Saturday, March 19, 2011

Cards lose; who to root for now?

Well with my team out, I guess you could say that "March Madness" has morphed into "March Sadness." Louisville failed my no.1 key to winning, with both Siva and Knowles getting into foul trouble, and worse, Knowles having to leave the game with 8 minutes left due to injury.

So what now? Hard to watch any sport without anyone to root for, even something as exciting as the NCAA tournament.  My solution is pretty simple: Go Canada!  I'm not the most patriotic person when it comes to politics, but when it comes to sports I become fanatical.  Fortunately here, there's actually some really good Canadian talent in the tournament, talent that has already helped 4 teams advance on to the round of 32.  Texas, Syracuse, Gonzaga and Richmond all have key Canadian members, some of which have NBA aspirations as well.  Here's a quick peak at them:

1. Texas's duo of 2010 McDonald's All-Americans Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph.  

Texas is my dark horse team to win it all, and a big reason is because of these two freshmen Toronto natives. Thompson is a power forward that does everything on the floor, defensively and offensively.  In the first game against Oakland, he scored 17, brought down 10 boards and blocked an eye-opening 7 shots.  Joseph might not be as impressive as his teammate, but he's certainly been as effective, averaging just 1.5 turnovers a game manning the point. A big guard, Joseph is relied on a lot (32.3 minutes per game) despite his freshman status, and is a very good 3-point shooter, averaging 41%.  This duo, along with sophomore star Jordan Hamilton are all 3 potential lottery picks as early as next year, with Thompson projecting to be a top 5 pick if he forgoes his final 3 years.  Definitely an exciting team to watch!

Edit: Thompson said today that he’ll be back for another year at least, making Texas almost a lock for a top 5 preseason pick next year.  Another All-American Torontonian, guard Myck Kabongo, joins the mix next year, which might force them to change their name from Texas to the Toronto Longhorns!

2. Kris Joseph, Syracuse Orangeman

Kris Joseph is small forward that can do it all, and is extremely difficult to guard because of his dribbling and post-up abilities. What makes matters worse for defenders is the fact he can also effectively stroke the 3, averaging 37% for the season. Joseph led the Orange with a 14.4 clip, and was second in rebounding, averaging 5 a game.  Joseph is from my hometown of Montreal, and will probably be the first Montrealer to be drafted in the 1st round, ever.  Definitely hard to not root for this guy!

3. Robert Sacre, Kelly Olynyk, Mangisto Arop, Gonzaga Bulldogs

Senior Robert Sacre is the heart and soul of the Bulldogs up front, averaging 12.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.8 blocks a game.  Youngsters Olynyk and Arop come in off the bench and play far less, but are quite impactful when they get their opportunities.  Gonzaga were among the most impressive teams in their easy first round victory over favorite St. John’s, and though not favored to beat BYU in the next round, are picked by many experts to win the tilt.

4.  Francis Cedric Martel, Richmond Spiders

Though not nearly as highly touted as the other Canucks mentioned above, Montreal-born Martel, a junior forward who comes in off the bench, is intriguing player to watch this tournament.  In his first game against favored Vanderbilt, Martel knocked down 4 3-pointers, grabbed 5 boards and blocked 2 shots, giving him possibly his best career performance.  The Spiders are being talked about as a potential Cinderella team, and they have a good chance of continuing on to the Sweet 16 with a match-up against Morehead State tonight. 

You can catch the Richmond/Morehead State and Gonzaga/BYU games tonight, starting at 5:15 and 7:45 respectively.   In Sunday's games, Texas plays Arizona at 6:10, while Syracuse takes on Marquette at 7:45.

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