The Scarlet & Black

The Independent Student News Site of Grinnell College

The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Kramer’s got a fever and the only cure is more hoops

*Cough, cough, cough.* Oh hello there, dear reader. I didn’t see you come in. Please, come a little closer, and join me on the settee. Oh, not too close—you see, I’ve been stricken with a mysterious malady these past few days, and I don’t see it going away for at least a month. Surely my plight is not unusual on this campus, where disease spreads like Cortés sneezing in Tenochtitlan. So be forewarned—March Madness is coming, my friend. Perhaps soon you’ll catch it too. Don’t try to take this bug to the health center either, because a little brown paper bag of generic pain-killers won’t cure what ails me, and, *cough, cough, cough,* soon you. Read on and watch some college hoops this month for immediate relief, and if that doesn’t work, I suggest you go to a Bracketologist for a full diagnosis.

This Sunday the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee will release the bracket for this year’s tournament, and much like Seth Green circa 1998, I can’t hardly wait. Why did Melissa Joan Hart have such a minor role in that movie, by the way? She was a teenage witch, man. She explained it all. Nobody could mess with her. Nobody has time to watch all eleventy thousand games (rough estimate), so that’s why I’ve created the following convenient March Madness companion of which teams will be a panacea for your aching, syphilitic (or is that just me?), hoops-loving body. Take twice daily, preferably with a meal.

Men Among Boys

Several teams who are already tournament “locks” are lucky enough to have the sort of star-studded line-ups that put even a Charlie Sheen coke party to shame. Others might boast only a single freakishly talented individual, much like, say, a Charlie Sheen interview with the dreadful Piers Morgan. Except I’m not saying their teammates are dreadful. Anyway, memes aside, here are the six teams that are always going to be entertaining if for nothing else that the exceptional play of a few guys who will almost definitely hear David Stern call their names in June.

The Arizona Wildcats feature a man who is frequently projected as a potential first overall draft pick in forward Derrick Williams. Williams is averaging 18.8 ppg and 8.2 rpg and ranking first in the nation in Ken Pomeroy’s offensive efficiency ratings for players used in at least 28 percent of their teams’ possessions.  Williams also passes the eye test with flying colors. He is exemplary at moving without the ball, he can drive on you and he has some very slick post moves. He also unleashes dunks meaner than Frankie Muniz’s Twitter feed. Seriously, check out some of his work on YouTube, because it is filthy. Like, Muniz filthy.

The hated—by me and other sports fans with taste—Kansas Jayhawks are, as usual, loaded with NBA talent. The center of attention for the Jayhawks this year has been junior forward Marcus Morris, who averages 17.3 ppg and 7 rpg. While I personally think Morris is a totally classless individual (it says something when your Google search suggestions include, and I am not making this up, “Marcus Morris elbow” “Marcus Morris ejected” and “Marcus Morris flagrant foul”), the guy can put the ball in the hoop with authority and is a surefire first-round pick. His twin brother Markieff is only a step behind Marcus and also looks like an NBA player, though he could slip to the second round. Sophomore forward Thomas Robinson is so athletic he could be the best of the Kansas interior players when all is said and done. But, he’s still a work in progress. Even less ready but equally talented is freshman point guard Josh Selby, who has needed some time to adjust to the college game but oozes with potential. I’d also like to take this opportunity to ask Kansas fans how glad they are that C.J. Henry will be using up a roster spot for two more years. Hope Xavier was worth the one year. At least the Jayhawks made a great tournament run last year like they always do, right? Well, I guess I should ask Ali Farokhmanesh about that …

Ohio State is a lot like Kansas, only likeable. Freshman forward Jared Sullinger of the Buckeyes does the work of both Morii in the post, which is why he’s also in contention for the first overall pick. Sully must listen to a lot of Waka Flocka Flame, because the dude goes hard in the paint. He’s averaging 17.3 ppg and 9.7 rpg, but is helped by junior guard William Buford, who has the size and the range to be a first rounder as well.

Other notable stars include the Kentucky Wildcats’ freshman PG Brandon Knight and freshman forward Terrence Jones. Jones averages 17 and 9 like Morris and Sullinger, but he also averages two blocks and a steal. The Texas Longhorns’ small forward Jordan Hamilton and power forward Tristan Thompson are both elite talents, though Hamilton needs to improve his shot selection. The North Carolina Tar Heels also have a pair of future NBA players in PF John Henson and the pride of Ames, IA, Harrison Barnes. Barnes had a fairly pedestrian start to his season but has come on lately to improve his draft stock.

Up or Down?

The team that will probably warrant the most discussion on Selection Sunday is the BYU Cougars. Led by sharp-shooting guard Jimmer Fredette, BYU was a dominant force earlier in the season with wins over Arizona, UNLV (twice), San Diego State (twice), and bubble-dwellers Saint Mary’s, Utah State, and UTEP. There was talk of Jimmer for the Naismith award and as an NBA lottery pick. In the typical progressive, color-blind fashion of the liberal media, Jimmer has been compared to some of the greatest White basketball players ever, like Larry Bird (who was taller and way better), Adam Morrison (taller, same skill-level), Mark Price (faster, better passer), or J.J. Reddick (this one is spot-on). But then the wheels came off on March 2 with a blowout home loss to New Mexico, a team that went 8-8 in the Mountain West and likely won’t make the tournament field. That loss came in the wake of the suspension of sophomore power forward Brandon Davies.

As you will recall, Davies was suspended for the season for violating the BYU Honor Code by having premarital sex with his girlfriend. Despite the national media’s repeated invitations for somebody, anybody, to get indignant about this, in a shocking display of tolerance for both sex and crazy religious rules, few pundits took the bait. The kid made a mistake by violating a code which he agreed to follow, and is now being punished according to that same code. As reluctant as I might be to credit an institution that doesn’t even allow coffee or tea, much less lovely, delicious beer, BYU handled the situation correctly.

With Davies gone, the Cougs are clearly a different team. He was the team’s leading rebounder with 6.2 per game, as well as the third leading scorer, chipping in 11.1 ppg. Without Davies, BYU’s roster boasts only one player taller than 6-8. They will struggle mightily against teams with a strong interior presence and will live and die with Fredette and Jackson Emery’s jump-shots, and taking a lot of jump-shots with only one dude who can rebound for you is a risky proposition. The Cougs deserve a good seeding, probably a two or maybe a three seed, in the tournament based on their body of work. But they will not be able to live up to that seeding if they have an unfavorable matchup in the second round with a 7 or 10 seed that rebounds well, like perhaps a UCLA with Reeves Nelson.

Quick Hits:

Several teams have a strong enough body of work throughout the season to still merit tournament selection but have been stumbling of late. Villanova is the most striking example of such a team. The Wildcats have dropped their last five games, including a loss to conference doormat South Florida in the Big East Tournament. Another group of Wildcats stands in stark contrast to those of Villanova. Kansas State is one of the hottest teams in the country right now after starting the reason ranked 4th and imploding down the stretch. KSU’s Wildcats won six in a row before falling to a desperate Colorado Buffaloes team on Thursday, including wins over Kansas, my own Missouri Tigers, and at Texas. The St. John’s Red Storm also come into the tournament with a lot of momentum, having won ten of its last 13 games, including wins over Duke, UConn and Pitt.

Also of note, after Marquette’s wins over Providence and West Virginia, the Big East has essentially locked up a record 11 tournament bids, thus maintaining its college hoops hegemony. In my opinion, providing a dominant, entertaining brand of basketball is the least this conference could do after they sent friggin’ UConn to the Fiesta Bowl against the Oklahoma Sooners. That’s not a knife in a gunfight, that’s a comb in a gunfight. I can only hope the B-East doesn’t develop the arrogance with which SEC football stinks so pungently.

Lastly, it’s nearly impossible to predict the Final Four right now because you never know which regions teams will be seeded in and some Championship Week drama could shift things further, so here are five excellent teams that I think have a good chance to make the Final Four: Ohio St., Pittsburgh, San Diego State, Texas, and, my sleeper pick, Kentucky. These teams should help that case of the Madness clear up by April 4. *Cough.*

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