually a consensus when it comes to who won the awards, as one player will win five, if not all six, of the awards. But there are some seasons where it’s more up in the air.)

That may be the most unusual aspect of Kentucky’s 2012 season, and it should also tell you just how impressive the company Trey Burke will keep if he’s able to carry Michigan to two more wins.

The last time that a National Player of the Year winner also won a national title prior to Anthony Davis was in 2004. That was UConn’s Emeka Okafor, but his inclusion on this list is a bit sketchy. He shared the NABC Player of the Year award with Jameer Nelson of St. Joseph’s, who won the other five awards outright. Okafor was the fluke.

Before Okafor, you have to go all the way back to 2001, where Duke’s Shane Battier was named National Player of the Year. Ironically enough, Battier wasn’t a consensus Player of the Year, as the NABC — who has a tendency to “think outside of the box” when it comes to awards — gave his teammate, Jay Williams, their Player of the Year Award.

Ed O’Bannon of UCLA won two of the six Player of the Year awards in 1995 when the Bruins won the title. Christian Laettner was the consensus Player of the Year in 1992 when Duke won their second of back-to-back titles. Danny Manning won three of the six awards in 1988 when Kansas won it all, Darrell Griffith got one award in 1980 with Louisville won the title and Scott May won four of the then-five available awards in 1976.

All told, nine players have won a National Player of the Year award and the National Title in the past 36 seasons. Three of them (Okafor, Griffith and Williams) won just one of the six available awards that six, and another one (O’Bannon) won two of the six. Manning and Hersey Hawkins both won three of the six awards in 1988.

Do the math, and that means that just three times in the past 36 years has a National Title winner been a consensus — or near-consensus — National Player of the Year.

Now I don’t know if Burke is going to end up being a consensus National Player of the Year, not with the love affair that the nation had with Victor Oladipo for much of the season or with how well Otto Porter played during Big East schedule. But he was our National Player of the Year.

And he should be everyone else’s Player of the Year.

And that was before he carried Michigan to the Final Four.

So all that’s left is for Michigan to win it all, right?

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Grand Canyon lands Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson

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Grand Canyon landed an important piece for its NCAA tournament push on Saturday night as Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson pledged to the Antelopes.

The 6-foot-3 Benson will be eligible right away as spent the past three seasons with the Ducks as a key reserve guard, helping Oregon to multiple deep NCAA tournament runs. Benson picked Grand Canyon over Wisconsin for his final season of college basketball as Benson’s brother, T.J., is an assistant coach with the Antelopes.

Benson shot 40 percent from three-point range last season while also being a steady ball handler over the course of his career at Oregon as he has only 81 career turnovers in over 2,600 career minutes with the Ducks. While Benson wasn’t asked to score a lot for a loaded Oregon team that featured multiple bucket-getters, he could be asked to do more at Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon is eligible for the NCAA tournament for the first time next season as the addition of Benson gives them an experienced guard who should be more of a factor in the WAC. The Antelopes are coming off of a 22-9 season in which they finished 11-3 in conference play.

With great facilities and a quickly-growing fan base, head coach Dan Majerle has the potential makings of a perennial mid-major conference contender if he continues to recruit well to Grand Canyon.

Colorado adds commitment from Class of 2017 point guard McKinley Wright

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Colorado landed one of the best available point guards for next season on Friday as Class of 2017 floor general McKinley Wright committed during an official visit.

A former Dayton commit who opted out of his recruitment after former head coach Archie Miller took the Indiana job, Wright was one of the best available point guards left as he played last weekend on the adidas Gauntlet in front of college coaches with D1 Minnesota.

The 6-foot-0 Wright gives the Buffaloes another ball handler and distributor as he was Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball during this past season. As a senior, Wright averagedย 22.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game.

It’s always hard to say if spring recruits who elevate a level in recruiting after decommitting are making the correct decision, but Wright looked the part of a high-major lead guard last weekend, and Colorado wasn’t the only high-major program that was pushing hard to add Wright at this late stage.

Oral Roberts to hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills

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Oral Roberts has found its new head coach as they will hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills, as first reported by NBCSports.com’s Rob Dauster.

Mills had been on staff with the Bears since 2003 as he’s been a big factor in why head coach Scott Drew has been able to turn around that program. A graduate of Texas A&M, Mills has been a full-time assistant at Baylor since the 2009 season.

“I am honored to accept this role of representing this historic institution, its students and its mission,” Mills said in a release. “Making this commitment today is a highlight of my career and I look forward with excitement to the basketball season directly ahead. Go Golden Eagles.”

Mills will replace former head coach Scott Sutton, who was relieved of his duties this offseason after 18 years at the helm.

 

Iowa commit Connor McCaffery to redshirt in basketball to pursue baseball

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Iowa commit Connor McCaffery is in a unique spot when he starts his freshman year in Iowa City next year.

Not only is the 6-foot-4 guard the son of basketball head coach Fran McCaffery, while being a four-star national basketball prospect, but Connor also has a bright future in baseball.

There was a lot of speculation as to what Connor might do for his future in athletics and he gave more clarification on what he might be looking to do on Friday.

McCaffery has decided to redshirt in basketball next season to focus on the beginnings of his baseball career at Iowa. A walk-on for both sports, the move enables Connor McCaffery to potentially play three years of basketball with his younger brother, Patrick, who is also a heralded basketball recruit for Iowa. This move also gives Connor the best chance to pursue both sports while he’ll also help out a young Iowa basketball team with its tough scholarship scenario.

Butler, Chris Holtmann agree to a contract extension

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Butler has agreed to a contract extension with head coach Chris Holtmann, the school announced on Friday, that will keep him under contract through 2025.

“Butler truly is a special place, and my family and I are thankful to be part of a great academic institution and an athletics department that is a source of pride for those who embrace Butler and The Butler Way,” said Holtmann. “Our student-athletes, our staff, and so many throughout our campus are remarkable at what they do, and Iโ€™m excited to continue to work alongside them.”

Holtmann was named Big East Coach of the Year after leading the Bulldogs to a 25-9 record and a spot in the Sweet 16. In three years with the program, Holtmann has a record of 70-31.

“Chris is a tremendous ambassador for Butler and the Butler Way, and his leadership has resulted in success both on and off the court for the talented young men in our program,” said Butler Vice President/Director of Athletics Barry Collier. “This commitment โ€“ both by our university and by Chris โ€“ allows the momentum within our program to continue.”

Holtmann was in the mix for a couple of jobs this spring, including N.C. State and Missouri.