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Biggest Winners and Losers of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament

Kerry MillerCollege Basketball National AnalystApril 8, 2014

Biggest Winners and Losers of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament

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    Charlie Neibergall

    For the second time in four years and for the fourth time since 1999, the Connecticut Huskies have been crowned the NCAA men's basketball national champions.

    It was an unbelievable run for Shabazz Napier and company as they defied all odds and expectations to win six consecutive difficult games.

    But the Huskies weren't the only winners of the tournament, and the Kentucky Wildcats certainly weren't the only losers. We looked back over the entirety of the past three weeks to come up with the biggest winners and losers of the whole shebang.

    That's right. We're boiling 67 games of fantastic tournament action into one slideshow.

    These are the biggest winners and losers among the players, coaches, teams and conferences that partook in the 2014 NCAA tournament.

Winner: Young Coaches Who Played in the NBA

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    Charlie Neibergall

    Obviously, Connecticut's Kevin Ollie is first and foremost on the list.

    Four years ago, Ollie was still playing point guard for the Oklahoma City Thunder. He played four years for Jim Calhoun back in the early 1990s, and he was Calhoun's assistant coach for just two years before taking over the program in advance of the tournament-ineligible 2012-13 season.

    Then, at 41 years of age and in his first year as a head coach of a team that could compete in the NCAA tournament, he went ahead and won the darn thing.

    Ollie coaches with a tenacity unlike any other, often looking like he's more prepared to check into the game than anyone else on the sideline.

    Iowa State has another young'n on the sidelines who used to play guard in the NBA. Fred Hoiberg73 days older than Olliehas been coaching for the Cyclones for the past four seasons. Were it not for an injury that ended Georges Niang's season, Iowa State may have beaten Connecticut in the Sweet 16 to instead be the team that won it all on Monday night.

    Elsewhere, Danny Manning (47) still qualifies as a young guy in his profession. In his second season at Tulsa, Manning brought the Golden Hurricane back from a 4-9 start to make the tournament for the first time in more than a decade.

    Wake Forest announced on Friday that it had hired Manning to become the head coach of its basketball team. It's been a rough couple of years for the Demon Deacons, but they are in good hands. It sure will be fun to see how well Manning does on the recruiting trail while coaching a few miles away from Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams.

    Last but not least, we're reaching the upper limits of the word "young" by heralding the job of Stanford's Johnny Dawkins (50) in this year's tournament. This was Dawkins' sixth season with Stanford and the Cardinal's first dance during that stretch, so he was firmly entrenched on the hot seat before beating New Mexico and Kansas to advance to the Sweet 16.

    With the success those coaches had this season and floor generals like Steve Nash, Derek Fisher and Ray Allen bound to be hanging up their sneakers in the near future, we'll see if schools start fully embracing the idea of hiring recent NBA players as opposed to long-time assistants.

Loser: The Big East

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    How the mighty have fallen.

    Over the previous 10 NCAA tournaments, the Big East had produced four national champions and 10 Final Four teams. In both cases, that was more than any other conference had during that stretch.

    Along with great regular-season basketball and the best conference tournament, the Big East was on top of the college hoops world.

    But then conference realignment happened.

    All of those championship banners now hang in gyms that no longer belong to the Big East.

    Not only did the Big East have to watch as a former conference member made a run to the national championship, but there wasn't a single Big East team in the Final Four.

    Or the Elite Eight.

    Or the Sweet 16.

    The Big East went 2-4 in this year's tournament without playing against a single team seeded No. 5 or better.

    Worse yet, Buzz Williams left Marquette to take an unheralded position at Virginia Tech. Meanwhile, St. John's is losing sophomore Jakarr Sampson to the NBA draft and sophomore Chris Obekpa has elected to transfer.

    With Doug McDermott, Bryce Cotton and Semaj Christon all moving on to bigger and better things, the Big East could be rapidly deteriorating into a wasteland.

Winner: Frank Kaminsky

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Frank Kaminsky became a celebrity overnight.

    Way back on Nov. 19, Kaminsky exploded for 43 points against North Dakota. As Jay Bilas tweeted after the game, "Wisconsin's Frank Kaminsky scored a total of 63 points in his freshman year. He scored 43 points against North Dakota tonight. Wow."

    That was just one of the thousands of tweets about Kaminsky on that night, most of which marveled that this goofy-looking dude could score 43 points for a Bo Ryan team that scored 103 in the game.

    Then we all forgot about him.

    He registered a blip on the radar with a double-double in a mid-February win over Michigan, but that was nothing compared to what Frank the Tank had in store for the tournament.

    In the Sweet 16 against Baylor, Kaminsky put to rest the theories that Wisconsin had no interior game, scoring 19 points and blocking six shots. Two nights later, he erupted for 28 points and 11 rebounds against one of the best frontcourts in the country in Arizona.

    After the game, Arizona's head coach Sean Miller praised Kaminsky, saying, "Got to be one of the best offensive players who plays college basketball, for sure."

    Provided he sticks to his word and comes back for another season, look for the big man to get a good number of preseason All-American votes.

Loser: Cinderella

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    There were obviously a lot of upsets in this year's tournament for us to end up with a No. 7 seed against a No. 8 seed for the national championship, but where were the Cinderella teams?

    We had our fair share of No. 12 seeds (Harvard, North Dakota State and Stephen F. Austin) upsetting No. 5 seeds, and even had a No. 14 seed introduce the entire world to the Nae Nae when Mercer beat Duke.

    However, this was the first time since 2007 that there wasn't a single team seeded lower than a No. 11 in the Sweet 16.

    Every single No. 4 seed advanced to the Sweet 16, which hadn't happened since 1983back when there were only 52 teams and the No. 4 seeds only needed to win one game to get to the Sweet 16.

    And please, don't try to tell me that Tennessee to the Sweet 16 or Dayton to the Elite Eight count as Cinderella stories.

    Surprises? Absolutely. But the A-10 sent as many teams to the tournament as the ACCand went 2-0 against the ACC in the tournament for good measure. If you still consider the A-10 a "mid-major," you're sorely mistaken.

Winner: Saul Phillips

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    Elaine Thompson

    There weren't many compelling Cinderella stories in this year's tournament, but North Dakota State was one of them.

    Whether it was a lack of faith in Oklahoma or a vote of confidence in the job of Saul Phillips as the head coach of North Dakota State, a lot of experts were picking the Bison to win at least one game.

    And they did.

    For my money, there wasn't a more memorable image from the 2014 NCAA tournament than Phillips running across the court and throwing up the Bison horns for the fans who made the trek to Spokane.

    Phillips also had arguably the most emotional postgame press conference of the tournament after the Bison lost in the round of 32 to San Diego State.

    What really cemented Phillips as a winner, though, was his wherewithal to get while the getting was good.

    Five of North Dakota State's seven leading scorers this season were seniors. It could be some time before North Dakota State has another winning season, let alone wins another game in the NCAA tournament.

    Phillips leveraged the success of his Summit League program into an upgrade to become the head coach at Ohio Universitya perennial contender in the much more respected MAC.

    It wasn't quite the leap that Andy Enfield made last year in going from Florida Gulf Coast to USC, but it's kind of crazy how coaches from schools that didn't even have D-I programs a decade ago have used the NCAA tournament to get huge raises.

Loser: No. 3 Seeds

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    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    While No. 4 seeds went 8-0 over the first weekend of the tournament, No. 3 seeds dropped like flies.

    Duke didn't win a single game, getting eliminated in the second round by Mercer.

    Creighton and Syracuse each won its first game and displayed a very efficient offense in the process, but were subsequently incapable of putting anything in the basket in the second game. Syracuse shot 0-of-10 from three-point range to keep Dayton's dream run alive, and Doug McDermott's senior season was unceremoniously slaughtered by Baylor.

    Iowa State was the only No. 3 seed to survive to the second weekend, and the Cyclones just barely got past North Carolina after losing Georges Niang.

    Granted, No. 3 seeds don't exactly have a recent history of deep runsthere have now been just three No. 3 seeds in the Final Four over the last 10 tournamentsbut it was pretty disappointing to see how quickly they were bounced this year.

Winner: The SEC

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    Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    About a month ago, this was shaping up to be another miserable season for the SEC.

    Sure, Florida was looking great once again and well on its way to the No. 1 overall seed, but Kentucky was underachieving. No one else even looked interested in making the NCAA tournament.

    Perhaps worst of all, the ACC had won the BCS championship, so the football conference didn't even have that annual bragging right on which to hang its hat.

    But then Tennessee got red-hot and Kentucky soon followed suit.

    The SEC sent just three teams to the tournament, but those teams had a combined record of 12-3 once they got there. Half of the Final Four was comprised by SEC teams, which was unfathomable as recently as mid-March.

Loser: Scheduling

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    Michael Conroy

    There were a grand total of four games played on Friday, March 28, yet we twice had a pair of games ending almost simultaneously.

    This is beyond inexcusable. There are 16 games on the first Thursday and first Friday of the tournament, and they do a better job of staggering those games.

    I mean, really, what did they expect to happen when one game had a tip time of 7:15 and the other was 7:27?

    Could you imagine if the NFL pulled a stunt like that on Wild Card Weekend, rather than logically spacing out the games as much as possible to maximize ratings and advertising revenue?

    If they don't feel like they can stagger the Sweet 16 games well enough on Thursday and Friday night, then push them to the weekend and have the Elite Eight games on Monday and Tuesday. If a 9:10 start on a Monday night is good enough for the national championship, it's good enough for the Elite Eight, too.

Winner: Adreian Payne

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    Michael Conroy

    On the court, Adreian Payne was even better than advertised.

    In Michigan State's first tournament outing, he had an unbelievable 41-point game against Delaware. Coupled with three more modest outputs, he averaged 20.5 points in the Spartans' four games. He made 26 out of 27 free-throw attempts in the tournament.

    Compare that to the 17-of-35 that he shot from the free-throw line in his freshman season, and you'll see one of the many ways in which he has evolved into a first-round draft pick type of talent.

    The phrase "student of the game" has never been more applicable than it is to Payne, as he has worked tirelessly to become the basketball player that he is today.

    Off the court, Payne is about as admirable as they come.

    In a culture where we've grown all-too-familiar with stories about players being suspended for violations of team rules and conduct detrimental to the team, Payne spends his spare time being "Superman" to an eight-year-old girl fighting cancer.

    By now, we've all heard the story about Payne's friendship with "Princess Lacey," but seeing her on national television during the tournament and having her touch the ball for good luck during the slam dunk contest was pretty awesome.

    As Cindy Boren wrote for The Washington Post, "Adreian Payne won hearts, even if he didn't win the College Slam-Dunk Contest."

Loser: The ACC

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    This was supposed to be another banner year for the ACC. The conference had three teams (Duke, North Carolina and Syracuse) ranked in the preseason top 12, and had Virginia lingering at the back of the AP Top 25 as a sexy sleeper team.

    In the end, six ACC teams made the tournamentwith North Carolina State's inclusion serving as easily the biggest surprise on Selection Sunday.

    Only one of those six teams survived to see the second weekend of the tournament.

    Duke was the biggest disappointment of the bunch. The Blue Devils were the only No. 1, 2, 3 or 4 seed that failed to win a single game.

    North Carolina State wasn't too far behind, though. We weren't expecting much out of the Wolfpack, but after they beat Xavier by 15 points in the First Four and held a 14-point lead over Saint Louis in the final five minutes, they were starting to look like a Cinderella team. But they missed 12 free throws down the stretch to blow the game.

    North Carolina, Pittsburgh and Syracuse each won just one game before being eliminated.

    And let's not forget that at halftime of Virginia's first game, the Cavaliers were seriously threatening to become the first No. 1 seed to ever lose to a No. 16 seed.

    All in all, the ACC went 6-6 in the tournament without a single win against a team seeded higher than No. 8.

Winner: Every Game Involving Kentucky

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    If you made a list of the 10 most exhilarating games in the 2014 NCAA tournament, Kentucky would be in five of them.

    The opening game against Kansas State was nothing special, but everything since then has been must-see television.

    It started in the round of 32 against Wichita State. It seems so long ago because there have been so many theatrics since then. At the time, though, it was one of the most compelling games in tournament history. No game over the first week of the tournament was more anticipated, and no game delivered as much excitement.

    After that, it was just a five-point win over Louisville. Give us that exact same game during the regular season, and it's the lead-in story on SportsCenter the following day. But compared to the Wildcats' other games that were actually decided at the final buzzer, the win over their hated rivals was almost boring.

    Then, of course, it was on to the heroics of Aaron Harrison with last-second three-pointers against both Michigan and Wisconsin.

    The national championship game was sloppy, low-scoring and full of poor shooting by people not named Shabazz Napier or Ryan Boatright, but it was still one heck of a fun game to watch.

Loser: Tyler Austin Black

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Remember that guy who got this "Nati9nal Champions UK" tattoo before the tournament even began?

    Whoops.

    We all made a lot of mistakes in our early 20s, but most of us didn't tattoo them on our bodies.

    I can't even begin to imagine how comical that will look in a few years. It'll be like when you see a "Gore Lieberman" bumper sticker, except said bumper sticker will be tattooed on a person's leg.

    On the bright side, he could always move somewhere colder so he always wears long pants. And he could plan on vacationing in whatever impoverished area of the world ends up with t-shirts that match his tattoo.

    Even if Kentucky had won the title, the guy would have been a loser. If you're so confident in a team that you want to put your money where your mouth is, how about you just bet on that team at 30-1 odds to win the title and then get all the dumb tattoos that you want?

Winner: DeAndre Daniels

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    Frank Franklin II

    Back in the spring of 2011, ESPN's scouting report on DeAndre Daniels (subscription required) said that being over-assertive was one of his weaknesses:

    Another area of concern is his approach to the game. His aggressive nature is fine, but far too often he takes bad shots and displays very little effort to get his teammates good looks. Many times in game situations he doesn't play with purpose in mind and will repeatedly make a bad decision either leading to a forced shot or a turnover.

    Less than a month ago, ESPN's "NBA DraftTracker" (subscription required) saw something entirely different:

    Daniels always has been intriguing as a long, athletic player with a perimeter game. He's shooting 44 percent from 3-point range this season, but scouts would love to see him taking twice as many shots per game. He can be a little passive.

    The lesson, as always, is that scouting is a crapshoot.

    Save for a lackluster national championship game in which he had just eight points, six rebounds and two blocked shots, what we all saw on the court from Daniels throughout the tournament was a lite version of Kevin Durant.

    Perhaps that praise is a little too high, but guys who block 50 shots and make 50 three-pointers in a season don't exactly grow on trees.

    They didn't play quite as many games as Daniels, but in an almost identical number of minutes played, Andrew Wiggins had 34 blocks and 43 made three-pointers; Jabari Parker had 43 blocks and 38 made threes.

    I'm not saying Daniels should be drafted in the top five, but it would be a crime against humanity if he declares for the draft and isn't taken in the first round.

Loser: Injuries

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    David J. Phillip

    That big man with the big boot is Iowa State's Georges Niang, who suffered a foot fracture in the Cyclones' second-round win over North Carolina Central.

    At full strength, they would have been a serious threat to win it all. But without Niang, the Cyclones couldn't figure out how to get past Connecticut.

    They certainly weren't the only team that Connecticut took advantage of. Michigan State's Keith Appling and Florida's Scottie Wilbekin were pretty clearly playing at well below full strength before serving as another stepping stone on the Huskies' path to the title game.

    Kentucky had its fair share of injuries as well, losing Willie Cauley-Stein for the final four games of the tournament, and having Julius Randle and Alex Poythress both get dinged up in the Final Four game against Wisconsin.

    Elsewhere, we'll forever be left to wonder how far Kansas could have gone with Joel Embiid in the lineup. Much like Michigan State, Kansas was unquestionably one of the best teams in the country when fully healthy, but quite beatable while playing without key members of the team.

    Injuries are an unfortunate part of the game, but they certainly seemed to factor more prominently in this year's tournament than usual.

Winner: Archie Miller and Sean Miller

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    It's a shame that they got bounced on the same day, but what a ride for the Miller brothers to both lead teams to the Elite Eight.

    Sean Miller's run didn't surprise anyone. If anything, it's a surprise that it didn't last longer. The elder Miller had one of the best teams in the entire country all season long. Even after Arizona lost Brandon Ashley for the season, Sean kept them playing at a high level to still earn a No. 1 seed.

    Archie Miller's three-game winning streak, however, was one of the biggest shocks of the tournament.

    That's not meant as a slight to Archie or the Flyers, but rather an admission of the fact that no one in their right mind was expecting Dayton to make the Elite Eight. Beating Ohio State in the round of 64 wasn't exactly a massive upset, but hardly anyone gave the Flyers a chance against Syracuse.

    For the sake of the state of Ohio, though, it's a good thing Dayton lasted as long as it did. The state's other three representatives (Cincinnati, Ohio State and Xavier) failed to win any tournament games.

Loser: Conference Tournaments

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    Frank Franklin II

    Winning in the NCAA tournament is all about getting hot at the right time.

    Unfortunately, winning conference tournaments doesn't seem to have anything to do with those hot streaks.

    Florida was the only Final Four team that won its conference tournament. The Gators and Michigan State were the only Elite Eight teams to fit the bill.

    Not only did the conference tournaments fail to produce a national champion, but they really screwed over quite a few other quality teams.

    Minnesota and Southern Methodist were two of the major conference programs that just barely missed the tournament. After the Golden Gophers were stomped by Wisconsin and the Mustangs were beaten by Memphis, they wound up in the NIT finals against one another.

    In addition to those teams, we asked earlier where the Cinderella teams were this year. It just so happens that they were all in the NIT after Green Bay, Toledo, Southern Miss, Iona, Davidson, Belmont, Robert Morris and Georgia State each won its respective regular-season championship before coming up short in the conference tournament.

Winner: Jordan Morgan

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    One of my favorite parts about the NCAA tournament is seeing seniors rediscover levels of play that we had long since forgotten they were capable of reaching.

    In the days before Mitch McGary, Jordan Morgan was a stud.

    To say Morgan wasn't a highly rated recruit would be a massive understatement. ESPN gave him a grade of 75, and had him ranked as the 232nd-best power forward in the 2009 class.

    Apparently that one year as a redshirt really did him some good. In his freshman season, he averaged 24.0 minutes and 9.2 points per game.

    From there, he tapered off. McGary's emergence might have never been possible if not for Morgan's struggles. By the time the 2013 tournament rolled around, Morgan was barely even setting foot on the court. When McGary decided to come back for his sophomore season, it sounded like Morgan would be riding off into the graduation sunset on a horse with no name.

    But McGary's back injury gave Morgan one more shot, and he made the most of it.

    Morgan averaged 12.8 points and 7.8 rebounds in Michigan's four tournament games, nearly doing just enough in the paint to beat Kentucky.

Loser: Kemba Walker

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    Matt Slocum

    In actuality, it was a pretty impressive month for Kemba Walker. The Charlotte Bobcats are 12-5 since March 5 and clinched a playoff spot for just the second time in the past decade. This past Friday, Walker recorded the second triple-double of his NBA career.

    But we sure are incessantly trying to bury his accomplishments during the 2011 NCAA tournament by constantly comparing Shabazz Napier and any number of other team leaders to Walker, aren't we?

    Both the blessing and the curse of doing something incredible in sports is that we then spend the next 20 years asking if someone in today's game can "become the next (insert player or team.)"

    After enough comparisons, we start losing touch with just how great the original achievement was.

    What Napier did this season can't even truly be compared to what Walker did three years ago. Napier had DeAndre Daniels, Ryan Boatright, Niels Giffey and several other quality role players. Saying that Napier was more successful than Walker would be like saying LeBron James has been more successful with the Miami Heat than he was with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

    Well, no kidding! James has had a better supporting cast in Miami. He was pretty much a one-man show in Cleveland. And that's exactly the role Walker played for Connecticut in winning the 2011 national championship.

    Never forget.

    At least Connecticut won the game. If Kentucky had beaten the Huskies, it would have been painful for Connecticut fans to see Walker wearing a "Cats" jersey right about now.

     

    Kerry Miller covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @kerrancejames.

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