Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, March 3, 2014 at 10:55 AM
IT’S OUR JIM SEZ SALUTE TO THE OSCARS AS WE HAND OUT THE WINNERS OF A HALF-DOZEN TOP COLLEGE B-BALL CATEGORIES …
PLUS THE WEEKEND HOOPS RE-CAP ANSWERS THE BURNING QUESTION: YES, VIRGINIA, THE CAVS ARE INDEED A TRUE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP CONTENDER!
Hey, who needed the red carpet treatment, anyway?
Step right up and we’ll be happy to give you our College Basketball “Oscar winners” here in today’s edition of Jim Sez plus we haven’t forgotten that it’s indeed March and so we’ll give you some hardwood action to watch on this first Monday/Tuesday of the month.
But without further ado, here’s our College Basketball “Oscar” winners:
BEST PICTURE/STORY – Wichita State
C’mon, how could it be anyone else, right?
The second-ranked Shockers – 31-and-oh following Saturday’s easy-as-pie 68-45 win/cover against 16-point road underdog Missouri State – have absolutely captured the imagination of all hard-core hoops fans from coast-to-coast and gotta say right now we’ll be a tad disappointed if Wichita State doesn’t make it back to this year’s Final Four. And won’t you?
BEST PERFORMER/ACTOR – Doug McDermott, Creighton
Don’t know about you but he’s our hands-down National Player of the Year and it’s not even close as this Bluejays senior star is averaging 26 points per game while hitting on an amazing 52 percent of his field-goal attempts. The 23-and-5 Jays stubbed their toes over the weekend in that 75-69 loss at 2 ½-point home dog Xavier but this club -- ranked #9 in last week’s Associated Press Top 25 poll -- sports the number one performer in the land and so go ahead and give ‘em the Oscar statue already!
BEST SUPPORTING PERFORMER/ACTOR – Naadir Tharpe, Kansas
Sure, Tharpe’s only the Jayhawks’ fifth-leading scorer at 8.9 points a game and he doesn’t possess the “wow” factor brought to the floor by the likes of teammates super-frosh Andrew Wiggins (16.3 ppg) or the future draft stock of string-bean C Joel Embiid but all this versatile guard does is hold things all together for 22-7 Kansas and perhaps you heard ESPN game analyst Fran Fraschilla say the other night that when Tharpe (5.1 assists per game) plays well, Kansas wins. ‘Nuff said.
BEST DIRECTOR – Tony Bennett, Virginia
The Cavaliers’ fifth-year head coach gets less national pub than any leader of a 25-5 team should but note he’s been an absolute maestro with this ACC frontrunner and the fact the Wahoos only have two players averaging double-figure scoring proves his sound defensive philosophies work (and maybe work even better than his dad’s philosophies back in the Wisconsin and Wisky-Green Bay days). We’ll delve into Saturday’s rollicking win against Syracuse a little later here in this Jim Sez column.
VISUAL EFFECTS – Jim Boeheim, Syracuse
There’s been lots of scene-stealing action on the floor this year whether you’ve been captivated by some high-flying plays by Duke frosh Jabari Parker or maybe the aforementioned McDermott bombs from trey-down caught your fancy but the one visual that sticks in many folks’ minds is coach Boeheim going wacko following that controversial charge/block foul called against his team in that late February loss at Duke.
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD – Larry Brown, SMU
Gotta say that we never did expect Brown back on the college scene after his past couple of NBA firings but the leader of the country’s 23rd-ranked team deserves a round of applause for his work this year with the SMU Mustangs who dare we say could be a Sweet 16-type team this year if things pan out right. Just sayin’!
And now hear this …
Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers keep rockin’-n-rollin’ through March with this College Basketball and NBA season as there are gonna be loads of winners right here online at www.vegassportsmasters.com or at our exclusive toll-free telephone # of 1-888-777-4155 – so go ahead and join the fun and profits today with all the hardwood action this month and remember the conference tournaments or so-called mini-tournies heat up next week with day-time action all throughout the month – we’ll keep you posted for all the important conference tourney news and notes!
COLLEGE BASKETBALL WEEKEND WRAP-UP
Here’s one prediction that we didn’t make last October … and we’re darn sure you didn’t make it either:
The Virginia Cavaliers secured their first outright Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season championship in 33 years by virtue of last Saturday’s 75-56 win against 4-point underdog Syracuse and – unlike that 1981 squad – it didn’t feature any Player of the Year type (see Ralph Sampson) but did feature plenty of grit and plenty of heart.
The Cavaliers’ 13th consecutive victory turned into a major second-half celebration as the ‘Cuse sported the 28-27 halftime lead before Virginia stormed its way to a 48-28 second half as Malcolm Brogdon scored 17 of his career-high 19 points after intermission while “Best Director” Bennett received yet another stellar defensive showing from his troops – yes, the guys who rank first nationally in scoring defense while allowing a meager 54.8 points per game.
Syracuse finished the ACC affair by shooting a wobbly 20-of-56 from the floor (that’s 35.7 percent) as the three-headed scoring monster of C.J. Fair, Trevor Cooney and frosh G Tyler Ennis combined to hit just 12-of-36 field-goal tries and please don’t ignore the fact the Orange shot 5-of-22 from beyond the three-point arc.
So, the Virginia team that entered the game ranked No. 12 in the land – and generally ignored when it’s come time to talk who can really “win it all” this year – now holds the numero uno seed in next week’s ACC Tournament in Greensboro and it says here that if the Wahoos can “double down” and win that ACC Tourney too then you had better expect Virginia to be a #1 seed come NCAA Tournament time … no ands, ifs, or buts about it, right committee members?
Tonight, it’s …
NOTRE DAME (15-15, 6-11 ACC) at #19 NORTH CAROLINA (22-7, 12-4 ACC) – 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
It sure didn’t look as if this 2013-14 edition of the UNC Tar Heels was gonna be anything special but can you believe they’ll enter this conference clash riding an 11-game winning streak and already have clinched a first-round bye in next week’s ACC Tournament?
As a matter of fact, you can point to any number of factors that have lifted Roy Williams’ crew from the scrap heap to a penthouse setting (let’s not get ugly and talk about the team’s miserable free-throw shooting, okay?) but keep in mind that G Marcus Paige (team-leading 17.2 ppg) remains a monster in second halves of games and let’s see if he’s called upon to take over here against a Notre Dame team that lost 73-62 at home to 1 ½-point road fav North Carolina back on Feb. 8th – that’s a game in which Paige poured in 16 points while teammate James Michael McAdoo registered 18 points and Carolina’s overall superior athleticism really zonked the Irish.
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On Tuesday, it’s …
ALABAMA (12-17, 6-10 SEC) at #17 KENTUCKY (21-8, 9-5 SEC) – 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
The natives are getting restless in the Bluegrass State – and even head coach John Calipari’s been losing his cool too as his ejection in the second half of last Saturday’s 72-67 loss at 9 ½-point dog South Carolina actually sparked the Wildcats to a 28-17 run but it was a case of too-little, too-late.
So, when they toss up the jump ball for this SEC clash in Lexington, we’ll see if Calipari is on his “best behavior” and we’ll see if this Kentucky team that aim it a bit better at the rim after shooting an anemic 14-of-52 from the floor (that’s 27 percent) – the ‘Cats have dropped two straight and they’re just a so-so 6-4 SU (straight-up) in their last 10 games and you’re getting a sense that this freshman-led class is hitting that proverbial wall here.
Let’s watch for Kentucky big man Julius Randle (15.5 ppg) who missed seven of his eight FG tries against the SC Gamecocks and note Randle is a collective 10-of-30 from the floor in his last three overall outings … ugh!
Finally, as we’ve been pointing out in recent days, the College Basketball Conference Tournaments are beckoning with the Horizon League getting into the swing of things Tuesday night and here’s a little overview:
HORIZON LEAGUE –
The truth is this figures to be a mere one-team league when it comes to the upcoming NCAA Tournament and the three teams that figure to vie for the crown are Green Bay, Cleveland State and Wright State (the only three double-digit-winning clubs in the conference) but don’t sleep on Valpo even though the Crusaders finished 1-5 SU against that triumvirate.
Gut feeling? Cleveland State wins this mini-tourney shindig behind a three-point festival as G Bryn Forbes (team-leading 15.7 ppg) has nailed 75 triples this year and is shooting 42 percent from beyond the three-point line.
NOTE: There’s more College Basketball News/Notes/Previews in the next edition of Jim Sez and remember the various conference tournaments get rollin’ this week as we’ll check in on the Missouri Valley Conference, the West Coast Conference and the Colonial Athletic Conference later this week with tons of previews next week on all the power conferences.