I was late to the Game of Thrones series. I happened to borrow seasons one and two last fall, not really knowing what to expect. It was not long before I was hooked and desperately tried to get a hold of season three immediately upon finishing the first two seasons. It was only after watching the penultimate episode of season three, did I remember seeing a parody poster for Game of Thrones, where the title of the series had been changed to ‘Everybody Dies’.
Anyone who has seen the end of season three will understand why I was reminded of this alternate title. It was jaw-dropping. I was so shocked and stunned, I actually had trouble sleeping that night.
Season four returns April 6th, and he very next night is the NCAA Championship game (with the Final Four games on the 5th). Needless to say, I’m very much looking forward to those three days.
I thought it fitting that Game of Thrones starts up again the night before the NCAA Tournament ends because I don’t recall a tournament that “killed off” so many marquee players and teams so unexpectedly. After last weekend, Game of Thrones alternate title flashed through my head again.
The first shocking defeat was Jabari Parker and Duke losing to 14th seeded Mercer. Now, 14th seeds tend beat 3rd seeds every year or so, so it should have not been completely shocking, but Jabari Parker had just won Freshman of the Year Award and many picked Parker to help carry Duke to the Final Four. Instead, he became the Ned Stark of the tournament. And his exit was about as heroic, going 4-14 for the game and scoring just 14 points.
A Magic-Bird-type Championship game between Parker and Andrew Wiggins went up in flames before the idea of it could even take hold.
Duke wasn’t alone in losing to an underdog. In the first round, there were eight upsets and in the second round, five more. After the first two round, all the number one seeds are still alive but two second seeds have gone home and all but one three seed is done. It’s a bloodbath out there.
Last week, I lamented about my inability to do well in March Madness pools, but apparently there is only one person left with the “perfect bracket” and he unfortunately isn’t going to benefit from it.
If you tuned into the NCAA’s to watch some of the potential lottery picks carry their team to the Sweet 16, you were out of luck, for the most part.
Marcus Smart and Oklahoma State were knocked out in the first round as well, but at least Smart put up more of a fight than Parker did. Smart was criticized by many for staying in school, especially after not having the season (individually and team-wise) than many expected of him, but at least he played impressively in his loss.
Tyler Ennis and Syracuse were bounced in the second round, with Ennis narrowly missing what would have been a game winning three at the end of the game. Instead of everyone talking about how Ennis came up in the clutch again, they talked about how Syracuse, and Ennis, couldn’t hit an outside shot to save their life. Sometimes the difference between an hero and going home early is an inch or two.
Ennis’ fellow Canadian, Andrew Wiggins, scored an ineffectual 4 points in a loss to lower seeded Stanford the next day.
Wiggins, Ennis and Parker compromise three of the five All Freshman team announced by the NCAA just a couple of weeks ago, and the three of them went 12-41 in their three losses in the tournament. Another All Freshmen team member, Joel Embiid, didn’t even get a chance to play- out with a back injury until the third round, which, for him, never came.
Now, I’m not highlighting the struggles of some of the top freshman to suggest that the upcoming draft is overrated. Not in the least. I’m highlighting their struggles to suggest that maybe Adam Silver is onto something when he suggests raising the minimum age for the NBA would be good for the league.
While no one would suggest Parker, Wiggins and Ennis won’t make more money if they come out this year, all three would benefit from staying in college, and so would basketball fans who would get to watch them in the tournament next year, hopefully using their experience to go farther, rather than watching them toil for some lottery team as they learn things they should have learned in college.
Marcus Smart didn’t push Oklahoma State beyond the first round, this year, but he certainly looked far more ready than most of the top freshmen did in their losses.
That’s not to say all the hyped freshmen struggled. One of my sleepers, Kentucky, with four top freshmen, was able to make it to the Sweet 16, and Julius Randle showed why he’s considered a top 5 pick in the upcoming draft, scoring 19 points and grabbing 15 rebounds in their last game against Kansas State.
Of course my other sleeper team, New Mexico, lost to Stanford in the first round.
To add insult to injury, the Stanford team included two Canadians I failed to even mention in the Canadians to watch portion because I figured their team wouldn’t last long enough to bother a mention. I guess that’s Karma.
I’m not even sure whether it’s in their best interest for me to mention their names. Of the six teams (Kansas, Syracuse, Wichita State, Michigan, Villanova and Iowa State) with Canadians I highlighted last week as potential Sweet 16 candidates, four were knocked out by lower ranked teams. Stanford was a team I didn’t mention and they’re on to the next round.
I also didn’t mention the Baylor team featuring two Canadians in prominent roles, and they’re also in the Sweet 16.
ABOUT THOSE POSSIBLE FUTURE RAPTORS
While I seemed to be the kiss of death for Canadians, most of the possible future Raptors are actually still playing in the tournament, so you still have a chance to watch most of them.
Nik Stauskas and Michigan are still alive, and Stauskas has played well, showing off both his shooting and passing skills, going 7-15 from three in the first two games and dishing out 8 assists in their second round game against Texas.
Kyle Anderson has played his usual good all around game in leading UCLA to the Sweet 16, but his teammate, Zach LaVine, has all but disappeared and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him stay another year if he continues to play like he has.
Kentucky’s James Young had a rough start against Kansas State, but followed it up with a good showing against Wichita State.
Elfrid Payton put up some rather impressive numbers (24 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks and 3 steals) in a first round loss to Creighton.
Gary Harris has played decently for Michigan State, as did Louisville’s Montrezl Harrell.
Wayne Selden, on the other hand, had a very forgettable tournament, averaging just 2 ppg and 3 apg in his two games and might also benefit from another year at Kansas, especially if he moves up the totem pole with Wiggins almost definitely gone.
Rodney Hood shot poorly, but did play decently in Duke’s first round upset by Mercer.
T.J. Warren has already declared for the draft after playing very well for North Carolina State in a heartbreaking overtime loss to St. Louis.
CANADIANS STILL ALIVE
Despite Wiggins and Ennis being knocked out, as well as Gonzaga’s Kevin Pangos, there are still seven Canadian still competing in the tournament (not named for their protection), so you can watch Iowa State, Michigan, Stanford, Dayton, Baylor and Villanova with some pride.