COMMENTARY | March Madness is alive in Miami. Sweet 16 week, here we are.
With two great basketball teams in South Florida, it's only fitting we seek out the Miami Heat's Sweet 16 in a bracket-style format of the franchise's best players in March. We will wind our way from the Sweet 16 to the championship, pitting the Heat's best against each other. Forget practice, we've got Miami Madness bracket style.
Bear in mind, LeBron James never played college basketball, so he is not eligible. And Chris Bosh's Georgia Tech team didn't qualify for the Big Dance in 2003, so that rules him out, too. In addition, this tournament is not based on NBA careers, but the impact the Heat's past and present have had in March.
Seeds based on team and individual performances in NCAA Tournament history.
No. 1 Christian Laettner vs. No. 16 Michael Beasley - Laettner and the Duke Blue Devils are too much for Beasley, despite his 26.2 points-per-game scoring average. Laettner moves on to the Heat Elite 8.
No. 2 Shane Battier vs. No. 15 Caron Butler - Chants go out in full force, "Who's your daddy, Battier … Who's your daddy, Battier?" Battier and the Blue Devils send Butler's UConn Huskies packing, despite Butler's 2002 Elite 8 appearance in the real tournament.
No. 3 Glen Rice vs. No. 14 Shaquille O'Neal - Oooh, a matchup that only video games could dream up. Body for body, Shaq was a monster at LSU and would eat Rice alive in any one-on-one matchup. The two actually hooked up as teammates in Laker Land. Shaq gets himself in foul trouble, though, in this one, and Rice's 1989 Michigan magic lives on.
No. 4 Juwan Howard vs. No. 13 Steve Smith - Two Michiganders meet for a crack at the quarterfinals. Smith's 1990 Sweet 16 appearance with the Spartans, and his game-winning jumper of Wisconsin-Green Bay in the 1991 first round were big moments for Michigan State, but Howard's length and goatee scowl in Michigan's Fab 5 glory years are too much.
No. 5 Mike Bibby vs. No. 12 Ray Allen - Bibby was a one-year wonder at Arizona, weaving his way through the desert all the way to the 1998 national title. Allen led the UConn Huskies to the Sweet 16, where they lost to No. 5-seed Mississippi State. Bibby's ability to control the floor ends Allen's run by another No. 5 seed in this tourney.
No. 6 Mario Chalmers vs. No. 11 Kendall Gill - These two lock horns at a neutral site in Tulsa. While Chalmers' 2008 Jayhawks won the title after his jumper with 2.1 seconds left sent the game into overtime, Gill was one of Illinois' most electric players in the '80s, guiding the Illini to the Final Four where they lost to Michigan on a last-second shot. It comes down to a last-second shot again, and Chalmers knocks it down again to move on.
No. 7 Mike Miller vs. No. 10 Dwyane Wade - Miller, the Gators' streaky shooter, and current teammate D-Wade, Marquette's athletic slasher, meet in a game of different dynamics. Miller, who led the Gators in scoring for two years, hits five 3s, but Wade's 32 points carries the Golden Eagles to the Elite 8.
No. 8 Antoine Walker vs. No. 9 Rony Seikaly - Going old school for the 8-9 matchup. Walker's 1996 Kentucky Wildcats won it all, while Seikaly's 1987 Syracuse Orangemen were the runner-up to Indiana. Seikaly is a presence down low with 23 points and four blocks, but Walker hits a big 3 with 4.5 seconds left to advance.
No. 1 Laettner vs. No. 8 Walker - Laettner hits a turnaround jumper from the free-throw line, spoiling Walker's 25-point, eight-rebound performance, and sending the Blue Devils' 1992 Player of the Year on.
No. 2 Battier vs. No. 10 Wade - Battier was the Player of the Year in 1999 for his ability to lead the team. His lock-down defense frustrates Wade, but after an adjustment is made the tide turns. D-Wade hits a couple from the outside and then ball-fakes on Battier from the perimeter, driving in for one of his electric dunks. Chants go out again. "Who's your daddy, Battier ..." This time, we know the answer. D-Wade moves on.
No. 3 Rice vs. No. 6 Chalmers - No last-second heroics for Chalmers in this one. Rice was on an '89 team that was special in March, and he and the Maize and Blue do it again.
No. 4 Howard vs. No. 5 Bibby - Howard calls a timeout when he and the Wolverines don't have one, and Bibby scores 27 as the Wildcats march on.
No. 1 Laettner vs. No. 5 Bibby - Bibby is a maestro in a 21-point, nine-assist performance, but Laettner was the Christian boy who sang in the chorus even though nobody liked him. Laettner is a Cactus Killer as he and Duke dance into the championship game.
No. 3 Rice vs. No. 10 Wade - D-Wade's run ends in the semifinals again. He didn't have the big men or complementary stars at Marquette like he's had with the Heat in Shaq and LeBron. Rice's 37 points are too much, and that '89 team got hot at the end of the year.
CHAMPIONSHIPNo. 1 Laettner vs. No. 3 Rice - A Duke-Michigan matchup again. Laettner takes a beating, getting bloodied by elbows from Rice. Laettner scores 17 points, and Rice puts up 22. But Laettner's last-second shot wins the Heat honor-roll championship. (As painful as that is to swallow.)
REALITY CHECK: Now, dismissing mythical March Madness, if Shaq ever met up with Laettner head-to-head, the former Blue Devil would be singing a high note after O'Neal dunks over him to bring down the backboard. Laettner quits basketball and enters the church choir for good.
Jim McCurdy is a freelance sports writer based in Miami. He has written for major publications around the country. Follow him on Twitter at @irishcurds.
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- Shane Battier
- Christian Laettner
- Dwyane Wade
- Mike Bibby