At this point most of us, probably all of us, can admit that the next Nostradamus does not walk among us. Of course in reference to everyone’s brackets that have been busted by now, if somebody has picked an entirely correct bracket to this point, a line is probably filing outside his or her front door waiting to ask whether the world will truly end in 2012. And ain’t it grand?As much as we all check our brackets game by game, especially through those first two manic days of the tournament – hoping for the mythological perfect bracket – it would be pretty boring if pick-by-pick went according to plan.If someone “knew” that Norfolk State and Lehigh were going to pull upsets over number two seeds Missouri and Duke, respectively, that would really ruin the moment of 2012 being the first tournament year with two 15 seeds advancing. The unpredictability, the fickle games that lower seeds win every year is what keeps us all coming back for more.Nobody saw Kyle O’Quinn of Norfolk State or C.J. McCollum of Lehigh causing the fits they did. In fact, commentators couldn’t stop gushing over O’Quinn’s 26 points and 14 rebounds, incredulous of the fact that no one outside the Spartans offered him a scholarship.McCollum’s 30-point, 6-rebound, 6-assist outburst nearly left Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski speechless, saying, “[Lehigh] had the best player on the court tonight in McCollum. He’s been their player of the year, and he’s really one of the outstanding players in the country. You could see why tonight.”The first four-day stretch of the tournament – six, if you count the round one play-in games – all led to this, the elimination of 52 teams and an essentially new bracket. Cue the Sweet 16.And now with the field of 16 preparing for another hotly-contested four days, more than ever, teams will look to rely on the players who have gotten their respective teams this far and try to squeeze a few more ounces of talent out of their quieter players to help push them over the top, just like O’Quinn and McCollum did in their opening round.Here’s a look at half of the field.Kentucky: POY candidate Anthony Davis is the easy choice for who the Wildcats relied on most, but his biggest contributions come on the defensive end, where all of Coach Calipari’s players play well. If Kentucky wins the national championship, it will most likely come from the contributions of Marquis Teague. The freshman guard has averaged 18 points and 5.5 assists per game for Kentucky in the tournament after averaging just 9.4 points and 4.8 assists prior to the Big Dance. If he can keep up those numbers, Kentucky will be almost as impossible to stop.Wisconsin: Everybody knows the Badgers wouldn’t be anywhere near the Sweet 16 without Jordan Taylor. Then again, opponents know that too. Expect double-teams galore on the Wisconsin star from now on, after he torched Montana and Vanderbilt. With that, someone will need to execute when Taylor kicks to the open man. After the win against Vanderbilt, Wisconsin will continue to rely on steady contributions between Mike Bruesewitz and Ben Brust. In the two games prior to the tournament, neither scored a single point but after two games in the tournament have registered 32 points. This production from the role players must continue if Wisconsin hopes to continue dancing in Boston.Indiana: Interestingly enough, the Hoosiers will be forced to navigate the waters of the tournament without a senior leader a la Kentucky, having lost Verdell Jones III to an ACL tear in the Big Ten tournament. Likely, the responsibility will fall on the shoulders of freshman forward Cody Zeller, who led Indiana in points (15.5) and rebounds (6.5) this season. The Hoosiers really need sophomore guard Victor Oladipo to step up, especially to get past Kentucky. Oladipo has been relatively invisible his last five games (7.2 ppg) after averaging 15.6 points per game in seven previous contests.Syracuse: Not often is a reserve relied on to win games, but Syracuse’s Dion Waiters is the Orange’s best player. In his last five games, Waiters is averaging 17.8 points per game off the bench. Kris Joseph and Scoop Jardine get a lot of the fanfare as seniors, but forward C.J. Fair will need to contribute inside, especially with the loss of Fab Melo.Michigan State: Is there any need to say more than Draymond Green? The guy has breathed life into MSU all season, working in wondrous ways. Need proof? Check out his triple-double against LIU-Brooklyn. As far as finding a Robin to Green’s Batman, the Spartans have an array of talent waiting to be utilized, and junior forward Derrick Nix is the beast to get it done. Listed at 6-foot-9, 270 pounds, Nix is a load on the block that many teams can’t match up against. Averaging 14 points per game in the tournament, Nix allows Green to play the perimeter when needed to stretch the defense.North Carolina: Harrison Barnes just became the de-facto man for the Heels with Kendall Marshall breaking his wrist, as sophomore guard Reggie Bullock must step up in the absence of the injured UNC point guard. He’s only scoring 8.7 per game, but with Marshall’s absence, Bullock must score in double digits if UNC hopes to reach the Final Four.Marquette: Jae Crowder, Big East Player of the Year, somehow still manages to fly under the radar and is killing teams every game. Averaging a ridiculous 21 points and 14.5 boards in the tourney, if someone doesn’t find a way to slow him down, Marquette could win it all. Darius Johnson-Odom is already a star, so some offense from Madison-product Vander Blue would be nice. Blue has only scored 12 points in the tourney, and any significant contributions from him would really hinder opposing defenses’ ability to focus on Crowder or DJO.Ohio State: The casual fan would expect Jared Sullinger or William Buford to be the names of the man who has taken the Buckeyes to this point, but it’s not. Sophomore forward Deshaun Thomas is in beast mode right now and shows no signs of stopping. The perfect complement to Thomas has been all-world defensive point guard Aaron Craft, but lately Craft has found his offensive rhthym. Against Gonzaga, Craft scored 17 points, doubled his average and dished out 10 dimes. When Kraft is on his offensive grind, it’s hard to imagine OSU losing.Brett is a senior majoring in journalism. If you had a clean slate on your bracket, who out of the Sweet 16 would you pick to reach the Final Four, or win the NCAA Championship? Let Brett know by tweeting him at @BAsportswriter or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sam Arslanian | Daily TrojanGrowing up as an athlete and video game aficionado, I always saw myself as a hybrid. I was never the stereotypical “jock” meat-head — rather, a significant portion of my young life was consumed by computer gaming. I was fascinated by competitive games, both shooters and sports games alike. The pure joy of earning a new rank or winning a match rivaled the feeling I experienced when I won a game on the ice or diamond. From a young age, I felt like an anomaly. There were gamers who loved playing video games and there were athletes who treated sports as the only aspect of their lives that mattered. That phenomenon has been challenged in recent years. The first instance I can remember is former Detroit Tigers pitcher Joel Zumaya essentially ending his big league career due to an injury from excessively playing Guitar Hero. As an 8-year-old Guitar Hero enthusiast, I was fascinated by how one of my baseball heroes played the same video game I was obsessed with. That was just the beginning of the revolution, though. Since then, the sports world has witnessed some of the biggest professional athletes challenge each other in games such as NBA 2K and FIFA. Honestly, this didn’t come as a huge shock to me. These athletes are just playing virtual versions of the sports they have dedicated their lives to. But what really caught me by surprise was the rampant popularity of Fortnite. The game has taken both the professional sports and video game worlds by storm. Fortnite is estimated to have over 45 million players (over 3.4 million concurrent) and even has its own online section on Bleacher Report. If you are somehow still unfamiliar with the game, let me explain. Fortnite is a competitive battle royale-style survival game in which 100 players compete to be the last man standing. The barrier to entry is much lower than other titles. Fortnite is a free-to-play game with an easy-to-learn concept but an insanely high skill ceiling. This is seldom seen with games that are released today. Traditionally, games made in 2018 are either too easy to perfect or too difficult that it scares away the less skilled. Fortnite has found the perfect balance between these two areas. This phenomenon allows for the less skilled gamers to have fun and play the game while not hindering the more skilled gamers from perfecting their craft in new ways.What separates Fortnite from other popular titles is not only its celebrity attention but its celebrity participation and community. Athletes from various sports have alluded to their membership to the community by celebrating with the taunt dances from Fortnite in their professional games. On Opening Day, Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts slapped a double in the 7th inning and celebrated at second base with the “Take the L” dance from the game.Perhaps the most notable Fortnite event took place when former Trojan wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster played and live-streamed a squad match with Drake, Travis Scott and Fortnite legend, “Ninja.” Smith-Schuster noted that the match was the craziest thing he has ever done and is “better than scoring a touchdown.”Los Angeles Lakers guard Josh Hart said he experienced a similar feeling when he embarked on a 10-hour Fortnite marathon before earning his first victory. “It’s tough, because we won the national championship in dramatic fashion,” Hart said to CBS Sports. “But the first time I won Fortnite, I was screaming, I jumped up out my chair, I was hype.”One could look at this as just a bunch of athletes messing around playing a computer game for fun. In my opinion, this practice is so much deeper. It speaks to the legitimacy of competitive video games.Although, Fortnite Battle Royale is not the ideal format for esports, its popularity indicates a significant step forward for esports. The game’s celebrity patrons compare playing Fortnite to the emotions they experience in their professional sports. This further proves that esports can be and are competitive games that evoke the same emotions and require the same level of dedication as their traditional counterparts do. With big name spokespersons promoting esports, their fans will be more likely to believe that esports are a legitimate form of sport and entertainment. It excites me to see more and more professional athletes enter the world of esports and I think we are very close to a time where esports will become as popular as traditional sports. Sam Arslanian is a freshman majoring in journalism. He is also the sports editor of the Daily Trojan. His column, “Extra Innings,” runs Mondays.
With a James-Leonard-Paul nucleus, it wouldn’t even matter if LeBron is getting up there at 33 and Paul gets hurt every spring. They could just play LeBron 50 games during the season, and let CP3 take the whole thing off and just play in the postseason!Oh, right, and then there’s real life.What’s the difference between “headlines” and “events?”In an “event,” something happens.In a “headline,” nothing has to happen. Popovich has long cautioned against deals that help West rivals. In a notorious exception in 2007, his trusty GM, R.C. Buford, got him to trade the rights to Luis Scola to Houston. Scola became a Rockets mainstay and the Spurs received nothing from the deal. Popovich is said to have clenched his teeth for months.If seeing Scola in Houston would have been a 1 on the Spurs’ 10-point scale of devastating, Kawhi in a Lakers uniform would be off the charts.Far likelier is a deal to an Eastern Conference team. With Boston sure to be as interested as the Lakers, that could mean San Antonio acquiring a glowing prospect like Jayson Tatum or, perhaps, two, such as Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier.Interestingly, there might be another local option for Leonard if Pop bars the door to the Lakers. … the Clippers, who would presumably offer all they have – take DeAndre Jordan, please – to rebuild around Kawhi.With less fear of building a Clippers dynasty than helping create yet another Lakers dynasty, Popovich might go for that.All this will remain speculation until something actually happens, presumably in July, although more reports from the Worldwide Leader will be along momentarily. VIDEO: Watch Kyle Kuzma’s game winner and what he said about it Video highlights, social media reaction after Blazers shock Lakers, 100-93 How social media reacted after Lakers rout Blazers on Kobe night, 135-115 On Mamba’s day, councilmen aim to create Kobe Bryant Boulevard Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error Coming early this year … it’s Christmas in Lakerdom!Kawhi Leonard wants to be a Laker!LeBron James might want to, too! With Kawhi here, the Lakers could move from co-favorites with Houston into leading contenders!LeBron might still be able to bring yet another big free agent, like his pal, Chris Paul, or Paul George. Jubilation, anguish as race for NBA’s Western 8th seed gets as close as ever Sign up for Home Turf and get 3 exclusive stories every SoCal sports fan must read, sent daily. Subscribe here.Even before ESPN scoopmaster Adrian Wojnarowski reported – credibly, as ever – that Leonard wants to be traded to the Lakers, a pundit for the Worldwide Leader in Sports had thrown out the fantastic possibility of Kawhi, LeBron and CP3 – all – joining the Lakers.That story, by Kevin Pelton, is speculative … but technically possible.What has changed are the presumed ground rules in the LeBron Derby: The Cavaliers, long aware James might leave, are now expected to seek something back by agreeing to trade him to the team he chooses.Interested teams no longer need to create a $36 million maximum salary slot on their own. The Lakers, who already have close to two max slots, could get LeBron and two more superstars.If the Cavs take back salary along with prospects, what had concerned only a few teams has been broken wide open. The result will be a fantastic level of wheeling and dealing, possibilities, and headlines, such as today’s.Since anyone can say anything, it’s wise to stick with the little that we know … which suggests, at least to me, that Kawhi is exceedingly unlikely to become a Laker.It has long been known that the newly enigmatic Leonard, coming off a season that he largely took off with a minor-looking injury, wants to be a Laker. Wojnarokwsi reported as much months ago.Woj also reported that the Spurs have put their mis-spent season behind them and will sit down with Kawhi in the hope of finding out where his head is and, if still on Earth, wooing him back with the super-maximum $219 million extension only they can offer him.Kawhi’s people have reportedly not conveyed his desire to be traded to the team. Without risking a tampering bust, they can’t have told the Lakers … although the Lakers not only know about it but are assuredly wide-eyed at the prospect, which would take precedence, even over James, who’s seven years older, almost two generations in NBA time.That’s as far as anyone has reported it has gotten, until now with the season’s end and the yawning news hole prompting the speculation that’s now racing ahead of events.This thing still must proceed in steps.• Leonard and the Spurs will presumably meet although no timetable has been reported.They’ll either fall into each others’ arms and agree last season was a big misunderstanding, or not, in which case the team really will shop Kawhi.• If Leonard is leaving, Spurs boss Gregg Popovich will help decide where he’s going, with Kawhi under contract for next season.I can’t imagine Popovich, who is as transparent as he is principled, trading Leonard in a deal that could create another Western Conference super-power … and, worse still, in the person of their old arch-rivals, the Lakers.Related Articles