If you read the post I did on the Quad, you know how I feel about the American College experience. The cool thing when it comes to sports is that in most major sports in North America, the College game is feeds the professional league so nearly every major American star in Baseball, (American) Football and Basketball has come through college so if you follow these things, you will keep an eye on the College game and get a chance to catch some of these guys before they make it to the big leagues.
The more I got into the NBA, the more I kept an eye on the College game. Initially, I tried to watch the regular season college games and I realised those were rubbish. I quickly found out where all the fun was at and that’s at the NCAA Tournament. The tournament is at the end of the College Basketball season in March and 68 teams drawn from different geographical zones take place. You can see how such a thing will capture the imagination of a country with a big college culture. I guess that’s why it is known as March Madness.
Back when we has ESPN around here, I used to catch games when I could. These days, I rely on the internet to watch the games. The whole tournament has a Cinderella feel to it. Teams are seeded from 1 – 16 across different zones and since the games are televised nationally (and internationally actually), it is a good chance for little known teams with quirky traditions to shine and put themselves on the map. In America where everything is big, those things are important because you want to recruit big time high school players and an impressive showing is a nice feather in your hat for recruiting pitches.
The last tournament I followed properly was the 2013 tournament. I remember Kyle O’Quin (now on the knicks) at Norfolk State. That was the year everyone thought Oladipo and Zeller were going to win it all with Indiana but Rick Pitino and Louisville ended up winning it. One thing I find really interesting is that the best player on the best team might not even make it to the NBA. That’s how it was in that year. Apart from Gorgui Dieng I don’t remember anyone from that team making it to the NBA (Peyton Siva made it but he’s out of the league now). Villanova won last year and none of their players got drafted. Sometimes like in 2012 when Kentucky won, they had the best College player (Anthony Davis). That tells you College Basketball is as much about the system the teams play as it is about the players.
Another fun fact about the tournament is the bracket. The bracket has all 68 teams and their first round opponents and the route to the finals. People fill out their brackets to see if they can accurately predict the results. Warren Buffet has a $1 Million standing offer to anyone who can correctly predict the bracket. The odds stand at 1 in 9.2 quintillion (no I don’t know what that is either) but it’s basically impossible and no one has ever successfully predicted the bracket.
For someone like me who didn’t go to school in America, I have no allegiance to any particular school but I tend to keep an eye on the big (and notable) universities with a rich history in the tournament. What’s also fun is the nicknames all these schools have. Allow me to demonstrate.
- Duke (Blue Devils): They have a legendary coach (Coach K) who has been there since the 80’s I believe. They won it in 2015 behind Jahlil Okafor and they have a knuckle head named Grayson Allen in their team. Mr. Allen is a perennial candidate for Donkey of the day and has a history of tripping people and throwing elbows. It is never a good thing when you are known more for your behaviour than your game. I am actually not sure how good Mr. Allen is. I hope Duke stay in the tournament long enough for me to find out.
Recent Notable NBA players: Jahlil Okafor, Mason and Miles Plumlee, Brandon Ingram, Austin Rivers.
2. Gonzaga (Bull Dogs): Don’t you just love how Gonzaga sounds? They make the list because they have been playing well this year (shutting Mike Wilbon up) and they have a really good point guard named Nigel Williams – Goss who has the potential to end up in the league.
Recent Notable NBA Players: Kelly Olynyk, Domantas Sabonis.
3. UCLA (Bruins): If you dream about going to school in America, you probably have a place like UCLA in mind. Sunny weather, nice city, big campus hot girls (or guys) loads to do, famous faces everywhere etc. That’s actually not why they’re on the list. They make the list because of Lonzo Ball. Their 6’6 do-it-all point guard who has impressed everyone with his poise and play. Apparently he is very quiet and lets his game (or his dad) do the talking. His dad thinks he is better than Steph Curry is now. My eye will be on his numbers and how he handles the pressure on the big stage. Because the pressure will crank up.
Recent Notable NBA Players: Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love, Darren Collison, Shabazz Muhammad, Luc Mba a Moute.
4. University of North Carolina (UNC) (Tar Heels): The Tar Heels are famous because that’s where Michael Jordan went. They have also produced legends like my man Rasheed Wallace, Jerry Stackhouse, Kenny Smith and Vince Carter. The conveyor belt has dried up in recent years however. They reached the final last year and lost in dramatic circumstances to Villanova. They are a 1 seed this year so they must have a decent squad.
Recent Notable Players: Ty Lawson and my man Kendall Marshall (who’s out of the league by the way)
5. Kansas (JayHawks): I don’t know much about the JayHawks but they have a legendary coach in Bill Self who has a reputation for producing good NBA players. I remember they got to the finals in 2012 and lost a scrappy game to Anthony Davis and the Wildcats. They are a 1 seed this year so nothing has changed.
Recent Notable NBA Players: Paul Pierce, Marcus and Markieff Morris, Thomas Robinson, Michael Beasley (My man), Mario Chalmers, Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins.
6. Kentucky (Wildcats): They’re here because of their legendary coach John Calipari. He is legendary for the sheer amount of players he has sent to the NBA. I can count at least 20 across his stints as coach of UMass, Memphis and Kentucky. Not just players but number 1 picks and future hall of famers. He won it all in 2012 and it is a wonder why he has only won it once. They are a 2 seed this year I believe and while I doubt that they will win it this year, I am sure his quota contribution to the NBA will continue.
Recent Notable NBA Players (get ready): John Wall, Demarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe, Patrick Patterson, Terrence Jones, Brandon Knight, Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilcrhist, Tyler Ulis, Devin Booker, Nerlens Noel, Skal Labisierre, Karl Anthony – Towns, Willie Cauley – Stein and a few others which skip my mind just now.
The next few weeks will be full of triumphs and upsets. I will be back with another post to wrap it up when it all ends.
Have a good week!