It's that time of year again. Grammys, Oscars, Golden Globes, Daytime Emmys. Is it just a coincidence that the awards season occurs at the end of the college basketball season? Maybe, maybe not. Whatever, we've chosen to take advantage of this fortuitous concurrence to present our awards. The envelopes, please.
Men's Player of the Year—Calbert Cheaney, Indiana. When Cheaney scored 34 points in a win over Florida State in the semifinals of the Preseason NIT, Hoosier coach Bob Knight said that despite his point total, Cheaney had not had a strong overall game. Two nights later he poured in 36 points against Seton Hall to lead Indiana to the tournament championship in a performance that pleased even Knight.
Those two games speak volumes about Cheaney, a 6'7" senior forward. Faced with criticism, he neither pouted nor doubted himself; he simply played better and elevated Indiana in the process. That approach is undoubtedly responsible for his remarkable consistency.
Choosing between Cheaney, who at week's end was averaging 22.1 points and 6.3 rebounds, and Anfernee (Penny) Hardaway, Memphis State's multitalented junior guard, almost required us to flip the copper-colored circular press release with Hardaway's face on it that was sent out by the Tigers' sports-information department. It's true that Hardaway, who is among the Great Midwest Conference leaders in nearly every statistical category, has carried Memphis State. But without Cheaney, the Big Ten's alltime leading scorer, the Hoosiers wouldn't be one of the favorites for the Final Four.
Women's Player of the Year—Sheryl Swoopes, Texas Tech. As of Sunday, Swoopes, a 6-foot senior forward whose drives to the basket fit her surname, was the second-leading scorer in the country, with a 26.3 average, and was 17th in steals, with 3.6 per game. She also led the Red Raiders to a No. 6 ranking and a share of the Southwest Conference regular-season crown. "We can compete on a national scale because of her," says Texas Tech coach Marsha Sharp.
The crowds' chants of "Swoooopes!" at Municipal Coliseum in Lubbock make it clear that Swoopes has caught the fancy of Texas Tech fans. She had originally signed with Texas but left Austin after three days on campus because she was homesick for her native Brownfield, which is 32 miles from Lubbock, where she was the Texas high school player of the year as a junior in 1987-88. Three years later Swoopes was the junior college player of the year at South Plains College, in Levelland, Texas. But perhaps her greatest honor was bestowed upon her by a girls' team in nearby Shallowater that plays in the Little Dribblers League for eight-and nine-year-olds. The team is called the Swoopesters.
Most-Improved Player—Bryant Reeves, Oklahoma State. A 7-foot sophomore center, Reeves went from stiff to stud in one year, turning 285 pounds of flab into muscle. Cowboy weight coach Leroy Youster says that when Reeves reported as a freshman, "he popped off his shirt, and I thought, This kid needs a bra. He definitely doesn't need that anymore." Reeves has a chance to become the first player to lead the Big Eight in scoring, rebounding and field goal percentage since Wilt Chamberlain did so for Kansas in 1957-58.
Least-Improved Player—Chris Webber, Michigan. Although he's still a lottery pick, Webber, a 6'9" sophomore forward who combined quickness and power as a freshman, was a slower version of himself this season. He was also strangely ineffective at times; witness his six points against Iowa on March 2.
Men's Coach of the Year—Eddie Fogler (page 18), Vanderbilt. He smoothly worked three transfers into the lineup and beat Kentucky for the SEC regular-season championship, which surprised everyone, especially us, because we picked the Wildcats to win the NCAA title.
Men's Coach of the Last Month—Todd Bozeman, Cal. At week's end Bozeman had guided the Bears to a 7-1 record and a probable berth in the NCAA tournament since taking over the team after the firing of Lou Campanelli on Feb. 8.
Women's Coach of the Year—Vivian Stringer, Iowa. She led the Hawkeyes to a 23-3 regular-season record and a No. 4 ranking while grieving over the death of her husband, Bill, who died of a heart attack on Thanksgiving Day.
Mr. Clutch Award—Anthony Beane, Kansas State. Beane, a 5'10" guard, converted or assisted on four shots that either won or tied games in the final seconds.
Mr. Not So Clutch Award—Dwayne Morton, Louisville. Morton missed a dunk at the buzzer to allow Western Kentucky to escape with a 78-77 victory on Feb. 16.
Men's Freshman of the Year—Yinka Dare, George Washington. No, we didn't forget about Cal's Jason Kidd, who had stretches of brilliance. But Dare, a 7'1" center from Kabba, Nigeria, scored, rebounded, blocked shots and put the Colonials in position for their first NCAA tournament bid since 1961.
Women's Freshman of the Year—Katie Smith, Ohio State. A 5'7" guard, Smith was accustomed to success before she set foot in Columbus. Not only was she valedictorian of her class at Logan (Ohio) High, but she also set the state record in the discus that year. Still, it was her basketball skills that brought Smith to national attention on Jan. 2, when she scored 35 points in the Buckeyes' 91-84 upset of Virginia, a game that was telecast by CBS. As of Sunday, Smith was averaging 17.9 points, and she was the primary reason that Ohio State was 22-3 and ranked third in the country.
Student-Athlete Is Not an Oxymoron Award—Bruce Elder, Vanderbilt, and Karen Jennings, Nebraska. Elder, a graduate student in business administration, has a 3.84 grade point average, and Jennings, a premed student, has a 3.89 GPA in exercise science.
Winning Is Too Everything Award—Scott Edgar, Murray State coach. When the Racers' leading scorer, Frank Allen, was arrested for driving under the influence, operating a vehicle without a license and reckless driving on Feb. 21, the day before a crucial game against Tennessee State, Edgar punished Allen by not allowing him to play...for the first 10 minutes of the game.
Most Awards Award—Tony Dunkin, Coastal Carolina. A 6'7" forward for the Chanticleers of the Big South Conference, Dunkin is the first player in NCAA history to win a league's player-of-the-year award four times.
Least Awards Award—Dean Smith, North Carolina coach. The AP has nominated 10 coaches for national coach of the year, but Smith, whose team was ranked No. 1 at week's end, was not one of them. In his 32 years at Chapel Hill, Smith has never been named AP coach of the year, despite reaching the Final Four eight times and winning the national championship in 1984.
Bad Scheduling Award—Iowa. Barring an 11th-hour solution, Iowa's women's team, which is likely to get a high seed in the NCAA tournament, won't get to play its first tournament game at home because a Guns N' Roses concert is scheduled for Carver-Hawkeye Arena the night before the game. According to NCAA rules, a visiting team must have the opportunity to practice on the court that is to be used for a game.
Best Game You Didn't See—Idaho versus Boise State on Feb. 6. The intrastate battle, which Idaho won 107-99 in double overtime, featured a memorable confrontation between two of the best players you haven't seen: Vandal forward Orlando Lightfoot, who had 44 points and 17 rebounds, and Bronco center Tanoka Beard, who finished with 37 points and 15 rebounds.
Best Line You Didn't Hear—After watching Notre Dame's less-than-outstanding 6'10" twins, Jon and Joe Ross, a TV analyst said, off the air, "Good thing they're not triplets."
Weirdest Play—On Feb. 23 Baylor was leading Houston 75-73 with 1:44 to go when Bear forward Anthony Lewis went up for a dunk. The ball went through the rim, hit Lewis on the head and bounced back up through the basket. Because the ball never cleared the bottom of the net, the field goal was not allowed. The Cougars then made a three-pointer to win 76-75.
Rand McNally Cheer of the Year—Duke students often chant, "Start the bus!" at opposing teams, in anticipation of a rout. Against San Francisco they changed the cheer to "Start the trolley!" and against UCLA it became "Start the surfboard!"
Strangest Cheer—When Kentucky coach Rick Pitino, who is Italian-American, took his Wildcats to Arkansas on Feb. 10, Razorback students called for fans to chant, "Si sièda conducente di autobus!" That's Italian for "Sit down, bus driver!"
Look but Don't Touch Award—Greg Minor, Louisville. Minor, a 6'6" forward, has played 868 minutes in 26 games and committed only 30 fouls.
Gender Inequity Award—Oklahoma State. The school's 23rd-rankcd women's team had to play No. 4 Colorado at Stillwater High because the Cowboys' on-campus home, Gallagher-Iba Arena, had been reserved for a boys' high school wrestling tournament.
Gold Watch Award—Glenn Wilkes, Stetson. Coach Wilkes, who won 551 games, retired after a 36-year career, all of which he spent at Stetson.
Starting to Sound Like a Broken Record Award—Bill Elliott, a senior at Mid-America Nazarene, an NAIA school in Olathe, Kans. Everyone thought Elliott had broken the collegiate record for career three-pointers when he made his 432nd on Jan. 30. Then it was learned that Darren Henrie of David Lipscomb, in Nashville, had set the mark with 458 in 1990. Elliott rebroke the record on Feb. 22.