Tag Archives: Kemba Walker

Hands Down, Kemba’s The Best

Kemba Walker has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that he's the best player in the nation.

While Jimmer Fredette was all the rage of the NCAA lighting up scoreboards and putting up ridiculous numbers, Kemba Walker took a backseat.

 

Walker was the NCAA’s main attraction after an unreal start to the season that saw him put up 30-point games like it wasn’t a problem. He hit clutch shot after clutch shot and took UCONN from preseason unranked to the top 10.

 

Then he tailed off. Why? Because he knew he couldn’t do it all by himself. Truth be told, Walker and Fredette were walking the same path during this season as the top two players in the nation up for the player of the year. Both were little guards who put up big numbers and only hoped that their teammates got involved.

 

Yet while Jimmer jacked away to his hearts content, Kemba decided to do what all great players do and that’s make his teammates better.

 

During UCONN’s lull in the Big East season Walker saw his points per game average drop but had an increase in assists. In wins and in losses Walker was getting guys like Shabazz Napier, Jamal Coombs-McDaniel and Jeremy Lamb involved more in the game. He was freeing up and finding Alex Orakhi underneath the rim, he was getting everyone involved and making them better.

 

The results were mixed at the time, but once the Big East tournament hit, you saw that it was going to payoff in the long haul.

 

Lamb more than any other player on the roster has emerged as a gigantic threat opposite of walker. Lamb has put on a show scoring 24 versus San Diego State and 19 in the West region final versus Arizona.

 

Because of Lamb’s success in the last 2 months teams now have another problem to watch be wary of when facing the Huskies.

Jeremy Lamb is one of the main recipients of Kemba Walker's change in approach in the last 3 months.

However, when the chips are down, when you need a bucket, and when you need a big play, that’s when Kemba Walker takes over.

 

During the Huskies 9 game in 19 day win streak (which has to go down in sports history as one of the most stupefying streaks ever) Walker hasn’t played less than 33 minutes, topping 40 minutes 4 times. He hasn’t shot under 40% in any game, he buried Pittsburgh with a devastating crossover and game-winner over Gary McGhee, he shredded the Aztecs defenders with ease whether it was 6 foot D.J. Gay or 6-8 Billy White.

 

The nickname Iron Man doesn’t seem sufficient enough to describe Walker and his brilliance; he’s been a superhero and then some for UCONN. He’s led the Huskies far beyond anyone’s expectations since they took the court versus Stone Brook back in September. Now with two games left he has them at the peak of the mountaintop even though he has to be gassed.

When Walker and coach Jim Calhoun bear hugged each other at midcourt after their win over Arizona in the West regional final, you saw how deep a connection Calhoun has with his star pupil. Calhoun’s season has been one to forget off of the court, as he will be suspended for three Big East games next year due to recruiting violations. Through it all Calhoun has held his head above water and having Walker there to lead his team and overshadow that dark period has definitely been a blessing.

 

Calhoun has been known to be very hard on his players because he demands so much out of them. In Walker he hasn’t to be and their bond is more special than any I’ve seen with Calhoun in his 20+ years at Storrs.

 

Jimmermania was fun. He was a blast to watch and did some impressive things. But when it comes down to who the player of the year was this year in the NCAA, there’s no question it’s Kemba Walker.

 

He’s done everything asked of him and more this year. It seems like every time we look up, Walker is at it again and carrying UCONN to another victory. With possibly two games left in college career, who’s to say he wont do it again.


Tourney Time!

The Buckeyes are the team to beat on the road to Houston.

With all due respect to the Colorado Buffaloes being 21-13, losing to Harvard, and San Francisco and beating such power houses like Maryland Eastern Shore and the Citadel don’t make you a tournament team. Even if you did beat Texas, Missouri and Kansas State three times.

 

I know you thought you should’ve been in but your yawn of a start didn’t make up for a flurry of a finish. I mean where do you think you are, the Big Ten?

 

As with every year the selection of the field of now 68 is not without some controversy. USC, Clemson and Penn State in, St. Mary’s, Missouri State and Virginia Tech out.

 

However, you must deal with it. The best part is now we can watch it all unfold in the way that a national champion should be rewarded, in a playoff. Hi BCS.

 

This year the field expanded to 68 teams, which essentially allowed three more crappy teams to make the field and create two more “Play-in” games to feed our growing appetites for basketball.

 

The field is pretty interesting. For the second straight year the number 1 seed overall gets the toughest bracket (Ohio State would love to trade with Pittsburgh right now) and Duke is a #2 disguised as a #1 (going to Anaheim 4 hours away from #2 San Diego State).

 

But this year there are 11 Big East teams, shattering the record of 8, a larger amount of mid-majors that could be primed for big runs (Oakland and Belmont), and about 9 teams that can win it all.

It would've been fun to watch St. mary's, but oh well.

As much as I like Ohio State their depth concerns me. As much as I like Duke location concerns. As much as I like Kansas their expectations concern me (I learned a long time ago that when everyone picks Kansas, pick against them). And as much as I like Pittsburgh I don’t think one Big East team can win this tournament…

 

But I think they’ll make it interesting.

 

I don’t expect much from the Big East except to kill a bunch of brackets and then fall. St. john’s, Marquette, West Virginia and Cincinnati could make someone’s life miserable and then fall the next game. The last thing I want to see being a top seed is a mid-level big east team waiting for them because disaster might ensue.

 

So what’s going to happen? Well before that, lets take a look at who should have and shouldn’t have made it.

 

ST. MARY’S 25-8

They won their conference, were ranked for last half of the season, played in a relatively decent conference and have a great history in the tournament and they played tough games versus St. John’s and BYU. Plus they had 25 wins (more on this later.).

 

MISSOURI STATE 25-8

They took Tennessee to the limit and won their regular season conference in the Missouri Valley, which year in and out is very competitive.

 

THE BIG TEN FOUR: PENN STATE (19-14), MICHIGAN STATE (19-14), ILLINOIS (19-13), MICHIGAN (20-13)

Here is my biggest problem with the tournament committee. It’s this thing called overvaluing a conference. The Big Ten was heralded as the best conference in the country and didn’t live up to it.

 

It was a top-heavy conference that featured three really good teams (Ohio State, Purdue and Wisconsin) and the rest of the conference was mediocre.

 

These four teams only got in because of their namesake. Critics will tell you that they played tough schedules and should be rewarded for how they played. Ok, I understand you play a tough schedule… BUT YOU LOST 13 GAMES, THAT MEANS YOU’RE NOT THAT GOOD!

 

Two weeks ago Penn State was 15-13 including losses to Maine, Maryland and Ole Miss.

What do 14 losses, 3 20 point losses and no consistency all year get you.. a ticket to the dance of course.

Illinois was 6-9 in their last 15 and lost to UIC by 3.

 

Michigan lost every game they played versus a top 25 team and went 0-6 against the top 3 in their own conference.

 

And Michigan State lost by double digits to the following teams: Syracuse, Purdue, Iowa by 20, Wisconsin by 24, Ohio State, Purdue by 20 and Penn State.

 

And these four teams were worthy of not only making the tournament, but also avoiding the play-in games?

 

Why not include Northwestern?

 

I guess having Gene Smith at the head of the committee does wonders for your conference.

 

And now, the field (not covering the play-in games because those are the only game s that those teams are winning).

 

EAST REGIONAL

BEST TEAM: OHIO STATE

BEST PLAYER: JARED SULLINGER

DARKHORSE: NORTH CAROLINA

UPSET SPECIALS: MARQUETTE OVER XAVIER

BEST GAMES: 1ST ROUND- WASHINGTON-GEORGIA. DOWN THE ROAD: OHIO STATE-KENTUCKY

I thought as the number one seed in any playoff that you were supposed to have the least challenging field to deal with as reward for your regular season. Guess I was wrong.

 

OSU has to potentially play Kentucky and Syracuse or North Carolina on their way to the final four and all three teams are peaking right now and have an equal share of claim as the top team to contend for a trip to Houston.

 

The region is stacked as West Virginia is a potential roadblock for Kentucky and Washington could do damage to UNC or Syracuse. Also George Mason could pose a little bit of a threat to OSU in the second round with Cam Long looking to take advantage of freshman Aaron Craft.

 

This bracket is also the lottery showcase with UK’s Terrance Jones and Brandon Knight, OSU’s Jared Sullinger and UNC’s Harrison Barnes looking to make statements before they potentially put their names into the for June’s draft.

Looking for a lottery pick this June? Then this regional is for you.

You’ll also want to get a peak at UW’s Isaiah Thomas, Xavier’s Tu Holloway and Princeton’s Kareem Maddox. Thomas is a guard in the same vein of Nate Robinson while Tu Holloway is flashy point guard who can shoot the lights of any opponent and Maddox is a post up player who can score in buckets.

 

I like Ohio State to win the region but two things concern me, the lack of depth and lack of killer instinct. If Sullinger or Dallas Lauderdale gets into foul trouble then its slim pickings on that bench that runs seven deep at best.

 

The good news is Kentucky only rolls six deep and Syracuse and UNC flip flop between lots of bench production and dead weight.

 

FINAL 4: OHIO STATE

WEST REGIONAL

BEST TEAM: DUKE

BEST PLAYER: DERRICK WILLIAMS

DARKHORSE: SAN DIEGO STATE

UPSET SPECIALS: OAKLAND OVER TEXAS AND MEMPHIS OVER ARIZONA

BEST GAMES: 1ST ROUND: MEMPHIS-ARIZONA. DOWN THE ROAD: SDSU-UCONN

I really want to pick UCONN but playing 5 games in 5 days will catch up to them like playing 4 in 4 caught up to Syracuse years ago. UCONN matches up well with Arizona, Duke and SDSU potentially, but the wear and tear of the Big East season and tourney will affect them after the Bucknell game.

 

How does Mizzou feel about playing a Cincinnati team that’s playing it’s best ball of the year while they’re playing their worst? Mike Anderson’s team has had a miserable second half and should be a quick exit.

 

Oakland scares me as a dark horse sweet 16 team. They played a tough non-conference schedule, which included a win at Tennessee. Texas, Arizona or Memphis doesn’t have an answer for Keith Benson in the middle and he should put up big numbers.

 

This bracket has San Diego State’s name written all over it. Their athleticism should get them through the 2nd and 3rd rounds easily and they have the bodies to match up with UCONN in the sweet 16.

Don't be shocked if the Aztecs make a run.

If they play Duke though how will they respond? Duke’s defense and rotation of about 9 players will frustrate the Aztecs and the Devils experience outweighs their athleticism. Also with the way Nolan Smith has played all year I don’t see a guard in this tourney stopping him. Even Kemba Walker.

 

FINAL 4: DUKE

SOUTHWEST REGIONAL

BEST TEAM: KANSAS

BEST PLAYERS: BEN HANSBROUGH, MARKIEFF AND MARCUS MORRIS

DARKHORSE: LOUISVILLE

UPSET SPECIAL: RICHMOND OVER VANDERBILT

BEST GAMES: 1ST ROUND: VANDY0RICHMOND. DOWN THE ROAD: KANSAS-LOUISVILLE, NOTRE DAME-PURDUE, NOTRE DAME-LOUISVILLE, PUDRDUE-KANSAS

At first I thought that the Southeast region was the lightest. Then I looked at this region and though, “are there any good teams besides Kansas, Louisville or Notre Dame?” no.

 

This region has all the excitement of the Wisconsin-Penn State game on Friday.

 

Vanderbilt wont handle Justin Harper or Kevin Anderson and the inside out game that Richmond plays. Georgetown doesn’t know if Chris Wright will even contribute once he returns from his hand injury. And vastly superior competition next round will roast TAMU, FSU and UNLV.

 

Purdue however intrigues me. Etwan Moore and JaJuan Johnson pose a sizeable threat to the bracket with their experience but they lost to Richmond on neutral soil by 11 back in November and they were 0-3 on the road versus ranked teams this year. Plus they just lost by 18 to Michigan State in Indianapolis and they scares me more than any other stat.

If this man keeps his head, then the Irish can go far.

I like Louisville because they can score and defend and they get clutch performances from Kyle Kuric and Preston Knowles when needed. Also there aren’t better guards in this region than Knowles and Peyton Siva. They can take over a game and cause headaches for whoever plays them.

 

Kansas is Kansas. Arguably the most complete team in the nation, as they are athletic at all positions and deep. The Morris Twins are absolute monsters in the paint or on the wing and the team as a whole is an offensive juggernaut.

 

The problem with them is their consistency at all positions. I don’t trust Tyshawn Taylor at all and Josh Selby is still trying to fit into the offense. Plus in their two losses their lack of focus and execution murdered them and almost cost them against Nebraska, Iowa State and Michigan.

So I’m taking Notre Dame. Why? The fight in this team runs from top to bottom. They back down from no one in any situation. Look at the UCONN game two weeks ago when Ben Hansbrough fouled out of the game with 8 minutes left. They weathered the Kemba Walker hurricane and a raucous crowd to pull themselves together and pull out a huge win.

 

They can shoot anyone’s lights out and can overcome their lack of athleticism with their experience and hustle.

 

(Side note: this is all pending on whether or not Hansbrough can keep is head in check. He almost cost them the UCONN game and did cost them against Louisville at the Garden. When he’s on he’s the best shooter in the country, when he’s off his volatile nature becomes a huge detriment to the team. )

 

FINAL 4: NOTRE DAME

SOUTHEAST REGION

BEST TEAM: PITTSBURGH

BEST PLAYERS: JIMMER FREDETTE, JACOB PULLEN AND DWIGHT HARDY

DARKHORSE: ST. JOHN’S

UPSET SPECIALS: UTAH STATE OVER KANSAS STATE, BELMONT OVER WISCONSIN, GONZAGA OVER ST. JOHN’S AND WOFFORD OVER BYU

BEST GAMES: 1ST ROUND: ST. JOHN’S VERSUS GONZAGA. DOWN THE ROAD: ST. JOHN’S VERSUS KANSAS STATE, PITTSBURGH VERSUS ST. JOHN’S, KANSAS STATE VERSUS BYU

Um… yeah… this region is a cluster****.

 

The committee must’ve wanted to play head games with everyone with this region.

 

It’s technically a bunch of guard dependent teams who wouldn’t make the sweet 16 in any other region.

 

The top 4 seeds could either maker final four runs or be done before week 2. By the way, how in the blue hell did Florida get a 2 seed? Did the committee realize that they lost to UCF, Jacksonville, South Carolina, Mississippi State and got drilled by Kentucky on Sunday? Just saying.

 

The bottom line is that this will be he most fun region of the four. You’ll see Jimmer drop 40. Belmont rain three’s and Pitt bludgeon their teams to death.

 

However, I’m beyond interested to see how St. john’s does. Before D.J. Kennedy went down with a torn ACL I thought that they were a real final 4 contender. Then that happened and I backtracked. Now? I don’t know.

How far can the Johnnies go? This man holds the key.

I know that they depend on Dwight Hardy just as much as BYU depends on Jimmer, and that they struggle to find offense in some areas at times. But looking at this region I feel that it’s theirs for the taking. Except for their opening game against a peaking Gonzaga, the Johnnies can beat anyone in the bottom half of their bracket and for one game they can take out Pitt, K-State or Wisconsin.

 

But I’m taking K-State because Jacob Pullen pulled himself together and brought this team back from the dead. A month ago the Wildcats were NIT bound when Pullen stopped caring about the NBA and put the team on his back. Even with Wally Judge gone the Wildcats rallied behind Pullen and the inside tandem of Curtis Kelly and Jordan Henriquez-Roberts and ran through Kansas, Missouri, and Texas on their way to this 5 seed.  Why stop now? Besides, Colorado aint playing so they don’t have to worry about playing a team they cant beat.

 

FINAL 4: KANSAS STATE

Yeah I know my final 4 is the same as the beginning of the year (except for Syracuse, stupid East regional.) but why turn away now? OSU, K-State and Duke are playing their best ball of the year and Notre Dame fulfills my Big East obligation. So you know that means that I’m sticking with the Buckeyes to win it all.

 

Ok enough talking, Thursday get here already (Tuesday for those interested in the “first round.”), let the games begin!

 

 

 


The Debate: Jimmer Fredette or Kemba Walker

Jimmer Fredette's may make him the leader for the national player of the year.

The player of the year race is a two horse race (sorry Nolan Smith and Jared Sullinger). Jimmer Fredette and Kemba Walker have turned basketball games into their own personal highlight reels ever since November.

 

Both Walker and Fredette have similar skill sets; both are shooting guards in point guard bodies, both can kill you from the outside or get their points in the paint and either way they can score in bunches.

 

They can take over games no matter the situation. Last night versus undefeated San Diego State Fredette took over in the second half by driving the lane and getting to the free throw line at will. Walker struggled mightily against Texas until overtime when he scored seven points including the game winning shot and wore down Texas defenders with his relentlessness.

 

Fredette has scored 40 in 3 of the last 4 games, Walker ad a five game stretch in the early portion of the season where he averaged 33 a game including 30 against Michigan State and Kentucky.

 

Without them their teams are probably still good but not top ten material. So the question is who would you choose, Fredette or Walker?

 

As I said earlier they are basically the same player as far as skills go. They both play without fear and want the ball in every key situation. Both are small, tough and from New York (yeah I threw that in there it’s a pride thing).  So is there anyway to separate them? Well of course there is. If there wasn’t I wouldn’t be writing this now would I?

 

SHOOTING

Across the board the edge goes to Fredette. He shoots 48% from the field including 42% from three and 90% at the line while Walker goes 44, 34 and 83 in the same order. When Fredette gets open you better pray he misses.

 

Advantage: Fredette

INTANGIBLES

Both guys are shoot first point guards that average fewer than 5 assists a game. Walker however has a better feel for the position, as is a better defender. Walker is a great rebounding guard at 5.3 per game, which is third on the team and he leads the Big East in steals (2.1). Plus Walker is always the man with the ball in is hands with the game on the line. Time after time we see Walker with the rock with time winding down and he comes through time after time. We haven’t seen that out of Fredette, which could be due to the Cougars schedule lacking the same competition as the Huskies.

 

Advantage: Walker

SUPPORTING CAST

Which cast could still be competitive without their star? Without Fredette’s 27.4 points per game the cougars still average 58 a game with the rest of their reserves.

 

Fredette gets a ton of help from guys like Jackson Emery, Brandon Davies and Noah Hartsock who all average close to or over 10 points a game and Emery is one of the nation’s leaders in steals (2.7). The team shoots over 46% from the field and pulls down 40 rebounds per game.

 

While the UCONN reserves don’t put up the same numbers they do run very deep on their bench. Alex Oriakhi is close to a double double a game at 11 & 9 plus 2 blocks a game. Plus Walker has guys like Shabazz Napier and Charles Okwandu who are great defenders and plenty of big bodies like Roscoe Smith and Jamal Coombs-McDaniel who help wear down opponents inside.

 

Without Walker UCONN is still a tournament team, without Fredette I think the Cougars don’t have the same punch, which makes Fredette more valuable.

 

Advantage: Fredette.

IMPACT

Both teams were unranked at the beginning of the year and while Fredette and the Cougars were picked as MWC favorites the Huskies were an afterthought after a disappointing season last year.

 

Walker’s opening month including that ridiculous Maui Invitational set the tone for the Huskies season and they haven’t looked back. With the drop-offs by Syracuse and Pitt lately you can make a case that UCONN is the best team in the nation’s best conference.

If there's one guy i want with the ball late in the game it's Kemba Walker.

 

That and his late game heroics give him the bigger impact.

 

CHANCES IN THE PROS

They both have a gift and a curse. They can score in bunches, but they’re too small to do that in the NBA.

 

They’re in the same position as Stephen Curry and that is that they are Shooting Guards who will play the point in the league but need more time to learn the position.

 

While Fredette can score I question his passing skills and can he makes the guys around him better. While he shoots very well his vision is suspect and he can’t really see the floor too well.

 

Walker has a better understanding of the position and I feel can defer to his teammates more such as the Marquette game where he played wingman to Jeremy Lamb putting him in a position to get his shots.

 

Advantage: Walker

So who would I go with? Statistically Fredette is having the better season and is a machine in the open floor, but I go with Walker for player of the year.

 

Walker is averages less points per game than Fredette but there’s one thing he has that I haven’t seen yet in Fredette, that’s more of a will to win and an unshakeable confidence.

 

We’ve seen Walker struggle and have bad shooting nights and yet he still pulls through and leads UCONN to wins, Fredette hasn’t had the same challenges as Walker, which he shouldn’t fell bad about but it should be noted.

 

If there’s one player I want with the ball in his hands late in the game its Kemba Walker. When the game is on the line no matter the situation he has delivered time and time again. In the NCAA tournament, with games on the line in do or die situations that’s what matters most.

 

Either way you can’t lose though. Both men are playing great and are a joy to watch. Whoever has the unfortunate task of guarding these men I feel bad for every night because you will end up on their highlight machine. Both teams are lucky to have them.