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The Round Mound of Rebound… Sir Charles… Chuck… No matter the nickname you prefer, Charles Barkley’s playing and television career has spawned dozens of great quotes, commentary, and hilarious moments. To honor one of the greatest power forwards of all-time and look forward to his coverage of March Madness, we will pay homage to several of his best catchphrases and review some of the top anecdotes and stories from around the game of college basketball in this weekly installment, What Would Charles Say?
Pulling Their Weight … Quite literally. At the Pac-12 Tournament this week, UCLA center and notable member of the 300-pound club, Joshua Smith, was suspended for the first half of his team’s game against USC for missing the team bus to the Staples Center. Why is this interesting? Since the team was staying only a couple of blocks from the arena, Smith joined a team manager in walking over to the locker room to wait for the rest of the squad to arrive. In other words, a player with a known weight problem got some fresh air and a little exercise, still beat his team to the arena, and somehow ended up in trouble. Does this make any sense whatsoever? Are you really late if you beat everyone else to the destination? Whatever the case, it turned out not to hurt the Bruins, as UCLA ran away with the victory, 55-40.
I Am Not a Role Model … All of the major individual player awards in college basketball are given based on player performance from the regular season only, which ended last weekend. Everyone agrees that the race for National Player of the Year is a two-horse race between Kansas’ Thomas Robinson and Kentucky’s Anthony Davis. Both players are more than deserving of the award from their play on the hardwood. While only one can win, it’s a testament to both that they are revered as high-character, classy individuals who represent their schools with pride and decorum. Robinson’s tale as a young man who lost his mother and two grandparents last year in a span of a few short weeks is well-chronicled; Davis’ otherworldly skill set is perhaps only eclipsed by his self-effacing demeanor both on and off the court. In a media environment that often shines the spotlight on those who behave badly, it’s worth noting that Davis and Robinson are not only NPOY candidates but fantastic role models as well.
That’s Turrible … Championship Week is well under way around America, with 14 conference championships already completed and their automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament decided. In one-and-done tournament situations, there will always be upsets — that, in fact, is one of the natural beauties of this game. But it’s very upsetting that teams who dominate their conferences all season might be left on the NCAA’s doorstep come Selection Sunday simply because their computer numbers aren’t as good as painfully mediocre teams in some of the power conferences. Consider this a missive to the Tournament Selection Committee — if it comes down to an Iona, Drexel, or Oral Roberts versus a Seton Hall, Mississippi State, or NC State, do the right thing and reward the mid-major teams that played great basketball all season long rather than those who struggled to keep their heads above water.
I’m No Rocket Scientist … Speaking of the 14 teams already slotted into the NCAA Tournament field, Harvard basketball may now be known for something other than simply being Jeremy Lin’s alma mater. With two wins over the weekend and a Pennsylvania loss on Tuesday, the Crimson won the Ivy League regular season title (and its automatic bid) to earn entry into the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1946. That’s right — 66 years! ESPN’s Andy Katz caught up with one of the surviving members of the ’46 team, Don Swegan, who says that he’s been tracking the team’s progress and is elated for their success. While it’s unlikely that the school in Cambridge will join the ranks of basketball and academic powerhouses such as Duke and Georgetown anytime soon, it’s a tremendous story that a drought spanning nearly a lifetime has finally come to an end.
I May Be Wrong, But I Doubt It … There are still games to play this weekend in all of the major conferences, but we’re going to go out on a limb and predict the top two seed lines and locations right now. The four #1 seeds will be Kentucky, Syracuse, North Carolina, and Kansas. The four #2 seeds will be Michigan State, Ohio State, Duke, and Missouri. It says here that Kentucky/Duke will be slotted in the South Region in Atlanta 20 years after The Greatest Game Ever Played; Syracuse/Missouri will go to the East Region in Boston; Kansas/Michigan State will be sent to the Midwest Region in St. Louis; and, UNC/Ohio State will be shipped to the West Region in Phoenix. These groupings make the most sense geographically as well as in terms of equitable distribution of the relative strength of teams.
Check back next Wednesday for another edition of Rush the Court’s What Would Charles Say?