Four days, four nights, 48 games, and nothing but pure madness…
That’s been the 2010 NCAA Tournament in a nutshell: a bevy of buzzer beaters, overtimes, and prayers answered.
While some of the higher seeds escaped unscathed (that means you Syracuse, Kentucky, Duke, Kansas State, and West Virginia), a number of others did not.
So who is responsible for this beautiful mess we like to call March Madness? Here are the top 7 players that aided in busting thousands of brackets throughout the country over the weekend.
7. D.J. Cooper – Ohio
Cooper was the more steady of the stars for upstart Ohio, who were one of the first teams to shake up this year’s bracket by knocking out Big East power Georgetown.
Cooper, along with teammate Armon Bassett, averaged 19.5 points per game in Ohio’s two games against Georgetown and Tennessee.
Bassett struggled shooting against the Vols, posting just 7 points. Even though the Bobcats couldn’t keep the slipper on into the Sweet 16, it was a great ride by Cooper and the state of Ohio.
6. Danero Thomas – Murray State
It’s safe to say that Danero was “money” in round one—Yes, that’s recycled from the tournament announcers. Thomas hit the buzzer beater that knocked Vandy out of the tournament, plus helped almost lead the Racers past Butler and into the Sweet 16.
All in all, Thomas struggled against Butler in the second round (posting a goose egg), but while his 11 points were not gaudy by any means, his game and timely baskets were enough to affect the tournament and make this list.
5. Quincy Pondexter – Washington
To call Pondexter consistent would be the understatement of the tournament. After all, he put up 18 points in the Pac-10 title game, which vaulted Washington from bubble team to an automatic berth.
On top of that, not only did he hit the game winner in round one against Marquette, he also posted 18 points in each of the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament.
Who could he post his next 18 on? That would be two-seed West Virginia in the Sweet 16 round.
4. Jordan Crawford – Xavier
If you haven’t heard, this was the kid that made all that noise in the offseason as the one who dunked on LeBron James.
One may have not thought it possible, but Crawford has actually made more noise in the NCAA Tournament, posting 55 total points in Xavier’s victories over Minnesota and Pittsburgh.
He’s been one of the clear standouts in the tournament, and will cause headache for Kansas State, the next opponent for the Muskateers.
3. Ryan Wittman - Cornell
OK, so this should be a dual award here, with Louis Dale being listed as ‘3A’ for the Big Red. Still, it’s a tossup to pick one, but Wittman is a good fit in this place due to how consistent he was with his shooting performance, making clutch shot after clutch shot.
In Cornell’s upsets over No. 5 seed Temple and No. 4 seed Wisconsin, Wittman shot 17 for 25, while averaging 22 points per game. Next up for Cornell: An even bigger challenge vs. Coach Cal and Kentucky.
2. Omar Samhan – St. Mary’s
Samhan was both cocky and playful, especially during the Gaels’ second round upset of two-seed Villanova. Samhan, the big man for St. Mary’s, borderline toyed with Villanova all game long.
It was a dominating performance, where he scored at will and owned the paint. Overall, in two tournament games, Samhan is averaging 30.5 per game and faces the Baylor Bears next in the Sweet 16.
1. Ali Farokhmanesh – Northern Iowa
While there have been a significant number of upsets in this year’s tournament, none will be remembered like Northern Iowa’s upset of top overall seed Kansas.
Certainly, a number of the Panthers played a role in the team’s advancement to the Sweet 16, but none was more significant than Ali Farokhmanesh.
By now, you know of his story, and the guts it took to not just ignore wasting precious seconds off the clock, but to step up and hit a back-breaking three-point shot that was officially the end of Kansas’ title hopes.
Yes, in the end, it was a great (and surprising) showing by Northern Iowa...and a “Rock, CHOKE Jayhawk” for Kansas.
Next week for Northern Iowa: The Panthers face Tom Izzo and Michigan State.
Let the madness continue…
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