If December is widely identified with Christmas, March is most known in sports for the NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament. That’s the reason why the tournament is more popularly known as March Madness.
March Madness is the Super Bowl or World Series of College Basketball. It is one of the most highly anticipated sporting events in the United States. The tournament was established in 1939 and has been held every year ever since. Well, until this year.
With most sports canceling or suspending their games due to the coronavirus outbreak, the NCAA followed suit and made what was once an unthinkable decision. With Selection Sunday barely 72 hours away, and the first round of the tournament a couple of days from starting, the NCAA decided to cancel its signature event for the first time in history. The cancelation also impacts the NCAA’s winter and spring championships including the College World Series and the Women’s Basketball tournament.
The tournament would’ve started by now had it not been canceled. So instead of crying over spilled milk, let’s just look back at the history of March Madness and remember five current NBA stars who dominated March Madness.
The Brow led the Kentucky Wildcats to a perfect 16-0 SEC conference record and the #1 seed in the 2012 NCAA tournament despite losing to the Vanderbilt Commodores in the SEC Championship game. In Kentucky’s six tournament games, Davis averaged 15.2 points, 11.2 rebounds, and 4.6 blocks per game. He led Kentucky to their 8th NCAA championship. In the championship game against Kansas, Davis shot just 1-10 from the flor but dominated on defense with 16 rebounds and an NCAA title game record of six blocks while earning Player of the Tournament honors.
Davis went on to become the #1 overall pick of the 2012 NBA Draft and was named to the U.S. Men’s Basketball team to the 2012 Olympics where he won a gold medal. Davis averaged 13.5 points and 8.2 rebounds per game during his rookie season but burst into superstardom in his sophomore year where he increased his scoring average to 20.4 points per game. He’s not averaged below 20 points, has posted a double-double average, and has been an All-Star since his second season. Davis currently plays for the Los Angeles Lakers who were the best team in the Western Conference before the league shut down.
Ok now, Carmelo Anthony is no longer a “star” in the NBA but he is and will always be a superstar. Like Anthony Davis, Melo played just one season in the NCAA and during that year, he was the center of college basketball in the state of New York. Anthony was the 2002-03 NCAA Freshman of the Year while also earning 2nd Team All-American honors. He led the Syracuse Orangemen to the NCAA tournament and dominated the Final Four tournament. Melo dropped 33 points in their semifinals win over Texas and then capped off his collegiate career with 20 points and 10 rebounds in the title game against Kansas, leading Syracuse to its first-ever NCAA title.
Anthony became the 3rd overall pick of the fabled 2003 NBA Draft class. He was picked behind LeBron James and Darko Milicic by the Denver Nuggets. He finished second to James in the Rookie of the Year voting and transformed a 17-65 Denver team to the 8th seed in the Western Conference. After leading the Nuggets to seven consecutive playoff appearances, Melo transferred to the New York Knicks where his legend even grew. Anthony was traded to the OKC Thunder during the 2019 season and he spent early 2020 without a team. He signed with the Portland Trail Blazers last November 19, 2019, to a one-year non-guaranteed deal.
Derrick Rose was another one and gone NCAA star. The current Detroit Pistons guard was a highly recruited high-school baller out of Simeon Career Academy who accepted a college scholarship to play for John Calipari’s Memphis Tigers. Rose led the Tigers to a 33-1 record and the Top seed in the South Region. In the Final Four, Rose scored 25 points and grabbed 9 rebounds to lead Memphis to a win over UCLA. In the championship game, D-Rose scored 17 points, grabbed 7 rebounds, and issued 8 assists but missed a crucial free throw that cost them in the end. After the loss, Rose announced that he was turning pro.
He was drafted by the Chicago Bulls with the 1st overall pick of the 2008 NBA Draft. He joined Michael Jordan and Elton Brand as the only Bulls player to win Rookie of the Year honors. Chicago also made the playoffs in his rookie season and Rose tied Kareem Abdul Jabbar’s record for most points scored in a rookie playoff debut with 36 points. Three years later, Rose would win the 2011 NBA MVP award. Injuries followed and Rose moved on to play for the New York Knicks, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Minnesota Timberwolves before he signed with Detroit this season.
Kemba Walker led the Connecticut Huskies to the Final Four during his freshman season and the NCAA title during his junior year. Walker burst into national fame during his 3rd year in college as he was one of the top scorers in college basketball. He led the Huskies to a second Final Four appearance in three years and dropped 18 points in the semis to beat Kentucky. In the Finals, Walker scored 16 points and rallied U-Conn to beat the Butler Bulldogs. He would be named Tournament Player of the Year while also earning First Team All-American Honors.
Walker was selected by the Charlotte Bobcats with the 9th overall pick of the 2011 NBA Draft. He led Charlotte to the playoffs in 2014 and 2016 while being named to the NBA All-Star team from 2017-2019. After his first All-NBA selection during the 2018-19 NBA season, he moved to the Boston Celtics in a sign and trade deal last summer. Walker earned his 4th straight All-Star selection this year after he was selected as a starter in the Eastern Conference.
Joakim Noah played for coach Billy Donovan’s Florida Gators from 2004-07 as part of a 2004 recruiting class that would have a big impact in Florida’s program for the next three seasons. He paced his team in scoring and blocks during his sophomore season while leading Florida to its first-ever NCAA title. Noah was named as Player of the Tournament after scoring 16 points, grabbing 9 rebounds, and an NCAA title-game record 6 blocks in the finals against UCLA. Noah, Al Horford, and Corey Brewer opted to return for their junior season and they would go on to lead the Gators to back to back NCAA titles.
The Chicago Bulls picked Noah 9th overall in the 2007 NBA draft. As a member of the Bulls, Noah made two All-Star appearances, All-Defensive first team twice, All-Defensive second team once, and All-NBA First team once. He was named as the 2014 NBA Defensive Player of the Year. He moved to New York in 2016 and played two seasons in the Big Apple before transferring to Memphis during the 2019 season. Noah was recently signed by the Los Angeles Clippers to a 10-day contract last March 10, 2020, just days before the suspension of league play.