The Top 10 Storylines of the 2009 College Basketball Season: Honorable Mentions
With 344 teams, thousands of players, thousands of games, hundreds of coaches, and 344 dedicated fan bases, there are more than enough storylines to write about for years.
In the coming days, the top 10 storylines of the 2008-2009 will be revealed, but, for now, here are some memorable storylines that didn't quite make the cut.
Butler Overcomes Youth, but Cleveland State Gets Last Laugh
Butler winning the Horizon League didn't seem very likely. The Bulldogs graduated five seniors, but a group of freshmen and one key sophomore stepped up and kept Butler atop the Horizon League.
Sophomore Matt Howard won the league's Player of the Year award, while freshman Gordon Hayward took home the conference's Freshman of the Year accolade.
The team picked to win the league had trouble with Butler the first two times around. Cleveland State knocked off Syracuse in late December with a buzzer-beater, but earlier in the year, the Bulldogs did the same to the Vikings to open league play.
The second time around, Butler again defeated CSU in a tight battle to close the regular season.
But in the conference tournament, Cleveland State got its payback when it mattered most. The Vikings squeaked into the big dance with a three-point victory, giving the Horizon League two bids in the NCAA Tournament.
Wake Forest Rises to the Top Spot
Barely a blip on the national radar before the season started, Wake Forest quickly grew strong enough to get a large target on its back.
The Demon Deacons jumped out to a 16-0 start with victories over North Carolina, Clemson, and BYU.
But Wake's youth eventually showed, and the Deacons lost five of their next nine games. The youth really reared its ugly head in the first round of the NCAA Tournament when Cleveland State handled Wake.
But this season could be a stepping stone for next year if Jeff Teague and Al-Farouq Aminu return to school to complement a solid roster full of good role players.
North Dakota State Epitomizes the Team Concept
Five years ago, a group of players led by incoming freshman Ben Woodside began their careers at North Dakota State University. They knew that if they red-shirted one year, when they became seniors, they'd be eligible for the NCAA Tournament.
NDSU spent the last five years finishing the process of becoming a full-fledged Division I program. The last step of that process is gaining eligibility to make the NCAA Tournament.
Ben Woodside and Brett Winkelman tore through the Summit League, winning the conference tournament. The Bison also made good on its first berth, giving the Kansas Jayhawks a scare in the opening round.
New Jersey Institute of Technology Wins
One year ago, NJIT couldn't notch a single tally in the win column. In 2009, the Highlanders improved so much it can't technically be measured.
On Jan. 21, NJIT picked up a 61-51 victory against Bryant University to end a pitiful 51-game losing streak. Unfortunately for the Highlanders, that one game would be the only contest they'd win all season.
NJIT is back to its old ways, as the school started a new losing streak that has reached a dozen games.
Depending how you want to look at it, NJIT's roster full of underclassmen can either be a blessing or a detriment.
There's plenty of room to grow, as there are just two juniors and no seniors, but that also means coach Jim Engles has to try to turn around the same roster that won only one game over the past two years.
Patty Mills Breaks Thumb, Costs Saint Mary's a Tournament Bid
Saint Mary's looked bound for the NCAA Tournament with an 18-1 record, but the Gaels' train abruptly jumped tracks when star Patty Mills broke his right hand against WCC rival Gonzaga.
Mills and the rest of the Gaels looked poised to knock off the Zags, holding a lead late in the first half, when Mills broke his hand.
A blown game against Gonzaga and a blown season. SMC finished on the outside of the tournament after Gonzaga thumped the Gaels in the West Coast Conference Tournament.
Duke Seniors Graduate without Beating North Carolina at Home
Four years, four games, and four losses.
That's the record of Duke's seniors against North Carolina in Cameron Indoors. The Blue Devils' last shot against the Tar Heels couldn't have come at a worse time for the Dukie seniors.
They got a Tar Heel team ranked as the preseason unanimous No. 1 that provided all kinds of matchup problems for Coach Mike Krzyzewski.
Those problems resulted in Duke losing for the fourth consecutive season on its home court to its most-hated rival North Carolina. The Tar Heels took the game 101-87.
Syracuse Wins Epic Six Overtime Thriller in Madison Square Garden
After the Orange battled its way to a six overtime victory in the world's most famous arena in the nation's toughest conference tournament, one t-shirt recapped the entire game.
The shirt read, "Syracuse Marathon Men" on the front.
On the back, it said, "244 points, 226 minutes, six overtimes, two days, and one for the ages."
Jonny Flynn played 67 of the 70 minutes and found himself on the court next to 6'7'' Kris Joesph, who was playing the center position after four Orange players fouled out. Senior walk-on Justin Thomas, who hadn't played a meaningful minute all season entered the game doing jumping-jacks while the remaining nine players on the court stood gassed.
Missouri Completes Turnaround and Wins the Big XII Tournament
After a handful of mediocre seasons in Columbia, Mike Anderson turned the program around with 40 minutes of hellacious defense and one of the deepest, most versatile benches in the country.
Having a starting lineup filled with freakishly athletic, but also talented players helped a bit as well.
Missouri's new recipe for success captured a Big XII title and a trip to the Elite Eight, where the Tigers were close to pulling off a stunning upset of top-seeded Connecticut.
Tom Crean's First Season is as Ugly as it Gets
Yuck. Yikes. Ewwww. Grotesque.
Pick a word that describes ugliness and it applies to Indiana's first season under Tom Crean. The former Marquette coach inherited a roster depleted because of graduation and defections to the NBA and other schools.
Crean had a roster full of players with little college experience and lacked the talent to make up for the youth.
The result was a 6-25 record and only one Big Ten victory.
Siena Sets Itself Up to Succeed for Third Straight Season
Siena has reached the round of 32 in each of the past two seasons, but with a roster that features just one senior, Siena should be built to win more than just one game in the tournament next year or even the next eight.
The Saints gave coach Fran McCaffery a contract extension to keep him in Albany for at least the next eight campaigns.
Utah State Dominates on Its Home Floor
The Aggies have one of the toughest places to play in the country. Add in the WAC's best roster and Utah State went undefeated in the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum.
Utah State's dominance also pushed the Aggies over the top in the WAC Tournament and USU made the NCAA Tournament. Utah State had won at least 20 games in each of the previous five season, but just once went on to win its conference tournament.
Darrin Horn Resurrects South Carolina's Program
The Gamecocks haven't really been relevant in awhile. They've got two consecutive NIT Titles under their belts recently, but that's about it.
When Dave Odom finally stepped away from the program, USC went looking for a coach that can forever change the program—for the good.
The Gamecocks found their man in Western Kentucky. They hired coach Darrin Horn, who immediately made his presence felt in the SEC.
USC shared the SEC East title in 2009 and was arguably one SEC Tournament win away from making the NCAA Tournament. If Devan Downey returns to school, USC will lose just one player, Zam Fredrick, to graduation. That means the Gamecocks will once again be an SEC contender.
Craig Robinson Turns Oregon State into Winners
One season ago, Oregon State was the absolutely worst major-conference team and it wasn't even close. Coach Craig Robinson took over the program and, like Darrin Horn, turned it around.
At first, the Beavers looked as bad as last season. They lost to Howard, Yale, and Montana State in the first four games.
But then things clicked.
Robinson's slow-it-down offense became more efficient. A more efficient offense meant more wins.
So the wins came slowly, and then a bit faster by the time the Beavers hit postseason play. The Beavers made the College Basketball Invitation despite their 13-17 record.
But OSU continued to improve and eventually knocked off UTEP in the best of three series to win the title.