Friday, December 21, 2007

Game-Planning 6: Christmas Edition

Are you ready? For the special occasion, I'll have 6 games that will be good for two weeks. It's going to be a great time to be a fan of basketball and these games are all must-see events.

1st Quarter- Georgetown at Memphis

Winner: Memphis

Why They'll Win: Can Memphis push the tempo? If they can, Georgetown is in trouble. Hibbert is the Hoyas' main man. Everything they do goes through him. But he is NOT very good at running the floor. Also, when he's in foul trouble, the entire team stalls. They practically seem helpless out on the floor. The attacking Tigers will force Hibbert into committing some cheap fouls out there. Georgetown has five players averaging 9+ points per game (the leader is Hibbert with 13), and the rebounding load is carried by both Roy Hibbert (7) and DaJuan Summers (6). Important to mention is the Hoyas' 52% free throw shooting. They don't have a guy making 75% of his free throws and Hibbert is only making 52% of his. My suggestion? Foul him when he has position. Now, for Memphis, all I can say is don't blink because you might miss something great. This team plays faster than any team I've seen before. They are led by junior Chris Douglas-Roberts (17 pts, 5 reb, 1 ast) and freshman Derrick Rose (16 pts, 5 reb, 4 ast). The Tigers' main rebounders are Robert Dozier (7 per game) and Joey Dorsey (9). Lastly, Memphis is a very deep team. They'd almost have to be with their style of play though. They have nine players averaging at least 10 minutes per game and six guys averaging at least 20 minutes per game.

When To Watch: Saturday, December 22nd on ESPN at noon eastern time.

2nd Quarter- Tennessee at Xavier

Winner: Xavier

Why They'll Win: Chris Lofton is Tennessee's leading scorer. He was a preseason player of the year favorite. He's now shooting a paltry 35% from deep and 36% from everywhere else. That's what worries me about the Volunteers. Coming into the season, everyone knew Lofton was their key guy, yet he has struggled so far. He has scored 10 or less points three times this year and has only reached 20 points in a game twice. He's already averaging fewer minutes, points, assists, and steals this year. It hardly sounds like he should even be mentioned with the likes of Michael Beasley and D.J. Augustin. Tennessee is 10-1 and have struggled against teams like West Virginia, Chattanooga, and Western Kentucky. Xavier, however, has been surprising in a very good way this season. They've worked their way to 24th in the Coaches' Poll and are playing very well. The Musketeers are led by Drew Lavender (12 pts, 3 reb, 5 ast), C.J. Anderson (11 pts, 6 reb, 2 ast), and Derrick Brown (11 pts, 6 reb, 2 ast). Of the six players averaging 20+ minutes per game, FIVE are upperclassmen.

When To Watch: Saturday, December 22nd on ESPN at 2pm eastern time.

Halftime Thoughts-

Other games that you may want to watch this weekend that could be fairly good games will be Miami (Ohio) at Kansas (Saturday, 1:00 PM, ESPN FullCourt/Regional TV) and Florida at Ohio State (Saturday, 4:00 PM, CBS). You'll get to see a couple good freshmen play including OSU's big man, Kosta Koufos. Hot Topic: Does Texas deserve to be the #1 team? My answer: no. Yes, they have defeated two Top 10 teams this season, but look at who's ahead of them in the polls. Can you justify putting them ahead of Kansas or Memphis or North Carolina? Definitely not. D.J. Augustin and A.J. Abrams are playing very well for the Longhorns, but they are lacking a solid post presence. I think you need a decent big man (a la Hansbrough) to be put number one and have the title of the best team in the entire nation.

The famous Wizard of Westwood, John Wooden, recently spoke out about the game of basketball. He said the referees need to call traveling, carrying, and moving screens. He also spoke about his dislike of fancy dunks that are performed quite often anymore. Do I agree with this? It's hard to tell. Yes, calling the rules more closely would change the game, but what about all these players in the NBA like Allen Iverson who have made a living off carrying the ball to get by a defender for a layup. What happens to the Dunk Contest? All of this only hurts the money that the game of basketball is bringing in. Should it happen? Possibly. Will it happen? Heck no!

3rd Quarter- Texas at Michigan State

Winner: Texas

Why They'll Win: The Longhorns, as I mentioned before, are led by D.J. Augustin (20 pts, 3 reb, 6 ast) and A.J. Abrams (19 pts, 3 reb, 1 ast). Their leading rebounder is Damion James with 10 rebounds per game. Also, you can't leave Connor Atchley alone behind the arc. He's shooting 63% from deep this season. Texas sits at 11-0 right now with impressive wins over Tennessee and UCLA. In those games, Augustin has really stepped up as the Horns' leader out on the court. He managed a game-winning assist to beat the Bruins. Can Drew Neitzel match up with Augustin? It'll be tough to do for the entire game considering that D.J. is averaging 36 minutes per game and Neitzel is only getting 29 minutes each game. Nevertheless, the Spartans have a very good chance at winning this one and it will most likely come down to the wire. They're led by Raymar Morgan (17 pts, 7 reb, 2 ast), Neitzel (15 pts, 3 reb, 5 ast), and Goran Suton (9 pts, 9 reb, 2 ast). Michigan State is decent down low but if Neitzel is on Augustin then who picks up Abrams on the perimeter? Chris Allen?

When To Watch: Saturday, December 22nd at 6:30pm eastern time on ESPN2.

4th Quarter- Tennessee at Gonzaga

Winner: Gonzaga

Why They'll Win: Well, I've already talked about Tennessee, so I'll just start with Gonzaga and make this one pretty quick and to the point. The Bulldogs are led by Jeremy Pargo (13 pts, 4 reb, 6 ast), Matt Bouldin (13 pts, 4 reb, 2 ast), and freshman Austin Daye (12 pts, 5 reb, 1 ast). Granted, they've had some tough losses to Texas Tech, highly-ranked Washington State, and, most recently, Oklahoma, but I think that gives them all the more reason to come out gunning for Tennessee. Gonzaga has not lost two games in a row all season. In the game immediately following a loss, they've outscored their opponents by a score of 167-123. This is their time.

When To Watch: Saturday, December 29th 4pm eastern time on ESPN2.

Overtime- Arizona at Memphis

Winner: Memphis

Why They'll Win: I talked quite a bit about Memphis in the 1st Quarter so I don't think there's anything else that's essential to know. But here is what you need to know about Arizona. They're led by two underclassmen, Jerryd Bayless (19 pts, 4 reb, 4 ast) and Chase Budinger (16 pts, 5 reb, 3 ast), which gives me even more reasons to pick Memphis in this one. Their leading rebounder is a sophomore, Jordan Hill, and do you really expect him to dominate Joey Dorsey in the post? I sure as hell don't. Worthy of mention is their depth, however. They have eight solid guys that can play and contribute to the team's success.

When To Watch: Saturday, December 29th ESPN2 at 10pm eastern time.

2nd Overtime- Kansas State at Xavier

Winner: Kansas State

Why They'll Win: I guess we're getting some repeat teams here. I've talked earlier in this post about Xavier; therefore, I will fore go the breakdown of their team and head straight for Kansas State. My theory is this: Xavier will be feeling great about their big win over Tennessee. They'll come to play Kansas State and they'll fall apart in the early going. The Wildcats had some close games with Oregon and George Mason (both of which are quality teams). Their offense is based solely on Michael Beasley as he contributes 25 (and 14 reb) of the team's 78 points on average, which comes out to about 1/3 of his team's offensive production. But you can't just bypass the play of Bill Walker (13 pts, 7 reb), who is having quite the season as well.

When To Watch: Monday, December 31st at 7pm eastern time on ESPNU.

That concludes this edition of Game-Planning and I'll see you again in two weeks. Until then, you should keep up on college basketball at March Madness All Season.

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Poll Results- Will Kidd be traded? If so, where? 60% of voters thought he would be traded to a Western Conference team while 40% of voters thought he would be traded to an Eastern Conference team. Therefore, a whopping 0% of those who voted thought he would stay in New Jersey.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Game-Planning 5

College basketball is starting to heat up. For all of you not paying attention, you should! The games this week? Ehh, they're okay. Not the greatest week but a week of basketball nonetheless. Highlighting this week will be a top ten matchup, a game you should watch but probably don't know much about, and (for all you East Coasters) a game far, far away that is worthy of attention.

1st Quarter- Kansas at Georgia Tech

Winner: Kansas

Why They'll Win: Yes, I know picking the number 3-ranked team in the nation to beat an unranked team, but it should be a decent game. The Jayhawks are led by Darrell Arthur (14 pts, 5 reb), Mario Chalmers (12 pts, 4 reb, 5 ast), and Darnell Jackson (11 pts, 7 reb), who has emerged as the leading rebounder for Kansas. Interesting for Kansas is their depth. They have eight guys averaging 18+ minutes per game and another player getting a solid 13 minutes each game. The Jayhawks' biggest win to date has been over USC, which they won by four points. Currently, they sit at 9-0. Georgia Tech is 4-4. A lousy record, yes, but they aren't too shabby. They only lost to #15 Indiana by four points and have posted a win over Notre Dame. The Yellow Jackets are headed by Anthony Morrow (16 pts, 6 reb), Lewis Clinch (14 pts, 2 reb, 3 ast), and Jeremis Smith (10 pts, 7 reb, 3 ast).

When To Watch: Tuesday, December 18th at 7pm eastern time on ESPN.

2nd Quarter- Arizona at UNLV

Winner: Arizona

Why They'll Win: Yes yes, I understand. Another lousy matchup, but maybe not as lousy as some would presume. The Runnin' Rebels are 7-2 and unranked but have a good core of players. I am referring to Curtis Terry (14 pts, 3 reb, 4 ast), Wink Adams (13 pts, 4 reb, 3 ast), and Joe Darger (13 pts, 6 reb). Sadly, they will lose because they just can't compete with the big schools. They played #6-ranked Louisville and were completely demolished in the 20-point loss. Six days later? They were upset by UC-Santa Barbara. The Wildcats, however, are ranked 21st in the AP poll and have already defeated Texas A&M to help their 6-2 record. Arizona also played Kansas, a game in which they lost by four points. The fabulous freshman, Jerryd Bayless, shoulders the scoring load with his 20 points per game to go along with 4 rebounds and 5 assists. Also, helping out are sophomores Chase Budinger (17 pts, 5 reb, 4 ast) and Jordan Hill (13 pts, 6 reb).

When To Watch: Wednesday, December 19th at 10pm eastern time on CSTV.

Halftime Thoughts-

As many of you already know, David Arseneault set the record for most assists in a single game recently. He had 34 dishes in that game. Very astounding. But what's more astounding is the team he plays for. That team, Grinnell College, often shoots more than 50 threes a game. Grinnell was 23 for 86 on 3-pointers off Arseneault's passses ONLY! He also had 22 points in the game. Also making noise were the two scorers of the game. John Grotberg had 49 points on his 14-28 shooting from deep, and Keith Chamberlain had 39 points and 14 rebounds (ironic, huh?). Hot Topic: The forum is buzzing with topics of all sorts but the biggest one had to have been about Derrick Rose. The topic starter claimed he was the next big thing because of his amazing debut game. Call it what you will, this kid can flat-out play. He has everything it takes to succeed at any level of basketball he plays at. I can only hope he stays at Memphis for a few more years. In the thread, someone also mentioned OJ Mayo. Mayo is a headcase and a legal problem waiting to happen. He has also been complained to take too many shots and has been on the receiving end of many a "ballhog" chants.

I recently found an article seeding the NCAA tournament already. I must say, I agree completely with the number one seeds of Memphis, Kansas, North Carolina, and Texas. The two seeds are good for the most part as well. However, I am not yet sold on Pitt being a 3 seed nor am I sold on Clemson being a 3 seed. I think Texas A&M (4), Louisville (6), and Ohio State (9) will all be moved up come March.

3rd Quarter- Gonzaga vs. Oklahoma

Winner: Gonzaga

Why They'll Win: The Sooners are unranked yet sit fairly well with a 7-3 record. They lost to Memphis but only by ten points, and they lost to USC by eleven points. If Oklahoma didn't have a game between Stephen F. Austin and the Zags I would probably have them winning this one. But, sadly, they do not and I don't think they'll win. Oklahoma is led by Blake Griffin (13 pts, 8 reb, 2 ast) and Longar Longar (12 pts, 7 reb) but won't be able to overcome Gonzaga's Austin Daye (12 pts, 5 reb). No contest though, the Bulldogs have the edge in the backcourt. Jeremy Pargo (12 pts, 4 reb, 6 ast) is part of a long line of good, solid Gonzaga point guards. Matt Bouldin (13 pts, 5 reb, 2 ast) also helps out Pargo in the backcourt.

When To Watch: Thursday, December 20th at 9pm eastern time on ESPN2.

4th Quarter- Pitt vs. Duke

Winner: Duke

Why They'll Win: As I mentioned earlier, I really don't think Pitt is as good as everyone claims. The Panthers are led by Sam Young (18 pts, 8 reb), DeJuan Blair (11 pts, 9 reb), and Levance Fields (10 pts, 4 reb, 6 ast). To the contrary, Pitt hasn't played a team worth mentioning in this blog. Duke is their first real test of the season and I think that will be tough for an team without much big game experience. Moving on...Duke is led by Kyle Singler (14 pts, 7 reb), DeMarcus Nelson (12 pts, 6 reb, 3 ast), and Jon Sheyer (11 pts, 5 reb, 3 ast). Let me start off by saying that this year's Blue Devils are NOTHING like last year's Blue Devils. Already, they claimed wins over #13 Marquette and #20 Wisconsin, not to mention a tough win over mid-major Davidson.

When To Watch: Thursday, December 20th at 7pm eastern time on ESPN.

There ya have it. That wraps up this week's edition of Game-Planning. I hope you enjoyed reading it and next week's will be a Christmas Special, but won't come out until Friday. Have a good weekend, everyone.

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Monday, December 10, 2007

The NBA Update

Okay, all you casual NBA fans, listen up! Now, you may have been paying attention to your favorite college football team or NFL team the past month, and you may have missed all the NBA action. So here's something to get you caught up...

The STRONGER Rankings

1. San Antonio Spurs (17-3) - Down deep, I just can't bring myself to putting an Eastern Conference team first in the power rankings. I just can't. The Spurs are very, very good this year thanks in large part to the stellar play of Manu Ginobili (21 ppg). Tony Parker (21 pts, 7 ast) and Tim Duncan (18 pts, 9 reb) have also been key contributors to San Antonio's 17-3 start. But they better watch out for the Hornets, who are nipping at their heels at the top of the Southwest Division.

2. Phoenix Suns (16-5) - Amare is healthy again and he's averaging 21 points and 9 rebounds per contest. Steve Nash is playing just the way he always plays with 18 points and 12 assists per game. But you can't forget one of the main reasons Phoenix is so good: Shawn Marion (16 pts, 11 reb). Also worthy of mentioning is Grant Hill's (16 pts, 5 reb, 4 ast) and Leandro Barbosa's (18 pts, 3 reb, 3 ast) play.

3. Orlando Magic (16-5) - Dwight Howard has been unstoppable to date and is a front runner for MVP. What was most impressive was how he shut down Kevin Garnett when the Magic defeated the Celtics not too long ago. Why are they higher than Boston? The beat the Celtics and all of their losses were to quality opponents. (#1 San Antonio and #2 Phoenix to name a few.) I mentioned Howard (24 pts, 15 reb), yet you can't dismiss what Rashard Lewis (19 pts, 5 reb, 3 ast), Hedo Turkoglu (18 pts, 6 reb, 4 ast), and Jameer Nelson (13 pts, 6 ast, 5 reb) are doing out on the court.

4. Boston Celtics (17-2) - Okay, all you Boston Blowhards can just calm down. The Celtics are 17-2 in one of, if not the, weakest divisions in all of basketball. The Big Three are no surprise. Each are averaging great numbers and are doing their part. What is surprising are the role players. Rajon Rondo (9 pts, 5 ast, 4 reb), Eddie House (8 pts, 45% from deep), and Kendrick Perkins (7 pts, 5 reb) have all helped Boston to their great start. Their Achilles' heel? Injuries. Can the older guys on the team hold up for the entire season?

5. New Orleans Hornets (14-7) - If N.O. didn't have Chris Paul they would be doomed, most likely. Paul, who's averaging 21 points, 10 assists, 4 rebounds, and 3 steals per game, is leading his troops like never before. It's quite impressive that they're playing this well in the rugged Southwest Division, too. David West has popped out of nowhere with his 18 points and 9 rebounds per contest. Peja Stojakovic (14 pts, 3 reb) and Tyson Chandler (12 pts, 11 reb) have also greatly aided the Hornets.

MVPs- 20 Games In

1. Dwight Howard - Maybe I mentioned his 24 points and 15 rebounds a game before? Oh well, I said it again. This guy is playing great right now. Against fellow USA teammate Amare Stoudemire, Dwight had 30 points, 23 rebounds, and 2 blocks in a loss to the Suns. I rest my case.

2. LeBron James - LBJ is the ONLY active player with two games of 30 points, 13 rebounds, and 13 assists. Well, in the Cavs one-point loss to Orlando, he had 39 points, 14 assists, and 13 rebounds! James has scored 40+ points three times this year so far. But, lastly, LeBron is averaging 31 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists in only his fourth year in the League.

3. Kevin Garnett - Once again, all you Boston natives probably think this is way too low for "your star". Tough luck. Yes, he's averaging 20 points, 11 rebounds, and 4 assists but look what he did against a good big guy in Dwight Howard: 14 points, 11 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 turnovers, 7-13 on field goals. Not to mention he fouled out and didn't get to the free throw line once.

4. Allen Iverson - Guess what? AI is back. He's averaging 25 points per game and...[gasp] 8 assists to go with 3 rebounds per game. He has scored over 30 points four times this year including a 51-point effort against the Lakers. Iverson also has four double-doubles to date.

5. Steve Nash - How could I justify leaving him off? Not only is he averaging 18 points and 12 assists but also he's led his team to the #2 spot in my STRONGER Rankings. Nash is shooting 95% from the line and 46% from three-point land. Also note that he's shooting 52% from the field. In the last four games, he's dishing out 17 assists per contest.

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Thursday, December 6, 2007

Game-Planning 4

Welcome to this edition of Game-Planning. We've got some good games on the schedule that you need to watch this week. But you don't want to watch them with no prior knowledge of the teams so here ya go.

1st Quarter- Michigan St. at BYU

Winner: BYU

Why They'll Win: Upset alert. The Brigham Young Cougars are a very, good team this year. They had an impressive game against North Carolina in which two players for BYU made very big impressions on me. One was Trent Plaisted, whose name will forever remained etched in my memory from that night alone. The big man scored 24 points and grabbed 17 rebounds, outdoing All-American Tyler Hansbrough. Prior to that game, he led his team to an upset of Louisville, a game that he had 21 points and 12 rebounds. Currently, he's averaging 18 points and 9 rebounds, just shy of a double-double. The second player I was surprised by was a sophomore sharpshooter by the name of Jonathan Tavernari. In the UNC game, he had 18 points on 6 threes. He also had a good showing against Pitino's squad when he scored 29 points (5 threes). Ben Murdock leads the team in assists (5 a game) for the 20th-ranked Cougars. Regarding Michigan State, I am worried with their play recently. The Spartans defeated Bradley by...six? Terrible for such a highly-ranked team. They are led by sophomore Raymar Morgan (18 pts, 8 reb) and senior Drew Neitzel (14 pts, 5 ast). Honestly though, I don't think Morgan will do very well against Plaisted underneath. Besides the two previously mentioned, no other Michigan State player is averaged double figures in points. Their leading rebounder is Goran Suton (9 per game). Michigan State is currently ranked ninth in the AP Poll.

When To Watch: Saturday, December 8th at 4pm eastern time on Versus.

2nd Quarter- Marquette at Wisconsin

Winner: Marquette

Why They'll Win: Coming off a big win over UW-Milwaukee, the Golden Eagles are led by Jerel McNeal (16 pts, 5 reb, 4 ast) and Dominic James (15 pts, 3 ast). Marquette's leading rebounder is Lazar Hayward (6 a night). Also worth mentioning is that they have five players averaging 23+ minutes per game. They'll be going up against an Alando Tucker-less Wisconsin led by Trevon Hughes (17 pts, 5 reb) and Brian Butch (13 pts, 9 reb). Other than that, the Badgers don't have much to go to. Marcus Landry and Michael Flowers are both giving them a little bit averaging 9 points per contest. The Golden Eagles have a good inside-outside duo, but Wisconsin doesn't have a true point guard. No one is averaging more than three assists per game. I've seen Marquette and Wisconsin both play against Duke and it's safe to say that the former looked a lot better. This could be closer than some think though.

When To Watch: Saturday, December 8th on ESPN2 at 6pm eastern time.

Halftime Thoughts-

I would like to take the time to mention Arizona's 6'3" guard, Jerryd Bayless. I've mentioned him a couple of times but never really told you much about him. He's a freshman and deserves to have his name up there with guys like Singler of Duke, Gordon of Indiana, and Love of UCLA. In the last two games, he's averaged 24 points and 4 assists. He put up 26 on one of the best teams in the country in Texas A&M. His team is 5-2, thanks in large part to his 20 points, 5 assists, and 4 rebounds he's averaging each game. Interestingly enough in the Wildcats' two losses, Bayless is averaging 20 points. Anyways, you should definitely keep an eye on this guy.

Author's Note: Starting this edition, every Game-Planning blog will feature the Hot Topic. Hot Topic: Hitting all over the message boards is freshman Eric Gordon. (It seems I only talk about freshman as of late.) Up until a few days ago, Gordon hadn't scored less than 20 points in a collegiate game; Tennessee State put an end to that. He's averaging 24 points per game and is shooting 50% from deep. Also take notice of his 84% average from the line and 54% average on field goals. This guy is off to a fantastic start and is must-see TV right now.

Who's the nation's number 1 team? North Carolina? Memphis? Maybe even Kansas? In my opinion, it's Memphis. They play a brand of basketball that seems nearly impossible to defend. The ony flaw in their system is that they're vulnerable if they have an off-shooting night (as a team; it doesn't happen very often). However, the leadership of Rose, Douglas-Roberts, and Dorsey will help them in key games. Derrick Rose is already playing like an experience-laden senior. Douglas-Roberts has proved to be the go-to-guy when the Tigers need a bucket down the stretch. And, finally, Dorsey is the man coming up with key rebounds and blocks, the little stuff a team needs to win.

3rd Quarter- Boston College at Maryland

Winner: Maryland

Why They'll Win: The talk this year is all about the freshman, yet it's important to remember last year's fabulous freshmen as well. One of them, you may remember, was Greivis Vasquez. He was pretty good then, but he's even better now. This year, he's scoring 16 points, dishing out 6 assists, and grabbing 5 rebounds per game. Vasquez is 6'5", and he'll be matched up against the 6'1" Tyrese Rice (20 pts, 6 ast, 4 reb). I think this one easily goes to Vasquez because of his height and quickness which will wreak havoc against the much shorter Rice. The Terrapins also have James Gist (14 pts, 7 reb) and Eric Hayes (12 pts, 6 ast, 4 reb). Boston College hasn't faced a ranked opponent yet and that will hurt them in this game. Their team is very young. They only have three upperclassmen on the team. Three of the starters are freshman as well. All of this doesn't bode well against Maryland. The Eagles' leading rebounder is Shamari Spears (10 per game).

When To Watch: Sunday, December 9th at 8pm eastern time on FSN.

Sadly, there isn't another good game this week so your college basketball viewing may be a little slow for the next few days. Don't worry; there will be plenty of matchups for the next edition of Game-Planning. To make it up to you, I thought I would find some good videos from YouTube for you to enjoy.

I know you may not want to hear it, but I'll remind you of it again. The V Foundation, started by the late Jimmy Valvano, is raising money for cancer research so that one day we will be saved from this disease. If you would like to donate money, please click here. Have a good weekend!

Poll Results: In the latest poll, I questioned readers on who the best team in college basketball was. Memphis got 28% of the vote and UCLA had 14% of it but the winner was, in fact, Other with 57% of the vote. I must have forgot a team or something. haha

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