Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Kemba Madness!!!

With all due respect to the four Pre-Thursday NCAA tournament games, March Madness officially doesn't start until tomorrow. This is the time of year when all the casual college basketball fans come out of the woodwork, fill out a bracket, and spark up debates about both teams and players that they know nothing of. The fact that the first round of this years tournament starts on St. Patrick's Day gives me a feeling comparable to that of a child born on February 29th, and actually getting to celebrate their birthday on that day. Just a perfect storm of madness, booze, gambling, entertainment and heartache.

The tournament this year truly is a wide open playing field. But despite lacking the one, two or even three dominant, sure fire teams to make the final four (which I don't necessarily think is a bad thing), it makes up for in star power. Everyone has been talking about how the talent isn't that deep this year, diluted playing field, etc. But everyone knows that March Madness is the time and place for players to truly make a name for themselves.

During the 2010-11 NCAA basketball season, there have been two players who have been able to successfully separate themselves from the pack. Kemba Walker of UConn, and Jimmer Fredette of BYU. Calling them gifted scorers, would be like calling Steven Spielberg a "good" director. They're great at what they do, and more importantly are consistent in what they do. Take Jimmer for example; he led the NCAA in scoring with a staggering 28.5 ppg, and scored 52 points in a conference playoff game just last weekend. But the stat that I think is most impressive is that in 34 games, only three times this season did he score LESS then 20 points in a game (ed. note- never less then 13). He single handedly brought BYU out from its short lived stay in irrelevance land, and carried them all the way up to a top 10 ranking, and #3 seed in this years tournament. And speaking of do it all scorers who led their team to a #3 seed in the tournament with little to no help from anyone else on their team.... Kemba Walker! Or as I like to call him, Allen Iverson 2.0. This guys been on fire since he became a regular on "Sportscenter's Top 10" during the Maui Invitational last fall. He finished fourth in the nation in scoring (23.5ppg), while competing in hands down the toughest conference of all time (This year the Big East produced 11 tournament teams, which is unheard of, and shattered their previous record of 8). When it came down to crunch time this year, it became known as Kemba-time. He couldn't miss. He was literally the anti-Lebron when it came to closing out games and hitting game winners. And like I mentioned before, he wasn't putting up these kinds of numbers vs. teams like Fresno, Wyoming and TCU. Kemba had game winners alone vs. power houses such as Villanova, Texas and Pitt.

All this debating that has been going on between Kemba/Jimmer reminds me of a time not too long ago. The year was 2006, and J.J. Redick and Adam Morrison were in the midst of a similar rivalry, despite never stepping foot on the same court together. Both were putting up unthinkable scoring numbers as well as highlight reels, and the talk of who was the better player became a daily debate between my circle of friends, along with the likes of mainstream media. In the end, JJ won Player of the Year, and missed a foul shot late in a Sweet 16 game that would have won it for them. While Adam led the NCAA in scoring during the regular season, and followed it up by crying on the court after an upset in the tournament. The parallels between those two players and Kemba/Jimmer are eerily similar. Redick and Walker both played on the east coast, on better teams, with the better coach, in the bigger market, in the more competitive conference, and got more ESPN games to showcase themselves. Whereas Morrisson and Fredette both played on the west coast, in the mid-major conference, led the NCAA in scoring, and were Caucasian stars in a primarily African-American league. The thing about Fredette that reminds me the most about Morrisson, is that since they played at small market west coast schools, they sort of had a mystique about them that they wouldn't have had, had they played in the Big East, Big 10, Big 12 or ACC. The fact that you saw the numbers they were putting up, but not necessarily saw the game itself, allowed you to think of these players as larger than life, folk hero esq. stars that you didn't really know too much about. The similarities are definitely there between this years cream of the crop and 2006's. Now lets just hope this time the outcome will be different.

(This commercial scored off the charts on the unintentional comedy scale)

And on an unrelated, somber note. Let's all pour out a 40 oz. this weekend for the late, great, Nate D-O-double G. A man who made a living off breaking the BYU honor code. No one will ever sing the hooks as well as he did. G's up, hoes down.

-fresh (@danye33)

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