Meet Teddy Allen, the player who stands between Arkansas and the Sweet 16

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BUFFALO, NY – There’s a tattoo on the outside of Teddy Allen’s right leg, between the knee and an Under Armor Crew sock.

It’s a famous quote coined by author Marianne Williamson, which begins: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.”

The last line of Allen’s ink reads: “Your game small does not serve the world.”

No player on day one of the NCAA Tournament was bigger or better. Behind the heroism of one of the most intriguing characters – on and off the court – on the court, New Mexico State upset No. 5 seed Connecticut 70-63 Thursday to advance to face No. 4 seed Arkansas on Saturday for a spot in the Sweet 16 in San Francisco.

Allen, a supreme talent in his fifth college in as many seasons and long since earned the nickname “Teddy Buckets”, scored 37 points against the Huskies – including the last 15 – to give the underdog Aggies their first NCAA Tournament victory since 1993.

“I was just ready to play,” Allen said. “I’m a hoop, and right now, at the level I’m at, it’s the biggest step. It would be the worst time to lay down. I just know, and I also know that if we’re going to progress in this area , I have to play well.

“I just got ready, and you have to block all the other stuff.”

There were 27.5 seconds left in Thursday’s game against UConn, and it wasn’t quite done in the eyes of many. But Allen is not like most people.

After completing a contact layup to give New Mexico State a 65-60 lead and hitting the ground along the baseline, he jumped and ran around the outskirts of the field from game and took on the host of Aggies fans in attendance. At the top of his lungs and in hysterics before him, he twice declared the game over.

New Mexico State coach Chris Jans, right in front of his star, could only smile with a sense of admiration and nod at the ongoing memory.

“Congratulations to Teddy Allen,” Jans said in his opening statement after the win. “That’s quite the intro.”

Allen later told reporters that Jans said during a timeout late in the game that he was going to find out if his team was soft or not. The Aggies might have been labeled as such by some if they couldn’t finish a game they controlled for most of the night.

But sweet is not a description that accurately describes the state of New Mexico, especially Allen.

Seven years ago, the weight of the now 6-foot-6, 212-pound guard soared to around 300. Growing up, he and his brother, Timmy, one of the best players on the Texas Longhorns roster, were victims of their father’s repetitive verbal abuse.

In 2011, as an eighth grader, Allen was doing what he loved on the basketball court against grown men in open weekend gyms, according to the Omaha World-Herald. He also learned he lost his mother to stage 4 breast cancer in 2009 following a game in 2016 in which he scored 42 points.

“I recruited him three times,” Jans said on Friday. “It took me so much to get him to join the Aggies, and I think we’re both very happy that he made that decision. Teddy gets vilified sometimes, and he’s only been really, really good for us, he immersed himself in our culture, in our community.

“He’s very popular, he’s very popular in our community. Teddy Buckets receives the most requests of any we have. Really happy for (him) to have some national love. And he’s on stage, and I think that’s what he’s always dreamed of. It’s happening right now.

Jans added that Allen is unlike any player he has coached in his career. He has been at the junior college or Division I level since 1991 and is in his fifth season with the Aggies.

Allen’s coach said he was as unique as can be in terms of skill and build, later joking that his hand-eye coordination was so ‘off the charts’ he should take up golf .

“In practice he’ll be near the water cooler and I’ll whistle and it’ll be time to regroup and go, and he’ll just turn and throw a 28-footer and get the back of the net,” Jans said. “No one really recognizes him anymore.

“He’s like a pitcher who can throw it from different locations. He can do it when he shoots the ball if you really watch him.

“He’s the hardest working kid I’ve ever had. I’ve had some really tough kids, but he’s right there with the best players I’ve ever coached in terms of passion and the ethic of playing. work and investment in his game.

Stylistically, Allen’s on-court play is similar to that of former Arkansas guard Mason Jones, named the Associated Press’ 2020 SEC Co-Player of the Year. .

Allen leads New Mexico State in points (19.8 points), rebounds per game (6.9) and steals (40), and is second on the team with 88 assists. He is an 86.7 percent free throw shooter on 186 attempts.

Arkansas coach Eric Musselman was asked about preparing a player like Allen, who has something of an unorthodox style and is a tough shooter and maker.

“He’s really good, but I also have games scheduled for Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade,” he said. “I mean, he presents a lot of problems because of his ability to draw fouls. It has unlimited range.

The Aggies’ win over UConn seemed like a one-man show, but that’s not what they’ve been all season. Allen is the team’s best player, but five others are averaging at least 5.3 points per game.

Jabari Rice, a 6-4 redshirt junior guard, is second with 12.1 points per game. He will also take on the challenge of defending Razorbacks guard JD Notae.

Johnny McCants, a 6-7 forward from Las Cruces, NM, had 8.4 points and 5.2 rebounds. Defensively, the Aggies are one of the top 35 teams nationally in two- and three-point field goal defense, according to KenPom data.

“(Arkansas has) fire like us,” Rice said. “They have role players coming off the bench and making plays. I think if we keep a ground game like we did in this last game and really fight and scratch every possession and do it every time, we have a chance.

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