Michigan Wolverines guard Trey Burke celebrates after they defeated the Kansas Jayhawks in their South Regional NCAA men's basketball game in Arlington

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


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.

No. 14 Cal goes 0-2 in Las Vegas Invitational

Jaylen Brown
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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After midnight on the east coast on Thanksgiving, No. 14 Cal blew a 15 point second half lead against San Diego State, allowing the Aztecs to use a 30-6 run to put away the game and advance to the final of the Las Vegas Invitational. That’s the same San Diego State team had scored 43 points in a loss to Arkansas-Little Rock last week.

Not 24 hours later, the Golden Bears were shredded defensively by the Richmond Spiders, losing 94-90 in the consolation game of a four-team tournament they were considered to be the heavy favorite in.

It’s a disappointing two-game stretch for Cal, who entered the season as a Pac-12 favorite and had looked the part for the first four games of the season.

And the issue appears to be on the defensive end of the floor.

Richmond is a good Atlantic 10 team. Terry Allen and Marshall Wood are high-major big men, Shawn’Dre Jones is a jitterbug at the point and Chris Mooney runs a Princeton-esque system that is very difficult to prepare for without a day in-between games. So it’s not really surprising that the Spiders gave Cal a fight.

But 94 points?

On the heels of giving up 44 points in the second half against the offensively-challenged Aztecs?

That’s a problem, one that I’m sure that Cuonzo Martin is going to address this week in practice. Martin has managed to put together a roster that is build for small-ball, with four talented perimeter players surrounding a first round pick in the post. But that’s not the style that he’s known for. Martin played his college ball at Purdue in the Gene Keady days. He cut his teeth as a head coach at Missouri State in the Missouri Valley. His team’s at Tennessee were known for being tough and physical defensively.

That’s how Martin coaches, which is part of the reason Cal had such hype entering the year.

The talents of Tyrone Wallace, Jaylen Brown, Ivan Rabb, Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews on a team with a coach that gets teams to defend the way Martin does? It’s no surprise that pundits would be optimistic.

But as of now, they have some work to do defensively if they want to live up to that hype.

Tyler Ulis injured as No. 1 Kentucky beats South Florida

Tyler Ulis, Ky Howard
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MIAMI (AP) Jamal Murray had 21 points and No. 1 Kentucky scored the final 15 points of the first half on the way to beating South Florida 84-63 in the HoopHall Miami Invitational on Friday.

Skal Labissiere added 17 points for the Wildcats (6-0), who led by as many as 31. Charles Matthews scored 11 points and Isaiah Briscoe finished with seven assists for Kentucky, now a winner of 37 consecutive regular-season games and 39 in a row against unranked opponents.

Chris Perry scored 14 points for USF (1-5), which has lost 18 consecutive games against teams ranked in the Top 25. Jaleel Cousins added 12 points on 5-for-6 shooting, and Jahmal McMurray scored 11 points for the Bulls.

Kentucky played the second half without starting guard Tyler Ulis, who departed with a right elbow injury after getting hurt while fighting for a ball loose on the floor.

Kentucky announced after the game that the injury was a hyperextension of the elbow and that he will be day-to-day.

The Bulls were within 27-21 with 6 minutes left in the first half after McMurray banked in a 3-pointer only a few feet away from where John Calipari was standing, and the look of anguish on the Kentucky coach’s face was clear.

It didn’t last long.

The Wildcats scored on seven of their next nine possessions and the game was over by halftime, Kentucky going into the break with a 42-21 lead.

It was a reunion for plenty of people on both benches. Calipari squared off with his former assistant Orlando Antigua, now in his second year leading USF. Antigua’s staff includes another former Calipari assistant in Rod Strickland, plus former Kentucky basketball staff members Mike Malone and Dominic Lombardi.

So the staffs have plenty of familiarity. On the court, there was plenty of disparity. Kentucky finished with a commanding 23-6 edge in points off turnovers and finished with 16 assists to the Bulls’ six.