Written by Nick D
Yo as a ballhead it was dope to catch March Madness this year after too many years away. Got mad love for college ball, in a lot of ways its a different entity. Getting a preview of future stars sure, but seeing deep rivalries played out in front of rabid fans, is just an atmosphere that can't be beat! Plus the win or go home structure of the tourney doesn't let no team slip, and provides 'nuff surprises!
A big addition to time spent in front of the tube this year was the women's competition. Spoiled for choice, it seemed the time slots where I watched games the women's match-ups provided more excitement! So extra happy to present my insights on both brackets as it should be.
1) Why is the women's game a 4 quarter affair like the NBA, and the men's is 2 halves?
2) Fun names of the tournament : Ayayi! (Joel Ayayi, Gonzaga), Juzang! (Johnny Juzang, UCLA)
Note : Exclamation marks are not the correct spelling, but every time announcers called out these cats, their names just rolled out with that extra punch!
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3) Asians stand up! Since we already on the topic of Johnny Juzang, recognize peeps! Of Vietnamese and Creole descent, the lanky 6' 6'' guard had an amazing tournament for the Bruins. The leading scorer of the tournament with 137 total points, homie showed a great range and handles in the game we caught of him.
Will he make the next level? Legit question for all the prospects we gauge here, will be there ability to make the L, NBA or WNBA. Yes. The sophomore's got the length, smooth game, and now the resume. Question for me is will he stay? Will his draft stock rise with another year? While I hate to encourage peeps to leave school early, I say this may be the peak. UCLA had some major pieces injured and I can't see this over-achieving run by the Bruins being topped next year, or Johnny being able to shine any harder.
Peeps are already sayin' lottery in a very talented draft. One caveat, homeboy needs to bulk up with the Tayshaun Prince build, but he doesn't fear contact. Do what's best for you young man, we ride with you!
4) Paige Bueckers is for REAL. Being the first freshman to take home the coveted player of the year award, the John R. Wooden Award, I guess you didn't need me to tell you how she be ballin'. For me though this is the only player I recognized from the Overtime IG. I had to see her play, and the way she brought it against a tough and talented Baylor team had me converted. What impressed me the most, wasn't the ability to create for herself, or for her teammates, it's how she wanted the moment. Brash and confident, she went toe to toe with the tandem of Richards and Carrington. If trash wasn't talked there was 'nuff flexin' and screaming to convey the same message. One to watch for sure.
She doesn't blind you with blow by speed, Paige kinda has that Luka ability to slice through a defense. Might need to bulk up a bit too, but the DNA is there.
5) Started watching the women's bracket from the Michigan vs. Baylor match up (Sweet 16). What impressed me was the level of the competition, and how the Lady Bears backcourt of Didi Richards and DiJonai Carrington were running tings! Aggressive on the ball D. Forcing turnovers into easy buckets the other way, these girls were wreaking havoc asserting their physicality. Didi with some Afro Puffs, and DiJonai with these blond hair braids down past her ass, long lash extentions too. These girls were lookin' confident! Only after the game did I find out the All-American on the team was NaLyssa Smith. A 6'2'' forward that didn't miss that game and pulled a saucy behind the back, dish in traffic that was some magician's flavor.
Love at first sight? Yeah. Then the Lady Bears got bounced in a close one by the UConn Huskies. To the controversy that they missed the call at the end of the game on Carrington, yes, the defenders slapped down on her, it was a foul. I will say having watched the whole game, the refs let them play physical throughout, so it wasn't an out of the water call.
To them not winning against the Huskies, Page Bueckers and Co. matched them play for play. Didi Richards missing the final third of the game from a leg injury was a blow, and too much DiJonai Carrington, shooting the ball became predictable. A lotta future WNBA talent in this game.
6) Congrats to the Stanford Cardinals for winning the Women's 2021 NCAA Championship, a choppy game that came down to the final shot. Everyone knew it was going to Arizona star, Aari McDonald, as it should have, but I disagree that she had to shoot it. She was triple-teamed with ample time on the clock. I feel coach puts it in the best player's hands to be a playmaker. Sometimes that is shoot it, or it can be pass it, just make the right basketball play. I woulda said pass in those split seconds. Number 0 was wide open for a lay-up. Arizona was a hella fiesty squad, and the women's field was talented. Felt Aari forced a lot of her shots in the final instead of letting the game come to her. She too talented for that. Even though she ended with 22 points, she shot 5 for 22 in the game.
7) Clark Kelogg is a great balance for Charles Barkley. It's dope to see their banter at half time talking strategies, especially when Clark challenges Charles. Kenny Smith just stand aside with your non-committal opinions.
8) Actually the college game has some great personalities/guardians shepherding it. Clark Kellogg, Dick Vitale, Jim Nantz, Bill Raftery etc. These cats have dedicated their careers to college ball and are nice with it!
9) Arkansas Razorbacks (Men's). My favorite team. Caught 'em as a kid, when the squad was '40 Min of Hell". The Nolan Richardson days, the Todd Day days. You don't know. Then they won the 'Chip with Scotty Thurman and Corliss Williamson.
Na? Well this years squad were some heart attack kids in the tournament. Freshman Moses Moody, come back for at least another year. Your tendency to disappear in games that matter is troubling. Gifted no doubt, but there's no rush to run to the L bro. Will Justin Smith, a graduate transfer from Indiana get a look from NBA teams? Dude was a steading influence for the 'Hogs, and brought a noteworthy physicality. Shout outs to Jalen Tate, a 6'6'' toothpick, who was willing to mix it up with the big boys and always in the hunt for boards. Shout outs to JD Notae too, an aggressive guard willing to instigate the offence and be a problem on D. Let's see what next year brings!
10) Is that young Bob Marley? UCLA's Tyger Campbell.
11) School transfers are changing the college game. With transfers not having to sit a year, the floodgates have opened for athlete movement. The NCAA says this is a COVID exemption that will be reviewed. Will it be hear to stay? Cats like Johnny Juzang, DiJonai Carrington, and Justin Smith used this new status to immediate benefit.
12) Congrats to the Baylor Bears for winning the Men's Championship this year. It would be tough to find a team that would have beat them in the form for the final. This was a finely tuned, focused unit, and they ran the undefeated Zags out the building! Tough, tough. They won this game in all aspects, physically, quicks to the ball. To me the lynchpin of the operation was PG, Davion Mitchell. The floor general was truly that, even steppin' back this game and letting others shine. The Bears eliminated my Hogs, and that boy just couldn't be stopped when it was most needed. Props to both these teams as they were truly complete squads. Jalen Suggs with his skill and BBall IQ stands above the rest for the Zags, but it's really hard to figure who's gonna make the L on their squad or this Bears squad. A bunch deserve a look, Timmi, Ayayi, Nembhard (Canadian Cat!), and on the Champs side, leading scorer of the final, Jared Butler, and their bigs. I hope Davion gets a good look too cuz these kids ain't short of heart. 'Nuff respect.
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