When the second week of March rolls around we will be fully engulfed by March Madness and the conference tournaments.
As basketball season continues on a path toward the Big Dance, our job is to make sure you know what is important as you prepare to fill out your bracket while explaining to your friends why you took Cornell in the first two rounds.
With that said, here we go. Your talking points for the week are below.
Who Is the Player of the Year?
The race for college basketball’s Naismith College Player of the Year honors has become a two-man contest between Ohio State’s Evan Turner and John Wall of Kentucky.
It is hard to believe, but just a few weeks ago Texas guard Damion James was in the thick of this race. His chances went south as fast as the Longhorns did.
Why Turner Should Win the Award
Ohio State is a top-10 team with the junior forward, and his presence gives the Buckeyes a chance to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament. His 19.5 points per game matter, but he also adds almost six assists per game while grabbing just over nine rebounds per outing. The knocks against him are his inability to shoot the three and inconsistency at the free throw line.
Why Wall Should Win the Award
When the game is in the balance late, Wall is the player you want on your team. He has had several games this year where it came down to his ability to make a play in crunch time, with the Wildcats win over Vanderbilt being just the latest example.
He is scoring 16.6 points per game on a team loaded with players that can produce points, also delivering just over six assists on average. Wall, like Turner, is an inconsistent free throw shooter. His game does have more range with a decent three-point shot in his arsenal.
Guys Who Are Fading from the Race
Wesley Johnson, Syracuse; Scottie Reynolds, Villanova; Sherron Collins, Kansas.
Top Seeds Will Go To…
Unless there is a dramatic turn of events, two of the top seeds for the tournament are pretty clear. Kansas and Kentucky seem to be sure locks at this point. With Villanova’s loss to Pitt yesterday, it has become a little more difficult to call the other two.
Here are the contenders with a few notes...
The Wildcats are tied for the lowest RPI among the teams still in the race.
If they hold on to win the Big East, they are an easy call for a No. 1 spot. The early win against Cornell from the Ivy League is looking good right now.
They still have to face Michigan State and an improving Minnesota team. They are the other low RPI team.
Does the ACC deserve a top spot this year?
Our call from the teams above goes to Villanova and Syracuse. The Big 12 is probably the best conference in the nation from top to bottom, but the top of the Big East is really strong.
Minnesota Deserves a Pat on the Back
Bria Carter is 14 years old and has cancer. Her big brother is Paul Carter, whom Tubby Smith considers to be one of his real leaders for the Gophers.
Bria lost her hair during her cancer treatment. It was a touching tribute to his sister that Carter shaved his hair off. It was a tribute to Smith, Carter, and the Minnesota athletic department that most, if not all, of Carter’s Minnesota teammates shaved their hair off as well.
This touching tribute to a young lady struggling with cancer is one of those good news items that we don’t hear enough of.
Today, it is appropriate to give praise where it is due. Take time this week to send an e-mail to Minnesota athletic director Joel Maturi and tell him you noticed what his athletes did. Let him know you appreciate their unity as a team and their support of Bria. Make sure to copy Smith as well. Their e-mail addresses:
Joel Maturi: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tubby Smith: email@example.com
Here is another idea. Drop a card to the Minnesota athletic department for Bria. They know where her brother is, and he can make sure she gets them. My team just might be Minnesota for the rest of the year. The address is:
516 15th Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55455
Are there other good news stories you know of in college athletics? Send me an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org so we can make sure worthy athletes are given praise they are due.
Headline Games This Week
Tuesday, Feb. 23
- Kansas State at Texas Tech: Red Raiders need this win to stay in the race for a tournament bid. Kansas State is playing for a No. 2 seed.
- Tennessee at Florida: Both teams trying to improve NCAA odds and higher seeding in conference tourney.
Wednesday, Feb. 24
- South Florida at Villanova: Wildcats will try to keep from losing three straight.
- Purdue at Minnesota: Purdue wants to win the Big Ten and gain a No. 1 seed in the NCAA field.
- Texas A&M at Baylor: Two solid basketball teams.
Thursday, Feb. 25
- South Carolina at Kentucky: Do you think the Wildcats want retribution for the Gamecocks' victory earlier in the season? Oh yeah.
Saturday, Feb. 27
- Villanova at Syracuse: Two giants slugging it out. Hope the officials let them play.
If you can’t catch the above games, make sure you get the highlights. They should be worth talking about. By the way, it is your job to keep the college basketball conversation going.