Best Performance: Tajuan Porter, Oregon
Make all the short jokes you want. Call him things like “diminutive” or “pint-sized” and write stories implying his 5 foot 6 inch, 160 pound (if that) frame is somehow a huge disadvantage.
Just don’t say it to UNLV.
Porter nailed 8 of his 12 three point attempts, tying an NCAA Tournament regional record, and wound up with 33 points. He rattled off 17 straight points for the Ducks in the first half, helping them cling to a halftime lead. Porter also had 3 rebounds, although that was only half as many as he pulled down against Winthrop.
Not too shabby for the 34th rated point guard in the 2006 class according to Scout.com. In fact, besides Oregon, the freshman only received scholarship offers from Detroit and Cleveland State before gladly agreeing to come play for the Ducks.
All he did upon arriving in Eugene was score 93 points in his first three games, setting a school freshman record and shooting 21-33 from beyond the arc. They way he has been playing in big games as of late, both in the NCAA and Pac 10 Tournament, Porters’ last three games this season could be even more impressive.
First Runner-Up: Brandan Wright, North Carolina
They just don’t make freshmen like they used to.
With their star Tyler Hansbrough completely taken out of the game (he had just one field goal, four rebounds and three fouls) North Carolina’s star freshman led his team back from a 16 point second half deficit, as the Tar Heels went on an 18-0 run and eventually winning by double digits.
Wright ended up with 21 points and 9 rebounds. More importantly, 5 of those boards were on the offensive glass, as his hustle and tenacity lead to many of the second chance points that brought the Tar Heels all the way back and then some.
If there was ever a team that started three freshmen and two sophomores that showed more poise and resolve in the biggest game of their lives, I have yet to read about it. Freshmen just aren’t supposed to play like this in when they are down 16 and facing the end of their season. They are supposed to panic, throw up bad shots, and commit stupid fouls trying to make something happen.
They are not supposed to have games like Tajuan Porter, Mike Conley Jr., Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Wright, etc, have had so far in this Tournament. I know it’s a point made over and over again this season, but it still bears repeating. Freshmen can play like seniors. It’s just a whole new era in college basketball.
Second Runner-Up: Ron Lewis, Ohio State
Should Ohio State win the national championship, is there any doubt who would be MOP?
The senior willed his team to yet another improbable victory in the NCAA Tournament, in a game that saw Greg Oden limited to just 2 field goal attempts in 18 minutes because of foul trouble. Lewis scored 18 of his 25 points in the second half, as the Buckeyes rallied yet again – this time from a 17 point halftime deficit to earn a berth in the Elite Eight. Mike Conley also once again came up huge, ending up with 6 assists, 7 rebounds and 17 points, the last of which ended up being the game winner at the line with under 7 seconds to go.
Collegehoops.net Sweet Sixteen MVP
Tajuan Porter, Oregon
All Sweet Sixteen Team:
Tajuan Porter, Oregon
Ron Lewis, Ohio State
Brandan Wright, North Carolina
Mike Conley Jr, Ohio State
Chris Lofton, Tennessee