In Day 3 of the College Kids Talking College Sports Dream League, Nathaniel’s Mid-Majors rebounded from a winless day 2 to win both contests in day 3, squeaking out a 116-113 win over Cal’s Sunrise on the road and holding off Andrew’s Anteaters in a 139-130 offensive showcase. Andrew took down Cal 116-100 in the other game, maintaining their grip on first place. Jordan Nwora and Markus Howard had big days to help out Nathaniel’s resurgence.
Andrew sits at 4-2, while Nathaniel leapfrogged Cal into second place at 3-3, and Cal is a game further behind at 2-4 heading into the final day of regular season action. Below is each team’s stats and the leaderboard for four major categories.
Each of our podcast personalities are picking a college basketball All-Star starting lineup. This season has been known for its chaos and lack of one true standout star, which makes this exercise as none of our team’s had more than two of the same players as another lineup. Here is Cal Christoforo’s squad:
Point Guard: Markus Howard – Marquette
You may want your point guard to be a great game manager, distributing the ball, not turning the ball over, making safe plays to win the games. Kind of like a Ryan Tannehill of college basketball. And that can work, as the Titans proved this year, but I want a Patrick Mahomes running my offense, a guy that can absolutely take the game over and single-handedly lift his team to victory. Howard is the best guard when it comes to this ability, and it’s not close. He averages 27.6 points per game, and when it comes down to clutch time, I want a guy who can make a shot from anywhere on the court.
Guard: Jordan Nwora – Louisville
Nwora has been a very capable leader of the Louisville offense, and with 7.4 rebounds per game, he’s one of the best rebounding guards in the country. He’ll help clean the glass when Howard misses and making a bevy of his own shots as well – Nwora averages 18 points per game on 44% shooting, and he’s absolutely capable of taking over a game if necessary.
Guard: Anthony Edwards – Georgia
Don’t overlook this man just because he plays for Georgia. The Bulldogs may not be going dancing this year, but Edwards is definitely one of the best players in the country. He can also rebound very well for a guard – picking 5.4 boards per game, and he offers yet another perimeter scorer to complement Howard. Edwards averages 19.5 points per game playing in a brutal SEC as the best player on a bad team, meaning every single team he plays is gameplanning to stop him. When they have to deal with Nwora and Howard too, Edwards will be free to ball out.
Forward: John Mooney, Notre Dame
Leading the nation with 23 double-doubles, Mooney has been a force for the Irish all year. He can occasionally shoot it from three, but he rebounds like a maniac and imposes his will in the paint. With Notre Dame running a 4-guard offense very often, Mooney is usually the only man inside the paint, helping facilitate the ball movement, and taking over games when necessary. If I’m looking for players that consistently put up great numbers to take me on a tournament run, I’m definitely taking Mooney.
Center: Vernon Carey, Duke
Having scored 25+ points five different times and is capable of dominating the boards, having collected up to 17 rebounds in a contest. With Mooney already inside, Carey can focus a little less on rebounding and more on attacking the rim and getting easy buckets in the paint whenever the 3s aren’t falling.
Coach: Bruce Pearl – Auburn
You love to see a coach get fired up, and that’s exactly what Bruce Pearl does, consistently getting his guys going for big games, delivering passionate pregame speeches and getting hyped up after a huge win. Pearl has also turned a team that was under .500 for five straight years before he started his tenure into a Final Four team by his fifth season. He’s also on pace to lead the Tigers to their third straight tournament appearance, the first time they’ve done that since 1984-1988. Best coach in the nation. Period.
One major thread linking our March Impact Player Features is experience. While there are lots of talented freshman that are sure to make an appearance in the tournament, the players that so often dominate March are players with experience in the pressure of the tournament. In his third season with the Louisville Cardinals, Jordan Nwora has become one of those experienced players to watch for the Cardinals – who some view as the best team in the country.
After a freshman year playing 12 minutes a game off the bench for a team that didn’t make a postseason tournament, Nwora broke out last season, dropping 17 points per game and notching 7.6 rebounds. However, come March Madness, Nwora’s breakout season came to an unceremonious end in the first round of the tournament, as the 7th-seeded Cardinals were handled by Minnesota, and Nwora was held to just 10 points.
Nwora has entered his junior year playing at an extremely high level, replicating or improving most of his stats from his sophomore campaign. He’s up to 19.3 points per game, and he’s improved to 46% shooting including 42% from long range. Most impressively, Nwora has shown an ability to do whatever it takes to win, as he hasn’t always been the Cardinals’ leading scorer. Locked down at Duke, Nwora crashed the glass and snagged eight rebounds and distributed the ball, committing just one turnover. Three games later, when Boston College seemingly couldn’t miss a shot, Nwora drilled seven triples and scored a season-high 37 points.
Nwora’s ability to both dominate a game with scoring, and to play efficient low-turnover basketball has allowed him to control games and exhibits the potential to simply take over games when the Cardinals inevitably go dancing in March. Keep Nwora in mind when filling out your March Madness brackets.