The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has once again tipped off its 68-team Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament to determine the 2016 national champion.
Most of the competition is played in March and due to its unpredictable nature, it’s nicknamed “March Madness.”
The single-elimination tournament, staged at venues across the country, is one of the most popular sporting events in the United States. It will culminate April fourth when the national title game is played in Houston, Texas.
Playing in what many would argue is the toughest league in the country, the Kansas University “Jayhawks” managed to win the regular season and conference titles in the Big 12. With a record of 30 wins and four losses, they earned a No. 1 seed for the NCAA tournament.
Kansas will bid for a fourth national title with an experienced and proven team. The Jayhawks feature NBA draft candidates like Wayne Selden Jr., and Perry Ellis, and a few players who will need more time to develop, like Cheick Diallo.
From Mali, to New York, to Kansas, former five-star recruit Diallo is preparing for his first NCAA tournament. The 19-year-old freshman did not have the season KU fans were expecting, but with time and development, they look forward to more production from the African forward.
Diallo did not start playing basketball until 2010 due to his love for soccer. He viewed basketball as a girls sport. Now standing 6-feet-9 (2.06 m), Cheick simply outgrew the sport of soccer.
In high school, Diallo played at Our Savior New American School in Long Island, New York. He attracted attention from top colleges and universities for his rebounding, shot-blocking and versatility, and earned MVP honors at some prestigious high school all-star games. His first season at Kansas, though, was delayed due to an NCAA investigation of his education and background.
When he was finally declared eligible, he would go on to have his best offensive game against Loyola University (Md.). He scored 13 points, grabbed six rebounds, and blocked three shots.
Since the Loyola game, Cheick Diallo has reached double digit points only once. He did have a near double-double against Texas Christian University, scoring nine points and grabbing nine rebounds.
The sky certainly is the limit for Cheick Diallo. He has the physical tools and plays under Bill Self, who is considered one of college basketball’s best coaches. The Jayhawks will play their opening game in the championship tournament Thursday (March 17th) against Austin Peay State University.
Print your brackets, pick your teams, and let’s get ready for the madness that is March.
This blog post was written by VOA Intern Rick Narcisse.