Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Awards for the Tourney's First Weekend

Stephen Curry, Davidson

For the weekend, Curry averaged 35 ppg, 3 rpg, 3.5 apg, and 4 spg while committing just 2 turnovers. He shot just over 50% from the field, including a scalding 52% (13-25) from 3. More impressive was the fact that Curry twice led his team back from double digit second half deficits. In the opening round, Curry scored 30 in the second half to lead Davidson back from down 11, including a three with a little more than a minute left that broke a 74-74 tie. He hit 5-6 free throws down the stretch to seal the victory. The deficit was even greater against Georgetown, where Curry scored 25 of his 20 points in the second half, and sparked an 18-2 run with a four-point play, another three, and two assists that all but erased a 17 point Hoya lead. Tied at 60 with less than four minutes left, Curry drove and hit a tough scoop shot and on the next Davidson possession hit a three pointer to give the Wildcats a 65-60 lead that Georgetown wouldn't come back from.

The most impressive part of Curry's weekend was both Gonzaga and Georgetown (especially the Hoyas after Curry lit up gonzaga for 40) were gearing their entire defense towards shutting him down. The Hoyas and the 'Zags are both very good defensive teams and very well coached, and even with the defensive game plan geared towards him, Curry still put up huge numbers. Wisconsin, Davidson's sweet 16 opponent, is another very good defensive team. Can they slow this kid down?

One last thing about Curry - despite his small stature (although he has gone from a 5'10" HS senior to 6'2" now, and his father, NBA sharpshooter Dell Curry, has been quoted as saying doctors say he may an an inch or two left in him), this kid can have a long and successful NBA career IF he ends up in the right situation. He will never be able to play the point in the NBA, but if you can put him on a team with a big point guard (i.e. Monta Ellis with Baron Davis) that can guard an NBA 2-guard and let Curry slide over and defend the point, why can't he average 15 a game and shoot 45% from deep?

Washington State

A team known for their defensive prowess, the Cougars set a new standard of excellence for themselves by holding Winthrop and Notre Dame to 27% shooting from the floor and a COMBINED 81 points. In the opening round against Winthrop, the game was tied at 29 heading into halftime. The second half was a completely different story, as Wazzu jumped out on a 23-4 run and never looked back. For the half, the Golden Eagles were outscored 42-11 as the Cougars held them to 16% (4-24) shooting from the floor. In their second game of the weekend, the Cougars shut down a formidable Notre Dame offense, holding them to a season low (actually 23 points below their previous season low) 41 points and 24.5% (13-53) shooting. Despite grabbing a season-high 22 boards, Big East player of the year Luke Harangody might have played his worst game of the year. He scored just 10 points, less than half his season average, while shooting a miserable 3-17 from the floor. Kyle McAlarney didn't do much better - scoring just 12 points on 5-13 shooting while committing 4 turnovers.

DeMarcus Nelson, Duke

While sitting in the Verizon Center watching West Virginia manhandle Duke in their second round matchup, my buddy Ross, quite possibly the biggest Duke fan in the world, put it best: "I hope DeMarcus Nelson made a lot of money betting on West Virginia". That's how bad he was in the two games in this year's tournament. He averaged 4 ppg, shot 3-17 from the floor and 2-5 from the line, had as many turnovers as rebounds (6) and was stuffed emphatically by Joe Alexander from West Virginia on consecutive possessions (the second of which resulted in a WVU bucket and subsequent timeout by Duke allowing the replay of the block to be shown on the Jumbotron. What the entire crowd, and I'm assuming national TV audience, saw was Alexander block him, knock him to the ground, and stand over him yelling something very similar to "Get that shot outta here". Ouch.)

Nelson picked the worst time of year to have his two worst games. The ACC's Defensive player of the year could not guard anyone. He got beat time and time again off the dribble and on backdoor cuts. He missed countless open shots that could have helped bring the Dukies back. He even clanged the front end of a 1-and-1 that gave Belmont a chance to win the game - a half-court heave that bounced off the rim. Nelson led the Devils in scoring and rebounding, and all in all had a great year and career. With the national spotlight that Duke's tournament runs carry, it's a shame to see Nelson end his career like this.


This was a tough decision given the number of upsets and blown leads (Georgetown, Vanderbilt, UConn, Duke). I decided to go with Clemson based on the hype surrounding them coming into the tournament. They had just made a run to the ACC tourney final, where the gave UNC everything they could handle for the third time this season. A lot of people were predicting them as sleeper picks for the Final Four. They looked every bit like that team to start their first round matchup with Villanova, jumping out to a 36-18 lead with 5 minutes left in the first half. But the hot shooting of Scottie Reynolds led the Wildcats back. He hit his first three 3's of the second half, including the biggest shot of the game. With just under 12 minutes left in the game, Reynolds banked in a three and was fouled, giving Villanova their first lead of the game at 50-49. After a Clemson lay-up, the Wildcats went on a 13-4 run that put the game away. Clemson was done in by their second half shooting, going 7-29 from the floor and 14-23 from the line.

Jay Wright, Villanova

This Villanova has not looked like a sweet 16 team all season. They are very small up front even when all their bigs are healthy (Shane Clark has battled exhaustion, and Casiem Drummond had a stress fracture in his ankle, and broke that same ankle on Sunday). Corey Fisher, Malcolm Grant, and Corey Stokes has been inconsistent all season playing along side Scottie Reynolds. The Wildcats may have been the last team put into the tournament field, and found themselves down 18 to Clemson in the first half. Wright did not let his players quit however, leading them to a 75-69 comeback victory. Against Siena, Reynolds was too much as the Wildcats won 84-72 as they advanced to their third sweet 16 in four years to face top seed Kansas. Kudos, Mr. Wright, on a fine coaching performance.

Mitch Johnson, Stanford

The saying goes "a point guard needs to be a coach on the floor". In Stanford's second round game against Marquette, that saying rang true for Mitch Johnson on a whole new level as Cardinal head coach Trent Johnson got tossed with 3:36 remaining in the first half for arguing a foul call. Mitch Johnson responded by playing his best game of the season. He only scored 9 points, but played an incredible floor game dishing out 16 assists while turning the ball over just once and playing 44 of a possible 45 minutes. He came up especially big in overtime, dishing out three assists and hitting a big three-pointer.

Western Kentucky 101, Drake 99 OT

Drake had been outplayed by Western Kentucky as the Hilltoppers built a 74-59 point lead with just eight minutes left in regulation. Drake would make a comeback, led by some timely hot shooting. Drake hit four 3's in the last four minutes, spurring them to a 29-14 run to end regulation, capped by a Jonathon Cox three that tied the game at 88 with 35 seconds left. In OT, Drake built an early four point lead thanks to two Josh Young triples, but Western Kentucky tied it up on a free throw and a three from Tyrone Brazelton. After trading free throws, Drake was up 99-98 with 5.7 seconds left. Brazelton brought the ball up quickly and handed it off to Ty Rogers, who hit a 26 footer from the right wing as time expired. The three was also the 30th of the game, which set an NCAA tourney record for most three's in a game.

Drake did good job containing WKU's Courtney Lee, holding him to 15 points (6-16) and 9 rebounds, but they allowed Tyrone Brazelton to explode for a career-high 33 points, to go a long with 5 assists, 5 rebounds, and 6-10 shooting from beyond the arc. Drake had five players hit double figures, led by 29 points and 16 rebounds from Jonathon Cox and 11 points and 14 dimes from Adam Emmenecker.

Texas A&M vs. UCLA

UCLA has been getting a multitude of close calls recently, and all of the seem to be deciding the outcomes of games (Cal and Stanford). This game was no different. Darren Collison hit a tough lay-up off the glass with 9.5 seconds left in regulation to give UCLA a 51-49 lead. The Aggies put the ball in the hands of Donald Sloan, who drove the lane and had the ball knocked out of his hands, sealing the UCLA victory. Take a look at the picture. No foul there?


Eight minutes into their first round game against San Diego, UConn's pg AJ Price tore his acl when he landed awkwardly on a jump stop during a fast break. You can call me a homer if you want, but this injury was devastating to the Huskies. Not only was Price their best player, and most important player, but he was their leader - the heart and soul of that team. UConn proved that they could beat anyone in the country during the regular season. After they overcame such a tough season in '07, it's a shame this team had to lose because of an injury.

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