MARCH MADNESS IN FULL SWING
March 15, 2010
The high school season is winding down and the grassroots travel season is set to take center stage starting April 2-4, 2010 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with the fifth annual Swish & Dish Spring Warm-Up. No less than 5 of the top 10 players in the country are expected to be in attendance amongst a loaded field that includes a who's who of the some of the top programs and prospects in the country. On paper this looks like it will be the best one ever.
Speaking of grassroots basketball, Nike Elite Youth Basketball has announced the innagural "EYBL" for its 42 sponsored grassroots travel teams. The legitimately 42 sponsored programs will have their 17U teams participate in the league this spring and summer. In addition to putting a new twist on the spring and summer, one thing this does is remove the illusion that some programs try and portray in regards to being a Nike Sponsored program. Unfortunately at times parents can be taken advantage of when illusion and reality becomes blurred so in addition to setting up what promises to be an exciting new format, it also provides a clearer version of what teams are actually sponsored by the swoosh. For example, the Boo Williams tournament which is one of the premiere tournaments in the country each year has always been open for 15U and 16U teams to participate but ONLY Nike sponsored teams can participate in the 17U division. There's a very important distinction there to be recognized on a number of levels. For more information on the league and the 42 legitimate Nike Sponsored Grassroots programs for the 2010 year CLICK HERE
One young man who deserved major praise once again is sophomore Perry Ellis of Wichita Heights (KS) who led his team to the state championship for the second straight year in Kansas. We regard him as the top 2012 prospect in the country and all this young man has accomplished so far grab two state championships, participate on the USA National Team, grab invitations to the NIKE Skills camps, the NIKE Hoop Jamboree, and the NIKE Lebron James Skills Academy. This young man continues to soar and is easily one of the most coveted prospects in the country.
Have to give some major ink to sophomore Sam Mader of Appleton East (WI). A 6-9 forward, Mader is one of the biggest sleepers in the 2012 class and a sure fire mid to high major prospect. This kid has size, length, versatility, instincts, and a huge upside.
Another one who deserves some respect is sophomore guard Zak Showalter of Germantown (WI). While Showalter and Germantown fell to Menomonee Falls on Friday, all Showalter did was go for a game high 16 points while also defending super sophomore Jean-Pierre Tokoto of Menomonee Falls to 13 points. Showalter did all of this despite being under the weather all week. This kid is a tough blue collar perimeter prospect but more importantly the young man looks to really be a winner on a number of levels and schools both regionally and nationally are sleeping on his ability right now.
Speaking of below the radar, no single player in the state of Wisconsin is as underrated as junior PF John Kopriva of Marquette. This young man could very well be the top true PF prospect in the 2011 class with all due respect to Darnell Harris who is a 3/4 type and J.J. Panoske who's more of a 4/5. Kopriva is a pure 4 who can score with either hand, attacks the glass, has solid athleticism, runs the floor well, and has been on our radar for over 2 years. We continue to regard him as one of the top juniors in the state and the three sport star is finally doing his thing this year after struggling out of the box. It's not how you start but how you finish and Kopriva has been virtually unstoppable in pushing Marquette through a gauntlet of City Conference teams and all the way to Madison later this week. The name Chip Rank comes to mind right now and if Kopriva ever spent a full year focused on hoops he could be something fun to watch.
The weekend saw the end of some great high school careers in the state of Wisconsin as Flavien Davis, Austin Armga, Marquis Mason, Evan Richard, etc. all saw their teams fall. All have been a pleasure to watch and we wish them the best in the future endeavors both on and off the court.
Taking a look at the NCAA tournament right now gotta say that Virginia Tech really took the short end of the stick yesterday. Coming in a 23-8 while also boasting a 10-6 record in the ACC, Tech deserved a spot. You can rock the weak non-conference schedule and all that but 10-6 in the ACC is the truth and I don't remember any ACC team having that happen to them.
Trivia time - when's the last time the NCAA tournament tipped off without North Carolina, UCLA, Indiana, Michigan, Connecticut, or Arizona in the field? WOW.
The tournament didn't do any favors for Marquette who continue to be the Rodney Dangerfield's of the year on a number of levels. Despite a 22-11 season and a semi-final run to the Big East tournament they grab a #6 seed and a date with #11 Washington in the Pac-10 conference. That's a tough draw and may very well be the best game of the opening round to watch as both Coach Romar and Coach Williams stand to have their boys ready to go. Thought Marquette maybe could've slid into a #5 seed but definitely think Washington should have been seeded higher.
Gotta give props to Minnesota who really got it done with their backs against the wall. Despite being run out against Ohio State in the championship, Tubby and the Gophers did what they needed to do to get into the tournament.
Have to feel for Mississippi State who was a fraction of a second from being in the NCAA tournament. A late tip in by DeMarcus Cousins and Kentucky pushed the game to overtime where Kentucky was able to hold on and win. The Bulldogs go from NCAA bound to NIT bound in the blink of an eye. Tough.
On paper Kansas looks to be the clear favorite but Duke is rolling right now as well. Toughest region in my opinion is the Midwest which offers up Georgetown as a #3 seed! They Hoyas have been playing well but the region also gives you #2 seeded Ohio State, #4 seeded Maryland, and #5 seeded Michigan State. How about Tennessee sitting at #6 and a loaded and dangerous Northern Iowa group at #9! Wow. The Midwest is filled with landmines.
On the flip side the South looks to be the easiest on paper despite having #1 Duke and #2 Villanova. Nova is struggling a bit now but can always get it rolling again and Jay Wright is one of the best in the business on the sidelines. When you look at #3 Baylor, #4 Purdue, and #5 Texas A&M, Texas A&M may actually be the most dangerous of the three. Purdue hasn't been the same due to injuries but Head Coach Matt Painter should have them ready to go. In looking at this region right now Duke is playing the best as a number of the other top seeds have been a little up and down in recent weeks. This is Coach K's best chance to get back to the final four in years. Villanova and Texas A&M are dangerous matchups for the Blue Devils. One of the best games of the tournament could be a possible second round matchup between #2 Villanova and #10 St. Mary's who can fill it up from beyond the arc. That game could see trey balls raining from the bleachers with so much outside shooting.