All posts by Matthew Damico

I am a guest contributor to the blog. I'm a general sports fan, but I love Minnesota sports. I also like track and field, Duke basketball, and Kobe Bryant. I know that the last one will infuriate my brother.

Why Duke’s Gerald Henderson Should Not Go Pro

I’m proud to say I’m a fan of Duke basketball.  It started when Christian Laettner hit the last shot in the best game in college basketball history.  I like seeing Duke succeed, and I like seeing Duke players do well in the NBA (which is not always the case).  So, with both of those motivations in mind, Gerald Henderson should stay at Duke for his senior year.  As usual, a list will help us figure out why.henderson1

1.  His NBA Stock

Henderson has NBA athleticism.  The man can hop like few people I’ve seen at his height.  This year it was fun to see some of his skills develop, specifically his jump shot.  Also, he developed an ability to take games over this year, largely in part to not needing to depend on his penetration.  Staying another year will allow him to improve those parts of his game and raise his stock as a draft pick.

2.  Duke Would be Awesome

The Blue Devils will be in good shape next year with scoreres Kyle Singler, Jon Scheyer, Nolan Smith, Lance Thomas, Elliott Williams, and two big incoming freshmen in Ryan Kelly (who is 6’10″ and won the McDonalds 3-Point Contest) and Mason Plumlee.  If Henderson stays, Duke could run away from the rest of the ACC.  They are only losing Greg Paulus and David McClure, which is okay by me.  The only thing that could keep them from winning the ACC is if Wake’s big 3 decide to come back. 

3.  National Championship

If Henderson decides to listen to my advice and come back to Duke, they could win a national championship.  It has been a few years since Duke has been to the Final Four, and I hope Henderson took notice of what happened at UNC this year.  A bunch of upper-classmen came back to win and, indeed, they did. 

If you’re reading this Mr. Henderson, I advise you to come back to Duke for one last hoorah.     

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.

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

Sweet 16 – Day 2 Preview

Well day 1 of the sweet 16 brought some surprises.  Apparently Missouri has a good basketball team.  And Duke seemed to forget that the round, orange thing is supposed to go into the round metal thing placed 10-feet above the floor with a net hanging from it.  But let’s talk about tonight.

Game 1: Arizona vs. Louisville

Louisville hasn’t exactly walked through their first two games, similar to Pitt.  However, their defense causes just enough chaos to get by, and I’m sure that will be the case tonight.  While Arizona has a future lottery pick in Jordan Hill, the ride for the 12-seeded Wildcats is over.  They weren’t supposed to get past the first round (or make the tourney, for that matter), so kudos to them on wearing this year’s glass slipper.  The only thingblake2 that could get in the way of Louisville’s advancing is their free-throw shooting.  Their best player, Terrence Williams, shoots an embarrassing 57% from the charity stripe. 

Prediction:  Louisville 68, Arizona 59

Game 2: Oklahoma vs. Syracuse

This is tonight’s best game in my opinion.  We get to see player of the year Blake Griffin take on a very tough team in Syracuse.  I will be cheering for Oklahoma as I really like how Griffin plays the game, but I don’t think they can handle Jonny Flynn and the Orange.  The Big East has been impressive thus far, and Syracuse is as good as their conference peers.  Something to keep in mind, however, is that Griffin is averaging 30.5 ppg so far in the tourney, and Syracuse won’t have an answer if he starts taking over.

Prediction:  Syracuse 76, Oklahoma 72

Game 3: Kansas vs. Michigan St.

It will be fun to watch Sherron Collins vs. Kalin Lucas.  Both are very quick point guards, although Collins could easily pound Lucas in a fight. Michigan St. won the teams’ first meeting on Jan 10 by a convincing 13-points, but I think that will change tonight.  Cole Aldrich has turned into a serious beast in the paint (remember colehim handling Hansbrough last year?), and he will be the difference after he posts a solid 20 & 12 tonight.

Prediction:  Kansas 63, Michigan St. 56

Game 4: Gonzaga vs. North Carolina

Can Gonzaga take advantage of UNC’s achilles heel?  Or, in this case, Ty Lawson’s toe?  While Psycho-T gets a lot of attention, it’s clear that Lawson is the one that makes this team tick.  I’m cheering for the Zags, but the Tar Heels will advance.

Prediction:  UNC 81, Gonzaga 68

In future Division I basketball news, the Hopkins boys team won their semi-final game last night despite their opponent, undefeated St. Cloud Tech, employing a complete stall of the game (no shot clock in MN).  Hopkins led at halftime 16-15.  They went on to win by about 20.  

Sweet 16 – Day 1 Preview

Big night of basketball ahead of us.  Some very nice match-ups and potential for…what’s the word….yes, madness

Game 1:  UConn vs. Purdue

The Big East can be defined by superior athletes, the Big 10 can be defined by half-court offense and a lot of white guys (maybe half-court offense and white guys are synonymous).  Purdue has had a nice tourney so far, but I don’t see it going any further than tonight.  I really like JaJuan Johnson and their coach, but they can’t handle UConn’s power.  Although…it will be interesting to see how UConn handles the latest recruiting allegations.  levance

Prediction:  UConn 84, Purdue 71

Game 2:  Pitt vs. Xavier

Pitt has had close calls in both of the early rounds and I think this has a chance to be a great game.  Xavier is actually taller than Pitt at just about every position, and they’ve got a big-time stud in B.J. Raymond.  Although my heart wants to pick Xavier, I’m gonna take Pitt for my bracket’s sake.  I don’t think the Muskateers have an answer for Pitt’s poing guard Levance Fields

Prediction:  Pitt 74, Xavier 72

Game 3:  Memphis vs. Missouri

I think Memphis is going to the final four.  I think they’ll win by 15 tonight. 

Prediction:  Memphis 79, Missouri 64

Game 4:  Duke vs. VillanovaGerald Henderson

This should be the game of the night.  It has the biggest upset potential (even though it’s a 2 vs. 3 game), and has some great athletes on display.  Duke has a 3-headed scoring machine in Gerald Henderson, Jon Scheyer, and Kyle Singler.  ‘Nova has a stud in Daunte Cunningham that could really give Duke some problems inside with his athleticism.  In recent history, Duke has had trouble with teams who are filled with athletes, and that certainly qualifies with ‘Nova’s roster.  But even though ‘Nova may have a more athletic squad as a whole, the best athlete in the tourney not named Blake Griffin happens to be Gerald Henderson

Prediction:  Duke 71, Villanova 65

High School Update:  For those of you who don’t know, I live in Hopkins, MN, which is home to one of the top-5 (ranked #4) high school boys basketball teams in the country.  Yesterday they won their first round game of the state tourney by 42 points.  Their entire starting line-up is going D-1, as well as a couple of reserves.  People are claiming (and legitimately so) that this Hopkins team has the best starting 5 in Minnesota high school basketball history.  I’m already planning on attending their state championship game this Saturday.

Day One Wrap-Up

Day One of the tournament proved uneventful for the most part.  One exciting game was the first of the day when Cal State Northridge gave Memphis a good run.  Another good one was watching American University (not to be confused with National American University, who I’m sure has an outstanding Online athletics program) lead much of their game against Villanova.  Neither, however, made game-of-the-day status.

 

A few notable points from Day One: Roburt Sallie

 

1.   Domination of the dayUConn manhandled Chatanooga with head coach Jim Calhoun in the hospital.  Their margin of victory (56) was the 3rd largest in the history of the tournament.

 

2.  Best name of the day:  Quincy Pondexter of Washington.  Runner-Up:  A.J. Slaughter of Western Kentucky.

 

3.  Performance of the dayMemphis’ Roburt Sallie.  The guy averaged 13 ppg this year, but exploded for 35 today, including 10 3-pointers!  He more or less won the game for Memphis.   

 

4.  Best game of the day:  UCLA vs. VCU.  VCU’s superstar Eric Maynor was short on a shot as the buzzer sounded that would’ve won them a trip to round two. 

 

5.  Upset of the day:  12-seed Western Kentucky over 5-seed Illinois.  This is the upset of the day simply because it was the only one.  I also picked this one. 

 

6.  My picks for day one:  a respectable 13/16.A.J. Abrams

 

7.  Gopher Review:   A.J. Abrams singlehandedly blew the game open against my beloved Gophers by hitting four of his eight 3-pointers in a 2:11 stretch.  As a result I will cease showing any respect to people named A.J.  Minnesota actually played a good game with the exception of those 131 seconds.  I said yesterday that A.J. Abrams would be the reason the Gophers could lose…unfortunately I was very right.