Charles Garcia has declared for the NBA Draft.
Seattle’s finest looks like a second rounder to me, but his very early entry is more important for symbolic reasons than draft stock: Garcia could only declare because the Redhawks are done with their season.
March Madness, at this point, is in full swing. Sunday, the brackets will be brought to you live. Next Tuesday, you can groove into your recliner and check out the good ole opening round. (Because don’t you just love the play-in game?)
In the coming week, we will roll out comprehensive NCAA Tournament coverage. But for right now, It only seems appropriate to reflect a bit on the season past. With that, let’s take a look at the year’s biggest surprises and disappointments.
Note: These lists are based on expectations. Everyone knew Kansas would be great. Everyone knew Evan Turner was really good. Everyone knew Tom Izzo can coach.
Surprise: Tim Abromaitis, Notre Dame (17.2 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 44.9 3pt%)
A year ago at this time, I hadn’t heard of Tim Abromaitis.Then again, only hardcore fans of Fighting Irish basketball had. Now, he’s the biggest snub on the all-Big East teams. (Really, Big East? Jerome Dyson and Corey Fisher ahead of this guy? Really? OK.). Abromaitis entered the year having played a whopping 40 minutes of live action, mostly all the way back in 2007. But his inspired play down the stretch may have carried Notre Dame into the NCAA Tournament even without lead-everything star Luke Harangody for much of the final run. After losing an exhausting and wonderful double-overtime bout at Louisville, the Irish appeared done for. But instead, the short-benched team reeled off four huge wins against Georgetown, Pittsburgh, Marquetteand Connecticut to keep its season alive. Abromaitis may not have much of a future as a pro. But he’s done more than enough to impress us as a college star. It all just makes you wonder if this kid really couldn’t have done enough to help Mike Brey and co. last season.
Honorable mention: Tweety Carter, Baylor; Nolan Smith, Duke; Jamine Peterson, Providence; Landry Fields, Stanford.
Disappointment: Willie Warren, Oklahoma (16.3 ppg, 4.1 apg, 3.8 topg, 30.9 3pt%)
Andit wasn’t even close. Warren was supposed to carry this talented-but-young Oklahoma team. This kid was going to be a lottery pick and all-American first teamer. Instead, he got a little sick. He got a little hurt. And, if rumors are true, he got a lot bit tired of college basketball. Oklahoma fell apart this year, and Warren was the key figure in the disfunction. The Sooners have lost eight straight games, its longest streak since 1969. Coach Jeff Capel’s tried to grin and bear it. But I can’t help but feel as though Warren, along with five-star recruit Tiny Gallon, who was suspended earlier this season, really left a good coach out to dry this season.
(Dis)Honorable mention: The majority of the freshman class; Matt Howard, Butler; Deonta Vaughn, Cincinnati; Tajuan Porter, Oregon.
Surprise: Syracuse Orange (28-3, 15-3 Big East)
Jim Boeheim kept warning us. No one paid attention. He said Wesley Johnson might have been the most gifted player on his team last year. We assumed the redshirting transfer would be good. But this good? I thought Andy Rautins was a 3-point specialist. I thought losing Jonny Flynn, Donte Greene, Eric Devendorf and Paul Harris early to the NBA, when all three could still be eligible, would hurt. I was wrong. This is the best Orange team since Carmelo Anthony left town. Should this team win the Big East or NCAA tournaments, it would boast the best record in Boeheim’s tenure. The length and athleticism this team boasts has made the 2-3 zone more effective than ever. This is one of of the three best teams in the country, and they’ve spent all season proving just that.
Honorable mention: Missouri, New Mexico, Temple, St. Mary’s.
Disappointment: North Carolina Tar Heels (16-15, 5-11 ACC)
I had North Carolina ranked top-10 preseason. I admit it. I thought they’d at least contend for the ACC title. Nope. But even the biggest naysayers, even Duke fans, wouldn’t have dreamt up this lousy a season. Everything that could go wrong, has, including a season-ending injury to the team’s only good player, Ed Davis. Things will get a lot better in Chapel Hill next season, what with the arrivals of Harrison Barnes, Reggie Bullock and gifted passer Kendall Marshall. But Larry Drew II was a disaster at point guard, and freshmen John Henson, Dexter Strickland and Leslie McDonald failed to live up to their billing. Roy Williams’ greatest asset is his ability to put together a team. This year, he was expected to coach his way out of a dark corner. Hey, at least the man has two rings.
(Dis)Honorable mention: Connecticut, Dayton, Iowa State, UCLA.
Surprise: Bruce Pearl, Tennessee (23-7, 11-5 SEC)
I always like Pearl. He’s a charming guy with unmatched charisma. He doesn’t seem like a greasy car salesman, as so many other good coaches do. But the job he’s done this year, as his team has fallen apart in front of him, has gone completely underappreciated. This guy should be a leading candidate for coach of the year. The Volunteers lost their best player and had three others suspended midseason. Pearl held it together. That’s even an understatement – in the team’s second game without Tyler Smith, Tennessee knocked off No. 1 Kansas. Pearl’s moved forward with remarkable grace, and that deserves praise. His team has knocked off the top two teams in the country, Kansas and Kentucky, and moved forward as clearly the third-best team in the SEC. And this guy paints his chests for women’s games. How can you not root for him? We always knew Pearl was a decent person. We always knew he was a pretty decent coach. But a season like this moves him into the elite level.
Honorable mention: Herb Sendeck, Arizona State; Frank Martin, Kansas State; Buzz Williams, Marquette; Mike Davis, UAB.
Disappointment: John Beilein, Michigan (14-16, 7-11 Big Ten)
Let this be my open letter to John Beilein: I used to think you were the bee’s knees, and then some. I used to tell my friends no one could match you in terms of Xs and Os, and if you ever had real talent, you’d win. I told them Michigan couldn’t have made a better pick. I told them there was no way Clemson would beat you last year in the first round. I was right. Until now. Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims are two of the best players in the Big Ten. I know there wasn’t much else around those two, but you could have won with them. The John Beilein I thought I knew would have won with them. I’m gravely disturbed. I put your team in the top-16 preseason on the basis that you would maximize your talent. You didn’t. Your team looked horrible in the slow tempo you forced them to play in, and Harris became more than a bit of a ball hog. I can only hope next year, things will be better.
(Dis)Honorable mention: Andy Kennedy, Mississippi; Chris Lowry, Southern Illinois; Rick Barnes, Texas; Lorenzo Romar, Washington.
We’ll be back in full force with NCAA Tournament preview material starting not long after the brackets are out. Thanks for reading.