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Joakim Noah getting attention from NBA scoutsEver since Florida defeated Villanova to advance to the Final Four, the focus has been on Joakim Noah and his sound-bites.  First it started off with the backwards hat wearing, right out of the locker room celebration “The Gator boys are hot right now,” quote.  At that moment, he morphed from high-energy, fun to watch basketball player, to condescending, uppity-attitude rich kid who is garnering too much attention.  Ever since then, it’s been the you’ve guys only watched us three or four times, you don’t know me, why are you writing stories against us, me against the world attitude.  Hey Joakim, who is writing bad things about you and the Gators?  Mostly everyone is predicting the Gators to defeat George Mason and win in the title game.  This is one rising star where the sudden adoration and attention is definitely going to his head.


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I guess both teams getting knocked out in the third round Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament made the United States Basketball Writers Association unable to decide who deserved the award, as Adam Morrison and J.J. Redick both walked away with the Player of the Year honors.  The last time this happened was in 1979 when Larry Bird and Magic Johnson were both named co-player of the year as well.  Most fans shouldn’t be up in arms about this, despite the fact Redick fans will argue that Redick and Duke played under tougher competition in the ACC rather than the WCC conference.  It won’t be a bad thing that their names will be linked together in history especially in the same sentence as Bird and Magic.


Renaldo Balkman holding the MOP trophyThe South Carolina Gamecocks did their job in making the SEC conference proud by taking home their second NIT Championship in a row.  South Carolina defeated Michigan 76-64.  SEC can hope for a LSU versus Florida match-up in the finals to make a SEC sweep.  Ironically this match-up featured the past two NIT winners.  In 2005 South Carolina defeated St. Josephs and in 2004 Michigan defeated Rutgers.  The Gamecocks were close to joining the big dance themselves by receiving an automatic bid by winning the SEC title but loss to Florida in the championship game 49-47.  Renaldo Balkman was named Most Outstanding Player of the Tournament.


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In a social concern far more important than sports, the Duke University lacrosse team has been suspended as the police continue their investigation of the rape of a North Carolina Central University who performed as an exotic dancer.  There are allegations against three white team members that she was pulled into a bathroom, beaten, choked and raped by three men according to the police.

This has raised racial tensions in Durham, North Carolina because the victim is black and the motive of the crime may have been a hate crime.  The city of Durham is predominantly a low income city aside from the influx of students of the neighboring colleges, Duke tuition costs about $43,000 annually.  Durham residents have been demonstrating due to the way the university’s handling of the case.

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Final Four down to LSU, UCLA, George Mason and Florida All the experts and analysts are just dumb-founded, no one wants to go out on a limb and make a stance anymore now that Duke, UConn, and Villanova are out of the picture.  Although there are plenty of smug people that are now claiming that they foresaw UConn losing ever since their uninspired play in the first round - mainly this guy, Stewart Mandel.  No one wants to hear how smart you think you are, fans get enough of that crap from Woody Paige, Skip Bayless, Jim Nantz, Billy Packer and the rest of the lot.

Me, I haven’t have the slightest clue of who is going to win.  George Mason beat the best in UConn so are they now favorite?  Mostly everyone else is going with Florida because they too were a high-ranking team throughout the season.  This Florida Gator team reminds some people of the young Arizona Wildcats team that won it all with Mike Bibby, Miles Simon and Michael Dickerson back in 1997.  Although LSU looks like they have an inside combo of Glen Davis and Tyrus Thomas that looks too strong for teams to handle.  Finally, there is UCLA, who I’ll admit I haven’t seen play much, but sometimes you get that feeling that there are no basketball gods, and UCLA alumnus Bill Walton will get his way.


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Woody Paige, Four White Guys and the NIT get the Nelson Ha-Ha awardAlright, so I’m back in good old civilization, after being gone since Monday night and I’m glad I didn’t miss any NCAA tournament games.  On Thursday, Duke and Gonzaga both lost in the Sweet 16 round, most likely ending the college careers of both J.J. Redick (obviously) and Adam Morrison (who is a junior but may declare for the NBA draft.)  I feel saddened that four of the five white guys mentioned in Five White Guys Save College Basketball are out of the tournament.  West Virginia and Pittsnogle fell to Texas, and North Carolina were one of George Mason’s victims.  Tuesday and Wednesday, well there really wasn’t much to talk about except for NIT games.  Though on Monday night, Michigan defeated Notre Dame in a 2 OT, an ESPN instant classic game.  The NIT champion usually has the distinction of a high profile, big- time conference team able to salvage the season and ending their season with a #25 ranking.  Fans can easily remember the NIT as the “Not In Tournament” Tournament.  Yes, the National Invitation Tournament actually has a longer history than the NCAA tournament,  but come on, the casual fan doesn’t really care unless it’s to follow their favorite team or if they are a former alumni of the school.  I would also just like to give a big “Ha-Ha” to Woody Paige who swore Villanova was going to lose tonight against Boston College.  You were 100% wrong again, sir. 


George Mason Patriots stuns the UConn HuskiesThe star-studded UConn team who escaped in the Sweet 16 match-up with Washington still had luck and skill on their side again to force over time against the upstart George Mason Patriots of the Colonial Athletic Association.  UConn provided two great games in a row for NCAA fans in the role of Goliath, but George Mason was able to knock out the #1 seed.  This game will go down as one of the best ever and on caliber with the classic Duke/ Kentucky Christian Laettner buzzer beater game.  George Mason has successfully busted every single bracket across the country with a dramatic win over the UConn Huskies.  Guard Denham Brown barely missed a three point shot at the buzzer with a chance to win the game.  An absolutely outstanding game that will provide as inspiration for all underdog athletes for many years to come.


Missouri Valley Conference logoGreat ghost of Hershey Hawkins and Xavier McDaniel, the Missouri Valley Conference is for real.  Two teams are going to the Sweet 16, while the other two played tough in their losses.  Wichita State surprised and knocked off Tennessee, which was a #2 seed, and Bradley just defeated Pittsburgh of the Big East to reach the Sweet 16.  The only basketball player I ever knew to come out of Bradley was Hershey Hawkins who played on the 76ers and Seattle Supersonics.  The other Missouri Valley teams that were in the tournament were Southern Illinois, who lost to West Virginia, and Northern Iowa who lost in a close game to the Georgetown Hoyas.  Billy Packer and Jim Nantz who are currently commentating on the UConn versus Kentucky game, should be eating crow and apologizing to Craig Littlepage.


NCAA tournament doing well in ratingsAlright, so it’s not just me imagining things about this year being a little bit more exciting than previous years.  The first two days of the NCAA tournament on CBS have generated it’s best ratings since 1997.  Thursday and Friday generated a 5.0 rating with a 12 share, compared to a 4.8 and 11 share last year.  Each overnight rating point represents about 735,000 TV homes, that translates to 3,675,000 TV’s.  This is not even including the multiple people at bars, people watching on the same television.


Duke might get ousted earlier again this yearOut of seven “experts” choosing their picks for the National Champions, and the only two teams that were picked were Duke and Connecticut.  Five predicted that Connecticut would be the champion, and the other two votes went to Duke.  Are these guys forgetting that freshman point guards generally have a tough time in the tournament, particularly versus opponents that put on a full court press?  I wouldn’t be surprised to see freshman PG Greg Paulus struggle in the tournament.  If J.J. Redick helps bring the ball up the court, it will take Duke out of their offense.  UConn is in the weak D.C. bracket, where the only team I see that might give UConn a scare is North Carolina, despite the fact that UConn at times plays down to their competition.


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