Orlando Sentinel: Florida State‘s defense isn’t nearly what it has been the last few years. The biggest issues are that opponents are grabbing way too many rebounds and hitting more interior shots. A lot of this is because Kiel Turpin never really developed into a Bernard James or Solomon Alabi. The Seminoles have never been a great rebounding team — largely because the strength of Hamilton’s defensive strategy lies in locking down the paint and blocking shots — but this year’s team is exceptionally bad (apart from Terrance Shannon, who’s injured). That said, Boris Bojanovsky and Michael Ojo are going to be players eventually. Bojanovsky is one of my favorite freshmen in the league this season. He’s got great footwork and decent touch for a seven-footer. Ojo is mammoth. If he can learn to control his body, he’ll be an unstoppable force.
Wilmington Star News: Experience is a funny word. Sometimes it’s easy to spot (or not spot) like with Wake Forest this year or Boston College last year. Other times it’s harder to see. For instance, this year’s Florida State team has a number of years under its belt, but not crunch-time minutes (other than Michael Snaer, who was born for it). This year’s Miami team obviously has it. But depending on who you talk to (and the most recent results), teams like Duke have and don’t have experience. The Blue Devils have three seniors at its core, but right now the team also starts two freshmen and a sophomore. That’s one big difference between Duke with Ryan Kelly and Duke without him — his experience means a lot. Eventually Amile Jefferson will likely become a better basketball player than Kelly, but right now Jefferson commits dumb fouls and lacks much strength. Kelly’s not exactly Hercules himself, but he knows his strengths and forces opponents to play to them. That’s a huge asset.
Washington Post: Here’s another important example of experience. Alex Len is much better this year than last year, but he still disappears far too much for a player of his talent (on a team that struggles just as much). He’s a bit like a smoother and more skilled version of Mason Plumlee in his sophomore season. When Plumlee was fed in a position to score, he did well; when he wasn’t, he didn’t. Plumlee compounded his disappearance with dumb fouls and turnovers (he was, and is in many ways, much more limited offensively than Len), but experience has made him a player who demands the ball. That’s what Turgeon desperately needs from his star center the rest of the way.
Orange and White: KJ McDaniels looks like Brad Brownell’s player of the future. Every year Brownell relies on two very good upperclassmen as he grooms a junior for the role moving forward. First it was Demontez Stitt and Jerai Grant; last year it was Andre Young and Tanner Smith; this year it’s Devin Booker and Milton Jennings (sometimes). Unfortunately for Brownell, all six of those players were seniors. McDaniels, a sophomore, may finally give Brownell the breathing room he needs. McDaniels is good for at least one jaw-dropping dunk a game, but he’s slow in finding his place on the perimeter. If he can nail down a consistent jumper, look out.
The ACC: The ACC announced the 2013 basketball ACC Legends. This year’s class was led by Gary Williams (whom the ACC honored just in time). Other administrative figures included Gene Corrigan and former Wake Forest coach Carl Tracy. Corrigan in addition to serving as ACC commissioner for a decade also served as the NCAA’s president for a couple of years. Player highlights from the class include Duke’s Trajan Langdon (the Alaskan Assassin), Georgia Tech’s Mark Price (who was Bobby Cremins’ best player when he turned the Yellow Jackets around in the early 1980s), and Derek Whittenburg (the NC State guard who missed the shot that led to the dunk to win the national championship in 1983).
Few college basketball fans are born with their love for the game. For most aficionados, at some point on the way from infancy to college hoops fan, there is a moment. A single play, shot, player, game, or event at which point they say to themselves, “I will always have this in my life.” Because it is the time of the season that carries the most gravitas, these things often happen in March. We asked some of our friends and correspondents: what was the thing that turned you into a lifelong college basketball fan? What was your…March Moment?
Our final installment for this year has a pair of remembrances that remind us how just being part of the magic of the NCAA Tournament is something for which to be thankful. RTC correspondents Kraig Williams and Russell Burnett recount being in the crowd (and eventually on the floor) to see their teams earn automatic invites to the NCAA Tournament. Butler may be a 5-seed but they’re still a so-called “mid-major,” and this is obviously the biggest storyline of this year’s Final Four. These stories from Messrs. Williams and Burnett amplify how great Butler’s achievement is, and goes to show that if you think every single mid-major program in the nation doesn’t take pride in and hope from the Bulldogs’ presence in Indy this weekend, you’d better think again:
KW: I’ve always been a big college basketball fan, and fondly remember the days of filling out a bracket before I even knew how to pronounce some of the schools’ names. Growing up in Utah, I remember watching Keith Van Horn carry Utah to a championship game; I jumped on the band wagons of Duke in ’01 and Syracuse in ’03 to win bracket pools among my friends and slowly college basketball seeped into my blood. It wasn’t until last season that I had my ultimate March Moment.
As a student at Utah State University, we survived the adjustment from the Big West to the WAC only to surfer heartbreaks in the conference tournament year after year. Last season though, things were different. It was clear the Aggies were head-and-shoulders above the rest of the conference. Utah State steamrolled through Fresno State, somehow survived New Mexico State in the semi finals, and then came the dream matchup with Nevada on their homefloor. Sitting outside the arena a couple hours before they would even let us in, it became apparent that this would be our night. Utah State students had the Nevada crowd nearly outnumbered, and when we got into the stadium it became clear that we would have the better team. Utah State jumped out to a 21-4 lead and the party began in the student section. After years of following the Aggies, and watching them come oh-so-close so many times, we were finally going to have a conference tournament banner to hang in The Spectrum. The clock ticked down, we shouted the “winning team, losing team” chant, and then we rushed the court in Reno like our lives depended on it. We spent the next hour or so just standing on the court, talking to the players, taking photos with the trophy, and watching our guys cut down the nets. That’s a feeling I’ll never forget, knowing that we weren’t going to be sweating bullets at home waiting to see if the selection committee would be nice enough to send us to the dance.