A Bookend Championship for Napier and UConn

Shabazz Napier started his collegiate career by winning a national championship back in 2011. Now, Napier finishes his collegiate career with another championship. The 7-seeded UConn Huskies defeated the 8-seeded Kentucky 60-54 last night for the NCAA Division I Championship in Dallas, Texas. Napier led his team with 22 points and knocked down four three pointers in the win. He also added in 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals. The senior from Roxbury, Massachusetts won the Final Four MVP for his performance in the upset win against Florida and in leading his team to sweet victory over the Wildcats of Kentucky. He recorded 40 points in the two wins and stole the ball seven times between the two games. He finishes his illustrious career averaging 18 points per game and knocking down 40 percent of his three-pointers. He also finished with a career high in points, rebounds, steals and blocks. He should be a sure 1st round pick in this year’s upcoming draft.

Kevin Ollie led his Connecticut Huskies to an impressive 32-8 record and a 12-6 record in the American Conference. Credit: sportzedge.com
Kevin Ollie led his Connecticut Huskies to an impressive 32-8 record and a 12-6 record in the American Conference.
Credit: sportzedge.com

Head Coach Kevin Ollie did a terrific job coaching in his first NCAA tournament. He is a perfect 6-0 in the national tournament! His team pulled off a lot of upsets during their tournament run, especially over Florida and then Kentucky (two SEC power-houses). The UConn Huskies were very impressive in their championship game, making 10-10 free throws and causing Kentucky to turn the ball over 13 times. They also never fell behind in the game, leading the Wildcats every minute.

In other college basketball news, Doug McDermott of Creighton won the Wooden Player of the Year Award. McDermott finished his career with 3,150 total points, fifth on the all-time scoring list. He eclipsed 3,000 points in his final home game. He was the third player in history to record 3,000 points and 1,000 rebounds. He was the only player in Creighton history to score 750 points in a season, and he did it three years in a row. Gregg Marshall won Coach of the Year for his work at Wichita State. They were the only team to finish undefeated in the regular season. People would be guessing what could have happened if the Shockers defeated Kentucky in that round of 32. Oh well, you can’t win them all I guess. So what’s going to happen next year? Well that’s the most exciting thing about sports: we don’t know. This was a fantastic tournament with a lot of upsets and surprises along the way. It just goes to show that you can never predict anything that happens in these types of games. One thing is for sure though: it was a good season of college basketball and I can’t wait for next year.


NBA Regular Season Closing Shop

The NBA regular season is drawing to a close soon with April 16th being the last day and the last chance for NBA teams to fight for playoff position. So far, the Western Conference is looking dominant while the Eastern Conference has only the Miami Heat and the Indiana Pacers to worry about. I’ll throw in the Toronto Raptors in there as well since they have had a surprisingly well season and the Chicago Bulls are keeping pace without Derrick Rose. As of right now, the Western Conference has nine teams with winning records while the East has only six. Let’s look at some of the recent stories that has been happening in the NBA so far.

Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder put an end to the San Antonio Spurs’ winning streak last night with a 106-94 victory. The Spurs had won 19 games prior to this defeat and Kevin Durant continued his own streak of 39 games with 25 points or more. We have not seen scoring outbursts like this since Michael Jordan did it back in 1986-1987 when he went 40 straight games. This win also proved Oklahoma City’s dominance in the West. With the win, they swept the San Antonio Spurs in their regular season match-ups. There are just eight games left for the Thunder this season, so they can easily catch up to the Spurs for the best in the West. Oklahoma City is only three games behind the Spurs for the 1-seed in the playoffs, so watch out for that as the season rolls along.

The teams with the longest winning streak as of right now are the Miami Heat and the Portland Trail Blazers with four wins in a row. The Heat are coming off a blowout win against the Milwaukee Buck 96-77 without Ray Allen and Dwyane Wade. LeBron James had about average numbers: 17 points, 8 assists and 4 rebounds. However, the Miami Heat won their 30th game at home this season, marking the seventh time in franchise history that they have won that many. As for the Portland Trail Blazers, they defeated the L.A. Lakers 124-112 last Tuesday. Lamarcus Aldridge went off in that victory with 31 points, 15 rebounds and 6 assists. Nick Young of the Lakers went off as well, scoring 40 points in the losing effort. With his contract expiring after this season, he will be looking for a team that will better utilize his talents. Going back to the Trail Blazers, point guard Damian Lillard became the first player in franchise history to make 200 3-pointers in a season when he connected with 8:07 left in the first quarter. With him and Aldridge running the show in Portland, look for them to make a deep run in the playoffs as a 5-seed behind Houston.

Dirk Nowitzki has the Dallas Mavericks moving in the right direction after a critical win against the Los Angeles Clippers. Credit: bleacherreport.com
Dirk Nowitzki has the Dallas Mavericks moving in the right direction after a critical win against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Credit: bleacherreport.com

Another Western Conference match-up that was intriguing last night was the Dallas Mavericks and the L.A. Clippers. Despite Blake Griffin pulling off his first triple-double of the season and his fourth of his career (25 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists), the Mavericks defeated the Clippers 113-107 behind Dirk Nowitzki’s 26 points and 11 rebounds. The ageless wonder shot 10-18 from the field and nailed 4 out of 7 three-pointers. This win helped Dallas move into a 7-seed in the Western Conference playoffs ahead of the 44-31 Memphis Grizzlies. The Mavs avoided getting swept by the Clippers for the first time since 1993-94 and will use that momentum to carry them for the rest of the regular season. Even with the loss, the Clippers still retain the 3-seed with an impressive 54-23 record.

I’m sure more great games will follow as the regular season dwindles down. Players might go off for amazing scoring outbursts and teams might find a way to sneak into the playoffs (like what the Washington Wizards and the Charlotte Bobcats are doing right now). Keep watching the NBA, because things are going to get interesting very soon.

UEFA Champions League Narrowing Down

Two ties on Tuesday and two blowouts on Wednesday. Those were the results of the first round of the UEFA Champions League Quarterfinals this week. Paris Saint-Germain defeated Chelsea 3-1, but with a cost. Their star player Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be out for four weeks due to a hamstring injury. That will hurt PSG’s chances of moving forward in the tournament and in the regular season. Ibrahimovic was the second-best scorer in the entire tournament with 10 goals.

Then there was Real Madrid destroying Borussia Dortmund 3-0. Gareth Bale started the game out strong with a goal in just the 3rd minute and then Isco scored a goal before the end of the first half. Cristiano Ronaldo iced the game with a goal in the 57th minute.

Then on Tuesday, Barcelona tied with Atletico Madrid 1-1 and Manchester United had the same result with Bayern Munich. It is safely assumed that Real Madrid and PSG will advance to the UEFA Semi-Finals, so it is up to the other two intriguing matches to determine who will play these European powerhouses. We will have to wait until April 9th to determine how the rest of the tournament will favor. That’s when Barcelona will get their rematch with La Liga rival Atletico Madrid and when Manchester United battles with Bayern Munich once more.

Cristiano Ronaldo is playing at another level right now. He leads everyone in the UEFA Champions League with 14 goals in just 8 games. Lionel Messi of Barcelona is 3rd with 8. Going back to Ronaldo, he has scored more goals than games played total this year. In La Liga, he has played 27 and scored 28, along with 8 assists. He has always been battling with Lionel Messi to determine who the best footballer in the world is. As for right now, Ronaldo is holding that spot, seeing that his team has been doing great in the Champions League tournament.

As for La Liga, Atletico Madrid is on top of the table, followed by Barcelona and then Real Madrid. Barcelona leads the league in goals scored with 89 and have only allowed 25 scored against them. Real Madrid are second in goals scored, but their goal differential is 10 less than Barcelona’s. With everything moving forward and the Champions Legue dwindling down, this looks like it would be a big showdown between great European teams.

Christian Athlete of the Week: Robert Griffin III

Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III had an amazing rookie year in 2012, but then had a disappointing sophomore slump last season due to his recovery from his torn ACL. He is looking to rebound this year with the addition of new weapons on offense such as Andre Roberts of the Arizona Cardinals and just recently DeSean Jackson from the Philadelphia Eagles. As for his past, RG3 is the son of military parents, who moved from Japan, to Washington state, to New Orleans and then settled in Copperas Cove, Texas. While at Baylor, RG3 set records and became the first player from that university to win the Heisman. Griffin earned his bachelor’s degree in three years, finishing with a 3.67 GPA in political science and then got his masters in communications. God has entrusted him with a unique combination of outstanding intellect and world-class speed. And he has been an excellent steward of his gifts. Here’s what he has to say about being a Christian:

“I was heavily influenced by my parents to learn discipline,” he said. “But my relationship with God was my most important influence. I’ve been in the church since I was 7. My parents didn’t push it on us but they made sure we grew up in the church, so that’s all we know, that’s what we do.” (Credit: gospellightminute.wordpress.com)

Being the starting quarterback puts a lot of pressure on a young man like RG3. He knows that God is with him to handle the pressure and any other kind of adversity that comes along with it. He also knows that being on a big stage allows you to represent God rather than yourself.

“God gives you the stage to make a difference and not to just talk about yourself, but lift Him up,” he said. “There are a lot of different types of Christians everywhere, but my biggest thing is it’s not our job to judge; it’s just our job to go out, praise Him, let people know what He’s doing, and let people follow if they want to. So I praise God, I thank him for everything. Purposefully, you live every day for Him, and when He gives you the opportunity to speak up for Him or to do something in His name, you do it.”

As a huge Redskins fan, RG3 is one of my favorite players. He is such an explosive athlete on the field and he is always looking to help the local D.C. community along with other great Redskins players. Last year, Griffin helped raise a grand total of $400,000 for cancer research. That’s just one example of what kind of charitable work he does, but the point I’m trying to make is that there are few guys in the NFL that young kids can look up to and be inspired by. Luckily, RG3 is one of those few.

An Unseen Final Four

Well this was not expected. Florida, Kentucky, Wisconsin and UConn are in the Final Four this year. Florida, I saw coming. But Kentucky as an 8-seed was pretty surprising. Wisconsin as a 2-seed was overlooked in this entire tournament. Then there’s 7-seed UConn, the last team to beat Florida and guess who they play in the Final Four? Florida. In one of my brackets, I have Florida winning the whole thing, but I did not have the other three teams in any of my other brackets I filled out. We could see Florida playing Kentucky in the championship game, and this would be the fourth meeting these guys have all year, with Florida winning the last three match-ups. Then again, if UConn could beat Florida, they can do it again. Shabazz Napier has had an up and down year. The senior from Roxbury, Massachusetts has made a lot of big-time plays, but has also been known to turn the ball over many times. In his last game against Michigan State, he had 25 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists in the upset win. Watch him get the ball in his hands a lot in the game against Florida on Saturday.

Then how about Wisconsin? People thought that they were not worthy of tournament play back when they lost five out of six games from January 14th to February 1st. People forget that they started out the season with a 16-game winning streak and that they have one of the best defenses in the country. Badger center Frank Kaminsky has also been playing great. The seven-foot junior can play great inside and can knock down some outside shots as well. In the overtime win against Arizona, he had 28 points and 11 rebounds. If he can put up that kind of performance against Kentucky this Saturday, the Badgers could be playing for their second national championship. Their last NCAA tournament win was back in 1941! It’s safe to say that these guys don’t know what it’s like to win in recent years unlike the other three teams in this tournament.

One of those other three is Kentucky, who won their last national championship back in 2012. People didn’t think that Kentucky would do good this year because they lost 10 games, three of those games to Florida. But people might not know that Kentucky was ranked 5th in the nation in rebounds per game. They know how to crash the boards and give their team extra possessions. Julius Randle has been very effective for his team, as well as the Harrison twins in the backcourt. Aaron Harrison knocking down that 3-pointer with just 2.3 seconds left in the game shattered the hearts of the Michigan Wolverines. If Kentucky can play with that same kind of emotion and energy, they could look to avenge their last three meetings against their SEC rival.

Credit: sportsillustrated.cnn.com
Julius Randle has been phenomenal in this tournament so far. The freshman from Dallas, Texas has had a double-double in every national tournament match-up. Credit: sportsillustrated.cnn.com

I believe that if Florida loses this game to UConn, it would be the biggest upset in the tournament, even bigger than Mercer beating Duke. The Gators are the best team in this entire tournament and a lot of people (including me) have them winning it all. The way this tournament has been going, I’m not sure I can trust a team to win such a critical game. This last March has truly been nothing but madness.