Selection Sunday approaches, bubble and NET chatter percolate, and the NCAA transfer portal awaits the offseason. Such is life as college basketball conference play hits overdrive.
But as Zion Williamson, Grant Williams – 23-for-23 from the line? Really? – and the NET grab headlines, it's been cool to see players such as Campbell's Chris Clemons, Hofstra's Justin Wright- Foreman and Murray State's Ja Morant earn USBWA kudos as national players of the week.
As a projected NBA lottery pick, Morant probably needs no introduction. Regardless, it's well worth your time to read USBWA comrade Pat Forde's late-January piece on how the Racers unearthed Morant.
Clemons and Wright-Foreman rank first and third, respectively, among Division I scorers, and their exploits have certainly resonated here in Virginia.
The 5-foot-9 Clemons hit a 30-footer at the horn to beat Radford on the road 68-67 on Jan. 30. Two weeks later, in an 87-84 victory over Hampton, Clemons scored 48 points, three shy of his career-best, and moved past Danny Manning and Oscar Robertson into ninth place on the all-time Division I scoring list.
In two victories over William and Mary, Wright- Foreman scored 37 and 48 points, the latter after a 37-point second half.
In that same contest, Nathan Knight, W&M's gifted big man, continued his superb season with 39 points, 14 rebounds and four assists.
All of which is to remind USBWA members that our all-district teams are a great way to recognize players such as Knight, Wright-Foreman and Clemons. So please vote.
As the season draws to a close, I owe the USBWA my enduring thanks for the privilege of serving. Safe to say, the year has been eventful.
We continued to engage schools on access and seating, and while the results are occasionally discouraging, we will press on.
And just so schools don't view the USBWA merely as critic, we intend to publicly cite those whose media outreach goes above and beyond.
Perhaps most notably, we hired USBWA Hall of Famer Malcolm Moran as our new executive director. His commitment to the organization's mission will be evident to all in the coming months and years.
None of this would have been possible without my fellow officers: Shannon Ryan, Seth Davis and soon-to-be president Mike Waters. They've been insightful and responsive throughout.
Oh, did I mention Joe Mitch?
I'm not sure the USBWA would still exist without our retiring executive director. His sage counsel remains invaluable, and his nearly four decades of service to us will endure.
Among my perks this season was informing many of our annual award winners of their USBWA honors. The surprise and gratitude they expressed reminded me of how special these recognitions are.
So please indulge with me another round of applause for Hall of Famers John Akers, Jack McCallum, William Rhoden and Dan Wetzel, Katha Quinn winner Mike Sheridan and Most Courageous honoree Ericka Downey.
To hear their stories, join us at our Final Four awards luncheon.
I understand how grueling the postseason is and how tempting some extra sleep is on championship Monday, but trust me on this.
You'll be glad you did.
Luncheon highlights Final Four weekend
The USBWA's annual luncheon from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Monday, April 8, at the Minneapolis Convention Center will feature the presentation of these awards:
• Katha Quinn Award to Mike Sheridan SID Mike Sheridan for his service to the media.
• The Rising Star Award to Sam Vecenie of The Athletic for excellence in sportswriting for writers under 30.
• Most Courageous Award to Ericka Downey, the wife of Northeastern State (Okla.) basketball coach Mark Downey, for giving a kidney to someone she never met before, former UTEP, Texas A&M, Kentucky, Texas Tech and now Ranger (Texas) College head coach Billy Gillispie.
• Induction into the USBWA Hall of Fame of John Akers of Basketball Times, Jack McCallum of Sports Illustrated, Bill Rhoden of the New York Times and Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports.
• Ray Marquette Award to David Teel of the Newport News Daily Press for his leadership as USBWA president.
ESPN served as the main sponsor of the luncheon and has been the major sponsor dating back to the mid 1980s. Other sponsors include USA Basketball, NABC and the American, Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences.
The luncheon and short business meeting to follow conclude a busy weekend for the USBWA.
The USBWA's schedule of events starts with the Full Court Press sportswriting competition and seminar at 8:30 a.m. on Friday, April 5, at the media area of U.S. Bank Stadium.
The seminar will be followed by a news conference announcing the winner of the Oscar Robertson Player of the Year Trophy, from 9:15-9:45.
On Monday prior to the awards luncheon, the USBWA board of directors will meet in executive session before meeting with the Division I men's basketball committee.
Lodge Notes: USBWA members among NSMA winners
Several members of the USBWA were named the top sportswriter of their state by the National Sports Media Association.
USBWA President David Teel of the Newport News Daily Press won in Virginia for the 12th time. Other winners included John Clay of the Lexington Herald-Leader (for the sixth time in Kentucky); Ed Graney of the Las Vegas Review-Journal (sixth time in Nevada); Tom Shatel of the Omaha World-Herald (fourth time in Nebraska); Robert Gagliardi of the Wyoming Tribune Eagle, for the fourth time; Joe Rexrode of the Tennessean (who has also won in Michigan); and USBWA First Vice-President Mike Waters of the Syracuse Post-Standard (a first-time winner in New York).
Dave Krider, 79, the only prep writer to be inducted into the USBWA's Hall of Fame, died of complications from heart surgery on July 4. Krider was a pioneer who wrote about prep sports nationally for USA Today and other publications. Lodge Notes