NCAA

Pledger gets hot, Oklahoma tops Ohio 74-63

Pledger gets hot, Oklahoma tops Ohio 74-63

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) Steven Pledger scored 14 of his 18 points in the second half, Amath M'Baye and Romero Osby added 16 points apiece and Oklahoma pulled away in the second half to beat Ohio 74-63 on Saturday night.

Cameron Clark had back-to-back dunks in transition to spark a 15-2 run by the Sooners (8-3) and put the game away after Ohio had cut an 11-point deficit down to four. Pledger followed with a fall-away jumper and a 3-pointer from the right wing, and the lead eventually got as big as 71-54.

D.J. Cooper had 14 points and seven assists to lead the Bobcats (8-5), which matched their season-worst with 18 turnovers and went 8 for 26 from 3-point range. Reggie Keely scored 13 points and Walter Offutt chipped in 11 points.

Oklahoma bounced back from a loss to Stephen F. Austin and kept from losing two straight non-conference home games for the first time since November 1997.

The Ultimate Men's NCAA Tournament Bracket: Who is the best team of all-time? Play-in Round

The Ultimate Men's NCAA Tournament Bracket: Who is the best team of all-time? Play-in Round

There's no March Madness this year. No brackets, no Cinderella stories and certainly no national champion. 

That doesn't mean, though, that we can't use this time to wisely pick the best Men's NCAA Tournament team of all-time. 

There have been several memorable teams throughout the course of the 80-plus year history of the NCAA Tournament. The UCLA teams of the 1960s and 1970s before, after and during Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Houston's Phi Slama Jama in the 1980s, UNLV in the early 1990s and many more; they all were phenomenal. Some won championships, some did not.

But which iconic team is the best? No one will know for certain because they'll never lace up on the same court together. So the fairest and undoubtedly best way to determine a champion is to create a bracket. And to let the fans vote. 

How it works:

Twenty teams were selected for the ultimate tournament bracket. Teams that had multi-year runs or championships were lumped together for simplicity's sake if the team's make-up was relatively similar. There also could not be more than two teams from the same year in consideration. 

Notable recent teams with dominant rosters and performances from the 2000s were included. Those teams were given a bump over some other all-time great champions from the past 20 years compare to historically good squads. 

Teams were ranked No. 1 through 20 based on their performances, players and coach. Teams moved up an additional ranking spot if they won a championship (or two). 

Voting for the play-in will take place on NBCSWashington's Twitter on Monday, April 6 for 24 hours. The subsequent rounds will be on Wednesday, April 8; Friday, April 10; Monday, April 13 and the championship on Wednesday, April 15.

Teams will advance to the next round based on seeding. 

ULTIMATE NCAA TOURNAMENT BRACKET

#1 UCLA Bruins (1967-69)
#16 Houston Cougars (1967-68) vs. #17 Kansas Jayhawks (2007-08)

#8 Kentucky Wildcats (2012) 
#9 UCLA Bruins (1964-65)

 

#4 San Francisco Dons (1955-56) 
#13 Virginia Cavaliers (2019) vs. #20 Maryland Terrapins (2001-02)

#5 Villanova Wildcats (2018)
#12 Indiana Hoosiers (1975-76)


 
#3 UCLA Bruins (1972-73)
#14 Loyola Marymount (1990) vs. #19 Kentucky Wildcats (2010)

#6 Duke Blue Devils (1991-92) 
#11 Ohio State Buckeyes (1960-61)

 

#7 Houston Cougars (1982-84) 
#10 Kentucky Wildcats (2015) 

#2 UNLV Running Rebels (1990-91)
#15 Georgetown Hoyas (1984-85) vs. #18 North Carolina Tar Heels (2016-17)

PLAY-IN ROUND

#13 Virginia Cavaliers (2019) vs. #20 Maryland Terrapins (2001-02)

2019 Virginia Cavaliers (35-3, 16-2 ACC) - National Championship, ACC Regular Season Champion

Top Players: DeAndre Hunter, Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome
Head Coach: Tony Bennett
Wrap: Fresh off the biggest upset in NCAA Tournament history as the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 seed, the Cavaliers got redemption by winning the 2019 title. Their three NBA first-rounders returned and rolled through a loaded ACC and won a championship off their stifling defense. 

2001-02 Maryland Terrapins (57-15, 25-7 ACC Combined) - National Championship, ACC Regular Season Champion, 2 Final Fours

Top Players: Juan Dixon, Lonny Baxter, Steve Blake
Head Coach: Gary Williams
Wrap: The 2001 and 2002 Terps were easily the best two seasons in Maryland's history. In back-to-back seasons they made the Final Four, with the second resulting in a national championship. As the game and tournament have grown, that is not easy to do. Williams did it in two seasons with another talent-filled ACC. 

#14 Loyola Marymount (1990) vs. #19 Kentucky Wildcats (2010)

1990 Loyola Marymount (26-6, 13-1 WCC) - Elite Eight, WCC Regular Season Champion

Top Players: Bo Kimble, Jeff Fryer, Hank Gathers
Head Coach: Paul Westhead
Wrap: Loyola Marymount is known for the best offenses ever in college basketball. The Lions, led by future NBA first-round pick Bo Kimble, averaged 122.4 points per game on the season and was a must-see fixture in the tournament. They dropped 149 points, an NCAA Tournament record, against Michigan, but would go on to lose to the eventual champion UNLV 131-101 in the Elite Eight. 

2010 Kentucky Wildcats (35-3, 14-2 SEC) - Elite Eight, SEC Regular Season Champion, SEC Tournament Champion

Top Players: John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Patrick Peterson, Eric Bledsoe
Head Coach: John Calipari
Wrap: In John Calipari's first season with the Wildcats, he quickly returned Kentucky to a national powerhouse. With John Wall as the face of the team, Kentucky started off 19-0 and was a freight train of young talent. Eventually, they were upended by West Virginia in the Elite Eight, but there is no denying the talent. 

#15 Georgetown Hoyas (1984-85) vs. #18 North Carolina Tar Heels (2016-17)

1984-85 Georgetown Hoyas (69-6, 28-4 Big East Combined) - National Champion, 2 Final Fours, 2 Big East Tournament Championships, Big East Regular Season Champion

Top Players: Patrick Ewing, David Wingate, Michael Jackson, Reggie Williams
Head Coach: John Thompson II
Wrap: Georgetown was only eight points away from a perfect season in 1984. Four NBA stars made them one of the roughest, toughest and baddest teams in all of the country and Patrick Ewing was at the forefront with 16 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks a game. In the championship, they ended the Phi Slama Jama era of Houston basketball. The next season they made the championship game again.

2016-17 North Carolina Tar Heels (66-14, 28-8 ACC Combined) - National Champion, Runner up, ACC Tournament Champion, 2x ACC Regular Season Champion

Top Players: Justin Jackson, Joel Berry II, Kennedy Meeks
Head Coach: Roy Williams
Wrap: Despite losing the championship on a buzzer-beater and Brice Johnson, going to the NBA after the 2016 season, UNC put it all together again in 2017. In an era of one-and-done, Williams put together a masterful core of four-year players that had them as the class of the sport.

#16 Houston Cougars (1967-68) vs. #17 Kansas Jayhawks (2007-08)

1967-68 Houston Cougars (58-6, Independent Combined) - 2 Final Fours

Top Players: Elvin Hayes, Don Chaney, Ken Spain
Head Coach: Guy Lewis
Wrap: There were few teams in the late 1960s and early 1970s to beat the UCLA Bruins and the Elvin Hayes-led Cougars were one of them. Houston toppled UCLA in "The Game of the Century" in 1968 as the first nationally televised regular-season game.  But in the rematch during the tournament, they lost to the Bruins and also lost in the third-place game.

2007-08 Kansas Jayhawks (70–8, 27–5 Big 12 Combined) - National Champion, 2 Elite Eights, 2 Big 12 Tournament Championships, 2 Big12 Regular Season Championships

Top Players: Darrell Arthur, Mario Chalmers, Brandon Rush
Head Coach: Bill Self
Wrap: Kansas made history in 2008 by becoming the first team to ever win 37 games in a season. In the tournament, they rolled through some fan-favorites, including Steph Curry's Davidson team, Tyler Hansbrough's North Carolina team and Derrick Rose's Memphis team.

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Best Orioles of the Century: A tale of two decades behind the plate

Best Orioles of the Century: A tale of two decades behind the plate

With fans stuck inside and no live sports for entertainment, it's time to look to the past. Over the next few weeks, NBC Sports Washington is putting together a Best of the Century team for the Baltimore Orioles. Through the past two decades, there has been a surprising amount of star power to come through Charm City, and now we can determine who has truly been the cream of the crop.

It makes sense to start at catcher, considering the most likely face of the 2020 Orioles, Adley Rutschman, will be behind the plate in Baltimore sooner rather than later.

It's been a tale of two decades at the position for the O's. The 2000s saw names like Charles Johnson, Brook Fordyce and Geronimo Gil, while the 2010s brought stability in the form of a top-five overall draft pick who quickly became the most anticipated prospect in team history.

Here are the top contenders at catcher, in chronological order.

The Contenders

Javy Lopez (2004-06)

Lopez came to Baltimore in the exciting 2003 offseason. The Orioles added him along with veteran stars Miguel Tejada and Rafael Palmeiro. Lopez had just crushed a career-high 43 home runs in Atlanta the year before, finishing fourth in the National League in bombs and fifth in MVP voting.

It was hoped that Lopez would bring more success to the position than the Orioles had seen since Chris Hoiles, and while his debut season was a success - Lopez hit a home run on the first pitch he saw in Baltimore, an exciting first impression - he never replicated his success in Atlanta and was out of baseball after 2006.

Ramon Hernandez (2006-08)

Hernandez never made an All-Star team in Baltimore or brought much flash behind the plate, but he was a reliable contributor for three seasons. Considering the dearth of talent at the position in other parts of the decade, that small degree of stability is enough to warrant consideration here.

His best season was 2006, when he hit a career-high 23 home runs with a .275 batting average in his debut season in Baltimore. His OPS fell by more than 100 points the following two years, and in 2009 he moved on to Cincinnati.

The writing was on the wall for Hernandez when it became clear who the catcher of the future was.

Matt Wieters (2009-16)

Chuck Norris wears Matt Wieters pajamas. Sliced bread is actually the greatest thing since Matt Wieters. When Matt Wieters is hungry, he snacks on batting doughnuts.

These are just a few examples from the now-defunct Matt Wieters Facts website, dedicated to the greatness of the most highly-rated prospect in Orioles history. The hype surrounding Wieters was neverending from the moment he signed the then-highest bonus in Orioles draft history in 2007.

Wieters was billed as a catcher who could do it all. He was supposed to hit for average and power, frame pitchers better than anybody and had a cannon for an arm. He was Adley Rutschman before Adley Rutschman, and his talents shined in Baltimore for eight largely enjoyable seasons.

While the bat never fully came around - he hit .250 over eight years with Baltimore and never more than 23 home runs in a season - his fielding was superb and his leadership highly valued. He was at the center of several successful playoff teams, quickly becoming one of the most recognizable Orioles of the decade.

The Winner

Starting off with a no-brainer, the Best Oriole of the Century at catcher is Matt Wieters. It was never going to be anyone else.

Longevity alone give Wieters a huge leg up on the competition here. He played 882 games in Baltimore, more than Lopez and Hernandez combined (712). Wieters is also most closely associated with the Orioles while Lopez (Atlanta) and Hernandez (Oakland) are more closely thought of in other uniforms.

Wieters' best season by WAR (5.2 in 2011) also tops Lopez's (4.8 in 2004) and Hernandez's (4.2 in 2006). Team success also weighs heavily in Wieters' favor - no other catcher was atop the team's depth chart during any of the Orioles' winning seasons this century.

It's impossible to overstate just how much hype surrounded Wieters' arrival in 2009. When he was drafted out of Georgia Tech in 2007, he had as much pedigree as any player to ever enter the organization. Impossible expectations may lead some casual fans to consider his tenure a disappointment - he never became [Minnesota Twins catcher Joe] Mauer with power - but Wieters made four All-Star Games and won two Gold Gloves, while solidifying a position that desperately needed it.

He was one of the faces of the 2012-16 Orioles that led the American League in wins, and he is the easy choice as catcher of the century in Baltimore. 

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