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.
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.
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.
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.
Well I can safely say that no one expected this! Over nine million people participated in the tournament challenge and none of them have a perfect bracket. Including me! In my best bracket, I’m ranked in the top two million in the country and I have Arizona beating Florida in the national championship and winning the whole thing. From the looks of things, I could be right! Arizona only has to defeat San Diego State and either Baylor or Wisconsin in the Elite Eight. Let’s review on some of the crazy things that has happened in the past week.
Duke just can’t get it done in the tournament. They did fairly well last year, losing to the eventual national champion Louisville in the Elite Eight, but in 2012, Duke lost to Lehigh in the first round as a 2-seed! Ever since they won the national championship in 2010, Duke has fallen short of expectations. For a Tar Heel fan like me, that was awesome when Mercer defeated them in the first round 78-71! Don’t worry Blue Devils, you’re going to have a great team next year with the addition of Jahlil Okafor, the best overall player in high school recruiting. With this dominating center joining Mike Krzyzewski’s team next season, Duke will remain as a deadly force in the national tournament.
Kentucky making headlines. The Wildcats were not expected to go far in the national tournament this year after falling out of the top 25 in the last week of the regular season. However, they were the only team to beat Wichita State this year after the 78-76 victory on Sunday. The Shockers were shocked this time as Julius Randle put up 13 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists with the Harrison twins combining for 39 points in the win. If Kentucky can beat Louisville on Friday, they will look like a team that’s ready to make a case for another championship.
Goodbye Doug McDermott. After Baylor crushed Creighton 85-55, senior Doug McDermott played his last college game. He finished as the 5th all-time leading scorer in college basketball history and will probably land with a good team in the NBA as a mid to late first round pick in the upcoming draft. The Creighton Bluejays put up a good run, but now they will have to watch from afar as Baylor plays Wisconsin on Thursday.
There were a lot of other story lines involved in this tournament, but now that the Sweet Sixteen has been decided, I’m sure that even more stories will unfold with these teams. Hopefully the rest of the tournament will provide just as much fun and excitement as the last games have produced.
The 2014 NCAA Men’s National Tournament has finally arrived and true March Madness is here. With all 68 teams fighting to get to the big dance, college basketball will start to get a little more interesting. My favorite team UNC is in the tournament as a 6-seed, but I doubt that they will last too long. Last year, I picked Indiana to win the whole thing, but I was wrong. My 2013 bracket was pretty bad. I only got just over half of the picks right. I tried again this year to fill out my bracket and we’ll see what happens. I won’t give you all of my exact picks, but I will make some predictions!
Fantastic, fabulous, whichever alliteration you like best, but the teams with these freakishly talented freshmen will make it far in the tournament, but I don’t think a team with one of these freshmen will win the whole thing. Kentucky was the last team that had a fabulous freshman (Anthony Davis) to win the title. Although these freshmen do a great job of carrying these teams, they don’t have a lot of experience to carry them all the way to the top. I have Jabari Parker (the winner of the freshman of the year award) and Duke losing to Wichita State in the Elite Eight. Syracuse and freshman point guard Tyler Ennis will go very far in the tournament (I have them in the Elite Eight against Syracuse), but this Syracuse team has weaknesses and people are starting to figure them out. C.J. Fair will help Ennis carry the load, but Syracuse has too many obstacles to overcome in this tournament. Aaron Gordon and Arizona have the best shot at winning the title, but I have them losing in the Final Four to the upset-minded Wichita State Shockers! Then there is a team with two fabulous freshman on the squad: Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid for Kansas. Embiid is still battling a back injury and no one knows how well he will be able to perform in an enduring tournament full of heated competition. Wiggins showed that he could carry the team on his back with the 41 scoring outburst in the loss at West Virginia and a barrage of points in the overtime win against Oklahoma State with 30. However, he has also managed to turn the ball over in crucial moments and the rest of his team isn’t at the same level. I have Kansas losing early in the Sweet Sixteen to Syracuse.
The 1-seeds are very promising this year. Wichita State is always ready to give an unexpected performance of brilliance, Virginia could create a lot of bracket busting with their surprising rise in the ACC tournament, Florida is the number one team in the nation (their last loss was at Connecticut on December 2nd), and Arizona’s strength and athleticism outshines their weaknesses and flaws. Virginia is the only team I don’t have in the Final Four because I have them losing to a very well-coached and experienced Michigan State team in the Elite Eight. Virginia’s run in the big dance would make for a great story, but sometimes happy endings don’t come for most Cinderella teams. The two teams I have in the National Championship are two number one seeds: Florida and Wichita State. I believe in the Shockers and think that they can go all the way, unfortunately they’re going to hit a brick wall against Florida. Billy Donovan is too good of a coach to let the drama of an undefeated team beat his club. His coaching and his player’s experience in big games (mostly against Kentucky) will be his advantage in the Gator’s national championship win. Donovan is a very underrated coach who has been overshadowed by Kentucky’s star power over the last few years. I strongly believe that he will solidify his place as one of the greats with this win in the national championship.
If I had to pick a wild-card to win it all, I would go with two teams: Michigan State and Louisville. Tom Izzo’s Spartans have been overlooked this year, but they are quietly one of the best teams in the country. If they could beat Florida in the Final Four, then they deserve to win the national title instead of them. Louisville could win back-to-back championships if they play their cards right. If they properly utilize the talents of Russ Smith and Montrezl Harrell, then that deadly combination could lead them to victory once more. Not only that, but Luke Hancock has some experience in big games and is always ready to put up a big performance if asked (he did it before last year). Louisville would possibly have to beat Wichita State, Duke and Arizona if they were going to go all the way again.
So there you have it. Don’t rely too much on my understanding, but this is what I believe will happen this year. Then again, you can never correctly what is going to happen in all the madness that is the month of March. All I know is that the team with the most experience is going to be the one to win it all. Freshmen are great and talented, but talent always falls short to the heart of the champion. Never underestimate the heart of a champion!
As the regular season draws to a close and the NCAA tournament is starting to unfold, let’s review some of the big moments that happened this weekend that could affect your decision-making when filling out your brackets. First off, Doug McDermott scored a career-high 45 points and became the eighth player in Division I
history to go over 3,000 for a career. Not only did he surpass Oscar Robertson on the scoring list, but he also helped No. 13 Creighton roll to an 88-73 Senior Night victory over Providence on Saturday. He’s one of the finalists for the John Wooden Basketball Player of the Year award. If he wins, it will just be a delicious icing on the cake for an illustrious career at Creighton. He’s also the only senior on that list; the rest of the finalists being freshmen: Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle and Tyler Ennis.
Speaking of Parker, his Duke Blue Devils got revenge on North Carolina by beating them 93-81. Parker solidified himself as one of the best players in the country with his fourth straight double-double and a career-high 30 points, which is the most ever by a Duke freshman against UNC. The Blue Devils also won their 33rd straight home game. The last team to beat them at home was, you guessed it, North Carolina back in 2012. After Syracuse defeated Florida State today, the Blue Devils become the 3-seed in the ACC tournament and the Tar Heels drop to the 4-seed.
Probably one of the biggest news and highlight of the year was Wichita State going undefeated in the regular season. The last team to do that was UNLV back in 1991. The Shockers defeated Missouri State yesterday 67-42 and then won the conference title today against Indiana State 83-69. This Wichita State team might be for real even though they have beaten some poor teams. I would still watch out for them when filling out my bracket.
Another team that won their conference title today was Saint Louis. It is their second straight Atlantic-10 title and they did it by beating Massachusetts 64-62. This is another under-the-radar team that could also go far in the NCAA tournament, so give them some respect when making your bracket! As for another conference title story, this one is a little more interesting. Louisville and Cincinnati both won yesterday, making them share the American conference title. To determine seeding in the conference tournament, a coin toss commenced. Cincinnati won the coin toss, making them the number one seed in the AAC tournament. I’m sure Rick Pitino of Louisville was pretty upset about that.
Speaking of upsets, Oregon took down Arizona 64-57 yesterday to give the Ducks their 7th straight win. It was the largest margin of defeat for the Wildcats this season, but they shouldn’t be too worried heading into the NCAA tournament. They still get a number one seed in the big dance. Another big upset occurred in the ACC today and that’s when Maryland defeated ACC-champion Virginia 75-69. Maryland’s Dez Wells and Seth Allen combined for 38 points in the big win over their big rival. This loss wasn’t too devastating to the Cavaliers, but they should learn from this loss if they want to go far in the national tournament.
The Florida Gators won 30 games this year and the SEC tournament starts on March 12th.
One team that is on a roll right now is Florida. There is no denying that they are the best team in the country right now after pulling off an undefeated SEC conference season. They devoured Kentucky 84-65 for their club-record 23rd straight win. These Gators will be tough to take down when the national championship is on the line.
While Florida was going off on Kentuck, Andrew Wiggins was going off on West Virginia yesterday. He scored a career-high and Kansas freshman-record 41 points, showing everyone why he should be considered a top pick in the upcoming NBA draft. The Jayhawks lost, but Wiggins showed that he could carry a team on his back. Joel Embiid was out with injury, which was probably why Wiggins took so many shots, but the Jayhawks were never out of the game. The 92-86 loss was Kansas’ eighth of the season, but when Embiid comes back from injury, they should be a force in the tournament.
Last story I want to share is teams getting in that haven’t in a while. Eastern Kentucky will make its first tournament appearance since 2007 after a 79-73 win over Belmont yesterday. The Colonels are probably a team that will get kicked out of the big dance in the first round, but who knows, there might be another Cinderella in the making! Another possible Cinderella could be Mercer. After beating former Cinderella team Florida Gulf Coast, they secured their first berth in the tournament since 1985! Then Coastal Carolina will make an appearance after missing the tournament for 21 years! They defeated Winthrop to attain the Big South title.
March Madness is already upon us and it’s nearly time to predict those bracket busters. A lot of teams have the possibility of winning the championship this year. Never count out Wichita State, although they might have their hearts broken in the Elite Eight or the Final Four when they play teams like Florida, Syracuse or Arizona. If I were to pick a champ right now, it would be Florida. They have a very talented and experienced roster and are well coached by Billy Donovan. However, Kansas might be that wild-card pick with the deadly combo of Wiggins and Embiid. So just sit back and enjoy this one folks, because in college basketball, you never know what’s going to happen!
It’s been a crazy couple of days for college basketball. First, we’ll start with the biggest win of all: UNC defeating NC State 85-84 in overtime on Wednesday. I’m a big Carolina fan and I was nervous the entire game! The lead kept changing on every possession and it pretty much went down to this: whoever had the ball last will win the game. Well, UNC sophomore point guard Marcus Paige took the last shot of the game and ended up winning it for the Tar Heels. He finished that shootout of a game with 35 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals. The way he’s been playing this year, it wouldn’t surprise me if he won ACC Player of the Year. The Tar Heels have now won 10 games in a row, all of those wins coming in the ACC. They beat NC State earlier in the year 84-70 and this win was show who the best Carolina team is this year. Now UNC will have to keep this streak alive when they travel to Virginia Tech this Saturday. Another team that won by the skin of their teeth was Michigan. They defeated Purdue in overtime as well, winning 77-76 last Wednesday. Glenn Robinson III had the game-winning basket and led his team with 17 points. The Wolverines have faded away from national championship contention talks, but they’re starting to pick things up again after that win against Michigan State on February 23rd.
That same Wednesday night, Virginia improves to 15-1 in the ACC after a 65-40 win over Miami (Florida). They are quietly becoming a force to be reckoned with in this loaded conference. Their only loss came at Duke, but they have also beaten UNC and Pitt earlier this year. It’s hard to believe that they are 12th in the nation right now! Watch out for the Cavaliers when the ACC tournament comes around in March!
Then Thursday night, we had a few upsets. Duquesne takes down Saint Louis 71-64, to give the Billikens their first conference loss of the season. What’s even more embarrassing is that Duquesne has a losing record: 12-15 overall and 4-10 in the Atlantic 10 conference. Saint Louis was ranked 10th in the nation, so we’ll see how far they drop next week. Also, Arkansas beat Kentucky again! The Razorbacks pull off their second-best win of the season, beating the Wildcats 71-67 in another overtime game. That win gives Arkansas a winning record in the SEC (8-7). Michael Qualls proves to be a nightmare for John Calipari. In the last game, he scored the game-winning put back dunk and in this game, he led this team with 14 points and 3 steals. Kentucky getting swept by Arkansas will definitely affect their rankings next week. Hopefully they can get back on track at South Carolina this Saturday.
The last game I want to mention is also an upset. Penn State, one of the worst teams in the Big Ten, took down Ohio State 65-63. All seven of Ohio State’s losses were against Big Ten opponents. This does not bode well for them in the upcoming conference tournament. What’s even worse is that Penn State beat Ohio State earlier this year, a 71-70 victory in overtime. If Ohio State wants to make it far in the national tournament, they’re going to have to worry about beating their own conference opponents first.
Recently, Duke has been dominating UNC in college basketball. Not tonight! The Tar Heels beat the Blue Devils 74-66 for their 8th straight win. Shooting guard Leslie McDonald led the way with 21 points for UNC and point guard Marcus Paige exploded in the second half with 13 points and four assists, guiding the Tar Heels to the sweet victory at home. This year, UNC is 5-1 against ranked teams, which is a pretty good stat for an unranked team. As a Tar Heel fan myself, I was very proud of the win tonight. UNC has done well lately after a rough start to the season. Their free throw percentage was absolutely horrible in the first half of the game (as it has been all season), but they picked it back up in the second half and played with a lot more intensity on defense. Duke’s phenomenal freshman Jabari Parker still managed to get a double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds, but UNC was able to shut down the Blue Devils’ three-point shooting in the win. Duke only made five three-pointers tonight, when they usually average somewhere around ten made per game. The Tar Heels were also grabbing rebounds all game long. They are ranked 8th in the nation in rebounds per game and that stat was true tonight. Those offensive rebounds gave UNC second chances that was probably the main key to the win. This win will definitely be savored for a while, but UNC now has to focus on Wake Forest on Saturday.
Syracuse drops to 25-1 after the 62-59 upset loss to Boston College! That means that Wichita State is the only undefeated team in college basketball right now. Olivier Hanlan scored 20 points for the Eagles, but Ryan Anderson was the MVP of the upset win with 9 points, 14 rebounds, four assists and two blocks. His performance helped seal the win for Boston College. Syracuse’s loss could attribte to their inefficency off the bench. None of the bench players scored points, while Boston College’s bench player, Patrick Heckmann had nine points. Fortunately for Syracuse, they can still easily be considered the best team in the nation. They have gone against fierce competitors and their strong play on defense could help them out greatly in the national championship run.
As for Wichita State, they only have three games left in the regular season after the win over Loyola-Illinois. Syracuse’s loss will also put Wichita State to #2 in the nation behind Florida, who just won their game against Auburn to keep them undefeated in the SEC. Things are starting to look interesting in college basketball now. The last team to go undefeated in college basketball was the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers led by Coach Bob Knight. Wichita State has a chance to join that elite club of only seven other undefeated squads (John Wooden and UCLA did it four times). They have a good shot of doing it to with only Drake, Bradley and Missouri State left to play in the Missouri Valley Conference.
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.
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.
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!
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