5. Jai Lewis, George Mason Patriots
If we’re talking about the NCAA Tournament, how could we possibly omit Jai Lewis? As long as you know who he is, you’re well-aware of the fact that we can’t.
Lewis was the leader of the 2006 George Mason Patriots—you know, the original Cinderella story.
Lewis was extraordinary during the tournament, leading the Patriots to their first ever Final Four appearance. He did so by pounding it inside, crashing the glass and playing opportunistic defense.
Four favored teams can attest to that.
Lewis scored 13 points and grabbed eight rebounds during George Mason’s first round upset of the Michigan State Spartans. This set the tone for the Tournament, as the Patriots played through Lewis—a 6’7″ and 275 pound mammoth on the low block.
Lewis’ shining moment came during the Elite Eight, when he scored 20 points against a heavily-favored Connecticut Huskies team. This came against the likes of Rudy Gay, Josh Boone, Hilton Armstrong, Marcus Williams and Jeff Adrien.
Pure and utter dominance.
After concluding his college basketball career, Lewis took the surprising route and ended up in the NFL. He was signed by the New York Giants as a tight end, only to be switched to offensive tackle and deciding to end his football career.
From there, Lewis moved overseas to play in Bosnia, Israel, France and the Philippines. Lewis thrived in Israel for Ironi Ramat Gan, scoring and rebounding at a high level in just under 30 games. It was a similar story for Lewis with Hapoel Galil Elyon.
Lewis has most recently played with Levanga Hokkaido Sapporo of the Japanese Basketball League. He’s averaging 11.7 points and 6.4 rebounds in 21.6 minutes.
The bruising continues today, and the memory of George Mason’s run lives on.
The Ohio State Buckeyes are making their second consecutive appearance in the Elite Eight. This is the third time they’ve reached the stage of eight since 2007, when Greg Oden and Mike Conley Jr. led the charge.
As great as they may have been, the word X-Factor is one of the utmost performance praises used during this time of the year. In the case of the ’07 Buckeyes, that label was bestowed upon Ron Lewis.
During Ohio State’s run to the National Championship game, Lewis averaged 18.0 points. That includes three games with at least 20 points, including an overtime victory over Xavier and an 85-84 win over Tennessee.
Lewis hit the three to send the Xavier game to overtime and hit another 3-pointer to give OSU a lead over Tennessee.
This was the story of Lewis’ career, as he consistently came up big with the game on the line. This led to a favorable legacy at Ohio State and what is currently a reputable career overseas.
Thus far, Lewis has played in Israel, the Czech Republic, Belgium and Turkey. Regardless of where he’s gone, Lewis has experienced a great deal of success overseas.
As a member of Belfius Mons-Hainaut of Belgium, Lewis was one of the Belgian League’s leading scorers. During his most recent stint in Israel, Lewis averaged 19.1 points per game for Hapoel Holon and continued his path down the road of well-rounded production.
As it presently stands, Lewis is a member of Antalya BB of the Turkish Basketball League. Lewis continues to score at a high clip and stuff his stat sheet.
The former Buckeye is picking up where he left off in the NCAA Tournament with his caliber of play.
For the first time since 1981, the Wichita State Shockers will appear in the Elite Eight. This is the first time they’ve gone as far as the the Sweet Sixteen since 2006.
So why not revisit an ’06 Shockers team that lived up to their nickname?
At the heart of Wichita State’s surprising run through the NCAA Tournament was big man Paul Miller. Not only did he score at a high clip, but he crashed the boards as well as any player in Wichita State history.
That’s exactly why Lewis won the 2006 Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year award.
Miller averaged 13.7 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.0 block during the 2006 NCAA Tournament, leading the Shockers to upsets of Seton Hall and Tennessee. Although they’d eventually lose to ultimate Cinderella George Mason, Miller and Wichita State made a statement.
They were a mid-major power on the rise—now, they’ve completed their ascension.
As for Miller individually, he’s gone on to play in Germany, Poland, Russia, Turkey and France. Perhaps Miller’s most successful seasons came in Turkey, where he played for three separate teams.
In 24 games for Bandirma Kirmizi in 2012, Miller averaged 12.4 points and 6.8 rebounds. Unfortunately, since signing on with JDA Dijon Basket in France, Miller has seen his minutes limited.
One can’t help but feel confident that one of Wichita State’s most accomplished players will make it work—he always has.
The Syracuse Orange are headed to the Elite Eight for the second consecutive season. This marks what has become a trend for Syracuse, as the Orange made consecutive Sweet Sixteen appearances in 2009 and 2010.
At the heart of those teams was the sharpshooting prowess of Andy Rautins.
Rautins was one of the most popular players in Syracuse history, as his clutch shooting and Canadian citizenship made him an international fan favorite. Fortunately for Orange fans, Rautins backed up the hype with 282 career 3-point field goals made.
That includes 200 made during his final two seasons with the team.
In 2009-10, Rautins was sensational. He took on the most significant role of his career, averaging career-bests of 12.1 points, 4.9 assists, 3.4 rebounds and 2.0 steals. Rautins also shot a career-best 40.7% from beyond the arc.
Come the NCAA Tournament, Rautins took it to another level.
During the Round of 64, Rautins dropped 11 points, eight rebounds, six assists and a steal. He also converted three 3-point field goals.
In the Round of 32, Rautins finished with 24 points, four rebounds, four assists and two steals on 5-of-9 shooting from distance. Even as Syracuse tragically lost to the Butler Bulldogs during the Sweet Sixteen, Rautins finished with 15 points and four three-point field goals.
That was the final chapter in what Syracuse fans will remember as a high-quality career.
Upon graduating, Rautins went 38th overall in the 2010 NBA Draft. The New York Knicks selected the sharpshooter, but only offered him five games of limited action.
Rautins took the logical route for a skill player with elite shooting ability, as he went overseas to join Club Baloncesto Lucentum Alicante of the Spanish Liga ACB. He played 17 games for the team, averaging 7.3 points in 15.4 minutes.
Since then, Rautins has created the makings of an NBA return by signing with the Oklahoma City Thunder and eventually joining the Tulsa 66ers. In 43 games with the 66ers, Rautins is averaging 13.7 points, 3.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.0 steal on 43.9 percent shooting from beyond the arc.
Picking up where he left off.