Goin’ Back To Cali…

LL Cool J is back again as I wrap up the first weekend NCAA Tournament recaps.  The LL video will come up again later. The West Regional Finals will be played in Los Angeles at the Staples Center. Let’s all pour out a little liquor for the Lakers fans. The Sweet 16 matchups are stacked with storylines. On one side the methodical Wisconsin Badgers will be going up against the fast pace North Carolina Tar Heels and on the other side Sean Miller leads his Arizona Wildcats in to face his old ballclub Xavier. There’s also the fact that Sean Miller is still chasing his first appearance in the Final Four and could meet up with the school (Wisconsin) that put him out of last year’s tournament during the Elite 8. There’s also a bit of history between UNC and Wisconsin. Ten years ago the Tar Heels knocked off the Badgers in the Elite 8 leading them to the Final Four and eventually winning the National Championship. I’ll warn you; this post will get Arizona heavy towards the end. (I’m a fan of the Arizona Wildcats)

Bringing things back to the 2015 Tournament where the (1) Badgers will face (4) UNC in the first Sweet 16 matchup of the West Region. Wisconsin made their way to Staples Center by beating Coastal Carolina and Oregon. Against Coastal Carolina, the Badgers got a solid 27 and 12 from big man Frank Kaminsky. Kaminsky did damage beyond the arc (3-5) and in the post. He also chipped in 4 assists. It is those numbers that have many slating Kaminsky as the College Player of the Year and a potential NBA Lottery pick. Forwards Sam Dekker and Nigel Hayes also helped. Dekker would score 20 points with 12 coming via the long ball (4-8) and Hayes was a beast on the offensive glass grabbing 7 of his 8 total rebounds on that end. He also scored 15 points. The game against Oregon provided a preview of what we may see against UNC. Like the Tar Heels, Oregon wanted to speed up the tempo and score in bunches. The Badgers were able to withstand a 30 point outburst from the Duck’s Joseph Young. Young was voted the Player of the Year in the Pac-12 by the league coaches. The Badgers got double digit scoring from 4 starters and contained the other Oregon threats. Wisconsin also shot 29 (21-29) free throws to the Ducks 7 (5-7). At the 6:06 mark, Wisconsin only led by 1 point. The Badgers outscored Oregon 22 – 16 to end the game. North Carolina beat Harvard and Arkansas to reach the Sweet 16. This is UNC’s 31st appearance in the Sweet 16 and 7th under the watch of head coach Roy Williams. The first game of the tournament was a test for the Tar Heels. Harvard battled back from an 11-point halftime deficit to tie the game late. But with the game knotted at 65 and 31 seconds left on the clock, Carolina got a defensive stop and layup from Justin Jackson to take a 2 point lead. They then held Harvard scoreless twice. The final stop came via an excellent challenge by J.P. Tokoto. On Harvard’s final possession Tokoto forced the game’s high scorer Wesley Saunders (23 points and 5 assists) to take a tough 3 from the top of the key that banged high off of the backboard and rim. It wasn’t pretty but UNC got double digits from 3 starters along with 9 points off of the bench from forward Isaiah Hicks. In the Round of 32, UNC stepped away from Arkansas. Arkansas shot horribly from the field and turned the ball over 21 times. Many of them unforced and capitalized on by the Tar Heels. Brice Johnson led UNC with 13 rebounds before fouling out. Freshman Justin Jackson had a big game with 16 points and “Mr. Second Half” Marcus Paige scored 22 points while grabbing 6 rebounds and 5 steals. J.P. Tokoto had another solid all around game with 13 points, 8 assists, and 5 rebounds. The Tar Heels will need their big men to play foul free against Wisconsin. Both Hicks and Johnson fouled out while Kennedy Meeks never really got going because of his four fouls and the pace of the game.

Stepping out of the lower half of the bracket is (6) Xavier and (2) Arizona. Xavier reached the Sweet 16 by beating Ole Miss and Georgia State. Ole Miss scored the game’s first three points and never saw the lead again.   The Musketeers went to center Matt Stainbrook who responded with 20 points – 9 rebounds – 5 assists. The big man was 8-10 from the field and a perfect 4-4 from the foul line. He was also helped by guard Dee Davis who scored 17 points and forward James Farr who grabbed 13 rebounds. It was a disappointing end to a stellar career from Jackson, MS native and Provine High alum Jarvis Summers. Summers went 0-8 from the field and was held scoreless while dishing out 7 assists. Xavier’s next opponent was the Georgia St. Panthers. The Panthers reached the 3rd Round by knocking off (3) Baylor. GSU got a game winning three pointer from R.J. Hunter in that contest. Hunter would score 20 points against Xavier but it wasn’t enough. The Musketeers got a big contribution off of the bench from forward Jalen Reynolds. He scored 21 points on 8-9 shooting while Dee Davis stepped up again with 15 points and 5 assists. Xavier shot a whopping 22-25 from the line with Davis leading the way by going 8 for 9. In the Sweet 16, Xavier will see a familiar face in former coach Sean Miller. Miller leads Arizona into Los Angeles following wins over Texas Southern and Ohio State. As expected the Wildcats breezed by TxSU behind a stellar 23 points and 10 rebounds from shimmying sophomore Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. Outstanding freshman forward Stanley Johnson also threw in 22 and 5. All five starters reached double digits. Ohio St. provided a much tougher task for Zona. After leading by only one point at the half Arizona went to work. Guard T.J. McConnell started a trend by knocking down an early 3. Gabe York followed by knocking down 4 treys in the half. Both McConnell and York finished with 19 points. Hollis-Jefferson put in 11 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 assists to round out the Wildcats performance. Arizona pounded the Buckeyes on the glass to the tune of a 43 – 26 advantage. They also hounded standout freshman guard D’Angelo Russell into a 3-19 shooting night. Ohio State shot just 38.5% as a team.

So I reach the point where I have to acknowledge the only blemish on Sean Miller’s resume. Yep it is that he lacks a trip to the Final Four. Standing in his way are 3 big tasks. The first is facing Xavier. In order to reach Indianapolis; Miller has to knock off his old team. It has been 6 seasons since he last coached the Cincinnati school but I know it’ll be a bittersweet moment if he beats them. His second challenge should they win will either be Wisconsin – the team that snatched away a trip to the Final Four in 2014 and that also happens to be the place where he started his coaching career in 1992-1993 as a Graduate Assistant – or the storied program of North Carolina. I already mentioned UNC’s numerous trips to the Sweet 16 but they also can boast about the 18 trips they’ve made to the Final Four, the last of which was in their 2009 National Championship season. Lastly there are Arizona’s post season struggles in the state of California under Miller. The list includes two Pac-12 Final losses in Staples Center (2011 and 2012), 2011 Elite 8 defeat in Anaheim (UCONN eventual Champs), 2013 Sweet 16 defeat in Los Angeles (Ohio State), and 2014 Elite 8 defeat in Anaheim (Wisconsin). After all is said and done I think Arizona will make their long awaited return (2001) to the Final Four and first in Coach Sean Miller’s career. Like another “Sean” we know, Miller will finally be famous in this…

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Goin’ Back To Cali…

WildCats…Basketball

The Kentucky Invitational or should I say the Midwest Region had a very tidy 2nd Round. Despite there being a few close endings, all of the higher seeds won. It was the 3rd Round that gave us two wins by lower seeds. The two lower seeds to prevail were (5) West Virginia and (7) Wichita State. (1) Kentucky and (3) Notre Dame round out the Sweet 16 in this region.

There were a couple of matchups that pitted teams from close vicinities against each other. Notre Dame knocked off instate rival Butler and the Shockers from Wichita, Kansas handled “big brother” Kansas University to advance to the Sweet 16. Notre Dame made their way to Cleveland, Ohio with two close wins (69-65 over Northeastern and 67-64 over the Bulldogs). In the opening matchup, NE crushed the perimeter oriented Irish on the boards – 33 to 17 – but turned the ball over 16 times.   The Fighting Irish only had 7 turnovers and they attempted 8 more free throws. Zach Auguste led the Irish with 25 points and steady senior guard Jerian Grant provided 17 points and 5 assists. Up by 2 with 3 seconds remaining, Grant came up with a steal. Auguste was fouled after the steal and went to the free throw line and made two free throws to ice the game. The 2nd game for the Irish was close from start to finish. Butler and ND played a thrilling OT game that saw the ACC tourney champs win by 3. The game was forced into OT after Notre Dame kept Butler from scoring in the waning seconds of regulation. In overtime, Grant scored or assisted on 7 of Notre Dame’s 12 points and finished the night with a 16 point -5 assists -5 rebound stat line. Grant and Butler’s Kameron Woods both played all 45 minutes of the contest. Steve Vasturia led the Irish with 20 points and guard Demetrius Jackson chipped in with 13 points. Despite shooting 6 for 20 from 3 the Irish battled to the win. They’ll need senior guard Pat Connaughton to improve his shooting in their next matchup. Connaughton shot 2-9 from 3-point range in the opening weekend games. Wichita St. advanced to the Round of 16 by beating two storied Men’s College Basketball teams. First they knocked off the Indiana Hoosiers 81-76 behind a career high tying 27-point performance from Fred VanVleet. Ron Baker chipped in with 15 points. Despite his poor shooting from the field, Baker was able to knock down 9 out of 10 at the charity stripe. In their hyped 3rd Round matchup, the Shockers faced Kansas. Senior guard Tekele Cotton led the way with 19 points and Fred VanVleet turned in another solid game with 17 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, and 4 steals. All five Wichita St. starters posted double figures while defensively they held KU to 35% shooting from the field. Wichita State started the 2nd half with a 3-point lead and broke the game open with a 12-4 run in the first 4 minutes.

In the top half of the Midwest Region Kentucky and West Virginia advanced. After not having his phone call answered by Jesus, Hampton’s head coach Edward Joyner, Jr. watched as the number 1 Wildcats of Kentucky had their way. Karl-Anthony Towns led the way with a double double (21 and 11). In their second game, UK played Cincinnati. It was a very ugly first 12:30 for both teams. At the official under 8 timeout the score was 17-16 in favor of UK. By the end of the first half Kentucky had a 7-point lead and it wasn’t much looking back from there. The Wildcats used their superior team depth and length to wear down the Bearcats. Cincy was also hampered by an injury to forward Octavius Ellis. Both teams shot under 40% from the field and Cincinnati held a 7-rebound advantage at the conclusion of the game. The difference was Kentucky doubled up on the number of free throw shots made and attempted by Cincy. Trey Lyles posted 11 points and 11 rebounds while Andrew Harrison scored 13 points. The Wildcats will face the West Virginia Mountaineers in the Sweet 16. WVU got there by beating Buffalo in their opening game and then knocking off Maryland. The Mountaineers were able to hold off the stingy Buffalo Bulls with clutch shooting from Tarik Phillip. After building an 11-point lead in the 2nd half, WVU saw it get erased by the 2:44 mark. With the game tied at 62, Devin Williams stepped to the line with 2:10 left to play and gave WVU the lead for good. After two Buffalo timeouts, Williams grabbed two crucial rebounds for the Mountaineers. One was on the defensive end following a missed layup by Justin Moss and the other came on the offensive end after Gary Browne missed a three pointer. Bob Huggins took a timeout after the rebound and set up a play. Senior guard Juwan Staten found Phillip in the corner for a 3 to ice the game with 29 seconds remaining. Staten had 15 points and 7 assists and Devin Williams put up 17 and 9 rebounds. West Virginia followed up their opening win with a victory over Maryland. Devin Williams backed up his first tournament game with a 16 points and 10 rebounds performance. The Mountaineers had 3 other starters post double-digit points. But the story of the game was 23 turnovers by Maryland. WVU is the Nation’s team leaders in steals per game and snatched 15 on Sunday. A factor leading to those 23 turnovers was the head injury to Maryland’s outstanding freshman guard Melo Trimble. Trimble was knocked out of the game briefly after a hard screen by WVU. He returned and but was again forced out for good after being kneed in the head on a play by teammate Damonte Dodd. WVU is making their first trip to the Sweet 16 since reaching the Final Four in 2010. They have the unenviable task of facing Kentucky but freshman guard Daxter Miles, Jr. is very confident after stating that Kentucky will “be 36-1” after Thursday’s game.

WVU brings a tough defense to the table versus UK but will they have enough depth and scoring to overcome the Wildcats? I don’t think they will and I’m sure UK will be motivated after the comments from Miles. The matchup between Notre Dame and Wichita St. should be entertaining. Two teams that can get in the open court and put up points when needed. Guard play between the two teams will be important and I’m looking forward to the matchup of VanVleet-Grant but the deciding factor will be post play. In the end I see UK coming out of this region.

A little fun with one of my favorite movies…Wildcats. You got Goldie Hawn, a young Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson, and the legendary Nipsey Russell. The movie is full of great quotes, a cameo and song from LL Cool J. It’s a football movie but I’m sure we can sub in “basketball” for the chorus in this song.

WildCats…Basketball

Haters Gonna Hate

I’ve dubbed the South Region as “the group of hate” for the 2015 Men’s NCAA Tournament. The 4 remaining teams are (1) Duke, (2) Gonzaga, (5) Utah, and (11) UCLA. Somehow UCLA found their way into the tournament and thanks in part to a very questionable goaltending call they’re still here. The Duke hate needs no explanation. Gonzaga was getting hate because some expected them to check out early similar to Villanova and Virginia. And then there’s Utah who no one really hates. The Utes are guilty by association. Similar to a cool guy/girl that hangs with a group of people that everybody else dislikes. The Sweet 16 match ups for this region fall as such: Duke vs Utah and Gonzaga vs UCLA.

Duke cruised into the Sweet 16 with victories over Robert Morris and San Diego State. After crushing Robert Morris in the opening game, the Blue Devils got out to an early lead over SDSU and never looked back. The Aztec’s inability to score the basketball really hampered them in this game. They shot a dismal 33% overall from the field and 15.4% from 3. Duke got another big scoring game from Super Frosh Jahlil Okafor. Okafor put up 26pts on 12-16 shooting from the field while grabbing 6 boards and blocking 3 shots. The only negative for Okafor so far is that he’s only grabbed 9 rebounds in 2 games. Justise Winslow has taken up the slack by grabbing 23 rebounds in 2 games with 12 of those against SDSU. Quinn Cook had another double digit scoring night to balance out the Dukies. Duke is now 17-2 in their last 19 games with both defeats coming to Sweet 16 bound and 2015 ACC Tourney Champ Notre Dame. Utah heads into their Sweet 16 date with Duke after beating Stephen F. Austin and Georgetown. In both matchups the Utes were able to stifle key players; SF Austin only scored 50 points which was well below their team average of 79.5 ppg and the Hoyas shot a rough 9-25 from deep and 24-55 overall. Utah got balanced scoring with 6 players scoring at least 9 points in their win over G’Town. Brandon Taylor led the way with 14 points. To beat Duke, the Utes 11th overall scoring defense will need to step up once again and they’ll need to control the pace of the ballgame. They have a couple of 7-footers that they’ll throw at Okafor.

Gonzaga made their way to the Sweet 16 with wins over North Dakota State and Iowa.  The game against NDSU was competitive and high scoring. The Zags had a 13-point halftime cushion but that didn’t stop the Bison from battling. North Dakota State was able to cut the Zags lead to 6 points with 6:07 remaining but Gonzaga responded with an 11-4 run to put the game out of reach. Kentucky transfer Kyle Wiltjer led the game in points with 23 and grabbed 8 rebounds. Guard Kevin Pangos paced the Zags with 18 points and 5 assists. Gonzaga shot lights out in their win over Iowa. 61.5% overall and 10-16 from beyond the arc. Kyle Wiltjer had another solid game with 24 points on 10-12 shooting (4-6 from 3). Pangos scored in double figures again with 16 and freshman big man Domantas Sabonis (son of former Portland Trail Blazers and Lithuania star Arvydas Sabonis) dropped 18 and 9 on the Hawkeyes. Iowa had a tough night from long range and got outrebounded by 12. The Bruins of UCLA, to many people’s disgust entered the tourney as an 11-seed and faced SMU in their opening game. After leading at the half, UCLA found themselves down by 9 at the 4:33 mark of the 2nd half and then 7 with 1:26 to play. UCLA got a 3 from Bryce Alford to make the score 59-55 for SMU with 1:06 to play. After a few wasted possessions by both teams, Norman Powell stepped to the line for UCLA and made 2 free throws with 29 seconds left in the game to cut SMU’s lead to 2. The Bruins were able to get a steal with 26 seconds left and called timeout. Coming out of the timeout, the Bruins ran a play for Bryce Alford who was 8-10 from 3 at that point. Alford came off of a curl screen and launched a three that appeared to be falling wide and short but was grabbed by SMU’s Yanick Moreira before it could complete it’s flight and was ruled goaltending. After checking to see if the shot was indeed a 3-point attempt, the refs upheld their ruling of a 3-point shot but stated post game that under current rules the goaltending call was not reviewable. SMU failed to score a bucket and time expired giving UCLA the one point victory. Alford finished with 27 points connecting on 9 of his 11 three point shots. Norman Powell had 19 points and 6 rebounds for the Bruins. In their second game of the tournament UCLA faced Alabama-Birmingham. The Blazers were feeling good after upsetting (3) Iowa State. UCLA got a big game from low post player Tony Parker. Parker led the Bruins with 28 points and 12 rebounds. Alford scored 22 points and had 5 assists. All five UCLA starters scored double figures as they defeated UAB by 17.

In the Elite 8 round I have Duke facing Gonzaga. I feel that Mark Few will finally lead Gonzaga over the hump to reach their first Final Four. We should be in for a classic Elite 8 matchup.

Haters Gonna Hate

Church League Champions

Group created ✓

Bracket filled ✓

Bracket busted after the first game ✓

Almost last in every group ✓

1 Final Four Team eliminated in the first weekend ✓

This has arguably been the worst March Madness in history for me but I’ve enjoyed every moment of the tournament so far. It’s been full of upsets and exciting moments. And now we’re down to the Sweet 16. My sleepers did just that, SLEEP! Northern Iowa was the only team to win a game before getting bounced. The other three (Boise St, Harvard, and SF Austin) lost by a combined total of 10 points. All three played respectable games but didn’t have enough to get a win.

The first weekend of games saw the top two seeds from the East Region bounced (1-seed Villanova and 2-seed Virginia). Left standing in the East Region is (8)NC State who has to play ACC foe (4) Louisville and (3) Oklahoma who plays (7) Michigan State. In their only regular season matchup, NC State went to the KFC Yum! Center and won by 9. Yes, it’s called the “KFC Yum! Center”. In that game, Anthony Barber led the Wolfpack with 21 points while L’ville got a subpar scoring night from Montrezl Harrell who only had 7 points on 1-5 shooting. In their two NCAA tournament games the Wolfpack have had contrasting wins. The first game against LSU they had to overcome a 16-point halftime deficit and in the second game they led most of the way by outdueling (1) Villanova in the paint with a 45-32-rebound advantage and double-doubles from Lennard Freeman (11 pts and 12 reb) and Abdul-Malik Abu (13 pts and 12 reb).   Meanwhile the Cardinals needed late heroics to get a 2-point win against UC-Irvine. In their 3rd Round matchup against Northern Iowa, Terry Rozier led the way with 25 points and 7 assists. But it was Louisville’s stingy defense that stole the show by holding the Panthers to 39% overall shooting from the field.

The Sooners and Spartans both had single digit victories in their wins. Oklahoma opened by beating Albany. It was their first NCAA tournament win since reaching the Elite 8 in 2009. TaShawn Thomas and Buddy Hield led them with 18 and 15 points respectively. In the matchup against Dayton, Hield provided 15 points and 5 assists along with Jordan Woodard’s 16 points and 9-10 free throw shooting. The Sooners outrebounded the Flyers by 13 and shot 50% from 3-point range. Oklahoma’s Sweet 16 opponent, Michigan State had wins over Georgia and Virginia. In the game against UGA, Izzo’s crew built a 13-point lead at the half and then held on for a six-point win. 4 Spartans chipped in with double figure scoring. Denzel Valentine led the way with 16 and Bryn Forbes came off of the bench with 14 points on 5-8 shooting (3-6 from beyond the arc). In a Sunday afternoon snoozer, Sparty upset (2) Virginia 60 -54. Neither team shot the ball well but MSU was able to get double digit scoring from Travis Trice and Branden Dawson once again. Trice led all scorers with 23 points on 7-15 shooting (4-8 from 3). Dawson put forth a gritty 15 points-9 rebounds-4 blocks performance. Those two seniors along with the mercurial Tom Izzo makes Sparty the favorites to come out of the East Region. Last season was the first time at Michigan State that Izzo had a class of seniors not reach the Final Four during their time at MSU.

Today’s blog also pays tribute to Pac Div who put out one of my favorite mixtapes entitled “Church League Champions”.  A “church league champion” is about all I’m going to be at this point with my horrible bracket. Look for another first weekend Regional recap later tonight.

Church League Champions

March Madness…Breakin’ Bad Part 3 & 4

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It’s Selection Sunday, which means I’m late and need to go with a 2 for 1. The two teams I’m going with today are Harvard and Boise State. Both were ranked in the Top 25 at some point this season and had respectable showings all year. Harvard is in the NCAA Tournament for a fourth straight season after winning the Ivy League once again. Boise State received an At-Large bid and is slated to play in one of the “First Four” games.

Tommy Amaker leads Harvard to their 4th straight NCAA Tournament appearance and hopes to build on the success of last year’s tournament. Harvard was able to defeat Cincinnati in the first round and lost by 7 to Michigan State in the 2nd. The Crimson started the season at number 25 in the AP Preseason Poll. They had a decent start but fell from the polls after defeats to Virginia, Arizona St., and Boston College. After a conference loss to Dartmouth in January, they were able to regroup and win 8 in a row. Harvard played well enough to finish 11-3 in Ivy League play and met up with Yale in the League’s playin game. The winner would earn the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. It was ahard fought game just like the other two regular season matchups between the schools. With the score knotted at 51 and under 10 seconds left to play, Wesley Saunders hit Steve Moundou-Missi just inside the 3 point line for a wide open shot. Yale rushed up the court with 7.2 seconds left to play but was unable to score before time expired.

Harvard doesn’t wow you with offense as usual but they bring the 12th best scoring defense with them into the tourney. Wesley Saunders leads the team in points per game, steals per game and 3 point FG%. He’s second in rebounding to Moundou-Missi and second in assists to Siyani Chambers.

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Boise State is the second team in my Selection Sunday 2 for 1. The Broncos are most none for their theatrics on the gridiron but they’re looking to make an impact on the hardwood. Boise State’s last trip to the NCAA Tournament was in 2013. LaSalle defeated them in a “First Four” matchup that year. This season the Broncos bring a 25-8 record and a few quality wins to the table. In Mountain West Conference play, the Broncos defeated NCAA Tournament bound San Diego St twice and split with Colorado St the 3rd best MWC team. They beat St. Mary’s and Houston during their nonconference run.   Leon Rice’s team fell to eventual Conference Tournament Champion Wyoming twice during conference play. One of those times being in the semifinals of the Conference Tournament. They also had tough but respectable nonconference losses at Wisconsin and at North Carolina State.

Boise State had a major setback in December when they lost Senior Guard Anthony Drmic to a season ending ankle injury. At the time, Drmic was averaging 15 ppg and 5 rpg. The team rallied and Derrick Marks the 2015 MWC Player of the Year led them with a 19.3 ppg average (conference best 20.3 ppg in league play) and 44% from 3 point range. Sophomore, James Webb III was the second leading scorer on the team and led them in rebounding and FG%. He was able to earn MWC Newcomer of the Year and All Mountain West Conference 2nd Team honors.

March Madness…Breakin’ Bad Part 3 & 4

Vlade Divac on Kobe Bryant: “He’s definitely, by far, the best talent that I ever, ever played with”

ProBasketballTalk

Vlade Divac is back in the NBA. That’s a very good thing.

He’s one of the pioneers of Europeans coming to the NBA and having success, having been a key part of the Lakers and Kings. He was an All-Star in 2001 and a guy known for a polished offensive game both back to the basket and from the midrange, his passing, smoking cigarettes, and flopping. He was eventually appreciated in Los Angeles (it was not easy to replace Kareem) but he was beloved in Sacramento, where he has returned to work with the organization’s basketball operations.

Divac also is remembered as the guy the Lakers traded for Kobe Bryant. Charlotte drafted Bryant on a pre-arranged deal to send him West. Which is why it was interesting when Divac sat down with the USA Today’s Sam Amick and said this about Kobe.

“It was a lovely story that I finished my…

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Vlade Divac on Kobe Bryant: “He’s definitely, by far, the best talent that I ever, ever played with”

March Madness…Dance Fever, Huh? Part 2

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Here again with another potential NCAA Tournament sleeper to watch out for. Championship Week has already started and a few teams have punched their tickets to March Madness. Today’s post takes a trip over to Nacogdoches, Texas to look at Stephen F. Austin. Stephen F. Austin hails from the Southland Conference where they are the regular season champs at 27-4. The Lumberjacks ended the regular season strong with wins over the #2 and #3 teams in the Southland Conference. They head into the conference tournament with hopes of finishing off a 2nd consecutive season as the Regular Season and Tourney Champs. Last season they were undefeated in every conference game and beat VCU in the 2nd Round of the NCAA tournament. The first NCAA tourney win in school history. The Lumberjacks also reached the Big Dance in 2009. Stephen F. Austin is once again one of the top scoring teams in the country. They average 79.0 points per game which puts them at 12th overall, they lead the nation in assists per game at 17.7 and a their .491 FG shooting puts them at 7th best. The squad started the season off with some quality opponents. They lost to the eventual MVC Champs, Northern Iowa in OT, and two other NCAA tourney bound teams in Baylor and Xavier.   The Lumberjacks bounced back by winning at Memphis during a 19 game win streak. They also swept conference foe and stiff rival Sam Houston State.

Brad Underwood was the 2014 Southland Coach of the Year and Joe B. Hall award winner (nation’s top first year coach). He fields a team that has 6 players that shoot at least 45% from the field and average 7.0 ppg. The two leaders in those categories are RS JR Thomas Walkup and SR Jacob Parker. Walkup, a 6-4 G/F also leads the team in rebounds per game while the 6-6 F Parker leads the team in 3 point FG% at 47.7. Guard Trey Pinkney leads them in assists and steals per game. The tempo and style of play has allowed as many as 9 players to get quality minutes this season. SFA has numerous accolades but they know that a bad night in the Conference Tournament would end their dreams of reaching the Big Dance.

March Madness…Dance Fever, Huh? Part 2