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Is the end of Championship Week the new First Weekend of the NCAA Tournament?

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It’s becoming a valid question to ask. Fifteen+ tournaments that crown a champion, many in what is usually in dramatic fashion, highlighted by 11 on Saturday, including the ever vaunted Big East Tournament. Is this better than the first weekend of what has been defined as March Madness?  In short, yes. Frankly, we’re already immersed in March Madness, and what we’re living in right now might be the most excitement that college basketball can offer for us.

Given that we all get all romantic with the first few round of the tournament, this sounds crazy right? I offer a few examples to justify my school of thought, proof that this may be the apex of the college basketball season. Here’s the best way to justify it:

  • Kemba Walker BLEW up yesterday.
  • There were 50+ important matchups beginning early this afternoon and lasting well into the evening. Almost all mattered and were worth blowing off work for, exemplifying wild emotions among bubble teams and squads that had firmly secured automatic bids alike.
  • Down 11 with 2:17 remaining, Miami outscored Virginia  30-12 in the final 2:17 plus a five minute overtime to continue any Houdini-like hope that they had of playing for the NCAA Tournament.
  • Kemba Walker BLEW up yesterday.

I’m fully aware that the new CBS-Turner TV agreement will force us to channel surf our way through the first few rounds of the tournament as though we are direct descendants of Laird Hamilton, but with a nice handful of networks and cable outlets carrying the bevy of conference tournaments that will wrap up here in the next few days, we’re currently living in an ADD sufferers paradise. A place where multiple game on multiple channels matter, and the chips and dip can’t be replenished at a higher rate.

I remember when my family finally sacked up and threw down for cable. It was 1994. I was still a young-adolescent, fully aware of the NCAA Tournament, but nearly clueless to the pageantry and excitement that was Championship Week. I fell in love with Providence’s Austin Croshere and, shortly thereafter, Wake Forest’s Randolph Childress. I was enthralled by the above-average non-All Americans few were familiar with, but were teeming with talent. This enamoration furthered my understanding of the college game at the time, and really helped equip me with the idea that there was more to this beautiful sport than the Dukes, Kentuckys and UCLAs of the world.

Today, my perspective of the final few days of Championship Week has not changed for me. As we move through somewhat mundane opening round and quarterfinal match-ups, we eagerly await the finality of the BCS conference championships, where that now 68-team tournament has its seedings determined and dreams are dashed as fast as you can say, “onions!”

Yes, we seem to overlook Championship Week, but if you really affix your eyes to what’s taking place, it’s probably the most fascinating aspect of March Madness. A bevy of colorful courts, teams frantically hoping to secure an opportunity to play further into the month, and the opportunity for the little guy to truly feel like the king of the castle. It’s about as beautiful as the game can get.

Don’t look now, but Championship Week is the new March Madness!

Nick Fasulo is the manager of Searching for Billy Edelin. Follow him on Twitter @billyedelin.

Kansas players make weight room gains – and losses – this summer

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - JUNE 18: Udoka Azubuike #105 in red runs back for defense the NBPA Top 100 Camp on June 18, 2015 at John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Photo by Kelly Kline/Getty Images)
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Summer is the time to refine not only players’ skill sets, but also their bodies. Kansas’ highly-touted freshman duo of Josh Jackson and Udoka Azubuike have fulfilled the latter thanks to the Jayhawks’ strength and conditioning program.

Azubuike has dropped 27 pounds from his 7-foot frame while the wiry Jackson has added 17 pounds, according to the Kansas City Star.

“These guys have goals,” Adrea Hurdy, Kansas’ long-time assistant director for sports information, told The Star. “They come here in part because we have the resources to help them attain their goals.

“They want the challenge and want to become better people, better basketball players and better athletes.”

Only 16 years old, Azubuike arrived in Lawrence having been consistently listed as weighing around 270 pounds throughout his prep career. Getting leaner while still maintaining – and increasing – strength is a significant development for such a young player, who was a consensus top-50 player in the 2016 class.

Jackson, the country’s top rated incoming freshman, now weighs in at slightly over 200 pounds at 6-foot-8. Six-foot-10 forward Carlton Bragg,a sophomore, also got in on the body-changing as he’s put on 26 pounds to head into the fall at 247 pounds.

Kansas is a likely top-five preseason team with returners like Frank Mason III, Devonte Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk, and having newcomers like Jackson and Azubuike along with sparsely-used but talented returnees like Bragg making gains in the weight room will only make them more formidable as they look to capture an astounding 13th-straight Big 12 title.

 

Texas bolsters 2017 frontcourt

Texas head coach Shaka Smart calls a play during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Kansas State in Manhattan, Kan., Monday, Feb. 22, 2016. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
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Shaka Smart has added another four-star forward to his 2017 recruiting class.

Texas picked up a commitment Tuesday from 6-foot-8 Jericho Sims of Minnesota, according to multiple reports.

Sims, who visited Texas this past weekend, is ranked in the top-50 by Scout and in the top-75 by ESPN and 247Sports. He joins Royce Hamm, a top-100 forward from Houston, as members Smart’s second recruiting class at Texas.

“Jericho Sims is a late-blooming big man who has a lot of room to grow in terms of upside,” NBCSports.com recruiting analyst Scott Phillips said. “A good athlete with a good frame to work with, Sims should help immediately on the glass and defensively but his offense will be a work in progress.

“Texas has a large recruiting class and targeted Sims later than many, so this is a nice commitment for the Longhorns.”

The commitment represents a significant get for the Longhorns, who beat out the likes of Kansas, Iowa State, Ohio State, Connecticut and Sims’ hometown Gophers, whom his father played basketball for in the 1970s and his brother football more recently.

Sims and Hamm both are players that could help Smart and his staff transition more back to the Havoc style of play Smart employed at VCU as both have the length, speed and athleticism to help the Longhorns dial up the pressure and push tempo.

Five-star 2017 point guard Trevon Duval down to 10 schools

CHARLOTTE, NC - JULY 9: Trevon Duval during the 2015  Under Armour All-America Basketball Camp on July 9, 2015 at Queens College in Charlotte, NC. (Photo by Ned Dishman/Under Armour)
(Photo by Ned Dishman/Under Armour)
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Five-star point guard Trevon Duval is the most electrifying lead guard in the Class of 2017. The native of Delaware dominated the Under Armour circuit this spring and is currently regarded by many as a top-five player in the class by most recruiting services.

Now he’s down to 10 schools as his recruiting is starting to become more of a focus. The 6-foot-2 Duval is down to Arizona, Cal, Kansas, Maryland, Oregon, St. John’s, Seton Hall, UCLA, USC and Villanova.

Things are still early in the process for Duval and it will be interesting to see if he schedules any official visits soon.

Ohio State gaining recruiting momentum with two 2018 commitments

DAYTON, OH - MARCH 24: Head coach Thad Matta of the Ohio State Buckeyes claps on the sideline in the first half against the Iowa State Cyclones during the third round of the 2013 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at UD Arena on March 24, 2013 in Dayton, Ohio.  (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Ohio State has lost quite a few transfers and hasn’t had a lot go their way with regards to recent recruiting, but things could be changing after a good weekend.

The Class of 2018 is starting to look really good for the Buckeyes as they landed commitments from wings Darius Bazley and Justin Ahrens this weekend. The two in-state products are grassroots teammates together on King James and they give Ohio State three commitments in that class.

Bazley is considered a four-star prospect on Rivals while Ahrens checks in as a three-star. They join another Ohio native, guard Dane Goodwin, in the class as this could be the group that helps bring Ohio State back in regular Big Ten contention.

Butler lands commitment from four-star 2017 forward Kyle Young

Atlanta, GA - SUNDAY, MAY 29: Nike EYBL. Kyle Young #34 of King James Session 4. (Photo by Jon Lopez)
(Photo by Jon Lopez)
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Butler picked up an important commitment on Monday as four-star forward Kyle Young committed to the Bulldogs.

A Class of 2017 stretch forward who can hit jumpers and has an improving skill set, the 6-foot-7 Young comes from Massillon, Ohio and he’s regarded as the No. 109 overall prospect.

Young was impressive in the Nike EYBL this spring and summer with King James as he averaged 15.5 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game as he shot 48 percent from the field and 36 percent from 3-point range.

This is a nice grab for Butler as Young is the type of versatile perimeter shooter that they like to utilize and he should be able to help a bit on the glass as well.

Young joins a class that includes guards Cooper Neese and Jerald Butler.