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SportsMonday: Kyle Korver, The Torch And A Cinderella Story

Did you see Kyle Korver stroking it over the weekend? Or his equivalent one level down? As bracket madness takes over during the next few days and weeks, don't forget the game - especially in Illinois where for the second time in three years our schools were completely shut out of NCAA tournament berths.

And the best thing about the game around here of late was Korver's shooting. With Joakim Noah out with the flu and Luol Deng sitting down to try to reduce inflammation in his left wrist, the Bulls were just about dominated inside against the Jazz on Saturday. The team from Utah out-scored their hosts 62-42 in the paint.

But it didn't matter because the Bulls were overwhelmingly good from the outside, led by Korver's six threes on his way to 26 points. The Bulls finished with seven three-pointers as a team. Utah did not connect once from beyond the arc on its way to a 111-97 loss.

And I'm confident I speak for intense basketball fans everywhere when I say there is nothing like a pure shooter heating up and using perfect form to drain shot after shot. Despite operating exclusively from way out on the perimeter, Korver connected on 10 of his final 12 shots to thrill the Chicago faithful.

Just a day earlier, Korver was on the wrong side of the headlines. "Korver's Struggles Surprise Bulls," ESPN Chicago reported. "Korver Disappointed, Vows To Bounce Back," CSN Chicago said.

And indeed, Korver missed his first four shots on Saturday and he had missed about a half-dozen straight open looks late in the Bulls' previous game - a disappointing loss to Orlando at home. In other words, there was seemingly overwhelming evidence that it was time for the man to dial it down for a while. Except that isn't how veteran shooters operate.
Then again it is easy to tell a player to just keep shooting no matter what but it has to be almost impossible for the humans who receive those messages to not let at least a little doubt creep in. But especially with Deng on the bench, Korver knew the Bulls would need extra offense from the wing.

"Got myself mentally ready for tonight and tried to be aggressive," Korver told Chuck Swirksy in this interview.


See also: Cooking For Kyle Korver.

Johnny The Torch
Will there be an NCAA player who thrills us with his marksmanship in the tournament this time around? This year's Jimmer Fredette? Or do folks remember how good Jordan Crawford, Jamal's little brother, was from the perimeter for Xavier a few years back?

My vote for the shooter most likely to make huge waves in the tournament is Vanderbilt's John Jenkins, who absolutely torched the college nets the last few days. In so doing, he led the Commodores to an upset victory over Kentucky in the SEC tournament final.

He may have "only" scored 17 in the final versus the Wildcats on Sunday but his 23 points the previous day against Ole Miss included five three-pointers. The best thing about Jenkins is his athleticism. He doesn't have to wait for teammates to run a perfect offense highlighted by powerful picks to set him for open spot-up looks. He can create his own space and gets his shot off in a hurry.

Cinderella Story?
You could do far worse than putting your chips on New Mexico State. The 13th-seeded Aggies, who will face Indiana in the first round, went 26-9 and won the WAC tournament. They have several talented, multi-faceted players. But you better believe they also have a shooter to watch. First and foremost, the Hoosiers better beware of Hernst Laroche, who hit 40 percent of his threes on the season and averaged 12 points/game. He can also play a little defense.


Jim "Coach" Coffman welcomes your comments.

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