2017 CBB National Championship: Redemption

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What a story for the North Carolina Tar Heels. It’s been the kind of story-book ending for them that is one of the things we love most about sports. We all know what happened to the Tar Heels last year; when they lost in the final seconds as Kris Jenkins of Villanova sunk a heart-breaking buzzer-beater to win the game (just in case you forgot). But the fact that this team was able to bounce back, use last year’s loss as fuel for the future, and re-write the script is nothing short of awesome.

To be honest, though, this game really could have gone either way. If it weren’t for a sudden late-game run that the Tar Heels went on, Gonzaga would have won the game. It was probably one of the worst Championship games I’ve ever seen. It picked up late in the second half a little, but most of the game was plagued by sloppy play and poor shooting from both clubs.

Let’s take a look at some of the numbers. In terms of field goal percentage, Gonzaga came in at 33.9% while North Carolina came in at 35.6%. In terms of 3-point percentage, Gonzaga was pretty solid (42.1%), while North Carolina wasn’t (14.8%). Yeah, that’s right, 14.8%. Ouch. Gonzaga did a poor job protecting the basketball (14 turnovers), which was a huge reason why they lost the game. North Carolina only managed to turn the ball over 4 times, which is a big reason why they won the game. Lots of fouls took place, with each team committing 22. The stats prove that this game was very sloppy and at times frustrating to watch.

Despite the crushing defeat in the end, it was really one hell of a season for Gonzaga. After finishing the regular season 32-1, they still faced a number of doubters in the tournament due to their lack of top-level competition throughout the season. However, Mark Few’s squad was able to silence the doubters completely and prove that they belonged in the same category with the most respected teams in the nation. The championship game was a game in which many of the players who helped them get to this point just didn’t show up. Guard Nigel Williams-Goss, while he finished with 15 points, couldn’t find his shot and was only 5-17. Starting big man Przemek Karnowski (no I didn’t sneeze), who has been so great for the Bulldogs all season, was pretty much nonexistent. Shooting 1-8 from the field while collecting 4 turnovers and 4 fouls, the only spot where Karnowski was helpful was at the free throw line where he shot 7-9. Gonzaga just couldn’t get much going from most of their key players, and that is ultimately what hurt them the most.

With North Carolina, guard Joel Berry II was fantastic. Not really known for being a dynamic scorer, Berry racked up 22 points. That not only was the highest on his team, but of the entire game as well. Aside from Berry leading the way, the Tar Heels got nice contributions from star forward Justin Jackson (16 points), and big man Kennedy Meeks (7 points, 10 rebounds) who had a clutch block in the final minutes to help seal the win. This team, unlike Gonzaga, was able to get good production from their key players, which is ultimately what separated the two.

North Carolina has a big advantage that most big-time college basketball programs don’t have: consistency. Unlike Coach K’s Duke Blue Devils or John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats, who have one-and-done superstars every year, Roy Williams has the added benefit of getting to coach mostly the same group of guys for multiple seasons. Therefore a team like North Carolina is the better bet to contend for National Championships most years because they develop chemistry and a better sense of what they have to do in order to be successful. While it’s great to have dozens of one-and-done future NBA players go through your program, that puts you in a worse position to contend for national championships because you only get one season with the majority of your players. You don’t have nearly as much time to build the chemistry that leads to consistent success. That’s why you see a lot of stacked teams like ones Kentucky and Duke have had in the past not fare well once March Madness rolls along. Every year you need to start from scratch and try to transform a new group of guys into a winning team. That’s really hard. And that’s also a big reason why North Carolina is perennially successful while other powerhouses may be really good some years and not so good other years.

So, with all that being said, congratulations to Roy Williams on getting his third national championship and the North Carolina Tar Heels on erasing the bad memories created from last year. It wasnt a pretty game by any means, but a win is a win and it was definitely much deserved.

2017 New York Giants Mock Draft

Miami Hurricanes vs North Carolina Tar Heels

With the 2017 NFL Draft right around the corner, it’s time for me to release my highly-anticipated, world famous New York Giants seven-round mock draft. Enjoy (I hope you’re reading this Jerry).

Round 1: David Njoku, TE, Miami

There are definitely a number of options the Giants could have with their first pick. They could look to beef up their offensive line, especially if some of the top tackles are available, but I could only really see them drafting either Garret Bolles (Utah) or Forrest Lamp (Western Kentucky) and I don’t think either of them will be there at 23. They could look to add to their linebacker core with a guy like Zach Cunningham (Vanderbilt), or maybe their running game with a guy like Christian McCaffrey (Stanford). With all these options the Giants could have on Thursday night, if tight end David Njoku is there when they pick the Giants need to take him.

A New Jersey native, Njoku is one of the most dynamic athletes in this entire draft class. Winning the High Jump National Championship during his senior year at Cedar Grove High School demonstrates just how physically gifted this guy is and previews some of the rare traits he can bring to the NFL. He may not be as complete of a prospect as OJ Howard (Alabama), but Njoku will bring exactly what the Giants need to their tight end group and their offense as a whole. Just imagine the type of damage a lineup consisting of Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall on the outside with Sterling Shepard and Njoku on the inside could create every single Sunday. I get goosebumps just thinking about it. Njoku is the perfect play-making tight end that the Giants haven’t had in a long time. This is a guy who has All-Pro potential and can put the Giants offense over the top. They need him.

Round 2: Malik McDowell, DT, Michigan State

With the recent news that defensive tackle Jonathan Hankins decided to sign with the Colts, the Giants now have a hole on the defensive line next to Damon “Snacks” Harrison. They are left with two inexperienced players: 2014 third round pick Jay Bromley and journeyman Robert Thomas. They need someone who can step in and make an immediate impact. McDowell can be that guy.

One of the most talented and physically-gifted players in this draft class, McDowell is also one of the biggest gambles. He has unbelievable talent and athleticism, but character concerns and reports of laziness on the field have hurt his draft stock. This is a player who could be a top-10 pick, he just needs to show he can play like one consistently. His concerns could make him available when the Giants pick in the second round and despite those concerns, with good coaching and leaders around him McDowell can find his motivation and thrive. The Giants would be perfect for McDowell, as he would be starting alongside Jason Pierre-Paul, Olivier Vernon, and Harrison; three great leaders. If the Giants can unlock McDowell’s full potential and fix his flaws, this will be the biggest steal of the draft.

Round 3: Antonio Garcia, OT, Troy

Alright. I’m tired of Jerry Reese and the Giants paying minimal attention to the offensive tackle positions, which has been just a bunch of failed draft picks and veterans who haven’t contributed as expected. This team still believes in 2015 first round pick Ereck Flowers even after two rocky seasons at left tackle, and while it would be great if he finally breaks out this year, the Giants need to have another guy competing with him for that position. Antonio Garcia (Troy) is an intriguing prospect who would make a lot of sense for the Giants in the third round.

Garcia, standing at 6’6″ and 302 lbs., is a big prospect who has outstanding athleticism and quickness. He is a little raw but can turn into a franchise left tackle easily if he gets drafted into the right situation, and the Giants would be a great fit. The Giants need to add as many bodies and as much competition along the offensive line as they can. Garcia is capable of making an immediate impact and developing into a top-shelf tackle in the NFL.

Round 4: D’Onta Foreman, RB, Texas

There have been rumored reports that the Giants are interested in signing 30-year-old power back LeGarrette Blount. Despite these rumors, it would make more sense to draft a young power back to complement Paul Perkins. By drafting a back you can develop a chemistry between the two for years to come, where Blount would most likely be on the decline and he’ll be signed to a short-term deal anyways. In the fourth round, a guy like D’Onta Foreman would be a fantastic value pick.

Foreman (6’0″, 233lbs.) is a big, powerful back with rare athleticism and speed for someone his size. He finished second in the nation last season with 2,028 rushing yards and also produced 15 touchdowns. His stock isn’t as high as it should be due to a loaded running back class and him having only one year of top-level production, but he would be a perfect complement to the speedy and shifty Paul Perkins, helping improve the Giants non-existent rushing attack. Foreman may take some time to develop, but he can still step in and help right away. The young duo of Foreman and Perkins could create a quality 1-2 punch in the running game that the Giants haven’t had in a while.

Round 5: Alex Anzalone, LB, Florida

The Giants defense went through one of the biggest and quickest turn-arounds in NFL history. This unit as a whole was fantastic for most of last year. While the defensive line and secondary are amongst the league’s best, the one weak link of this defense is the linebacking unit.

In Alex Anzalone, we have a very talented player who has been plagued by a long list of injuries throughout his collegiate career. This has limited his production and could result in teams shying away from him on draft day. While he might not slide all the way to the fifth round, it’s definitely possible. And if he does, a first-round talent in the fifth round would be too good for the Giants to pass up, even with their recent habit of staying away from players that have injury concerns. Anzalone has the ideal blend of size, speed, and athleticism to make an immediate impact and take the Giants fantastic defense to the next level. Due to the greatness of their defense, this is the kind of low-risk, high-reward type signing that the Giants can afford to take a gamble on in day three, even if it is at a position of weakness.

Round 6: Tanoh Kpassagnon, DE, Villanova

You can never have enough pass-rushers, and that is a motto the Giants are very familiar with. This team already has two of the best defensive ends in the NFL with Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon, but beyond that lies a bunch of uncertainty. You have second-year undrafted free agent Romeo Okwara, who the Giants like and who showed some promise last season, but you never know how he will pan out. Then there’s third-year man Owa Odighizuwa who has a lot of talent but is one big question mark with the inability to stay healthy and his recent comments about possibly taking some time away from football. So, as you can see, it definitely wouldn’t hurt the Giants to add another guy to this group.

Enter Tanoh Kpassagnon (some of these names I just don’t understand); a raw but insanely physical freak who can become a good player if drafted into the proper fit. Standing at 6’7″ and 289 lbs. of pure muscle with 35-inch arms, Kpassagnon (lets just call him TK) is ridiculous. Playing behind two legitimate leaders in Vernon and JPP (who is an athletic freak that became a star) would be crucial for TK’s development. If the Giants are able to develop TK and make both him and a guy like Okwara valuable edge rushers to take some of the load off Vernon and JPP, then that will be huge for this defense.

Round 7: Aviante Collins, OG, TCU

The Giants have done a solid job of adding depth along the offensive line during free agency, but you can never have enough depth at any position so the Giants should look to add more.

Collins, who put together a fantastic combine performance with a 4.81 40-yard dash and 34 reps on the bench press, has intriguing athleticism and toughness that can result in him having success in the NFL. He is very raw and will be a developmental project, but there is a lot to work with. Collins is a guy who can serve as a backup for his first couple of years, learn from coaches and veterans along the line, and potentially work his way into the starting lineup down the line. In the seventh round, that’s exactly the kind of player every team should aim to draft.