NCAA Hoop Madness
March 27, 2014
The first full week of the NCAA tournament is over. After a somewhat chaotic round of 64 on Thursday and Friday, the weekend gave us more surprises as we are now down to the “Sweet 16.” There were a bunch of Cinderella teams that won their first games. Schools like Mercer, Harvard, Stephen F. Austin, and North Dakota State advanced briefly before falling over the weekend. The big surprises over the weekend included Dayton and Stanford upsetting their way into a Sweet 16 matchup.
The game of the weekend was easily the Kentucky - Wichita State matchup. The selection committee should be ashamed that unbeaten Wichita State had to meet preseason number-one Kentucky so early in the tourney. I watched the entire game and it was a classic. It felt like a championship game instead of a second round game. The Wildcats ended up pulling away late to hand the Shockers their one and only loss of the season.
It was not hard to notice that future NBA Lottery picks, freshmen Jabari Parker of Duke and Andrew Wiggins of Kansas were silent as their teams were upset. Parker was a non-factor in his team’s loss to Mercer. Wiggins took just six shots, making only one, as the Jayhawks were bounced by Stanford.
Another casualty of an early exit was Creighton. The third seeded Blue Jays were humbled by six-seed Baylor, 85-55 over the weekend. The setback ended the career of Doug McDermott. The tourney was supposed to be a coming out party for the Creighton forward who quietly ended his career with 3,150 points, a mark that ranks fifth all time in NCAA history.
North Carolina also did not survive the weekend. The Heels were supposed to win as Iowa State’s best player, Georges Niang, suffered a broken foot in game one. But the Cyclones pulled out a two point win over UNC thanks in large part to DeAndre Kane recorded 24 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists. He also had the game-winning bucket with just over one second remaining.
Another player to watch from here on out is Connecticut guard Shabazz Napier. UConn upset No. 2 seed Villanova, thanks in large part to Napier tallying 21 of his 25 points in the second half.
Personally, my bracket is looking strong. All four of my Final Four teams (Florida, Arizona, Louisville, and Virginia) have looked very impressive thus far. I am in the 98th percentile of the ESPN Challenge Bracket participants.
Games I will focus in the next round is Kentucky vs. Louisville and Virginia vs. Michigan State. I have Louisville and Virginia advancing.
Panthers Finally Land A Receiver
The only team in the NFL that does not have any of its top four wide receivers back from last season, the Carolina Panthers, finally addressed the crazy situation last week.
Former Pittsburgh Steeler free agent Jerricho Cotchery saw a chance to play immediately and signed to play with the Panthers. The 31-year-old won’t solve all of Carolina’s issues at the position, but he’s a start. Cotchery gives the Panthers a veteran to help bring along youngsters such as Marvin McNutt and Tavarres King who until now were considered the team’s top wide receivers. Personally, I have to admit I have not heard of McNutt or King until I saw down and wrote this column. Sadly so, neither has an NFL reception.
The Panthers also are expected to draft a wide receiver with one of their top two picks, the first is No. 28 overall. Many locals hope Carolina can somehow trade up to get Clemson standout Sammy Watkins. Cotchery’s signing should at least end many of the jokes that have been thrust at Carolina general manager Dave Gettleman since the Panthers a week ago released all-time leading receiver Steve Smith, then lost Brandon LaFell (New England), Ted Ginn Jr. (Arizona) and Domenik Hixson (Chicago) in free agency.
Do not count on Cotchery being the answer and he won’t replace Smith. His best seasons came from 2006-2008, when he caught 82, 82, and 71 passes, respectively. His 46 catches last season were the first time since 2010 that he’s caught more than 17 in a season. On the plus side, he had a career-high 10 touchdowns last year, which is six more than Smith and five more than any other Carolina wide receiver. He is a slot-type receiver, so look for him to fit in as a complement to whoever the Panthers draft or sign.
It is becoming quite clear that he Panthers won’t have a bona fide No. 1 receiver as they have had with Smith. Though his skills were lessening now that he is in his mid-30s, Smith often drew double coverage while recording 64 catches for 745 yards last season.
The No Fun League
The National Football League (NFL) isn’t going to shake its reputation as the No Fun League in the near future. In the latest move by the NFL to legislate individual player expression, touchdown celebrations that include dunking the ball over the crossbar will be penalized next season. The dunks will be flagged by officials enforcing an existing rule relating to using the football as a prop.
It is ironic that the banning of the dunk will begin the season after legendary tight end Tony Gonzalez walked away from the field. A two-sport star at Cal, Gonzalez made the dunk his signature celebration during his 17 year career that included stints in Kansas City and Atlanta. The 14-time Pro Bowl selection hung up his shoulder pads after the 2013 season.
I must admit I thought this announcement was a joke. I am really struggling to see how the dunk harms the game. Between stuff like this and all the illegal tackles we now see, it is almost like the league wants to piss off its fans.