The Year of the Wildcats: The Best College Basketball Teams of 2012

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The University of Kentucky and Coach John Calipari restored order to the world of college hoops in 2012 after a wild 2011 season. The Wildcats were back on top by winning its first NCAA Men’s Division I championship since 1998 and eighth title overall. For Calipari, this was his first championship after coming close a year ago and while at Memphis and the University of Massachusetts in 1996. Calipari turned the Wildcats into the best team in the nation in 2012. He’s also made them one of the best since he took the Kentucky job in 2000 by employing a slew of freshman that are so good that after one season they bolt to the NBA and become lottery picks and get the big bucks before they’re even old enough to drink.

Most programs are usually devastated when they lose so many good underclassmen — but not Kentucky and Calipari. He just hangs out at high schools all across the nation picking out their best players to reload for the next year. Most of these snotty-nosed high school All-Americans have come to realize that a college education is so John Wooden, Bobby Knight and Mike Krzyzewski. The road to the NBA now goes through Kentucky for a one and done season.

Kentucky went undefeated in the Southeastern Conference and ousted Kansas in the finals 67-59 in a tournament that featured its usual great games and Cinderellas.This year the University of Ohio was wearing the slipper as a 13th seed. The Bobcats opened the tournament by upsetting overrated and fourth seeded Michigan and number 12 South Florida before its run was ended in the Sweet 16 byregional number one, and tournament darling North California. The Sweet 16 featured four teams from the state of Ohio – Ohio, Ohio State, Xavier and Cincinnati. This from a state where the only good-looking girls you find are usually visitors.Here are the Top 5 College Basketball Teams of 2012.

5 Syracuse (34-3)

This Big East power did it again. Every year the Orangemen manage to make people around the country forget this conference also plays football. Another good run ended in a loss in the Elite 8 to Ohio State 77-70. You have to love Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim. He pulls a rabbit out of his hat like this almost every year. To get to the Big Dance the Orangemen just crushed the competition in the very competitive Big East Conference winning the regular season title with an impressive 17-1 record. It’s too bad this great coach and this great program only has one title so far.

4 Ohio State (31-8)

Unlike its football team, the Buckeyes men’s basketball team managed to stay away from tattoo parlors and sports memorabilia places to avoid probation. This squeaky clean program won a share of the Big 10 (with 12 teams) regular season and tournament title for the third straight year. It put the Buckeyes in a good position to win their first title since 1960, but it was not to be. The number two seed defeated Loyola of Maryland, Gonzaga, state rival Cincinnati and Syracuse before falling to narrowly falling to Kansas 64-62 in the Final Four.

3 Baylor (30-8)

Robert Griffin III didn’t even play basketball and the Bears still won the Big 12 and advanced to the Elite 8 before being taken out by Kentucky 82-70. No one, not even the Bears or Robert Griffin III expected this kind of run. But Baylor had the rug pulled from under them again for the second time in nearly a decade. Apparently Bears coaches just don’t know when to shut up and stay off the phone and stop talking to high school kids. The NCAA found that they made “hundreds” of calls and text messages to recruits. The end result of the NCAA investigation is that Baylor would be suspended from two Big 12 games in the 2012-13 season.

2 Kansas (32-6)

Don’t give up on this one Kansas, if all goes according to Calipari’s track record, this championship will eventually be yours (see above). If anything, it was a season of moral victories. Before the season even started, Kansas lost three top recruits due to eligibility problems it was hoping to replace the six of their eight leading scorers from the year before. Somehow the Jayhawks still won the school’s eighth straight Big 12 championship, 14 Final Four in school history as well as the title game. Kansas made it to the finals by coming back from 14 points down and slapping Ohio State 64-62.

1 Kentucky (37-2)

Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Ginchrist and Doron Lamb were all everything for Kentucky in their short stay as “student athletes,” and gave Calipari his first title before heading off to the NBA. It took just three seasons for Calipari to restore order and win a title with the Wildcats. Kind of hard not to win a title with the number one recruiting class in the nation. Calipari won the title with a McDonalds All-American High School team. Not only were these kids too young to drive and vote, they were still getting allowances from their parents and getting chewed out for breaking curfew and for not taking out the trash. Now let’s see how long Calipari and Kentucky can hold on to it before the NCAA finds some infractions and strip them of the championship — something that has happened to Calipari in the past.
Honorable Mention

North Carolina (32-6)

Why aren’t the Tar Heels in the Top 5? Well, when you’re North Carolina, expectations are always high. Ok, the won the ACC regular season title with a 14-2 record and got to the conference tournament championship game and lost to Florida State.But this is North Carolina we’re talking about here ladies and gentlemen. Losing to Kansas in the Elite 8 80-67 just won’t due. It’s always championship or bust in Chapel Hill!

Ohio (29-8)

The Mid-American Conference tournament champions did something in the tournament that’s usually reserved for the other school in Ohio – they took out Michigan in the first round and South Florida before losing to North Carolina in the Sweet 16. No large feat mind you, but for one of the “Little Sisters of the Poor” this was pretty cool. Fourth year coach John Groce performed wonders with this team. It was the first time since 1964 that the Bobcats had gone this far.

Murray State (31-2)

There were such high hopes for the Racers going into the tournament when they had the best regular season record in the country, ran away with the Ohio Valley Conference, and was ranked in the top 10 at one point. Cinderella written all over it, right? They got a sixth seed and was taken out by a pretty good Marquette team in the second round. Just one question remains. Were they high and watching “Speed Racer” when they came up with the name Racers?

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