Tuesday, June 28, 2011

2011 NBA Season Postview, Part 2, The Finals

Lots have been written about this already. I'm going to try some semi-original thoughts.

First, let's congratulate your 2011 NBA World Champions, the Dallas Mavericks. I'm including the word "World" in that title because basketball was invented in America, this is our highest league, and whenever the Europeans or Africans or whoever wants to send a team Champions League style, they are welcome to play by our rules on our turf. This is an American sport, and we dictate the rules of play. Don't tell me European basketball is pure or anything like that; NBA players may not always play the game well, and Europeans may be better at a few specific things (okay, a lot of things, but their clogging-the-lane-stuff is so old), but American basketball is the way basketball should be played. We care about things like the World Championship and Olympics out of hubris; we care about the Finals because it matters. Take Dirk: he could have been a pansy, stayed in Europe, dominated all the soft big men, and won more than a few titles. But he, being a basketball guru, decided (before his time) to come and play with the big boys, and now, sportscasters and fans alike are proclaiming his toughness, guts, and spirit.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

2011 NBA Draft Preview, Part 1

I'm posting a little before the draft because of a timing issue. I'll finish Mavs/Heat later. Here are my top 5 for each position:

PG: Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker, Brandon Knight, Josh Selby, Nolan Smith.
SG: Jimmer Fredette, E'Twuan Moore, Jacob Pullen, Malcolm Lee, Alec Burks.
SF: Marcus Morris, Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard, Chris Singleton, Tobias Harris.
PF: Derrick Williams, Enes Kanter, Markieff Morris, Tristan Thompson, Jan Vesely.
C: Keith Benson, Josh Harrellson, Jonas Valanciunas, Mamadou Diarra, Donatus Motiejunas, Giorgio Shermandini

Edit: I had mistakenly Tristan Thompson down twice; this has been corrected to Klay Thompson. 

NBA Season Postview, Part 1

As you might have noticed, I was absent from the blogging realm during the NBA Finals, which happen to be the most important postseason stretch for me as I am a basketball fan first. What the heck happened? Well, long story short, I met the most incredible person in the world a while ago and we were married on June 3. This blog has all the details. I was in Hawaii for much of the Finals, and while I did see games 1, 2, and 6, I wasn't able to comment on them for reasons you will understand.

So, what happened since I left off? Well, my conference finals predictions were one for two, with Chris Bosh and LeBron James surprising me with their clutch play in the Chicago series. In fact, after his debacle against Boston, Bosh seemed to really settle mentally and emerged as the Heat's most consistent player. Consistency alone does not a champion make, but this was a big stride for someone that can get lost in all the Heatles hoopla. LeBron crafted some great fourth quarters after realizing that scoring before the two minute mark can help. The series also revealed Chicago's drastic lack of depth behind Rose at both point and shooting guards. Mike Fratello noted on a Bill Simmons podcast interview that Chicago needed one more ball handler, and I whole-heartedly agree. C. J. Watson is serviceable against horrible benches, but once Rose had to give it up, no one could really create for himself or his teammates. In this situation, you either have to have a clutch closer that can make things happen against the double team (Rose passed out of them too quickly, even though that is usually the best move), or an ingrained system that can seek flaws in the defense and beat it through execution. Tom Thibodeau joins the long list of lauded defense-first head coaches without much of an offensive system, and if he wants to continue his success, he will need to install a better one.

Monday, May 16, 2011

2011 NBA Playoffs, Conference Finals Predictions

Here are my predictions, and the support for those predictions. I will use some stats, but I believe that in the playoffs, stats can sometimes be misleading for the following two reasons. First, regular season stats mean so little in the playoffs. Pace is different, quality of opponents is different, and the team is playing differently. Second, to use stats from the first two rounds is misleading because of the small sample size of only playing against two teams. So I will use stats as an explanation, but I think in the playoffs, you have to use the eye test. And here we are with predictions:

2011 NBA Playoffs, Conference Semi Outcomes

I called it. Sure, some of my teams had early bumps in the road, and one (OKC) was bumped to the edge, but all hung on and made it through to the Conference finals. How did it happen, and what will come next?

Friday, May 6, 2011

2011 NBA Playoffs, Conference Semis After Game 2, P2

How is the West? I think the Thunder are holding up. Marc Gasol had an unbelievable game one, and I feel he was the real difference in that game. I can't believe that he will continue to be the hero. Zach Randolph has been on a tear, but cooled in game two and I don't know if he'll be as consistently dominant as he was in the Spurs series, not if Ibaka is healthy (though Zach Randolph has proven a lot of people wrong). Durant has been his usual terrific self. I think the key for the Thunder is Russell Westbrook's play. Lots has been said about his decision making, especially how he often makes up his mind before a play instead of letting it come to him. I don't blame him; he's young and unlike Paul or Rose, he's not the unquestioned star on his team.

2011 NBA Playoffs, Conference Semis After Game 2

How are my predictions holding up? Pretty good, even though some of my teams have started unevenly. However, I feel Chicago and Oklahoma City have figured things out internally and will finish their respective series strong. Why do I think so? Read on.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

2011 NBA Playoffs, Conference Semi Predictions P2

Onto the Western Conference. Let's start with the aforementioned Memphis Grizzlies. They beat San Antonio off the singular merits of Zach Randolph. McDyess, Duncan, Bonner, and Splitter were totally unable to stop Z-Bo. And that's why I think the Thunder beat them. Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison, and Kendrick Perkins are younger, tougher, and can bully the Grizzlies more. This is where getting Perkins at the trade deadline turned into a genius move by Sam Presti (on the flip side, does O'Neal, O'Neal, Davis, Green for Boston really scare you behind KG? I mean, at least Perk could play some defense. I know Big Baby has quietly gotten loads better, and the stats say that Perk didn't affect this year's team, and Rondo has gotten out of his funk, but still, the dude's a bruiser, someone LeBron and Wade and Rose are glad they aren't going to get funneled into by the help D). I think that the Thunder guards are going to outplay the Grizz guards. And finally, I think Durantula is going to play well against Battier. I know, I know, Shane Battier is one of my favorite players, a guy that does everything right and can make any shooter's night a long one. But Durantula has historically shot well against Houston (though he goes to the line less), proving that Battier can't bother him that much. I think it's because Battier's game is pushing shooters to places where they're less effective and making them shoot over him while not fouling. Against a guy like Kobe who loves to play Battier's game but isn't great shooting over people, that works. But I feel Durantula has fewer weak spots on the floor, and his length makes it easier for him to shoot over the top. The only way you're going to make things hard on him is to body him like Ron Artest, constantly annoying him physically and throwing off his rhythm (even then, the Thunder last year, who were nowhere near this year's edition, pushed LA to within one short Westbrook jumper of a game 7). I'm pretty confident the Thunder wrap this up in six, and even in seven, I have faith in them at home.

2011 NBA Playoffs, Conference Semi Predictions

It was a good first round with few real upsets. I know that Memphis over San Antonio was a history-making series, but a few things made it more anti-climatic than it could have been: 1) Memphis wanted to play San Antonio, and ensured that they would get the eighth seed to play the Spurs in the first round. 2) Memphis played San Antonio well this year, and the playoffs are dominated by matchups. 3) Memphis was on fire down the stretch. Ever since Rudy Gay went down and OJ Mayo was regulated to the bench, the Grizzlies have been on fire. Gay was playing inspired this year (another guy whose career has been changed forever by Coach K and the summer team), but somehow, the team just scraps more without him. 4) San Antonio faded down the stretch and looked ultra vulnerable. The Spurs had amazing injury luck early in the season, but lost all of that in the last month of the regular season. Tim Duncan's decline has been huge: he is just a jump shooting shell of his former self, and even saving him throughout the season didn't give him any extra juice come playoff time. Not that I can blame him: KG is old-looking and hasn't played all the playoff games (ie: extra mileage), and Kevin looks bad sometimes. It's just Father Time catching the Spurs at the worst possible moment.

Monday, April 18, 2011

2011 NBA Playoffs, NO over LA

The Lakers can't stop fast guards. This vital flaw was exposed once again in their first playoff game. CP3 and Jarrett Jack, the ACC backcourt terrors of this postseason combined to go 16-24 from the field, 2-4 from range, 14-19 (!) from the line, 11 rebounds, 19 assists to 2 turnovers, and 4 steals. They had more combined assists than the entire Laker team. Derek Fisher is no answer for them, and Steve Blake was inactive (!?). The Blake omission is especially mind-boggling when you have Kobe, Shannon, and Barnes essentially playing the same position, with none of them being able to guard ones. Why do they have three shooting guards when their competition is Belinelli and Willie Green? Between Shannon Brown and Matt Barnes, someone has to go. And with Shannon's unpredictable psyche, it should be him.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Fantasy Basketball Review

Following my intrepid auction football season in which I had mixed results (one silver, a fifth place, and two bottom feeder teams), I tried my hand at the auction basketball format on Yahoo! Sports. All leagues are H2H leagues that use standard stat cats (FG%, FT%, 3's, Pts, Reb, Ast, Stl, Blk, TO), are out of 12 teams and use a $200 auction format with playoffs (6 teams) ending last week. Here is my quick summary:

Friday, March 25, 2011

Joey Rodriguez

I figured I'd give the guy some props by using his first name. It's kind of a tacit sign of respect when I use guy's first name (I'll yell at Nolan all the time the whole game like I'm there). I know I've written a ton about VCU already, but it's a compelling storyline!

I've been telling the people around me for a week the Rodriguez is for real, and if you look back, I've thought since the USC game that VCU's drive and dish game was impressive (though I didn't mention Joey by name). But so far, he has been a great story this tourney, and if they top KU, I'm looking at potential player of the tourney, depending on what Kemba does. As far as great players left in the tourney, I don't trust Barnes, Sullinger is out, and I really believe the best individual players left are Joey and Kemba, with Butler's Mack as a distant third. These are guys that I'm terrified of if I'm the opposition.

I know that I just harped on Coach Cal, and I still think the basketball gods will strike him down. They've waited for a while, but I believe he'll go down. But I love the last play for Brandon Knight. Didn't call a timeout: if you need a timeout to set up a game-winning situation, you haven't done your job. I am a big fan of cutting the number of timeouts to three per half. Think about it. If all timeouts are called each half (including the automatic TV timeouts), you would stop the clock less than every two minutes, which ruins the flow of the game. I know a lot of timeouts are "saved" for later, but why have a flow to the game only to throw it out the window in the clutch?

Anyway, I loved the no timeout, trust your guys philosophy, even if it comes from Cal. The guy is still a smart guy.

VCU over FSU in OT!

WOW! What an ending to the game! First, FSU gets a nice pump and baseline drive for an easy finish inside and a one point advantage. Then, Rodriguez drives the lane (I said it and I think I was right!), and though he got blocked, VCU had 7 seconds left to inbound on the baseline. And then my boy Rodriguez steps up and makes an amazing bounce pass to a crashing big man and a great layup. With time winding down, Kitchen takes it all the way and kicks for a nice elbow jumper, but VCU BLOCKS IT! Still, if time is winding down, I want the ball in Kitchen's hands and I felt he made a heady play. All-around great basketball. This group of guards from VCU is something KU is not gonna want to see in the next round. Rodriguez is a foxhole guy, a guy you trust making that great, great, great pass, a guy that can take you all the way.

FSU and VCU update

Rodriguez makes a GrEaT play to get the steal and the foul, but he really needed those freebies to fall and he didn't get either one. Then VCU comes down with some good defense and forces a bad three, but then shoots a long clanker on offense. I want to see more drive penetration from Rodriguez: I know they are shooting the three better as a team than the two, and I know that FSU's big men are blocking and altering everything inside, but I've seen Rodriguez's skills drawing fouls and dishing for buckets, and I think this is the direction they need to go. FSU with the TO, let's see what they draw up with 53.5 seconds left.

FSU and VCU to overtime

More great, defensive, basketball. Great block by FSU to stop the great VCU drive (love aggressive plays towards the rim), but what was Kitchen thinking on that last play? It doesn't seem like he had a plan, and I know he's practiced enough to have one. Kids, you need a go-to move in crunch time, and even a few counters that will work too (see my posts a few weeks ago about the Heat endgame for why).

OSU the Third No. 1 Seed to Go Down

I loved Kentucky's aggression and momentum down the stretch. The Buckeyes certainly didn't do themselves any favors with the famous clogged toilet offense (as coined by Bill Simmons) down the stretch.

This is the clogged toilet offense: give your star player the ball somewhere at the border of his effective range, have everyone stand around, and expect him to do something. This works sometimes in the NBA, but is terrible in college. This is the reason: everyone runs the clogged toilet offense when your best player is better than the defensive player marking him. This happens a lot in the regular season, but in the tourney, where overall defense is better, it doesn't work as well. Especially a team like OSU which has played terribly down the stretch and had no momentum. UK's defense could sag on him, not believing anyone else could help them.

Compare this to what Arizona did to beat Duke, running a PLAY for their best player to go TOWARDS the rim. It was risky, but it was aggressive, and the basketball gods like aggressiveness. Don't just sit around and wait for your guy to do something. I liked how they fought and tied it with a three when everything was pointing towards UK, but it turned out to not be enough.

On a side note, I strongly believe that UK and UConn, two teams lead by cheating coaches, will have their inflated hubris struck down. If they both make the final four, I will burn that side of my bracket. Obviously the basketball gods have different levels of bad behavior they punish for: Pitino's error was more egregious and his team lost faster. But something inside tells me these two teams are going out.

Terrible Sequence for OSU

The refs just called a terrible foul on Craft; he read the screen and roll perfectly and got in great position. Then they get a turnover on Sullinger. Good thing they got a turnover back and Craft hit some freebies.

How Good is VCU?

I'll post more about the other games later, but I'm watching this one now, and my question is raised in the title. The thing is, Rodriguez is sitting and Burgess is torching FSU's vaunted defense. Kitchen is getting his and doing dirty work, but the Ramsh is playing great defense and making every point difficult for the Seminoles.

Ohio State has to be more patient and shoot a higher percentage. And they need to stop fouling. Or hope the young UK's don't shoot well from the line (which is a real proposition). But they need someone besides Sullinger to contribute, and Diebler has been invisible since the first half.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Bulls v. Hawks

All I can say is wow. 72 points in a half for Chicago, who could do no wrong on offense AND defense. The performance reminded me of a conversation I had with a security guard in the Longsworth House Office Building (US House of Rep. office). Anyways, I told the guard that the Bulls were a legit playoff team, and he laughed it off, telling me to "enjoy the regular season." And I just deleted the word "bacon" that I absentmindedly typed because of the MJ Hanes commercial.

And enjoying it I am. I am a Bulls homer. The first Finals series I remember was Bulls-Lakers, and I've been a Chicago fan since. But outside my bias, this Bulls team is playoff good. 72 points in a half against Atlanta, a team that is a perfect example of what you should not do (overpay to make the second round of the playoffs). And they are making every shot.

And then there's the defense. Taj, Omar, and Miles play great defense off the bench. And CJ Watson has turned into a legit second-team offensive threat. This is a scary defensive team that can go big and small. Joakim and Omar to help on Dwight with the ability to play Taj at 5 and run.

The Hawks? No fight. Don't tell me their players are laying it out for the team, because it is painfully obvious that they are playing for the name on the back of the jersey. Don't believe me? Watch and make the call.

Monday, March 21, 2011

2011 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament First and Second Round Thoughts: SW and SE


Kansas: Tourney chops looking good. Can do it in many ways, and making the final is looking better.
UNLV: had the talent, but looked like a deer in the headlights. I trusted their tournament chops too much and looked to closely at that close loss to SDSU at home.
Richmond: Should have believed in them more. Louisville caught me and many others by surprise. Check back for more info. Richmond could be a danger to Kansas.
VCU: I knew that they could upset Georgetown, but beating Purdue? They eviscerated the Boilermakers' vaunted defense, playing the exact type of drive and dish game you need to beat "better" teams. Moore was terrible, and I didn't expect that bad of a showing from him.
FSU: I knew that their defense would cause problems, but I believed ND could have two good shooting games in a row. Obviously, I was wrong.

Butler: huge win over Pitt. I couldn't believe the colossal mental mistakes at the end of it though. I have to believe that living dangerously will catch up to the Bulldogs, but it could be that they are just hitting their stride. Pitt always had a tough road in my mind (contrary to what others said), so I'm not surprised by this as much as others are.
Wisconsin: I really had no faith in this team, thinking their only big win was at home to OSU, but obviously, I should have trusted the advanced stats more in this one. Belmont had the statistical showings of an upset candidate, but the Badgers played will against them AND the Wildcats. Surprise, surprise.
BYU: I thought the Gonzaga game would be closer, but the BYU roleplayers dominated and Gonzaga's big men did not get the dedicated usage they needed to slow this game down. Gonzaga succumbed to BYU's pace, and Jimmer is going to have another week of rest, which will only make him more dangerous.
Florida: I thought the UCLA game was a push, and it basically was. They did a great job closing, though. BYU will be tough: this is basically a re-match of last year's first round game with no significant personnel changes on either side. BYU has been playing well without Davies (when they are rested), so Florida cannot take a game off. My gut tells me that BYU will win on Jimmer's unbelievable stat line.

More to come: reflections on my bracket.

2011 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament First and Second Round Thoughts: E and W

Wow! What a weekend! Every March, I remember again the magical nature of the madness. Let's start in the East region and take a look at what happened.

Buckeyes: I thought going into the tournament that OSU is the most invincible 1 seed. Looking at their competition, I don't see a team in their region that can match up. They demonstrated that by dismantling the Patriots defense, and I see more blowouts coming.
Kentucky: Princeton's offense was beautiful with all the back cuts and layups, but ultimately, athletic talent won out. I don't see much of a future for UK though, as OSU looms, and so does the curse of the NCAA gods.
Marquette: The Golden Eagles really proved me wrong. I didn't believe they had tournament chops, having correctly tabbed them for upsets before. But then, I should have known that I couldn't trust Syracuse's Scoop Jardine. I trust Boehim, but not with a player that lets me down in the big games I've seen this year. I don't know that I could have picked against them prior to the Sweet Sixteen, but I'm not completely surprised by this. I'm more surprised that Marquette was the team that knocked them off, but props to them for doing it.
Tar Heels: I really thought Isaiah Thomas could carry Washington with his veteran talent, but ultimately, they fell short. I know that they though they were fouled on the long 3 at the end, but UNC played well. I still foresee an upset in the makings for the young UNC squad.

Duke: Michigan's offense was great in both the first and second rounds, but their defense left a lot to be desired. Specifically, no one could stop Nolan Smith as he shot an absurd percentage. Some shoddy Duke transition defense (they'll need to work on that) made the game close, but honestly, I didn't harbor any doubt that the Blue Devils would pull out the win.
Arizona: What a gutsy call to go to a pick and roll on the last play. There are so many things that can go wrong, with both the help defense and the difficulty of the pass, but everything went right for the Wildcats because (listen here, boys and girls), they gave the ball to their best player going towards the rim. In a day and era where everyone wants to take dagger threes and avoid contact (probably because of bad free-throw shooting), I still believe that teams that go towards the rim convert more clutch opportunities. I picked Derrick Williams as the best player in this quartet of teams, and he has proved thus far. I don't see the Wildcats advancing past the Dukies, though, for the addition of Kyrie Irving gives Duke too many offensive and defensive options.
UConn: No big surprise here. Kemba Walker going all Kemba on Cincy. SDSU better watch out less he turn into Jimmer on them and leads the Huskies to the win.
SDSU: they are better than Temple, but a few things held them up. First, dumb decisions in both transition and half-court sets led to low percentage shots. They needed to realize they had an athletic and size advantage, and use it. They needed to realize that Gay could get to the rim any time he wanted, and make something out of it with two-man action and kickouts for hoops or drives. Second, clogged toilet clutch offensive sets left them with their 3rd best player holding the ball 16 feet away from the basket with his back to the rim. From there, I would say that an awful jump shot is a foregone conclusion. They have the talent to knock off UConn, but Calhoun is smart and the Aztecs need to play smarter. Or trust that Calhoun will also be stricken down by the basketball gods.

Southwest and Southeast Analysis after the break.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

2011 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament: Moorehead State and Duke

Louisville played the better game but didn't execute down the stretch (missed free throws killed them). I knew that Moorehead State had a good chance of the upset, and they definitely proved themselves. The three pointer from Demonte Harper who had a terrible day from range took onions and a little bit of insanity. But March is mad!

Duke reports that G Kyrie Irving will play limited minutes in the opener. As I said before, even 15 minutes a game from him later on could help Duke blow out opposing second units and help them win another title.

2011 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament: First Blood, WVU and Butler

I think Clemson did get a little tired. Early on, their ball pressure was really bothering the typically sure WVU guards, forced some turnovers, and made going over with lob passes impossible. But as WVU settled into their groove and ran their offense, they started making shots and I think that was their game.

ODU just couldn't get anything to go inside. It was a great effort by Howard to stay in the game with foul trouble with that tough ODU front line, and Butler did a good job of protecting him. I think ODU had some great looks, but couldn't convert.

Comments on 2011 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament Bracket

I know this post will come in after the first round has started, but I promise these are original opinions. These are my thoughts on the bracket.

1: I know I have Duke winning. Even on this blog, I will admit that I am a complete homer, and I believe that the Blue Devils will survive until either a) Kyrie Irving comes back or b) Kyle Singler figures out his game (getting boards and driving rather than shooting 3's). They have some tough matchups (Texas, UConn, SDSU) before the Final Four, but they are experienced, and I believe they can make it.

2: Here on, I will go straight top-to-bottom from my previous post

  • I know lots of people have WVU losing to Clemson. I think that UAB would have been tougher, and I think the late game plus early game for Clemson will show in the second half when they'll be a bit more tired than the Mountaineers. Plus I think Bryant is the best player in this game.
  • I know some have Xavier losing to the Golden Eagles. I think Xavier is veteran and won't lose this early.
  • I had Xavier beating 'Cuse, then I went through my entire bracket and took another look at all the Big East teams, many which had losses, but mostly to each other. I believe in the conference this year, and in many cases, I upgraded their teams.
  • I have the Huskies beating the Tarheels because I believe that UW is a veteran, tournament tested team. I saw them last year and believe their experience will serve them well against UNC's youth. I also believe that UNC will face ball pressure and that they didn't necessarily do well against Duke's pressure. Finally, I think Isaiah Thomas is the best player in this game. I will use the best player call often, because I believe in the one-and-done format, sometimes the bets player can transcend a game and put an inferior team on top. Example? Carmelo.
  • I think Thomas continues to be great for UW, better than Jardine for 'Cuse, and then the talent of OSU (Sullinger > Thomas) takes over.

  • I'm flipping between Arizona, Memphis, Texas, and Oakland for the first two rounds. Ultimately, I think Derrick Williams will be the best player among the four, and I believe that Texas has too many weapons for Oakland to handle.
  • I think Texas' youth comes out against the veteran Blue Devils. Also, I am a total disbeliever in Rick Barnes' tournament chops (c'mon, they lost in the second round with Durant). So I'm taking Duke here. 
  • I think that SDSU will beat UConn inside, and although they can be susceptible to great guard play, I think UConn will be a bit tired and just don't think they have it in them to go all the way.
  • I think Duke will play better pressure D against the Aztecs than they've seen and will win this one going away.

  • I am a big disbeliever in Vanderbilt, having watched them through the SEC. I just don't think they have the mentality to close games.
  • Lots of people have Louisville losing, I did too before my second look at the Big East.
  • Ditto for Georgetown, though I think this upset will probably happen. Oh well, I'll stick to my guns.
  • I think FSU's defense trumps A&M's offense.
  • I think the Jayhawks' second round game is dangerous. They could go out here. UNLV can be sneaky good or just not so good.
  • Big risk taking Louisville for two wins.
  • I love Moore and I think he may be the best player in this region if he's hot.
  • I think ND can have two good shooting games-they've done it in the Big East.
  • The Jayhawks have another tough game here. Two toughies in a row.
  • I think Moore as the best player beats them in the next game though.
  • Again, Kansas has to beat a tough team. I really was tempted to pick Purdue, but Kansas is solid all over the place, especially on D. We'll see though, as the Jayhawks have to play what seems to me to be three tough games in a row.

  • I think Utah State was seeded way too low. The problem is, I think Pullen is the best player in the top half of this bracket, or maybe even the whole bracket (if Jimmer is gone), and the Wildcats have gotten super hot. Still, I think Utah State will be playing with a chip on their shoulder.
  • St. John's lost their best player. Tough.
  • I have no faith in Michigan State this year. Maybe like last year, they will prove me wrong.
  • Pitt is going to find it tough against Old Dominion
  • I don't think Gonzaga can slow down Jimmer or punish BYU enough inside.
  • I think Florida is the weakest 2 (like many people). I think that UCLA is tournament-tested and can win this one. I think of this game as a push.
  • Pitt faces another hard game against either Utah State or Kansas State. I think this will be a physical game no matter who's in it.
  • BYU can't continue to play one man ball. This club can either make the final four, or lose in the first weekend.

  • I think Duke matches up well with OSU. And I think Nolan will prove to be the best player in this game. I'm not saying he's necessarily better than Sullinger, I just think Duke can cover Sullinger better than OSU can contain Smith. Also, if Irving is playing around 15 minutes a game by this point, look out.
  • I think the Jayhawks and the Panthers will both have tough roads to the Final Four. Ultimately, I think the Jayhawks have more talent and Pitt might be more worn out.

  • Playing Pitt will cost the Jayhawks as they find themselves in an early hole against Duke. In the second half, the defenses tighten it up and they get the game within a possession, but Nolan Smith hits a big three pointer off a Kyle Singler miss and offensive rebound, keeping the Jayhawks at bay, and they never get within 4 the rest of the way as Duke celebrates its second straight title.
3: Places I think I could be horribly wrong:
  • Having Duke win it all.
  • Not having OSU win it all.
  • Being too confident in the talent on Kansas and Pitt teams.
  • Not trusting SDSU's lack of tournament wins enough
  • Not believing in Kemba enough. 
  • Not believing enough/believing too much in Jimmer.
  • Overrating/Underrating the Big east.
  • Forgetting about George Mason too early.
  • Forgetting about Harrison Barnes.
  • Jordan Hamilton owning Derrick Williams.
  • Believing too much in Isaiah Thomas.
  • Over/Under-rating ND's shooting.
  • Picking too much chalk in the end.
Right or wrong, you make the call, and let's find out together!

2011 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament Bracket

This will just be quick rundown of the bracket. I'll post my analysis in a comment.


(first round)
GM over Nova
WVU over Clemson
UK over Princeton
Xavier over Marquette
'Cuse over Indiana State
UW over Georgia
UNC over LIU

(second round)
Buckeyes over Patriots
KU over WVU
Orange over Musketeers
Huskies over Tarheels

(sweet sixteen)
Buckeyes over KU
Huskies over Orange

(elite eight)
Buckeyes over Huskies


(first round)
Blue Devils over Hampton
Volunteers over Wolverines
Arizona over Tigers
Texas over Oakland
Bearcats over Mizzou
Uconn over Bucknell
Temple over Penn State
SDSU over Norther Colorado

(second round)
Blue Devils over Volunteers
Longhorns over Arizona
UConn over Bearcats
SDSU over Temple

(sweet sixteen)
Blue Devils over Longhorns
SDSU over UConn

(elite eight)
Blue Devils over Aztecs


(first round)
Jayhawks over Boston
UNLV over Illionois
Richmond over Commodores
Cardinals over Morehead State
Georgetown over VCU
Boilermakers over Saint Peter's
Seminoles over Texas A&M
Irish over Akron

(second round)
Jaywaks over Rebels
Cardinals over Spiders
Boilermakers over Hoyas
Irish over Seminoles

(sweet sixteen)
Jayhawks over Cardinals
Boilermakers over Irish

(elite eight)
Jayhawks over Boilermakers


(first round)
Panthers over UNC-Ashville
Old Dominion over Butler
Utah State over Wildcats
Belmont over Badgers
'Zags over Red Storm
Cougars over Wofford
Bruins over Spartans
Gators over UC Santa Barbara

(second round)
Panthers over Old Dominion
Aggies over Belmont
Cougars over 'Zags
Bruins over Gators

(sweet sixteen)
Panthers over Aggies
Bruins over Cougars

(elite eight)
Panthers over Bruins

Blue Devils over Buckeyes
Jayhawks over Panthers

Blue Devils over Jayhawks, 69-63

I'll Admit When I'm Wrong

I posted over the summer that I believed the Heat got tremendous value from their vet minimum free agents and the MLE. I am now eating my words near the end of the season where the supporting cast has not played at a championship level.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

I Was Right Again!

I'm excited by this. Watch the highlights of the 3/9 Knicks win over the Grizz. Look at the last shot, the game winner from Carmelo. Look at where he gets the ball. Look at what the play call was for. In my very last post, I espoused the notion that LeBron should get game-winning isos on the wing in the triple-threat. See that post for the reasoning.

Fast forward to last night's game. Carmelo gets it just inside the three-point line on the wing in the triple-threat...exactly what I called for! He then jabs (impossible with a live dribble), and because Allen is guessing over the multitude of offensive options, creates a little bit of space from where to launch a sweet jumper. Can LeBron do this? He certainly can (though to the eye, he's not a shooter like Carmelo).

Anyway, I think that play validates what I was trying to say, but you make the call.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Flaws in the Heat endgame.

This post is copied from a comment I made on another blog, ("Miami's Final Play Wasn't That Bad"). It is an excellent blog to follow for NBA strategy and fundamentals. You can find the videos I reference on that page.

I think there is a fundamental problem with the LeBron iso that teams are exploiting more than ever. He has become two dimensional in the set, and because teams see so much of it, they've figured it out. I think the coaching staff does a poor job of getting different looks at the basket, and LeBron does a poor job of setting himself up and hasn't figured out any effective counters to the looks he's getting. More and more, LeBron on Noah is not a 10 out of 10 possibility.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I Was Right For Once!
I made this prediction last summer, and now it is coming to fruition! I said that Ridnour, Felton, Lowry, were better options than signing Steve Blake! Ridnour is shooting a torrid pace from three and is balling in his starting spot. He is a keeper for the money he is getting. His PER is only 15.97, which isn't great, but look at his contract ($4m). Felton has dropped off a little, but is still performing well at a 17.41 PER with high assist numbers (I know that Amar'e is helping a lot, but he is still killing). He is also getting paid more ($7m), but has more upside. Lowry is playing great defense, which the Lakers need, has a 15.05 PER and is getting paid ($5.75m).

And back to Blake. He doesn't have much of a role, but he isn't necessarily filling it well. I like the guy, and I think he could eventually be a good triangle guy, but in about 20 minutes, he is averaging a 7.60 PER, easily the lowest of his life. He is getting paid $4m, which is on the low end, but about in line with the guys we're talking about. I decided to go into the numbers, and discovered that several Lakers dropped in PER in their first season in the triangle. Ron Artest has been on a decline for a few years, and in LA, his responsibilities shrunk. The same story with Pau, although his 24 PER the previous year was a high and he only dropped a little below his average before getting back to that level last year. Same story for Lamar. Matt Barnes is the only significant Laker to get better in his first year. But still, those guys dropped organically, and Steve's fallout has been precipitous.

I don't know that Steve will turn out badly for LA, but I don't know that he is a solution. I understand that the Lakers are thinking short-term, but I think they could have a lot better for the money (at least Ridnour). I think I was right, but you make the call.

Nolan Smith: Bringing Showtime To Duke | ThePostGame

Nolan Smith: Bringing Showtime To Duke | ThePostGame
This is a great original number on the reason the Dukies are having so much success this year. It really captures the Duke that a lot of people don't see in the games. I love seeing great basketball players having fun, playing with emotion and intensity. I love how the reporter went behind the scenes and really got a story instead of just telling us what we can all see on SportsCenter.

I admit that I am a Duke homer and believe that they can have a lot of success this year (even without Kyrie), from an unbiased fan's point of view, this is still a great article. It also shows how the greatest coach in the modern era can learn new things and evolve with the game. I really think coaching Team USA helped Mike, both from a coaching perspective (getting to know different philosophies and different players), but also from a basketball culture perspective, getting to know the kids he might still be coaching, getting in an atmosphere were he is forced to cater to the players a bit more than at Duke. I'm not saying that he was out of touch before, but I think being with Kevin, Lamar, Russell, Derrick, and company this summer helped him see lots of playing perspectives from first year guys to veterans. And I think he brought a lot of that experience home and it has helped his players reach a new level. And you know what? It's cool to see a hall of fame guy that could have gone out doing things his way become even better.

What can I say? I love Duke. But they are playing well, and you make the call.

Super Bowl 45 Review, Packers def. Steelers

Yes, yes. The game was over a week ago, and I'm barely getting to it? I wanted to take a week to think about it and process all the information and try to come up with something original. And I've had some computer difficulties the last couple of days. Or in other words, I was too busy to really write high-quality stuff, so I didn't write anything at all.

Here are my thoughts:

Thursday, January 13, 2011

What's Wrong With the Colts?

I think the Colts have become too predictable. In years past, teams would watch as Manning gesticulated all over the place and he would call plays to their exact weaknesses. But recently, in the Super Bowl and against the Jets, we are seeing teams playing a safer approach and it's been working. Why, and how can the Colts stop this?

First, I think teams have figured out how to counter Manning's pre-snap reads and adjustments. Clearly, he is still the best in the league at this. But in the past, Manning has been most effective when teams present him sometime to read. Think about it: the more complex a system is, the more likely a weakness is hiding inside and the more likely there will eventually be a breakdown. Is a car more likely to break down (many moving parts) or a bike? Cars have greater upside, but in many cases, have more weaknesses, from a maintenance perspective. the same with your defense: the more complex look you throw at Manning, the greater chance that there will be a breakdown in coverage.

Quick Thoughts on Minnesota over Purdue

First of all, I apologize to my loyal fans for a writing hiatus. I know you may not be out there now, but when this blog is famous and people start going through the archives, I am sorry. My plan is to use my twitter account more often for news-like posts (, and I will blog a couple times a week on more extended subjects, a-la Bill Simmons.

Anyway, this was a beautiful game. Patience. Ball movement. Good defensive fundamentals. Good decisions on the break. I love these two coaches, and I love seeing their teams play. Ultimately, no one besides Johnson and Jackson could get hot, and part of that was Minnesota not doubling and staying at home, and that was the difference in the game. But the coaches got some beautiful basketball out of their players and put them in the right positions to make great plays. I don't know that many of these players will go to the NBA, but they are foxhole guys and who knows, maybe these teams will be dangerous come madness time.

I know, I know, you all are expecting an article on the Duke loss. This is what I think (and Michael Wilbon agrees). This means something, but not much. What it shows me is that Duke still struggles in the interior, and that losing Lance Thomas/Brian Zoubek may have been bigger than losing Jon Scheyer. I think Nolan Smith has advanced enough that he can take over the point role, and Dawkins/Cury are quality starting 2's/guard of the bench for a title squad. But losing the toughness inside, especially on the offensive glass, is hard. Is Hairston going to show up? I was expecting bigger things out of him. It is clear that without Irving, this team needs to be able to get more shots, and they did not do that tonight.

On the other hand, this loss isn't huge. Duke wasn't going to go undefeated without Kyrie. And I am much more interested in how the team plays in the last two weeks in February than now. I think the guys understand that the goal isn't to crush every opponent, it's to prepare for tournament time, and I think that this is part of the learning experience (how to cope with an energetic and well-prepared defensive squad). Bottom line: I want to see the Devils improve, and that will be the determination of their tournament success, not some conference game in January. But you can call me a homer, so you make the call.