Weekly Wrap

Welcome to the Weekly Wrap where we dissect recent happenings across the local sports scene and generally whatever is on our minds. Look for the Weekly Wrap published every Friday.

• March Madness is in full effect. For the first time since 1979, the Sweet 16 will not feature Duke, North Carolina, or Kansas. That is pretty insane. Despite all the parity in college basketball, one of those three schools had made it past the first weekend for the last 35 years. Just goes to show how truly bizarre this year has been. I've got Arizona going all the way beating Michigan State in the title game. Fingers crossed.

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• With just 11 games remaining in the NBA regular season, the Thunder have won six of their last eight including wins over other playoff teams such as Houston, Chicago, and Toronto. The two losses? Both to Dallas. One a blowout loss and another in OT. Now the caveat here being that Dallas is essentially playing for a playoff spot while OKC has already clinched a playoff birth and really only playing for the number one seed at this point. Dallas is desperate for wins, Oklahoma City maybe not as much. However, I can't imagine the Thunder didn't want some vengeance for the blowout loss from the week before. I'll try not to over-analyze this too much, but OKC vs Dallas is a definite possibility for a first round playoff match-up.

• Jake Trotter has Oklahoma in the number two spot in his Big 12 "offensive triplets" rankings. The combo of QB Trevor Knight, RB Keith Ford, and WR Sterling Shepard ranks only behind Baylor's triplets. Lot of excitement in Norman surrounding these three players among others. Will be interesting to see if they can live up to the hype.

• Shout of to Caleb Hixon stepping in and pumping out the content this past week with his March Madness coverage (pay no attention to his actual game predictions). He had a great piece on Doug McDermott and his place in college basketball history.

• Thunder vs the Kings tonight! You pumped? Yeah, me neither. Let's get to the playoffs already. The only interesting thing left to follow is Durant's push towards winning his fourth scoring title and first MVP.

• Speaking of the playoffs, Anthony Slater does a nice job breaking down five potential first round opponents for OKC. While the Thunder would obviously be favored no matter who their first round opponent ends up being, there are no easy outs in the Western conference.

• Apparently you can now vote on the Sooners spring game field design. I'm all for fan interaction, but this just feels…a bit lame? Does anyone really care about the field design for the spring game? Maybe I'm just being a killjoy, but I could care less.

Farewell McBuckets

Doug McDermott, aka McBuckets, is the best college basketball player of our generation. Hands down.

Please, tell me, who else had a better college career in the last decade? I'll tell you who, no one!  Not who's the most flashy, athletic, thrilling or sexy player. But who's the best? If you disagree, that's fine. But you're wrong. Leave a comment if you want, but here's my argument for McDermott.

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Not only was Doug one of the greatest talents we've ever seen, but he did things the right way too. He played the game with equal parts intensity and integrity. Yet most people won't appreciate what Doug has accomplished in his four years at Creighton because he didn't play for a major college program or win an NCAA championship. 

But the 3-time All-American and likely player of the year doesn't need the recognition. His stats speak for themselves. McDermott ranks as the fifth highest scorer of all time in college basketball. Only one other player in the last decade ranks in the top 25 of that list (Tyler Hansbrough at 13). Doug passed various legends on the all time scoring list such as Oscar Robertson, Larry Bird and Elvin Hayes. In his four years at Creighton he averaged 22 points per game, with an average FG percentage of 55 and a 3-point percent average of 45.7! Those are some amazing, incredible, gaudy numbers! 

To top that off, McDermott has scored at least 800 points each of the last three seasons. Why is that important you ask? Oh just because no one has done that since Wayman Tisdale in 1985 at Oklahoma. "Big deal," you might scoff. Yes, it is a big deal! Other people who have done that include some of the legends I mentioned before: Larry Bird, Oscar Robertson and Pete Maravich.

It's not just about the amount of points scored though. It's also the quality of opponents and strength of schedule. Creighton didn't go out and schedule weak sister competition, but played top notch competition. McDermott wasn't just beating up on D2 schools, but in 2013-14, a season in which Doug had a career high 26.7 PPG, Creighton had the 10th best RPI in the nation!

Are you starting to understand now why I believe he's the best college basketball player we've seen in 20 years?

In an era where most kids jet for the NBA after their first year, Doug took a different route. He enjoyed his time in college and even though he never won a championship, he still said in his press conference after his final game, "I hope more kids do what I do." 

Doug, almost single handedly, took his Creighton Bluejays to the NCAA tournament 3 straight years. Each year winning at least one game. 

McBuckets is a solidified college basketball legend. He set an example on how you play the game not only hard, but fair. In his final game against Baylor, in the waning moments of the game when they were down big with absolutely no hope of coming back, McDermott displayed his class and character one final time. When his teammate shoved Baylor's Corey Jefferson to the ground out of frustration, who was the first to rush over to help him up? None other than McBuckets himself. He didn't have to, but that's just who Doug McDermott is. If you googled "class act," Doug's picture would pop up.

Doug will most likely be selected in the first round of the upcoming NBA draft and no matter what his NBA career looks like, he will always live on as a college basketball legend.

So long Doug, thanks for the memories and example!

March Madness: Sweet Sixteen Preview

The flurry may be over, but the madness continues.

The field of 64 teams has been reduced to 16 and most of our brackets are up in flames. Maybe you're like my dad and stopped watching/caring after the first day (FIRST DAY!). Or, if you're like me, you've been glued to your television and iPhone constantly checking your bracket no matter how bad it looks. And trust me, it looks bad.

The story of the first two rounds? Early upsets. Three of the four 5 vs 12 seeds went in the favor of the 12 seed. Duke, a 3 seed went down to 14 seed Mercer, 6 seed U Mass lost to 11 seed Tennessee, and 11 seed Dayton knocked off Ohio State and Syracuse! Has there been a year with more early upsets? I can't think of one. 

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Even with the early barrage of upsets in the first round, three of the four 1 seeds are still in play. In the first round we experienced the madness with early upsets as 7 double-digit seeds won their opening games. Since then only three of those teams are left, with two playing each other (Dayton vs Stanford). 

What will the story be for the Sweet 16? Who will emerge victorious? Can Dayton continue their Cinderella story? Let's see if I can't help break down some of the big time match ups. And as always, I'll make a BOLD/maybe dumb prediction.

1 Virginia vs 4 Michigan State
The sweetheart of the experts, Michigan State, takes on their first big challenge facing the number 1 seed in their bracket, Virginia. So far Michigan State's road to the Sweet 16 hasn't been the most daunting, but could that play to their favor? Having played two games that weren't as emotionally taxing, maybe Michigan State is primed for a big game. Virginia, on the other hand, faced a quality opponent in the second round and handled Memphis with ease. The Cavaliers have looked very impressive so far and this is set to be a blockbuster game pitting the Big 10 champs vs the ACC Champs. I see this one coming down to the wire. Look for the stifling defense of Virginia, which ranks number one in the nation, to set the tone for this game. I see a low scoring affair with Virginia coming out on top, possibly even in overtime. 

4 Louisville vs 8 Kentucky
I think this is one of the most intriguing matchups we've had all tournament. Reigning champs, Louisville, take on the Jekyll and Hyde Wildcats of Kentucky. No team this season has received as much attention or media scrutiny as Kentucky has. And for good reason! When you start five highly touted freshman and have the reputation of sending almost all of your starters to the NBA each of the recent years, I think you've earned the right to be scrutinized when things don't go the way you'd hoped. On the other hand there's Louisville, led by Rick Petino, that has been one of the most consistent teams all year. Do you go with the consistent Cardinals or the wild card Wildcats? Do you roll the dice or play it safe? I'm playing it safe. Despite getting hot at the right time, Kentucky's run ends here. If Louisville can get past Kentucky then they may have an outside chance of going back-to-back this year. I'm picking Louisville.

1 Florida vs 4 UCLA
I've been particularly hard on Florida thus far in the tournament. Maybe they heard I went against them in my bold prediction last week, fueling them past Pitt (you don't think Billy Donovan reads The Crimson Slate, do you?). They've proved me wrong and I think it's time to jump on the Gator wagon. UCLA has been impressive in the first two rounds, but all they've seen so far is Tulsa and Stephen F. Austin. Not quite a good preparation for the number one overall seed in the tournament. Defense wins again here and Florida is as good as they come on defense. 

10 Stanford vs 11 Dayton
Ah yes, the age old classic matchup of the 10 vs 12… what? Wait. Stanford and Dayton? Did anyone have this matchup in their bracket? If so, please hit me up on Twitter because I could use some mentoring in bracket selection. My guess is this matchup has provided at least a little red on each of our brackets. None the less, this matchup will provide us with at least one double-digit seed in the Elite 8. And because I'm a sucker for glass slippers, I'm going Dayton here. Keep the dream alive Flyers!

2 Wisconson vs 6 Baylor
This is going to be a fun game to watch. Baylor is red hot and catching stride at the right time, but so is Wisconsin. I think this is going to be a high scoring affair and wouldn't be surprised if both teams hit 80 points. I'm taking the upset in this one, Baylor 84 Wisconsin 80.

2 Michigan vs 11 Tennessee
Michigan displayed some first round jitters against Wofford, but found their rhythm in the second round handling Texas. I think the Wolverines can win at least one more game, but don't count out Tennessee. The Volunteers have been putting up points at a frantic pace averaging 84.5 points through the first two games. Michigan 75 Tennessee 70.

BOLD Prediction
The only game left is 3 Iowa State vs 7 Connecticut. Iowa State has been on a tear in the tournament putting up a tournament high 93 points in the first round and beating North Carolina in the final seconds of the second round. The Cyclones have been drawing a lot of attention from the national media, but my BOLD prediction is that UCONN will win by at least 10 points. Connecticut held off a really good St. Joe's team who came in to the tournament with a lot of momentum and then upset the 2 seed Villanova by 12 points. The Cyclones better not come in flat to this game because the Huskies are not a team to sleep on. They shoot the three ball as well as anyone left in the tournament and can get on a run and put up points fast. The Huskies take this one in impressive fashion, 89-75. 

No matter what goes down in the Sweet 16, we're in for a show. Gotta love March Madness!

Cinderella Town

Welcome to Cinderella Town. 
Population: Mercer, Harvard, North Dakota State, Dayton, and Stephen F. Austin

Every year the NCAA Tournament gives us these seemingly impossible match ups. David verses Goliath. Mercer verses Duke. Harvard verses Cincinnati. No one picks David, not even Toby the Bear (Mercer's mascot). And every year they shock the world! Last year the aptly named Shockers of Wichita State let us ride their Cinderella carriage all the way to the Final Four. This year we have four teams bidding for the spot of the 2014 NCAA Tournament Cinderella Story.

Who do I think this years Florida Gulf Coast will be? You guessed it. The team from the very same conference. Mercer!

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Taking on the NCAA basketball perennial power house that is Duke, I surely didn't give the Bears a second thought when filling out my bracket. But did you know that this is the second time in three years that the Blue Devils have been bounced in the first round by a double-digit seed? I guarantee you Mercer did. The Bears jumped on the opportunity by scoring 20 of the final 25 points of the game. Let's get to know our front-runner for the Cinderella title a little bit better though. 

Winners of the Atlantic Sun Conference, as previously stated the same conference that brought us Florida Gulf Coast last year, Mercer boasts a starting roster of five savvy seniors. In fact, seven of their nine man rotation are seniors.

The Mercer Bears rank in the top 25 in the nation in points scored per game as well as top 10 in assists per game. They're led by their 6'4" guard, Langston Hall, who averages a career high 14.7 PPG and 5.7 APG. Along side Hall is their 6'10" enforcer inside, Daniel Coursey, who pulls in almost 7 RBP, averages nearly 10 PPG and sends back 2.2 BPG. 

There's something to be said about a team with a solid group of seniors in the "one-and-done" age. Mercer is no stranger to the big game stage either as they upset Mississippi earlier this year and nearly knocked off Texas. Talk about a rematch if those two met in the Sweet 16!

The question from here will be: Can the Mercer Bears keep it rolling? 

Their road to the Final Four doesn't look quite as daunting as others such as Dayton (potentially having to face Syracuse, Kansas and Florida) or Harvard (Mich St, Virginia and Villanova). But if anyone can do it, I'd put my money on the only team that started five seniors all year long.

Come on Mercer, we're all rooting for you!

Weekly Wrap

Welcome to the Weekly Wrap where we dissect recent happenings across the local sports scene and generally whatever is on our minds. Look for the Weekly Wrap published every Friday.

• March Madness got underway yesterday and started off with a bang. Despite my urges to rip into the Sooner basketball team, I'd better stay away from that one. The Sooner basketball team is making strides in the right direction, but their March Madness lasted all of one day before losing to 12-seed North Dakota State. It was the Bison's first ever NCAA tournament victory. I'm leaving this one alone, I promise.

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• Speaking of March Madness, go check out Caleb Hixon's recap from day one. Good stuff in there and quite the bold prediction. Look for more pieces from Caleb in the coming weeks as a contributor here.

• The Thunder took on the Cavs last night and did their best to blow a 24-point 4th quarter lead. KD had taken a seat, the 2nd unit players had checked in for the remainder of the game, and it looked like the Thunder were putting the finishing touches on a solid night of work. Then the Cavs went on a 16-0 run. Durant was forced to check back into the game to secure the victory. A win is still a win, but the end of the bench players nearly got run out of the gym by the Cavs. I'm trying to stay positive today, I really am.

• Last night was win number 50 for the Thunder. Despite the recent negativity, 50 wins still means something. OKC takes on Toronto tonight and Westbrook returns to the line-up once again. The Raptors are currently the third seed in the East, so this would be a nice opportunity for the Thunder to flex their muscles.

• Take the plunge and join Yahoo and Quicken Loans' Billion Dollar Bracket? What's that? Your perfect bracket didn't even make it out of day one? Man…I just knew this was going to be the year of the perfect brackets! Hey, there's always next year for the first ever perfect bracket and new billionaire.

• The kind folks over at Welcome To Loud City wrote up a nice little review on the recently released Sports Insider – Thunder Edition app. If you are a Thunder fan with an iPhone and haven't checked it out yet, well what are you waiting for?

• Jake Trotter thinks the Sooners could have a "scary three-headed monster" in the backfield next season with running backs Keith Ford, Alex Ross, and Joe Mixon. It's crazy to think that Oklahoma is graduating three senior running backs who all played major roles in the offense, yet may not skip a beat with the upcoming young guys.