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Star Power Takes Backseat to Parity in Final Four

Wow! I definitely didn’t see that one coming. Who would’ve thought my hand-picked Kentucky Wildcats would’ve shot themselves out of the tournament with a 4-for-32 three-point display over the weekend? With three No. 1 seeds out, visions of an attractive Final Four were quickly diminishing. If not for Duke’s win over Baylor last Sunday we could’ve been staring at a Final Four devoid of any No. 1 seeds for just the third time in NCAA history.

But Duke pulled it out and now the Blue Devils will have to be one of if not the favorites to cut down the nets next Monday in Indianapolis right? Well, not so fast. If you’ve been keeping up with this year’s tourney then you’ve seen some of the most entertaining and unpredictable basketball that’s ever been played in March and scheduling Duke to just take home title honors is a mouse trap that I’m not willing to stick my hand in.

The lack of an overwhelming favorite is actually a good thing but people always seem to find the negative in the unfamiliar. I had a friend (we’ll call him Joe for short) tell me the other day that this is the worse tournament he’s ever seen in his life. Joe’s also a bit of a drama king so to speak but I understood his point. He wasn’t dogging the tourney because of poor play or an overabundance of blowouts because it’s actually been the exact opposite but it’s hard for the casual fan to keep up with schools that they can hardly identify on a map.

So while teams like Northern Iowa, Cornell and Saint Mary’s were dancing and advancing, Joe was steadily stewing and boo hooing. Once Kentucky, Ohio State and Kansas State were ushered out of the Big Dance over the weekend Joe really went crazy. He then went on to dog this year’s crop of Final Four teams due to their lack of top seeding without even bothering to recognize reality.

This year’s Final Four of Michigan State, Butler, West Virginia and Duke may not be the power quartet that most fans were hoping for but a closer look reveals that this is probably the best scenario we common folk fans could’ve gotten.

All four teams began the year ranked in the top 10 of ESPN/USA Today’s preseason rankings. And Michigan State (No. 2 ranking), Duke (No. 8 ranking), West Virginia and Butler (No. 9 and 10) all solidified their preseason rankings with outstanding seasons and a combined 108-23 regular season record.

Aside from Michigan State, all three schools won their conference tournaments and although there isn’t an Evan Turner or a John Wall left to hug the spotlight, the coaching star power more than makes up for the lack of superstar recognition. Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, West Virginia’s Bob Huggins and Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski are some of the best coaches in any sport at any level and even Butler’s Brad Stevens is young enough, 31, to be considered as one of better up and coming coaching prodigies.

Could we have gotten a more attractive set of Final Four teams? Probably. Are we going to miss the TV coverage of some of the nation’s brightest stars? Maybe. Will we still receive a competitive championship weekend? Absolutely!

When Kentucky fell last Saturday I had to sit back and rethink what was actually going on here. With all the favorites on summer vacation, this tourney is now anybody’s to win. Sure, I would’ve loved to see a predominantly freshmen-led team conquer the unlikely but this is what the NCAA committee had in mind when they created this whole one game elimination tournament thing.

March Madness is based more upon parity amongst schools rather than prestigiousness and although there is no Syracuse, Kansas or Kentucky left to pencil into your printed PDF bracket, the upcoming weekend is wide open for even the most unlikeliest of champions to be crowned. And as unattractive as the circumstances may be, even a guy like Joe should be able to appreciate that.


March 29, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bracket Busted? Just Ride with Kentucky

No Experience Required. With Kansas out, Kentucky is now the team to beat (courtesy photo/Dave Martin/Getty Images)

So now what? It’s officially week two of March Madness and unless you have damus somewhere in your name, your bracket is totally busted. I know you penciled in Georgetown, Kansas and Villanova as no brainers to advance to the Sweet 16. And I know you laughed silly at the possibility of the Hoyas going out in the first round or the chances of Kansas being ousted by Northern Iowa.

You may have even had Maryland pegged for some extra airtime just because you’re familiar with the area. But it wasn’t to be. In one of the craziest weekends ever, it was all blowouts, buzzer beaters and upsets (sound familiar). Over 5 million people filled out brackets on and every single bracket filler got theirs wrong. So now what? Now is the time when you seek out a fallback team and ride or die with them, that’s what. And if you’re looking for a team to reinvest in, why not the hottest team remaining in the tourney?

The Kentucky Wildcats may not have the experience you would like to see or the Cinderella story you would like to hear but they sure know how to play ball don’t they? Their two first round opponents were annihilated by 29 and 30 points, respectively, and when it comes to what a complete team should look like, Kentucky’s a full sized centerfold model.

They have size in the paint. They can score down low and defend inside. They’re deadly in transition. Their backcourt is amazingly athletic. They’re deep, fast and talented and perhaps their most attractive feature; they’re all freshmen! Well, maybe not all of them but the likes of first year men John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe make up the nucleus of a well-oiled machine. The majority of Kentucky’s players have never even played in a NCAA tournament before so the fact that they just pummeled their first pair of opponents makes them a team to fall in love with.

I don’t know what head coach John Calipari had to do, say or pay to reel in one of the best freshmen classes in NCAA history but what ever he did, kudos to him. Fans love to see Cinderella teams knock out top dogs in the tournament, that’s one of the things that makes March Madness so special. But in reality, watching a Sweet 16 or a Final Four full of 12 and 13 seeds isn’t something that fans really want to see.

People are intrigued by storylines and what better tale than that of the Wildcats. A team that fell from the graces last season only to land in the prestigious NIT, their first appearance in the fallback tournament since 1979. Out goes controversial head coach Billy Gillispie after last season, in comes the smooth-talking slick-haired Calipari and his star-laden freshmen class.

Now the Wildcats are back on top of the college basketball world because Calipari, Wall and Cousins have restored the swag back into the bluegrass state. Unlike perennial powers such as Duke, Kansas and North Carolina, it’s almost impossible to root against Kentucky because they haven’t been all that relevant for quite some time. Their last NCAA title came in 1998 and the school’s been the hotspot for ridicule ever since.

And let’s be honest, once Wall, Cousins and possibly Bledsoe declare for the NBA Draft after the season, Kentucky may not be this strong again for quite a while. So think of this Wildcat run as a farewell tour of sorts. I know you might be weary about placing your bets on a team full of kids who couldn’t get into most night clubs but from a talent standpoint there isn’t a team left in the tourney that can run with Kentucky.

And besides, with your championship favorite Kansas now sitting at home, what other choice do you have?

March 22, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Day 3 Recap of the Alhambra Catholic Invitational

What a way to end the 50th annual Alhambra Catholic Invitational Tournament! A few controversial calls here, a few missed free throws there and another pair of clutch free throws to end the game. That’s what basketball is all about. March Madness is all about college, the high school game draws just as much craziness. Gonzaga edged DeMatha 68-67 in tourney’s final game to give the Eagles their third consecutive ACIT crown and even the season series 2-2 with their long time rival.

It was a fantastic finish to an exciting game. Don’t believe me? Just check the recap:

There was still 2.8 seconds left on the scoreboard but Cedrick Lindsay was already hanging his head. The Gonzaga guard had just missed two free throws that could’ve sealed the game and with his team now trailing 67-66, the senior couldn’t help but feel shell shocked. Just to compound things, Lindsay’s team was playing its long time rival, DeMatha, in the Alhambra Catholic Invitational Tournament (ACIT) championship game and the Stags had won their previous two meetings over Gonzaga.

But Lindsay’s head didn’t hang for long. In front of a packed gymnasium at Frostburg State University, the Richmond-bound guard took the inbounds pass to the three point line before being fouled on a desperation shot with .5 remaining. Despite the controversial call, he swished his first two free throws before intentionally missing the last to give Gonzaga a 68-67 win and their third consecutive ACIT title on March 20.

“To be honest I was kicking myself,” Lindsay said about his late misses. “A lot of players don’t get a second chance [but] I got one today.”

A second chance was something Gonzaga was hoping for after DeMatha ran through them 71-52 in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference championship on March 8. It was a poor showing from Gonzaga’s senior-laden team and with a trip to the City Title game on the line the Eagles played their worse game of the season. DeMatha then went on to claim their second consecutive City Title by beating Ballou High School 80-70 at the Verizon Center.

So with a chance to claim another ACIT crown and stick it to DeMatha one last time before graduation, Lindsay and the rest of his teammates couldn’t help but to oblige.

“To me, it was more about revenging our loss,” Lindsay admitted. “To leave our high school career the way we did in the championship game, it wasn’t a good feeling and we knew we had to come out here and we had to revenge it and that’s what we did today.”

In the 50th annual ACIT, both Gonzaga and DeMatha battled to the finish. And it was expected. It was the fourth meeting between the schools this season but their rivalry never gets old, it just gets better with each game. DeMatha’s Quinn Cook and Victor Oladipo continued their season-long highlight tape with a pair of strong performances. Cook’s 17 points led all scorers while the ultra-athletic Oladipo chipped in with 10 rebounds and an exciting 14 points.

But even DeMatha’s dynamic duo had to take a backseat to Lindsay, 14 points, and his senior running mate Tyler Thornton, 13 points. The Duke-bound Thornton closed his Eagles career in fine fashion, collecting five rebounds, three assists, two blocks and four steals to go along with his steady poise and leadership throughout the game.

“Not a lot of people get to say they’ve won one of these tournaments so to get to win three I feel honored and I feel blessed to have the teammates and the coaches that we have,” Thornton said. “To have it against DeMatha, that’s our biggest rival and the last game of my career, [it’s] no better way to go out.”

Thornton, Lindsay and the rest of their teammates were just 2.8 seconds away from going out and ending their careers the wrong way. After DeMatha’s Cook drew a foul with the Stags trailing 66-65, his two free throws appeared to put DeMatha ahead for good. With less than three seconds remaining and having to go the length of the court just to get a shot off, the situation seemed nearly impossible. But Gonzaga head coach Steve Turner never stopped believing and after he called a timeout to draw up one last play, he knew Lindsay was the perfect player to transfer that confidence to.

“I looked him in his eyes and said ‘look at me, you’re getting ready to make the winning shot, get your head up and let’s get ready’ and [we] put the ball in his hands and he did it.”


March 21, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

DeMatha vs. Gonzaga Tonight, 8:15 p.m.

Two of the more storied high schools in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference will meet tonight in Frostburg, Md for the Alhambra Catholic Invitational Tournament championship. It will be the fourth meeting this season between the two rivals. DeMatha (32-3) has taken the last two meetings against Gonzaga (27-6) but Gonzaga has won the ACIT for the last two seasons.

Both teams feature high profile point guards. The DeMatha Stags are led by WCAC Player of the Year Quinn Cook (who’s been deadly from three point land in two games so far this tourney) while the Gonzaga Eagles are led by Duke-bound Tyler Thornton. DeMatha is one of the most talented high school teams that I’ve ever seen. They’re deep, fast and athletic and anything else you can associate with a dominant basketball team. The Eagles aren’t as deep as the Stags but when their backcourt of Thornton and Cedrick Lindsay are playing well, they’re tough to beat.

Follow tonight on Twitter at 8:15 p.m. and be sure to check or back here for your full tournament recap tomorrow.

March 20, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Day 2 Recap from the Alhambra Catholic Invitational

While day one of the 50th annual Alhambra Catholic Invitational Tournament (ACIT) was highlighted by a few convincing blowouts, day two offered some competitive down to the wire action. The two best teams from the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC), DeMatha and Gonzaga, are representing quite well in Frostburg, Md. They’ll meet for the fourth time this season on March 20 at 8:15 p.m. in the ACIT Championship after winning their semi-final games on day two. 

Gonzaga College High School (Washington, D.C.) 74 vs. Mount St. Joseph (Baltimore, Md) 67

The Gonzaga Eagles (27-6) held off a strong outing from the Baltimore Catholic League Player of the Year, Eric Atkins, and his 27 points by knocking down clutch free throws in the waning minutes. Atkins and Gonzaga’s Tyler Thornton got tangled up early in the third quarter which resulted in Thornton being sent to the bench after being called for his third foul. After Thornton returned early in the fourth quarter, the Duke-bound point guard was all business, scoring a team-high 20 points and punishing defenders in the low post.

Thornton’s leadership skills were on full display as he kept his composure despite foul trouble (4 fouls). Thornton had a pair of three-point plays late in the fourth quarter that allowed Gonzaga to restore the lead to double figures after the Gaels (31-5) cut a 10-point deficit to two in the middle of the fourth quarter.

With the win, the Eagles advanced to their third consecutive ACIT Championship game and will look to even their season series with DeMatha 2-2 after losing the last two meetings to their WCAC rival.

DeMatha Catholic High School (Hyattsville, Md) 66 vs. Benedictine High School (Richmond, VA) 54

The DeMatha Stags (32-3) are big, fast and athletic, so for the Benedictine Cadets (24-8) to hang through four quarters with them is a testament to how well-coached the Cadets are. DeMatha’s Victor Oladipo made a number of highlight reel plays and his 20 points paved the way for D.C.’s City champions to try to capture their third title in as many weeks.

DeMatha has already collected both the WCAC and City titles this season and appear to be focused on breaking Gonzaga’s two-year championship hold on the ACIT. Benedictine’s Mike Gbinije led the Cadets with 19 points but DeMatha’s Quinn Cook countered with his own 19-point outing with a few deep threes that took the air out of any Cadet run that the Richmond team tried to make.

The Duke-bound Gbinije continued to impress for the second consecutive day of the ACIT and the 6-foot-7 junior may be the most complete player in this tournament. Gbinije can shoot from deep, score off the dribble and is active on the defensive end. The same however, can be said about a number of players on DeMatha’s roster as the Stags are very deep and very talented.

Their championship clash with Gonzaga should be another classic.

March 20, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Day 1 Recap from the Alhambra Catholic Invitational

The Alhambra Catholic Invitational Tournament (ACIT) is one of the most prestigious high school basketball tournaments in the region. A revolving door for marquee talent such as the likes of Carmelo Anthony, Rudy Gay, Austin Freeman and Chris Wright have been headlining the ACIT for the last 50 years. 

The tournament has been a steady force in matching some of the best catholic schools in the country against each other for a three day shootout. This year’s 50th annual ACIT is once again loaded with talent. so when the doors opened at Frostburg State University, the tournament’s home since 1977, it was open season for yet another exciting weekend in the tournament’s celebrated history.

Gonzaga College High School (Washington, D.C.) 84 vs. Bishop Walsh (Cumberland, Md) 43 

The Gonzaga Eagles (26-6) kicked off their quest for a third consecutive ACIT title by kicking the hosting Bishop Walsh Spartans (8-16) out of the first round in blowout fashion. It was a balanced scoring effort for the Eagles who finished with five players in double figures.

Gonzaga’s starters relaxed on the bench for much of the 4th quarter while freshmen Nate Britt and Kris Jenkins received some invaluable playing time. A few extra minutes of experience could come in handy should the Eagles meet up with Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) rival DeMatha for a fourth time this season on Saturday. 

Whatever the motive behind head coach Steve Turner’s decision to extend his freshmen’s minutes, the coach wasn’t telling. “Our goal right now is to try to threepeat,” Turner revealed. “We’re the two-time defending champions of this event and it doesn’t matter who it is if we get that opportunity to play in that final game we’re trying to win a championship.” 

St. Frances Academy (Baltimore, Md) 72 vs. Benedictine High School (Richmond, VA) 56 

There’s something about Duke recruits that tend to capture the attention of a gymnasium. So while crowd members were busy pointing out Benedictine’s Mike Gbinije, the junior’s presence was also garnering special defensive attention from St. Frances (22-9). The 6-foot-7small forward’s 18 points weren’t anything spectacular but while the Panthers continued to key on him, fellow junior Trey Davis was exploding for 29 points.

Davis shot 20 free throws and Benedictine (24-7) overcame a 31-23 halftime deficit to outscore the Panthers 49-25 in the second half. Despite the loss, a chance at repeating next season could be in store for this year’s Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association champions. St. Frances will welcome back talented juniors Greg Lewis and Sam Cassell Jr.

Mount Saint Joseph (Baltimore, Md) 59 vs. Judge Memorial Catholic High School (Salt Lake City, Utah) 41 

The Judge Memorial Bulldogs (17-6) play the game the right way. They play smart, heady and with a lot of heart. They just lack size. The Bulldogs held tough throughout a 23-20 first half against the Gaels (31-4) but the Baltimore Catholic League (BCL) regular season champions took over in the second half. 

The Gaels outscored the Bulldogs 36-21in the final two quarters as sharp-shooting senior Ryley Beaumont posted 17 points and hauled in nine rebounds. BCL Player of the Year Eric Atkins lived up to his billing with a 21-point, six assist outing. The Gaels held the Bulldogs to two single digit scoring quarters and now await an anticipated second day matchup with the defending champions tonight at 7:30 p.m.  

DeMatha Catholic High School (Hyattsville, Md) 81 vs. Cathedral High School (Hamilton, Ontario, Canada) 36 

The DeMatha Stags are running out of things to prove this season. The past two weeks have concluded in both the WCAC and City championships. Breaking division rival Gonzaga’s two-year stranglehold over the ACIT trophy could be a possible source of motivation, and if so, the Stags are taking no prisoners. 

DeMatha (31-3) ran over, through and around Cathedral (22-14) on their way to the most lopsided victory of the day. Standout point guard Quinn Cook’s 18 points led the Stags on the night but the junior only needed a few short quarters to pile up his stat sheet. DeMatha led 56-24 at halftime and head coach Mike Jones even found time to get his third stringers involved in the Stags’ high wire act. 

After one day’s worth of action, DeMatha and Gonzaga appear to be headed for another title game crash with both teams annihilating their competition today. DeMatha must first take care of the aforementioned Gbinije and the Benedictine Cadets on March 19 at 9:15 p.m. 

March 20, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

DeMatha vs. Gonzaga Tonight @ 8:15

WCAC powerhouses DeMatha & Gonzaga battle for the fourth time this season tonite for the Alhambra Catholic Invitational Tournament Championship. Follow live on Twitter at afronewsevents

March 20, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

One Weekend Down, Three to go for NCAA

Blowouts, buzzer beaters and upsets. If you caught any of last weekend’s conference tournament games then you saw it all. You saw why Evan Turner is the best player in college basketball and why guys like John Wall, Eric Bledsoe and DeMarcus Cousins are special freshmen. You saw how momentum in basketball games can switch at the drop of a dime and why coaches get paid top dollar to reel in fancy recruits and lead their schools to victory.

It was basketball in its purest form, minus the stretch limos and overbearing personalities of professional city teams. I mean sure there’s a John Calipari here or a Lance Stephenson there but it doesn’t get any better than the NCAA come March. College basketball in the spring is a dangerous combination. You can have your NBA Finals in June and your World Series and NFL Playoffs, they just don’t measure up to tournament time.

There’s something unique and innocent about March Madness. The games are played during the day while you’re at work trying to get a peak on the cafeteria television at your favorite team. You fall in love with schools whose location on a map you can’t identify quickly. You lose every year but still play the office and online brackets hoping for some luck. Why? Because March Madness strickens everybody, not just you or your neighbor and coworkers, that’s why!

And what is it? Just what is it that makes March Madness so attractive? Well, for starters, everyone has a chance to win. Yes you Morgan State University. Yes you Georgetown University. And yes you the University of Maryland College Park. Three schools so vastly different in so many ways but all in this thing together that we call March Madness.

It’s crazy. The love affair with your alma mater never dies. Whether you wore a school’s colors when you were in line at its college bookstore or because grandma caught a Christmas sale, everybody has a favorite school come March. When they lose you sulk and when they win you gain an extra day of color donning and smack talking. It’s that simple.

Look high and low, you’ll never find a greater sports playoff system than the NCAA’s version. Other sports do you wrong. One loss during college football’s regular season and a school might as well call it quits. The NBA Finals has proven that you can just nickel and trade your way to championships. The Super Bowl often fails to match its hype. You won’t see the two best boxers fight each other because one’s scared of getting hit and the MLB is still flipping through drug tests from ten years ago.

So March Madness it is. Not to say the NCAA is the epitome of stainless steel but at least you won’t find as many blemishes as those other sports. Sure football has the country in a chokehold right now but even the hardest of pigskin lovers wouldn’t turn away from a good NCAA tournament game.

Poor you if you missed this past weekend’s games. They had everything you could look for in a sport and everything you probably won’t find elsewhere. But don’t worry, last weekend was just a preview. Hopefully, you’ll get to rewitness all the sights, sounds and sizzles for another few weeks. Enjoy it while you can. March Madness doesn’t happen often but when it does, you have to take notice.

March 16, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Two Men, Two Cities and Two Philosophies

Maybe it's the Hall-of-Fame career that has Newsome at the top of his craft (courtesy photo/

Just what in the heck is going on around here? A Maryland NFL team breaks out the dollars for the start of free agency and it’s not the Washington Redskins? Nope, guess again. The Redskins I-95 north neighbor, the Baltimore Ravens, pulled off the headline move of the weekend when they snagged disgruntled Arizona receiver Anquan Boldin for a couple of mid-round draft picks and a handshake. The Ravens, never ones shy to make a move, don’t usually play the monopoly game of the NFL offseason but when they do take a gamble, it’s usually a big one.

From Shannon Sharpe to Willis McGahee to the late Steve McNair, Baltimore has shown it will spend, but wisely. It’s that same method that has allowed the Ravens to stay ultra-competitive amongst the Indianapolis’s, San Diegos, New Englands and Pittsburghs of the AFC.

Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome has made some brilliant moves during his tenure with Baltimore and whenever he senses his team is a piece or two from seriously competing, he adds some more ice to his veins, twists his cap back and rolls the dice with no hesitation. The Ravens have been ousted in the playoffs the last two years by the eventual AFC Super Bowl representative. With a blossoming offense and still stingy enough defense, Newsome patched up the one sore spot he felt was holding his club back, the receiver position.

That’s Newsome for you. He builds his team from the draft up then patches his weak positions with proven veterans who can still bring it on gameday. The only thing that’s stood between Newsome and a few more Super Bowl titles was a problematic quarterback position the city of Baltimore believes he’s since rectified.

The likes of Boldin and the newly acquired Donte Stallworth may not be enough to get Baltimore back to the promise land, but it’s enough to put Joe Flacco and company back in the position of Super Bowl favorites again. Baltimore’s team building formula may not be ideal but it’s certainly one that Washington has to take a look at.

If they were to ever make a music video of NFL owners “making it rain” at a club, the guy in the tank top, khakis and cash falling out his pocket would be none other then Redskins owner Daniel Snyder. Snyder’s ‘spend or die’ approach in recent seasons has netted him no trophies or titles just losing seasons, ridicule and mockery with critics and fans.

Would you trust this man with your NFL franchise? (courtesy photo/

His $100 million pickup of Albert Haynesworth at the start of free agency last year was lauded more for the acquisition’s price tag than its judiciousness. Instead of bolstering an aging and depleted offensive line, Snyder added $100 million to a defense that finished 4th in the league the previous season. But that’s Snyder for you. It doesn’t matter what the team’s needs are, just reel in the best free agent on the market, make a PR splash and sell some tickets.

Operating at times with no blueprint or direction, Snyder’s hiring of head coach Mike Shanahan and general manager Bruce Allen may be arguably the best set of moves he’s ever made in his career as an owner. The team is now run by Allen and Shanahan and it’s showing already.

Washington didn’t ring the dinner bell when free agency started this year, they simply signed versatile offensive lineman Artis Hicks to a quiet three-year deal to man a line position on the right side. Washington’s interest in linemen Tony Pashos and Chad Clifton didn’t end in lucrative big dollar deals –both men signed with other teams– but it showed the Redskins are recommitted to building a winner with solid acquisitions at troubled positions instead of free wheel spending on flashy players.

It may be a different approach from what Redskin fans are used to but if Snyder and Washingtonians are looking for the formula of how to get back to being competitive, they don’t need to look far. A trip up I-95 is all that’s needed to show them how it’s done.

March 10, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ohio State’s Turner Climbing the Wall of Fame

Ohio State's Evan Turner might not be the household name like John Wall, but he's every bit as talented

John Wall. John Wall. John Wall. If you only glance at college basketball every now and again, you would probably assume that Wall is the only thing flying in the NCAA. And it’s hard not to like Kentucky’s Wildcat wonder. He flies in and out the lane like a Ferrari and jumps higher than Super Mario.

The freshman point guard is in the lead for Player of the Year honors and the top overall draft pick but running right beside him in each race is Ohio State’s Evan Turner. While Turner, a junior, might not have the cameras and stage-promoting head coach to talk him into a household name, he has the game of a perennial All-Star. His statline is ridiculous; 20 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals and 1 block per night. Compare that with Wall’s 17 points, 4 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals and half a block per game and it’s not hard to see who should win both races.

Wall gets a lot of love because he’s the freshest on the scene, the newest face in the crowd, the new kid on the block and all those other good analogies but frankly, Turner’s just better. This past weekend’s victory over rival Michigan truly showed Turner’s versatility. The 6-foot-7 point guard/forward’s 11 rebounds and four blocks are numbers you’d be lucky to get from your average center –professional or college– let alone your point man. His ability to play positions one through three is something only select company can lay brag to. Add in his playmaking abilities –he had 18 points and seven assists against Michigan– and he’s a NBA franchise savior waiting to happen.

Several scouts compare Wall to ex-Memphis Tigers guard Derrick Rose. To find Turner’s comparison in my opinion, you might as well stay in Memphis. Former Tiger Penny Hardaway’s numbers as a junior are similar to Turner’s; 23 points, 8.5 rebounds, 6.4 assists 2.4 steals and 1.2 blocks per game. Turner may not have the flash and splash of Hardaway but when Turner’s 6-foot-7 frame is jogging down the court whipping passes behind his back, it’s hard not to think Penny.

Turner has the experience edge over Wall from having played an extra two seasons. As fantastic as Wall has been in his freshman year already, there’s no telling where his game will be in another two years. But Turner is already there and at only 21-years-old, he’s still young enough to get better.

His outside shot could use a little work (what college kid’s jumpshot doesn’t) but his midrange game is solid enough to keep defenses from sagging off him. He’s tall enough to see over defenses and he’s the humble hard working kid you would want to build your franchise around.

But Wall’s going to be the No. 1 pick, that you can count on. The fact that he’s two years younger than Turner and the talk of college basketball world will allow him to be a crowd filler wherever he goes. However, a remarkable college season should land Turner the Player of the Year award and a selection in the top three of June’s NBA Draft

It’s unfortunate that Turner has to sit in the background while Wall gets all the pub but that’s the difference when you play for John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats and Thad Matta and the Ohio State Buckeyes. Turner may not be the headlining name of the NCAA but when it comes to collegiate basketball, he might just be the best player.

March 2, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment