With basketball season wrapping up, this may be one of the last posts I'm able to get in about said sport before I'm forced to write about something else. There are so many great moments from this year's March Madness already, and we're only four days in, but writing about the great moments isn't nearly as fun as watching them and, hopefully, most of you have seen most of these moments live anyway so reading about them would just be redundant. If you missed them, I'll let you wait until this year's "One Shining Moment" video to relive them all. In the mean time, I'll tell you a little about some of the great players creating those great moments. Today, halfway through VCU's beat down of Purdue, the four Naismith Finalists were announced. None of them are particularly surprising:
Jimmer Fredette - BYU
Jared Sullinger - (the) Ohio State
Kemba Walker - UCONN
Nolan Smith - Duke
Each one of them is very deserving of the award. I know which one I want to win. Unfortunately, since I'm too cheap to text my pick to 345345 and can't maneuver the darn Naismith website to vote, my opinion doesn't matter at all. However, if you aren't and you can, here's some details that might help you make your final decision.
Jimmer Fredette: I talked extensively about the BYU program and Fredette's teammate, Brandon Davies, in my previous post, but I didn't get into too much detail about the team's star himself. James Fredette is a senior from New York and is the starting guard of the Brigham Young Cougar's basketball team. He averages 4.3 assists per game and 3.5 rebounds a game while also shooting 40.6% from beyond the arc and averaging 28.8 points a game. (That's an average. So far in this tournament alone he scored 32 on Wofford and 34 on Gonzaga. He scored 49 on Arizona back in 2009 and 52 on New Mexico earlier this year.) The average seems low because of the occasional off game. "Off game" here meaning 16 points against Hawaii at the beginning of the season). He came into the spotlight during last year's NCAA tournament, particularly in his 37 point effort that pushed BYU past the Florida Gators in double overtime (who, coincidentally, will be who they play in the Sweet Sixteen next week, the first time BYU has ever advanced this far.) He was the Mountain West Conference's player of the year as well as cbssports.com's national player of the year. Although the Naismith is presented on facts alone, his back story is pretty interesting as well. In case you don't feel like watching that whole video, it basically shows how his brother used to help him practice by setting up scrimmages for him. With the inmates of a nearby jail. If that doesn't toughen a kid up, I don't know what will.
Jared Sullinger: Earlier this year, I shared this same video with you. I couldn't find a new one (some OSU fans need to step up and make a new mix). Also earlier this year, I questioned tOSU as a basketball team. I don't like being wrong and, with the except of my terrible bracket this year, I have a pretty good record (EX: Penn State made the tournament), but I was wrong here. Very, very wrong. Ohio State is a great basketball team and, hypocrite that I am, I think they'll win the National Championship because, honestly, who is going to beat them? Part of the reason they're so good is Jared Sullinger (and Aaron Craft, who doesn't get nearly the amount of attention that he should). He's a freshman and he averages a double-double each game: 17 points and 10.1 rebounds. He was the Big Ten Freshman of the Year. He's also very active on twitter (tonight he's having some conversation with Duke's Kyrie Irving. Fraternizing with the enemy.) A few weeks ago, I showed his "Party in the USA" video. Apparently, the whole video was his idea. It's his favorite song (he tweeted that when some girl asked him if he really liked it, he took off his headphones and it was playing on his iPod). In fact, when a Minnesota fan tried to taunt him with a sign of him, he asked for the poster so he could give it to his mom (the Minnesota fan gave it to him).
Kemba Walker: I'd like to point out that one of the very first games that Kemba Walker started receiving national attention for was their victory over Michigan State in Maui. That's not a good thing, but it's where I first heard his name. Walker ranks 4th in the country in scoring with 23.6 ppg. He was particularly important during Uconn's run through the Big East tournament, where he scored 130 points in five games on five straight days. One might think that all those game right before the NCAA tournament might wear him out, but that doesn't appear to be happening anytime soon. He's from New York, says that he always wanted to come to Uconn, but if he hadn't, he probably would have gone to Cincinnati (which is the team that Uconn beat by 11 in the Big East championship game. Good decision.)
Nolan Smith: Kyle Singler's decision to not live up to pre-season expectations and Kyrie Irving's toe injury opened up a nice path for senior Nolan Smith to average 20.9 ppg, 5.3 apg, and 4.5 rpg, establishing himself as the ACC's player of the year. He was the starting shooting guard last year for Duke's championship run in March and has put the team on his back for most of the year. During the game over Michigan today, he scored 24 points on 8 out of 13 shooting, including a critical stretch where he scored 10 straight points. In my opinion (and, hey, since it's my blog I guess I can put my opinion), he's been somewhat overlooked most of the season. Obviously, he's not too overlooked since he's a Naismith finalist, but a lot of attention was focused on Kyrie Irving. With him gone, Smith led Duke just like an experienced senior should. His dad died when he was 8 years old and he now has a tattoo with the words "Forever Watching" on his arm.
So there are this year's finalists. I know who I want to win (and maybe you can figure it out too) and maybe this has influenced your opinions; maybe it hasn't; or maybe you don't really care that much at all.
As for Elmore Morgenthaler, he was the first 7 foot tall (7'1'', to be exact) basketball player. He played at college ball at the New Mexico School of Mines, professional basketball with Providence and Philadelphia from 1946 to 1949, and, despite his height, averaged less than two points a game.
It should go without saying that the thing to watch this week is the remainder of the NCAA tournament. However, if you happen to be watching a game that the great Gus Johnson isn't calling, then you could always listen to Oscar Cuesta, the Spanish Gus Johnson. Skip to about :45 seconds in; this guy is so happy he's either crying or laughing maniacally.
The Sports Nerd