The madness of March is upon us, and for the first time in a while, the Warriors are consumed with their own bracket this month as the club jockeys for position in the NBA’s field of 16. But like the rest of the country, several of the players are keeping an eye on the madness at the collegiate level as their alma maters and/or siblings compete in the annual NCAA Tournament. In fact, many of them even have a bracket in the Warriors March Madness Challenge, not to mention a plethora of tournament experience chronicled in the video below.
Of the Warriors’ 12 players who spent time in the college ranks, all but Klay Thompson’s Washington State Cougars advanced to play in the NCAA Tournament, giving the Dubs’ roster an abundance of bracket busting experience. With the tourney underway, we thought we’d take a quick look at how each of the Warriors fared in their trips to the Big Dance.
Harrison Barnes – North Carolina
TOURNEY APPEARANCES: 2 (2011, 2012)
FURTHEST ADVANCED: Elite Eight (2011, 2012)
Barnes spent two seasons in Chapel Hill and experienced a great many highs and lows as a top overall recruit out of high school. Both seasons of Barnes’ Tar Heel tenure were prosperous (North Carolina earned 2- and 1-seeds, respectively), but both ended in the same disappointing fashion—with a loss in the Elite Eight. Even without reaching North Carolina’s perennial Final Four expectations, Barnes found success in the NCAA Tournament, averaging 17.3 points and 6.9 rebounds in his eight career games.
Barnes’ best game in the tourney was also his first, in which he grabbed a career-high 16 rebounds to go with 24 points as a freshman in the opening round—just six days after dropping 40 points on Clemson in the ACC Semifinals—and he tallied double figures in all eight contests. His averages of 21.0 points and 8.3 rebounds as a freshman in the 2011 tournament earned him NCAA East Regional All-Tournament accolades.
Kent Bazemore – Old Dominion
TOURNEY APPEARANCES: 2 (2010, 2011)
FURTHEST ADVANCED: Round of 32 (2010)
Bazemore and the Monarchs made two appearances to the Big Dance out of the Colonial Athletic Conference, upsetting sixth-seeded Notre Dame in Bazemore’s first taste of tournament action in 2010. The Warriors rookie posted well-rounded marks of 7.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists in his three tournament games, including a 13-point, 7-rebound performance against Baylor in his final tourney game.
Andrew Bogut – Utah
TOURNEY APPEARANCES: 2 (2004, 2005)
FURTHEST ADVANCED: Sweet 16 (2005)
After an early exit from the tournament in 2004, Bogut led the Utes to the Sweet 16 in his sophomore season, demonstrating why he would become the eventual No. 1 overall pick of the 2005 NBA Draft. Bogut tallied double-doubles in all three games in 2005, including a pair of 20-point/10-rebound lines. All told, Bogut averaged 17.5 points and 10.5 rebounds over four career tournament games, and his presence has been missed in Salt Lake City. Since the departure of the Aussie big man, Utah has made just one tournament appearance in the last eight seasons.
Stephen Curry – Davidson
TOURNEY APPEARANCES: 2 (2007, 2008)
FURTHEST ADVANCED: Elite Eight (2008)
Curry burst onto the NCAA Tournament scene as a freshman in 2007, scoring 30 points in Davidson’s first round loss to Maryland. The following year, he obliterated the tournament scene, leading the 10th-seeded Wildcats to an unlikely trip to the Elite Eight. Curry tallied 40, 30 and 33 points in respective wins over Gonzaga, Georgetown and Wisconsin before a 25-point effort came up short in a two-point loss to the top-seeded Kansas Jayhawks, earning NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional Most Outstanding Player honors for his role in Davidson’s run. Curry’s Wildcats were NIT bound his junior year, preventing the sharpshooter from further improving his five-game NCAA Tournament averages of 31.6 points (on 5.6 threes), 3.4 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 3.2 steals. As Stephen Curry has a career year in the pros, his brother, Seth, looks to replicate big bro’s success in the tournament this year for perennial basketball power Duke.
Festus Ezeli – Vanderbilt
TOURNEY APPEARANCES: 3 (2010, 2011, 2012)
FURTHEST ADVANCED: Round of 32 (2012)
In 2007, Ezeli hadn’t even begun playing organized basketball. From 2010-12, he helped Vanderbilt to three consecutive NCAA Tournament berths for the first time in the program’s history. Quite a leap for the Warriors’ young big man, whose progression has continued in his rookie year in the NBA. Things weren’t all great in the big dance for Ezeli, though, as his first two tournament teams were upset in the opening round, to 13th-seeded Murray State and 12th-seeded Richmond, by a combined total of four points. The Commodores finally got by in 2012, earning a win over Harvard (not such an easy out these days) before falling by three points to Wisconsin. Despite a 1-3 record in the tournament, Ezeli’s teams outscored the opposition by two points as a result of their close losses. The Nigerian center averaged 11.8 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.75 blocks while hitting an impressive 77.3 percent from the field (17-of-22) over those four games, concluding his collegiate career with a double-double against Wisconsin.
Draymond Green – Michigan State
TOURNEY APPEARANCES: 4 (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012)
FURTHEST ADVANCED: NCAA Championship Game (2009)
Magic Johnson, Oscar Robertson and Draymond Green … Those are the three players in NCAA Tournament history to have recorded multiple triple-doubles in the big dance. Not bad company for Green, who wrapped up his Spartan career as one of the more decorated players in college basketball history. Green’s tournament resume is arguably the most extensive among his Warrior brethren, appearing in the tournament every year of his collegiate career (15 total games) and boasting consecutive Final Four appearances as a freshman and sophomore as well as two NCAA Regional All-Tournament team selections (2010 and 2012).
Green’s triple-doubles both came in early round action: a 23-point, 11-rebound, 10-assist performance against UCLA in 2011 and a 24-point, 12-rebound, 10-assist outing against Long Island University in 2012. In 15 career tourney games, he tallied 11.4 points, 7.7 rebounds and 3.3 assists, but as a senior in 2012—a year that saw him become the third Spartan to ever earn National Player of the Year honors—Green averaged 17.7 points, 13.7 rebounds and 6.0 assists in three games. Green had seven points and seven rebounds in just 12 minutes of the Spartans’ loss to North Carolina in the 2009 NCAA Championship game, and he never reached the finals again during his collegiate career.
Jarrett Jack – Georgia Tech
TOURNEY APPEARANCES: 2 (2004, 2005)
FURTHEST ADVANCED: NCAA Championship Game (2004)
One of four Warriors to get to the championship game, Jack is unfortunately also one of three to fall just short, his Yellow Jackets losing out to Connecticut in the 2004 Championship Game. Georgia Tech got back to the tourney in 2005, but made it only to the Round of 32 after coming oh-so-close in 2004. Jack averaged 12.4 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.9 steals in his eight career tournament games, including a 29-point, 9-rebound, 6-assist, 4-steal performance over Kansas to advance Georgia Tech to the Final Four. As the case has seemingly been throughout his NBA career, the numbers don’t fully encompass his importance to the team. The durable floor general started in all but one of his team’s games over a three-year career, coming off the bench in one game as a junior to make room in the starting lineup for a senior on the school’s Senior Night. Georgia Tech has been back to the tournament just twice since Jack’s departure in 2005.
Richard Jefferson – Arizona
TOURNEY APPEARANCES: 3 (1999, 2000, 2001)
FURTHEST ADVANCED: NCAA Championship Game (2001)
Like Green and Jack, it was almost-but-not-quite for Richard Jefferson in 2001. Jefferson’s Wildcats fell to Duke in the Championship Game, beginning a cruel streak of close calls for the forward, who next lost consecutive NBA Finals appearances in his first two years with the New Jersey Nets in 2002 and 2003. Nonetheless, for Jefferson’s Arizona squad—upset by 13th-seeded Oklahoma in the opening round two years prior and then, as a 1-seed, by the 8th-seeded Wisconsin Badgers in the Round of 32 in 2000—things finally came together for one of the more talented rosters in the country (Warriors fans may recall Jefferson’s teammate, Gilbert Arenas, as the team’s second round pick in the subsequent 2001 NBA Draft). Despite 19 points in the Championship Game from Jefferson, who averaged 11.6 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.7 assists in nine career tournament games, the Wildcats were unable to capture what would have been their second title in five years.
Carl Landry – Purdue
TOURNEY APPEARANCES: 1 (2007)
FURTHEST ADVANCED: Round of 32
After missing most of the previous season with a knee injury and earning a medical redshirt in 2006-07, Landry and the Boilermakers broke through, grabbing a tournament bid with 22 wins after winning just 16 in the previous two years combined. Once there, Purdue got past Arizona but fell to the eventual champion Florida Gators, through no fault of Landry, who posted consecutive double-doubles for two-game averages of 19.5 points and 11.5 rebounds. It was the Boilermakers’ first bid in three years and the first of six-straight, a streak that was snapped only this year.
David Lee – Florida
TOURNEY APPEARANCES: 4 (2002, 2003, 2004, 2005)
FURTHEST ADVANCED: Round of 32 (2003, 2005)
Lee took four consecutive Florida teams to the Big Dance, laying the foundation for the Gators to become the first back-to-back champs since Duke in 1991 and 1992. Unfortunately, Lee graduated in 2005, just before the championship runs in 2006 and 2007, and never made it to the Sweet 16. Still, Lee accounted for four of the nine-straight seasons in which Florida punched its ticket, a notable achievement even if two of those squads fell victim to the dreaded 12-5 upset in the opening round. In his six tournament games, Lee averaged 14.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 2.0 steals and 1.5 blocks. Fittingly, the NBA’s current leader in 20-point/10-rebound games finished his collegiate career with a 20-point/10-rebound effort against Villanova.
Brandon Rush – Kansas
TOURNEY APPEARANCES: 3 (2006, 2007, 2008)
FURTHEST ADVANCED: NCAA Champions (2008)
Though Rush hasn’t been able to play for the Warriors since suffering a season-ending knee injury early in the season, he still has bragging rights around the locker room this time of year. Rush is the only player on the Warriors’ roster with an NCAA championship to his name, helping Kansas take down Derrick Rose and Memphis in overtime for the 2008 title. It was a steady progression for Rush, whose Jayhawks were upset in his freshman season by 13th-seeded Bradley and advanced to the Elite Eight in his sophomore season before taking home the title in 2008. The swingman averaged 14.7 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.4 assists in his 11 tournament games, tallying 25 points in a win over North Carolina to get KU to the Championship Game.
The Warriors’ tournament success extends far beyond their current roster. General Manager Bob Myers helped UCLA win it all in 1995 and Executive Board Member Jerry West was named the Most Outstanding Player of the 1959 tournament, leading West Virginia to that year’s Championship Game before a defeat at the hands of Pete Newell’s California Golden Bears. And of course, Head Coach Mark Jackson took St. John’s to four consecutive tournaments from 1984-87, helping the Red Storm advance to the Final Four in 1985.
All this collegiate postseason experience is fun to look back on, but means little otherwise in the NBA. You’d be hard-pressed to find a squad in The Association that doesn’t come with significant sets of history in the NCAA Tournament. But, at the very least, all the success in win-or-go-home situations is a nice reference to have before the Warriors try to bust some brackets in late April for the first time since 2007.