Image Credit: JoffreyM / Shutterstock.com
The 2011 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament could be looked at as the year of the gate crashers and Cinderellas.Six teams ranked tenth or lower in their respected regions (#13 Morehead State, #12 Richmond, #11 Virginia Commonwealth, #11 Gonzaga, #11 Marquette, #10 Florida State) made it out of the first round. The biggest upset was some school called Morehead State stunning number four Louisville 62-61. Four more teams made it to the Round of 16, and by the time the smoke cleared Virginia Commonwealth had crashed the party by advancing all the way to the Final Four. The Rams had a run to remember, but fell to last year’s gate crashers the Butler Bulldogs70-62. Butler, now a legitimate contender, at least for another season, reached the finals for the second straight year, but Connecticut had decided that enough was enough with these nobodies and upstarts. The Huskies restored order by breaking the glass slippers and coming away with its third title.With so many of the “Mid Majors” making such a huge impact in the tournament, creating tons of excitement and proving that they can hang with the big boys, maybe that’s why the powers that be in football don’t want a playoff and having a championship game featuring two teams like Indiana and Weber State. Here are the Top 5 College Basketball Teams of 2011.
5 Arizona (30-8)
Coach Sean Miller had the Wildcats looking good in the post Lute Olson era. The region’s fifth seed’s signature win was beating the crap out of those goodie-two-shoes from Duke 93-77, who were a number one seed in the regional semifinals. The Wildcats ended up losing a heartbreaker to Connecticut 65-63 in the Elite 8.
4 Kentucky (23-9)
All part of a bigger plan for Coach John Calipari and the Wildcats.They lost a heartbreaker to Connecticut 56-55 in the Final Four. But this would be a sign of greater things to come with a bunch of baby-faced high school kids just waiting to come in and bring redemption for eight months before heading to the NBA.
3 Butler (28-10)
When the Bulldogs made the finals for the first time the year before and lost to Duke, everyone thought what an amazing story for this “mid-major” and Cinderella team. But when you make the finals for the second year in a row, you’re no longer a Cinderella and all the happy feelings are no more. By now you should be experienced enough to seal the deal and win it all.
2 Virginia Commonwealth (28-12)
The 11th seeded Rams made what many are calling one of the best Cinderella runs of all time. Not entirely. Sure, they pounded number six Georgetown in the first round 74-56, but Georgetown hasn’t been relevant since Patrick Ewing played there. Next the Rams routed a completely overrated and overmatched number three seeded Purdue team from the Big 10 94-76. Florida State, a sort of Cinderella in its own right, was the next victim in a narrow 72-71 win, and the big stunner was the Rams manhandling regional number one Kansas 71-61. It would be that national power that we’ve come to know and love as Butler ended the Rams really great run in a 70-62 loss in the Final Four.
1 Connecticut (32-9)
One of the few teams from one of the big conferences that managed to avoid the big upset. Coach Jim Calhoun is listed as the state of Connecticut’s highest paid government employee and earned it by winning his third national championship. Sitting somewhere in an office not too far away from Calhoun’s with his seven national championships, Connecticut women’s basketball Coach Gino Auriemma was on the phone asking for a raise.
San Diego State (34-3)
A team from the Western Athletic Conference actually managed to get a number two seed and do something with it. Who would have thought? The Aztecs made a go of it winning a school record 34 games, reached the Sweet 16, andput the fear of God in Connecticut in barely losing 74-67.
Top 5 didn’t want to put in another team from the Southeastern Conference, but the Gators did get into the tournament and reached the Elite 8 without Tim Tebow. Someone not from Kentucky earned SEC Player of the Year honors in Chandler Parsons. Coach Billy Donovan was named SEC Coach of the Year.
Wichita State (29-8)
Wichita State is one of those team which got screwed out of making it to the Big Dance and had to settle for the Little Dance known as the National Invitation Tournament (NIT). As a number four seed, the Shockers, out of the Missouri Valley Conference didn’t really shock anyone. But a win is a win as they defeated Alabama 66-57 in the title game.