Christian Athlete of the Week: Kevin Durant

The talk of the NBA right now is Oklahoma City Thunder star, Kevin Durant. The small forward out of Texas University has been on fire lately, especially after that big win last Wednesday night at Miami. Durant helped take down LeBron James and the Heat with his 12th straight game of scoring 30 points or more. He finished the showdown with 33 points, seven rebounds, five assists and two steals in a 112-95 victory. Many thought that his scoring streak would come to an end after suffering that injury at San Antonio on January 22nd, but on his first game back at Philadelphia, he recorded his second triple-double of the season with 32 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists. Speaking of assists, his per game average has gone up since last year, which is helping out the Thunder’s offense tremendously to now nine straight wins! Not only is Durant unselfish on the court, but he is also unselfish off the court. Last summer, Durant’s charity foundation donated $150,000 to three different youth organizations at his home in Prince George county in Maryland. They were the programs that helped Durant develop into a great basketball player and he just simply gave back to the people who affected him in a positive way. Not only that, but in that same summer, he also donated $1 million to the regional Red Cross relief efforts in Oklahoma after the devastating tornado damage took place last May. He also got Nike involved to donate $1 million worth of apparel to the residents affected by the storms. It’s this kind of stewardship that Christians should be more involved in. Giving back to communities is one way of reaching out to other people so that they could know Christ. God gave His one and only Son for our sins to show others that we need to make sacrifices to help each other out. Durant is a great example of a Christian man using what God has provided for him to help others in need. I loved his quote in the postgame interview at the end of the Miami Heat game the other night. Doris Burke of ESPN asked him what has driven him to get this scoring streak going and he simply said, “God. My Lord Jesus Christ. That’s it,” and he walked away. A man with such humility is someone worth watching as the NBA season gets deeper and deeper. That is why the Durantula is the Christian Athlete of the Week.

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Doug McDermott Lifting Creighton to a Whole New Level

The senior from Ames, Iowa has been doing great lately. Just recently, he scored a season-high 39 points including the game-winning three-pointer against St. Johns to lift the Creighton Bluejays to their 18th win of the season. In that game he also had six rebounds and shot 5-9 from beyond the arc. After that game, he moved up to 18th on the al-time scoring list or Division I basketball right behind former Duke standout J.J. Reddick.This year, he’s been averaging 25 points and 7 rebounds a game. He also has four double-doubles this season.There’s no doubt he will be a first-round pick in the upcoming NBA draft. The team that gets him will have a big man who can knock down threes. That’s pretty rare nowadays! McDermott has had some great coaching done by his father Greg McDermott over the last four years.

Doug with his father Coach Greg McDermott
Doug with his father Coach Greg McDermott.
Credit: rushthecourt.net

Looking back at when he first played basketball, he was teammates with Harrison Barnes at Ames High School in Iowa and together they won back-to-back state titles in their junior and senior years. McDermott was originally going to play for Northern Iowa, but when his father moved from Iowa State to coach Creighton, Doug followed his daddy to play for him. In his freshman year, McDermott earned first team all-conference honors averaging 14.9 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. He was the first player to do that in the Missouri Valley conference since Cleo Littleton of Wichita State did it back in 1954. McDermott also set a conference record for most points by a freshman with 581. His sophomore year was unbelievable. He was named to the first team All-American list and averaged 22.9 points per game, as well as a career-high 8.2 rebounds per game. He also became the first Creighton player since Kyle Korver to win the conference player of the year award! His 801 points, 307 field goals and 48.6 percent shooting accuracy from three-point range were all school records for a single-season. In his junior year, he averaged 23.2 points, 7.7 rebounds, and1.6 assists per game and shot a career-high 49 percent from beyond the arc. All his years, McDermott has been improving in every area of his game. There’s no doubt that he is the greatest basketball player Creighton has ever had.

Atletico Madrid Rising Up

When most people think of La Liga, they think of two teams: Barcelona and Real Madrid. However, they should add in a third team to that list: Atletico Madrid. The other Madrid team has been quietly earning some respect around the country of Spain for their play lately. They are coming off a 4-2 win on the road against Rayo Vallecano. In that game, Diego Costa scored his 20th goal of the season, which is 2nd in the league. 32-year-old veteran and former Barcelona player David Villa also contributed in the win with his 11th goal of the season. Atletico Madrid has only lost one game this season and it was to Espanyol back in October of 2013. They have beaten Real Madrid once and tied with Barcelona back on January 11th. So as you can see, these guys are top contenders to knock off Barcelona and Real Madrid late in the season. After the win against Rayo, they are now tied for first in the league with Barcelona acquiring 54 points. Most of their wins this year have been blowouts, having a goal differential of 38. Coach Diego Simeone clearly has this time heading in the right direction. Ever since he took control of the club back in 2011, this team has always been a threat to Real Madrid and Barcelona. Last year, Atletico Madrid finished third in the league, their best finish since 1996 when Simeone played for the team himself. Their most recent achievements were winning the Europa League and the UEFA Super Cup in 2012, and then the Copa del Ray in 2013. The team is not filled with many superstars besides Adrian and Filipe Luis, but Simeone is showing everyone that you don’t need a star-studded team to win. The club has enough talent to win the La Liga and to snatch it away from Lionel Messi’s Barcelona and Cristiano Ronaldo’s Real Madrid.

Big Shake Up in the Big Ten

Who would have thought that at this point in the college basketball season that Michigan would be 7-0 in the conference and Iowa would be a top contender for the Big Ten? Not me! I thought that it would be a showdown between Michigan State and Ohio State for the number one spot. Not so fast! Michigan just defeated Michigan State to take the number one standing in the conference and after Iowa just took down Northwestern, they are looking to move up in the college basketball rankings (they’re already 10th in the nation)! The Hawkeyes are 5th in the nation in points per game (85.7) and 3rd in rebounds per game (43.9). Those are the kind of stats that win you national championships! Ohio State has taken a lot of pride in their defense of play. They were 15-0 until they lost four straight to Michigan State, Iowa, Minnesota, and Nebraska. They got back on track last Thursday with a win over Illinois, but they’re going to have to fight hard the rest of the season if they want to get back on top. They have a big match-up with Wisconsin on February 1st, who also has had a disappointing stretch lately. They were undefeated as well until they lost three straight to Indiana, Michigan, and Minnesota. They’re recent win over Purdue helps boost their confidence, but they’re in the same position as Ohio State. The Big Ten is looking like the most competitive conference this year. The top six teams have a legitimate shot of winning the conference title this year and a spot at a number one or two seed in the national tournament. People are underestimating Minnesota’s team. They currently have a better conference record than Ohio State’s and have defeated top teams like the Buckeyes and Wisconsin. Beating good teams has its value when playing in the national tournament. Then there’s the Michigan Wolverines. They are coming fresh off a 80-75 win against their rivals Michigan State and now own the best conference record. This was the first game where a team scored 80 points against Tom Izzo’s squad this year. Michigan is horrible at rebounding, but they make up for it with their offense. They are 30th in the nation in assists per game with 15.6 and 20th in the nation in field goal percentage, shooting 48.7 percent from the field. They have now won three straight games against top ten ranked teams. Nik Stauskas is definitely the MVP player of this team. The sophomore guard from Canada is averaging 18.5 points per game and shooting 44 percent from behind the 3-point line. Watch out for him and Glenn Robinson III to take over the Big Ten later on in the year. So if you’re looking for a college basketball game to watch in February, tune in to a Big Ten conference game. I guarantee you that it will either be an upset or a fun game to watch!

Liverpool a Potential Threat

Liverpool has looked solid lately, coming off a 2-0 win against AFC Bournemouth in the 4th round of the FA cup. They tied 2-2 with Aston Villa the week before, but their 5-3 win over Stoke City January 12th was pretty impressive. They are currently 4th in the Barclays Premier League standings right behind Chelsea with 43 points and a 25 goal differential which is second in the league behind Manchester City’s whopping 38. People haven’t been taking Liverpool seriously however, because most of their wins were against low quality teams. What people may not know is that they defeated Manchester United 1-0 earlier in the year. Being shut out is something that Manchester United is not used to doing. They have only been shut out five times this season and two of those were 0-0 ties (one with Chelsea and the other with Real Sociedad). Back to Liverpool, their star player Luis Suarez is having a fantastic season so far. He already has 22 goals, five assists and a 58.5 percent shooting accuracy. Last season, he scored 23 goals, had five assists, and had a 50.3 percent shooting accuracy. His improvement has definitely provided a spark for this surging Liverpool team. Not only that, but the 26-year-old striker tied the record for becoming the fastest player in Premier League history to score 20 goals in a season when Liverpool beat Hull City 2-0 recently. What’s even more impressive about that record is that he only did it in 15 appearances. Assisting Suarez in this hopeful title run is the ageless captain Steven Gerrard. In 17 starts, he has five goals and six assists. The midfielder’s shooting accuracy has also improved greatly from 54.2 percent last season to 62.5 percent this season. There’s no doubt that his performances week in and week out are a determining factor for the success of this club. The 41-year-old manager Brendan Rodgers has done a good job with this team. He’s only been with the club for two seasons, but during those two seasons he has formed a title contender in Liverpool. The season is only midway through, but it’s during this time that the teams start playing like champions. Liverpool is certainly looking like a champion at this point.

How a Football Injury Changed a Man’s Life

Ever since he was eight years old, Lamar Slade had been playing organized football. He grew up in Yorktown, Virgina and is the younger brother of Chris Slade, who played for the New England Patriots from 1993-2000.

“I wanted to play football partly because of my older brother,” said Lamar Slade. “My father never really pushed me to play football and
he just said that it was up to me. I really enjoyed the game and it just took off from there.”

Lamar played wide receiver at Tabb High School, but wasn’t recognized by the college scouts so he decided to go to Fort Union Military Academy for prep school. It was there that he got offered a full-ride scholarship to play for the University of Pittsburgh. During his time at Pitt, he was teammates with current Arizona Cardinals’ superstar Larry Fitzgerald and former NFL wide receiver Antonio Bryant. Lamar played at Pitt from 1999-2002 where he piled up 93 receptions for 1,083 yards and seven touchdowns during his career. During that time at Pitt, Lamar said that he met some Christ-like individuals, but never paid too much attention to them because he did not know the Lord at the time.

Lamar Slade playing at Pitt Credit: pittsburgh.scout.com
Lamar Slade playing at Pitt
Credit: pittsburgh.scout.com

“I enjoyed my experience at Pitt,” he said. “There were probably some things that I could have done better looking back, but I met a lot of good people while I was there. You can’t complain, because a full-ride scholarship is always good. I got a chance to play on T.V. and that’s something I can tell my kids one day. I didn’t pay much attention to the Christ-like people around me back then. My best friend now was a strong believer while I went to Pitt. He was a teammate of mine and he always said that he was going to be a preacher. He was a very strong influence, but I didn’t recognize it back then.”

After graduating from Pitt, Lamar was an undrafted free agent that got signed by the Pittsburgh Steelers. However, he was one of the first ones cut from the team during training camp. Fortunately, Lamar had another chance to pursue a career in football when his agent gave him a unique opportunity.

“My agent asked me if I was still interested in playing football and I said yes. Then he told me that the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League wanted to sign me. So I said ‘Sure. I’ll give it a shot.’ Before I knew it, I made the team and I was playing for the CFL in Ontario, Canada.”

Lamar Slade played on special teams and was a back-up wide receiver for the Tiger-Cats for two seasons. Then in his second season in the league on November 2006, Lamar had something drastic happen to his life.

“We were playing against the Montreal Alouettes that day,” Lamar said. “I was blocking on a kick-off return when one of the opposing players hit me right in the side of my knee. I knew that something was wrong and that it wasn’t a minor injury as soon as it happened.”

When Lamar went to the hospital to get an injury report, the doctor told him that he had a torn MCL, a partially torn ACL, and a torn meniscus. He told him that he would need surgery and that he
would have to come back in three weeks to check the healing process. During that time, Lamar had met a pastor that lived in the area. He was recommended by Lamar’s old neighbor, who was a pastor and is considered his mentor to this day. He told Lamar about the pastor before he left to go play in Canada.The man’s name is Russel Worrad and he ministered to Lamar and helped him during the healing process in Ontario. So when Lamar came back to the doctor for a check-up, he heard some astonishing news.

“When we came back, the doctor told me that he had never seen anything like this in my knee,” said Lamar. “He said that I wasn’t going to need surgery. All I needed was rehab and I would be back to where I needed to be. I felt God drawing me from there, because that was just incredible news.”

So he could better recover from his injury, Lamar went back home to Virginia. He caught up with his old college teammate and they started going to church together at Liberty Baptist Church in Hampton, Virgina. At the church, Lamar met a man named John who was a Christian man living in the neighborhood and he was looking for a church to have fellowship in. He ended up becoming Lamar’s Bible study partner. Lamar’s life would change on a Wednesday evening service.

“I was supposed to meet my best friend there for a Wednesday evening service and it was a Bible study,” Lamar said. “I showed up at the Bible study and I didn’t see my best friend there. Still to this day I’m a little upset with him about that. Any way, John was with me and after the service was over he asked me if I wanted to stay around a little longer and I said sure. I was still recovering from my injury and my best friend wasn’t there, so I couldn’t really go anywhere. We talked for a while and he ended up sharing the Gospel with me and that was the first time I ever heard the Good News. I never knew that I sinned against a holy God and that my sin deserved judgment, but Christ came and died for my sin. After he explained that to me, he asked me if I wanted to give my life to Christ and I said ‘Yeah! Sure!’ Even before that, God started to draw me towards Him and my injury was a God-ordained thing that happened to me. I believe that everything happens for a reason and that God is in everything. He was able to set this up so that I would meet this guy and give my life to Christ.”

I was very fortunate to meet Lamar Slade on a God-ordained occasion. I was at my church shooting some hoops outside last summer and Lamar spotted me from driving by the church. He decided to join me and after shooting hoops for a while, I slowly but surely got to know Lamar’s story and how Christ has been heavily involved in his life.

“I was a pretty prideful person before I gave my life to Christ,” he told me. “I still have moments where I’m prideful, but I can’t just say that He changed one thing about me in particular. My whole life is changed. The verse that stands out to me is 2 Corinthians 5:17 where it says, ‘So then, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; what is old has passed away. Look, what is new has come!’ My life has changed from the inside out.”

Today, Lamar Slade is 31 years old and is a social worker that works with autistic and physically disabled people. Right now he is taking online courses through Liberty University, hoping to become a pastor one day. He is also a part-time assistant and youth pastor at New Market Baptist Church in Newport News, Virginia. I am proud to say that he is a good friend of mine and his story has influenced my walk with Christ. We always meet up to play football and basketball once or twice a week and it’s a joy being around him every time. I pray that his story could influence others as well and that God working through him will impact the lives of everyone.

The Durantula Lighting It Up

As I have said in my previous post, Kevin Durant is my favorite player in the NBA. So to hear the swish in the net from all of his made shots during this stretch of greatness is just sweet music to my ears. Durant’s 54 point game was just the beginning. After Wednesday night’s win over the San Antonio Spurs, the D.C. native has gone nine consecutive games where he has scored 30 points or more. He is currently averaging 37 points per game during the month of January. And these magical performances have been helping the team out as well. After this win against the Spurs, the Oklahoma City Thunder have won five in a row and are 3-0 against Gregg Popovich’s team this season. That’s pretty impressive considering that San Antonio is one of the best teams in the NBA right now. When the Spurs play offense, it’s a beautiful sight to watch. They make great passes to find the best possible shot and every player is unselfish. That’s why they lead the NBA in three-point percentage and bench points per game this season. But let’s get back to Durant. His ability to score points is not the only thing going right for him this year. He made 10-11 free throws last Wednesday night and has shot 88 percent from the free throw line this year. During the five-game win streak, Durant has hit 52 out of 60 free throw attempts. Not only that, but he’s getting better at being a team player. His assists per game have gone up every season. This season he had to run the offense a lot more often with the absence of Russell Westbrook, but Durant has done a great job with that averaging just over five assists per game. He has also gone four straight games with double-digit field goals made. In the twelve games he has played this month, he scored more than 45 points in four of them. That’s just incredible! We haven’t seen scoring outbursts like this since Kobe Bryant’s glory days. Now that you know the stats, you should agree with me that Durant is the frontrunner of the MVP award this year. Sure it’s early and things could happen, but just this month’s performance alone should allow him to win it. Sure other players in the league have had games where they scored 35 points or more multiple times this season, but no one is doing it as consistently as Durant. He is almost unguardable, being six-foot-nine (I’m pretty sure he’s taller than that) and have the shooting stroke that he has. If Durant could keep this performance up in the month of February, then who knows, LeBron James would be old news. But forget about the stats and the hype. The real reason why I’m a Kevin Durant fan is because of his relationship with God. Durant has not only progressed as a basketball player, but also in his Christian walk with the Lord.

“My mom always sat me down and talked to me and I have spiritual teachers that  help me out,” Durant said in an interview with Chad Bonham. “I’m not perfect at all by any means. I’ve got a long way to go to  become closer to the Lord but hopefully I can continue to stay on the path. I  might take a few steps forward and take a couple steps back and take some steps  forward, but I want to get better.” (Credit: beliefnet.com)

And through all the fame and fortune, Durant remembers where he came from and it’s his humilty that has impressed me the most on and off the court.

“In the Bible, it says the Lord exalts humility and that’s one thing I try to  be all the time—when I’m talking in front of people or when people tell me I’m  great, I remind myself that I can always be better. I always work on what I  have now. I’ve just got to be thankful to the Lord for what the gifts He’s given  me. My gift back to Him is to always be humble and to always try to work as hard  as I can. I’ve got to continue to be that way.” (Credit: beliefnet.com)

God has truly blessed Kevin Durant and has given him an unbelivable amount of talent. It’s this kind of God-given talent that can take the Thunder all the way to the NBA Finals this year.

Christian Athlete of the Week: Samuel Eto’o

Most people here in the United States  do not really affiliate with European soccer, but they should know the story of Chelsea striker Samuel Eto’o. He is a French-speaking soccer player from the African country of Cameroon. People started to notice Eto’o when he played for Real Mallorca from 2000-2004 and then he started making big money once he transferred to FC Barcelona and played there till 2009. During that time, he scored 108 goals in 145 appearances for the team. Right now, the 32-year-old is playing for Chelsea and has scored 6 goals in 12 games with the team. He also holds the record for most appearances by an African player in the La Liga. As for international records, he is Cameroon’s all-time leading scorer with 42 goals in 87 international games. He was named the African player of the year four times in 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2010. Not only that, but he became the highest-paid footballer in the world, earning just over $54 million a year when he was traded to Russian team Anzhi Makhachkala back in 2011. What people may not know is that Eto’o is a humble man. After all of the awards and accolades, he still gives all of his praises and attention to God. Take a look at this video:

Throughout his life, Eto’o has been a subject of racism in the La Liga, a soccer league known only to have Spanish white players on the teams. In February of 2005 against a match between Real Zaragoza, the fans made racist gestures and chants every time he possessed the ball on the pitch. They would make monkey sounds and yell curses at him on the field. Through all the adversity, Eto’o remained true to God and has given inspiration to both players and fans alike. Here’s what former teammate and current Barcelona player Andres Iniesta said about what Eto’o meant to the team he once played for.

“History shows that this club has had very few strikers like him. I do not know if there has ever been anyone like him before. What I do know is that Barcelona should erect a statue for him. Samuel was a fundamental player here in recent years and was key to all of the titles that the team won.” Andres Iniesta, August 2009. (Credit: ESPNFC)

In an interview with CNN, Eto’o has been asked about playing for just money and he says that it’s not about riches. In 2006, he established “Fundacion Privada Samuel Eto’o” a charity designed to provide basic healthcare such as ambulances and operation centers. It also trains kids on how to become successful soccer stars. God has clearly provided Eto’o with many blessings, turning him from a poor village boy to an international soccer superstar. Eto’o has returned the favor by supporting those all over the world through his foundation. It just goes to show that God’s love is evident across the globe through athletes like Eto’o. He shows that soccer is more than just a game; it’s a gateway to global peace and harmony.

The Super Bowl Stage is Set

The Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks will be facing each other on February 2nd in Super Bowl XLVIII. It’s never too early to analyze the big game, so why not do it now? Both Denver and Seattle were number one seeds in the playoffs (and both finished with 13-3 records). The last time two number one seeds faced each other in the playoffs, it was when the 13-3 New Orleans Saints faced off against Peyton Manning’s 14-2 Indianapolis Colts in February of 2010. We all know how that went for Peyton. Now Peyton will try again to tie his brother Eli in Super Bowl wins when he faces off a physical Seahawks team. Peyton has not faced a Seattle defense since he’s been a Bronco, so this will be a first for him. The Seahawks have been able to shut down almost every quarterback they’ve played against this year. But then again they haven’t played against a  guy like Peyton Manning either. The best quarterback they played against this season was Drew Brees back on December 2nd and they shut down the Saints’ high-octane offense to just seven points. Manning statistically has had the best season a quarterback could possibly have throwing for 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns. Both are NFL records. He will have his hands full preparing for Seattle’s defense that was first in takeaways this year. Good thing he has a whole two weeks to prepare! As for the Seahawks, they have to make sure that they don’t rely too heavily on the young and inexperienced Russell Wilson. He may be a good quarterback, but the Super Bowl is the ultimate test for handling pressure. Just feed Marshawn Lynch the ball and unleash his “Beast Mode” on the Denver defense. The Broncos are ranked the seventh best run-stopping defense in the NFL, but that’s because Denver’s offense puts up so many points that their opponents are forced to throw the ball to catch up. Meanwhile, the Seahawks have the fourth best rush offense in the NFL. Coach John Fox and Broncos’ defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio have done a good job coaching this defense, but it does have some weaknesses. The Seahawks should do what they do best and that should penetrate Denver’s overrated defense. Another interesting stat to go along with this game is that the number one offense in the NFL (Denver) will be clashing with the number one defense in the NFL (Seattle). The best part of this upcoming Super Bowl is watching Manning dissect Seattle’s defense throughout the game. Let’s hope he knows who Seahawks’ cornerback Richard Sherman is covering when the game starts (he leads the NFL with 8 interceptions).

Marshawn Lynch Credit: thesportsquotient.com
Marshawn Lynch
Credit: thesportsquotient.com

How the Broncos will win: The Seattle Seahawks’ defense is physically the most dominating in the league, so Peyton Manning and offensive coordinator Adam Gase will have to outsmart this defense in order to put points on the board. Once an experienced Peyton Manning figures out an opponent’s weakness, it’s already over.

How the Seahawks will win: Run the ball and keep Manning off the field. Russell Wilson will have to convert third downs with both his arm and his legs, something he’s been doing all season long. Marshawn Lynch should win the Super Bowl MVP after this thing is through. Give him the ball and watch him batter the Broncos’ defense.

Who will win? Sorry Peyton, but looks like you’ll drop to 1-2 in Super Bowls. Everyone knows that defense wins championships and the Seahawks have the best one in the league. Lynch will be jacked up on Skittles and have more than a hundred yards rushing in his first Super Bowl appearance. Wilson won’t put up great stats, but he doesn’t need to with a defense like the Seahawks’. Seattle wins 20-17.

And Then There Were Three

Wisconsin has lost two straight to Indiana and Michigan. Arizona, Syracuse, and Wichita State are now the only undefeated teams left in Division I basketball. Arizona took down in-state rival Arizona State 91-68 last Thursday and will take on a tough Colorado team next Thursday on January 23rd. Syracuse faced Pittsburgh for their first ACC meeting and their 103rd overall last Saturday night and it was the Orangemen that came out on top 59-54. That was Pitt’s first ACC loss of the season and drops them to 16-2 (4-1). Then Wichita State blew out Indiana State 68-48 to go 18-0 for the first time in program history. So why are these three teams still undefeated midway through the season? Well let’s start with Arizona.

Arizona's Aaron Gordon Credit: projectshanks.com
Arizona’s Aaron Gordon
Credit: projectshanks.com

Besides Duke, UNLV, and Michigan, they had a fairly easy non-conference schedule to begin the season. They’re balanced both offensively and defensively. They control the inside of the paint because of super-freshman Aaron Gordon and they pass the ball to the open man (they are 29th in the nation in assists per game). Head Coach Sean Miller has done a terrific job at handling these young athletes so that they can play as one solid unit (they only have one senior on the roster and five freshmen). The only teams that should give Arizona trouble for the rest of the season are Colorado, California, and Oregon. If Arizona could hold up against those guys and the rest of their opponents, they could go undefeated for the rest of the year and head back to that national championship that they’ve been waiting for since 1997. Then there’s Syracuse. Jim Boeheim’s zone defense is looking better than ever thanks to experienced players like C.J. Fair, Jerami Grant, and Rakeem Christmas. The Orange don’t exactly pop out at you on offense, but they say the best defense is the best offense. Speaking of offense, freshman point guard Tyler Ennis has been running the Orange’s offense to literally perfection while senior C.J. Fair is having the best year of his illustrious career averaging 17.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 1.6 steals per game. He will be a sure first round pick in this upcoming NBA draft that is just loaded with talent. For NBA teams, it doesn’t matter if you make the playoffs or not, you will still end up drafting a future superstar player no matter what pick you have in the draft. Last, but not least is Wichita State.

Wichita State's Fred Van Vleet Credit: zimbio.com
Wichita State’s Fred Van Vleet
Credit: zimbio.com

They have been blowing by everyone they have played against. Just like Syracuse, they have a great defense that crashes the boards (they are 31st in the nation in rebounding). During their perfect run, they have not allowed an opponent to score more than 72 points against them all year. After Wisconsin’s loss, they should move up to the third or fourth ranking in the nation, something that Coach Gregg Marshall probably didn’t dream of since he took over the program in 2007. Looking at their schedule, they should remain undefeated unless someone else “shocks” them. Their offense runs through their talented sophomore point guard Fred Van Vleet and their senior big man Cleanthony Early. With this one-two punch on the court, Wichita State could be fighting for a number one seed in the national tournament, something that will really “shock” the world! Sorry about the puns. I just can’t help it! It’s too easy!

So you’ve got the dominating Arizona Wildcats, the smart and experienced Syracuse Orangemen, and the suprisingly talented Wichita State Shockers. Keep your eyes open for these three; either one of them could make history this year.