The time has come once again to gorge oneself on a multitude of college basketball games affectionately known as the feast of March Madness. 48 games from the NCAA Final Four tournament will be played this weekend starting on Thursday. There will be blowouts. There will be buzzer-beaters. There will be upsets. That is the nature of this tournament and that is why hundreds of millions tune in every year to watch. Last year’s championship game ended another energetic, fun-filled, blood-pumping tournament with its double dramatic ending.
Villanova’s hero Kris Jenkins is back at again this year with his Wildcat teammates as they try to be the first team since Florida (2006/2007) to win back-to-back national championships. How big of a moment was that for Jenkins? Well, being invited to the White House, plastered on cover of magazines, and even invited to the ESPY Awards is quite remarkable. But when seven-time NBA Champion Robert “The Big Shot” Horry tells you, “I just want to shake the hand of the guy who made the biggest shot I’ve ever seen.” Well, that’s just phenomenally special for the young forward. Jenkins and the team (unless asked) won’t talk about “The Shot” as per coach Jay Wright’s instructions. The focus of the team is to be on what they can do not on what they have done. Along with Jenkins there are a number of players that are looking to make a name for themselves in this year’s tournament. We will take a look at three more including two from the Great White North.
One of the most popular names to make this list and by popular I mean known by those who don’t regularly follow college basketball is point guard Lonzo Ball. If you haven’t heard or seen the UCLA Freshman then chances are good that you have at least seen one of his younger brothers LiAngelo or LaMelo. See a pattern? Yeah, that comes from their father LaVar Ball who is more egotistical as you are already sensing as he stated Lonzo is better than Steph Curry. Forget that each of the brothers have scored 72 (LiAngelo) and 92 (LaMelo) points in a high school game, Lonzo is touted as being a taller, faster Steve Nash and it would certainly be worthwhile to catch a UCLA game as he is so much fun to watch.
Speaking of exciting, we have local baller Xavier Rathan-Mayes. The Scarborough native spent some time at Huntington Prep playing with Andrew Wiggins. Despite being named to the ALL-ACC Freshman team, what makes Rathan-Mayes special is his explosiveness. It still is pretty incredible to score 30 points in a game at any level, but during his freshman year he scored 30 points in the last 5 minutes of a game. This is his first time to the Final Four and there is no bigger stage for him to display that scoring touch.
Also returning back to the tournament this year is Canadian Dillon Brooks. The small forward from Mississauga plays for the Oregon Ducks and was the Pac 12 Player of the Year. What makes this accomplishment even more spectacular is that Brooks maintained similar stats to last year (16 pts per game) but did so playing 12 minutes less per game. Impressive indeed, but it is not just his efficiency that makes him stand out, but his ability to be very good at all aspects of the game. You need him to score, he can like he dropped 27 versus Arizona including the final 12 points. You need a clutch basket, a buzzer-beater, no problem as he has done several times before.You need him to bang and crash the boards or guard their best player, so be it. Dillon Brooks has the passion to find a way to do what’s necessary for the team to win.
So keep your eyes open over the next few days and your social media feed active as there will be plenty of highlights, quotes and WOW moments to happen over the next three weekends. It is a great time to be a sports fan but if the last few years bodes any forewarning… for pete’s sake remember to pace yourself!
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