Who is the Most Improved Player in the NCAA Tournament?

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2014-finalfour-logo_400As the sun fades into the North Texas sky (not sure why we can’t call it Arlington) on Saturday evening, college basketball will take center stage on the American sports landscape.

Everyone except Chris Bernucca will settle in for the Final Four, where some of the NBA’s future stars will duke it out in a titanic stadium not meant for basketball with everything on the line.

It is a spectacle that deserves America’s attention. And that is why we’ve decided to lend America’s favorite column to it, at least for a few paragraphs.

Because everyone has room to improve (cheesy smile).

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VIDEO: What’s Wrong With Pacers; Grizzlies Will Earn 7th; Cavs Making Push

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How about those Indiana Pacers? For five straight games they have been held below 90 points — and in four of those games they were sub-80. Their last two victories have been quality wins against the Miami Heat and the Chicago Bulls, but they have lost five of six overall and are now tied in the loss column with LeBron James’ team.

All in all, it is fair to call them something close to a mess as they head into Monday night’s matchup against the San Antonio Spurs, who come in riding a 17-game winning streak — tying a franchise record. (More on the Spurs’ streak here).

What’ll it take to win tonight — or at least to keep it competitive? Well, getting to 90 points would be a start. The Pacers are 7-2 this month when they reach that number. Indiana has one road win over a winning team since Jan. 20 and is 6-9 in its last 15 games overall.

Kamenetzky Bros. Power Rankings: The Wild, Wild West Race Between Dallas, Memphis and Phoenix

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wild wild westIt’s been a while since the Western Conference wasn’t jam-packed with high-end teams, and this season is no exception. If anything, it’s been even more absurdly competitive.

Five teams will almost certainly finish with 50 wins, and at least one team with a win total in the mid-40s is guaranteed to miss the playoffs. We know this because as of this writing, the Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks and Memphis Grizzlies own the 7-9 seeds with identical 43-30 records. Last I checked, only eight teams make the postseason.

The race is getting down to the wire, and it’s a helluva lotta fun to watch.

SH Blog: Aldridge rushing return; Kobe calls out Shaq; Bosh says Big 3 will return to Miami; Westbrook uncertain of playoffs minute restriction

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AldridgeLillardSH1As teams continue to jockey for position in the Western Conference — and fight for 50 wins just to get in — one of the early season darlings continues to sink.

That would be the Portland Trailblazers. Once the talk of the NBA, the Blazers have hit a rough patch at the worst possible time, losing nine of their last 13 games and are now just a half game ahead of the Golden State Warriors for the 6th spot in the West. 

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Suns Making Madness of Their Own, Taking Over Most Improved Rankings

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GoranDragicSH1March is about underdogs.

That’s why we love it so much. Well, most of us anyway. (Can someone check Chris Bernucca for a pulse?)

Just kidding, boss.

It’s the incredible stories like Mercer’s upset of Duke, Dayton’s run to the Sweet 16 and Stephen F. Austin’s miraculous comeback against VCU that keep us glued to the TV screen in March, like a month-long Rob Ford press conference.

There’s nothing like a good underdog narrative, and year after year, the NCAA Tournament delivers with several remarkable ones. It’s entertainment at its highest form.

In the NBA, a similar underdog story has been unfolding. It just doesn’t get as much pub because the scrappy overachiever role doesn’t play as well when you’re pulling in $5 million a year.

The Phoenix Suns are a collection of nobodies from nowhere, seemingly cast together like the Cleveland Indians in Major League, waiting for the draft lottery.

Yet here they are in late March, on pace to win 48 games and holding on to the final playoff spot out West. Phoenix has won four in a row and six of eight since Eric Bledsoe’s return from injury, including back-to-back nail-biters over Minnesota and Atlanta.

They’ve got six legitimate contenders for Most Improved Player – including current rankings leader Goran Dragic, who not only held down the fort in Bledsoe’s absence but also snuck into Sheridan’s MVP rankings for a while.

This is Goran Dragic we’re talking about, people!

If that isn’t a true underdog story, then Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story isn’t a true underdog story.

And in a season when tanking has become commonplace and teaching young players how to lose (see: Michael Carter-Williams) is apparently OK, the Suns are showing the value of competing with youngsters and not waiting for ping-pong balls to decide their fate.

It was a bold strategy by first-year GM Ryan McDonough. But it’s paying off for them.

On to the rankings.

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