Gary Gramling

NCAA Heroes and Zeroes of the Day: Sunday

  • Hoophead
  • Gary Gramling
  • March 22, 2009, 11:32 PM

After a flurry to finish the NCAA Tournament's first weekend, the Sweet 16 is set. Some of the usual stars were shining. But we also saw a little-known freshman come out of nowhere to become a hero...



Kim English, Missouri: Don't worry if you hadn't heard of this freshman reserve guard. English averages only 14.7 minutes per game for the Tigers. In fact, he played only 12 minutes on Sunday. But that was enough time for English to carry Mizzou into the Sweet 16. After lighting it up in the first half and giving Missouri a sizeable lead, English inexplicably found himself on the bench for most of the final 20 minutes. While he sat, Marquette moved closer and even took the lead. With the game tied and the clock ticking down, Tigers guard J.T. Tiller attacked the basket but was fouled hard on the way up. Tiller was too injured to take his free throws, so Missouri coach Mike Anderson turned to English to take the shots (and for anyone thinking Missouri cheated by putting a better foul shooter on the line, keep in mind that Tiller shoots .759 percent while English shoots .680 percent). The freshman calmly stepped up and buried both shots, putting Missouri up two with 5.5 seconds left. He finished the game with 17 points in just 12 minutes.

Cole Aldrich, Kansas: Simply put, he was a man among boys on Sunday. Aldrich had a triple-double in KU's win over Dayton: 13 points, 20 rebounds, and 10 blocks. It was the first triple-double by a Kansas player since Wilt Chamerblain, and the first points-rebounds-blocks triple-double in an NCAA Tournament game since Shaquille O'Neal. Aldrich may not have made much of an impact on last year's NCAA Championship team (he played only 42 minutes combined in six Tourney games), but it's clear that he'll make a huge difference if Kansas is to make a run at a repeat.

Sam Young, Pittsburgh: How can a player this good be so underrated? DeJuan Blair, Pitt's bruising big man, gets plenty of attention. And rightfully so. But once again, it was Young delivering huge plays in a huge game. The high-flying senior forward scored 32 points on 12 of 20 shooting, and added eight rebounds (five offensive) and four blocks. If Young didn't play one of the best games anyone has had this season, top-seeded Pitt's season would have ended on Sunday.

Buzz Williams and Dominic James, Marquette: One of the most heart-breaking moments of the season came on the night of February 25, when Dominic James broke his foot in a loss to UConn. It looked like the end of the line for the star senior. But James worked hard to get back on the court, and even though he wasn't 100 percent, coach Buzz Williams took a chance and let him play on Sunday. James clearly wasn't his old self -- he was scoreless in 17 minutes off the bench. But it just wouldn't have been right if James was sitting on the bench in street clothes when his outstanding Marquette career ended. Williams made the right call.



Buzz Williams, Marquette: Williams deserves plenty of respect for playing Dominic James on Sunday. But he should be ashamed of his sportsmanship down the stretch in Sunday's loss to Marquette. Williams was seen screaming at officials, presumably over two calls: (1) a foul on Missouri guard J.T. Tiller that gave Missouri the lead in a close game, and (2) a violation called on Marquette forward Lazar Hayward for stepping over the end line when trying to inbound the ball for a potential game-tying shot. Now, everyone knows that NCAA officials are just horrendous. But, in a rare case, they got both of these calls right. Williams had no beef on this one and should have gone out a little bit better.

Levance Fields, Pittsburgh: Speaking of sportsmanship, Fields didn't show much of it on Saturday either. The senior point guard is a great player. And, as usual, he made some amazing plays in Sunday's win over Oklahoma State. But opponents -- and basketball fans everywhere -- could certainly do without his over-the-top celebration. Fields was especially obnoxious after a second-half assist to Blair that put Pitt up seven points. Unfortunaltey for him, OSU came all the way back and eventually took the lead. Had Pitt not finished strong, Fields's celebrations would have looked even more foolish.

Wisconsin's shooting touch: Yeesh. Talk about a dud of a performance. The Badgers looked poised for the upset, holding a two-point halftime lead on Xavier. But their brick city shooting caught up with them. The Badgers shot just .286 percent from the field, including a ghastly 3 for 20 on three-pointers. They were held to just 49 points in an 11-point loss.

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