2. UCONN

I believe Shabazz Napier is Stephen Curry 2.0. 

If you need a reminder of just how good Curry was in the 2008 NCAA Tournament, enjoy this video montage

Napier is about the same size, 6’1” 180 lbs. Despite his size, Napier leads the UCONN Huskies in rebounding with six per game. He’s also the leader in scoring (17.5 ppg), assists (5 apg) and steals (1.8). He has tournament experience being a part of the 2011 National Championship team, even played 27 minutes in the title game.

He carries this 2014 team on his back and I believe he’s capable of taking them to the Elite Eight if the bracket sets up favorably.

Let’s start with the UCONN highlights:

Beat the Florida Gators – Napier hit the buzzer beater, scored 26 points.

Beat Memphis Three Times – Home, away, conference tournament.

Beat Cincinnati Two out of Three – Cincinnati is the most physical defensive team in the country. Connecticut didn’t thrive offensively against the Bearcats, averaging just 55.6 in those three games, but they did weather the storm and pull out two victories. 

The Cincinnati wins proved that UCONN will not be out-muscled. The Memphis wins showed they could matchup with a very athletic squad. The Florida win showed they can beat the very best.

So what’s wrong with the Huskies?

March 8th. Senior day at Louisville. UCONN went in and got demolished 81-48. Senior days are difficult, games can get out of hand fast, but still it’s hard for me to take a team all the way to the Final Four when they have a 33 point loss in March. 

That’s why Saturday’s AAC Championship game against Louisville was a big deal. Could they beat a team that is playing at a National Title level? Could Kevin Ollie make the right coaching adjustments to fix the 33 point defeat? Would Napier out-duel Russ Smith? 

Negative. They were outmatched again. Not 30 point outmatched, but Louisville led by around 20 for most of the game. That makes three losses on the season to Louisville. Two losses on the year to SMU. I mean if you throw out the Rick Pitino and Larry Brown coached opponents then UCONN is an impressive 26-3… 

So, let’s get this straight, they can’t beat Louisville, but they’ve got this Shabazz guy who’s supposed to be Steph Curry 2.0. Who else is on this team?

DeAndre Daniels is a versatile 6’9” forward who can play down in the post or out on the perimeter depending on the matchup. He had 17 points and 10 rebounds against Louisville

Ryan Boatright is a less refined version of Napier. Still really quick and can handle point guard responsibilities. 

Backup center Amida Brimah is a raw 7-footer who made big strides in the conference tournament. I like when teams have a guy like this who starts figuring things out right before the tournament. Adds a weapon that other teams are not preparing for. Brimah is a great shot blocker and is quickly improving his game on offense.

Verdict

Should be a lock to the Sweet 16. I’m not yet ready to commit to the Elite Eight and unfortunately the Louisville loss on Saturday killed any Final Four thoughts. 

 

 

 

 

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3. North Carolina

In elementary school the biggest sin was swearing. In middle school swearing was upgraded to smoking cigarettes. In high school it was underage drinking.

Don’t swear. Don’t smoke. Don’t drink. Follow these rules and you’re a good kid. Break these rules and beware of being labeled the “bad boy” or the “dangerous girl” in the parental gossip circles.

Then comes college and all hell breaks loose. Whether you came in as a “good kid” or “bad kid”, there’s almost no avoiding the bad, the weird, the fun, the questionable, the slightly awesome decisions out there to be made.

If you made it through college without ever doing any of the following: getting drunk, smoking, streaking across campus (nude or in your underwear), waking up in a place you didn’t remember ever arriving at, sleeping through a class, sleeping in a class, skipping a class because you wanted to go to the beach or being involved in at least two cell phone videos that you wouldn’t want to watch 10 years later, then I hate to say it, but I think you missed out.

Like that one episode of South Park said, “There’s a time and a place for everything and it’s called college.”

The college years are the four most forgiving years of life.

For example, if you are found passed out on a fraternity house lawn at age 19, your peers will post the photo online and move on. Get found passed out on the same lawn at age 45, what is wrong with this guy?

As a college freshman, it’s a hilarious story to tell your friends. At age 45 you could lose your job over it.

I feel like North Carolina is the the third grader who told his teacher, “This is bullshit” and got sent to the principal’s office. Or the seventh grader who smoked cigarettes after school. Or the high schooler who got drunk and puked at a dance party.

At the time, oh man, that kid is absolute trouble! Now? Those don’t seem that bad at all.

As life goes on and everyone has moments/decisions they are not proud of, that “bad kid” from junior high is no longer bad at all. He was just a kid.

In sports, as in life, you don’t have to be perfect or even try to be perfect. Being perfect, like Wichita State, becomes even more stressful. If they lose in the tournament, the disappointment is far more severe than having an off night back in December.

North Carolina’s “bad” losses to Belmont, UAB, Wake Forest and Miami all took place before February. These don’t look as bad now since other teams caught up with bad losses of their own. Plus Belmont ended up being a pretty solid mid-major team.

Every team, besides Wichita State, has blemishes now. What the other teams don’t have are North Carolina’s four extremely quality wins. Michigan State (when they were #1). Louisville (when they were #3). Duke (when they were #5). Kentucky (when they were #11).

That is why North Carolina is No. 3 on this list. Oklahoma State could beat any team on the bracket, UNC has beaten the top tier opponents. I was going to put them at No. 1 because of their potential, but the Pittsburgh loss in the ACC Tournament reminded me of the same frustrating truth of every other team on this list: they could lose first round.

Q: Ok, so now that I’ve received a weird lecture on why making mistakes is ok and pretty sure you just encouraged every college kid to go out and make mistakes, can I get some actual analysis on the UNC roster?

North Carolina’s motor is point guard Marcus Paige. He has been consistent all year long averaging 17.4 ppg and dishing out about four assists per contest.

James Michael McAdoo is having a decent season. He’s victim of there being huge expectations after his freshman year, not having a breakout sophomore season and putting up quality but not great numbers as a junior.

Why Pick North Carolina?

Usually with Roy Williams teams, dating back to when he was head coach at Kansas, the strategy seemed to always be, “We’re gonna get out and run, play ok defense and try and win games in the 80’s/90’s.” This year’s North Carolina team plays better defense and can win in a variety of ways. They held the Spartans to 65 points and in their win against Duke, held Coach K’s team to 66.

If you want to take the Tar Heels to the Final Four, you are absolutely validated in doing so. It’s not crazy, they have the wins to back it up. I would, however, advise against picking them to lose first round. Those early ACC losses? This team has grown up since then. Roy Williams will have them ready and I feel pretty good about a Sweet 16 run for the Tar Heels.

As for anyone going off to college, I’ll echo the wisdom of Dr. Frazee:

“It’s alright to get a little bit crazy, just don’t do anything stupid.”

Missouri Puts Exclamation Point on Disappointing Season

Hi. This is Chris O’Brien. What you are about to read is a rant from one of the most passionate Missouri fans I know, MoMo Harris. This is a part of the ‘Loss For Words’ series, a good idea I had a few months ago that I have been absolutely terrible at following up on.

The Premise: Rants, videos, analysis from fans right after a loss. Real emotion when the wound is still raw. If you ever want to post your own rant, email chrisobrien30@gmail.com and if you really want to make me feel good go on Twitter and use a trendy #LossForWords or #L4W hashtag thing. Alright cool. Enjoy MoMo!

By: MoMo Harris

Mizzou…What was that yesterday?

What was that Gawd-awful performance you crapped out on the Pat Summit Court?

Did you forget that you were still trying to play your way into the tournament?

Did you forget that you had self-respect on the line still?

I guess you did forget. You decided to forget and play in a most horrific way yesterday to a team that you could beat. This game was the microcosm of your entire season. Instead of stepping up and taking the challenge, you folded like a cheap house.

Thanks Frank. Oh Frank Haith…YOU CAN’T COACH!!!!

Frank…what is your coaching scheme, because watching this team all year your strategy was Jordan Clarkson slashing through the lane for a layup or Jabari Brown taking threes (which he is damned good at!) outside of that, all I saw was dribbling and maybe two passes before a shot was taken. Meanwhile Frank is standing in his beautiful tailored suit looking angry.

I don’t know what you’re angry about Frank…maybe you should be angry at the fact that YOU CAN’T COACH!!!! I finally realized it in the Braggin’ Rights Game – Mizzou v. Illinois. I saw Mizzou go against a well-coached opponent and it was staggering to see what a well-coached team could do. Illinois beat us, it was close, but we had better talent and it wasn’t used to its fullest effect.

Then we lose to teams like Georgia and Alabama and a shorthanded Vandy team. Frank, you had a good program and now its profile is slowly sinking into the swamp of the SEC.

He can’t coach; his assistant coaches can’t coach. I really don’t know what they do during practices. Allen Iverson does more during practices than this team does. When Mizzou plays there is no offensive scheme and their defense is a constant mix of crappy zones and man defense. It’s a train wreck that you want to stop, but you can’t unless you run into the court and knock people out to stop the madness. Maybe that UCSB guy who ran and confronted the Hawaii coach had the right idea.

Ugg…I just remembered Mike Alden hates firing people…I am stuck with him for ANOTHER YEAR of awful basketball!!!!

Oh and Frank, you couldn’t inspire the team to play their hearts out to win; to play their way into the tournament. Good coaches do that, but wait you’re not a good coach. You’re only good at taking checks from convicted felons who are your boosters. Thanks Frank!

Thanks a lot team. You showed who you are; you have no heart. You had everything on the line and you decided to shut it down. I mean this team depends on only two scorers, Clarkson and Brown. Our starting “center” is Andy Rosburg. Andy Rosburg’s only purpose is to take charges; he can’t score worth a damn and God help us if he tries to rebound, because he fails awfully. He’s worse than the center Ivan Radmonovich in the movie “Eddie.”

Our other bigs needs some work, which is saying a lot that they are worst than Rosburg. I hate blaming players…it starts with the coaches…which means FRANK HAITH SUCKS!!!!

What I saw was a collapse at the worst possible time. I give credit to Tennessee, even though their mascot is dumb and orange is an awful team color. Cuonzo Martin is a good coach and had his team ready to play.

Frank Haith…he just had them ready to get to the stadium to look confused.

At least he was dressed well.

Ugg… I am stuck with Haith for ANOTHER YEAR of awful basketball!!!!!!!!!

P.S. They made me sad 😦

MO sad