Back when I was running my old site Ballin’ is a Habit, Gus Johnson was still at CBS and still calling NCAA tournament games.
We gave him the moniker ‘Mr. March Madness‘ because, well, it just fit. The most important part of being a play-by-play announcer is having a feel and understanding of the moment, and there was nothing Gus know how to do better than get hyped and let those golden pipes loose on a big shot or emphatic dunk.
While I think he’ll be excellent as a soccer broadcaster — once he gets a feel for the terminology and the rules of the game, his verbal eruptions when a big goal is scored will be utterly perfect — it won’t change the fact that we’ll miss Gus in March.
He’s doing the Big Ten tournament first round and quarterfinals on the Big Ten Network (it’s owned by FOX, who is his current employer), but it just won’t be the same.
It isn’t easy for him to watch the NCAA tournament with a remote. “It’s emotional,” Johnson tells USA TODAY Sports. “It was a big part of my life for 15 years. The NCAA tournament made me. … Yes, it’s emotional. Yes, I miss it. Yes, I’d like to be a part of it.” But, he says, “this is a business. And I’m glad I’m at Fox.”
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.
The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.
The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.
“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.