Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Kenneth Faried the best big man in college basketball?

This was originally posted over at Veteran Leadership.

If I had to choose one big man for my college basketball team this season, I would take Kenneth Faried of Morehead St. He is not the most well-known player (how many people even know where Morehead St. is?), and he's not the guy with the most pro potential, but he just so happens to be the best big man in college basketball.

Physically, he is like a man among boys in the post. This is obviously especially true against mid and low-majors, but he has also been excellent against some of the top teams in college basketball. He is very strong, and very quick for a man of his size. He just looks bigger.

He is the best rebounder in college basketball (he is tied for the rebounding lead right now with over 14 per game, he was second in the NCAA last year with 13 per game, and third 2 years ago with 13). He is very, very good at using his body to seal the defender to get into position, and he certainly has a nose for the ball. Also, it doesn't show up in the stat sheet, but he is great at tipping the ball to keep it alive for his team. He certainly projects, in my mind, to be an elite rebounder at the pro level.

As of today he is 6th in offensive rebounding percentage and 2nd in defensive rebounding percentage in the country.

He is also very good defensively, using that quickness and athleticism to erase shots at the rim. He is the reigning OVC Defensive Player of the Year (and Player of the Year, for that matter) and he looks poised to defend his crown. The Eagles often use him as the base man in a 2-3 zone, and he really takes away a lot of opportunities for driving to the hoop and finishing at the rim. I have noticed that sometimes he relies a little too much on his athleticism, and does not get into proper position because he thinks he can recover, but overall, there is very little to complain about defensively. So far this year he is averaging over 2 blocks and 2 steals per game. That is Hakeem Olajuwon-esque.

On the offensive side of the ball, he certainly does not project to be a dominant low-post scorer in the NBA, but he is not without skill. He is surprisingly adept with his left and right hand, and is a solid ballhandler for a true post man. He is also a solid passer, and finds the open guys on the perimeter. Putbacks are a big part of the game, as it is perfect for his elite rebounding skills, and his ability to finish with power at the rim. Free throw shooting is a definite chink in his armor, but on the college level he can simply overpower a lot of guys.

Kenneth Faried is not a perfect player, and he will not be the top pick in the NBA Draft come next June... but for my money, I'd take him as the best big man in college basketball right now. He is one of the top rebounders and defenders down low in the land, and he's more than capable of putting 20 points per night on the board. You can't ask for too much more than that from your big man. He averaged 17 PPG last year on 56% shooting, and both of those numbers have improved this year.

What are your thoughts? Would you rather have another big man instead of Faried?

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

NBA 2010-2011 Predictions


1. Miami Heat, 64 wins
Yes, they will be hurt by big men, but how many teams actually have the talent to exploit that? Maybe a couple. They'll run around everyone during the regular season. Nobody will be able to come close to matching their wings. LeBron will be supremely motivated after an offseason in which everyone suddenly decided he was no longer the best player in the NBA. He might still have something to say about that.

2. Orlando Magic, 57 wins
The best chance that the East has to knock off Miami. If Dwight Howard asserts himself and takes his offensive game to the next level, nobody has the talent to stop him.

3. Chicago Bulls, 52 wins
Rose and Boozer seems like a perfect fit together, and Noah does all of the little things very well. I think Rose takes a leap to be one of the top 10 players in the NBA and the Bulls move up to a 3 seed.

4. Boston Celtics, 51 wins
Basically, we know what we have with them. They're a solid team that will be a tough out in the postseason. However, a year older for all of the big 3 players means 4th place.

5. Atlanta Hawks, 48 wins
They won 53 games when most things went right for them... hard to see them going anywhere except a little bit backwards after the only real change was to the head coach.

6. Milwaukee Bucks, 46 wins
I thought they played a little above their heads last year at times, but they are a very solid team that could have won a playoff series if Andrew Bogut had been healthy. Things depend on if Brandon Jennings is ready to take another step.

7. New York Knicks, 40 wins
Finally, some excitement in MSG! Amare has plenty of limitations, but he should put up big number under the bright lights and under Mike D'Antoni. Raymond Felton was a nice pickup.

8. Philadelphia 76ers, 38 wins
They do have a bunch of young talent (Young, Speights, Iguodala, Williams, Turner, Holiday), it's just completely mismatched and there is no logic to the roster assembly. Still, Doug Collins can mold an 8 seed out of this group.

9. Indiana Pacers, 37 wins
The pickup of Darren Collison solved some PG woes (he was very good in relief last season), but opened up a hole down low. Granger is a stud but there is still not enough help to make the postseason.

10. Charlotte Bobcats, 35 wins
I think last season was the peak for this group.

11. Detroit Pistons, 35 wins
Another team that has talented players but no logic to the roster assembly. They will be able to put points on the board, but I'm not sure if they can stop anyone.

12. Cleveland Cavaliers, 31 wins
Not a lot positive to say, the Cavs will stink and it will obviously be a terrible season without LeBron. They have the talent to avoid last place in the conference, and they should be highly motivated to prove they aren't a bunch of nobodies, but they don't have too much of a chance here.

13. Washington Wizards, 30 wins
John Wall is here, and that means there is hope for the future of the franchise. However, the present still doesn't look that promising.

14. New Jersey Nets, 27 wins
The good news is that not many teams will be able to double their win total. The bad news is that they are still a big-name aquisition away from being a threat to make the playoffs. Still, a core with Brook Lopez, Derrick Favors, and Devin Harris is exciting.

15. Toronto Raptors, 24 wins


1. Los Angeles Lakers, 57 wins
Still easily the best in the West, as long as Kobe is healthy. I believe they are the only team that has the horses to challenge the Heat in the postseason.

2. San Antonio Spurs, 53 wins
Parker should be healthier, Ginobili should be healthy (stop me if you have heard that before), and Duncan is still there. The addition of Tiago Splitter should help in the wide open race for the 2 seed.

3. Portland Trailblazers, 52 wins
Greg Oden being healthy would be a big boost, as he is sneakily one of the best rebounders in the NBA. However, that doesn't seem likely to happen for a full season.

4. Oklahoma City Thunder, 51 wins
Everything went right health wise for the Thunder last season. I predict things won't go quite as well this year. However, their core should keep improving as Kevin Durant wins the MVP award.

5. Dallas Mavericks, 51 wins
It seems like they never go away... another 50 win season awaits.

6. Houston Rockets, 49 wins
One of my favorite teams. Will everyone be happy with their minutes? They have a lot of good players, and it will be tough to keep to a rotation. Having Yao back will be a big boost.

7. Utah Jazz, 49 wins
If Al Jefferson is healthy, the Jazz shouldn't miss a beat. However, I'm assuming there will be a little transition.

8. Phoenix Suns, 46 wins
The feel good story of last season, they won't be quite as good, but Nash can still navigate them to the playoffs, maybe for the last time.

9. Denver Nuggets, 44 wins
No depth up front, drama around Carmelo, not a lot of defense... smells like just missing the postseason for the Nugs.

10. New Orleans Hornets, 41 wins
If Chris Paul is healthy, he could easily lead them to the postseason even with a mediocre roster. Remember, the guy had one of the best seasons we have ever seen from a PG... New Orleans will be doing everything possible to convince Paul to want to stay in the Big Easy.

11. Los Angeles Clippers, 38 wins
On paper, they should challenge for a playoff spot, especially with Blake Griffin. However, we know that these games aren't played on paper, but by the little men in our TV sets, which usually means things don't go well for the Clips.

12. Memphis Grizzlies, 36 wins
They have a solid pieces, but no depth. Still, they should be able to semi-maintain the feel good play of last season. Still not enough to get back to the postseason, but it will be fun to watch Grizz games.

13. Sacramento Kings, 31 wins
Tyreke Evans was very good as a rookie last season, and he will have DeMarcus Cousins down low with him. They are starting to build some young talent, but they are still a year at least away from competing.

14. Golden State Warriors, 31 wins
They will at least be fun to watch with Stephen Curry, Monta Ellis, and David Lee. Unfortunately, with their defense, they will also be fun to play against.

15. Minnesota Timberwolves, 20 wins
They have some nice young pieces (Kevin Love could win a rebounding title sooner rather than later), but there is not enough to avoid the cellar.

Heat over 76ers in 4
Magic over Knicks in 6
Bucks over Bulls in 7
Celtics over Hawks in 6

Heat over Celtics in 6
Magic over Bucks in 5

Heat over Magic in 6

Lakers over Suns in 5
Spurs over Jazz in 7
Rockets over Blazers in 7
Thunder over Mavs in 5

Lakers over Thunder in 7
Spurs over Rockets in 6

Lakers over Spurs in 5

Heat over Lakers in 7

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

NFL Picks Against the Spread: Week 7

Pittsburgh (-3) over Miami
I think Pittsburgh is the best team in the NFL, especially with Ben Roethlisberger back, making their offense balanced again. Miami has some nice wins this season, but I'm not sure Chad Henne is going to be very effective against this defense. I like Pittsburgh to win a low-scoring game in Miami, with Roethlisberger making the difference.

Cincinnati (+3.5) over Atlanta
Atlanta looked like it might have a chance to be the class of the NFC, and then they got beat easily by Philly. Cincy started off well before tailing off, but they know they need a win to try and salvage their season. Look for a good gameplan from Mike Zimmer, and just enough plays out of the Cincy offense to pull off an upset.

St. Louis (+2.5) over Tampa Bay
After last week's win over the Chargers, I believe in the Rams in the NFC West. The defensive front is getting after people just like Spagnulo's Giants' teams used to do. The offense, thanks to Sam Bradford, is showing more signs of life than they have in years. Something is brewing in St. Louis, and I think it will be enough to beat the Bucs.

San Francisco (-3) over Carolina
2-5 an the Niners will start to believe. The musical chairs of Carolina quarterback goes back to Matt Moore. Won't make a difference for this punchless offense, as teams will just load the box. Carolina's receivers aren't good enough to beat anyone.

Washington (+3) over Chicago
The Bears correction continues, as the Redskins are showing signs of being solid. Donovan McNabb is playing better than Jay Cutler right now, which is why I will take the Skins. The Bears need to get Matt Forte the ball in the running game, because teams will be going after Cutler with the way the offensive line has performed this season.

New Orleans (-13.5) over Cleveland
The Saints appear to have some of their mojo back, particularly if they can continue a strong rushing attack. Colt McCoy looked surprisingly good in his first game starting in his career, but there is not enough firepower in Cleveland to compete with the Saints.

Buffalo (+13) over Baltimore
Baltimore should win the game easily, but I think the Bills will be able to make the final score respectable. Fred Jackson should get more touches after the trade of Marshawn Lynch, and that could be a good thing. It will also be interesting to see if they have anything new for CJ Spiller. Ryan Fitzgerald is not anyone's answer to a long-term solution at QB, but he is serviceable, which is more than you could say about Trent Edwards.

Philadelphia (+2.5) over Tennessee
I believe in Kevin Kolb. He looked great against Atlanta, and he appears to have the timing of the offense down. The only thing that concerns me is that Desean Jackson will be out of the game, which is a big blow to the offense. Still, I have more faith in Philly's run game than Tennessee's pass game, which is why I will take the Eagles here.

Seattle (-5.5) over Arizona
Nice win by Seattle last week, showing that they could win a road game, which was in question for me before that game. At home, I think they will overwhelm Arizona, who is better with Max Hall than they were with Derek Anderson (or Matt Leinart), but not good enough to be a serious contender.

Denver (-7) over Oakland
The Broncos have played well, just are struggling to get over the hump. The Raiders, meanwhile, looked awful last week, and Kyle Boller could be getting the start this week. I think Denver's offense is a lot more explosive than the Raiders, even with the lack of a running game.

New England (+3) over San Diego
New England looks like the Patriots of old... a bunch of scrappy guys just going out there and playing. I can't put my finger on what is different after essentially trading Randy Moss for Deion Branch, but SOMETHING is. And it's clear that as great as Moss is, things were not working out this season. The Patriots look like a force the rest of the way to me.

Minnesota (+3) over Green Bay
The game that is full of storylines. Favre comes back to Lambeau again, and this time the Packers are reeling. The Packers know that if they lose this game, the Vikings have all of the momentum in the division. Still, I like the Vikings D (which has quietly been excellent) to get after Aaron Rodgers like they did last year, and for Favre to hit Moss on a deep ball that will make the difference.

Dallas (-3) over New York
The NFC East seems to always have these types of games... one team is struggling, the other team is playing well... but talent-wise, they are close to even, and there is one team that really needs the game more than the other team. Dallas will be in desperation mode. At home in Big D, I'll take Dallas to prolong the death of their season for another week.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

NFL Power Rankings

Each NFL season seems to bring a lot of turnover among the best teams in the NFL, as free agency and the draft can cause a lot of attrition in the League. However, it's always fun to try and predict which teams will be at the top of the heap once the season ends.

At the top of any power rankings should be the New Orleans Saints, simply because they are the defending Super Bowl champions. They did not experience a whole lot of roster turnover, and so there will be a lot of the same faces. The offense should again be very explosive, as they will be quarterbacked by Drew Brees, the MVP of the League. Sean Payton is also in place, as he makes all of the pieces of the puzzle fit together. If Gregg Williams can captain the defense to be as opportunistic as they were last season, the Saints will be strong contenders for the Super Bowl once again.

The Indianapolis Colts will be one of the best teams in the NFL as long as they still have Peyton Manning. He is one of the best QBs in the history of the game, and always seems to be make everyone around him perform at a higher level. They had two rookie WRs last year and an inconsistent running game, and still they were among the best teams in the NFL and almost won the Super Bowl. With the continuity that he provides for the offense, the Colts will be a great team once again.

Now that Brett Favre has returned from retirement, the Minnesota Vikings should again be among the top teams in the NFL. They have a lot of playmakers on offense, which will make them very difficult to gameplan against. If the Offensive Line can adequately protect Favre, they will put up a ton of points. The defense is getting older, but they are still among the best units in the League. They will be very hungry to get over the hump after just falling short last season.

It is shaping up to be a great NFL season, as there are a lot of great teams. The Saints, Colts, and Vikings were three of the best last season, and they look like three of the best heading into this season. It will be interesting to see who emerges as the best teams this year.

Monday, 21 June 2010

NBA Draft: Point Guard Preview

The point guard class of the 2010 NBA Draft class is not super deepn, but it is strong at the top. The top pick in the draft will be John Wall, a PG from Kentucky, one of the best prospects to enter the draft from the college game in a while.

Wall only played one season at Kentucky, but he mad the most of it. He is a dynamic athlete, and could eventually be the most athletic PG in the NBA at 6'4''. He is not a great shooter yet, but he has all of the other skills necessary to be a great PG in the Association. He is unselfish with the ball, extremely quick (he is lethal in transition, and can get to the rim almost any time he wants), and he steps up his game in big moments. He hit the game-winner in his first collegiate game. As a hyped freshman, he was among the nation's leaders in assists on a 3-loss team that was very young. He will be a great player, and will be excellent from day one.

The next best PG in the draft might be one of Wall's teammates, Eric Bledsoe. Even though he was largely overshadowed by Wall, pro scouts love his potential, and he is the only other true PG that has a chance to be drafted in the lottery. He can play on the ball or off the ball, has a good handle and jump shot, and should be a solid contributor in the NBA. He is not as ready as Wall to contribute in the NBA, but he should be a solid pro.

Terrico White out of Mississippi is not a true PG, but he should be able to play the position in the pros, kind of like Tyreke Evans (though he doesn't have that type of talent). He is very athletic, and can score in a variety of ways. He will be a solid player if he gets to go to a fast paced club.He can fill it up and make plays above the rim, which is vital for success as an athletic guard in the NBA. He has a chance to get drafted in the first round.

The PG position is not very deep at all, as likely only one point guard will get drafted in the lottery, and there will be very few true point guards in the draft. However it is strong at the top, as John Wall will be the top pick and the best player of this class, representing the point guard position well.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

World Cup and NBA Finals

Like many people, I am not much of a soccer fan, but I do love the World Cup, which starts on Friday morning.

Perhaps the greatest sporting event in United States history is the Miracle on Ice in 1980. As I'm sure you remember, a team of U.S. Amateurs shocked the powerful Soviet Union team, going on to win the Olympic Gold Medal at Lake Placid.

Really, the World Cup is the best chance for something like that to ever be duplicated for the United States. It is our last popular sport in which we are extreme underdogs. If the USA were to win the World Cup, it would be even more shocking than the Miracle on Ice, indeed, the goal really is to get out of group play. It will be a fairly successful World Cup if that is all that we accomplish.

The United States is a team without an international star, hoping to get by on superior teammwork and unity. We won't win anything on talent alone (which is not to say that the talent level is terrible, it is not, but it is nowhere near other country powerhouses). It is very exciting... to root for your country in the biggest sporting even in the world, with the extra thrill of them being an underdog.

I wouldn't make any gambling deposits on them at a Moneybookers Casino, but it sure will be fun to watch them play and try to advance. They look as ready as they have been, as the team is playing well (second in the Confederations Cup last year), and Coach Bob Bradley has them playing as one unit.


The Lakers have a 2-1 lead in the NBA Finals after taking out Boston in a weird Game 3, and the series stays in Boston for games 4 and 5. Boston obviously needs a better effort from Ray Allen, who was as awful in Game 3 as he was brilliant in Game 2.

The bright spot for Boston was Kevin Garnett, who looked like he would provide very little in the series after games 1 and 2. However, he had a brilliant game 3, and put up numbers reminiscent of KG of old. If he can do that again this series, Boston should have a great chance, especially if Pierce and Allen step up.

If I was check out casino deposit options at something like the Roxy Palace Casino, my money would still be on the Lakers in this series. They have the best player in this series, and they might have the second best player as well (depending on whether you prefer Pau Gasol or Rajon Rondo.

It seems clear that home court does not matter that much anymore, as both teams have one on the opponents home court. This is a series that seems ready to go 7 games, and I'll take the Lakers at home in that one, giving Kobe a 5th title and firmly planting him as one of the 10 best players in NBA history.

All in all, it's a good time to be a sports fan!

Friday, 4 June 2010

Minnesota Vikings Draft Analysis

The Minnesota Vikings are coming off of a disappointing end to the 2010 season. Despite a great record and a high-powered offense, they came up just short in the NFC Championship game, losing to the New Orleans Saints in OT. They played well enough to win, but just made a few crucial mistakes that caused them to lose.

Heading into the offseason, there were a few different holes that they needed to address. One was depth at CB, especially with Cedric Griffin and Antoine Winfield going through injury problems. Another was depth at RB, as Chester Taylor was not resigned, and instead went to the Chicago Bears. Last, they needed to look at the offensive line, and get more depth to challenge the starters for playing time.

They traded down out of the first round, but then were able to add Chris Cook out of Virginia to try to beef up the secondary. He projects to be a cornerback, but he can likely also play a little of bit of safety if they need him to. They hope he will challenge for a nickel role, and has the size to eventually be a starting cornerback in the NFL. They should be able to give him time to develop, and perhaps contribute on special teams.

Their second round pick was much more well known and accomplished in college, and that was Toby Gerhart, a RB out of Stanford. He is very versatile, and should be a nice complement to Adrian Peterson, as they hope that he can fill the void left by Chester Taylor. They would like him to be a solid pass catcher out of the backfield, good blocker on third down, and give Peterson the occasional rest by getting some carries. He seems to know his role well, and looks like he will be a nice extra piece of the offense for the Vikings.

Their next pick was Everson Griffen, a DE from USC. This was not a position of need, but he fell a lot farther than expected, and so the Vikings simply saw him as the best player available, and thought he would provide nice value for them, The rest of their draft was not filled with many big names, but simply guys they hope can compete for roster spots at WR, OL, and LB. It will be interesting to see if any of them stick. However, this draft will be measured by how well Toby Gerhart and Chris Cook play for the Vikings.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

NBA Award Selections

On another blog, I gave my selections for the NBA MVP Award, and today it is time to take a look at some of the other awards.

Most Improved Player: Aaron Brooks, Houston Rockets
With Yao Ming out for the year, it was expected the Rockets would take a step back. They did, but not a huge one, as they still finished above .500. This was due in large part to Aaron Brooks... I'm not sure a ton was expected of him out of college, as he seemed to be a small point guard with shooting guard skills. He has become a very good starter, averaging almost 20 PPG and over 5 assists per game this year. The Rockets know their stuff.

6th Man of the Year: Jamal Crawford, Atlanta Hawks
He is the best bench scorer in the NBA, and seems to often have the ball in his hands late in the game. He still takes a lot of ill-advised shots, but he is a great sparkplug for Atlanta, and they will need him to come up big if they are going to have any chance in the postseason.

Coach of the Year: Scott Brooks, Oklahoma City Thunder
He took the youngest team in the NBA and has brought them to the playoffs (where they will take on the Lakers). He has done great work meshing in all of the young talent and getting them to play together.

Rookie of the Year: Tyreke Evans, Sacramento Kings
There are still legitimate concerns about whether or not Evans will be a great PG, but there are no doubts about his ability to be a big-time, impact player. He can get anywhere on the floor, and is great scorer, averaging over 20 per game as a rookie. Also, on a bad team he had almost 6 assists per game and over 5 rebounds. He is the complete package at the guard spot, and looks poised to be someone the Kings can build around.

What are your picks?

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Monday, 15 March 2010

Friday, 12 March 2010

Friday night college basketball thoughts...

Lots and lots of games on Friday night, with conference tournaments all around going on... some thoughts from the games.

- Georgetown just always gets good looks, they move so well without the ball. They are also very good passers, and their center, Greg Monroe, is the best passer on the team. They will obviously be a very tough out come Tournament time.

- Georgia Tech did everything they could to throw the game against Maryland away in the second half, but they hang on for a 5 point win. That will officially get them off of the bubble and into the NCAA Tournament.

- Dayton looked like they were going to inject some life in their Tournament hopes, as they built up a nice lead over Xavier. But the Musketeers show they are still an A-10 power, as they advanced past Dayton with a comeback win. If Richmond beats Massachussetts it will be a very competitive end to the A-10 Tournament, with Temple, Xavier, Rhode Island, and Richmond.

- Kansas definitely got a scare from Texas A&M, but their superior talent took over in the 2nd half.

- Underrated exciting conference tournament of the night: Mountain West Conference. All eyes are on the Big conferences, but this features some very good teams. San Diego State is playing for their tournament hopes against New Mexico in what has been a highly entertaining first half. The nightcap will feature BYU and Jimmer Fredette, fresh off of his 45 point effort last night.

- Florida falls up short against Mississippi State in a game that will definitely hurt their Tourney hopes. They are likely still in, but that won't help their seeding any. For Mississippi State, one more win in the SEC Tournament and they might have an argument for an at-large berth.

- Just heard a stat that New Mexico is 7-0 against top 25 teams... wow! That Steve Alford guy can coach a little bit, huh?

- New Mexico leads San Diego St. 39-38 at the half... most entertaining game I've seen so far tonight. Two teams that are just getting after it, and both could be capable of doing some damage in the Tournament (if the Aztecs are able to make it in).

- You're killing me FSN by showing the end of a hockey game instead of the UCLA game.... go Bruins!!

- Darington Hobson is quickly becoming one of my favorite players to watch... not hard to see why he was the MWC Player of the Year. He is very athletically gifted, averaging over 9 boards a game. He has a good handle and is a good passer as well. Even though he is shooting poorly right now, he is still in control of this game and having a big impact. 50-50 midway through the 2nd half.

- Yesterday was a very bad day for bubble teams, but Friday has been very good for them. Illinois got a huge win, Rhode Island got a nice win, Georgia Tech punched their ticket, and Minnesota leads in the 2nd half against Michigan St, though there is still plenty of time left in the game there.

- The 2nd half was not kind for the Bruins... Cal's better talent simply dominated the game. They seemed to be able to get any shot they wanted in the second half, turning a competitive game into a game that was not all that close.

- In an extremely entertaining game from start to finish San Diego State appears to have punched their ticket to the Big Dance with a 72-69 victory over a top 10 team in New Mexico. Billy White was especially excellent for the Aztecs, with 28 very efficient points.

- After a pretty boring start to the 2nd half, the Notre Dame-West Virginia game has definitely picked up. The Mountaineers lead a low-scoring affair by 3 points with about 3 minutes to play.

- Minnesota hangs on to take out the Spartans in OT... once again, this has been a great day for the bubble teams.

- West Virginia hangs on for a 53-51 victory over Notre Dame... the Irish got the ball with about 10 seconds left to go to the length of the court, and Tory Jackson decided to take up a pull-up three with 5 seconds left... not sure I agree with that decision, I thought they could have gone for a better shot, but it was a pretty clear look. At the end of the day we will have West Virginia taking on Georgetown for the Big East Championship on Saturday night.

Sunday, 28 February 2010

How many NCAA Tournament teams from the Big East?

As we begin to approach March Madness, the annual question begins to come up... how many teams are going to make the tournament out of the Big East? It was a conference that was expected to be down a bit at the beginning of the season, but it has been as strong as ever.

There are, of course, a few locks to make it in. Syracuse, West Virginia, and Villanova have been in the top 10 for most of the season, and they will be dancing. Pittsburgh has also been ranked for much of the season, and their ticket appears to be punched. Ditto for Georgetown.

After that, I wouldn't want to be setting any college basketball betting lines for how things will shake out.

Connecticut looked like it would have a tough time getting in as recent as a couple weeks ago, but they have made some big statement wins. They have wins over West Virginia and Villanova, but they are also only 7-9 in the Big East.

UConn will be hurt by their loss to fellow bubble contender Louiville, improving the Cardinals to 10-6 in the conference. They look like they will be in after their win over the Huskies.

Similarly, Marquette beating Seton Hall on Sunday might have been close to a play-in game, as both teams are right on the bubble. Marquette won 84-83 in OT, improving them to 10-6 in the conference, while the Pirates fell to 7-9. While Marquette has a middling RPI, their 10 conference wins (and counting) will be difficult to ignore.

Most penciled Notre Dame out of the tournament when Luke Harangody went down with injury, but they have played very well without him. They scored two big wins against Pittsburgh and Georgetown in the past week, and have a great chance of playing themselves into the tournament at the end of the regular season.

Cincinnati and South Florida have had their moments throughout the year, but I am not sure that their overall body of work will be enough to get them in.

As of now, I see 9 Big East teams in the Tournament:
West Virginia
Notre Dame

What do you think?

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Syracuse is the best team in the Big East

In a strong Big East (despite preseason thoughts that it would be down), to me it looks like Syracuse is the class of the conference.

I know, they sit half a game behind Villanova entering day, with a 7-1 mark compared to Villanova's 7-0, but I think they are the better team. They routed Georgetown 73-56 last night to improve on this mark, and are undefeated on the season save for a lone loss against overachieving Pittsburgh.

Everyone thought this would be a down year for the Orange (myself included), after the loss of Johnny Flynn, Paul Harris, and Eric Devendorf, but this looks like Jim Boeheim's best team since the one that featured Carmelo Anthony. They have been efficient shooting the basketball, and are outscoring opponents by about 19 PPG.

The star has been Wesley Johnson, one of the most athletic players in the country. He averages 17 points and 9 rebounds per game for the Orange, leading their very balanced attack. They have 5 players that average in double figures, and 8 that average at least 6.5 PPG. They have a lot of different ways to hurt you.

But the biggest difference this season is how active and athletic their zone has been. Instead of sitting back in the 2-3, they can get out and challenge shooters and ballhandlers. This aspect was sometimes missing over the past few years. It is a big factor in why I think Syracuse is the best team in the Big East and one of the best teams in the country, with a good chance to win the national title.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Review of "A Game Plan for Life" by John Wooden

I had the good fortune of receiving a copy of "A Game Plan For Life" by John Wooden, and I enjoyed the book immensely.

The book has an interesting format, as the first half is written by John Wooden, and he talks about 7 people that were mentors to him in his life, including his father, his wife, and former coaches. The second half of the book is written by 7 different people, people who were mentored by John Wooden, including former players, NCAA coaches, and his granddaughter.

The book focuses on the importance of having mentors in your life, and in being a mentor for other people. It talks about how you can learn something new from every person and from every day, and it is that continuous learning that helps us grow. People can mentor by the things they say or the things they do, and lessons can be taught at all times.

The book also talks about how you don't have to actually know someone personally to be mentored by them. You can simply read their words, or watch how they lives their lives, and learn from that. For example, two of John Wooden's mentors that he writes about are Mother Teresa and Abraham Lincoln, neither of which he met.

The book is definitely worth a read, especially if you are a fan of John Wooden and his writings (and really, if you have read anything by him, how can't you be?), or are just simply interested in being a better person. Check it out if you get a chance.