Bubble Banter: Washington, Alabama both in same spot — who woulda guessed?


Welcome to Bubble Banter.  In our latest update (Feb. 9), four teams have left and three have joined the bubble.  Two of the joiners are Washington and Minnesota, who we can no longer consider as Should Be In.  We’re now at 37 bubble teams with 15 spots available.  The next two weeks should help pare down the field; then we’ll have a more accurate look at the overall picture.  More at Bracketville.

Bubble Banter highlights the teams we believe are on the NCAA Bubble. If a team isn’t listed, they aren’t a bubble team at the time of the update. RPI and SOS data is credited to CollegeRPI.com.

UPDATED: Wednesday, February 9

Automatic Bids (31): None decided | Total Spots (68): Number of total teams in the Field.

  • Projected Locks (10): Teams who project to have secured a spot in the 2011 NCAA Tournament. Some of these projected locks may become automatic qualifiers should they win their conference tournament.
  • Should Be In (16): While not yet locks, these are teams in good position to receive an at-large bid.
  • Bubble: (37): Teams projected to be at or near the cutline for being selected as at-large candidates, or those whose profiles are not yet complete enough to be considered as Should Be In as of the this update.
  • Spots available (15): Number of available openings for the bracket based on spots reserved for automatic qualifiers, projected locks, and teams projected as Should Be In at this update.
  • Leaving the Bubble: Butler, Rhode Island, California, Northern Iowa
  • Joining the Bubble: Minnesota, Washington, Alabama

Below is a conference breakdown of the bubble picture

Atlantic 10
Locks: NONE | Should Be In: Temple, Xavier | Bubble: Duquesne, Richmond
  • Duquesne (15-6 | 8-1) | RPI: 76 | SOS: 133 | – Loss at St. Bonventure Saturday stopped some of the Dukes’ momentum, but it’s not panic time. A home date with Xavier is up next, followed by two more on the road. Nothing to report in the non-conference season, and the Dukes’ overall SOS is a concern. Right now, the Dukes’ best win is over Temple at home. Duquesne has to stay at or near the top of the A-10.
  • Richmond (18-6 | 7-2) | RPI: 74 | SOS: 138 | – The Spiders beat St. Joe’s and Fordham to hold serve. Neither win helps, but losses would have hurt. Richmond will keep hoping its non-conference win over Purdue holds a lot of weight; along with beating Seton Hall and VCU. The lopsided home loss to Xavier was troubling, and Richmond also lost to fellow-bubbler Old Dominion. Spiders need to pick up two more wins this week ahead of a big trip to Temple.
Locks: Duke | Should Be In: North Carolina | Bubble: Boston College, Clemson, Florida State, Maryland, Virginia Tech
  • Boston College (15-9 | 5-5) | RPI: 43 | SOS: 20 | – Beating Virginia Tech at home Saturday ended a three-game slide, but Tuesday’s loss at Clemson continues to cloud the Eagles’ outlook. Losing big at home to Carolina didn’t look good, either. BC now hosts Maryland – another ACC bubble team. A loss would knock BC below .500 in ACC play – a rough spot in a down year. BC’s win over Texas Am is notable, although the Aggies are reeling. BC has lost (at home) to two Ivy League schools and has dropped 5 of its past 7 games.
  • Clemson (17-7 | 6-4) | RPI: 64 | SOS: 97 | Tigers saved their spot in Bubble Banter by winning at Georgia Tech Saturday, then backed it up by taking out fellow bubbler Boston College at home on Tuesday. North Carolina is up next and a victory over the Heels would jump the Tigers up a bit in the ACC pecking order. Other than home wins over Florida State and Miami, the resume is light, however. Clemson has non-league losses to Old Dominion, Michigan, and South Carolina. It will still take a strong month for the Tigers to be a serious at-large contender.
  • Florida State (16-7 | 6-3) | RPI: 54 | SOS: 73 | – The Seminoles took a lopsided loss at North Carolina on Saturday to tread water. Baylor is their best non-ACC win, and the Bears have struggled. While the loss at Auburn was probably a fluke, it’s an example of inconsistent play. FSU also lost to a struggling Butler team in Hawaii. A weak non-conferense SOS (no. 230), could ultimately spell trouble if FSU simply glides to the finish. The win over Duke is big, but not enough by itself. An important trip to Ga. Tech is next, followed by a home date with Virginia.
  • Maryland (15-8 | 5-4) | RPI: 79 | SOS: 66 | – Getting run over at home by Duke puts Maryland in a difficult spot as the Terps’ last chance for a marquis win is at North Carolina (Feb. 27). Between now and then, Maryland needs to pile up wins. At this point, going 50-50 won’t be good enough. Playing Longwood this week will be an RPI killer, too.
  • Virginia Tech (15-7 | 5-4) | RPI: 68 | SOS: 82 | – Hokies treaded water this week, winning at NC State and losing by two at Boston College. That type of scenario may not be enough down the stretch. Credit VT with playing a better non-conference schedule, the Hokies just failed to win many of the games – the best is over fellow bubble-dweller Oklahoma State. VT really needs to win its next four ahead of Duke’s arrival on February 26.
Locks: Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Villanova | Should Be In: Syracuse, Georgetown, Louisville,West Virginia | Bubble: Cincinnati, Marquette, St. John’s
  • Cincinnati (19-5 | 6-5) | RPI: 35 | SOS: 105 | – As we’ve mentioned before, the Bearcats’ dreadful non-conference SOS leaves UC with little margin for error in the Big East. Cincinnati was rolled at Pittsburgh Saturday – not a surprise, but it does leave UC with only one notable road win (@St. John’s). The Bearcats escaped DePaul Tuesday ahead of a rematch with St. John’s. A sweep of the Red Storm would be helpful. Hard to say if UC can withstand a brutal closing stretch.
  • Marquette (14-9 | 5-5) | RPI: 65 | SOS: 30 | – Marquette is 3-8 vs. teams ranked in the Top 25 of the RPI. That’s an amazing number of games against strong competition. That said, the Golden Eagles can’t continue to rely on “good losses” to keep them in the Field. At some point, they have to win more games. A 2-7 mark away from home isn’t helping. And this week the Eagles road trip to South Florida and Georgetown.
  • St. John’s (12-8 | 5-5) | RPI: 22 | SOS: 1 | – The Red Storm have some very good wins – none better than a dominating win over Duke. After losing at UCLA Saturday, however, the Johnnies embark on a critcal three-game stretch. Losses are mounting. St. John’s hosts Connecticut and then travels to Cincinnati and Marquette – the other two teams on this list. We also can’t forget early losses to St. Bonaventure and Fordham.
BIG 10
Locks: Ohio State | Should Be In: Purdue, Wisconsin | Bubble: Illinois, Michigan State, Minnesota, Penn State
  • Illinois (15-8 | 5-5) | RPI: 38 | SOS: 25 | – It’s panic time in Champaign after another lackluster performance Saturday at Northwestern. The Illini have lost 5 of 7 games and would be in real trouble had they not handled Penn State at home last week. Next up is a trip to struggling Minnesota, followed by home dates with Purdue and Michigan. At some point, Illinois is going to need another road win. Good wins include N. Carolina and Wisconsin, along with Michigan State (perhaps). The losses at Indiana and UIC are sore points.
  • Michigan State (12-10 | 5-6) | RPI: 48 | SOS: 6 | The Spartans are now in real danger of missing the NCAAs after the lopsided loss at Wisconsin. It’s not a loss at the Kohl Center, it’s that MSU was non-competitive. Overall, the Spartans have lost 5 of 6 games, with the only win an OT game at home against Indiana. With Korie Lucious dismissed, the Spartans have yet to prove they are an NCAA team without him. It’s hard to count an Izzo team out in early February, but it’ll take a major comeback for the Spartans to Dance.
  • Minnesota (16-7 | 5-6) | RPI: 28 | SOS: 24 | As injuries and departures have mounted, the Gophers have put themselves in somewhat of a tough spot. They have lost three straight to fall under. 500 in league play and face an equally troubling Illinois team next at The Barn. Then it’s off for two on the road where Minnesota is just 2-5 this season. Early neutral-court wins over North Carolina and West Virginia are helping, but this isn’t the same Minnesota team – especially without point guard Al Nolan. The Gophers are 5-5 vs. the Top 100, and also have losses at Indiana and to Virginia. Much like Michigan State, Minnesota needs to re-prove itself as an NCAA team.
  • Penn State (12-10 | 5-6) | RPI: 69 | SOS: 5 | – The home loss to Michigan is troubling because the Nittany Lions are 1-4 in Big 10 road games (win at Indiana) and sub-.500 in league play. It also means Penn State will have to win at least one more road game to enter the Big 10 tournament with an even conference record. Next up is a trip to Michigan State, followed by home dates with Northwestern and Minnesota. Win all three and the Lions will have some momentum before a tough closing stretch. With non-conference losses to Maryland and Virginia Tech, there’s not much to fall back on.
BIG 12
Locks: Kansas, Texas | Should Be In: Missouri, Texas AM | Bubble: Kansas State, Baylor, Colorado, Oklahoma State
  • Baylor (15-7 | 5-4) | RPI: 75 | SOS: 79 | – The Bears finally earned a notable win Saturday at Texas AM. Otherwise, its been a very average season. Other best wins are Oklahoma State and Colorado at home. Out of conference, the Bears failed to win a Top 100 RPI game and their non-league SOS ranks No. 236. Now it’s time to see if the Bears can build momentum with Nebraska arriving ahead of a trip to Texas. Has the real Baylor shown up in time?
  • Colorado (14-9 | 4-5) | RPI: 90 | SOS: 103 | – With 5 losses in 6 games, the Buffaloes are in real danger of slipping off the bubble. A non-league win over Colorado State is notable, but overall the Buffs non-conference SOS ranks No. 307. That spells trouble. CU was routed Saturday at Missouri, and has must-win home dates with Texas AM and Kansas State this week.
  • Kansas State (15-8 | 4-5) | RPI: 31 | SOS: 16 | – Late hoop by Jacob Pullen saved the day at Iowa State Saturday, pushing the Wildcats’ Big 12 record to 4-5. Up next is a trip to desperate Colorado followed by a visit from Kansas. K-State still needs to beat a Top 50 opponent – KSU is currently 0-7 vs. such teams. Best win is Virginia Tech. Other than that, the power numbers are workable.
  • Oklahoma State (16-7 | 4-5) | RPI: 42 | SOS: 62 | – The Cowboys saved a spot on Bubble Banter by holding off Oklahoma at home Saturday. Now, it’s make-or-break time – with three of four on the road – including trips to Nebraska and Texas this week. Against the Top 100, OSU is 5-6. Oklahoma State has head-to-head losses against several other bubble teams (Gonzaga, Colorado, Baylor).
Locks: BYU, San Diego State | Should Be In: UNLV | Bubble: Colorado State, New Mexico
  • Colorado State (15-7 | 6-3) | RPI: 41 | SOS: 44 | – Holding off Wyoming Saturday was a great save, as a loss would have been a blemish the Rams didn’t need. A solid win at UNLV is a high point, but there are also losses to Hampton and Sam Houston. Overall, good wins are still lacking as CSU is 2-3 vs. Top 50 teams (only UNLV would project as an NCAA-level win at this point). CSU will probably need to beat San Diego State and/or BYU to feel good about its chances. Up next is a home date with New Mexico followed by a trip to TCU. After losing at The Pit, it would help CSU to avoid being swept by the Lobos.
  • New Mexico (15-7 | 4-4) | RPI: 61 | SOS: 88 | – While the season hasn’t gone as planned, beating BYU at The Pit is a marquis win that will help the Lobos. They’ve also beaten Colorado State and Colorado at home. Troubling road losses are to Utah and Wyoming. UNM gets a must-win rematch with Wyoming at home before road trips to San Diego State and Colorado State. A win at CSU would give the Lobos a season sweep, something that could come in handy if the teams are being compared. The power number are okay, but leave UNM in dangerous territory.
PAC 10
Locks: NONE | Should Be In: NONE | Bubble: Arizona, Washington, Washington State, UCLA
  • Arizona (20-4 | 9-2) | RPI: 16 | SOS: 45 | – If nothing else, the computers love Arizona. How that translates into seeding remains to be seen. Get through a trip to Arizona State and home dates with the Washington schools, and Arizona will move off the bubble. With a 1-3 mark vs. Top 50 teams (UCLA is the only win), the Wildcats resume is light on quality. There’s nothing from the non-conference as the ‘Cats best win is Oklahoma. UA also has an ugly loss at Oregon State. A 9-2 mark in the Pac-10 looks good, and a regular-season title would put Arizona in a very strong position.
  • Washington (15-7 | 7-4) | RPI: 40 | SOS: 58 | – After a strong start in conference play, the Huskies have lost three straight – including a winless trip through Oregon and Oregon State last week. Any team can have a bad week, but it becomes more noteable when the Huskies best non-league win is over Portland. UW’s top wins are Arizona and at UCLA. Overall, Washington is 2-3 vs. Top 50 RPI teams. Big week with Cal and Stanford visiting. Two wins would change momentum before a trip through Arizona. At this point, Washington still looks okay, but it would help to stay within contact of the league-leading Wildcats.
  • Washington State (16-7 | 6-5) | RPI: 70 | SOS: 100 | – Losing at Oregon takes a little luster off the home win over Washington last week. Overall, WSU is just 1-4 vs. Top 50 teams and 4-6 vs. Top 100 teams. An early win over Gonzaga is not helping as much as expected, although the Baylor win could hold more weight if the Bears rebound. The Pac-10 isn’t deep, so it’s important that the Cougars improve a 6-5 league record and stay among the leaders.
  • UCLA (16-7 | 7-3) | RPI: 39 | SOS: 33 | – The home win Saturday over St. John’s gives the Bruins two notable non-conference wins (BYU was the other). At 7-3 in the league, UCLA currently stands alone in second place – a nice position. RPI and SOS numbers are good, but UCLA is still just 2-4 vs. Top 50 RPI teams, and an early loss to Montana is a blemish. What the Bruins may need is a win over one of the other title contenders. Being swept by Arizona and Washington could spell trouble if UCLA struggles down the stretch. The Oregon schools visit this weekend, so any loss would be a bad one.
Locks: NONE | Should Be In: Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee, Vanderbilt | Bubble: Georgia, Alabama
  • Georgia (16-7 | 5-4) | RPI: 46 | SOS: 41 | – Losing to Xavier at home Tuesday isn’t a killer, but it doesn’t help a profile that’s still light on quality wins. Georgia is now 2-7 vs. Top 50 teams – a mark that suggests the need for a strong finish. The Bulldogs are talented enough to make the NCAAs, but can they win enough SEC games? An early victory over Kentucky helps, as does a win over UAB – another bubble team. All of the Bulldogs losses have been to teams ranked in the Top 40 of the RPI, so that’s a plus. The next three games could make or break Georgia’s at-large hopes.
  • Alabama (15-7 | 7-1) | RPI: 96 | SOS: 145 | – If you look strictly at the power numbers, the obvious question is … how does Alabama make the bubble? A 7-1 mark that leads the SEC is the quick explanation, with two of those wins being over Kentucky and at Tennessee. A win at Vanderbilt would make Alabama’s case even stronger. If you take away disappointing losses in early November, ‘Bama’s resume looks much better. Whether the Committee will overlook a poor start (losses to St. Peter’s, Iowa, Seton Hall) largely depends on how the Tide finish. If they post a strong SEC record and win the SEC west by multiple games, it could be enough to earn at-large consideration unless the Tide have an untimely flameout at the SEC tournament.
Locks: NONE | Should Be In: NONE | Bubble: Cleveland State, Missouri State, Wichita State, Old Dominion, George Mason, VCU, Memphis, Southern Mississippi, UAB, UTEP, Gonzaga, St. Mary’s, Utah State
  • Cleveland State (19-5 | 10-4) | RPI: 37 | SOS: 125 | – Being swept by Butler and then losing at Detroit will make an at-large bid very difficult for CSU. Assuming the Vikings avoids any further upsets, the BracketBuster game at Old Dominion is huge. A loss would likely eliminate CSU from at-large consideration; a win could keep hopes alive. Right now, CSU needs to overtake Valparaiso and win the outright Horizon League title.
  • Missouri State (18-6 | 10-3) | RPI: 47 | SOS: 117 | – The good news is the Bears have league wins at Wichita State and Northern Iowa. The bad news is those are also the Bears’ best wins. A non-conference SOS of No. 225 hurts as does a 2-4 mark vs. Top 100 RPI teams. Winning the Missouri Valley regular-season title might be necessary. Sweeping Wichita State would also help.
  • Wichita State (19-5 | 11-3) | RPI: 52 | SOS: 113 | – A home loss to Southern Illinois Tuesday adds a “bad” loss to a resume light on good wins. The Shockers are just 1-4 vs. Top 100 teams, so an outright Missouri Valley title might be necessary at this point for serious at-large consideration. Missed chances in Maui will haunt WSU all the way to Selection Sunday. A 6-1 record in road games is a plus, but losing to Missouri State at home could hurt if the Shockers are swept in the season series. The BracketBuster matchup with VCU is now critical.
  • Memphis (17-6 | 5-3) | RPI: 45 | SOS: 61 | – The win at Gonzaga Saturday could come in very handy for the Tigers. The main prize, however, remains winning the C-USA title. Winning at UAB and Southern Miss will help that effort and they get rematches at home over the next two weeks. Sweeping both could be enough if the Tigers can also win at UTEP. It doesn’t help that Memphis was largely non-competitive in losses to Kansas, Tennessee, and Georgetown. An ugly loss at SMU still lingers, but the Tigers’ outlook is stronger than last week.
  • UAB (16-6 | 6-3) | RPI: 36 | SOS: 69 | – The Blazers are a solid team that lacks a marquee win. A home loss to Southern Miss last week won’t help UAB’s chances in C-USA, either. They are 0-4 vs. Top 50 teams (Duke, Memphis, Georgia, So. Miss). UAB’s best win is VCU at home. There’s also losses at Tulsa and Arizona State. Tough trips to Marshall and Memphis are on the horizon.
  • Southern Mississippi (16-5 | 7-3) | RPI: 44 | SOS: 112 | – Step one was winning a big game at UAB last week. Still, the Eagles are just 1-2 vs. Top 50 teams, so the resume is light. Losses to Colorado State and Mississippi won’t help; neither will a non-conference SOS ranked No. 256. Huge trip to Memphis up next, followed by UTEP at home.
  • UTEP (17-5 | 6-2) | RPI: 58 | SOS: 134 | – Of UTEP’s 17 D-I wins, 14 are to teams ranked outside the Top 100 of the RPI. The best is an early victory over Michigan. Add in three sub-100 losses and the Miners are here as a fringe candidate with a 6-2 C-USA mark. Probably have to win the C-USA title for serious consideration.
  • Old Dominion (18-6 | 9-4) | RPI: 29 | SOS: 52 | – A lopsided loss at George Mason last Saturday doesn’t help the Monarchs, but at least the teams split their two meetings. Solid non-conference wins include Xavier, Richmond and Clemson. ODU also played Georgetown to within three points. A 7-5 mark vs. Top 100 teams will help as will a non-league SOS ranked No. 25. A trip to VCU is the next big challenge.
  • VCU (19-6 | 11-2) | RPI: 56 | SOS: 154 | – The Rams’ loss at Northeastern removed a little luster from a strong streak, but VCU has still won 10 of 12 games. The Rams have a good neutral court win over UCLA, but also miscues at Georgia State and Northeastern, plus a loss at UAB. VCU is 5-3 vs. Top 100 teams. Rematches with ODU and Geo Mason at home are huge, as is a BracketBuster with Wichita State.
  • George Mason (20-5 | 12-2) | RPI: 23 | SOS: 72 | – Beating Old Dominion at home gave George Mason its first Top 50 RPI win and vaulted GMU into first place in the Colonial. The Patriots are also 7-4 vs. Top 100 teams. A lone miscue is Wofford in November. The closing CAA schedule is favorable, and an outright league title would look good. The BracketBuster game at Northern Iowa would help, too.
  • Gonzaga (14-9 | 5-3) | RPI: 73 | SOS: 42 | – The Zags’ home loss to Memphis adds further doubts about the Bulldogs’ at-large chances. There are some good wins – Baylor, Xavier, Marquette – that could get better. A good SOS always helps. At the same time, Gonzaga is now 2-6 vs. Top 50 RPI teams and 7-9 vs. the Top 200 – generally a big no-no for at-large consideration. The losses at Santa Clara and San Francisco are major issues. Any more “bad” losses probably eliminate Gonzaga from the bubble.
  • St. Mary’s (18-4 | 8-1) | RPI: 34 | SOS: 130 | – Winning an outright WCC title could be enough as long as St. Mary’s doesn’t lose many more games – especially to teams other than Gonzaga or maybe Portland. An early win over St. John’s helps, but the Gaels were blown out at Vanderbilt and have only the one Top 50 win. At 2-4 vs. Top 100 teams, St. Mary’s is far from a lock. A three-game road swing is up next.
  • Utah State (22-2 | 11-0) | RPI: 25 | SOS: 160 | – The Aggies have a lot of wins but none to teams ranked in the Top 100 of the RPI. That could be a major hurdle. USU missed against BYU and Georgetown and has only one Top 100 team left on its schedule – the BracketBuster at St. Mary’s. Lose that and USU may still have to win its conference tournament.

Marquette’s Shaka Smart voted men’s AP coach of the year

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Shaka Smart has packed an entire career’s worth of experiences into 14 years as a college head coach. He led VCU to an improbable Final Four as a 30-something wunderkind in 2011, guided mighty Texas to a Big 12 Tournament title during six otherwise tepid years in Austin, and now has turned Marquette into a Big East beast.

It’s sometimes easy to forget he’s still just 45 years old.

Yet his work with the Golden Eagles this season might have been his best: Picked ninth in the 11-team league by its coaches, they won the regular-season title going away, then beat Xavier to win their first Big East Tournament championship.

That earned Smart the AP coach of the year award Friday. He garnered 24 of 58 votes from a national media panel to edge Kansas State’s Jerome Tang, who received 13 votes before guiding the Wildcats to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament, and Houston’s Kelvin Sampson, who earned 10 before taking the Cougars to the Sweet 16.

Voting opened after the regular season and closed at the start of the NCAA Tournament, where the No. 2 seed Golden Eagles were knocked out in the second round by Michigan State and Smart’s longtime mentor, Tom Izzo.

“I’m very grateful to win this award,” said Smart, the second Marquette coach to take it home after Hall of Famer Al McGuire in 1971, “but obviously it always comes back to the guys you have on your team.

“Early on,” Smart said, “we had a real sense the guys had genuine care and concern for one another, and we had a very good foundation for relationships that we could continue to build on. And over the course of seasons, you go through so many different experiences as a team. And those experiences either bring you closer together or further apart. Our guys did a great job, even through adverse experiences, even through challenges, becoming closer together.”

It’s hardly surprising such cohesion is what Smart would choose to remember most from a most memorable season.

The native of Madison, Wisconsin, who holds a master’s degree in social science from California University of Pennsylvania, long ago earned a reputation for building close bonds with players and a tight-knit camaraderie within his teams.

No matter how high or low the Golden Eagles were this season, those traits carried them through.

“Everything that we go through, whether it be the retreat that we went on before the season, all the workouts in the summer, he’s preaching his culture,” said Tyler Kolek, a third-team All-American. “And he’s showing his leadership every single day, and just trying to impart that on us, and kind of put it in our DNA. Because it’s definitely in his DNA.”

That’s reflected in the way Smart, who accepted the Marquette job two years ago after an often bumpy tenure at Texas, has rebuilt the Golden Eagles program after it had begun to languish under Steve Wojciechowski.

Sure, Smart landed his share of transfers – Kolek among them – in an era in which the portal has become so prevalent. But he largely built a team that finished 29-7 this season around high school recruits, eschewing a quick fix in the hopes of long-term stability. Among those prospects were Kam Jones, their leading scorer, and do-everything forward David Joplin.

“He teaches us lots of things about the importance of each other,” Joplin said. “He lets us know, time and time again, that we can’t do anything without each other, but together we can do anything.”

That sounds like a decidedly old-school approach to building a college basketball program.

One embraced by a still-youthful head coach.

“I think being a head coach has never been more complicated, never been more nuanced, and never more all-encompassing,” Smart told the AP in a wide-ranging interview last week. “Does that mean it’s harder? You could say that.

“What makes your job less hard,” Smart said, “is having a captive audience in your players, and guys that truly understand and own what goes into winning, and that’s what we had this past year. But those things just don’t happen. There are a lot of steps that have to occur on the part of a lot of people, not just the coach, to get to where you have a winning environment.”

Purdue’s Zach Edey named AP men’s player of the year

Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Zach Edey spent the days following Purdue’s historic NCAA Tournament loss lying low, his phone turned off, along with the rest of the outside world.

The disappointing finish did little to diminish the season the Boilermakers big man had.

Dominating at both ends of the floor during the regular season, Edey was a near-unanimous choice as The Associated Press men’s college basketball player of the year. Edey received all but one vote from a 58-person media panel, with Indiana’s Trayce Jackson-Davis getting the other.

“The season ended in disappointment, which really sucks, but it’s always nice to win individual accolades,” Edey said. “It kind of validates your work a little bit. The last three years I’ve played here, I’ve seen my game grow every year. AP player of the year is a great feeling, it just kind of stinks the way the season ended.”

That ending came in the NCAA Tournament’s first round, when Purdue lost to Fairleigh Dickinson, joining Virginia in 2018 as the only No. 1 seeds to lose to a No. 16.

Before that, Edey dominated.

The 7-foot-4 Canadian was named a unanimous AP All-American and the Big Ten player of the year after finishing sixth nationally in scoring (22.3), second in rebounding (12.8) and first in double-doubles (26).

Edey also shot 62% from the floor and averaged 2.1 blocked shots per game while leading Purdue to its first outright Big Ten regular-season title since 2017. He is the first player since Navy’s David Robinson in 1985-86 to have at least 750 points, 450 rebounds and 50 blocked shots in a season.

“He’s kind of a one of a kind,” Purdue guard David Jenkins Jr. said. “I’ve never played with someone like him, probably never will again.”

And to think, Edey didn’t want to play basketball when he was younger.

A hockey and baseball player growing up in Toronto, Edey resisted basketball at first. He was 6-2 by the sixth grade and the natural inclination by the adults was to push him toward basketball, where his size would be a massive advantage.

“It was something I kind avoided all my life.,” Edey said. “I didn’t like people telling me what I should be doing with my life and it felt like that’s what people were doing with basketball. When I started playing competitively, that’s when I really fell in love with the sport.”

Edey developed his game quickly. He played at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, and proved himself against some of the nation’s best high school players, drawing attention from college coaches. He ended up at Purdue, where coach Matt Painter had a proven track record of developing big men.

Edey had a limited role as a freshman, then averaged 14.4 points and 7.7 rebounds last season on a team that had talented big man Trevion Williams and future NBA lottery pick Jaden Ivey.

Already a tireless worker, Edey put in even more time during the offseason, spending extra time after practice and taking better care of his body. His already solid footwork got better, he added quickness and developed more patience with the constant double teams he faced – not to mention the barrage of physical play teams tried to employ against him.

“There’s not really any kind of cool, sexy answer,” Edey said. “I came in every day, I worked hard, I stayed after practice – stayed a long time after practice. I took care of my body and was able to steadily improve. There was nothing revolutionary I did. I just worked hard.”

It certainly paid off, even if the season ended with a huge disappointment.

George Mason Final Four star Tony Skinn hired as hoops coach

Doral Chenoweth/Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

FAIRFAX, Va. – Tony Skinn, who helped lead 11th-seeded George Mason to the Final Four during March Madness as a player in 2006, was hired Thursday to coach men’s basketball at the school.

Skinn replaces Kim English, who left George Mason for Providence after Ed Cooley departed Providence for Georgetown.

“Tony Skinn is the right man for this moment in Mason’s basketball program,” university President Gregory Washington said in the news release announcing the hiring. “His coaching style will galvanize our student-athletes and his connection to our finest hour on the court is sure to electrify our alumni and fans.”

Skinn was a starting guard for the Patriots 17 years ago when they picked up a series of surprising wins – including against UConn in the regional final in Washington, about 20 miles from campus – to make the semifinals at the NCAA Tournament.

George Mason’s coach at the time, Jim Larrañaga, is now at Miami and has the Hurricanes in this year’s Final Four.

Skinn was most recently an assistant coach at Maryland. He also has worked at Ohio State, Seton Hall and Louisiana Tech.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling to step back on campus,” Skinn said. “I’ve had some of my greatest memories here and I’m looking forward to making new ones with our fans and our community.”

Gonzaga’s Timme among five finalists for men’s Wooden Award

Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

LOS ANGELES – Drew Timme of Gonzaga is one of five finalists for the John R. Wooden Award as the men’s college basketball player of the year.

He’s joined by Zach Edey of Purdue, Trayce Jackson-Davis of Indiana, Houston’s Marcus Sasser and Jalen Wilson of Kansas.

Timme took his team farthest in the upset-riddled NCAA Tournament with Gonzaga losing in the Elite Eight. Sasser helped Houston reach the Sweet 16. Purdue lost in the first round, while Indiana and Kansas were beaten in the second round.

The winner will be announced April 4 on ESPN. All five players have been invited to Los Angeles for the 47th annual presentation on April 7.

Also among the top 10 vote getters were: Jaime Jaquez Jr. of UCLA, Brandon Miller of Alabama, Penn State’s Jalen Pickett, Oscar Tshiebwe of Kentucky and Arizona’s Azuolas Tubelis.

Voting took place from March 13-20.

South Carolina’s Dawn Staley will receive the Legends of Coaching Award during the ceremony at the Los Angeles Athletic Club.

Indiana’s Teri Moren wins AP Coach of the Year

Rich Janzaruk/Herald-Times / USA TODAY NETWORK

DALLAS – Teri Moren has led Indiana to some unprecedented heights this season.

The team won its first Big Ten regular season championship in 40 years, rose to No. 2 in The Associated Press women’s basketball poll and earned the school’s first No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Moren was honored Thursday as the AP women’s basketball Coach of the Year, the first time she has won the award. She received 12 votes from the 28-member national media panel that votes on the AP Top 25 each week. South Carolina’s Dawn Staley was second with eight votes. Utah’s Lynne Roberts received five and Virginia Tech’s Kenny Brooks three.

Voting was done before the NCAA Tournament.

“I think a lot of people were like this is going to be a year where Indiana is reloading, rebuilding, they won’t be as good as they had been the year prior. We were picked third in the Big Ten,” Moren said.

Moren was surprised by her team, who told her she won in an elaborate ruse.

“Anytime you can share it with people that made it happen. the staff, the players, the most important people who have been instrumental in the season and this award is special. I was speechless.”

Moren accepted the award at the Final Four, sharing the stage with AP Player of the Year Caitlin Clark to complete a Big Ten sweep.

The team has come a long way from when Moren was a young girl growing up in southern Indiana. She was a diehard fan of the Indiana basketball team. The men’s one that is.

She would attend men’s games with her family when she was a kid and was a big fan of coach Bob Knight. She has a constant reminder of the Hall of Fame coach in her office as a picture of his infamous chair-throwing incident hangs by the door. Moren said it’s the last thing she sees before heading to practice.

As far as the women’s team, they just weren’t very good. Times have changed, as Moren has built the program into a blue-collar team that focuses on defense and is a consistent Top 25 team the last few seasons, appearing in the poll for 75 consecutive weeks starting with the preseason one in 2019-2020. That’s the fourth-longest active streak.

Before that, the Hoosiers had been ranked for a total of six times.

“People still talk to me about living in Bloomington and they couldn’t afford a ticket to the men’s game. Not that they settled, but became women’s basketball fans. At that moment, you could walk in and find any seat you wanted and watch women’s basketball,” Moren said.

“There were 300-400 people in the stands, now to what it is today, it’s an unbelievable thing to watch it grow. Things you dream about to see fans and bodies up in the rafters.”

The Hoosiers had six of the school’s top 10 most attended games this season, including crowds of over 13,000 fans for the first round of the NCAA Tournament and 14,000 for the second round game – a shocking loss to Miami.

“It stings right now, but that last game doesn’t define our season,” Moren said.