Another week in the books for college basketball. We are inching ever closer to the greatest sporting event in America: MARCH MADNESS. Last year, we held a Sports Spectrum bracket contest for Madness. I can’t remember who actually won that contest, or what the person won, but we will be holding another bracket contest this year. The winner will get a nice Sports Spectrum prize package, and details will be available as we get closer to the NCAA tournament.
The week that was
- Disappointment reigns supreme in Raleigh. NC State led Duke by as many as 20 points and yet lost last Thursday. They then lost to Florida State Saturday and North Carolina Tuesday. If any one of those games were a win, it would have likely locked up a tournament bid. Instead, NC State fans will continue to be nervous about whether or not they will take their first trip to the NCAA’s since 2006.
- Missouri had a bit of a let down losing to Kansas State 78-68 at home Tuesday night. However, Missouri can still take a commanding lead in the Big 12 by winning at Kansas Saturday. Kansas State has probably solidified it’s position in the tournament by sweeping the season series against Missouri.
- Kentucky looked impressive in their comeback win at Mississippi State. You keep expecting the lack of experience on this team to rear its head, but guys like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Darius Miller and Terrence Jones seem unfazed by high pressure moments. They all hit a lot of big shots against the Bulldogs. I believe this is John Calipari’s best chance to take one of these young Kentucky teams all of the way. Anthony Davis completely alters a team’s offensive game plan, and these young Kentucky players defend well and are not afraid of big moments.
- ESPN’s “Bracketbusters” event was outstanding television. Murray State and Wichita State impressed by dominating their games against St. Mary’s and Davidson, respectively. Iona won a high scoring game against Nevada, and the game of the weekend had to be Long Beach State at Creighton. The 49ers led most of the way, but Creighton made a comeback, led by Doug McDermott’s 36 points and 11 rebounds, and won with buzzer beater.
College Basketball 101
This week’s class is all about the building that has hosted more college basketball games than any other venue: the Palestra, located in Philadelphia. Info and picture courtesy of philadelphiabig5.org:
Most of the Philadelphia Big 5 men’s matchups are played in the historic Palestra on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania. This storied building has been home to the Big 5 since its inception in 1955, and though it is located on Penn’s campus, it serves as the home of the Big 5.
The Palestra has played host to more games than any other college arena in history.
The building was named at the suggestion of Greek professor Dr. William N. Bates who reasoned that the name fit because in Ancient Greece, young men would compete in a variety of events in a rectangular enclosure (a Palestra) in view of spectators. So in 1927, the Palestra opened its doors.
“I don’t think there’s a place on earth that is comparable to it,” said Les Keiter, the voice of the Big 5 during the 1960′s. “I’ve broadcasted games all over the world and no matter where I was, I would always say, ‘You don’t know what it’s like until you walk into the Palestra.’ You talk about the Field of Dreams in baseball, this was my Field of Dreams. The mystique and the history of the place are unparalleled. When you first come through the doors there’s a certain feeling that you get that just transcends the moment. Then you walk out on the floor and look up at nine thousand people, the scoreboard, the streamers, the fervor and fever in the stands, the intensity of the players and the coaches. There’s nothing like it in the world of sports. It almost defies description.”
Read full bio here: http://www.philadelphiabig5.org/palestra/index.html
Top 5 Most Exciting Teams
Last week, I had some comments in the comment section ragging some of my selections in games to watch. The commenter’s main problem is that some of the games listed, mainly any game Wisconsin is involved in, is not “fun to watch.” So, due to the personal request of mdgordon07, here are my top 5 most exciting teams to watch in college basketball.
1. VMI – Their coach’s philosophy is to take at least 100 shots and 50 of them from 3-point land. The Keydets run a full court press the entire game to try and force turnovers, and then play a loose 2-3 zone defense where you try to entice the other team to take quick shots so you can get the ball back and score again. They don’t always win, but games are frequently in the 100’s. How is that not exciting?
2. North Carolina – The Tar Heels are the highest scoring team in the nation and feature some of the best offensive talent in all of college basketball. Harrison Barnes, Tyler Zeller and Kendall Marshall all figure to be playing in the NBA very soon.
3. Kentucky – Speaking of NBA talent, Kentucky is loaded with it. I like watching Kentucky just to see how many shots Anthony Davis can block in one game.
4. Iona – The Gaels are the second highest scoring team in all of college basketball and feature the only point guard dishing out more assists than North Carolina’s Kendall Marshall, averaging 10.1 a game. Iona plays up-tempo and knocks down many threes a game.
5. Missouri – Missouri has one of the most potent offenses in the nation, scoring 79.5 points a game, tenth in the nation. They play uptempo and make a lot of threes.
Shock the Nation
Last Saturday I was in attendance at the Wichita State – Davidson game. The game sold out, and it was quite the exciting atmosphere. Take a look for yourself…
Here are a few of my observations:
- Davidson is limited athletically, but that doesn’t stop them from being a powerful offense (78.6 PPG, 18th nationally). Coach Bob McKilliop has a great system in place, running multiple screens in their offensive sets to get his shooters many good looks. However, their athleticism does hurt their defense. The Wildcats had very little success stopping Wichita State, in man to man or in zone, giving up 91 points.
- Wichita State’s point guard Joe Raglund dominated the game in an efficient manor. He shot 11-14 from the field and made three or four from downtown. He had a lot of layups as the Davidson defense had trouble keeping him from getting all the way to the basket.
- If Davidson has success in the NCAA tournament, it will be due to big man Jake Cohen. Cohen had 25 points in 19 minutes, shooting 10 of 14 from the field while knocking down three 3-pointers. Cohen is a tough matchup at 6 feet 10 inches as he has the ability to score in the post with his back to the basket and outside with jump shots.
- There were some interesting fans in the Davidson student section. There was a guy dressed like the pope, a guy wearing a lobster costume, a guy with a horse on a stick, a guy in a Santa hat, and many of their fans were waving around flags of foreign countries.
- Wichita State has the talent to go far in the tournament. Last year it was Butler and VCU, this year I think we could see the Shockers in the Final Four. What separates them from other mid-major teams is their size down low. Garrett Stutz is a legitimate 7 footer who scores in the post and from outside. The Shockers also have 7 footer Ehimen Orukpe coming off the bench and get additional low post scoring from 6 foot 8 inch 233-pound power forward Carl Hall. Don’t be too shocked if the Shockers shock the nation this March. (Say that five times fast)
March Madness Word of the Week
3-pointer (a way of life)
- 1. The great equalizer in college basketball. Three is more than two. Live by the three, die by the three. Don’t have any post players? Just take a bunch of threes. Many mid-majors have died to bring us this information.
- 2. A turn you have to take during a DMV driving test, which you will likely never actually have to do in normal driving situations.
The week that will be
West Virginia at #18 Notre Dame – West Virginia could use another strong win for their resume.
La Salle at #22 Temple – La Salle has had a nice season, but not quite one that’s tournament worthy. Beating Temple might help that problem out. This game is a part of the “Big 5″.
#4 Duke at #16 Florida State – Florida State could take a commanding lead of the ACC is they can defeat Duke at home. If the Seminoles win the ACC, it would mark the first season since the 2002-2003 season that neither North Carolina or Duke won at least a share of the ACC title.
#12 Murray State at Tennessee State – Murray State will be looking for revenge after Tennessee State killed their perfect season.
#17 Louisville at Cincinnati - These two are battling for positioning for the upcoming Big East tournament.
BYU at Gonzaga – BYU has had a nice season in “Year One after Jimmer” but their resume is missing a marquee win. They can solidify their NCAA bid with a win against the Zags.
West Virginia at #10 Marquette - This could be a big three-day stretch for Bob Huggins’ squad.
Princeton at Harvard – Havard is close to clinching the Ivy League title and the automatic NCAA bid (Ivy League does not have a conference tournament), but the one team that has beat them in conference play is Princeton.
Butler at Valparaiso – Butler has won five in a row. Coach Brad Stevens has them peaking at the right time. This is the last game for both teams going into the Horizon League tournament. Valpo has the first seed locked up, so this would just be a statement game for the winner.
#3 Missouri at #5 Kansas – Mizzou went down earlier this week to Kansas State, but all will be forgotten if they can beat Kansas Saturday. If they win they will have swept the season series and hold the tiebreaker to get the No. 1 seed in the Big 12 tournament.
Vanderbilt at #1 Kentucky – Vanderbilt gave UK a scare in Nashville. Can they do they same in Lexington, where a John Calipari coached UK team has yet to lose?
#7 North Carolina at Virginia – Virginia lost by 18 earlier this year at North Carolina. Will it be a different game at home?
#2 Syracuse at UConn – Shabazz Napier called his teammates out last week and then hit the game winner in their next game. Their tournament hopes were starting to look dead in the water, but Napier may be the leader they needed to turn it around. http://middletownpress.com/articles/2012/02/18/sports/doc4f40440cf3d95966314235.txt
#22 Temple at Saint Joseph’s - A “Big 5” battle at the Palestra. Should be a good one. EDIT: Looks like this one is actually on campus at St. Joe’s in Hagan Arena.
#15 Wisconsin at Ohio State – Wisconsin may be too many games back to win the conference, but they can play spoiler by beating Ohio State.
#16 Florida State at Miami – Miami had a bad loss Tuesday night at Maryland. Their tournament hopes may be slipping away.
#18 Notre Dame at #8 Georgetown – You gotta think Irish head coach Mike Brey is the leading candidate for Big East coach of the year. Picked to just finish ninth in the Big East in the preseason coaches’ poll, Brey has the Irish third in the Big East. And the season started with a terrible blow to the roster when Notre Dame’s best player Tim Abromaitis was lost to a season-ending knee injury.
#11 Florida at Vanderbilt – The best two teams in the SEC not named Kentucky face off.
Xavier at Saint Louis – Rick Majerus might be the coach of the year in the A-10. It’s probably between him and Temple coach Fran Dunphy.
#6 Michigan State at #24 Indiana – I’m gonna use this space for a song about Indiana, just for Sports Spectrum staff writer Stephen Copeland. Here’s to you Steve!