Category Archives: Basketball

Ballantyne Bets

Hello folks, welcome to August, aka the climax of summer before reality sets back in. As a University student, the past number of months can be characterized as a combination of working (as a janitor, cha-ching) and mooching off my parent’s resources resulting in a semi-noticeable growth in my net worth – which really isn’t saying much. That being said, this month can be seen as the so-called “peak” before I return to school and my personal independence is a requirement once again. Being myself and the degenerate that I am, this is the sort of thing that I feel needs to be taken advantage of. Read more

Throwback Thursday: 2007 Cleveland Cavaliers AKA the Last Team to get Swept in the Finals

Let’s remember a few names. In honour of the Cavaliers getting pushed to the brink of Finals Sweep at the hands of the Golden State Warriors, I thought I’d take a look back at the last team to get swept in the Finals… Lebron’s 2007 Cavaliers. This by no means is a shot at the present or past Cavs. The 2018 Cavs can still win a couple of games to avoid the sweep and when all is said and done and the 2007 Cavs were not supposed to make it that far. Nonetheless it is an interesting practice to reminisce on some of the guys Lebron dragged to the Finals a decade ago.

Ira Newble

Image result for ira newble

Who? A quick glance at Newble’s Basketball Reference page shows that Ira was a veteran of eight NBA seasons split between San Antonio, Atlanta, Cleveland, Seattle and the Lakers. 380 career regular season games is nothing to turn your nose up at… But this guy was as big of a non-factor imaginable on an NBA Finals team. In the 2007 playoffs Newble only got in 6 games and averaged 1.7 minutes per game and didn’t score once. Lebron had his work cut out for him. Read more

Top 10 Biggest Blunders in Sports History

Professional athletes are the embodiment of power, grace, and skill. They are the peak of physical fitness and perform at the highest level for the world’s enjoyment. Likewise, they are also human and are prone to the same mistakes and lapses of judgment that us mere mortals face on a daily basis. The thing is: when I fall down the stairs at the Wizmer House, spilling three drinks I had just purchased all over myself, only the select few individuals who happened to be looking will remember my dignified tumble. For professional athletes, their mistakes are broadcasted on live television and will live in infamy for the rest of their lives. This article is going to look at some of the biggest blunders that sport has ever seen. The way these are ranked is based on how egregious the mistake was, and the severity of the situation. If there are any that you think I missed, do not hesitate to let me know. Without further ado, let us dive right in.

10. Patrik Stefan and the empty net whiff.

It is impossible to have a list of the biggest sports blunders without including this dandy from former first-overall pick Patrik Stefan. I mean, you know your career was bad when the biggest highlight is you not scoring. Stefan is one of the worst busts in draft history and this clip is a perfect illustration of his tumultuous career. The fact that he woefully misses the empty net only to see Ales Hemsky tie the game with seconds remaining is just perfect poetic penance for Stefan as he retired 13 games later. Thankfully, the Stars still won the game 6-5 in a shootout but this remains one of the most embarrassing moments in NHL history.

9. Jose Canseco and the header home run.

Jose Canseco will always get the last laugh about this video. After all, he is a two-time World Series champion, former American League MVP, six-time All-Star, and four-time Silver Slugger winner. REGARDLESS, the sheer improbability and hilarity of this clip make it one of the all-time best baseball bloopers. The saving grace is that this was during a meaningless regular season game in May. It was the 25th anniversary of this clip just last week.

8. Patrick Roy and the Statue of Liberty.

The Colorado Avalanche and Detroit Red Wings had one of the best rivals in NHL history during the 1990s and early 2000s. With a blood feud and multiple hall-of-famers on both sides, it was always must-see TV when these two squads were playing. Entering the 2002 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the two teams were tied at two cups a piece in the past decade before matching up in the Conference Finals. The Avalanche jumped out to a 3-2 series lead and had a chance to finish the series off at home in Game 6. Instead, Patrick Roy tried to showboat after robbing Steve Yzerman in close and Shanahan buried what turned out to be the game-winning goal. The Red Wings went on to win Game 7 by a score of 7-0 and defeated the Carolina Hurricanes in five games to win their third cup in six years.

7. Leon Lett’s Super Bowl fumble.

See, if the Cowboys went on to lose this game then this could perhaps be the biggest blunder ever; but, they were playing the Buffalo Bills so obviously they were up by 35 points at this time in the game. Lett could realistically make another appearance on this list for his Thanksgiving Day debacle against the Miami Dolphins, but since it was in the regular season I decided to leave it out. Instead, we are blessed with this tasty gem that looks like it is straight out of Madden 18. Lett, being the showman that he is, decided to start celebrating his forthcoming touchdown at the ten-yard-line. Unfortunately, Don Beebe definitely had the Bills covering +40 as he hustled his butt and stripped Lett right before the goal line. The Cowboys still won the Super Bowl, handing the Bills their third consecutive loss in the big game, but Lett delivered another web gem to go into the archives.

6. JR Smith is off the henny again.

This is what inspired me to do this list in the first place. JR Smith has always been a bit of a wildcard on the court. The man will hit a half-court heave with a hand in his face but brick the most open jumper the world has ever seen. Furthermore, he has many fantastic off court hits such as his shirtless appearance during the World Series, and everyone’s favourite DM – “you trying to get the pipe?”. All these things aside, Smith has proven to be a serviceable player over the course of his NBA career and he played a big role during the Cavaliers 3-1 comeback in the 2016 NBA Finals.

WELL.. last night he had one of the biggest blunders in NBA history and it could not come at a more costly time for his team. The Warriors opened the game as 13 point favourites over the Cavs and many people thought that the Dubs would steamroll their way to another championship. Instead, LeBron James did what LeBron James does and put up 49 points during regulation which gave the Cavs a chance to win Game 1. George Hill went to the foul line with 4.7 seconds left and hit his first free throw to tie the game at 107. He bricked the second, but thankfully JR Smith was there to collect the rebound and kick it to LeBron for a game-winning shot opportunity. Oh, sorry. Wait a second. JR, a man who has played 13 seasons in the NBA and makes an annual salary of $12.8 million USD actually thought that the Cavs were in the lead and tried to dribble the clock out. I have coached Grade 6 kids in minor league basketball who had better late game awareness than JR did in this situation. Alas, the Warriors went on to decimate the Cavs in OT winning the game 124-114 and wasting LeBron’s historic 51 point effort. Thanks, Henny god.

5. Fred Brown forgets who he plays for.

Poor Fred Brown. After some guy named Michael Jordon knocked down a 17-footer to give UNC a late 63-62 lead in the 1982 National Championship, Brown brought the ball up the court for a last gasp attempt at stealing a victory. After faking a pass to teammate Eric ‘Sleepy’ Floyd, Brown thought he had Eric Smith open at the top of the key. Instead, Brown made a worse visual decision than I did the last time I took a girl home from the bar and passed the ball straight to UNC’s James Worthy which effectively ended the game. Brown and Georgetown would avenge their demons in 1984 as they knocked off Houston to win their first National Championship but this blunder still lives large in the minds of the Hoyas faithful.

4. Steve Bartman becomes the most hated man in Illinois.

We all know the Bartman story. The Chicago Cubs, a team seemingly cursed from ever winning the World Series again, were up 3-2 in the 2003 National League Championship Series against the Florida Marlins. They were searching for their first title since 1908 and were up 3-0 in the 8th inning of Game 6. Pan in, Luis Castillo hits a fly ball towards foul ground as outfielder Moisés Alou starts to track it. Instead of Alou catching it for the second out of the inning, this odd looking fellow wearing headphones reaches over the wall and interferes with the catch. As (bad) luck would have it, the Cubs went on to surrender eight runs in the inning before losing Game 7 by a score of 9-6. Bartman instantly became the most hated person in the stadium, and eventually in the city, as he was sent a multitude of death threats during the whole situation. Thankfully, the Cubs ended the curse in 2016 after defeating the Cleveland Indians in seven games and they attempted to rectify the Bartman incident by sending him a World Series ring of his own.

3. Chris Webber tries to be the Prince of Persia.

First off, for those uncultured swine who do not know what the Prince of Persia is – it is an older video game series where the protagonist has the ability to rewind time and correct his mistakes. Chris Webber certainly wishes he had that capability after this colossal choke job. It was the 1993 National Championship game. Michigan had made it all the way back to the finals after being manhandled by Duke in the championship the year before. Webber hauls in the rebound with 20 seconds left in a 73-71 game. He clearly walks with the ball but the officials do not call the travel. He proceeds past half-court, gets cornered with the ball, and looks at the official to reset and call timeout so they can draw up a play to tie the game. Except, Michigan had no timeouts remaining which meant UNC automatically got to shoot two technical foul shots effectively ending the game. It was a painful loss for Wolverine fans and haunted Webber for the entirety of his playing career.

2. Bill’s Buck Up.

We’ve talked about the Cubs curse already, but the Red Sox endured a lengthy World Series drought of their own. The Red Sox were up 3-2 in the 1986 World Series against the New York Mets. Game 6 was tied 5-5 in the bottom of the 10th inning. Mets left fielder Mookie Wilson hit a slow roller towards Buckner on the first base line which should have been the third out of the frame. Unbelievably, Bucker fails to get his glove under the ball and it rolls past him, bringing in the winning run and sending the series to a deciding Game 7. The Red Sox ended up blowing a 3-0 lead in that game and ultimately lost 8-5 as the Mets won their second World Series in franchise history. The curse continued for 18 more years before the Red Sox finally won in 2004 to end the 86-year drought.

1. Pete Carroll and the worst play call ever.

Yes, the worst blunder on my list is actually a coaches decision. With just 26 seconds remaining, the Seahawks are two yards away from winning back-to-back Super Bowls. For some inexplicable reason, Pete Carroll decided to throw the ball even with bruising running back Marshawn Lynch lined up on Russell Wilson’s left. Lynch was arguably the best goal-line back in the entire league, and the Seahawks were in their 94 Buck formation which was a running formation. Still, Carroll changed the play to a pass and the rest is history. Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler jumped Jermaine Kearse and picked the ball off at the goal line to give the Patriots the unlikeliest of wins. It is one of the most mind-boggling decisions ever made at such a high level and prevented the Seahawks from becoming a possible dynasty.

The Raptors’ Coaching Search

After an extremely disappointing end to a historic season for the franchise, Masai Ujiri and the Toronto Raptors organization decided something had to give. As is the case in the sports world, that usually means that the coach must go. Dwane Casey is undoubtedly the best coach that the Raptors franchise has ever had, but all good the things must come to an end. It’s a tough look for the team that Casey was fired following him being voted the Coach of the Year by his peers, but Ujiri claims the team needs a “new voice” and I guess you can’t really blame him after witnessing another second-round sweep.

Now we look ahead to who that “new voice” could be. Shortly after Casey had been relieved of his duties, names had started being floated around as potential candidates to fill the new coaching vacancy in the North. Here’s a brief look at some of the perceived candidates.

 

 

 

Nick Nurse:

Most Recently: Assistant Coach, Toronto Raptors (2013 – Present)

Notables: D-League Coach of the Year (2011), 2-time D-League Champion (2011, 2013)

Nurse has been a long time coach at various levels and experienced great success in the D-League. The Raptors gig was the first shot he’s gotten in the NBA, but his 5 years with the team has been the best 5-year stretch in team history. The only issue is that he has direct ties with the man who was just fired and doesn’t necessarily have that “new voice” factor.

 

 

Rex Kalamian:

Most Recently: Assistant Coach, Toronto Raptors (2015 – Present)

Notables: 21 seasons as an Assistant Coach in the NBA.

Kalamian has clearly paid his dues as an assistant in this league, he’s done it for as long as I’ve been alive. But he has the same issues as Nurse, a long time Dwane Casey “guy” (coached together in Minnesota previously) and doesn’t qualify as a “new voice”. It appears unlikely that he’d be the guy, but he’ll get a look.

Jerry Stackhouse:

Most Recently: Head Coach, Raptors 905 (2016 – Present)

Notables: D-League Coach of the Year (2017), D-League Champion (2017), 18 year NBA playing career that included 2 All-Star appearances, 3rd overall pick in the 1995 Draft.

“Stack” is an interesting young coaching prospect because he has made the quick transition to coaching, and successfully, just 5 years after retiring from his playing career. He could offer a fresh perspective and appears to be the most logical “promote from within” candidate, but he also has other suitors too, which apparently includes Orlando and Detroit.

 

 

 

 

Mike Budenholzer:

Most Recently: Head Coach and President of Basketball Operations, Atlanta Hawks (Resigned in 2017).

Notables: Coach of the Year (2015), All-Star Game Head Coach (2015), 4-time NBA Champion as an Assistant Coach with the San Antonio Spurs.

The most intriguing and qualified candidate of the bunch. Budenholzer appears to be being fought over by the front offices in Toronto and Milwaukee for his services. Budenholzer has a solid resume in getting the most out of a team (see 60 win Atlanta Hawks) and systematically operates his teams in the heavy three-point shooting, “find the open man” type of way that the Raptors did so well in the regular season. He has also been crushed by LeBron in the playoffs, but who hasn’t really?

 

Becky Hammon:

Most Recently: Assistant Coach, San Antonio Spurs (2014 – Present)

Notables: First full-time female coach in NBA history, Head Coach of San Antonio Spurs Las Vegas Summer League Championship winning team (2015), 6-time WNBA All-Star.

Like Budenholzer, Hammon has grown her coaching experience under the tutelage of the legendary Greg Popovich. She has gotten a lot of buzz recently on how she’s ready to be a head coach in this league, and it would certainly be something if Toronto was the city where that happened.

 

 

 

 

 

What should the Raptors do with the NBA’s Coach of the Year?

Obviously it’s a terrible look to get swept in the second round as the conference’s 1 seed. It’s an even worse look to go 2-12 versus Lebron in the playoffs over the past three years (conference semis in 2016 (4-2), 2017 conference finals (4-0), 2018 conference semis (4-0). All of these tough losses have come in seasons where the Raptors were considered “contenders” because of the strong play of All Stars Kyle Lowry and Demar Derozan with a rotating cast of solid role players. As the dust has settled on yet another playoff disappointment this year, while the Raptors core has taken their lumps, coach Dwane Casey and his future with the team has seemingly been pushed to the forefront. Read more

Raptors Second Round Playoff Preview

The Toronto Raptors enter tonight’s second round series opener coming off of a solid showing that saw them dispose of the Washington Wizards in 6 games (4-2). It was a series that included a trio of mini two-game winning streaks that the teams traded back and forth, but the Raptors ultimately did their job as the #1 seed and proved they were too much for the #8 seed to handle. DeMar DeRozan was excellent in the series (26.7 PPG), but the performance of Delon Wright stepping up with Fred VanVleet injured and impacting both ends of the floor was a major positive for the Raptors. Most notably, he added 2.7 points per game and 1.3 steals per game on top of his regular season averages, headlined by an 18 point performance on 6/10 shooting in game 5. Now with VanVleet seemingly back to full health after returning in game 6, the Raptors are back to full strength personnel wise with their demons that swept them a season ago staring them directly in the face in round two.

Tale of the Tape

Toronto Raptors

(#1 East)

Team

Cleveland Cavaliers

(#4 East)

59-23

Record

50-32

113.8 (2nd)

Offensive Rating

(Per 100 Possessions)

112.9 (5th)

105.9 (5th)

Defensive Rating

(Per 100 Possessions)

111.9 (29th)

+7.78 (2nd)

Margin of Victory

+0.94 (14th)

57.5% (4th)

True Shooting Percentage

58.4% (3rd)

Projected Starting Lineups

Kyle Lowry

Point Guard

LeBron James

DeMar DeRozan

Shooting Guard

J.R. Smith

O.G. Anunoby

Small Forward

Kyle Korver

Serge Ibaka

Power Forward

Kevin Love

Jonas Valanciunas

Centre

Tristan Thompson

Offense:

Based on regular season statistics, the Raptors and Cavaliers operate offensively in similar fashions. They average a strikingly similar number of possessions per 48 minutes (Raptors 97.4, Cavaliers 98.0) and they both take a large chunk of their shots from beyond the arc (Raptors 37.7 – 5th in NBA, Cavaliers 37.9 – 4th in NBA).

As for an evaluation of the first round, I have zero clue how the Cavaliers managed to scrape by into the second round (other than because of the LeBron James guy). Here’s a look at how the Cavs measured up in some notable statistics compared to the other 16 playoff teams in first round play:

Stat

Rank (out of 16)
Field Goal Percentage 14th
Three Point Percentage 15th
Free Throw Percentage 10th
Rebounding 14th
Assists 15th
Turnovers 12th
Points Per Game 16th

The Raptors ranked higher is every single one of those. A lot of this can be attributed to the fact that the Cavs supporting cast was awful in the first round. Not surprising, because they are awful. LeBron shot 55.3% and the rest of the Cavs shot 38.8%…if anything like that happens again, the Raptors will smack the Cavs.

Edge: Raptors

Defense:

This area is definitively an edge for the Raptors, there isn’t even really a reason to talk about it. The biggest concern for the Raptors though is obviously the question of “Who will slow down LeBron?”. Well, it appears that man will be 20 year old rookie O.G. Anunoby. ESPN came out with an article today with some interesting numbers. Apparently, when Anunoby is the one guarding LeBron the Cavs are scoring 1.09 points per possession. This isn’t remarkable, but the Cavs season average with LeBron on the court is 1.14. The major difference is that when any other Raptors is guarding “the King” , that points per possession jumps to 1.38. Check out the full article here.

This is a big time and a big stage early in the rookie’s career.

The one concern the Raptors should have defensively is with the Cavs three point shooting. While it wasn’t up to their standards in round one, the Cavs were 6th in the NBA in the regular season (37.2%). The Raptors held their opponents to the 10th lowest three point percentage in the league, so they need to play up to their capabilities in that respect.

Edge: Raptors

Star Power:

Nothing against DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, they are perennial All-Stars, but they are simply not LeBron James. Even though “playoff Lowry” may not be what you think against the Cavs:

The 2017-18 Raptors are all about depth, and the Cavs aside from LeBron are horrible. Yet here they both are in the second round.

Edge: Cavaliers

Bench: If you take away LeBron the Raptors bench probably sweeps the Cavs starters.

Edge: Raptors

I am confident heading into this series that the Raptors will pull this out. I just can’t stress enough how ineffective the supporting cast in Cleveland is and has been. They have rode the back of the GOAT all the way to this point, but I think it ends for them in round two.

The Pacers did the Raptors a favour forcing their series to a seventh game, and in turn, wearing down LeBron just that much more.

If you look at that series as a case study, you would see that the Cavs had trouble containing the Pacers guards of Victor Oladipo and Darren Collison. I take DeRozan and Lowry over those two 1000 out of 1000 times. Add that to the fact that the Cavs clearly had trouble with the length and athleticism of the Pacers, and the Raptors have a much more talented group in that regard. That being said, the Pacers were **+40 in a series that they lost** because of one man and one man only. It’s ridiculous how much influence he has on a game, but this really comes down to the question if the Raptors can beat LeBron James. I think they can over the course of a series. I don’t like the odds of the Raptors closing it out on the road in comparison to at home, so that leaves us with 5 or 7 games as possible scenarios. I think LeBron is great enough to get more than one game for his team, so I think this series goes the distance. 

I’m also 1/1 in my predictions so far, so there’s that:

…these Raptors are the better TEAM and possess more depth and defense than the Wizards, which I think will eventually wear the opposition out. Wall and Beal certainly have the ability to win games if/when they take over, which I think they might for a game or two, but I’m confident that the Raptors will come through and advance past the Wizards.

Prediction: Raptors in 6

For this one, I think the Raptors make the most of the home court advantage they’ve never had against LeBron and punch their ticket back to the Conference Finals.

Prediction: Raptors in 7

Schedule:

Tuesday May 1st @ 8pm in Toronto

Thursday May 3rd @ 6pm in Toronto

Saturday May 5th @ 8:30pm in Cleveland

Monday May 7th @ 8:30pm in Cleveland

Wednesday May 9th TBD in Toronto

Friday May 11th TBD in Cleveland

Sunday May 13th TBD in Toronto

The Madness of March 15th: Game-by-Game Recaps from the First Day of Tournament Action

The most wonderful time of the year has finally arrived for sport fans alike. The Madness officially began yesterday and it did not disappoint. In this quick piece I’ll go over the outcome of every game, some of the top performers, and the many reactions on social media. Without further ado, lets jump right in.

10Oklahoma Sooners 78 – 7Rhode Island Rams 83 (OT)

The first game of the day was a nail-biter to the very end. E.C Matthews buried a 3-pointer with 28 seconds left in overtime to put the Rams up 5 and they never looked back. Rhode Island shot a cool 39% from deep (11/28) on the afternoon and had 4 different players with double digit scoring totals. Trae Young, the nation’s leading scorer, led the way for the Sooners with 28 points but Rhode Island’s guards pestered him all game forcing Young into 6 sloppy turnovers. This loss marks the 13th defeat in the past 17 games for the Sooners while the Rams have won a March Madness game for the second straight year.

14Wright State Raiders 473Tennessee Volunteers 73 

More like Wrong State, haha, why is nobody laughing? This was the most lopsided game of the day by far. Regardless, this was the most successful season the Raiders have ever had in D1 but they were no match for the high-powered Tennessee team. Lamonte Turner poured in 19 points and dished 9 assists to pace the way for the Volunteers.

13NC-Greensboro Spartans 644Gonzaga Bulldogs 68

This game had legitimate “busted bracket” potential for a while. The score was tied 64-64 before Zach Norvell Jr. drained a go-ahead 3 with just 20.8 left on the clock. The Zags have been labelled as a trendy sleeper pick by some pundits so a loss here would have been an epic disaster. Jonathan Williams was the offensive catalyst for Gonzaga putting up 19 points and 13 boards in a winning effort. The scrappy Spartans held the 9th best offense in the country to just 68 points but they could not close down the stretch.

16Pennsylvania Quakers 601Kansas Jayhawks 76

History was not made on Thursday as it was business as usual in the 1 v. 16 matchup. The Jayhawks faced a 10 point deficit early in the first half but once they grabbed the lead they never surrendered it. Devonte Graham, the Big 12 player of the year, was a beast in this one dropping 29 points, 6 boards, and 6 assists for Kansas. Shockingly, the Kansas starters were responsible for 72 of the 76 points scored in this one which means bench play has to be a cause for concern for the rest of the tournament.

15Iona Gaels 672Duke Blue Devils 89

Another game that was never particularly close. The Blue Devils come into the tournament as one of the odds-on favourites to cut down the nets and they looked like worthy competitors in this match-up. Freshman Marvin Bagley III was his exceptional self with 22 points (on 71% shooting) and 7 rebounds in this one. Grayson Allen (16 points, 9 assists) also successfully managed to have social media talking about his performance instead of a dirty play. This was a good first step for a team looking at much bigger things.

11Loyola-Chicago Ramblers 646Miami Hurricanes 62

This game was a perfect example for why the tournament is called March Madness. After Lonnie Walker IV missed a free throw with 9 seconds left, the Ramblers’ Donte Ingram buried a deep 3 at the buzzer to push Loyola-Chicago onwards. This was their first tournament appearance in 33 years and they did not disappoint as that finish will be etched in the minds of fans for years to come. The end of this game was a bigger adrenaline rush than seeing those three dots pop up after you sent the “you up?” text at 2 A.M.

12South Dakota State Jackrabbits 735Ohio State Buckeyes 81

The upset that never was. Despite the best efforts of Mike Daum (27 points, 6 rebounds) the Buckeyes were too much for South Dakota to handle. The Buckeyes launched a ridiculous 40 3-balls in this contest and had 3 players that topped the 20 point plateau. Keita Bates-Diop had 24 points and 12 rebounds for the 5th seeded Buckeyes who now get to face Gonzaga in the round of 32.

9North Carolina State Wolfpack 838Seton Hall Pirates 94

There were 66 total free throws taken in this high-scoring affair. Khadeen Carrington put up 26 points for the Pirates while Desi Rodriguez also chipped in 20 off of the bench. The game’s leading scorer was Allerik Freeman from NC State who had 36 points and was 6/8 from deep. Seton Hall led wire-to-wire and were able to withstand any runs the Wolfpack had in them. Their formula for success was ball security (only 7 turnovers) and efficiency at the free throw line (31/39).

16Radford Highlanders 611Villanova Wildcats 87

This was basically a shootaround for the top scoring offense in the nation. Villanova dominated this matchup start to finish and shot a ridiculous 59.6% from the field. Every one of the Wildcats starters hit double digits in points as Jalen Brunson led the charge with 16. A dominant debut for one of the favourites in the tournament.

12Davidson Wildcats 735Kentucky Wildcats 78

Wildcat-ception saw Kentucky fail to score a 3-pointer in a game for the first time since 1988, but they still managed to pull out the W. The boys in blue dominated the foul line (26/32 compared to Davidson’s 14/17) which was the biggest difference in an otherwise tight game. Kevin Knox was the game’s leading scorer registering 25 points on the stat sheet while Jon Axel Gudmundsson was Davidson’s top threat with 21 points. Davidson has not won a tournament game since the 2008 Steph Curry run.

14Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks 603Texas Tech Raiders 70

This is the first tournament win for Texas Tech since 2005 and they did it mainly on the back of senior guard Keenan Evans. He had 23 points for the Raiders and has seemingly been flying under the radar compared to other star players in the field. The Lumberjacks kept the game close for the majority of the contest but were simply outmatched by the guard play of the Raiders.

11San Diego State Aztecs 656Houston Cougars 67

Rob Gray was arguably the best player on any court during Thursday’s matchups as the senior guard put up 39 points to propel the Cougars to their first tournament win since 1984. Gray laid in the go-ahead bucket with just 1.1 seconds left in the game while San Diego’s buzzer beater heave would not go. If Gray keeps this up for the rest of the tournament the Cougars may be that annual lower seed that sneaks their way into the Elite 8.

9Alabama Crimson Tide 868Virginia Tech Hokies 83

Freshman point guard Collin Sexton was the player of the game for the Crimson Tide in this contest. Down 43-41 at half, Sexton scored 21 of his 25 points in the second stanza to will Alabama to a victory. This game saw 10 lead changes but Alabama was able to roll with the punches before pulling away late. It was another unfortunate loss for Virginia Tech who now only have one tournament win since 1997.

13Buffalo Bulls 894Arizona Wildcats 68

This game didn’t just bust my bracket, it eviscerated it. The Bulls were able to hound Arizona’s bigs all game long while handily winning the 3-ball battle (Bulls were 15/30, Arizona 2/18). This was a colossal failure for Arizona who was pegged as a legitimate Elite 8 contender in large part due to the presence of star freshman Deandre Ayton. He still had 14 points and 13 boards in the loss but the Bulls stingy defense really kept him under wraps. The defensive side of the ball was the biggest difference of the game as Arizona looked absolutely lost on D against the speedy Bulls squad. The Buffalo backcourt dominated with Wes Clark and Jeremy Harris chipping in 25, and 23 points respectively.

11St. Bonaventure Bonnies 626Florida Gators 77

Egor Koulechov, who sounds more like a KGB sleeper agent than a college basketball player, was the focal point of the Gators offense on Thursday night. The lanky Russian import led the game with 20 points on 8/17 shooting. The Bonnies just could not hang in the second half but they should be proud of what they accomplished this season nonetheless. It was the defense that really did it for the Gators as they had 11 steals and forced 18 Bonnies turnovers.

14Montana Grizzlies 473Michigan Wolverines 61

It is unfortunate that this was the last game of the day because I have a feeling it put many viewers to sleep. The Big-10 Champions are able to say they moved on although the win failed to inspire much confidence offensively. Charles Matthews was the hero for the Wolverines as he dropped 12 of his 20 points in the first half while the game was very much up for grabs. The Grizzlies simply just fell apart in the second half getting outscored 30-19 and shooting a paltry 25% from the field (7/28). The Wolverines were one of the hottest team’s coming into the tournament and they managed to survive a poor start to this game. They need to be better against Houston in the next round.

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