Category: March Madness

Why The “South Carolina vs. Gonzaga” Game Will Be The One I’m Watching

In case you haven’t been paying close attention to the NCAA’s March Madness Tournament, we are down to the Final-Four. In a sport generally dominated by a marquee programs, there is just one blue blood left in the race, North Carolina, which will make its 20th trip to the Final Four. On one side of the bracket we have a #3 seed Oregon playing a #1 seed North Carolina, with the winner to play in the NCAA Championship game next Tuesday, April 3rd, against the winner of #7 seed South Carolina and #1 seed Gonzaga. Oregon looked good in their win over Kansas, and North Carolina defeated an extremely tough and talented Kentucky team to advance, but my heart is in the “South Carolina vs. Gonzaga” matchup. Below are a few facts about each school that has me excited and hoping one of these teams will win it all… Remember, this is both Gonzaga and South Carolina’s first time in their schools history to reach the “Final Four.” Congrats!

Gonzaga “Bulldogs” – located in Spokane, Washington

Founded in 1887 by Fr. Joseph Cataldo, a Sicilian-born priest. Rumor is he purchased the land we sit upon for 936 silver coins

Final Four First – This is the first WCC team to get to the Final Four since the University of San Francisco in 1957.

“The Kennel” – This is what they call their home-court arena which is officially called the McCarthey Athletic Center. Through the end of the 2016–17 season, the Zags are 177–14 (.927) in the building, which includes a 80–8 (.909) record in non-conference games, and a 95–6 (.941) record in conference games.

John Stockton is one of the most notable alumni to play basketball at Gonzaga.

Head Coach Mark Few is the winningest active Division 1 men’s basketball head coach by percentage at 80.1 percent, just ahead of North Carolina’s Roy Williams.

Strong Defense is what has helped the “Zags” make it to the big-dance. The Zags held Xavier to 35.5% shooting. They have held other teams under 40% in 18 of their last 22 games and 26 total on the season.

Center Przemek Karnowski, despite his impressive size – 7’1” and nearly 300 pounds, didn’t play basketball in high school. He’s from Torun, Poland, and they don’t play high school basketball there like we do in the U.S.

Canadians – There’s actually a couple of players on the Gonzaga roster with citizenship in Canada. Forward Kyle Wiltjer, though born in Portland, Wiltjer has dual U.S./Canadian citizenship. His father Greg is a Canadian who played for Canada in the 1984 Winter Olympic Games. The other is guard Dustin Triano who is from Tsawwassen, BC. Interestingly his father Jay used to be the head coach of the Toronto Raptors. It’s also worth noting that Gonzaga’s star forward, 6’11” Domantas Sabonis, is from Kaunas, Lithuania, and is the son of Basketball Hall of Fame center and Portland Trail Blazers great Arvydas Sabonis. Domantas was born in Portland between the fourth and fifth games of Portland’s 1996 first-round playoff series against the Utah Jazz.

Graduates Students – The student-athletes’ Graduation Success Rate of 98 percent puts Gonzaga at No. 3 in the nation.

Football Undefeated – The Gonzaga football team has been undefeated for over 75 years! OK, so the sport was dropped in 1941 due to World War II. Their basketball team has clearly picked up the slack. Gonzaga’s streak of 18 straight NCAA Tournament appearances is the fourth longest active streak, behind only Kansas, Duke and Michigan State.

Freshman enrollment at Gonzaga in the mid-nineties hovered around 500 students annually, including a total of 569 as late as 1998.[80] In 1999, enrollment jumped to 701 five months after the Zags went to the Elite Eight.[80] This trend continued after Gonzaga won five games in the 1999 and 2000 NCAA Tournaments, as freshman enrollment increased to 796 in 2000 and to a record 979 in 2001.[80] A 65-percent increase in the size of the freshman class between 1997 and 2003 is part of a phenomenon called the “Flutie Effect,” the increase in attention and applications for admission that results after a particularly notable and unexpected sporting victory by a school’s athletic team.

South Carolina “Gamecocks” – Columbia, SC

Founded in 1801, the University started with just nine students and now hosts an enrollment of nearly 50,000.

Final Four First – While making the NCAA Sweet 16 on three separate occasions under the leadership of legendary head Coach Frank McGuire (1971,9172,1973) this is the teams first trip to the NCAA Final Four.

Gamecocks in a nod to Revolutionary War hero Thomas Sumter. The brigadier general and future state senator earned the nickname “The Carolina Gamecock” for his fighting style. A street named after Sumter runs through campus as well.

Campus Spared – Union General William Tecumseh Sherman scorched the earth during the tail end of the Civil War, he happened upon Columbia, South Carolina, where “South Carolina College” (later USC) was established a half-century earlier. The Confederacy had transformed the campus building, Rutledge College, into a hospital so Sherman spared the building that had survived a fire and an earthquake in the previous 40 years as well.

Mike Dunleavy, the former head coach of the Los Angeles Clippers and Alex English, former player with the Denver Nuggets are couple of notable basketball alumni.

Road Filled With Upsets – South Carolina achieved its first NCAA Tournament victory since 1973 with a 20-point win over the Marquette Golden Eagles. Two nights later, the Gamecocks upset the #2 seed Duke Blue Devils to advance to the Sweet 16. South Carolina then beat #3 seed Baylor Bears to advance to their first-ever Elite 8, two days later they upset Florida to advance to the big-dance.

Frank Martin is the current Head Coach of the Gamecocks and one of my favorites. He was formerly at Kansas State, where he lead the team to five winning seasons and four NCAA Tournament appearances, including an Elite Eight appearance with the Wildcats in 2010. I love his story… Martin, who grew up in Miami, Florida, is the son of Cuban political exiles and the first American-born member of his family. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in physical education from Florida International University. One of the two jobs he held while attending FIU was that of a bouncer at a local nightclub. He decided to become a full-time basketball coach in 1992 as a result of an incident in which he was subjected to gunfire, while on duty, from a group of men whom he had ejected for fighting. his first head coaching job was for the J.V. squad at Miami High School in 1985. He served in that position for eight years until he was appointed to his first varsity coaching job at North Miami High School. He returned to Miami Senior two years later to head its varsity team. Under his coaching, the high school team won three consecutive state championships from 1996 to 1998. He next served as head coach at Booker T. Washington High School for one year. Martin then moved into the college ranks as an assistant coach/recruiting coordinator at Northeastern University from 2000 to 2004. He moved to the University of Cincinnati, serving one season each under Bob Huggins and Andy Kennedy. Martin followed Huggins to Kansas State, joining his staff on April 5, 2006.On April 6, 2007, almost a year to the day after his arrival in Manhattan, Martin was named head coach of the Wildcats in the wake of Huggins’ resignation. In March of 2012, Martin accepted the head coaching position at South Carolina. Below are a couple of good Frank Martin takeaways…

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Are You Ready for March Madness???

March Madness is here again!! Sit back and relax as we give you a quick run down on the key teams and players chasing the title. If you haven’t followed Men’s NCAA Basketball throughout the season this is your “quick look,” so you can fit in at any watch party. The very first game of the tournament tips off Tuesday, March 14. The Championship game will be played on April 3rd. Too bad we don’t work at Berkshire Hathaway. From what I understand Warren Buffett is continuing the tradition he started last year, by offering any Berkshire Hathaway employee that can pick the “Sweet 16″ correctly $1 million a year for the rest of their life. Getting the 16 teams right after two rounds of the NCAA Tournament is tough, but not impossible. Fourteen out of 11.57 million pulled it off on ESPN.com in 2014. Essentially you have to pick who will win their games during the first two rounds. Interestingly Buffett provides a consolation prize and awards $100,000 to the person who goes the furthest even if they can’t get all 16 correct. “Last year we had two fellows that tied. One of them knew a lot about basketball, the other didn’t know anything about basketball, but they each got $50,000 out of it,” said Buffett. Keep in mind Berkshire Hathaway is a massive conglomerate with 367,000 employees (only 25 at its headquarters in Omaha, Neb.), but it’s made of nearly 90 companies, including Benjamin Moore, Fruit of the Loom, Geico, NetJets, etc. You can get print your own bracket or see a larger version by Clicking HERE

Teams favored to Win: It would be hard not to believe that at least two or three of these teams will make it to the “Final Four”.

Villanova Wildcats: The defending National Champions have put together a sensational season going 28-3 overall, 15-3 in the Big East conference. Head coach Jay Wright has kept his foot on the gas pedal, and the Wildcats have continued to produce fantastic results. The Wildcats have a pair of seniors that Wright can count on in nearly any situation. Guard Josh Hart leads the team with an average of 18.7 points per game and is shooting 50.7% from the field. Forward Kris Jenkins is averaging 13.4 points per game and is connecting on 88.2% of his free throws.

Kansas Jayhawks: This team is one of the sport’s giants, and head coach Bill Self once again has a powerful team capable of making it to the Final Four. The Jayhawks yet again bullied their way through the Big 12 regular season, bringing the 13th consecutive regular season Big 12 title. The streak ties the mark that John Wooden’s UCLA teams set form 1967-1979. The cornerstone of the team is Senior Frank Mason who is scoring 20.5 points per game and is positioned to win the Wooden Award and Player of the Year. Josh Jackson, a freshman averaging 16.4 points per game and connecting on 37.7% of his 3-point attempts, has also played fantastic basketball the second half of the season. Together, there’s a chance they can take Kansas to another Championship. This would give coach Bill Self his second National title.

Gonzaga Bulldogs: Yes, this small, private Jesuit school in Spokane, Washington, could reach the Final Four. Head coach Mark Few has led the team to a 29-1 mark in the regular season and manufacturing a strong case for a No. 1 seed. Nigel Williams-Goss (16.4 PPG, 5.6 rebound per game, 4.7 assist per game) leads a team with the depth and talent to secure the program’s first trip to the national semifinals.

North Carolina Tar Heels: Head coach Roy Williams and his team have been playing with the motivation that comes from losing the NCAA title game, especially in the heartbreaking manner that took place a year ago. The Tar Heels forward Justin Jackson is the player that Williams knows he can depend on and is averaging a team-best 18.3 points per game. He gets plenty of support form junior guard Joel Berry II, who is scoring 15.1 points per game and connecting on 83.2% form the free-throw line. Roy’s boys ended its regular season in satisfying fashion taking out chief rival Duke 90 – 83. Despite having six losses this year, they are playing well at the right time and look to be one of the favorites to win it all.

Kentucky Wildcats: This is not the uncanny crew of super-athletes form years past who will just rumble through the entire field. Just a week ago, these Wildcats had to overcome a 19 point deficit to steal one from Vanderbilt at home. Yet John Calipari’s squad, which has now won eight games in a row still has incredible athleticism, defensive strength and star power — i.e. Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox — to win another national title. Calipari has coached Kentucky since 2009 and led the Wildcats to its eighth NCAA Championship in 2012, the only title of his career.

UCLA Bruins: Steve Alford’s squad is led by lead guard Lonzo Ball, potentially this year’s No. 1 pick in the NBA draft, who commands a team averaging 14.5 points per game and connecting on 41.5% of 3 pointers, second in the nation. With the Bruins’ defense now serviceable, this team could make a deep run on the shoulders of the standout Lonzo Ball.

Duke Blue Devils: In a season marred by injuries, Duke encountered more obstacles in its 2016-17 campaign than any contender in the country. It’s not a surprise that Duke has yet again the ‘most hated player in college basketball’ in Grayson Allen. Despite Grayson’s numerous tripping incidences and subsequent suspension, the team has demonstrated its renewed promise in a recent seven game winning streak near the end of the regular season. The team has very talented players and one of the best coaches to ever step onto the court. Duke is always dangerous and will always be a team to watch. Just watch out for the hot-headed Grayson Allen that he doesn’t derail their chances.

Louisville Cardinals: Rick Pitino didn’t become the only college basketball coach in NCAA history to win national championships at two different schools (Louisville and Kentucky) without knowing how to motivate his players after both victory and defeat. Typically, the Cards are ahead of everyone they play defensively, famously playing Pitino’s “mother-in-law” defense, which he once said was labeled that because it brought constant harassment. Regardless of which Cardinal does the most to move his teammates through March, the strength of this team is its length — U of L can count on a 7-footer Anas Mahmoud, two 6-foot-10 players, Mangok Mathiang and Ray Spalding and 6-9 Jaylen Johnson among its first eight. With strong defense and a big frontline this team could be tough to beat.

Arizona Wildcats: Arizona’s coach Sean Miller hasn’t been to the Final Four, and Arizona itself hasn’t been since 2001, but this team might have a chance. Arizona only recently started playing its best basketball and enters the tournament riding Allonzo Trier at the top of his game and one of the most best-shooting big men in the country in Lauri Markkanen. Miller thinks they can ride this momentum and see something special in March. Lets also not forget the University of Phoenix Stadium is hosting the semifinals on April 1st and the finals on April 3rd, they are expecting a crowd of over 72,000.

Picking The Long-Shot: March Madness is famous for just that – madness – so it’s tempting to make bold upset picks in your bracket. For most, the goal of filling out a bracket is to have fun. And choosing a No. 10 seed to make it to the Final Four (and watching it come to fruition) is a blast. But the data shows that it’s not the best course of action. Below you’ll see A) the percentage of people who pick certain seeds to advance to the Final Four, and B) how often those seeds have reached the Final Four since 1985, when the tournament expanded to 64 teams. There are exceptions. You can gain some real ground by, say, picking a No. 3 seed. Those teams have advanced to the Final Four more often than the public predicts it will happen. Best of Luck…

Sleeper Teams to Watch: Vermont is carrying the nation’s longest winning streak and should absolutely make Purdue fans nervous. Florida Gulf Coast put on a Dunk City-worthy show in the Atlantic Sun Tournament and should be considered a threat to in-state foe Florida State in the West Region. Middle Tennessee State not only knocked off Michigan State as a 15 a year ago but took care of business in conference play to return as a 12. The Blue Raiders are capable of getting to the Sweet 16, which would be right down the road in Memphis, and could bring local flavor to a blue-blood soaked region.

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