November Madness: The Alumni National Championship

November is here and you know what that means? That it’s time for the first ever annual Boston Celtics Alumni National Championship. This Championship works essentially exactly the same as the NCAA Tournament in March except with one small difference; it’s a completely hypothetical tournament where each team is made up of current and former Boston Celtics players and sorted by which college they went to.

The rules are as follows, just as is the case in March Madness, each team in the Alumni National Championship is seeded (although for the purpose of this article, they are seeded overall rather than by region). Each seed is determined by how good each of the players on their respective teams was during their tenure at the Boston Celtics (so Shaquille O’Neal < Dave Cowens). The tournament begins with two play-in games to determine the field for the Sweet Sixteen. Teams that are seeded between 1-4 face off against teams seeded 13-16, while teams seeded 5-8 face off against teams seeded 9-12. Got it?

Good.

So now that we have determined the set-up of the competition and the rules, let’s meet our teams, in order of seed:

#1 Kentucky: PG: Rajon Rondo SG: Ron Mercer SF: Frank Ramsey PF: Antoine Walker C: Rick Robey

#2 Holy Cross: PG: Bob Cousey SG: George Kaftan SF: Togo Palazzi PF: Willie Naulis C: Tommy Heinsohn

#3 Kansas: PG: Jojo White SG: Kevin Pritchard SF: Paul Pierce PF: Raef LaFrentz C: Clyde Lovellette

#4 UCLA: PG: Tyus Edney SG: Darren Daye SF: Don Barksdale PF: Sidney Wicks C: Bill Walton

#5 UNC: PG: Shammond Williams SG: Charlie Scott SF: Rick Fox PF: Rasheed Wallace C: Bob McAdoo

#6 Ohio State: PG: Larry Siegfried SG: Bob Donham SF: John Havlicek PF: Jared Sullinger C: Arnie Risen

#7 USC: PG: Paul Westphal SG: Bill Sharman SF: Jim Seminoff PF: Frankie Sanders C: Brian Scalabrine

#8 Iowa: PG: Marlon Garnett SG: Ricky Davis SF: Kevin Gamble PF: Don Nelson C: Acie Earl

#9 Louisville: PG: Terry Rozier SG: Greg Minor SF: Terrence Williams PF: Bud Olsen C: Pervis Ellison

#10 Duke: PG: Kyrie Irving SG: Jayson Tatum SF: Shavlik Randolph PF: Alaa Abdelnaby C: Shelden Williams

#11 Florida State: PG: Sam Cassell SG: Von Wafer SF: Ben Clyde PF: Willie Walters C: Dave Cowens

#12 BYU: PG: Danny Ainge SG: Brady Walker SF: Fred Roberts PF: Michael Smith C: Greg Kite

#13 LSU: PG: Marcus Thornton SG: Pete Maravich SF: Brandon Bass PF: Glen Davis C: Shaquille O'Neal

#14 Providence: PG: Ernie DiGregorio SG: Kevin Stacom SF: Eric Williams PF: Ryan Gomes C: Marty Conlon

#15 Purdue: PG: Jerry Sichting SG: Ed Ehlers SF: E'Twan Moore PF: Jimmy Oliver C: JaJuan Johnson

#16 Syracuse: PG: Sherman Douglas SG: Dave Bing SF: Kris Joseph PF: Fred Saunders C: Fab Melo

#17 Houston: PG: Damon Jones SG: Gary Phillips SF: Oliver Lafayette PF: Otis Birdsong C: Don Chaney

#18 San Francisco: PG: K.C. Jones SG: Fred Scolari SF: N/A PF: Eric Fernsten C: Bill Russell 

So who will take out the prestigious inaugural annual Alumni National Championship? Let’s find out.

Play-In Games

(18) San Francisco 50-45 (15) Purdue

Despite only having four players, 18th-seeded San Francisco pulled off a stunning defeat against a very guard-heavy Purdue side. The Don’s big man Bill Russell had a stellar performance, putting up 32 points and 50 rebounds, while point guard K.C. Jones dished out 20 assists and finished with 16 points of his own. Eric Fernsten finished with the only other two points for the Dons – they came via free throws.

(16) Syracuse 62 – 59 (17) Houston

Despite being down at the half, the Syracuse backcourt lit it up in the second and put on a show. Sherman Douglas and Dave Bing had 42 points combined while Fab Melo pulled down a clutch rebound in the final minute to get the all-important stop. Despite this being his only statistic for the game, he still managed to outrebound the entire Houston team who were forced to play their best player, 6’5” Don Chaney, at center.

Sweet Sixteen

(3) Kansas 80 – 51 (14) Providence

Paul Peirce and the Kansas Jayhawks proved to be too strong for the Friars of Providence in a game that they controlled from beginning to end. Peirce, the captain of the Jayhawks, led the way with 37 points while Jo Jo White, the teams' star point guard, finished with a 22 point, 10 assist double-double.

(1) Kentucky 78 – 62 (18) San Francisco

After upsetting Purdue in the play-in game, San Francisco faced a mighty task, taking on the top seed in the nation, the Kentucky Wildcats. Despite Russell again putting up Russell-like numbers – 42 points, 20 rebounds, 18 blocks – the fact that they were only playing with four players was just too much to overcome. Two of the Wildcats players - Walker & Robey - finished with double-doubles, while Rajon Rondo finished with a 15-steal quadruple-double.

(5) North Carolina 101 – 44 (16) Syracuse

After a solid win against Houston in the play-in game, the Orangemen were hoping to put in a good performance against the fifth-seeded team in the nation, but that wasn’t the case at all. From the opening tip-off, North Carolina not only controlled the game, but they did so with brutal authority. Fab Melo, once again, finished with one rebound.

(4) UCLA 52 – 51 (13) LSU (OT)

In one of the best (yet slowest) games of the tournament so far, UCLA pipped LSU at the post after Bill Walton Hack-a-Shaq’d a tired looking O’Neal in the final ten seconds with the Bruins up by a point. O’Neal bricked both shots and UCLA came away with the win. Pete Maravich did his part for the Tigers, finishing with 27 points, but it wasn’t enough to get over the line.

(6) Ohio State 64 – 61 (11) Florida State

In a game that was close from tip-off, it was John Havlicek’s 23-point second half that got Ohio State over the line. Had it not been for Dave Cowens’ 33-point, 31-rebound performance, this game no doubt would have been over ten minutes into the first half. 

(8) Iowa 82 – 69 (12) BYU

Despite a hot start, the top-heavy BYU Cougars got run off their feet in the second half. BYU’s Danny Ainge did his best to pester and annoy the opposition but in the end, Iowa’s team play (four of the five starters all reached double-figures in scoring) got them over the line.

(7) USC 75 – 70 (10) Duke

Coming into the game, this very young Duke side thought that they might have what it takes to cause an upset, but in the end, their inexperience proved costly. USC’s stars, in particular, their backcourt of Paul Westphal and Bill Sharman, could barely be contained, finishing with 69 points combined. Brian Scalabrine had the most glorious 2-point, 1-rebound, 1-block performance perhaps in tournament history.

(2) Holy Cross 89 – 71 (9) Louisville

It was always going to be hard for Louisville to stop Holy Cross’ Big Two of Bob Cousey and Tommy Heinsohn, but it may have been even harder than they had anticipated. Cousey finished with 31 points and 29 assists while Heinsohn finished with 25 points and 25 rebounds. Terry Rozier showed some flashes for Louisville but the lack of help around him was costly.

Elite Eight

(3) Kansas 71 - 60 (6) Ohio State

Paul Peirce and Jo Jo White were again in scintillating form as they easily defeated Havlicek’s Buckeyes. The game swung back and forth early but Jared Sullinger went missing in the second half and the Jayhawks pulled away. The game ended with Peirce switching onto Sullinger in isolation and calling game.

(5) North Carolina 107-106 (3OT) (8) Iowa

It took three overtimes to decide a winner in this one but, in the end, it was Rasheed Wallace’s defense – a block in the dying seconds- that got the job done. Both teams performed well all day but the stars of North Carolina, in particular, Rick Fox and his 29 point performance, were just too good.

(2) Holy Cross 81 - 60 (4) UCLA

UCLA struggled all day against a very strong Holy Cross outfit, and much of that had to do with the injury to big man Bill Walton in the first five minutes of the game. The Bruins needed Walton’s presence in the paint if they were to have any chance of coming away with the win, but a foot injury put him on the sidelines and kept him there for the rest of the game. Togo Palazzi had a Spike Albrecht-like performance, finishing with 11-points and 5-rebounds, and has now no doubt become a household name.

(1) Kentucky 73 - 63 (7) USC

Brian Scalabrine continued his MVP-calibre tournament form with another stellar 8-point, 3-rebound performance, but it just wasn’t quite enough to match the firepower of Kentucky. Ron Mercer, Frank Ramsey, and Antoine Walker were all at their very best while Rajon Rondo had a quiet game, finishing only with 9-points, 24-assists, and 9-rebounds. Also, Bill Sharman had a tournament-high 55-points.

Final Four

(3) Kansas 90 - 88 (1) Kentucky

It was touted as a battle of the point-guards and it did very little to disappoint. Rajon Rondo and Jo Jo White went back and forth all game, with the judges eventually scoring Jo Jo White the 10-9 winner. Raef LaFrentz finished with 4 blocks for the Jayhawks but it was Wildcats who had the last laugh.

(2) Holy Cross 61 - 55 (4) North Carolina

It was a close game until the final two minutes until Rasheed Wallace got annoyed at a Tommy Heinsohn illegal block and pushed Heinsohn, resulting in an ejection from the game. Once Wallace was off the court, Holy Cross outscored the Tar Heels 10-4 and came away with the victory.

Championship Game

(2) Holy Cross 97 – 92 (1) Kentucky

It may be considered a Cinderella story for some, but to those familiar with this Holy Cross team, their success in this tournament should come as no surprise. Bob Cousey and Tommy Heinsohn, clearly the Crusaders two best players, led the Crusaders in the clutch as Rajon Rondo feuded with his teammates and the coach and got pulled for the final three minutes. Nothing should be taken away from Holy Cross however who win their third National Championship ever, and their first since winning the NIT in 1954.


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