One team is a powerhouse No. 2 seed trying to break a nasty streak of choking in the NCAA tournament. The other is a No. 11 seed most analysts left out of their predictions for the 68-team field. Only one team can advance to the South Regional final; only one team can truly become Elite.
The Sweet 16 round continues tonight when Gonzaga faces UCLA in Houston, Texas. Gonzaga is the trendy pick, especially since the Zags defeated the Bruins 87–74 on December 13. Junior forward Kyle Wiltjer seems unstoppable, having put up 23 and 24 points in the team’s first two games of the tournament, against North Dakota State (an 86–76 win) and Iowa (an 87–68) respectively.
A sold-out crowd of 19,914 basketball fans erupted in a standing ovation as soon as the words flashed on the stadium monitors during the second quarter of the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers game last Monday. The Oklahoma City Thunder had just lost to the Dallas Mavericks, automatically securing the Warriors’ third consecutive playoff spot.
That special moment was one of many highlights that day for Golden State. The Warriors beat the Lakers 108–105, behind Klay Thompson’s 26 points. And their ability to hang on for the win after the mid-game good news reflected the team’s mindset: they can’t relax anytime soon.
It’s hard being a Cleveland fan. The longtime suffering of the Browns, Indians, and Cavaliers has made for many heartbreaking moments and a 51-year title drought.
But on Friday, the Cavs were able to ease that pain by defeating the Indiana Pacers, 95–92, and clinching a playoff spot. LeBron James contributed 29 points in the win after being listed as a game-time decision due to illness.
This is only the third playoff appearance for a Cleveland sports team this decade (the 2010 Cavs and 2013 Indians also made the postseason). To compare, New York teams have made 15 postseason trips over that same span.
“It feels great, clinching a playoff spot,” said forward Kevin Love, who has been a key contributor for the Cavs this year. “It was a big win on our home floor, you know. We have to protect the home floor.”
by Evan Bergen-Epstein, Matt Collins, and Isabel Gomez
The play-in games are over, and the field is set. Three of our Kid Reporters, who will be attending NCAA tournament games, examined a handful of intriguing story lines that you should follow.
Is Cinderella dressed in yellow?
Can No. 13 seed Valparaiso outlast fourth-seeded Maryland? The Crusaders were originally predicted to finish fourth in their conference, but after winning the Horizon League tournament, the team earned a spot in the Big Dance.
Valpo’s stingy defense may be a tough test for Maryland. The Crusaders are led by 6’10” rim protector Vashil Fernandez, who was the Horizon League Defensive Player of the Year. His shot-blocking ability (he’s ranked seventh in the country, with 98 total) has changed the course of many games. Alec Peters leads the team in scoring (16.7 points per game) and rebounding (6.8).
Maryland finished second in the Big Ten standings but lost in the conference tournament semifinals to Michigan State. Though the Terrapins are considered favorites, Sports Illustrated picked the Crusaders to advance. Don’t blink on Friday afternoon (4:40 p.m. ET, TNT) because you may miss them emerging as this year’s best underdog story. – Matt Collins
Kevin Garnett is back! Last month, the Minnesota Timberwolves welcomed the 6’11” forward-center back to their roster after his departure seven years ago, sparking excitement throughout the Twin Cities.
Garnett entered the NBA in 1995 straight out of high school and began his career with the Timberwolves. He led the team to eight consecutive playoff appearances, played in 15 All-Star games, and received numerous accolades, including the 20003 All-Star MVP league MVP (2004) awards, during his 12 seasons with the team.
After being traded to the Boston Celtics in 2007 (he won an NBA title with them a year later) and then to the Brooklyn Nets in 2013, Garnett was traded back to the Timberwolves in February in exchange for forward Thaddeus Young.
In honor of his return and to thank Minnesota fans, Garnett gave away 500 pairs of tickets for his first home game back with the Timberwolves on February 25.
“I always felt Kevin Garnett’s heart was in Minnesota,” says Mark Rosen, sportscaster at WCCO Minnesota. “He represents the good old days of the Timberwolves, and I think fans appreciated all he tried to do here to win a championship before going to Boston to achieve that dream.”
The 2015 NCAA Women's Basketball tournament bracket was unveiled yesterday, and surprising absolutely no one the Connecticut Huskies are the top seed. The program has seen its fair share of great players and teams over the years, but could this be the most dominant UConn squad of all time? Through January 26, the Huskies had beaten their opponents by an average of nearly 40 points per game. Former Huskies stars Sue Bird, Stefanie Dolson, Tina Charles, and Maya Moore talked about how the 2014-15 team stacks up against the school's best — and the talented squad's chances in the NCAA tournament.
With the 2015 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament about to begin, everyone has an opinion on who’ll be cutting down the net as national champs. And while we have to wait until April 6 to find out who wins it all, two big digital players crunched some data and think they know who will win.
First up: Google. The search giant filled out its bracket by looking at a whole host of information, like searches, views, comments, like on YouTube, and news items from the 2014-15 men’s basketball season. Analysts then used those results to determine winners and come up with its national champion. Their conclusion shouldn’t be surprising:
click on the image to see the full version of the infographic