2021-22 USBWA Best Writing Contest Winners

Magazine Feature

1. John Gasaway, ESPN.com: An unpronounceable name, a seminude photo and a milestone win: Inside Coach K’s first season at Duke

Everyone knows the end of the story. This is the beginning. This Mike Krzyzewski story stands out in both subject and technique. A series of interview excerpts shows what it was like in 1980, the year that Krzyzewski took over the Duke program.

2. Ben Steele, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: New coach Shaka Smart instilling culture at Marquette
3. M.A. Voepel, ESPN.com: Kim Mulkey’s crossroads: Her Baylor past, her LSU present and why she’s not apologizing for any of it
4. Mike DeCourcy, The Sporting News: Coach K's last season: Mike Krzyzewski reflects before he leads Duke one final time
5. Andrew Kahn, MLive.com: How Juwan Howard and Michigan assembled college basketball’s No. 1 recruiting class


1.  Kevin Armstrong, Newark Star-Ledger: ‘Our Guardian Angel’: Saint Peter’s ready for Sweet 16 thanks to ‘Run Baby Run’ guy who Spent Baby Spent

A revealing St. Peters narrative — the background of a story that suddenly, and surprisingly, found itself in college basketball’s foreground. Rev. Rocco Danzi sums it up — “It’s weird how God connects the dots."

2. Adam Jardy, Columbus Dispatch: The alarm went off impossibly early inside John Lumpkin’s hotel room.
3. Ryan McGee, ESPN.com: 32 days in Krzyzewskiville: Camping with the ‘Crazies’ ahead of Coach K’s home finale
4. Seth Davis and Brendan Marks, The Athletic: Our next coach is in this room’: Inside Duke’s secret search to replace Coach K
5. Brendan Quinn, The Athletic: There’s just a disconnect’: Maryland basketball, great expectations and the stark reality of a program at a crossroad

Moderate-length feature

1. Mike Sielski, Philadelphia Inquirer: Forever Mighty: Fifty years ago, Immaculata’s Mighty Macs launched the modern era of women’s college basketball by winning the first of their three consecutive national championships

Their first championship actually predated Title IX. Players “scouted” games by reading newspaper accounts and the athletic department sold toothbrushes to finance travel. The details drive this story about Immaculate Heart of Mary’s three consecutive women’s basketball championships.

2.  Kevin Armstrong, Newark Star-Ledger: I haven’t slept in nine days’: How Saint Peter’s built a Cinderella program with plenty of pluck
3.  Adam Jardy, Columbus Dispatch: Chris Holtmann, John Groce to coach in emotional opener
4.  Kane McGuire, LaTechSports.com: The Heart of a Bulldog: Exavian Christon's comeback story
5.  Myron Medcalf, ESPN.com: Penn guard Jelani Williams’ first college basketball home game was 1,795 days in the making

Game/Spot News

1. Matt Fortuna, The Athletic: Syracuse, Coach B and sons almost steal the show from Coach K, but Duke buckles down with 10-0 run to advance

The curtain drops on “Boeheim and sons” at Syracuse. Duke wins, but the story is in the other locker room. For a writer, a tricky dance and a textbook example of how to dance it. 

2. Kevin Armstrong, Newark Star-Ledger: Holy sh*t!’ A day in the crazy life of Saint Peter’s: Fake mustaches and a close shave — but another wild win by a whisker
3. Jesse Newell, The Kansas City Star: David McCormack emerged from Kansas’ locker room without a shirt, which only made his new necklace stand out more
4. Greg Barnes, Inside Carolina: UNC's improbable journey continues
5. Ken Davis, Blue Ribbon Report: National Championship Game: Jayhawks load the wagon, rally past Heels to win NCAA title


1. Brendan Quinn, The Athletic: Phil Martelli did not see this coming

He didn't see this coming. Who could’ve seen this coming? Basketball lifer Phil Martelli steps in for suspended Michigan coach Juwan Howard and beats Michigan State.

2. Harry Minium Jr., ODUSports.com: Blaine Taylor is the perfect fit for the Old Dominion Athletic Foundation
3. Matt Fortuna, The Athletic: March Madness shows college football what it misses without an expanded Playoff.
4. Russell Steinberg, Boardroom: Jay Wright’s retirement signals a new era in college coaching.
5. M.A. Voepel, ESPN.com: 2021 WNBA Finals: Candace Parker’s legacy comes full circle as she leads Chicago Sky to first WNBA championship.