UC Irvine came so close to pulling off a monumental upset of Louisville in the NCAA Tournament. And while they lost by two points, the end result of their season was a huge win.
The Anteaters made the tourney for the first time in the 36 seasons as a Division I program, stating their claim as one of college basketball’s best mid-major’s.
UC Irvine is projected by many to win the Big West conference yet again. For that to stay true they need junior, Mamadou Ndiaye, to take the reigns and prove why he is one of the country’s most dominating players.
Ndiaye stands at an intimidating 7’6 and weighs 330 lbs. He is an absolute game changer on the court, but as with any athlete his size injuries are common.
That was the major downfall of other 7’5 or over big men such as Yao Ming, who retired from basketball prematurely due to health. Unfortunately for Ndiaye, he has already suffered setbacks in his collegiate career.
The 2014-15 season saw the UC Irvine big man succumb to a foot injury that cost him 19 games. And while the Anteaters were still able to have their greatest season in school history, you can only imagine how much better things could have been if he hadn’t been hurt.
Make no mistake about it, when fully healthy Ndiaye is one of the best rim protectors in all the nation. During his freshman season Ndiaye blocked at least four shots in a game 11 times, which included an 11 block performance in a single contest.
Health is going to be a question mark surrounding Ndiaye. Injuries aside, he put together a modest 10.5 point, 5.1 rebound, 1.7 block season. However, those numbers fail in comparison to his healthy freshman year, as he complied 7.8 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.1 blocks.
The scoring increase is always welcomed with any player, but Ndiaye doesn’t need to score to make his presence known. He is a nightmare for opposing offenses because of his ability to take away easy drives to the basket. If UC Irvine can get a repeat performance of Mamadou Ndiaye’s freshman year, they will be well on their way to a second consecutive NCAA Tournament.