By: Will Burchfield
Doug Gottlieb, CBS basketball analyst and Oklahoma State alumnus, believed his alma mater would beat Michigan for a number of reasons.
Phil Forte, the scrappy senior guard. Jeffrey Carroll, the 6’6 sharpshooter. Leyton Hammonds, the athletic, versatile four-man.
But most of all, and most effusively, Gottlieb pointed to Jawun Evans, the Cowboys’ All-Big 12 sophomore guard.
“Any of the things that Michigan does well, I think Oklahoma State does as well or better. For example, Derrick Walton’s been probably the best player in the Big Ten over the last month,” Gottlieb said, “but I frankly just think Jawun Evans is better.”
Just before tip-off on Friday afternoon, Gottlieb went a step further.
Walton racked up 26 points, 11 assists and five rebounds on Friday afternoon to lift Michigan to a 92-91 win over Oklahoma State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Evans was good, too, no doubt about it, but Walton was better.
And he knew it.
Evans finished with 23 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds. You can argue whose individual line was more impressive, but not without considering this: Walton was seven of 13 from the field, including six of nine from three, while Evans was 10 of 26.
And, of course, Walton’s team won. Evans’ is going home.
Look, this is nothing against Evans. The 20-year-old nearly had a triple-double and showed why he’s an NBA prospect with plays like these.
Yep — that kid’s got a bright future.
But the NCAA Tournament is all about today. Now, thanks to Walton, Michigan can look toward tomorrow. The senior became just the second player in Big Ten history to record at least 25 points, 10 assists and five rebounds in an NCAA Tournament game.
Magic Johnson. Now that guy’s in a different solar system.
Gottlieb, it should be noted, tipped his cap to Walton after the game. (So did Charles Barkley.) But really, what other choice did he have?
Evans is destined for the NBA. Walton probably isn’t. But Walton was better today, and that’s all that matters in March.