Previewing the NCAA Tournament, and Dwight Howard goes 20/20

By: 03.16.09

Blake Griffin (Oklahoma)

Eleven games on the NBA schedule yesterday, but the League still had to take a backseat to March Madness. Even the Kobe/LeBron/Wade “Can you top this?” battle took a day off; all three played, but no one turned in an instant classic (more on that later) … Just like every year, we’re going to be all over the Big Dance, and yesterday we rolled out a ton of preview content surrounding the Selection Show: Dime’s Austin Burton made his early pick that Louisville will win the ‘chip, but Aron Phillips thinks Rick Pitino‘s squad has too tough a road ahead. We’ve also got the Top 5 players who can carry their squads to the Final Four, some of the best first-round matchups (featuring James Harden and Tubby Smith), potential upsets to watch (UCLA and Duke are vulnerable), the Top 15 deadliest shooters, the Top 5 defensive game-changers, the Top 5 closers, and the 12 players who will bust your bracket (and ultimately cost or win you money). And, of course, the biggest Tournament snubs, including one Big East squad and one notable mid-major … At the beginning of the Selection Show, did you see those two guys in the committee room completely botch their “dap” exchange? … Kobe (28 pts, 8 rebs vs. Dallas), LeBron (19 pts, 8 rebs, 10 asts, 4 stls, 3 blks vs. New York) and Wade (18 pts vs. Philly) gave their MVP war a little break for the day, with Dwight Howard taking over the monster stat line crown. No one’s ever accused Carlos Boozer of being an elite defender, but he looked especially helpless trying to hang with Dwight. While Boozer put in work of his own (23 pts, 13 rebs), on the other end he was often standing there watching The Centaur (28 pts, 20 rebs) dunk on him in Orlando’s blowout win. One time Dwight threw down a backwards ‘oop, then on the next possession beat Boozer down the floor and got a reverse dunk as Booz could only laugh … Other big stat lines from Sunday: Joe Johnson scored 35 in a win over Portland; Vince Carter put up 41 points in a loss to the Clippers; Antawn Jamison scored 30 in a win over Sacramento; Kendrick Perkins went for 26 points and 12 boards in a loss to Milwaukee; and Andrea Bargnani dropped 27 in a win over the Pacers, while Danny Granger returned to the Indiana lineup to score 10 off the bench (but got damn near hurdled by Shawn Marion on a Matrix dunk that was circa 2005) … Who else but Nellie‘s Warriors could score 130 points and still manage to get blown out? Spending the entire game back-pedaling trying to keep up with the Suns’ transition game, GS gave up 154 points, the NBA’s highest total of the season. The Suns hit 120 in the third quarter, as Jason Richardson finished with 31 points, Shaq had 26, and Steve Nash oddly only had nine assists … We’ll give Kelenna Azubuike the benefit of the doubt: He had to have not been paying attention to exactly who was about to catch the alley-oop he jumped up and tried to block. And at least he was trying to play defense. Unfortunately, though, that ‘oop target was Shaq, and poor Azubuike got crammed on and Lipton’d. The Suns bench lost their minds after the dunk — even normally comatose Stromile Swift got hyped — but Grant Hill just sat there with an amused “These crazy kids” look on his face … Did you happen to catch “Celebrity Apprentice” last night? The challenge was for each team to run a bridal shop for a day, and while the men’s team had an obvious PR advantage — stick Dennis Rodman in a wedding dress (again) and draw customers — Rodman was a no-show on the day in question. His excuse? He had an allergic reaction to somebody’s cat and his eyes were too swollen to work; except he couldn’t really explain why he wouldn’t even answer the door when Tom Green came looking for him. Anyone who knows anything about The Worm knows what was really going on (hangover), yet he somehow avoided getting fired and Green got the axe. Rodman generally looks like a total mess these days, by the way … We’re out like Steph Curry

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