Wooden Watch: Mar. 24

Story posted March 24, 2022 in CommRadio, Sports by Jonathan Draeger

The opening weekend of March Madness has come and gone, and some shocking early departures from perennial contenders.

Three top names dropped out in the first weekend, with both Kentucky’s junior forward Oscar Tshiebwe and Iowa’s sophomore forward Keegan Murray getting bounced by double-digit seeds on the opening day of the tournament and Wisconsin’s sophomore guard Johnny Davis failing to make it to the second weekend after their loss to No. 11 seed Iowa State Cyclones in Milwaukee.

All three players were three of the four finalists in the running for the Naismith Trophy.

With the Sweet 16 and the Elite Eight on the horizon, the 15 finalists are slowly finalizing their cases, with eight players still building their resumes. The top finalists left in the tournament have big things left to overtake those near the top.

Bennedict Mathurin, G, Arizona Wildcats

Mathurin has taken the nation by storm all season long. Averaging 17.8 points per game and 5.7 rebounds per game, the sophomore from Montreal provides a spark with his ability to stretch his style of play.

The fans have seen him maneuver the floor with precision. He can attack you in one of two ways: by the long ball or through the paint.

In the tournament, Mathurin has averaged 24 points per game, including a 30-piece in an overtime win against the No. 9 seed TCU Horned Frogs in the second round. In that game, he provided what could be the dunk of the tournament, synonymous with Ja Morant’s dunk against Marquette in the 2019 tournament.

The next steps for Mathurin provide huge challenges for him and his teammates. They face off against the No. 5 seed Houston Cougars, who are known for their hustle and defense with coach Kelvin Sampson at the helm. If they advance, they take on either a hot Michigan team or Villanova, who is hard to go against come tournament time.

Jaden Ivey, G, Purdue Boilermakers

Most NBA Scouts have Ivey as a lottery pick for the upcoming NBA Draft. The numbers do not lie about this claim, as well as the eye test.

The sophomore picked up his momentum going into the tournament, averaging 20 points per game after the first and second rounds. In those two games, Ivey is shooting over 45% from the floor, 50% from beyond the arc, and about 84% from the charity stripe.

His pace to fly up and down the court, quick lateral movements to create separation and vertical to climb the tallest of big men have been at the forefront of the Boilermaker attack. Ivey is a fun player to watch.

Ivey finds his team as the top remaining seed in the East Region as the No. 3 seed, facing the Cinderella of the tournament: the No. 15 seed Saint Peter’s Peacocks. Once they close their storybook, they got either a North Carolina team finding their groove at the right time or a UCLA Bruins team trying to make another run to the Final Four.

Drew Timme, F, Gonzaga Bulldogs

It is no secret that Timme is a man on a mission after what occurred last season in the national championship game. The junior now has revenge on his mind, and he will carry the team on his back if need be.

Timme is averaging 28.5 points per game in the tournament after two games, along with an approximately 62.25% clip from the field. He also has been a huge boost on the boards, grabbing about 13.5 rebounds per game.

His one shining moment thus far has been the entire second half of their matchup against No. 9 seed Memphis Tigers that found their rhythm late in the year. One halftime speech full of explicit content and a 12-point run in a 14-point scoring run later, the Bulldogs advanced to the Sweet 16.

Their next opponent is the No. 4 seed Arkansas Razorbacks which plays extremely fast-paced basketball. Pending a win, they move on to face either a feisty Texas Tech Red Raiders team who will swarm the ball handler and play an aggressive style of defense, or a Duke Blue Devils trying to end coach Mike Krzyzewski’s career with a trophy presentation in New Orleans.

Jonathan Draeger is a second-year majoring in broadcast journalism. You can contact him at jrd6052@psu.edu.