- 10:02 PM ET 03.08
Michael Tureski/Icon SMI
One week away from Selection Sunday, everyone's battling for their tournament lives. Northern Iowa secured its spot today with an overtime win over Illinois State in the MVC final. Northwestern probably continued its tournament drought (barring a Big Ten tournament win) with a loss to Ohio State, Davidson lost its chance at an automatic bid (and probably any other) with a loss to the College of Charleston and North Carolina played like a No. 1 seed in a win over Duke in the legendary ACC showdown. Didn't have time to sit in front of the TV today? Here's some highlights:
• So when Michael Jordan came to the regular season finale of Duke-Carolina, did he get a larger round of applause than Tyler Hansbrough? Questionable. Hansbrough may be no MJ quite yet, but he certainly earned his cheers today – he scored 17 points in the Heels’ 79-71 win in Chapel Hill. But the real hero of the game was Ty Lawson, who was rumored to be sidelined with a stubbed toe and finished with 13 points, eight rebounds and nine assists. More good news for North Carolina: the Tar Heels shot 53 percent from the floor and clinched the ACC regular season conference title.
As conference tournaments commence, the Wooden Watch comes to a close. 'Tis the nature of things. See where the NCAA's best rank in the final Wooden Watch of the season.
1. Blake Griffin, Oklahoma, So. (Last week: No. 1)
Last game: 33 points, 14 rebounds, two assists, two steals, one block, 12-for-15 from the field in an 82-78 win over Oklahoma State on March 7.
Season averages: 22.1 ppg, 14.2 rpg, 2.4 apg, 1.3 bpg, 1.2 spg, 63.4 fg%
Wooden Worth: The Pope's catholic, human beings need air to breathe and Griffin's going to win Wooden and Naismith Player of the Year honors. It's as close to a given as these things can be. Griffin constantly found new ways to amaze this season, from his total dominance on the defensive boards to his tomahawk jams to his lavishly embroidered sports coat and sizeable diamond studs. His 25 double-doubles set an Oklahoma single-season record and tied him with Drew Gooden for second all-time in the Big 12. To really wrap your head around the extent of his dominance, consider this: Griffin amassed more double-doubles than 13 Top 25 teams did wins. If he hadn't missed time with a concussion, it's reasonable to assume he would have notched at least one more, giving him more double-doubles than 19 Top 25 teams had wins. Now that he's back to full health, Griffin will look to lead the underrated Sooners to a No. 1 seed and NCAA tournament run.
This is what it comes down to. The regular season is either on the brink or already passed for Division I college hoops teams, and the pressure leading up to the NCAA Tournament is quickly mounting. And this weekend is already shaping into one of the most significant to date. Why?
Because Pittsburgh proved it reigns supreme.
Because a number of regular-season conference titles were claimed.
Because a handful of senior players (Gasp! They stayed all four years!) put on show-stopping performances.
And because bracketologists can officially start to sweat over their office pool(s), as some new bids have officially been named.
So pull yourself together and take a look at what's gone down so far this weekend.
- Prepare to be enlightened. Sam Young's giving a lesson in How To Go Out In Style 101. First order of business, drop 31 on the No. 1 team, Connecticut. While you're at it, go ahead and grab 10 boards. Then, knock in a layup to halt a 12-0 run by the Huskies, and quickly follow with an alley-oop to teammate Levance Fields for a slam - one that will bring the house down. Next, to make sure Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun knows that no matter how much money his team brings in and no matter who he has defending you, they won't be able to stop you. And finally, complete a season-sweep of the Huskies, with a 70-60 beating. Once you master those topics, you, too, can be like Young in his final home game as a Pittsburgh Panther.
The dominating performance by he 6-foot-6 forward marked he second time he's put the hurt on Connecticut this season. In February, he led the Panthers to a 76-68 win over the Huskies by dropping a game-high 25 points. This time around, though, Young didn't get as much help from DeJuan Blair, who was only able to put up eight points, while UConn's big man Hasheem Thabeet had 14 points and 13 rebounds. With Louisville's win (next bullet), Pitt won a tiebreaker over UConn for the No. 2 seed in the Big East tournament.
RECAP | BOX SCORE
By Elizabeth McGarr
The first time Duke met North Carolina this season, on Feb. 11, the Tar Heels overcame an eight-point halftime deficit to beat the Blue Devils in Durham. When No. 7 Duke meets No. 2 UNC in Chapel Hill this Sunday, the Tar Heels will notice one major difference: Elliot Williams. The 6-foot-4-inch freshman guard watched from the bench the last time the two teams met (and had been averaging 2.5 points and 10.6 minutes per game). He broke into the starting lineup eight days later, against St. John's at Madison Square Garden, and has now started five games in a row-all Duke wins. During that stretch, he has averaged 11.6 points and 31.4 minutes per game. SI.com caught up with the chess-loving Memphis native, who is ready to make his mark on the Battle for Tobacco Road.
SI.com: How did you develop a love for playing chess?
Elliot Williams: I started out as when I was five or six years old and just got interested in the game. My father played a lot and my brother played a lot, so it was kind of like an in-house thing. We just played for fun. In high school, I would play a lot, but I didn't take it too seriously. I wasn't in the chess club. Now, for the most part, I just play on the computer when we're on the plane. I'm pretty good. I would rate [my chess game] a 7 out of 10 maybe. I haven't played against other competitive players in a while.
SI.com: Have you found any fellow chess enthusiasts among your teammates?
EW: Not at all. I've asked, but not too many people play here.
“That's Fez. He's a foreign exchange student.”
--Michael Kelso (Ashton Kutcher), That 70’s Show
Foreign stars in the college game are nothing new; think Patrick Ewing, Hakeem Olajuwon, Vasco Evtimov (OK, bad example). Chalk it up to the globalization of the game, or the belief that, like Prince Akeem, they can all come to America to find their queen. Whatever the cause, players are coming from far (Cameroon) and even farther (South Korea) to play the game. The Tenth Power has broken down the numbers and the cultural barriers to bring you the 10 best Fezs in the game today.
1. Hasheem Thabeet, C UConn (Tanzania). His offensive game is still a work in progress and he struggles against bulkier bigs (see Luke Harangody, Arizne Onuaku and DeJuan Blair but Thabeet remains the nation's premier shot-blocker and the latest African-born center to star in the Big East. Am I the only one who every time an African player pops up has flashes of Kevin Bacon scouring villages for talent?
2. Patrick Mills, G Saint Mary’s (Australia). From the Men at Work music that pipes through the McKeon Pavilion speakers to the "Fear the Roo" T-shirts, Saint Mary's has become Cali's Land Down Under. The best of the Gales' five-man Aussie contingent, Patty's star rose after an impressive showing in the Beijing Olympics on the Australian National Team. The fleet-footed guard's return from a broken hand could be Saint Mary's key to an NCAA at-large bid.