NASHVILLE, TN - MARCH 16: Ron Anderson Jr. #1 of the South Florida Bulls celebrates after defeating the Temple Owls during the second round of the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Bridgestone Arena on March 16, 2012 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
With USF's 2011-12 athletic season concluding last Friday, it's once again time for the Voodoo Five staff to look back and make our choices for the best teams, players, moments, and... not best moments from this past season. Presenting the third annual Voodoo Five Awards!
I decided to break this into two posts this year, because we all had a lot to say. Votes from Ken, Gary, Andrew, and myself are below, and we'll add Collin's if and when he puts in his two cents. Today we'll look at the teams and players of the year. Tomorrow, we'll look at individual games and stories from the past year.
Gary: I'm going to split my vote between men's basketball and softball. Both teams reached unprecedented levels of success, had fun personalities, and overcame USF's athletic history of getting to the brink of greatness and then failing spectacularly. Hofstra won the first game of the Super Regionals in 11 innings, and basketball missed getting several big wins late in the season, especially Notre Dame in the Big East Tournament. But both teams survived frustrating setbacks that have destroyed lesser USF teams, and raised the bar for what USF athletics can achieve. Basketball got a bit lucky in that the NCAA bubble fell out very favorably for them, but they didn't waste the opportunity once they got it.
Jamie: Remember how last year we had to pick a team that only made it to the second round of the NCAAs because they did better than everyone else did? This was a big turnaround year for USF Athletics, led by the softball team's first trip to the Women's College World Series. That's my pick here, but we have to give a lot of credit to men's soccer (could have easily ended up in the College Cup) and men's basketball.
Ken: Softball. Like Jamie said, this is the first team to make it to the pinnacle of their respective sport's tournament. Men's soccer also had one hell of a year, but they were a horrible offside call away from making this spot.
BEST ATHLETE (MALE)
Andrew: Anthony Collins. And he will be the best male athlete at USF for ideally the next three season. What a revelation.
Gary: Anthony Collins. His steady play at the point, clutch shooting, and improvement as the season went on was what made the whole NCAA run possible -- and as a true freshman to boot. He's already in the Atkins/Kohn class of USF point guards, and has already surpassed them both in NCAA victories. His season was even more shocking juxtaposed with the gawdawful point guard play of the previous season. Honorable mention to Dom Dwyer, the star of a very good men's soccer team and a season great enough to win this award most years. I also want to give a nod to Ron Anderson Jr. He's not the kind of player who comes up for individual accolades, but he seemed to be the driving force behind the team's newly-acquired personality.
Jamie: Several good choices here. You could pick Anthony Collins, Dom Dwyer, or Chris Blais here and I wouldn't argue with you... but I'm going to give this to David Aristil, who placed fifth in the 400-meter hurdles at the NCAA track and field championships and became USF's first three-time All-American since Jimmy Baxter.
Ken: Dom Dwyer. He was dominant on the pitch for the Half-Hoops this year, was named second-team All-American and thoroughly deserved the first round selection in the MLS SuperDraft.
BEST ATHLETE (FEMALE)
Andrew: Sara "I'm borrowing Bruce Springsteen's nickname" Nevins.
Gary: Sara Nevins is a boss.
Jamie: Sara Nevins, boss, with honorable mentions to Lindsey Richardson, boss, and Jessica Mouse.
Ken: Sara Nevins, who is a boss. Second-team All-American, carried the softball team to the WCWS, and will be back to smoke fools for two more years.
MOST SURPRISING TEAM
Andrew: Men's basketball.
Gary: Men's basketball's out-of-nowhere great season was more outrageous than a Disney sports movie starring an animal.
Jamie: Not only was men's basketball the most surprising team of 2011-12, they might have been the most surprising team in school history. NO ONE thought that team was going to be as successful as they were. I thought Ken's relatively modest "Quest for 16" was nuts, and they end up winning 22 and getting to the round of 32.
Ken: Men's basketball. I was just hoping for the team to be respectable, but holy crap did they go above and beyond anything I could imagine this year.
MOST DISAPPOINTING TEAM
Andrew: Football. This is a situation where we are always disappointed, because we always get our hopes up. Perhaps not making a bowl in 2011 means we will finally get our expectations in check... naaaaaaaahhhh.
Gary: Football. They once again teased us with greatness by playing a near-perfect game in difficult conditions at Notre Dame, then blowing out three overmatched teams at home, then going 1-6 in Big East play.
Jamie: I've never disliked a USF team more than I disliked the 2011 football team. The good news is that they're much less likely to disappoint us in the future now that we refuse to buy anything that they're selling. Unlike Phil Steele, apparently. (Although that did lead to B.J. Daniels making the main photo on the Florida edition of Phil's magazine, while Miami got shoved into the inset... so it's not all bad.)
Ken: As easy as it would be to just say football, I'm going with women's soccer. This was a team that returned nine starters from a squad that made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament the year before. To not even make it to the Big East tournament this season is a huge disappointment.