Friday, November 30, 2007

Game-Planning 3: Jimmy V Edition

Yes, over fourteen years ago the late Jimmy Valvano gave a speech for the ages. Everyday we should laugh, think, and cry. Those were the words he preached to us before his passing. So, without any further delay I would like to start this edition of Game-Planning.

1st Quarter- Duke at Davidson

Winner: Duke

Why They'll Win: Most of you are probably asking why I even chose this game. Well, I've got a couple reasons for you. One, this Davidson team is the team that gave North Carolina so much trouble earlier in the season. Two, Duke is on the verge of getting back to where they were two years ago. And, three, I honestly can't wait to see the backcourts go head-to-head. To me, Davidson, has the best mid-major backcourt in the entire country featuring Richards and Curry. Starting with the former, Richards is the senior point guard with the Wildcats and is currently averaging 11 points and 9 assists. The shooting guard, Stephen Curry, is averaging an astonishing 27 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists as a sophomore. These two are a great duo and one can only wonder how they will do against Duke's Paulus and Nelson. After reading that you most likely think that Davidson sounds as if they're the clear winner. Hardly. The frontcourt is where the Blue Devils will dominate. One of the most potent freshman in the nation, Kyle Singler (14 pts, 7 reb), fellow freshman Taylor King (11 pts, 51% from deep), and Lance Thomas (6 pts, 3 reb) are the leaders for them down low. Two of the three (King and Singler) can stretch the defense from three as well.

When To Watch: Saturday, December 1st at noon eastern time on ESPNU.

2nd Quarter- Gonzaga at Connecticut

Winner: Connecticut

Why They'll Win: UConn is back...enough to pull out a win over the Bulldogs. At 5-1, the Huskies are hardly the team of last year. They are led by A.J. Price (13 pts, 5 ast, 4 reb), Hasheem Thabeet (11 pts, 10 reb), and Jerome Dyson (14 pts, 5 reb, 3 ast). They have 6 players averaging at least 20 minutes a game and are poised to be back atop the Big East this year. Gonzaga is ranked 19th as I type this and are fresh off an overtime win over St. Joe's. Their backcourt is headed by Matt Bouldin (14 pts, 4 reb, 3 ast) and Jeremy Pargo (11 pts, 5 ast, 4 reb). Down low is the sensational freshman, Austin Daye, who's putting up 14 points and 5 rebounds per contest. The Bulldogs' only loss so far has come at the hands of Bob Knight and Texas Tech. However, their wins are unimpressive. Montana, Idaho, and UC Riverside started off their year. They have what you'd call a cupcake schedule to start the season.

When To Watch: Saturday, December 1st on ESPN at 3:30pm eastern time.

Halftime Thoughts-

Who would have thought BYU would have been in the game with North Carolina in Las Vegas last Saturday? Wait a second, who even thought they would make it past Louisville in the semifinals? I'm guessing not too many of you did. Well, I can guarantee you that they aren't any kind of one-hit wonders. The Cougars are here to stay...for the season, anyways. Currently, they are ranked 21st in the Associated Press poll. BYU is led by junior big man Trent Plaisted (19 pts, 9 reb), who some consider to be the Tyler Hansbrough of the West, and sophomore sharpshooter Jonathan Tavernari (17 pts, 6 reb). The latter made 6 threes against UNC, including 5 in the first half, to account for all of his points in the game. The former was even more magnificent in the game, scoring 24 points and grabbing 17 rebounds.

The burning question in Westwood right now is whether or not the Bruins will be able to recover from all these injuries they're suffering right now. Aboya, Roll, and, most significant, Collison are all recovering. The team's bright spot is obviously freshman Kevin Love, who's putting up 18 points and 11 rebounds (both team highs). Some would consider Collison's 14 points and 5 assists as a reason to answer yes to the question but you have to remember that it was against a less than formidable opponent in George Washington.

I will conclude the Halftime Thoughts by saying the Big Ten/ACC Challenge is a joke and it isn't very competitive. In nine consecutive years, the Atlantic Coast Conference has made buffoons out of their opposing conference and this year is no different. Quite Simply, the Big Ten can't match the talent of the ACC. College basketball should find another conference duel. Suggestions? I was thinking an ACC/Pac-10 one would be intriguing or even a ACC/Big East Challenge. Anything but what they have now.

3rd Quarter- Kansas at USC

Winner: Kansas

Why They'll Win: The Jayhawks are sitting pretty at number four in both polls with a 6-0 record. Sherron Collins (16 pts, 5 ast, 4 reb), Mario Chalmers (12 pts, 5 ast, 3 reb), and three other Kansas players are averaging double figures in points. Darrell Arthur leads the team in rebounding with 6 a game and Chalmers is their best threat from behind the arc (he's shooting 48% on 23 attempts). USC is led by their ballhog-at-times OJ Mayo. Yes, he's averaging 21 points and 5 rebounds yet only 3 assists to almost 5 turnovers. To top it all off, Mayo has shot 116 times this year. Next on the team would be Dwight Lewis with (get ready for it) 58 times! As a point guard, OJ's job is distributing the ball yet no one else is getting shots. That's ludicrous. I'm predicting that Kansas will win by 10-15 points.

When To Watch: Sunday, December 2nd at 2pm eastern time on FSN.

4th Quarter- Texas at UCLA

Winner: Texas

Why They'll Win: I'm calling the upset here. The Bruins (as I mentioned before) are hampered by injuries. The Longhorns, to the contrary, seemed to have forgotten all about Kevin Durant. A.J. Abrams has picked up the scoring load averaging 21 points and D.J. Augustin (18 pts, 7 ast) is looking as if he's a little Steve Nash clone out on the floor. Three other players are always scoring in double figures for Texas, a feat that would not be possible without the departure of a certain superstar. But enough with the allusions, let's move on to UCLA. Kevin Love is the main man for the Bruins this year. As I mentioned before, he's scoring 18 points and 11 rebounds per game. Three other players (Shipp, Collison, Westbrook) are also averaging double figures in points. Mata-Real is helping out Love with the rebounding which is evident from his 7 rebounds per game average.

When To Watch: Sunday, December 2nd on FSN at 8pm eastern time.

Overtime- USC at Memphis

Winner: Memphis

Why They'll Win: I don't think this will be much of a game mainly because I don't think the Trojans have the talent or coaching to compete with Memphis. Calipari has his men running his system (Princeton on steroids) perfectly. Chris Douglas-Roberts is the scorer on the team averaging 22 points to go along with 6 boards. The fabulous freshman, Derrick Rose (17 pts, 5 reb, 4 ast), is leading the break for the Tigers; Joey Dorsey and Robert Dozier are shouldering the rebounding load averaging 9 and 8 rebounds, respectively. Of their six games, Memphis have only scored under 80 points once and have eclipsed the century mark twice.

When To Watch: Tuesday, December 4th at 9pm eastern time on ESPN.

Here's a video every single reader should watch. It's Jim Valvano's 1993 ESPY speech.

To donate money to the V Foundation, go to the website by clicking here. Have a nice weekend, everyone.

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Friday, November 23, 2007

Game-Planning 2

Well, for the second edition of Game-Planning I will be doing individual games which should be the norm for a while.

1st Quarter- Arizona at Kansas

Winner: Kansas

Why They'll Win: The Jayhawks look great this year. They are poised to take the Big 12 crown this year and early season tests such as Arizona are good for them. However, I still don't think Arizona will win. They've got Chase Budinger and Jerryd Bayless back but not much else. Kansas has everything and everyone back except Julian Wright. They're 4-0 right now and haven't scored less than 85 points in a game. Sherron Collins is scoring 16 points a game while adding a team-high 5 assists. Four other players are also averaging double-figures. Now, the Wildcats are sitting at 3-1. They suffered their first loss to Virginia by three points. Since then they've been killing their opponents but I guess that doesn't mean much when they've only played UMKC and Adams State in that time. Bayless (18 pts, 5 reb, 6 ast) and Budinger (17 pts, 5 reb, 5 ast) are the lead men for this team. Knowing this, I got Kansas.

When To Watch: Sunday, November 25th at 8pm eastern time on ESPN.

2nd Quarter- Wisconsin at Duke

Winner: Duke

Why They'll Win: The Blue Devils are 5-0 and fresh off a Maui Invitational championship. They're looking great out there and Wisconsin shouldn't be much of a problem. The freshman sensation Kyle Singler is averaging 16 points and 7 rebounds. Six players are averaging 20+ minutes per game. Now, the Badgers are 4-0 and, to me, seem underrated. Yes, they lost Alando Tucker, but that doesn't mean they're a bad team. Trevon Hughes is scoring 20 points while grabbing 5 boards and dishing out 3 assists. Down low, Brian Butch is putting up 16 points while grabbing a team-high 10 rebounds per contest. Also, don't discount Derrick Rose's high school and AAU teammate, Michael Flowers. He's averaging 7 points, 2 rebounds, and 3 assists as a freshman. In the end though, Wisconsin just doesn't stack up against the big bad Blue Devils.

When To Watch: Tuesday, November 27th on ESPN at 9pm eastern time.

Halftime Thoughts-

Michael Beasley. I honestly can't believe it. It seems we have this year's Kevin Durant. Beasley is averaging 30 points and 18 rebounds while leading his team to a 3-1 start. My only gripe? His shooting 69% from the line. Of course, I guess he makes up for it by 63% from the field and 44% from deep.

The Tennessee Volunteers are 4-0 right now and Chris Lofton ISN'T the main reason. He's averaging a paltry 12 points per game and hasn't taken more than 13 in a game. This tells me a couple of things. First, Lofton isn't forcing shots because most defenses are keying in on him. Second, his teammates must be stepping up somewhat to make up for his struggles. Now I wondered, "who is that teammate(s) stepping up?" Well, JaJuan Smith is scoring 17 points a game. The other two Smiths are both averaging 12 per contest. I guess for Coach Pearl it doesn't really matter who's scoring just as long as someone putting the ball in the hoop.

Gonzaga will be facing their first real test of the season tonight against Texas Tech. The Bulldogs are ranked 14th with a record of 4-0 thanks in large part to Austin Daye (16 pts, 5 reb, 2 ast), Jeremy Pargo (14 pts, 4 reb, 4 ast), and Matt Bouldin (12 pts, 5 reb, 3 ast). They have impressed me so far and will need to keep up with other improving mid-majors such as Davidson and George Mason.

3rd Quarter- NC State at Michigan St.

Winner: Michigan St.

Why They'll Win: I know this isn't what you'd call a "marquee" matchup but the early season isn't very good and this will have to do. Anyways, NC State, fresh off a win over South Carolina, is somewhat strong this year. They are predicted by some to finish as high as third in the ACC. But let's not forget how they surprised everyone late in the season last year. They'll probably give MSU a game (within 10 points) but they won't be able to pull it off. Tom Izzo knows how to get his team to play hard out there and win when the going gets tough. They are a top two team in the Big Ten and are led by senior Drew Neitzel who's putting up a solid 15 points and 4 rebounds.

When To Watch: Wednesday, November 28th at 7pm eastern time on ESPN.

4th Quarter- North Carolina at Ohio State

Winner: North Carolina

Why They'll Win: This game doesn't really bode well for the Buckeyes. I mean, Tyler Hansbrough (22 pts, 10 reb) will match up well with Kosta Koufos (20 pts, 8 reb) and I really haven't seen Koufos go up against a really good big man yet--although I will tonight. Also, Jamar Butler (16 pts, 6 ast) is overmatched by Ty Lawson (10 pts, 6 ast) at the point. Then you have to consider the Tar Heels' depth and how great it is. They have eight players logging 15 minutes or more each game. But one guy UNC must watch out for is Jon Diebler. He's a freshman and has a beautiful tough from deep. He's had a rough start to the season but should pick it up eventually. As a side note, he was Ohio's Mr. Basketball last year.

When To Watch: Wednesday, November 28th at 9pm eastern time on ESPN.

Overtime- Oregon at Kansas State

Winner: Kansas State

Why They'll Win: To me, this game is very, very intriguing. The Ducks are a top team with a lot of experience and Kansas State is completely led by freshman. As I mentioned earlier, Michael Beasley is averaging 30 points and 18 rebounds. However, another freshman by the name of Bill Walker is no slouch either. He's contributing a solid 12 points and 5 rebounds for the Wildcats. But after those two there really isn't anyone that will hurt the Ducks (trust me, it's enough). Now, Oregon is still regrouping from their disappointing loss to St. Mary's...who? They are led by Malik Hairston (20 pts, 5 reb) and Maarty Leunen (16 pts, 11 reb). As a team they are shooting 51% from the field and are averaging 90 points a game. It will be interesting to see how this game plays out.

When To Watch: Thursday, November 29th on ESPN2 at 9pm eastern time.

In addition, I think you should check out this video about the most exciting team in the entire nation, the Memphis Tigers.

Thoughts From the NIT

On Wednesday I made the pilgrimage that every basketball fan deserves to make at least once in his or her lifetime. I made that trip to Manhattan to see four college basketball teams play in the grandest arena in all the land. Of course, I'm referring to Madison Square Garden. Two games were played that night and neither came down to a last-second shot. However, both were great games to watch. Surprisingly, it wasn't that big of a crowd even though Syracuse was playing in the second game.

In the first game, the Washington Huskies and Texas A&M Aggies squared off. The latter was ranked 16th in the AP Poll. Washington jumped out to a fast start in the early going. Brockman was key in scoring his team's first 7 points. At halftime, he had already recorded a double-double. I wondered how long he could keep up his stellar play.

Well, Turgeon's crew answered that question for me. At the start of the second half the Aggies looked good. Joseph Jones (17 pts, 9 reb) was playing well and so was...DeAndre Jordan? Yes. This kid reminded me of young Dwight Howard. He scored 8 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. A couple of his points ended in thunderous dunks. Brockman, on the other hand, finished the game with 21 points and 15 rebounds. Anyways, the Aggies took their first lead since the beginning of the game four minutes into the second half.

In the next 10 minutes of the game the two teams would battle closely for the lead. Neither went ahead by more than four or five points. But then the game broke open in favor of Texas A&M right after they called a 20-second timeout. Brockman had cooled off and his opponents were clicking. Washington was outscored 22-9 in those remaining minutes. Fifteen of A&M's were scored from the foul line as they converted well when the game really mattered. It ended with a score of 77-63 but the game was a whole lot better than that.

In the final game of the night, the Syracuse Orange took on the Ohio State Buckeyes in what seemed to be just another home game for 'Cuse. The Orange were 21st in the polls and the Buckeyes were unranked but none of that seemingly mattered to one determined freshman. Kosta Koufos was the biggest surprise of the entire night. He had 24 points and 9 rebounds. Interesting enough, his shooting touch was uncanny for a 7-footer like himself.

Donte Green did his best for Syracuse by hitting two 3-pointers early on. Later in the half, Eric Devendorf got his team going with some pretty layups. Now, most would think that Ohio State would be weak without a good guard. Trust me, they have one. Jamar Butler controlled the tempo very well and asserted himself when necessary. He finished with 14 points, 5 assists, and 3 steals on only 9 shots.

Ohio State really took control of the game in the final five minutes of the first half. A three-point lead turned into a ten-point lead as the players headed for their locker rooms. After that, the closest Syracuse came was three points early on in the second half. The Buckeyes kept their lead right around ten points for most of the remaining time.

Worth mentioning was the quiet yet very good job Paul Harris did for the Orange. He had only 10 points but helped his team in other ways with 12 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block. Also worth mentioning is the horrid play of Eric Devendorf in the second half. He kept chucking up threes at the wrong time. Devendorf also earned himself a technical and the crowd was disappointed to see him give up on playing hard late in the game. OSU won 79-65.

In conclusion, I think Syracuse lost the game themselves more than the Buckeyes won it. Yes, Ohio State made a good portion of their shots down the stretch but Syracuse completely changed in the last 25 minutes of the game. To start the game Syracuse made some great interior passes to get high-percentage shots. Then the Buckeyes started packing it in and Syracuse was settling for outside shots which weren't falling (especially for Devendorf).

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Awards From Around The NBA

The "I-Can't-Believe-They-Actually-Have-A-Good-Record" Award:

This was a tie between two teams. The Orlando Magic (8-2) and the New Orleans Hornets (8-2) have been surprising people immensely this season. The Magic have faced formidable foes such as the Pistons, Suns, Cavs, and Nets. They've gone 2-2 in those games and have been led my MVP candidate Dwight Howard. He's averaging 22 points, 15 boards, and 2 blocks per contest. Rashard Lewis (21 pts, 5 reb, 3 ast) and Jameer Nelson (13 pts, 7 ast, 4 reb) have also been key contributors in their, so far, great start. Moving on, the Hornets may be even more surprising based solely on the division they play in. The Southwest is the deepest and toughest division in the NBA hands down. No other division even compares. They've posted impressive wins over Denver and New Jersey while suffering loses to the Spurs and Trailblazers. N.O. is led by third-year point guard Chris Paul (20 pts, 11 ast, 3 stl). He's been the playmaker out there and his game is looking a lot like Steve Nash's right now, maybe even better. A healthy Peja Stojakovic has helped them a good amount but who would have thought David West would be their number one scoring option? I sure as hell didn't. He's averaging 21 points and 8 rebounds per game.

The "I-Can't-Believe-They-Actually-Have-A-Bad-Record" Award:

This one definitely goes to the Chicago Bulls. They're are 1-6 right now and look terrible. At least the Heat have an excuse for their horrendous record. The Bulls have nothing. Their opponents are outscoring them by an average of 10 points per game. Ben Gordon is the leading scoring with 19 ppg. They only have 4 guys putting up double-figures in the points column. Not one person is averaging 8 or more boards a night. They have 5 guys averaging two or more turnovers a game and are shooting 79% from the line. The Bulls look like they are in utter discombobulation out there. Skiles needs to bring some order to his team.

The "My-Team-Sucks-But-I-Dominate" Award:

And the winner is...Baron Davis! He's averaging 25 points, 10 assists, 4 rebounds, 2 steals, and 1 block per game but his team is 1-6 and in last place in the Pacific Division. They lost to Utah in the opener by 19 points. In that game, Baron scored 25 points, dished out 10 assists, had 5 steals, 4 rebounds, and 2 blocks! He was unstoppable yet the rest of his team was a disgrace and struggled in the 12 minutes he spent on the bench during the game.

The "We're-Always-Good-So-Don't-Expect-Otherwise" Award:

This one goes to the Phoenix Suns. They have a record of 7-2 and are currently riding a four-game winning streak. Steve Nash is averaging 19 points, 10 assists, and 4 rebounds. Shawn Marion is averaging 18 points and 12 rebounds. Amare Stoudemire is averaging 15 points and 7 rebounds. And, finally, Grant Hill is putting up 14 points and 5 rebounds per contest. Same-old, same-old, right?

The "I-Better-Get-My-MVP-Award-This-Year-Or-Else" Award:

Kobe Bryant. This guy has to be angry. He puts up great numbers every year but the media hates him so he never wins. This year he's averaging 28 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists while leading his team to a respectable record of 5-3. He's more well-rounded this year than in years past and is showing that he can help the Lakers contend with the Suns. They dominated Phoenix in their first meeting in which Kobe only scored 16 points BUT he did grab 11 rebounds, dish out 4 assists, and steal the ball 3 times. And you can't look past his 45 points against the Rockets in the opener.

The "I'm-The-Best-Rookie-No-Contest" Award:

This award was an easy pick. It goes to Kevin Durant of the Seattle soon-to-be OK City SuperSonics. Someone needs to tell him that he's not in Austin anymore. KD is averaging 20 points and 5 rebounds. During a period of three games he averaged 26 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists. No other rookie is really coming close to putting up those kind of numbers. Many of you may have heard of Stephen A. Smith, right? Well, Stephen A. compared Durant to a better version of George Gervin. This one really is no contest...for now.

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Friday, November 16, 2007

Game-Planning 1: Weekend Kickoff Edition

This will be a weekly segment I will do and it will usually be posted Thursday night but I thought I would kick it off on a weekend where most people have nothing better to do other than read brand new blogs. Anyways, the idea of this will be for me to make 5 predictions for college basketball games in the upcoming week. (Note: For this festive occasion I will be doing SIX preseason tournaments instead of five individual games.) As time goes on I will develop a record and everyone will see how good--or bad--I am at picking winners. Enjoy...

1st Quarter- CBE Classic

Winner: UCLA
Runner-Up: Michigan State

Breakdown: #2 UCLA has everything clicking this year. They return four starters from last year in Collison, Shipp, Mbah a Moute, and Mata-Real. And, how could you forget, they have one of the best freshman in the country this year in Kevin Love. He averaged 34 points and 17 rebounds playing high school ball last year. I think the Bruins have a good mix of experience, talent, and great coaching. That being said, Michigan State is definitely no pushover. They return the second-best senior in the country (Drew Neitzel; behind Tennessee's Chris Lofton) and the other four starters from last season. The problem with them, however, is they don't have a ton of talent after Neitzel.

When To Watch: The championship will be November 20th. But first the Bruins must beat Maryland and the Spartans must beat Missouri.

2nd Quarter- Preseason NIT

Winner: Texas A&M
Runner-Up: Syracuse

Breakdown: I made two very difficult decisions. The one was picking the Orange over Ohio State and the other was picking the Aggies to upset Syracuse in front of, virtually, a home crowd. However, I really don't think Syracuse will be able to hold it together for two games in a row and will most likely let down their guard in the championship after a tough OSU game. A&M, losing senior leader Acie Law IV, has a new coach and a new star player. Josh Carter will have to become the go-to-guy for Turgeon's men this year. To help him out are two of last year's starters in Dominique Kirk and Joseph Jones. Syracuse is led by a stellar recruiting class this year but definitely don't have much experience. I doubt the freshman will be able to be the main production for a team in their first BIG game at Madison Square Garden (more will come, I'm sure).

When To Watch: The championship is November 23rd. Both teams need to advance past the semifinals which will be held this Wednesday, the 21st.

Halftime Thoughts-

I am NOT sold on OJ Mayo. Quite frankly, he's a ball hog and only thinks about himself out on the court. To top it off, he has off-the-court issues which have been nagging him since early high school. On the bright side, he had 32 points in his collegiate debut. Of course, he shot 12 for 27 from the field and committed 8 turnovers. Also, he dished out only 4 assists and seemed out of control most of the game.

Huge fan of Memphis frosh Derrick Rose right here. He's averaging 18 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists in 28 minutes a game. He hasn't shot more than 16 field goals compared to Mayo (see above). He'll have quite the challenge tonight against UConn though. It will be interesting to see how he fares.

Enough of the freshmen, I want to talk about the interesting North Carolina vs. Davidson game that was played two nights ago. UNC barely pulled one out in their 72-68 victory over an elite mid-major school (take note of the oxymoron). Interestingly enough, I wasn't as surprised with the Tar Heels' struggles as I was Davidson's success against the number one team in the country. Specifically, I was thoroughly impressed with their guards, Curry and Richards, who made names for themselves on national television. Curry was doing the scoring (24 pts) and Richards was getting his teammates easy buckets (8 ast).

3rd Quarter- Great Alaska Shootout

Winner: Michigan
Runner-Up: Gonzaga

Breakdown: This is going to be one hell of an upset. Gonzaga (#16) vs. Michigan is going to be a coaching battle. The best innovator in college basketball, John Beilein, will be taking on the best mid-major coach right now, Mark Few. Michigan has a new offense (5-Out) and are poised to disrupt at least a few top teams this year. Why not start now? Gonzaga is led by Jeremy Pargo who averaged 12 points and 5 assists last season while playing behind Derek Raivio. They also have Heytvelt, Bouldin, and Pendergraft that will definitely be playing roles on both ends of the floor. I'm still taking the underdog with a crazy-good coach when they're playing with nothing to lose.

When To Watch: November 24th is the championship date but the tournament has not yet started.

4th Quarter- Legends Classic

Winner: Tennessee
Runner-Up: Texas

Breakdown: Bruce Pearl's squad will live up to their lofty ranking in this one while taking down a talented, yet Kevin Durant-less, Texas team. The Volunteers are led by Chris Lofton (POY favorite) and are backed by returning starters in Ramar Smith, Jajuan Smith, and Wayne Chism. They have a very good transfer in Tyler Smith as well. The 'Horns can hardly contend with such a great group of players which is why I have them falling short. The interesting thing about them is that they return all their starters EXCEPT Durant. The big question mark on this team is whether or not they'll be able to make up for the scoring and rebounding that KD took with him to the pros. Their best bet is relying on sophomore D.J. Augustin who averaged 14 points last season.

When To Watch: The championship is November 24th and the semifinals are the night before.

Overtime- Maui Invitational

Winner: Duke
Runner-Up: Marquette

Breakdown: The fascinating thing about this preseason tournament is that every year they have amazing games yet lack a deep field of teams. This year the only top 25 teams are the ones I have matching up in the final game. Duke is led by their two upperclassmen, DeMarcus Nelson and Greg Paulus, and also receive much-needed contributions from Gerald Henderson and Kyle Singler. Now, the Golden Eagles of Marquette are somewhat overrated in my opinion. They have a good group of guards but I wonder if their frontcourt will hurt them. Plus, they've had a complete joke of a schedule leading up to this. They've played IUPUI (which they only won by 8) and Utah Valley State. Who? Coach K will have his guys ready. End of story.

When To Watch: The championship game will be November 21st but you might want to check out the semifinal matchups as well (Nov. 20th). A couple years ago they featured Michigan State and Gonzaga which took three overtimes to decide a winner.

2nd Overtime- Las Vegas Invitational

Winner: North Carolina
Runner-Up: Louisville

Breakdown: Okay, so this tournament typically isn't very good but this year it features two GREAT teams. I honestly think that the Tar Heels will come back very strong after their letdown against Davidson. They are led by their three returning starters: Hansbrough, Ellington, and Lawson. Most likely all three will be first round draft picks when they decide to go. Louisville won't go down without a fight though. They are one of the deepest teams in all of college basketball this year and have a great coach to help them work together. Edgar Sosa seemingly wants some redemption from last March's heartbreaking defeat at the hands of Texas A&M.

When To Watch: November 24th is the championship day on the Strip and this game is a can't-miss event. I really don't see either of these teams losing in the semifinals either.

Poll Results- In a recent poll about who will have the best record in the Wester Conference, 80% of the voters chose the Phoenix Suns while the other 20% thought Dallas would have the best record for the second year in a row.

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Thursday, November 8, 2007

Tidbits To Start The Season

Good Surprises:

1. New Orleans Hornets (4-1) - They have a good record and are looking great with a healthy Peja (17 pts). Chris Paul (18 pts, 5 reb, 12 ast) is playing fantastic as his game is reminiscent of Steve Nash. On top of all that Tyson Chandler is contributing 12 points and 12 boards per contest.

2. Houston Rockets (4-1) - They are in the same division as the Hornets and are probably better than the team from NO but they are lower on this list because unlike the Hornets they were predicted to make the playoffs. But, c'mon, who would have guessed T-Mac would be averaging 29 points (high of 47 on opening night), 5 rebounds, and 6 assists? Yao is doing his part as well while adding 21 points and 11 rebounds.

3. Indiana Pacers (3-1) - This was a tough call. It was between the Pacers and the Clippers (4-0). But...the Pacers? Danny Granger (21 pts, 8 reb), Mike Dunleavy (21 pts, 9 reb), Jermaine O'Neal (12 pts, 6 reb), and Jamaal Tinsley (11 pts, 7 ast) have all been key players in their fast start.

Bad Surprises:

1. Miami Heat (0-4) - Their leading scorer is Ricky Davis with only 16 points a game. Shaq is getting 13 points and only 7 rebounds which isn't even the best on the team (Udonis Haslem, 10). The Heat's offense is horrid averaging 83 points a game and giving up near 90. I think everyone in the city is praying for Dwyane Wade's recovery. Oh, and did I mention their current 17-game losing streak?

2. Chicago Bulls (0-4) - Luol Deng? Yeah, he's averaging 16 points (2nd on team) and 7 rebounds which aren't terrible numbers but I think everyone expected a little more. Big Ben Wallace is only pulling down FOUR rebounds a game and Kirk Hinrich is only dishing out FOUR assists each game. I think the entire team needs to pick it up. They're being outscored 96-88 so far this season.

3. Washington Wizards (0-3) - Coincidentally, all three disappointing teams have been from the East. Gilbert GUARANTEED a win and then lost all while averaging 22 points which is pretty low for him. Their offense isn't that bad (92 points a game, 20 from Butler and 19 from Jamison) but their defense is giving up 105 points each game! That can't happen if they expect to win games.

MVPs...four games into the season? Yes.

1. Kevin Garnett - 23 points. 16 rebounds. 6 assists. I swear that wasn't one game's stats. Those are his averages! He's been a complete beast and is making me look like a fool for having him fifth in the Big Man Preview I did a week ago.

2. Tracy McGrady - Put up 47 on opening night better Kobe's 45 put up on his opening night. He's averaging 29 points a game while dishing out 6 assists and grabbing 5 boards. He's doing everything out there and it's no accident that his Rockets are number one in the toughest division in basketball.

3. Kobe Bryant - What did you expect? Kobe's a scoring machine. He doesn't talk as much as Gil Zero but is definitely scoring more right now. But that's not all. To go with his 31 points a game, he's averaging 8 rebounds and 5 assists. However, the trade talks have still not subsided, especially the ones involving Chicago.

4. Carlos Boozer - This guy is helping the Jazz any way he can. He's showing that size doesn't matter (he's "only" 6'9"). He's got them to a respectable 3-2 record with their only losses coming to the Rockets and Lakers. He's averaging 24 points--including two where he put up at least 30--and 13 rebounds.

5. Chris Paul - His team is 4-1. He's averaging 19 points, 12 assists, and 5 rebounds. This is only his third year in the league. He's proving to the world that he's the best young point guard in the league right now (not much is being heard of Deron Williams as I type) and even had a game with 21 assists while scoring 19 points.

I was going to do a bit on Rookie of the Year but is it even close? Kevin Durant is the clear-cut favorite right now. 21 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists. End of story. His competition? Jianlian Yi, Al Horford, and Daequan Cook. But it really isn't even close...for now. By the way, my preseason pick was Jeff Green and he isn't doing that bad averaging 7 points and 4 rebounds while playing with KD.

The STRONGER Rankings (Note: This are the equivalent of anyone else's power rankings.)

1. Houston Rockets (4-1) - This was a tough call putting them number one but they have a good record while playing in the toughest division in all of basketball. They have wins over the Lakers, Jazz, and Spurs--all teams that made last year's playoffs--and their only loss coming to Dallas. They are scoring 95 a game and are allowing 92.

2. Boston Celtics (3-0) - This may be a bit premature putting them all the way at number two but they have looked very impressive so far. Besides KG's contributions, Ray Allen is scoring 24 points a game and Paul Pierce is averaging 22 points, 5 assists, and 5 rebounds. Their role players, surprisingly, have stepped up. Rajon Rondo is giving 10 points and 3 assists each night while Kendrick Perkins is scoring 6 points and grabbing 5 boards.

3. New Orleans Hornets (4-1) - They are the second team from the Southwest division so far. Everyone has come together very nicely as I mentioned earlier in this post. They have impressive wins over Denver and Los Angeles. Their only defeat came at the hands of the Portland Trailblazers of all teams!

4. San Antonio Spurs (4-1) - The Spurs are the THIRD team from the Southwest division so far. That's how strong the division is but someone's going to win and another's going to lose when they all play each other, right? Their only loss was against the number one, Houston. Tim Duncan is playing well as usual while averaging 16 points and 10 rebounds to date. Ginobili is giving 21 points (best on team) and 6 assists.

5. Orlando Magic (4-1) - The reason I chose them over the Clippers is simple: strength of schedule. The Magic have played Milwaukee (a team some believe will make the playoffs this year), Detroit (their only loss), Washington, and Toronto to name a few. The Clippers (4-0) have played Golden State, Seattle, Chicago, and Indiana. All of those teams are either mediocre or worse right now with the exception of the Pacers. Dwight Howard is averaging 19 points and 13 rebounds and Rashard Lewis is filling up the stat sheet with 23 points a night.

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Thursday, November 1, 2007

NBA Big Man Preview

So, this is the important position. The defending champion Spurs had an excellent big man. The champs before them, the Heat, had an aging yet very good big man. One question on the horizon is who has a more promising future: Amare Stoudemire or Dwight Howard? Maybe some of this will help. But, as always, stats are courtesy of

1. Tim Duncan - I want someone to convince me that this guy is not the best big man in the game today. Yes, he is boring, has no flash, and leads the "dirtiest" team in the NBA. BUT he is still quite good. His team gets 14 more points offensively every 100 possessions with him on the court rather than him off it.
Stats: Scoring per game- 20.0
Rebounding Rating- 32.8
Block Rating- 11.3
Clutch Scoring per 48 min.- 33.2
Clutch Rebounding- 39.1
Clutch Block- 6.1

2. Dwight Howard - I'm a little more sold on this guy than I am on Amare right now. I really don't know how well his knee will hold up (it will forever be a question). Also, if Howard will be cutting down on his turnovers like the Magic are saying he will then I will be scared for the other team every time he steps on the court.
Stats: Scoring per game- 17.6
Rebounding Rating- 36.2
Block Rating- 8.3
Clutch Scoring per 48 min.- 17.6
Clutch Rebounding- 32.9
Clutch Block- 9.3

3. Amare Stoudemire - 20 points and 10 rebounds a game. Pretty difficult to argue with that. This guy helped the Suns tremendously. He is a force to be reckoned with and should be racking up the awards sometime soon. Another good thing, last year he played all 82 games after playing only three the previous year.
Stats: Scoring per game- 20.3
Rebounding Rating- 29.8
Block Rating- 6.5
Clutch Scoring per 48 min.- 31.6
Clutch Rebounding- 28.0
Clutch Block- 10.0

4. Dirk Nowitzki - Okay, so he pretty much looked like he didn't deserve to be on the court last time we all saw him play (if that's what you'd call it) BUT he still had a crazy-good regular season last year while taking home MVP honors (although it was very controversial).
Stats: Scoring per game- 24.6
Rebounding Rating- 26.7
Block Rating- 3.5
Clutch Scoring per 48 min.- 46.1
Clutch Rebounding- 30.3
Clutch Block- 6.3

5. Kevin Garnett - I know this may be a tad bit low for some of you Boston Blowhards but he'll have to develop a team game and get used to having good teammates, something he hasn't experienced in quite a while. Here's something for you though: no Celtic has grabbed 900 rebounds in a season since 1989 yet Garnett has grabbed 900 each of the last eight seasons.
Stats: Scoring per game- 22.4
Rebounding Rating- 34.6
Block Rating- 7.0
Clutch Scoring per 48 min.- 25.2
Clutch Rebounding- 26.7
Clutch Block- 4.5

6. Yao Ming - This guy is injury-plagued. I'm not really sold on his holding up for an entire season. He played in 48 games last year. In those games, he averaged 25 points and 9 rebounds per contest. What amazes me though was his 86% FT percentage last year. Unheard of from big interior player.
Stats: Scoring per game- 25.1
Rebounding Rating- 28.2
Block Rating- 8.9
Clutch Scoring per 48 min.- 30.4
Clutch Rebounding- 26.5
Clutch Block- 13.2

7. Chris Bosh - 23 points. 11 rebounds. 3 assists. 1 steal and 1 block. He was putting up great all-around numbers like that all season long last year and I do NOT expect it to stop anytime soon. This guy could be the League's next great power forward. He definitely has the potential.
Stats: Scoring per game- 22.6
Rebounding Rating- 29.5
Block Rating- 5.3
Clutch Scoring per 48 min.- 38.9
Clutch Rebounding- 28.8
Clutch Block- 12.3

8. Pau Gasol - He would be higher if I didn't have to worry about injuries with this guy. Although he missed the first couple months of the season last year, he still put up some pretty good stats. 21 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 blocks per game. Also, the Grizzlies added SOME talent to the team this year.
Stats: Scoring per game- 20.8
Rebounding Rating- 28.9
Block Rating- 8.5
Clutch Scoring per 48 min.- 19.0
Clutch Rebounding- 25.6
Clutch Block- 7.7

Blogger's Note: I can't believe I did it but I just had to leave Marion out of the top nine. However, he is the number nine big man in the League. The problem with him is his confidence and attitude he'll have in Phoenix this year.

Also, here's a video for you to watch:

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