With the 2016 NCAA tournament set to enter the round of 16, the real fun is about to begin. Now that the stakes are higher, we’re going to see which players can handle the pressure and which ones falter under the weight of the world. While the Sweet 16 features plenty of talented individuals, we’re not quite sure they compare to some of college basketball’s past greats. Like in 2009, when we got to witness the dominance of Oklahoma’s Blake Griffin.
The Sooners entered the 2009 NCAA tournament as the No. 2 seed in the South Region. And while this group was unable to bring back a national championship to Norman, it did feature plenty of highlights from college basketball’s best player. Thanks to these three performances, it became even more obvious that Griffin was destined for NBA superstardom.
3. 2009 South Regional Final: Griffin vs. North Carolina
As it is in all sports, sometimes you simply come up against a better team. During the 2009 NCAA tournament, for the Oklahoma Sooners, that team proved to be the North Carolina Tar Heels. Of course, when you lose to a club that goes on to win a national championship, you shouldn’t feel that bad. And for the future No. 1 overall pick, it hardly stopped him from having a memorable performance.
Despite falling short by the score of 72-60, Griffin still shot 75% (9-12) from the field and knocked down five of his eight free throw attempts. In the end, our man Blake finished with 23 points, 16 rebounds, and one assist. While the Sooners run would unfortunately come to an end in the South regional final, Griffin had already showcased the kind of talent that would make him a star at the next level.
2. 2009 South Regional Second Round: Griffin vs. Michigan
For the Michigan Wolverines, the South Region’s No. 10 seed, knocking off Oklahoma in the second round would’ve been a pretty big upset by tournament standards. Too bad for John Beilin’s group, Oklahoma had one thing it didn’t: The Consensus Player of the Year.
In typical Griffin fashion, the First-Team All-American unleashed a barrage of sensational slams to go along with numerous feats of overwhelming athletic ability. He would decimate the Wolverines with a ridiculous stat line of 33 points (14-20 FG, 5-10 FT), 17 rebounds, three assists, one steal, and one block, and the Sooners would move on to the Sweet 16 with a 73-63 victory. Don’t worry sports fans, the best was still to come.
1. 2009 South Regional Semifinal: Griffin vs. Syracuse
Some may feel that the best way to judge a player’s performance is to look at that individual’s point total. However, we don’t necessarily agree. We choose to look at efficiency. And against the No. 3-seeded Syracuse Orange in the South regional semifinal, that’s when Griffin was at his most efficient.
As hard as they tried to stop him, the Orange were no match for Griffin’s thunderous play. In fact, not even smashing his head on the backboard could slow him down. Griffin shot 12 for 15 (80%) from the field, went six for 10 from the charity stripe, and finished the contest with 30 points, 14 rebounds, three assists, and one steal. Oklahoma would win the game 84-71. However, if we’re being completely honest, the score doesn’t adequately reflect the game itself. This was a beat down. And Griffin led the way.
Statistics courtesy of SR/College Basketball.