Posts Tagged ‘second round upset’

Smiling St. Mary’s Set to Shine

March 25th, 2010 by Adam Markowitz (Bankroll Sports Columnist) | Posted in NCAA Basketball   Comments Off on Smiling St. Mary’s Set to Shine

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You just have to love a guy who tells a reporter that he was a McDonald’s All-American, when in fact, he wasn’t a high school all star of any type.

But C Omar Samhan wasn’t lying to the reporter though. He promptly laughed and referred to the fact that he ate so much junk food that he was probably a few Big Macs shy of tipping the scale.

What we’ve learned in this tournament about the St. Mary’s Gaels is that this team is just fun to watch play basketball. Samhan is always smiling. It’s almost contagious. The team doesn’t seem to care about playing defense (but does it much better than we expect) and just wants to come back down the court and run some set offenses that either set up three point plays for one of the lethal sharpshooters or an easy post play for Samhan.

Forget about the fact that this team is out of the West Coast Conference or that it has a #10 attached to its name. St. Mary’s is no Cinderella. Just ask Samhan, who told the student body this week that the Gaels are going to come back to the West Coast with a National Championship in tote.

Unlikely? Probably. Impossible? Not nearly.

After all, take a look at just how strong this team really is. Offensively, the accolades could go on and on. St. Mary’s averages 79.4 points per game, shooting 48.8 percent from the field and 41.1 percent from three point range. The Gaels rebound the basketball well at 34.2 boards per game and a +5.6 rebounding advantage on an average night. They shoot free throws well (76.2 percent as a team) and don’t turn the ball over all that much (11.3 times per game).

Don’t rest on this defense either. Yes, this was a team that played a West Coast Conference schedule, thus should have better numbers than the Dukes, Kansases, and Kentuckys of this world, but averaging 5.2 blocks and 5.1 steals per game is fantastic. So is the fact that teams only connect on 29.5 percent of their three point baskets against the Gaels.

So far in this tournament, we’ve seen the surreal and the sublime all at one time from this team. Many expected the WCC champs to bow out against #7 Richmond in Round 1 of the dance. Not only didn’t they go away, but they dominated as well. Don’t look at that 80-71 score line and think that this game was ever really in doubt, especially in the second half. If not for the fact that Samhan was in foul trouble most of the game, it probably would’ve been even uglier. The lead stretch out to almost 20 at times in the second stanza, and the big man finished with 29 points and 12 boards.

Yes, #2 Villanova looked awful against #15 Robert Morris to the point where it nearly got upset on the opening day of March Madness, but there was no way that the Wildcats were going to get bounced by these upstarts from St. Mary’s, right?


Samhan delivered 32 more points, and G Matthew Dellavedova delivered one of the most remarkable plays of the tourney when he banked in a three pointer as the shot clock was expiring to help issue the dagger to the Big East behemoths.

Now, there’s a new challenge. The Toyota Center awaits the Gaels on Friday night, as they take on the Big XII’s #3 Baylor Bears. The Bears are largely accepted as one of the most talented teams in the nation, and they provide a totally different type of test than either Richmond or Villanova presented. Baylor is going to run up and down the court with the Gaels, a style that they aren’t afraid to play as well. F Ekpe Udoh is going to be the first true big man that Samhan has to run up against.

So once again, the small school boys from St. Mary’s… this bunch of Aussies and fellow international players that have come together to make some mish mosh of athletes… has its chance to shine. Imagine if G Paddy Mills hadn’t left school early to jump to the NBA just how frightening this team would be…

One thing is for certain about the Gaels, win or lose. No one is going to take away their charisma. If there’s an award in this tournament for having the biggest heart and the most passion for the game, the WCC champions would win it.

Instead, don’t be surprised if they take another step towards the Final Four on Friday night.

Rock Choke Jayhawk P-U!

March 21st, 2010 by Adam Markowitz (Bankroll Sports Columnist) | Posted in NCAA Basketball   Comments Off on Rock Choke Jayhawk P-U!

Don’t mind the silence that you hear right now in the heartland of our country at this point. Normally, after a Kansas Jayhawks basketball game, you hear blue and red clad nut cases chanting in that slow, monotone, drone-like voice, “Rock Chalk Jayhawk K-U.”

If we slip the ‘A’ out of “chalk,” scoot the ‘K’ over a spot, buy an ‘E’, and change the ‘K’ in “KU” to a ‘P’, you can sum up this performance with our new saying.

Rock Choke Jayhawk P-U!

There are times that perception just doesn’t amount to reality. This wasn’t one of those cases. We all saw on Saturday afternoon that Kansas was one of the most talented teams in the nation. C Cole Aldrich looked like a man amongst boys at times, bullying his way through the paint like an enraged animal. Any time that HC Bill Self didn’t like what was happening on the court, he could bring in a new fresh set of five players if he wanted to and still have a solid looking club out there that was good enough to play with anyone in the nation.

Saturday’s shocking two-point loss to the Northern Iowa Panthers was simply a case of the magic (or if you will, the madness) of March.

Let’s step back for a minute and give a major thumbs down to the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee, which punished Northern Iowa for some unknown reason by making it a #9 seed in the dance in spite of the fact that it won 28 games and the Missouri Valley Conference regular season and tournament titles.

HC Ben Jacobsen’s crew won each of their MVC Tournament games by at least 15 points. They slammed Old Dominion in BracketBusters and destroyed Siena in a BracketBusters rematch game from a year ago this year as well. Yes, losing to DePaul, Evansville, and Bradley were all unsightly losses, but what more did you expect from this team?

They played fantastic defense all season, allowing a grand total of one opponent to reach the 70-point plateau against them, and they won 12 games by at least 15 points this year.

I know the logic… Play somebody.

Guess what? The Panthers just played somebody… and won.

That point aside, let’s not belittle the performance that this team put up over the first three days of this tournament. G Ali Farokhmanesh not only nailed the three pointer on Thursday that buried UNLV, but he also dropped four more three balls on the Jayhawks and scored 16 points in the upset on Saturday. F Jordan Eglseder, who hit a grand total of one three point basketball all season dropped two threes on KU as well. The team turned over the Jayhawks 15 times and stayed competitive in the rebounding battle at just -5.

That being said… C’mon Kansas. You’re Kansas.

Maybe we should’ve known that something was wrong with the Jayhawks when they were pushed for at least a little while by #16 Lehigh on Thursday night. Tournament teams in general shouldn’t be struggling with the Mountain Hawks, especially when you’re the #1 overall seed in this tournament.

At the outset of this tournament, everyone was asking the question whether it was going to be Maryland or Michigan State that was going to get murdered by the Jayhawks in the Sweet 16 and whether it was going to by Ohio State or Georgetown falling in the Elite 8.

Self was the one man that knew what he was getting into, as he immediately pointed out UNI as a potential trap game on his squad’s road to Indianapolis.

He was ready. His team wasn’t.

The Panthers jumped out to a 10-2 run and really never looked back, controlling the game’s tempo by slowing down the Jayhawks to a plodding effort.

During that whole game, it was only a matter of time before the Jayhawks went on a run, just like they did against both Texas Tech and Texas A&M in the Big XII Tournament. Someone was going to wake G Sherron Collins or one of the other many stars on this team up.

Collins shot just 4/15 from the field and 0/6 from downtown for the game.

The run was never really complete. The choke job, however, is finished.

The Jayhawks are #1 in the land no more, and though it’s clear that Northern Iowa is no normal #9 seed, this is still a case of a team that just didn’t give its best effort in a do-or-die situation.

Welcome to March Madness, boys and girls. The fun is only just beginning.