Posted on: March 20, 2011 10:20 pm
 

The aptly named "March Madness"

This is only the 3rd year I have really been heavily involved in the NCAA Tournament or "March Madness" as it is nicknamed and I have been on a roller coaster of highs and lows since it started. In the years past I just followed casually and kept an eye on the projected draft picks for the NBA but as of 2 years ago I have entered the relm of the "Madness" and have not looked back. The whole atmosphere of the tournement is electric and every single game has meaning, especially if you have a bracket filled out and are looking for the wins. The biggest thing I have learned is that there are no locks, whether you are a #1 facing a #16 or a #8 facing a #9 nobody is safe from the upset. We've seen Butler take down Pittsburg, Virginia Commenwealth top Georgetown and Purdue, Richmond beat Vanderbilt and Morehead State shock Louisville. There has been numerous buzzer beating shots and countless games coming down to the wire this year and needless to say, I have been on the losing end of 8 of those games decided in the closing seconds. However, despite my initial frustration and still lingering anger (the Texas loss is still fresh) I thoroughly enjoy every second of the madness and eagerly look forward to the next game. Seated on my couch with one game playing on the TV and another one going next to me on my laptop courtesy of CBSsports.com, I enter the crazy world of NCAA basketball and don't surface until it is all over. Here's a few things I have learned from this year's play and expect to see as it progresses.

1.) Derrick Williams is a beast on both ends of the floor. Whether it's blocking a game winner or hitting the eventual game winning And 1, Williams is shoving his talent and sheer will to win in everyone's face as Arizona continues towards a Sweet 16 matchup against Duke.

2.) Nobody is safe. Just because your team is playing a crappy seeded team, it doesn't mean it's a gimme win. Just like every year, the lower seeds show up and use every ounce of hustle and talent they have to upset the big dogs and destroy the brackets of guys like me. We love and hate these games because nobody likes to have brackets shattered, but everyone loves the underdog story. Whether it is George Mason of a few years ago, Butler of last year or Virginia Commenwealth of this year, we all feel for the little guys.

3.) This is where the men are seperated from the boys. In the moments where it counts, when the game is on the line, this is when we see the true mettle of these players. Guys like Jacob Pullen, Derrick Williams, Matt Howard, and J'Covan Brown to name a few. These players step up and deliver when their team needs them the most. In the case of Pullen and Brown, their teams fell sort but they did everything physically possible to give themselves the chance to come out on top. The NBA scouts love this time of the year because they truly see what these young men are made of.

4.) Never count out the Jimmer. Jimmer Fredette has been just incredible this year, doing absolutely everything for BYU. When Brandon Davies was suspended, nobody gave BYU much of a chance to do much in the tournement. Ya they had Jimmer but without Davies inside they were at a disadvantag at both ends of the floor. Now after 2 games, BYU is going strong and Jimmer is averaging 33 point per game and stil carrying this team on shoulders. Don't be surprised now that Pittsburg is out if Jimmer and BYU challenge for a spot in the Final 4.

5.) Don't forget about Duke. With the talk about Ohio State, Kansas and even North Carolina, it's really easy to overlook Duke. Which is odd because it's not often that the defending NCAA champions are left out of the title talk. Any team with Nolan Smith, Kyle Singler, the twin towers (Miles and Mason Plumlee) shooters in Seth Curry and Andre Dawkins and then Kyrie Irving of course, should never be counted out when talking about tournament champions. They have the talent, experience and coaching to very possibly take the title home again.

6.) There is a fantastic point guard class in the NCAA. It has been a while since we've seen a group of point guards like we have right now. With players like Jacob Pullen, Kyrie Irving, Isiah Thomas Jr, Ben Hansbrough, Kemba Walker, Brandon Knight, Nolan Smith(He played point for the majority of this year) Jimmer Fredette(he is pretty much the point for BYU) and Shelvin Mack, the NCAA and the NBA are set for point guards in the coming years.




Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 16, 2011 9:24 pm
 

My Lakers Wish List


Every fan has those few players that they would give their eyeteeth to pick up, and I don't mean the Kobe Bryants, LeBron James, and Dwayne Wades of the league. I'm talking about the James Poseys, Robert Horrys, Jamal Crawford and Jason Terrys. The role players that can make or break a championship team, the midseason pickups that push a contender over the edge. Here's the players that I think would most benefit the Los Angeles Lakers.

Brandon Bass: Bass is the prototype power forward. He's physical around the basket, an eager and very solid rebounder, and great man to man defender who is also capable of coming over for the help or weak side block. On the offensive end Bass has a great jumper, shoots over 80% from the free throw line, and he is also has a fantastic finishing touch around the rim. He would provide a solid 20+ minute backup for Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum who is an asset on the offensive and defensive end. He would also bring a hardnosed and hustling attitude that Phil Jackson would appreciate for sure. The only question is how difficult would it be for him to learn the intricate triangle offense and how it runs.

Gerald Wallace: Wallace is the only player in the NBA other than Ron Artest who is big and physical enough to handle and harass guys like Paul Pierce, Lebron James and Kevin Durant. He has made a name as one of the premier defenders in the league and unlike Artest, he is not a liability on offense. He can slash to the rim and hit the perimeter jumper if need be. Wallace is also an excellent rebounder and would pick up the slack when Andrew Bynum is on the bench. Once again however, the question would be how quickly and efficiently could he pick up the triangle offense.

J.J. Redick: Redick is one of the more underrated players in the league. Everyone knows him as a three point specialist but in the last two years he's really expanded his game. His team defense has improved dramatically, as well as his playmaking ability and drives to the hoop. Sitting on the Magic bench for a couple seasons has really increased his basketball IQ and understanding of the game. He has the ability to absorb the triangle offense and learn it quickly. The Lakers are not a big 3 point shooting team and Redick would provide a deep threat to stretch the floor for Kobe, Gasol and Bynum. A bonus is his playmaking and he would not only provide quality minutes off the bench to rest Kobe, but would be able to play point guard in the triangle if so needed.

D.J. Augustin: D.J. is an up and coming point guard who has been really overlooked because he plays in Charlotte. He has shown that he has scoring ability but is a great passer and has good court vision to go with it. Another player who can fill it up from downtown, he would also be Derek Fisher's heir apparent in L.A. He is a decent defender as well, strong enough to handle bigger guards but quick enough to not get burnt by the plethora of fast guards in the league. He would greatly benefit from being mentored by Fisher and being around a superstar of Bryant's intelligence and ability. If brought up right, he could be a very solid and productive point guard for future Laker teams.

As a footnote, no Laker fan wish list would be complete without these last two.
Please grant us L.A. fans another couple seasons with Phil Jackson, and let Andrew Bynum's knees become impervious to any future injuries.

Posted on: March 14, 2011 4:33 pm
 

Lakers overview

The Lakers have been at the center of the basketball watch this year, a team that has seemingly struggled to beat the top teams consistantly throughout the year. Always the focus of intense media scrutiny, they've finally turned face and during a 9-1 post All-Star break run, have beaten teams like the Thunder, Mavericks, Blazers, Spurs and Atlanta. Here's my thoughts on the Lakers this year.

  • It has been readily admitted over the years by defending champions that the competitive edge is somewhat lost the next season until the playoffs. As the two time champs, this must be doubly difficult for the Lakers and it shows. Not playing 100% in games against good and bad teams, blowing big leads, getting outhustled on both ends of the court, and struggling to get motivated have been stumbling blocks for Los Angeles this year. Now that it is getting closer to the post-season and the games count for more, they must regain that killer instinct and play 110% against teams from both ends of the spectrum.
  • Andrew Bynum is the key to this team. He has more than proven himself in these 10 games since the allstar break. Averaging 12.2 PPG, 11.5 REB, 2.5 BLK, and 60.7% FGP since the break, his value on both ends of the floor has been tremendous. His biggest impact has come on the defensive end however, blocking 2.5 shots a game and changing countless others, players think twice about venturing into the painted area while he is on patrol. If he continues to play at this level and stays healthy, not only will the Lakers 3-peat, but he will be an All-Star for many years to come.
  • The only teams in the league who pose a serious threat to the Lakers come playoff time are San Antonio, Oklahoma City, and Boston (The latter only in the Finals.) San Antonio has the experience and star quality to pose a threat, while Oklahoma City has the youth, quick point guard play, and the only player in the game in Kendrick Perkins who can consistantly battle Bynum night after night. Either one of these teams would prove quite a battle in a 7 game series.
  • When the bench in playing well, the Lakers are near unbeatable. The ability to give the starters extended rest and still produce has been an up and down battle for the bench this year. The "Killer Bs" meaning, Steve Blake, Matt Barnes, and Shannon Brown, have played up to and even exceeding expectations in many situations throughout the year but still need to push up to that championship level that has been shown in flashes this year. Brown needs to fine-tune his shot selection and take it to the rim more often, Blake needs to be more aggresive on the offensive end, and Barnes will need to show that his knee problem is taken care of and didn't affect his explosiveness and hustle. Lamar Odom has been fantastic off the bench(and in some starting situations) and continues to expand upon the best season of his career. He will need to keep being aggressive, taking good shots, and looking to the offense first, as well as playing in the paint more often than he has been. Being a substitute for Bynum or Gasol, he needs to realize that his duties lie mainly in the post. His size and quickness pose infinate matchup problems for opposing teams and when he is taking advantage of these scenarios, he is more often than not, the Lakers second best player on the floor. They need him to recognize the mismatches and take full advantage if a 3-peat is to happen.
  • Pau Gasol is exhausted. His amazing play through the first 3rd of the season with Bynum out is what kept the Lakers winning during that stretch. However, the physical toll of playing 38+ minutes a night in the post during that span has really added to inconsistant play throughout the remainder of the season. He is such an integral part of the team and when he has an off night the offense really struggles to get going and the defense is certainly not as strong. Phil needs to start finding ways to get him more rest per game and drop his minutes down to 30-32 a game until the playoffs. Gasol needs to be at full strength or the road to the finals will be long and difficult.
  • Kobe Bryant is still the games best player. You can have Kevin Durant, LeBron James and Derek Rose, i'll still take Kobe any day of the week. He's still capable of doing the amazing every night, but this season he has really taken a step to keep the team together and involved during the game. There's been a few times when he's done his thing and deviated from the offense, but generally speaking it's been the team first and himself second. Kobe's M.O. has been to spend the first half running the offense through the team with a few shots himself, and then the second half is him doing whatever is needed to win. Whether it's him taking the shots, playing defense, or dealing out assists, he is indeed the complete package and is showing it this year despite nagging injuries that certainly must make things difficult night in and night out.
  • The Lakers have really stepped up the defense since the All-Star break, holding opponents to 88.1 points a game, 41% shooting and 31% from beyond the three-point line. This new commitment to defense starts with Bynum who anchors the paint, therefore making it much easier for the wing players to close out on the shooters and then force driving players into Bynum who will then block or disrupt the shot. Any championship team cannot win without defense and the Lakers are finally showing they are more than able to put the clamps on any team they choose. (See the win vs San Antonio)
The Lakers are still the two-time defending champions and they didn't get those two rings by luck or sneaking through, it was definately earned and until they are beaten you can't count them out. As long as the team stays healthy, I can't see anyone taking the Lakers in a 7 game series.
Posted on: March 7, 2011 1:00 pm
 

Will the real MVP please stand up

In light of the the antics by LeBron James in the clutch again last night and the Heat's mini-slump, I thought it appropriate to address the MVP race. So far the general feel is for Derek Rose to win the MVP award, with Lebron James as a close second and Dwight Howard a possible third. The fact that James is even in the top 5 so morbidly wrong, I don't even know where to start. First off, James's workings in the clutch have been horrid. Iso's, jumpers off of screens, pick and rolls, its all been tried for him and still no dice. An MVP is a guy you can count on to get you buckets when you need them the most and that sure as heck hasn't been James this year. Yes his stats are about the same as his MVP season, but this year he has Wade and Bosh both putting up nice numbers as well (with Wade leading by a long shot in the intangibles). Here's the lines all compared.

Lebron James:GP 61-MIN 38.4-PPG 26.2-REB-7.5-AST 7.1-FG% 49.3-SPG 1.5-BPG .6-TO 3.6
Dwayne Wade:GP 59-MIN 37.2-PPG 25.4-REB 6.7-AST 4.4-FG% 49.9-SPG 1.4-BPG .9-TO 3.3
Chris Bosh: GP 59-MIN 36.2-PPG 18.3-REB 8.2-AST 1.8-FG% 48.8-SPG .9-BPG .7-TO 1.7

Have we forgotton what MVP means? The Most Valuable Player in the league to their team. Lebron isn't even the MVP of his own team, much less the entire NBA. Wade is very close to James in all categories except for assists and that can be attributed to Lebron basically playing PG for Miami and always having the ball in his hands. Dwayne is the true heart and soul of this team and has put his ego and everything aside to let Lebron do what he does, and it hasn't worked.  So why isn't the conversation for MVP about Wade and Lebron instead of just the latter? You can't forget about Bosh either, his stats aren't eye-popping like his teammates but they are very respectable and cannot be ignored.
Now hasn't the knock against Kobe Bryant all these years and arguement against him winning the award been too many good players on his team? He can't win the MVP because Gasol, Odom, and Bynum are too good. Well where is that arguement now? Tell me how Lebron is that much more valuable to the Heat than Wade, or Bosh who improves both James and Wade when he is on the floor. How is Lebron hogging the ball in clutch situations when it clearly should be Wade shooting, stopping the offense with his over-dribbling, and constantly turning his head and getting beat on D make him more worthy than his own teammate? Much less Derek Rose, who has put the Bulls on his shoulders and carried them to the second best record in the East this year. Can anybody say that the Bulls would be just as good without Rose? The answer is a resounding NO, but you take Lebron off the Heat and replace him with a servicable forward and in my opinion the Heat are even better then they are now. There wouldn't be any confusion as to who takes the clutch shots, Bosh would be used more in the post and there would be a marked improvement in the overall team play for Miami. Even Dwight Howard who has been carrying the Magic for the last month or so and Dirk Nowitzki who has been the heart and soul of the #2 seed Mavericks are more deserving than Lebron. If he wins this year, it will be proof of a massive bias and clear favoritism on behalf of the voters and the NBA in general.

Posted on: March 2, 2011 1:14 pm
 

Just Pitiful

Is there an any more disturbing trend in the NBA than big men who just simply cannot rebound? Either this generation has the worst "big men" rebounders ever, or they are just the laziest. Take your pick of explanations, both of them aren't very encouraging. When Amare Stoudemire can play 35+ minutes last night against the Magic and only grab 2 rebounds, something is wrong. When Andrea Bargnani plays 33 minutes and grabs 3 rebounds, it causes the same disgusted reaction. Here's a few examples of players who should be averaging alot more rebounds than they are:
Dirk Nowitzki-6.6
Andrea Bargnani-5.5
Brook Lopez-5.9
Rashard Lewis-5.2
Hedo Turkoglu-4.4
Channing Frye 6.5
Andrei Kirilenko 5.5
All of these players are above 6'9, play 30+ minutes a game and are focal points in their team's system. They get plenty of time on the court and there is absolutely no excuse for the poor rebounding that is displayed. It's just pitiful that guards like Dwayne Wade(6.9 rpg) and Landry Fields(7.1 rpg) are better at this facet of the game that is supposed to be crucial to "big men." We've seen some record rebounding games put up this year and I applaud the guys like Kevin Love, Dwight Howard, Blake Griffin, and Zach Randolf for their dedication to the craft and willingness to go all out after the ball. It's just time for these other star players to step up and start fighting for the ball like true big men should.



Posted on: February 28, 2011 2:55 pm
 

The Maiden Voyage

After watching most of the Knicks /Heat game yesterday, and my fit of laughter at the end game "heroics" of LeBron James had calmed down to a few mild chuckles. I just felt like sharing a few random thoughts on the subjects of both teams.

1. Chauncy Billups is proving very quickly that he has something to prove and isnt just "the other guy" that New York received from Denver. In averaging over 20 ppg and hitting yet another big shot in last nights game, he is bringing the same leadership and winning attitude to NY as he did when he came to Denver. Very underrated pickup for the Knicks.

 2.) New York is really in need of another shooter that can stretch the floor. Landry Fields is adequate and Chauncy is still an excellent long ball shooter, but it's not going to be enough if they want to compete with the big dogs in the East.

3.) Landry Fields will be the player that pushes New York from a good team to a great team. He is the glue player that every team needs to win. His hustle, hardnosed play, rebounding, defense and shooting ability are making him invaluable to Mike D'Antoni and quickly winning the favor of his teammates. He will be the key to their success.

 4.) I know I will take major flak for this one but it has to be said. Lebron James is not a player you want taking the shots in crunch time. His out of control drives to the hoop and extremely streaky jump shooting are a major achilles heel in close situations. His only ways of getting consistant scoring come by running over people and gaining a blocking call, easy layups when players just move out of his way because they don't feel like getting trampled, and a few jump shots when he is having a rare good game in that area. These strategies will be of absolute no use against teams like Boston, Orlando, Charlotte, the Thunder , Los Angeles, San Antonio and even now the Knicks. The experienced teams will take the charges, deny the driving lanes and force Lebron to take his awkward fade-away jumpers. He may get some drive and kicks to Mike Miller and James Jones , but does anybody really want them taking the last shot in an important game? The ball needs to be in the hands of Dwayne Wade when the game is on the line, period.

 5.) Dwayne Wade is proving to be the heart and soul of the team. His shooting was off against the Knicks but he made up for it by handing out 9 assists, grabbing 7 rebounds and making off with 3 steals.  His unselfishness and willingness to let James be the focal point and face of the team speaks volumes about his leadership and desire to win. However, since Lebron has failed many times over in the clutch, Wade needs to realize that is his time to step up and deliver. He is the only player on the team who has the competitive edge and overwhelming desire to win that is needed in a clutch player. He has proved that he can deliver quality shots and opportunities to win when it is needed. Wade needs to put the needs of the team over the ego of Lebron and just take over when needed. The Heat will never reach their potential if he doesn't.

 6.) Miami would much better off if they took the money that was spent on James and used it on a quality big man and point guard. Bosh and Wade work better together with James off the floor than on, and the offense is much more effective when it is allowed to move freely without Lebron overhandling and forcing shots. If they had picked up players like Brendan Haywood , Raymond Felton or explored options to fill spots were needed then I believe they would truly be an elite team instead of a pretender. However, it is a little too late now.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com