Archive for the ‘NCAA Basketball’ Category

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All day long, we make compromises. We jump through hoops designed by others — often meaningless and almost alway arbitrary — so as to achieve something that we can genuinely appreciate for ourselves.

We learn from an early age that any individual revolt against the system to which we’re born will be met with less comfort than merely going along with it, and so, excluding a few heroes, we mostly agree to play the game. We turn a blind eye to great injustices, step around challenging authoritative structures, and lead an inauthentic life for the sake of amenity and contentment.

You and I share a lot in common with the guy from The Matrix who sells out his team. We know it’s all an illusion, but we’d rather live undisturbed there than deal with the reality of our situation.

We’re frequently reminded of this by devilish misanthropes, forever eager to broach the subject of a far more disturbing trend whenever we complain of something trivial.

Lines at the airport got you down? At least you’re not in Aleppo being bombed by the Syrian army. Are you tired of the cold weather? At least your child wasn’t infected with drug-resistant tuberculosis. And so it goes.

Recently, I’ve found myself feeling similarly about the ongoing — and admittedly trivial in a grand scheme of things sort of way — NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

It’s a sporting event unlike any other. 68 teams of comparable age and varying talent compete in a massive three week tournament, in which the representatives of a single school have to win six straight games against what’s meant to be increasing levels of competition before being crowned National Champions.

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World Select Team v USA Junior Select TeamFor all intents and purposes, Andrew Wiggins should be a very loud noise. The 18-year-old Canadian is six-foot, eight-inches tall with a seven-foot wingspan. He weighs approximately 200 pounds, and has a 44-inch vertical. He is the consensus number one ranked basketball recruit in North America, and is among the most hyped prospects of the last decade.

In addition to YouTube dunk montage maestros, college basketball coaches and recruiters focused themselves on Wiggins for the better part of the last two years, as he went about dominating the high school circuit as a small forward for Huntington Prep in West Virginia. The public, at least the portion that concerns itself with where high school sports stars attend college, was rabid with anticipation for the slightest hint of interest from the player.

Despite the amphitheatre of attention that this afforded the 18-year-old, Wiggins ended what seemed like an entire era of speculation on Tuesday afternoon with a whisper, or more accurately, a tweet. Avoiding the bright lights attached to television cameras and the claustrophobic conditions of a pressing media throng, the Vaughan, Ontario native quietly announced to his family, friends, teammates and a single reporter from a Huntington newspaper that he would be attending the University of Kansas next season. The rest of us would find out from the Twitter account of Grant Traylor, the one journalist with access.

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Ed O''BannonThe 1995 NBA Draft was held in Toronto, and when the expansion Raptors selected Damon Stoudamire with the seventh overall pick, the assembled crowd of local fans, lacking the education that a single season of professional basketball at the elite level might provide, booed because they wanted the team to draft Ed O’Bannon. Never mind the fact that Stoudamire and O’Bannon were PAC-10 Co-Players of the Year. Three months earlier, they had all learned of O’Bannon’s story during UCLA’s National Championship run through the NCAA Tournament, for which the 6’8″ forward was named Most Outstanding Player.

A matter of days before his first Midnight Madness practice at UCLA, the 6’8″ forward tore his ACL in a game of pickup hoops. He was told by doctors that the injury wouldn’t allow him to walk properly, let alone pursue a career playing basketball. However, he persevered through a redshirt year of rehab and emerged as a capable substitute in his freshman season. His sophomore campaign saw him named to the PAC-10 first team. It was an honor he’d repeat in his junior year, along with being named UCLA’s Most Valuable Player.

As impressive as his turnaround was, it was all just a lead up to O’Bannon’s senior year in which he led the Bruins to the 1995 NCAA Basketball Championship, collecting multiple honors along the way including yet another place in the PAC-10 first team, a consensus nod as a first team All-American, the aforementioned PAC-10 Player of the Year, and the USBWA College Player of the Year award. It was a successful enough season to make his name not only known to the majority of sports fans in a Canadian city more than 2,500 miles away from where he played College Basketball, but also actively coveted as the face of their new NBA franchise.

O’Bannon was eventually selected ninth overall by the New Jersey Nets. He was largely ineffective as a professional: too small to play the post, not quick enough to play the perimeter. He spent two seasons in the NBA, was traded twice and released. He toured around Europe, playing basketball in Spain, Greece and Poland. He even played a season in Argentina before retiring from professional basketball. From there, he worked as a car salesman, becoming the dealership’s marketing director before finishing the degree he started at UCLA.

Now, he leads a comfortable, but not extravagant life with his wife and three children, far removed from the glory days of the past. It might therefore be considered surprising that it is at this stage in his life that O’Bannon stands to make a greater impact on college sports in the United States than any athlete before him by forever altering how amateur athletics are defined in the country.

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atticusSpending all day – every day – immersed in sports is a bit like working at Pizza Hut and eating nothing but pizza. If one is unburdened by such matters as personal health and waistline size, pizza is a wonderful thing. Unfortunately, too much of a wonderful thing is likely to leave one no longer believing the wonderful thing to be all that wonderful.

Sports are really, really great. However, the more time you spend reading and writing about a topic, the greater the chance its ugly little cracks and cobwebs will begin to emerge. This is why, over time, the focus of writers and fans alike becomes embittered by the more negative aspects of sports. The cheating. The discrimination. The exploitation. The inequality. It all becomes overwhelming. We forget why sports are so great, and why they fascinated us long before we grew caustic to what they could offer. And so, that’s where The Week In Sports Happiness comes into play.

Every week, I’ll present the ten things that are making me happy from the world of sports. It might be a particular article, it could be a winning streak, it may even be an animated GIF. No matter what, it’s from sports, it made me feel good inside, and I hope it does the same for you.

Without further ado, sports the good:

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AL_MASomething tells me that if this was NCAA Football’s National Championship game being written about, the Montgomery Advertiser in Alabama might have gotten it right. However, it wasn’t football, it was basketball, and it was actually Louisville edging Michigan for the NCAA Men’s title, not Syracuse.

The lengths people will go to make their brackets turn out better.

nebraskacancerkidSpending all day – every day – immersed in sports is a bit like working at Pizza Hut and eating nothing but pizza. If one is unburdened by such matters as personal health and waistline size, pizza is a wonderful thing. Unfortunately, too much of a wonderful thing is likely to leave one no longer believing the wonderful thing to be all that wonderful.

Sports are really, really great. However, the more time you spend reading and writing about a topic, the greater the chance that its ugliness will be realized. This is why our focus often becomes embittered by all of the negative aspects present in sports. We forget why sports are so great to begin with. And so, that’s where The Sports Culture Happiness Index comes to play.

Every week, I’ll present the ten things that are making me happy from the world of sports. It might be a particular article, it could be a winning streak, it may even be an animated GIF. No matter what, it’s from sports, it made me feel good inside, and I hope it does the same for you.

Without further ado, sports the good:

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Louisville VS. DukeWith six minutes and 39 seconds remaining in the first-half of Sunday’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Midwest regional final between Duke University and the University of Louisville, Cardinals guard Kevin Ware leaped to block a shot from Blue Devils guard Tyler Thornton, and landed awkwardly on his right leg. The results were horrific. Scream of agony. Compound fracture. Hands over heads of teammates. Looks of terror on the faces of opponents.

Ware’s leg had broken in a manner reminiscent of Joe Theisman’s career-ending injury after getting sacked by Harry Carson and Lawrence Taylor on November 18th, 1985, or Eduardo da Silva’s left fibula being broken while playing in a match on February 23rd, 2008. Bone was visible, and body parts were bending in a fashion for which they were not meant to bend.

It seems to be of secondary importance to note that Louisville somehow went on to win the game and advance to the Final Four. However, they did, thus fulfilling Ware’s request as the player was being transported to Methodist Hospital with two fractures in his right leg. After surgery on Sunday evening, Ware was resting comfortably, posting photos through social media and speaking with teammates. He now faces at least an entire year of recovery.

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