I often look most forward to the Saturday of Championship Week. Over Selection Sunday, over the traditional day one of the NCAA Tournament, over the release of the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s holiday performance schedule. So, in theory, I would naturally be elated to light a few candles, curl up with a nice blanket, and cook a pot of tea while an abundance of really important games play themselves out.
I’m kidding about all that soft stuff, but Saturday truly is the reason why Championship Week is the new March Madness. But with the continued parity playing out even in the bracket format, what I’m most looking forward to isn’t as entirely match-up focused as I initially planned. There’s still plenty of storylines teeming to play out this afternoon and evening, so here’s your high-level primer to make sure you know what to look for.
Dayton – This might be the first time “looking forward to” and Dayton have been penned together in the same sentence, but the Flyers – traditionally one of the most underachieving programs of the past 10 years – might actually be dancing this season following an upset of rival Xavier yesterday. With talented players like the brothers Chris (Wright and Johnson), it’s about time this crop of players position themselves to join the field of 68.
Illinois Fans – Just how can this team falter down the stretch for a second consecutive season? Back in October, on paper these guys looked like an Elite Eight team but here they are with a second consecutive dreadful close to the season, highlighted by yesterday’s blown opportunity against Michigan. Can’t wait to see how Champaign reacts to this mess. Oh wait, they’re already questioning Bruce Weber’s commitment.
A Pac 10 game worth watching – Is there a more less exciting BCS conference tournament than this one? After watching roughly 30 seconds of an early round game, ESPN’s Colin Cowherd said the Staples Center matched the energy level of an insurance convention. That’s not very nice, but so very true. With the finals finally set in place, Arizona-Washington should play out nicely, based on what we’ve already seen from them this season.
BYU-SDSU Round III – It’s always been deemed very difficult for a team of similar skill level three times in a season. Heck we saw BYU down nemesis New Mexico, proving just that theory. So now, the Cougars will try to tackle this challenge against the Aztecs, and its especially important with a fourth No. 1 seed still begging to be taken.
Kentucky – You can’t mask the fact that the Georgia Dome physically has zilch in common with Rupp Arena, and the Wildcats were pretty nervous when playing away from Lexington this season. They’re in the semis, and have a real opportunity to distinguish themselves from a fairly mediocre SEC field.
Arizona commit Terrance Ferguson has been known as one of the best dunkers in the country for the last few years. So you knew the 6-foot-6 wing was going to attempt the latest internet dunk craze that’s been going around.
Some call it the, “5-point play” in which the dunker makes a 3-pointer and immediately sprints following the shot release to catch the make for an under-the-legs dunk.
It’s as tough as it sounds and Ferguson makes it look easy.
Bol Bol is the son of former NBA center Manute Bol, and the younger Bol is earning quite a bit of attention himself as a five-star prospect in the Class of 2018.
The 6-foot-11 Bol showed off some of his freakish coordination and athleticism on Friday night, by ripping a steal and taking it coast-to-coast for an under-the-legs dunk in the middle of a game at the Jayhawk Invitational.
Bol will be one of the players to watch this spring as he plays with KC Run GMC.
Iowa State guard Naz Mitrou-Long gets hardship waiver to play additional year
“Everything happens for a reason and although it hurt to not be able to play for a group of guys I loved last year, my body needed time to recover and that time off allowed me to feel the best I’ve felt since my freshman year,” Mitrou-Long said in the release. “I’m glad I’ll be able to play for the best fans in the country and represent the name on the front of my jersey, Iowa State, one more year. Words can’t describe this feeling. Cyclone Nation, be ready for a special year.”
The 6-foot-4 Long played in eight games last season for Iowa State as he averaged 12 points per game. He missed the rest of the season to deal with pain in his surgically repaired hips. Mitrou-Long has been a very effective three-point shooter during his career at Iowa State and he should be a nice option to have for next season if he’s healthy.
CIAA will stay in North Carolina despite state’s LGBT law
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) The Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association says it won’t move its headquarters, its basketball tournament or other conference championships from North Carolina, despite the state’s controversial new LGBT law.
The CIAA said in a statement Thursday that it will instead partner with the NCAA to educate its members on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues as it does on other issues, like graduation rates and concussion management.
The Charlotte Observer reports that the CIAA, the oldest African-American sports conference in the U.S., has hosted its annual basketball tournament in Charlotte since 2006 and announced it was moving its headquarters to Charlotte from Virginia in 2015.
The CIAA said Thursday that it will continue to “monitor the issues,” as it has since House Bill 2 passed.
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