March Madness: Trail Blazers alma maters take over NCAA Tournament
Before they were Portland Trail Blazers, they were Blue Devils, Sooners, Wildcats, Zags, Buckeyes and Terrapins.
While Damian Lillard’s Weber State and CJ McCollum’s Lehigh didn’t make the tournament this year, many current Trail Blazers are rooting for their alma maters to go far in the NCAA Tournament.
With March Madness in full swing, let’s take a look at which teams the Trail Blazers will be likely cheering for.
Jake Layman- Maryland
Jake Layman has embraced the nickname and slogan "Fear the Turtle" for a reason.
Before he was a member of the Trail Blazers, Layman led Maryland to back-to-back appearances in the NCAA Tournament. In 2015, the Terrapins beat Valparaiso 65-62 in the first round. They advanced to play West Virginia in the next round, but lost 69-59. In the two games, Layman scored 14 points, seven rebounds, four assists and a steal.
In 2016, Maryland outlasted South Dakota State and Hawaii to make it to the Sweet 16, where the Terrapins were eliminated by Kansas 79-63. Layman averaged 15.0 points on 51.9 percent shooting and added 4.7 rebounds and 1.7 blocks through the three games.
In the past few days, the Trail Blazers forward has been showing a lot of love for his Terrapins, sharing posts on Twitter like this one.
On Thursday, No. 6 Maryland edged No. 11 Belmont in the first round with a 79-77 victory. Next up for the Terrapins, LSU in the second round. The two teams will face off on Saturday at 9:10 a.m. PT.
Zach Collins- Gonzaga
Trail Blazers center Zach Collins hasn't been that active on social media as of late, but if you scroll through his page, you'll find one thing is obvious: He's a big fan of his former college team, the Gonzaga Bulldogs.
This comes as no surprise as Collins was a crucial part of the Zags offense as a reserve center during the 2017 NCAA Tournament. Collins helped lead Gonzaga past South Dakota State in the first round, Northwestern in the second round, West Virginia in the Sweet 16, Xavier in the Elite 8, South Carolina in the Final Four and to the championship game, where the Zags fell 71-65 to North Carolina.
Collins declared for the NBA Draft following his freshman season, where he was selected by the Sacramento Kings 10th overall and then traded to the Trail Blazers.
No. 1 Gonzaga stomped No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday. They'll advance to the round of 32, where they'll play Baylor on Saturday at 4:10 p.m. PT.
Seth Curry, Rodney Hood and Gary Trent Jr. - Duke
The Duke Trail Blazers are a real thing. Portland guards Seth Curry, Rodney Hood and Gary Trent Jr. are all Blue Devils, and there's surely power in numbers.
Swingman Rodney Hood transferred to Duke after one season with Mississippi State. After sitting out his first year at Duke due to NCAA transfer rules, Hood, who earned second-team All-ACC honors, was apart of the 2013-14 Blue Devils squad who were upset in the first round of the NCAA Tournament by Mercer, 78-71.
Guard Seth Curry had an extensive tournament run with Duke. In the 2011 NCAA Tournament, Curry averaged 3.7 points, 2.3 assists and 1.0 steal as Duke advanced to the Sweet 16, later falling to Arizona 93-77. In 2012, Duke was upset in the first round by CJ McCollum and Lehigh. In his final season, the Blue Devils reached the Elite Eight, eventually losing to Louisville (85-63). Curry was red-hot with 21.0 points on 47.3 percent shooting.
Gary Trent Jr. was a one-and-done at Duke, but not before leading his Blue Devils to the Elite Eight in the 2018 NCAA Tournament. Duke surpassed Iona, Rhode Island and Syracuse before falling to Kansas 85-81. Trent Jr. averaged 16.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.3 steals through the four games.
No. 1 Duke will kick off their NCAA Tournament against No. 16 North Dakota State on Friday at 4:10 p.m.
Skal Labissiere- Kentucky
Before One Big Haitian joined Rip City, he played college basketball for the Kentucky Wildcats.
Skal Labissiere helped the Wildcats win one game in the 2016 NCAA Tournament. Kentucky took down Stony Brook 85-57 in the first round, but fell to Indiana 73-67 in the round of 32. Over the two games, Labissiere averaged eight points on 50 percent shooting, while addiing 4.5 rebounds and 3.0 blocks in 19 minutes of play.
After one year with Kentucky, Labissiere was drafted by the Sacramento Kings, where he played until Feb. 7 of this year, when he was traded to the Portland Trail Blazers.
No. 2 Kentucky pounded on No. 5 Abilene Christian in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday with a 79-44 win. Up next, they'll take on Wofford at 11:40 a.m. PT on Saturday.
Evan Turner- Ohio State
Evan Turner: Portland Trail Blazer and Ohio State Buckeye.
The Trail Blazers forward-guard has longtime supported his alma mater, sharing out Selection Sunday videos and even has Brutus Buckeye, the OSU mascot, plastered across his Twitter account.
In three years at Ohio State, Turner made it to the NCAA Tournament on two occasions. In 2009, the Buckeyes fell in the first round to Sienna in an 8-9 matchup. In the game, Turner notched 25 points on 8-18 shooting and added nine rebounds, eight assists, two steals and two blocks.
The following year, Ohio State made it back to big dance, advancing to the Sweet 16 with wins over UCSB and Georgia Tech. They eventually fell to Tennessee 76-73. Over the three games, Turner averaged 21.3 points, 8.7 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 1.7 steals. He received several accolades in his final season including the John Wooden Award, Naismith College Player of the Year, AP Player of the Year and Big Ten Conference Male Athlete of the Year.
The No. 11 Buckeyes will meet with the No. 6 Iowa State Cyclones on Friday at 6:50 p.m. PT in the first round.
Terry Stotts- Oklahoma
Before he was the second-winningest head coach in Trail Blazers history, Terry Stotts was making a name for himself at the University of Oklahoma.
Stotts was a four-year starter for the Sooners and led them to the NCAA Tournament in 1979, the program's first trip to the dance since 1947. Oklahoma, the No.5 seed in the Midwest Region, beat No.4 Texas to start the tournament, but lost to No.1 Indiana State in the Sweet 16.
You might remember that Indiana State squad. They were led by future NBA Hall of Famer Larry Bird and lost the championship game to Michigan State and its star, future NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson.
Stotts went on to have a very productive professional career as a player overseas and began his NBA coaching career as an assistant with the Seattle SuperSonics in 1992 under head coach George Karl. He got his first head coaching gig with the Atlanta Hawks in 2002 and has been the Trail Blazers head coach since 2012.
No. 9 Oklahoma outlasted No. 8 Ole Miss on Friday to advance to the round of 32. Up next, they'll face No. 1 Virginia on Sunday. Tip off time has yet to be announced.