March Madness Revealing Fresh Talent

Josh Cohen

With two rounds of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament in the books, there haven’t been too many big surprises thus far. For the fourth straight year, all of the one seeds have reached the Sweet 16, and for the third straight year, at least one two-seed failed to make it through the weekend. The 12-seeds once again lived up to their now legendary expectations, as both Villanova and Western Kentucky advanced to the second weekend. Furthermore, for the third time in four years, at least two double-digit seeds have made it through two rounds. Of course there were many disappointments, but this is not the time to dwell on that; March Madness is about the Cinderella stories, legendary shots and the players that rise up and make history.

The team that I’ve been most impressed with thus far in the tournament has to be the Mountaineers of West Virginia. In order to really appreciate how far this team has come, one has to remember that coming into the Big East Tournament, this team was sitting squarely on the bubble. How did they do there? They knocked off Providence and then had an incredibly convincing victory over Connecticut, propelling themselves onto the map while Joe Alexander solidified himself as the best player you’ve never heard of. In the tourney they handily beat a very strong Arizona team filled with future NBA talent, and then backed up their legitimacy by whooping the Dukies. I know the 73-67 final score shows only a six-point difference, but anyone who watched that game knows that it wasn’t nearly that close. With 17 minutes left in the game, Duke was up eight. By the 12-minute mark Bob Huggins’ squad was up seven and never looked back. West Virginia got double-digit efforts from three players, including 22 from Alexander, but what was most impressive was their defense. Duke shot just 22% from deep, committed 13 turnovers and got out-rebounded 45 to 19. Going up against Xavier in the next round, I fully expect the seventh-seeded Mounties to advance, and who knows, maybe they can get by a UCLA team which has looked a little shaky during the last four weeks of the season.

Does anyone deserve more credit for their team’s success than Davidson’s Stephen Curry? Seriously, the kid is lights out. Curry is listed at 6-3, 183 lbs, but let’s be serious. The sophomore, who is best known for being the son of former NBA player Dell Curry, can’t weigh more than 170. He’s got no muscle and every team knows that he is the key to Davidson losing in this tournament. However, the Hoyas and Zags didn’t get the memo. Curry put up 40 points in a first round game over a very talented Gonzaga team. However, what was more impressive was his performance against Georgetown. He led his team back from a 17-point second half deficit by draining shot after shot and playing with an infectious childlike love for the game on his way to scoring 30 points. Against a Georgetown team that is annually atop the leaders in almost every defensive category, Curry scored 25 points in the second half alone, hitting five three pointers. Curry never takes bad shots and is money from the free throw line. He also has a motor comparable to the likes of Tyus Edney. With 70 points through two games, Curry is on pace to destroy Glen Rice’s record for most tournament points scored (180). I hope that I can watch this kid play a few more games and take down a few more giants. So once again, David beat Goliath, just this time it was David-son.

Last but not least, something has to be said for the performance that Stanford’s Brook Lopez put on last Saturday night against Marquette. He put up 30 points, shot 50% from the field and went 10-11 from the line. For all intents and purposes, he represents the only real offensive threat on his club, which makes these feats even more remarkable. Lopez has been carrying Stanford all year. His tremendous heart and determination were never more visible than when his last second game-winning shot fell through the net against Marquette on Saturday. Everyone watching the game knew he would get the ball. Yet somehow Lopez couldn’t be denied his late game heroics, and Stanford, a team who played the second half and overtime without Head Coach Trent Johnson, is moving on to the Sweet Sixteen. Johnson better pray that Lopez doesn’t jump to the next level in the NBA draft, or else the Cardinal are in for a swan dive next season.