Fri Mar 20 02:48pm EDT
If the NCAA tournament is a showcase for the country's best unknown
talent, Ben Woodside -- North Dakota State's lightning-quick senior point
guard -- is thus far its prime attraction.
Some college hoops freaks, or at least people who furiously studied up on the tournament in the past few days, were familiar with the Woodside hype. The senior averaged 22 points and six assists in his 2008-09 campaign. He scored 60 points on Stephen F. Austin. He was the main reason the N.D. State Bison have made it to the NCAA tournament, their first after a five-year probation period. Still it's possible, even likely, that you have never heard Ben Woodside's name before today.
Today, though, you had a chance to see him. I hope you did. Woodside was every bit as good as that minimal hype, and maybe better.
He scored 37 points in N.D. State's first-round loss to Kansas today on 13-of-22 shooting and 8-of-10 from the free throw line. And it wasn't all on three-point shots, either; Woodside was as quick as any Jayhawk, and was able to get into the paint at will. At one point, Gus Johnson compared him to Steve Nash ("He's a baller!"), and the comparison seems fair: Woodside, like Nash, isn't nearly as limited by his size as you'd think. He gets into the defense, passes effectively, and then, when forced to, will drain whatever shot you end up giving him. It was a beatiful thing to watch.
Of course, it wasn't enough. Woodside's team was eventually overwhelmed by Kansas' size and talent -- Sherron Collins isn't too shabby either -- and N.D. State lost 85-74.
Woodside hasn't been the only new star of the early weekend. Memphis' Roburt Sallie came off the bench to score 35 in Memphis' win over Cal. St. Northridge, and American's Garrison Carr put on a show in his team's loss to Villanova last night. Thus far, though, the closest thing we have to a Stephen Curry is Woodside. Pity he won't have a chance at an encore.