Thursday, March 27, 2008

Sweet 16 Thoughts

This year’s NCAA Tournament has been a lot more exciting than anticipated. I figured this year would be the year of the major conferences, but a few underdogs have been able to sneak into the Sweet 16.

Although I had them going to the Elite 8 in my bracket, Davidson’s run has been surprising to a lot of people. Stephen Curry has been the best player in the tournament by far, and watching him play has been a pleasure.

Two Big East teams, West Virginia and Villanova, have made surprise runs to the Sweet 16 as well. I got a chance to watch West Virginia play at ‘Nova in February. ‘Nova dominated the game and made the Mountaineers look like a NIT team. Since then, both teams have been playing some of the best ball in the country.

Watching West Virginia play Arizona in Washington last week, I noticed what made West Virginia so dangerous. Because of who’s on the roster, Bob Huggins has to play John Beilein basketball. They can shoot better than any team in the country, and their lack of size makes them one of the more athletic teams in the country.

Western Kentucky is also a surprise team in the Sweet 16. They knocked of Drake in one of the most exciting games of the tournament so far, and then knocked of San Diego’s Cinderella team. Unfortunately for them, they face UCLA tonight.

That said, my Final Four is still in tact. UNC has been the most dominant team in the tourney, hands down. They face Washington St. tonight, who will try to slow them down, then they get the winner of the Louisville/Tennessee match-up.

UCLA smashed Miss Valley St. in their first game before barely getting past Texas A&M (with an assist from the refs). Now they face an underdog Western Kentucky, before getting the winner of West Virginia/Xavier (likely to be a thriller).

Kansas has also shown flashes of excellence thus far. They get Villanova first, then they will face the winner of Wisconsin/Davidson. Speaking of that game, it’s probably the Sweet 16 match up I’m looking forward to the most. For the record, I still have Davidson winning this game.

Texas will face Stanford (with Coach Johnson for hopefully the entire contest), before getting the Memphis/Michigan St. winner. Memphis has shown they are the weakest #1 seed, with their streaky and undisciplined play and their pathetic free throw shooting. A defensive team like Michigan St. should knock them off. Mississippi St., a less talented defensive team, almost did so in their 2nd round game with Memphis.

I still think all four of these teams to make it to the Final Four. I’d love it if Davidson and West Virginia could make runs, but I think the #1 seeds in their sides of the bracket are just too tough. UNC and Kansas are almost locks to make it to the Final Four. UCLA will have trouble with Xavier or West Virginia. In the South region, anyone of those four teams could make it.

Just like last week, Mrs. Sportsology is out of town, so I’m going to be a coach potato for the next four days.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

2008 Tourney Preview

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: March Madness. Fortunately for me, Ms. JR Mason is going home to be with her family for Easter. That means I won’t have to hear stuff like “Are you going to watch the next game too?”

Without further ado, here’s what you should (or shouldn’t) expect.

East Region

Teams that could go deep
North Carolina
– Carolina was 32-2 this year and look better than ever. Ty Lawson is back and Tyler Hansbrough should be the Player of the Year. Roy Williams doesn’t have a team full of athletes; he has a team full of athletic basketball players. That’s the difference between UNC and a team like Memphis.
Tennessee – Tennessee is arguably the best two seed in the tournament. They can play uptempo or in the half court. Chris Lofton is by far the most clutch player in college basketball, so any close game should go to them.
Louisville – Louisville was a program that was forgotten about early this season. No one was talking about them and they weren’t expected to do much in the Big East. They are deep and well coached, so they could definitely make a run.
Teams that could fall early
Washington State
– Washington State could either be a sleeper or a bust. I’m putting them here because they are too inconsistent for comfort. Also, they’re a tad disappointing, as I thought they’d be a Top 5-10 team all season.
Indiana – Just a dysfunctional group at this point.
Notre Dame – Not sold on these guys.
Mid-Major Report
George Mason
– After trailing VCU for most of the season in the CAA, George Mason is where I expected them to be. They have a very deep team, some Final Four experience, and one of the best coaches in basketball. They could definitely make a run.
Winthrop – Don’t know much about these guys this year, but they are normally good.
Butler – Butler is deep and has a lot of tournament experience. Since they can shoot, they can win.
South Alabama – Don’t know much about these guys either, but they have been a trendy pick to knock off Butler because they’re playing in Alabama. Avoid trends.

Midwest Region

Teams that could go deep
– I think they have the best combination of athleticism, depth, and coaching. If they don’t go far, I’d be very disappointing.
Vanderbilt – Vanderbilt doesn’t get much shine on the national scene, which is a shame. They will be fun to watch.
Davidson – Davidson is my mid-major pick to go deep this year. They had one of the best non-conference schedules in the nation and won’t be intimidated. Sophomore guard Stephen Curry is one of the nation’s best players, and as a freshman he almost led his team to an upset over Maryland.
Wisconsin – Bo Ryan’s teams always play defense and always shoot with a decent percentage. Those are two things you definitely need in the tournament.
Teams that could fall early
– I didn’t know what to expect from them this year, after they lost Jeff Green. After watching them against Memphis, I’ve felt they were suspect. They don’t have a go-to guy, which is a necessity in the NCAA’s.
USC – Have you seen the O.J. Mayo show? Tim Floyd isn’t doing a lick of coaching down in L.A.
Kansas St – Mike Beasley is fun to watch, but as with USC, you have to have a coach to go far in the tourney.
Mid-Major Report
Kent St.
– One of the best mid-major teams this year. They have a tradition of going deep and should be a tough out.
Gonzaga – The Zags have been up and down this year, finishing the season up (until losing to San Diego in the WCC championship game). Its really hard to tell what they will do this year.

South Region

Teams that could go deep
– Texas is a well coached, athletic team like Kansas. They definitely could go all the way, especially if D.J. Augustin and his shooters get hot.
Pittsburgh – Pitt is always a tough team. This season they have come together down the stretch and are playing their best basketball at the right time.
Michigan St. – It seems like every other year they make a run. This might be their year to make a run, although I’m never a big Michigan St. fan.
Marquette – Marquette has exciting guard play, which can make or break you.
Teams that could fall early
– You have to have a coach to win in the NCAA’s. They have more athletes than USC or Kansas State, but against a well coached team like Pittsburgh, they’ll go down.
Stanford – Lack of a go-to guy.
Mid-Major Report
St. Mary’s
– They were a tough team early, but seem to have hit a wall.
Cornell – They dominated the Ivy League this year, and Ivy League teams always play tough in the tourney.

West Region

Teams that could go deep
– Best coached team in the tourney. They have a lot of depth and talent at the guard, on the wings, and down low. After just making the Final Four the past two seasons, they should be poised to take it all this year.
Duke – They should have a fairly easy go at it until they run into the Bruins.
Drake – They might have been the best mid-major team in the country. Look for them to make a run.
Teams that could fall early
– Don’t trust the Huskies. Inconsistent and they don’t have a go-to guy.
Xavier – They’re becoming trendy. Avoid trends.
Mid-Major Report
Western Kentucky
– Don’t know much about them this year.
San Diego – They came on strong late and could be a sleeper team.

Final Four
North Carolina vs. Kansas
Texas vs. UCLA

Kansas vs. UCLA

– What more can I say about UCLA. Simmons waxed poetically about the Bruins yesterday, so if you need more credibility then take a look.

Top 10 Teams to Win it All
– 60% of the time …
Kansas – If it wasn’t for UCLA, they would be the favorite.
North Carolina – They could very easily beat Kansas and UCLA, so don’t count them out.
Texas – If they get hot, they can win it all.
Duke – You know Coach K will have the refs in his pocket, which is a huge advantage in close games.
Tennessee – Tennessee is a great team that’s fun to watch. I’d like to see them make a run.
Pittsburgh – They’re peaking at the right time, although you have to wonder if they can take the momentum all the way.
Wisconsin – Bo Ryan is good enough to get this above average team to the Final Four.
Louisville – Making the Final Four with this team would be one of Petino’s greatest feats.
Washington St. – Although I have them going down early, their combination of defense, experience, and guard play could help them make a run.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

And the NBA's MVP is ....

This season’s NBA MVP race has come down to three people. Each one of these players has put their team on their back. Yet, it shouldn’t even be a race. When you analyze the situation, there’s only one answer to the question “Who is the MVP of the NBA this season?”

The answer to the question, believe it or not, is not Kobe Bryant. Yes, he’s putting up 28.3 pts, 6.1 reb, 5.3 ast and 2 steals per game. As of this morning, his Lakers are tied for first place in the Western Conference. All of that is cool, but Kobe isn’t the MVP for two reasons.

The first reason was mentioned by Bill Simmons not too long ago; Kobe spent most of the first month of the season pouting and waiting to be traded to Chicago. The MVP of the league can’t be somebody who didn’t even give a damn for the first part of the season. As soon as the Lakers started winning and Kobe realized they could be a good team, he started playing hard.

The second reason is the Lakers are one of the deepest teams in the league. It sucks to lose points because of this, but that’s the nature of the MVP award. If Kobe was injured or not on the Lakers, they would still be a playoff team. Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, Luke Walton, Sasha Vujacic, and Derek Fisher wouldn’t be the best team in the West, but they’d be far from the worst.

Right now the Lakers go ten deep and two of their best players are injured. The other two contenders have to play with far less talent. Kobe is the straw that stirs this drink and he should get lots of credit for getting this team to the top of the Western Conference. However, this year isn’t his year.

It almost makes you wonder when his year will be. The last few years he didn’t win MVP because his team sucked; now he shouldn’t get it because his team is really good. No wonder he wanted to get traded to the Bulls. In Chicago, he would’ve had them in the top three at worst and would’ve been a lock for MVP.

Moving on, in a very close second place is LeBron James. This year 30.9 pts, 8.1 reb, 7.4 ast and almost two steals a game isn’t enough. King James is playing on a team plagued by injuries and talent deficiencies. The Ben Wallace trade didn’t make the Cavs better as much as it shifted the talent to different places.

LeBron is the sole reason the Cavs are a playoff team, and he has them sitting in fourth place. There isn’t much else to say about LeBron, he’s transformed himself into the best player in the NBA and is finally living up to the hype. Yet, this year just isn’t his year. At least it shouldn’t be.

The guy who deserves the award this year is Chris Paul. He’s putting up 21.4 pts, 3.9 rebs, 11.2 ast, and 2.7 steals a game. Those numbers are crazy, especially for a 6’0 point guard. He leads the league in steals and could very easily pass Steve Nash (11.4 apg) for the league’s lead in assists per contest.
His Hornets are a half game out of first place in a year when many didn’t expect them to make the playoffs. Out of the three MVP candidates he probably has the thinnest supporting cast. Yes, their starting five is good with Tyson Chandler, David West, Peja Stojakovic, and Morris Peterson, but look at the bench.

Their first five off the bench is currently Janero Pargo, Bonzi Wells, Rasaul Butler, Ryan Bowen and Hilton Armstrong. Mike James, Julian Wright and Melvin Ely get playing time as well, depending on who’s healthy or not.

Watching them play, Paul makes everybody around him better. He made David West into an all-star, he has Tyson Chandler playing like a young Marcus Camby/Ben Wallace, and he’s resurrected the career of Peja Stojakovic.

This year is better than any year Steve Nash has ever had, coming from a huge Steve Nash fan. Let’s go to the numbers. Steve Nash won the MVP in 2004-2005 and 2005-2006. Here are his stats from those years:

04-05 – 15.5 pts, 11.5 ast, 3.3 reb, 1.0 stl, 50% FG, 43% 3PT, 89% FT
05-06 – 18.9 pts, 10.5 ast, 4.2 reb, 0.8 stl, 51% FG, 44% 3PT, 92% FT

Here’s Paul’s full stats from this year:

07-08 – 21.4 pts, 11.2 ast, 3.9 reb, 2.7 stl, 49% FG, 36% 3PT, 87% FT

His scoring numbers are better, his assist and rebound numbers are on par, his shooting percentages aren’t that far off (three-pointers withstanding) and his steal numbers are far greater.

When you look at the reasons why Nash won those MVP awards and should’ve won MVP last year, it’s the same situation. Chris Paul is the team. They just wouldn’t be able to function without him.

With him, they’re one of the best teams in the NBA. While the Hornets don’t fast break like Phoenix, their half court game with Paul is very similar to the Suns half court game with Steve Nash.

They run pick and rolls with Paul and Tyson Chandler/David West and when that doesn’t work CP3 just takes it to the cup. In addition to running the show completely, he’s also leading the league in steals.

Yet, he’ll probably finish third in this race. The media seems to have narrowed it down to a two man race already between Kobe and LeBron. Once again, they are looking at the names and not paying attention to the games.

Just look at Chris Paul’s last five games, when the Hornets went 4-1, with the only loss coming to the Rockets:

27 pts, 17 ast, 4 reb, 4 stl
26 pts, 17 ast, 1 reb, 3 stl
37 pts, 11 ast, 3 reb, 2 stl
25 pts, 16 ast, 3 reb, 3 stl
23 pts, 18 ast, 2 reb, 2 stl

Is that not ridiculous? Who does that? It’s a shame he’s going to get robbed on this award this season. Not to take anything away from Kobe (probably the player who will win the award) or LeBron, who are having phenomenal seasons, but this year at least, the award should go to CP3.

Monday, March 10, 2008

NBA What If Game ...

Check out this article by Bill Simmmons. Once again, he's providing a perspective that few can replicate. This time its about some big "What If's" that have occurred in the NBA in the past few years, like what if Team A signed this player instead of that player.

The NBA is also the best sport to do this in, because there are so many player movements each year.

Its definitely a good read. So good, in fact, that I'm now late for work ...

Return of the Quick Hitters


I’m appalled by the blasphemy spewed by Suns coach Mike D’Antoni. Recently, he said that the Suns are better off with Shaq than with a whole bunch of little guys running around.

I strongly disagree. In fact, don’t be surprised if the Suns don’t even make the playoffs. I still think they’ll make the playoffs, but if Denver can get it together the Suns are finished. They will probably be under .500 for the remainder of the season and eliminated in the 1st Round.

Since the Suns first came to prominence in the 2004-05 season, watching them play was a symphony. Steve Nash directed the orchestra, running around seemingly recklessly, hanging in the air until the last second possible before making an unbelievable pass.

You have to understand that what made the Suns great wasn’t necessarily their transition game, it was their half court game. Nash had the ball at almost all times, and he was surrounded by 2 physical freaks and a bunch of three point shooters. He can beat anyone one-one-one, and when Nash drew double teams, someone was either getting a wide open three or an open lane for a slam.

Slowly but surely, the Suns management has gotten rid of the three point shooting aspect of the team. Additionally, adding Shaq clogs up the middle and keeps the ball out of Nash’s hand. The Suns went from an exciting, unconventional team to a regular basketball team consisting of old players.

The Suns can’t play ‘regular’ basketball. It defeats the purpose of having Steve Nash. In Dallas, Nash played on a regular team and was a decent player. In Phoenix, with a system built around his strengths and giving him freedom, he was able to show his true talent.

Farewell, Phoenix Suns. You were once the most exciting team in basketball. Have fun being boring with Shaq, Grant Hill, and the rest of the gang.


My ballot is 1. CP3 2. LeBron 3. Kobe 4. T-Mac. More on this later.


The Dolphins will be stupid not to pick Jake Long. He would stabilize their offensive line for years to come.


I’m not really excited about this upcoming season. All the steroids and Clemens talks has been a big downer. I guess this is what they wanted.

NCAA Bball

VCU dropped the ball. Hopefully they won’t be screwed, but I doubt it. The CAA regular season champs lost in the conference semi-finals to William & Mary on a last second jumper. They should definitely go to the Big Dance over a big conference also-ran, like Oregon or Arizona.

Those teams consistently prove to be one-and-doners. However, I’m pumped about this year’s tournament. I’m not sure who I’m going to go with this year, so stay tuned to that as well.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Save the Sonics!!!!

Check out these pieces by Bill Simmons to save the Sonics. More on this topic later.