Good Year to be an NBA Fan

You have to love how the sports seasons align.  It really is brilliant.  Just when the NFL season ends, college basketball gets good.  Just when the Final Four ends, baseball starts and the NBA Playoffs are just around the riverbend.

For those who have not been paying attention, this has been a good year to be ankobe_lebron NBA fan.  A few reasons:

1.  Kobe vs. Lebron

David Stern must be loving life right now with these two guys playing in his league.  The two best players in the world happen to be playing on the two best teams in the league.  They both have charasmatic personalities and, by the time they’re both done, they will have established themselves as 2 of the top-10 players of all-time.  Yes, I just said that.

2.  Lakers vs. Celtics

Everybody likes history.  Having these two teams once again part of the league’s elite has been fun to watch.  The only thing better than seeing these two teams clash again in the Finals would be seeing Kobe vs. Lebron in the Finals.

3.  A Lot of Fun-to-Watch Talentroy

Dwight Howard is a physical freak.  Chris Paul brings the playground to the NBA and does it well.  Dwayne Wade is an absolute stud (in the class of Kobe and Lebron, but his team keeps him out of the #1 discussion above).  Chauncey Billups is reminding people that he is really good at basketball regardless of the team he’s onBrandon Roy is the new guy in town, and is making me more resentful of Kevin McHale with each game he plays (the T-Wolves drafted him and then traded him).

4.  The Spurs Aren’t Favorites 

I’ll be the first to say that I appreciate how the Spurs play.  The Big Fundamental is consistently underappreciated.  But I’ll also be the first to say that they are boring.  Effective?  Extremely.  Entertaining?  No.  They’ll make the playoffs, but now that Manu Ginobli is gone for the season, they won’t get far.  That leaves room for more fan-friendly teams like the Blazers and Jazz and…everybody else.

5.  The East is Back    

The Eastern Conference has basically been the JV version of the West since Michael Jordan retired (from the Bulls).  But now the East is home to 3 of the top 4 teams in the league with the Cavs, Celtics, and Magic leading the way.  Not to mention, the Atlanta Hawks play a pretty fun brand of team basketball, and Dwayne Wade always makes the Heat a dangerous squad.  

Lesson for today:  watch the NBA Playoffs this year.  You will not be disappointed.

Quick Hits 4/08/09

85329035TL028_Pittsburgh_PaSean Miller to Arizona

Miller finally expected the 11M – five year offer that Arizona first made Monday.  Early reports had Miller staying at Xavier, but Arizona is in a different class of basketball, and Xavier is losing a lot of talent this season,

Miller is a good fit got this program and he will have them back to winning quickly.  The first challenge will be to convince Jordan Hill and Nic Wise to stick around, but both have been rumored to be out the door. 

Here is an article from ESPN.com about Miller’s move to Arizona by Andy Katz.

Draft Declarers – Round 2:

This group, compared to the first group, is filled with at least three lottery-first round picks and a lot NBA potential.  Downey, Blair and Meeks should go back to school and as of now, have not hired agents.  While the rest should ahead and hire an agents.

With Budinger and Meeks, one must wonder if their decision was based on the new man who would be in charge of their team.  Budinger would have the unique grand slam of a new coach every year his has played if he had stayed for his senior season and Meeks would have had three with John Calipari. 

Top-25 in 2010

Since this season is over, why not immediately jump to next season and get an early look at the potential top teams in the country.

Yahoo.com gave this prediction for the top-25 teams for the 2010 season.  A good portion of the teams rankings are hinged on the decision of many key players.  No.1 Kansas would drop if Cole Aldrich and/or Sherron Collins declare for the draft (neither should).

Best Championship Team of the Decade

Foxsports.com had a post that ranked the best of the best in college basketball since 2000.  It uses Whatifsports.com which simulates games between any two teams, regardless of time, season, etc.

By the way, this years UNC team is third.

Congratulations to North Carolina: Upper Classmen Win

North CarolinaIt was a great performance and Roy Williams has done it again.  Congrats UNC.

In one of the most dominating championship games I can remember, North Carolina completed the mission and proved everyone right – UNC is the best team in the country.

As a basketball fan that has been very critical of Tyler Hansbrough, I must say that I was happy to see a TEAM led by upper clasmen who came back from testing the NBA waters and was able to finish the job.

Like Kansas, Florida, UNC in 2005 and UConn before, UNC had veteran leadership at every position and off the bench.  It proves home the point that you need upperclassmen to win a championship. 

Since the 1997 Arizona team that had a freshmen Mike Bibby running the point (still had Michael Dickerson and Miles Simon) and with the 2003 Syracuse team that was lead by Carmelo Anthony, Hakim Warrick and Gerry McNamara as an exception, every championship team has had strong leadership from juniors and seniors.

Look at the teams:

  1. 1998 - Kentucky:  Jeff Shepard, Nazr Mohammad, Scott Padgett, Wayne Turner, Heshimu Evans, and Cameron Mills
  2. 1999 - UConn:  Rip Hamilton, Jake Voskuhl, Kevin Freeman, and Ricky Moore
  3. 2000 - Michigan State:  Mateen Cleaves, Morris Peterson, Charlie Bell, and AJ Granger
  4. 2001 – Duke:  Shane Battier and Nate James
  5. 2002 - Maryland:  Juan Dixon, Lonny Baxter, Byraon Mouton, Steve Blake, and Drew Nicholas
  6. 2003 - Syracuse:  Kueth Duany
  7. 2004 - UConn:  Ben Gordon, Emeka Okafor, and Taliek Brown
  8. 2005 - UNC:  Raymond Felton, Sean May, Rashad McCants, Jawad Williams, Jackie Manuel, Melvin Scott, and David NoelTyler Hansbrough
  9. 2006 - Florida:  This is a slight expection to the rule, the leaders were sophomores, Al Horford, Jokin Noah, Turean Green and Corey Brewer.  But you still had Lee Humpry and Chris Richards play key roles.
  10. 2007 - Florida:  See above.  Juniors and Seniors this season.
  11. 2008 - Kansas:  Mario Chalmers, Darnell Jackson, Sasha Kuhn, Russell Robinson, and Brandon Rush. 
  12. 2009 - UNC:  Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington, Danny Green,  and Bobby Fraser                      *Marcus Ginyard played only three games due to injury and will apply for a medical reshirt. 

While “one-and-done” maybe the fade, the teams with the titles have juniors and seniors on their rosters.  That last sentence, is a double edge sword for coaches.  Do you recruit the top tier recruits who may leave after on year?  Or do you search for the four player who has the potential to get better every year?

This is where Roy Williams has a leg up on the the rest of the country.  As a freshmen committing to UNC, you know that the chance to get enough minutes to get looks from NBA scouts if tough.  So you come back. 

UNC will reload next season and should be competing again for an ACC title, but the young Tar Heel may struggle in certain situations.  Williams will look to relatively “new” players to lead the powder blue nation in tough games.

Either way, this team was impressive.

Carolina Vs. Michigan State

To set the right mood for this post, please imagine the guy with the crazy deep, resonant voice from the movie previews.  Now you can continue to read the following. 

Ford Field – music swells.

Two teams – spot lights on teams.

Two quests – cue video montage of highlights from season.

One Shining Moment. – Crowd roars – Cue music and explosions. 

Add own confetti for added flair and mess. 

Now we are all in the right state of mind to look at the last game of the 2008-09 Men’s College Basketball Season.  I will not “breakdown” these teams, we all know them well.  Instead, I will highlight a few aspects that could change the outcome or guarantee victory, or do neither.

1.  Pace - MSU has a more control tempo and chooses it’s spots to fast break.  While UNC throws it in fifth and punches the pedal the whole game putting the opposition in tough positions. 

2.  Rebounding - More specifically, offensive rebounding.

3.  The Referees - If the refs call it tight, the advantage goes to UNC.  If the refs let them play, Michigan State will have a chance.  Either way, I would rather see it called a little looser. 

4.  Raymar Morgan - Morgan must continue to be aggressive and affect play like he did against UConn, even if he is not scoring.Tom Izzo

5.  Coaching - Roy Willams is a great coach, but Tom Izzo is very Bill Belichick in his game planning. 

*Fashion conscious side-note- Izzo is a much better dresser than Belichick.

6.  Three point shooting - Both teams jack-up alot from distance.  MSU averages 15.2 shots from three a game and UNC 16.4.

7.  Share With The Other Kids - Out the six loses MSU has lost this season, five times their opponent had more assists.  

8.  Home Court Advantage – The game is in Detroit but UNC will not be scared.  It could give MSU a needed lift.

9.  Mascot – The Spartan carrys more fear and more of the “I’m going to kick your ass” factor than the Tar Heel.  I still have no clue what a Tar Heel really is.  I don’t think it is a ram.  Anyone? 

10.  Who I Want To Win – I would like to see Izzo and Michigan State complete this season “tie to legend”, with Bird and Magic in ’79.  Much like Kansas did last year with the anniversary of “Danny and the Miracles”. 

Even though I am an admitted Duke fan, I think I will feel a little bit of sympathy to UNC and the players that came back to win a championship and did not.  You rarely see that kind of dedication in the One and Done Era.  I have great respect for the talent of those players and for Williams. 

11.  UNC in Close Games - UNC has not won a tournament game by less than double-digits.  In the regular season, the Tar Heels had only ONE win that was fewer than eight points.  That was a 69-65 victory on the road at Miami in mid February.

Ty Lawson12.  Point and Counterpoint Ty Lawson or Kalin Lucas.  Both players are the main reason their teams are still playing.  Who ever plays better, their team will win.  Speed vs. Speed. 

 13.  Bench Production - MSU’s bench score 28 points per game, UNC’s scores 13.2 but even fewer in closer games.  Izzo expects production from the bench no matter how close the game.

 14.  Foul Trouble – Obvious I think.

15.  Annoucer – There have been a ton of combo’s with ESPN and CBS, but for all the is holy, Gus Johnson needs to calls this game!  PLEASE!

That covers it, everything that could possibly shift this game to either side.  I mus say that this is the best breakdown/preview I have done, EVER.  So much in depth details and just filled with vital data.

Enjoy the game.

I almost forgot – Prediction:  UNC 74, MSU 81

Michigan State over UConn

MSU Over UConnraymar-morgan

I must give credit where credit is due.  First, to Raymar Morgan who played the type of game the Spartans needed to get by UConn.  Morgan played a total of thirty minutes and had 18 points, 9 rebounds and five steals.  He was able to contribute because he was aggressive, but managed to stay out of foul trouble.

Second, to Tom Izzo who did it again.  I don’t think be people are going to over look or underestimate him any more.  He always has his team prepared and playing their best basketball when the games count the most.

Michigan was aggressive on both ends of the court and UConn was not able to get many easy shots.  The Huskies back court players shot 8-for-29 from the field and struggle to get any offensive going until the last minutes of the game.

Three key stats tat tell the whole story.

  • Assist totals for the game. UConn: 8, MSU: 18.
  • Steal totals for the game.  UConn 5, MSU: 11.
  • While UConn went to the foul-line 33 times (13 more times then MSU), they only managed to shot 63.6%

It seemed as though UConn had forgot that they had a massive height advantage on the post and was content to force one-on-one action that rarely lead to a made field goal.kalin-lucas

Michigan State did not shot a great deal better, they did get most of their shots in half court sets or fast breaks.  The latter seemed to be surprising for Jim Calhoun’s team, I guess the expected a half court grind-fest instead of a track meet.

Even with Goran Suton not playing a great game, it was the type of game the Spartans needed to play to win the game, tough defense, strong rebounding, and Raymar Morgan finally played with a purpose.

I forgot to mention that Kalin Lucas is the man.

Moment of  Self Promotion:  My predited score was off only with the MSU score, and by only 4 points.  I was on target with UConn.

Final Four Preview: Michigan State vs. UConn

Before I get to the long awaited preview/breakdown of the Tom Izzo and Jim Calhoun cage match, just a couple quick hits.

  • First - Congrats to Joe Pa U as Penn State defeated Baylor to win the NIT Championship – nice to go out on a win, no matter what.
  • Second – What is going on in Arizona?  Is there some horrible smell that repels coaches?  Something is a little fishy.  That said, Tim Floyd is exactly where he needs to be at USC – aka OJ Mayo NBA Prep School.
  • Third - I will take any of the coaching openings anywhere in D1 – I will even pay for my own move.

Why UConn Will Win?Connecticut Seton Hall Basketball

The front court of Hasheem Thabeet, Stanley Robinson and Jeff Adrien (7’3″, 6’9″ and 6’7″) is taller, longer and stronger than the MSU bigs of Goran Suton, Delvon Roe, and Raymor Morgan (6’10”, 6’8″ and 6’8″).  The Huskies big man will need to add some scoring, but it ultimately comes down to Thabeet’s ability to change shots and keep the MSU guards out of the lane.

Kemba Walker had a break out game with 23 points on 7-for-9 from the floor and 9-for-10 from the foul line in 25 minutes against Missouri.  Craig Austrie and A.J. Price are the Huskies only real outside threats, but should be able to get their shots off over the smaller Spartan back court.

For UConn to win, they must win the battle on the block in scoring and not get out rebounded by a Spartans team that crashed the broads very hard.

Why MSU Will Win?

Early in the season, the Spartans were out of sink and struggled to regain their rhythm, and then the hit their stride about the time the Goran Suton returned to 100%.  In their win to get the Final Four, Suton had a double-double with 19 and 10, shooting 3-for-5 from deep and dishing out five assists carrying the team to Detroit.Michigan St Minnesota Basketball

Tom Izzo would love for Morgan to actually play some meaningful minutes, Morgan has been invisible since the first round match-up with Robert Morris.  He has only scored 23 points and 10 rebounds all tourney long and played only 10 foul-plagued minutes in the win over Louisville.  Roe has not been any better, he has scored only 16 points and grabbed three rebounds all tournament long.  He has not had a rebound in the last three games.

Even if Suton is the final piece to the Spartan puzzle, Kalin Lucas is still the most important player in green.  Much like Ty Lawson is to UNC, Lucas makes this team go.  If Lucas is able to catch fire and still get the ball to other talented shooters, MSU will win.

Deal Breaker:

The benches.  The Huskies only three, mostly two deep on their bench with Walker and forward Gavin Edwards.  The Spartans easily go four or five off the pine.  Expect to see major minutes from guards Chris Allen, Durrell Summers, and forward Draymond Green.  Michigan State has better talent coming off the bench.

Prediection

There are few coaches that prepare their teams better than Izzo (i.e. Louisville) and with a week to prepare, I am feel that Izzo has the team ready to play.  I have been doubting Michigan State all tourney and I  have a feeling that they are going to win just to spite me and my many brackets that I had them losing to USC.

Michigan State 78, UConn 73.

Blake Griffin is a Rare Treat

Nobody’s surprised, but Blake Griffin won the AP National Player of the Year Award. BASKETBALL/NCAA

I hope everybody realizes what a rare player he is.  Athletically he is a freak, that’s obvious.  He made Tyler Hansbrough look fairly average last week in the tourney.  But he couples that athleticism with solid fundamentals, playing good defense and rebounding like an animal (he led the country in rebounding).

Mostly, he is rare because he doesn’t celebrate much, you often see him helping players from the opposite team off the floor, and he is a family man.  The primary reason he returned for his sophomore year (and went to OU in the first place) was because he respects his older brother’s opinion.  He and Taylor Griffin won multiple state championships at Oklahoma Christian School.

And lastly (just take a minute to watch these)…anybody who hustles like this while having the ability to do this is ok in my book.

Good luck in the NBA Mr. Griffin.

Final Four Preview – UNC vs. ‘Nova

Both Final Four games offer great match-ups.  In the UNC vs. Villanova game, however, the game boils down to two specific match-ups.  Let’s take a little look-see.ty

1.  The ‘Nova backcourt vs. Ty Lawson

Ty Lawson is one of the best point guards in the country.  Good toe or bad, he runs the transition game at an extremely efficient level.  He’s one of those guys who is able to run just as fast dribbling the ball as he does without it.  He’s also a pretty solid offensive threat himself, he’s been averaging about 20 points to go along with his 7 assists in the tourney so far.  People can say all they want about Hansbrough, but Lawson is the key to them winning.

However, if there is one team who can slow him down, it’s Villanova.  In their athletic backcourt you will see:  Scottie Reynolds, Corey Fisher, Reggie Redding, and Corey Stokes.  They’ve already slowed down some of the best guards and shooters they’ve faced in the tourney so far (Gerald Henderson, Jon Scheyer, Levance Fields, Jrue Holiday).  The game will be decided in the backcourt.

2.  Tyler Hansbrough vs. Dante Cunninghamdante

I’m hoping they’ll defend each other, because this is an interesting match-up.  Cunningham is certainly the more athletic of the two, but he may have trouble with the bigger Hansbrough.  Cunningham is averaging 19 points and 8 boards in the tourney, and is really the leader of the team.  If Psycho T is defending Dante, I suggest ‘Nova employ a similar tactic to Oklahoma, give Cunningham the ball early and try to get Hansbrough on the bench with foul trouble.

Though it’s clear that Lawson is the best player for the Heels and is the floor leader, Hansbrough is the emotional leader.  When he gets going and starts banging his chest, it makes their fans go crazy, the TV commentators usually start drooling over him, and the Tar Heels are tough to stop.  But, if ‘Nova and Cunningham and neutralize him with foul trouble like Oklahoma did, and make some outside shots, unlike Oklahoma, it could be a very good game.

Interesting Side Story: Lawson and Cunningham used to play together as kids.

I’m picking with my heart on this one.  In my opinion, the Big East has proved to be better than the ACC, and ‘Nova has played tough teams all year.

Prediction:  ‘Nova 82, UNC 76

North Dakota State’s Ben Woodside Continues to get Some Love

As a living legend in Fargo, there is not much else Ben Woodside can do that would improve his status in North Dakota. But for the rest of the basketball world, he is relatively a new commodity.

That being said, Woodside was named an All-American Honorable Mention by the AP and has been invited to play in an All-Star game at the Final Four in Detroit.  The game will feature 20 seniors whose teams are no longer playing.

CBS will be airing the game, but no details have been released at the moment.

Here is an article from my local paper.

Good Luck Woody.  I am sure you will do well.