Another week of March Madness and new stars emerge. Wisconsin was probably the least heralded one seed, with their workman-like approach to breaking down opponents. They find themselves in another Final Four led by a pair of forwards. But it's not Frank the Tank we give the nod, but Sam Dekker. The lanky junior (6'9", 220 pounds) lit up North Carolina (Sweet 16) and Arizona (Elite 8) to lead the Badgers to a showdown with Number One Kentucky in the Final Four. Dekker went for 23 and 27 points in the games respectively with 18-26 from the field (69%) and 15 boards over the two games. And he has an outside shot with 5-6 against Arizona. All around game is what it's about, especially for our Sportsman of the Week!
March Madness gripped the nation last week, with Cinderella's, powerhouses, upsets, and chalk. One surprise team was the University of California - Los Angeles, who many thought had no business even being in the tournament. One week later, they're one of only 16 teams alive. Their success was due in no small part to heroics of sophomore Bryce Alford. In the first game against the higher seeded Southern Methodist University, the sharpshooter could not be stopped, nailing nine 3-pointers in 11 tries for 27 points (no other points from the field or line). In playing 39 minutes, Alford had four of those in the last 4 minutes, including a bizarre goaltended shot to push UCLA pats the Ponies by just a point. In the second game, he chipped in another 22 points (3-5 from beyond the arc) with 5 assists (in another 39 minutes) as UCLA coasted past University of Alabama - Birmingham. The traditional powerhouse is now wearing a glass slipper, will Alford next shoot down Duke?
Sometimes a single performance justifies honors. We saw that this week, with the Cleveland Cavaliers' Kyrie Irving. The second year phenom put his team on his back to defeat the reigning NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs in spectacular fashion. On Thursday, the fourth year superstar from Duke scored 57 points (highest in the league this year) with an incredible 20-32 from the field and 7-7 from beyond the arc (routine 10-10 from the free throw line). Including a clutch 3 pointer at the buzzer to send it to overtime. The other two games of the week, he chipped in 22 and 33 points; for the latter he was 12-15 from the field, 5-6 from beyond the arc (meaning 12-13 during the two game stretch). The Cavs went 3-0 for the week, all on the road. Playing in LeBron's shadow, he's quickly becoming the secret weapon for a deep Cavaliers playoff run.
The World is tuned into one of the great international sports World Cup competitions. No, we're not talking about football (known in the United States as soccer), hockey, or basketball. Or even rugby. We're talking Cricket. The best in the world have gathered in the southern hemisphere of co-hosts Australia and New Zealand to battle for one of the most prestigious cups in all of sports. The star so far has been no surprise. Kumar Sangakkara of Sri Lanka has willed his squad to a 3-2 record in Group A, a tough drawwhich included both host countries (resulting in losses) as well as traditional powerhouse England (a narrow win, sending England home). Sri Lanka is already advancing with a manageable final game. Sangakkara leads the World Cup with 372 runs, including a 124 average. The next closest average is a paltry 87.66. The Sri Lanka "Lions" will be a team nobody wants to play, as long as the World's best player Sangakkara is on their side.
The wide world of sports continues to be open, and a fresh name emerged this week to set the sports world on fire. Ottawa Senators goalie Andrew Hammond has come from nowhere to do his best Patrick Roy or Martin Brodeur impression. Three games in the week, 3-0, 2 shutouts, and just 2 goals allowed. All three games on the road, all three against Western Conference playoff contenders (including defending Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings). In total, 90 shots faced, 88 saved (.978 save percentage). He's started five games this season. He's won five games. The Sens sit well out of the playoff picture, if only they'd have found Mr. Hammond in October. Statistically they'd be 60-0. A leap from obscurity to be the Longhorndave Sportsman of the Week!