Written By: Matt Craig | @MrMattCraig
Editor in Chief of Chirp City
Host of the Ball Hogs Podcast
Member of Ball State Sports Link
Welcome to the 2016 Stroudys!!
In honor of the Academy Awards Sunday evening, it’s time for the March Madness Survival Guide to name it’s Stroudys, honoring the best in college basketball this season! And unlike the Oscars, which were named after some chick’s “Uncle Oscar” as the story goes, our name has history and meaning.
The award is named after Les Stroud, better known as “Survivorman.” He’s the hero of survival, dropping himself alone into a remote location with no supplies and surviving for 10 days. And the bastard is so cocky he brings video cameras and films himself, showing all us at home the comforts of eating bugs and sleeping on tree bark.
In the context of college basketball, we’re all just trying to be Les Stroud. If we could survive the brackets the way he survives the jungle, we’d all win our family or office bracket pools.
And so, as both a huge movie geek and college basketball nerd, it’s my obligation to name the best of college basketball in the same categories as the Oscars on Oscars weekend.
Nominees: Pitt, Baylor, Kansas, Utah
Early in the night, there’s always a bunch of minor categories that only the real movie nerds (like me) care about. Costume design is one of those. In CBB, the big shoe companies use college basketball to unleash a new set of products every year, and because of that college basketball jerseys have gotten more and more “uniform” (pun intended) in the past few years. So this award honors those that stand out from the crowd.
Even though Pitt brought camouflage to the table, it’s a concept that we’ve seen before. Baylor earned a nomination for letting a toddler attack their uniforms with several different highlighters, bringing a nice contrast to the table against Kansas’s sweet red throwbacks. But the winner here is pretty clear, as Utah takes home the first Stroudy of the night!
Utah is a program that has worked hard in the past few years to up their swag. The stigma of a school in Utah being boring has hung over their school for years, but thanks to huge amounts of money being poured in, a former NBA coach taking the reigns, and “heaven on earth” facilities according to Bill Walton, they’re turning into an elite program. And yes, Under Armour really did them right on these uniforms. I’m a sucker for braided collars, and the gray and red color combination and cursive writing puts it over the top for me.
Congratulations to Utah for taking home the Stroudy, and after beating Arizona this week, everyone is starting to wake up to the possibility that this team could make a run in the tournament!
Nominees: Virginia, Kansas, Kentucky, Duke, Iowa State
The sound mixing Stroudy is given to the school with the best home court environment for how they “mix their sounds.” While John Paul Jones arena at UVA and Rupp Arena at UK can really get deafening for big games, it doesn’t seem like teams really fear coming in and playing there.
Hilton Magic is real, but three home losses this year really hurt their chances for taking home the statue, and there’s nothing distinct about their crowd. And while the Cameron Crazies were as good as ever, Duke was hurt this year by not playing as many big home games there as they usually do.
The clear winner here is Kansas, because in addition to deafening sound and great chants “Rooooock Chaaaaaalk Jayyyyyhawwwwwk,” Bill Self has won more Big 12 titles than he’s had losses at home. His 205-9 record at home is staggering, and it’s the biggest reason why he’s won twelve straight conference titles. For that to happen anywhere is crazy, but in a Power 5 conference it’s really unbelievable. Teams really fear coming to the Phog.
Best Short Film (Live Action)
Nominees: Grayson Allen’s game-winner against Virginia, Oklahoma-Kansas triple OT Game, Denzel Valentine’s performance at the Champions Classic, Virginia’s comeback against Wake Forest
Winner: Oklahoma-Kansas Triple OT Game
Point #1: Grayson Allen traveled. Twice.
Point #2: Wake Forest choked, and Virginia was lucky.
Point #3: Dang, I actually can’t hate on Denzel Valentine (other than agreeing to participate in one of the biggest coverups in CBB history “Denz-Ghazi”). He was incredible against Kansas, but was docked a few (imaginary) points because the game happened way back in November.
The Oklahoma-Kansas game was one of the best college basketball games I’ve ever witnessed, and at least as far as regular season I’d have a really hard time finding one that could top it. Whether it be the heroic defense of Frank Mason, or the fact that it didn’t matter and Buddy Heild still scored 46. Whether it be Kansas posting three twenty point scorers, or Oklahoma draining 16 threes in the game. No matter how you slice it, this 109-106 triple OT thriller was the game of the year.
And yes, it did end on a bad call that allowed Frank Mason to reach over the inbounds line, but why would you choose to focus on that? The atmosphere, the performances, and the desire both teams showed were the biggest testament to what makes college basketball special.
The game also passed the test I give to any big sporting event: the MOS test. MOS stands for “man on the street” in journalism, and the MOS test is what I call how much the general public, whether they be casual sports fans or not sports fans at all, know about the incident. I walked into my local credit union (broke college kid lyfe) and heard two girls and a guy discussing the OU-KU game almost two weeks after it happened. That’s powerful, and worthy of a Stroudy.
Best Original Screenplay
Nominees: “Walton’s World”, Denz-Ghazi, Grayson Allen tripping people, Calipari getting ejected 3 minutes into game vs. South Carolina
Winner: “Walton’s World”
The Best Original Screenplay Stroudy is given to the best/funniest story of the college basketball season. You can’t script sports, and these moments are so good I couldn’t make them up if I tried.
Let’s clear this up. Yes, Grayson Allen is white, and also plays basketball for Duke. But he’s not just “the next good white Duke basketball player we hate” because he’s good and white and plays for Duke. He’s actually really unlikable, thanks to an affinity for tripping players (elementary school playground stuff) and over-the-top screaming fits after relatively mundane plays.
I love Mark Titus, and by extension the Denz-Ghazi “scandal.” Show us the scars, Izzo!!! And the part of me that can’t let go of my hate for all that Kentucky stands for really enjoyed seeing Calipari get tossed before the first media timeout.
But this was still the largest margin of victory of the night. Every game that Bill Walton commentates is an absolute national treasure. Whether it was dancing the hula, making his broadcasting partner wish he chose another profession, dancing with UT cheerleaders, or so many other instant classics, Walton is the best entertainment in college basketball, if not all television.
You absolutely could not script what that man says or does if you tried. Well maybe you could, if you did a ton of drugs beforehand and didn’t take into account the fact that millions of people are watching you on live television.
Nominees: Jay Wright, Fran McCaffery, Shaka Smart, Tony Bennett
Winner: Shaka Smart
There’s been a ton of great coaching performances this year, but I look at what coaches have exceeded expectations the most. Fran McCaffery took a team that was considered middle of the pack in the B1G to a top 10 ranking, and Tony Bennett has kept his team near the top despite the loss of some NBA caliber talent. And Jay Wright stays elite with mediocre talent at Villanova, that is until the postseason rolls around.
But what Shaka Smart has done is truly incredible. It was his first year with a program that had talent but was considered in shambles. And then he goes and loses one of his best players for the season in Cam Ridley. But unfazed, he’s orchestrated victories against UNC, Baylor, West Virginia (twice) and Oklahoma. No one wants to face the Shaka magic this month, I can tell you that.
Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Nominees: Monmouth Bench, Rico Gathers, Daniel Ochefu, London Perrantes, Matt Costello, Marshall Plumlee, Frank Mason III
Winner: Monmouth Bench
A deep and talented field make up the supporting actor Stroudy nominees, but truly the award was never in doubt. A column a never got around to writing was the necessity for every team to have “an alpha and omega” player. These “glue guys” are just as necessary to March Madness glory as the national player of the year contenders.
And while I hear the snickers about how this is the “white guy who doesn’t score” category, I’m not denying it because what roles are left for us white boys in college basketball in 2016?
The Monmouth Bench really is the best non-Walton thing that’s happened in college basketball this year. And while it’s novelty has probably worn off at this point, they deserve to continue to be celebrated. The NCAA Tournament needs these guys in it, badly.
Hats off to you, Monmouth, both for the best bench in college basketball and for fielding a squad that could play Cinderella this month. I’ll be rooting for you, as will the rest of America.
Best Actor in a Leading Role
Nominees: Kris Dunn, Denzel Valentine, Malcolm Brogdon, Ben Simmons, Buddy Heild
Winner: Buddy Heild
Just as it was in the Oscars, where the Best Actor award was never really in doubt, I’m not going to shock you all with my selection of Buddy Heild. Maybe the most shocking and honestly encouraging things about this season is that of the five nominees, three are seniors and one is a junior. And at this point in the season, Ben Simmons may not have even deserved the nomination. He’s an incredible player, but what effect has he really had on his team?
Buddy’s biggest competition was Denzel Valentine, who probably would’ve won this award if he hadn’t missed so much time in the middle of the season (for possibly mysterious reasons).
But back to Heild. He’s been incredible this season, literally embodying a 6 foot 5 lite version of Steph Curry for the college level. His shot selection is…ambitious, but with his ability to make tough shots unquestionable, he’s become the most captivating must-watch player in the game as well.
He’s the best player in college, and he’ll be a great pro too if he ever gets that smile fixed up. Actually on second thought, the goofy smile plays into the whole “Bahamas, eeehhhh maaan it’s all good maaaan” reggae vibe that he’s putting off, combining nicely with the “Buddy Love” nickname. It’s an addition by uglification tactic that has played out nicely for Anthony Davis.
Nominees: North Carolina, Villanova, Kansas, Michigan State
The best picture nominee, the most coveted of both the Oscars and the Stroudys, is given to the best team in college basketball. Again, just as in this year’s Oscars, there’s very little suspense. I’ve said Kansas is the best team since my very first column this year, and have never wavered on it.
It’s been a really big night for Kansas, receiving five nominations (out of eight categories) and now two wins. It’s really quite fitting.
You can tell an Oscar movie is a great movie by the seemingly meaningless awards at the beginning of the night. If a movie has the best soundtrack, the best script, the best costumes, the best editing, the best actors, and the best director, chances are it was the best movie. So don’t discount the importance of great uniforms, the best home court advantage, and a handful of great supporting players for #1 Kansas.
In a season where everyone is claiming (correctly) there are no “super teams,” Kansas is bringing a potential top-ten pick (Diallo) off of the deep bench. Stir in four double digit scorers, and a pretty solid defense and you have the recipe for a national champion.
They are the best team in the country, and while that doesn’t always mean they win it all, that’s where the smart money should be going.
Congrats to all of the nominees and winners tonight, it’s been an incredible season. Now, for the best time of the year. MMMMMAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRCCCHHHHHHHHH!!!
By Matt Craig
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