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Reviewing the regular season

There have been two constants to this college basketball season: predictability and unpredictability. That doesn't seem to make much sense, which is why it's perfectly logical when applied to this illogical 2014-15 season.

Predictability has had one home, at the University of Kentucky, where the Wildcats have done exactly what everyone figured they would -- namely beat all comers. Yet not even the Wildcats have been immune to the temptation of mayhem. After trouncing UCLA, North Carolina and beating Louisville in succession, they headed into SEC play, which everyone expected would be a Kentucky cakewalk. Instead the Cats spent three overtimes in their first two league games.

Meantime, chaos mixed with an occasional shot of steadiness has been the abnormal norm nearly everywhere else, best personified by the Big 12. The conference spent two months vexing people desperate to differentiate the league teams, only to wind up exactly where it always does, with Kansas yet again atop the standings

NJIT beat Michigan, which made no sense, until lots of other folks beat Michigan, too. Wisconsin marched through its first three Big Ten games with ease ... and then lost to Rutgers. Duke, meantime, clobbered Wisconsin, and then lost to Miami, by 16.

We're on the doorstep of the NCAA tournament, yet still can't say for sure who the top seeds should be, let alone clarify the bubble.

The player of the year appears to be down to a two-man race, yet finding a definitive way to separate the two has been downright impossible.

It has been, in other words, an entertaining if confusing season, and one worthy of review.

It's Kentucky, then everybody else

Most memorable moment
It wasn't just that Willie Cauley-Stein pinned Alandise Harris' layup attempt on the backboard. Or that Harris was left sprawled across the Rupp Arena court like a piece of roadkill. No, the real moment came after the ridiculously athletic play, when Cauley-Stein stared at Harris for a good five seconds, the snarl on his face saying what his mouth didn't - "Get that stuff outta here." That's essentially how Kentucky approached all comers this season, with an attitude hovering between arrogance and contempt.

Coach of the year
Up until Saturday, I was leaning toward Virginia's Tony Bennett in this space, simply because of the Virginia coach's ability to keep winning despite the absence of Justin Anderson. And then Mangok Mathiang happened two hours after the regular-season coronation in Lexington and the vote now belongs to John Calipari. Critics may argue that a trained seal could craft an undefeated season out of nine McDonald All-Americans. And, maybe, that was once true. But in today's day and age, when so many athletes are fed the constant meal of their own greatness, to get nine McDonald All-Americans to play with selflessness is beyond good coaching. It's nearly a miracle. Mix in the heightened and constant scrutiny that only comes at Kentucky and Calipari's ability to keep his players on task and in focus is an accomplishment worthy of reward

Player of the year
This is essentially a push between Wisconsin big man Frank Kaminsky and Duke's Jahlil Okafor, but I lean toward Kaminsky. Their numbers are almost identical -- Kaminsky averages 18.1 points and 8.3 rebounds to Okafor's 18.2 and 9.6 -- but Kaminsky is more of a threat since his range is greater. He has knocked down 30 3-pointers this season. But that's really splitting hairs, as is this whole race, so with it that close to call, I'll reward the guy who has spent the past four years methodically improving through sheer hard work and determination.

Biggest surprise
When Mark Turgeon was hired four years ago at Maryland, it seemed like a slam dunk of a move by the Terrapins. Until, that is, Maryland looked like a hot mess, amid a rash of player deflections that landed the Terps seemingly in turmoil and Turgeon on the hot seat to start the season. From the abyss emerges a team that maybe no one outside the locker room saw coming, one that has rolled into the top 10 in the nation, is second in the Big Ten and poised for its first NCAA berth in five years. Turgeton has a bona fide All-American in freshman Melo Trimble, but even more critical, another star in Dez Wells, who has willingly ceded some points for the greater good.

Biggest disappointment
After Florida lost four of the top six scorers, it was reasonable to expect the Gators to have a drop-off. It was not reasonable to expect the drop-off to become a free fall, yet that's what Florida has been. The Gators have been an equal opportunity disaster, losing to good teams (Kansas and North Carolina) and bad teams (Florida State and Vanderbilt) with equal aplomb. And despite all that they lost, there was still plenty to count on, including Dorian Finney-Smith, Michael Frazier, Kasey Hill and Chris Walker, all decent contributors a season ago.

-- Dana O'Neil

Coach K hits 1K

Most memorable moment
Without question, the biggest moment of the season was when Jim Boeheim, tarred by a devastating NCAA penalty report just one day before Saturday's regular-season finale, used his final postgame news conference of the season to stage his "Blue Chips" moment. "You know, sometimes, the world doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. Except on the basketball court. But that's good enough." It was stirring, defiant stuff, one of the game's legends taking stock of -- wait. What? Boeheim didn't even address the media? He issued a statement and sent assistant coach Mike Hopkins in his place? Seriously?

Scratch that.

Jokes aside, my biggest moment of the season came on Jan. 25 at Madison Square Garden, when Mike Krzyzewski became the first men's coach in Division I college hoops history to win 1,000 games. By the time it arrived, it was almost anticlimactic: Duke's losses to NC State and Miami set the countdown back by about a week, at which point everyone had already spent so much time talking about Coach K even Coach K was getting annoyed. Still, there was no denying the sheer wonder of quadruple-digit career wins, and no shortage of awe at the combination of longevity and genius that took Krzyzewski to that mark. And the setting -- my first time under those dim Garden lights -- was the perfect place to reflect on an epoch.

Coach of the year
This is tough. One one hand, Tony Bennett has led Virginia, a school that rostered Ralph Sampson for four years, to arguably its greatest two-year stretch in history. On the other hand, Kentucky is undefeated. Bennett has morphed a roster of overlooked zero-hype recruits into a national-title-contending leviathan. John Calipari is 31-0. Bennett lost his best player to injury in late January and didn't lose until March 7. Kentucky hasn't lost a game. Bennett is my coach of the year. But then again ...

Player of the year
If Frank Kaminsky was exactly as good as he was his junior season -- when he was the high-usage centerpiece of a Final Four run -- he would have been an All-American. He was already great. What made his senior season so impressive is how he, like Doug McDermott a year ago, somehow got even better. Kaminsky's improvements weren't quite as visible as McDermott's; as statements go, 45-point scoring clinics tend to feel more emphatic. But the Tank's tweaks -- nimbler footwork, tidier ball skills, more dangerous perimeter shooting, much stronger interior defense, and steady-as-ever defensive rebounding -- are also what separated him from dominant Duke freshman Jahlil Okafor, Kaminsky's chief challenger in the Wooden race. Kaminsky elevated his game, and his team, to new heights.

Biggest surprise
Virginia, Baylor, Butler, SMU, even pre-collapse Indiana -- there have been plenty of pleasant surprises in 2014-15. But Northern Iowa deserves special distinction. In the matter of 12 months, coach Ben Jacobsen has transformed a 16-15 team with a great center (Seth Tuttle) and terrible defense into a 29-3 Final Four threat with an All-American center (Tuttle) and one of the nation's most imposing defensive schemes. Even better? Jacobsen managed this with essentially the same collection of players. No one saw that coming.

Biggest disappointment
Texas is the obvious answer, but are we sure the Longhorns were that good in the first place? Kansas State is worthy, but for different reasons: The Wildcats' sporadic self-sabotage derailed what should have been another trip the NCAA tournament. But by far our biggest disappointment came this weekend, when unbeaten Ohio Valley regular-season champ Murray State lost its chance to unleash guard Cameron Payne on an unsuspecting NCAA tournament field in a heartbreaking OVC title-game loss to Belmont. Good for Belmont, but still. Bummer.

-- Eamonn Brennan

It's Frank's world

Most memorable moment
The game of the season may have been Duke-North Carolina I. The heated rivalry came together before the tip with a moment of silence for the late Dean Smith, with both teams embracing, all on one knee, around the midcourt circle. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and UNC coach Roy Williams were side by side as they reflected on Smith. The game didn't disappoint at a time when the college basketball season needed a jolt. Duke got out early, then blew a lead and North Carolina looked like it was ready to finish the Blue Devils. But Duke came back, forced overtime, and Jahlil Okafor on a sprained ankle was able lift the Devils. The game was another classic in a long line of rivalry games.

Coach of the year
This is John Calipari's award. The Wildcats were the preseason No. 1. But Calipari still had to manage a host of egos, manage minutes and deal with a major injury to a rotation player (Alex Poythress), an illness (Trey Lyles) and erratic play at times (Andrew and Aaron Harrison). The development of Willie Cauley-Stein into an All-American and player of the year candidate was impressive. Calipari managed all sorts of situations, embraced the target and deflected any pressure from the players. He has managed the season as well as anyone could imagine in his position.

Player of the year
It has to be Wisconsin's Frank Kaminsky. The Badger big man should edge out Duke's Jahlil Okafor and Kentucky's Willie Cauley-Stein for the national player of the year. Kaminsky proved his worth to the Badgers when he missed the Rutgers game with concussion symptoms and Wisconsin lost in New Jersey. Kaminsky has proven he is as versatile a big man as the college game has seen the past few seasons. This is not a reward for lasting four seasons. But his overall numbers, consistency, leadership and importance to Wisconsin this season are the reason why he should get the nod. Okafor is the better overall talent and a future NBA top pick. But this is an award for college basketball, not NBA potential.

Biggest surprise
It's definitely Maryland. The Terps finished second in the Big Ten in their first season in the conference. Maryland had to deal with a Dez Wells injury early, but had the surprise run of freshman Melo Trimble. Maryland's win over Wisconsin at home was a season/program-changing win. The Terps are back.

Biggest disappointment
It wasn't good for Nebraska. The Cornhuskers looked like they had arrived on the national scene last season with an NCAA tournament berth. But the expectations couldn't be met this season. They floundered in the non-conference and then couldn't win in the Big Ten consistently. The biggest blow was losing their once-vaunted home-court advantage. The Huskers face a critical offseason to get it back and prove last season wasn't a fluke.

-- Andy Katz

Two teams, eight miles, remembering one man

Most memorable moment
This is the toughest category because so many moments stand out. Florida State's Xavier Rathan-Mayes scored 30 points in 4:38 against Miami. Kentucky jumped out to a 24-0 lead on UCLA and held it to seven first half points. BYU upset Gonzaga and its 41-game home win streak.

All were cool, but none topped seeing Duke and North Carolina coaches and players take a knee around the midcourt circle for a moment of silence to honor the Tar Heels legendary coach Dean Smith's passing. It was quite the image. Duke's Mike Krzyzewski and UNC's Roy Williams locked arms beside each other. That was the perfect way to begin what was arguably the best game of the regular season, one that ended with a 92-90 Blue Devils' overtime victory. Even for a rivalry with so many unforgettable games, Feb. 18 in Cameron Indoor Stadium produced another classic.

Coach of the year
Yes, the Wildcats have the best roster from top to bottom, which is why they could absorb an injury to Alex Poythress without being affected. And set aside the fact that Kentucky just pulled off an undefeated regular season. But think about this, how many times have we seen a talented team simply not live up to the weight of expectations? How many times have we seen individual egos undermine the greater good of the team?

Many of the Wildcats could be posting crazy stats had they gone to a different school. They'd likely be playing more minutes as well. Calipari has managed to get his players to buy into sacrificing all of that to be a part of this team. He's made it look easier than it really is.

Player of the year
Rarely does Krzyzewski heap so much praise on a freshman before ever playing a game, but Okafor has lived up to the hype. So much of what the Blue Devils are able to accomplish offensively is because of Okafor's presence inside. No one can defend him straight up. Even when he's not scoring, opponents have to pay so much attention to him that it opens up shots for others. And while he's not a shot-blocking intimidator in the paint, his defense has improved during the course of the season.

Biggest surprise
Notre Dame and Northern Iowa are worthy for consideration, but neither had to endure a change at the top like Butler. Brandon Miller took a medical leave of absence as head coach literally the day before fall practice began in October. Chris Holtmann, who was officially named head coach in January, immediately steadied the program. The Bulldogs weren't expected to be much more than a middle-of-the-pack Big East team, but finished tied with Georgetown for second place in the league.

Biggest disappointment
Texas was ranked No. 10 in the preseason after returning most of its key players from last season and adding one of the nation's top recruits in center Myles Turner. It was one of the only frontcourts that appeared to have the size and length to match Kentucky.

The Longhorns twice stumbled through four-game losing streaks in Big 12 play, which landed "Texas" and "bubble team" in the same sentence.

The good news for the Longhorns is last year at this time and in this category, Kentucky held the title of biggest disappointment. The Wildcats' talent finally kicked in during the NCAA tournament and they reached the national championship game before falling to Connecticut. Texas has that kind of talent to where it could have a similar run.

-- C.L. Brown

The day the NCAA hammered Jim Boeheim

Most memorable moment
The biggest moment of the college basketball season unfolded on Friday, when the NCAA dropped a hammer on Jim Boeheim and Syracuse basketball. Investigations had produced headlines all season. The NCAA's gavel has hovered above Larry Brown, Donnie Tyndall and Roy Williams all season. But Friday's announcement of scholarship reductions, a reported 108 vacated wins, a nine-game conference suspension for Boeheim and a statement that diminished the longtime leader's legacy was the most significant moment of the season. Coach Mike Krzyzewski's 1,000th win was huge. But even Coach K, who dismissed former McDonald's All-American Rasheed Sulaimon a few weeks ago, couldn't escape the negativity that has stained the game this season.

Coach of the year
I thought about putting Tony Bennett here. I think Virginia's head coach, the winner of back-to-back ACC titles, is a worthy nominee for this honor. He lost his best player, Justin Anderson, in mid-February and he's only suffered one loss, on the road against a ranked Louisville team on Saturday, without him. But Butler's Chris Holtmann is my nominee. He became the head coach only after Brandon Miller's leave of absence. This is a Bulldogs team that went 14-17 overall and 4-14 in the Big East last season. Roosevelt Jones' injury was a factor. Jones' return this season was certainly a boost for the program, but there were no guarantees that Butler would soar this season, especially with a preseason coaching change just days before the start of the 2014-15 campaign. But the Bulldogs have finished in a tie for second-place behind league champ and potential No. 1 seed Villanova. Holtmann has found success during a season full of surprises for a young coach. He has been exceptional in this post. Holtmann deserves the national coach of the year crown.

Player of the year
I'll keep this brief. I thought player of the year was Frank Kaminsky's award to lose entering the season. And although Jahlil Okafor has made a strong case for consideration, Kaminsky certified the preseason hype with another outstanding season. So many stats to pick. But he has finished with a minimum of 15 points, 10 rebounds and four assists six times this season. As a 7-footer. Bottom line is Kaminsky is the real MVP of college basketball.

Biggest surprise
In the Atlantic 10's preseason poll, Davidson -- a newcomer to the league -- was picked to finish 12th. Not eighth, not 10th ... 12th. On Saturday, Davidson clinched the Atlantic 10 crown with a 107-78 win at Duquesne. The Wildcats defeated VCU, the preseason favorite in the A-10, on Thursday, too.

Biggest disappointment
If you can find anything special about North Carolina after early January, please let me know. There was talk of a Final Four run and an ACC title before the season began. Yes, the ACC is a tough league, but the Tar Heels were supposed to be a member of the conference's country club. But they haven't secured a quality ACC win since a Jan. 10 victory over Louisville that was sealed by Marcus Paige's late drive. Find a great UNC win after that. Don't worry. I'll wait. ...There's still time for the Tar Heels to make a run in the ACC and NCAA tourneys and nullify everything I've said. As of now, however, North Carolina is still the biggest disappointment, in my opinion.

-- Myron Medcalf