Ten Best: Men’s Basketball Tourney Moments
Forget Cinderella, Davidson’s star shooting guard looked more like Superman in his team’s contests against Gonzaga, Georgetown and Wisconsin in the first three rounds of the tournament. He scored 103 points in three games – 25 of them in the second half of Davidson’s comeback win over second-seeded Georgetown. And he did it with style. During a remarkable run that began with a couple treys from the corners, Curry split the screen and scooped the ball up over the rim for two more. It was enough to bring NBA superstar LeBron James out for a firsthand look during Davidson’s Sweet Sixteen win over Wisconsin.
‘Toppers beat the buzzer
Every few years it happens: Some team pulls off the upset with a desperation shot at the buzzer. This year Western Kentucky’s Ty Rogers launched the ball from 26 feet out with no time left on the clock and three defenders in his face. It was good. Western Kentucky prevailed with 101 points to Drake’s 99. Rogers better get used to seeing himself on the highlight reel, because his shot is going to be spending some time in heavy rotation.
Blue collars and blue bloods
Duke struggled in the first round against Belmont and met its match in West Virginia two days later. The two Joes, Alexander and Mazulla, led their team in the second-round smackdown. Alexander delivered a monster block on Duke’s DeMarcus Nelson early in the game and followed it with a taunt. “I told him he probably shouldn’t shoot it anymore,” Alexander told journalists. The scribes have been loving this kid ever since.
Brook Lopez, one half of Stanford’s 14-foot Lopez shooting tandem, practically pirouetted off the baseline for the delicate basket that gave Stanford its overtime win over scrappy Marquette in the second round. And he did it with less than two seconds on the clock. Compared to Rogers’ last-second heave, the shot was positively laid-back, but it still gave the fans in Anaheim a moment of drama.
This year will be remembered as the one in which all four lower-seeded teams in the Tampa sub-regional beat their higher-seeded opponents – a first in tournament history. It started when No. 12 Western Kentucky beat No. 5 Drake. Then No. 13 San Diego beat No. 4 UConn. No. 13 Siena pasted No. 4 Vandy and No. 12 Villanova sealed history with their defeat of No. 5 Clemson. Wish I coulda been there.
A week after Tampa made history, all four top-seeded teams won their respective regional finals, filling the Final Four with number ones for the first time in tournament history. This is disappointing for folks like myself who wanted to see a Cinderella in the semi-final mix. Expect to hear a lot about what this might mean during the last few days of tournament downtime.
So Clarey predicted that UNC would get its comeuppance last weekend. Didn’t happen. Louisville came close a couple of times and even tied it up at 59 with 10 minutes to play. But the Tar Heels, led by bug-eyed forward Tyler Hansbrough, pulled away for the win.
Augustin makes magic
Before Memphis embarrassed my Texas Longhorns in the Elite Eight, Augustin put on a show in the game against Stanford. The first-team All American didn’t just score 23 points, he also executed some of the prettiest assists in all of tournament play. He was helped by teammates Damion James and AJ Abrams, who poured on a combined 30 points. It’s too bad they didn’t play like this against the towering Tigers.
Let’s face it: the second weekend of tournament play was a snooze. All the Cinderellas except Davidson were booted from the ball, leaving giant, tattooed musclemen from the Midwest to duke it out against giant, tattooed musclemen from the coasts. The lone moment of basketball magic happened on Thursday, when Xavier’s BJ Raymond knocked down a long three with two left on the shot clock to put the game out of West Virginia’s reach.
The Hilltoppers made it a game in the second half against UCLA, almost coming back from a 21-point deficit before succumbing to the Bruins’ superior size and skill. Western Kentucky pulled within four, but Kevin Love led UCLA to a win with his 29 points and 14 rebounds.