March 20, 2009
1. Darren Collison. For my money, Virginia Commonwealth vs. UCLA was yesterday's best game, and while I'd love to be sitting here naming Eric Maynor the day 's most valuable player, I can't do it. He came up just a tiny bit short. Those shorts are still packed, though.
Instead, I've gotta give the credit to UCLA's ferocious Ben Howland defense. When VCU ran a screen for Maynor, UCLA hedged the bejeezus out out of it, forcing him way out of his intended path, and giving the original defender (usually Collison) time to get back in front of Maynor. It was excellently executed defense, and it was the reason UCLA was able to stop Maynor on the last possession of the game. It was textbook.
Still, though, much loves goes out to the VCU Rams. They are tenacious and fierce, and they fight like people who just really enjoy fighting. If I ran a major program and needed a coach, Anthony Grant would be number one on my list.
2. Western Kentucky. If I could have picked one legit underdog to win yesterday, I'd have picked the team with Big Red on the sidelines. As it turned out, that's exactly what happened.
Not that it came easy for them. It could have, as they led by 17 at one point in the second half, but a spirited Illinois comeback, coupled with some bizarre officiating actually made it a close finish.
Not that it really even looked like an upset, either. No one was mobbed on the floor, no one heaved the ball into the upper deck, and no one was carried off on anyone's shoulders. Western Kentucky reacted like they expected to win, and really, it wasn't a huge shock to anyone else, either. As far as upsets go, this one's not going to be a high point in the "One Shining Moment" video, but it's all we had today, so I'll take it.
3. Garrison Carr. An American upset would've provided the floor-mobbing, ball-heaving, shoulder-carrying scene described above, but it wasn't to be. Still, Garrison Carr deserves some recognition for the onion show he put on.
He hit six of his first nine three point attempts to help push American out to a 10-point lead, before going cold (he finished six of 14 from beyond the arc) and giving Villanova's defense a chance to dig in and do what they do. Carr's efforts, and those of his teammates, made it a fun game, though.
4. Roburt Sallie. If you'd have asked me on Thursday morning who Roburt Sallie was, I wouldn't have had a clue. I'd have guessed that he was a fashion designer, specializing in urban leather ensembles. I'd have been wrong, though. He's a backup Memphis guard who averages four points a game.
That is, until he exploded for 35 yesterday, which really shouldn't be that shocking. He plays for Memphis, and they tend to get pretty good basketball players there. Sallie has a unique backstory, as it turns out. He's 23 years old, and just played in his first college basketball game as a sophomore.
He was a highly sought-after recruit and signed with Washington back in 2005, but didn't qualify academically, so he spent another year in prep school. Open to recruiting again the next year, he was chased by Memphis, Wake Forest and Kansas, but ended up signing at Nebraska. Through some weird rules and Nebraska mishandling the situation (you should read more about that here), he never played a minute for the Huskers, and was declared ineligible to play in the Big 12 ever again, actually. From there, despite efforts from Kentucky, he ended up at Memphis, and today, with others in foul trouble, the spotlight landed on him, and he delivered to the tune of ten three-balls.