Tag Archives: Connecticut Huskies

Bracketology Report: Cincinnati Bearcats

Cincinnati Bearcats—(19-7, 7-6)—10th in the Big East

Strength of schedule: 31

RPI: 42

BPI: 21

Good wins:

  • 77-66 vs. Oregon
  • 70-61 @ Pittsburgh
  • 71-69 OT vs. Marquette

Bad losses:

  • 54-50 @ Providence

Remaining schedule:

  • 2/21 @ Connecticut
  • 2/24 @ No. 24 Notre Dame
  • 3/2 vs. Connecticut
  • 3/4 @ Louisville
  • 3/9 vs. South Florida

Even though Cincinnati has six conference losses and sits towards the bottom of the Big East standings, the Bearcats have been competitive in every game they’ve played in this season. Four of their losses have come against ranked opponents and another was against an unranked New Mexico squad that is now No. 16. UC has lost two games by one point, in addition to three other losses by six points or fewer. The Bearcats have proven that they’re a tough out but they lack quality conference wins, which are readily available in a conference with six ranked teams.

Cincinnati has held its opponents below 70 points on 23 occasions this season. However, the Bearcats’ offense leaves them susceptible to close losses in low-scoring games. Junior guard Sean Kilpatrick leads the team with his 18 points per game average on 41.6% shooting. Senior guards Cashmere Wright and JaQuon Parker are the only other Bearcats to average in double figures in scoring. UC’s offense is too guard heavy and Cincinnati is lacking an inside scoring presence that the team had last season with center Yancy Gates.

Cincinnati junior guard Sean Kilpatrick leads the team with an 18 points per game scoring average. (Image courtesy of bleacherreport.com)
Cincinnati junior guard Sean Kilpatrick leads the team with an 18 points per game scoring average. (Image courtesy of bleacherreport.com)

Cincinnati’s résumé is certainly tournament worthy but the Bearcats still have lots of room for improvement. At this point, UC is on pace for a seven, eight or nine seed. With four games remaining against Louisville, Notre Dame and Connecticut, who are fourth, fifth, and sixth in the Big East, respectively, the Bearcats could move up to a No. 4 or No. 5 seed if they run the table. A strong showing in the Big East Tournament would allow Cincinnati to be in the discussion as a No. 5 or No. 6 seed.

Prediction: Cincinnati will lose at Connecticut and Notre Dame, then end its three-game losing streak with a home victory over UConn. The Bearcats will lose on the road to Louisville and end the regular season with a win over South Florida to finish the season 21-10 (9-9). UC will be the No. 10 seed in the Big East Tournament. Cincinnati will win its first game and lose the second. The Bearcats will be a No. 8 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

College basketball stock report for week 16

After five consecutive weeks of teams moving up to the No. 1 spot one week and then back down the next as if there was a revolving door for the top spot, Indiana has held on to the No. 1 rank for the past three weeks. Miami (FL) has continued its ascent up in the polls from No. 25, No. 14, No. 8, and No. 3 to No. 2 and 23 first place votes behind the Hoosiers.

The Big East leads all conferences with six ranked teams, followed by the Big Ten with five and Big 12 with three.

With three weeks left of regular season conference play, here is my college basketball stock report:

BUY

Michigan State Spartans-(22-4, 11-2)-Ever since losing by five on the road to No. 7 Indiana, the Spartans have rattled off five wins in a row, including a 23-point drubbing of No. 4 Michigan. Michigan State is tied for first in the Big Ten with the opportunity to have sole possession of first place with a game against No. 1 Indiana tonight in East Lansing, Mich.

Adreian Payne and Michigan State are heating up as March approaches. The Spartans are tied with No. 1 Indiana for first place in the Big Ten entering their game on Tuesday.(Image courtesy of buckey extra.dispatch.com)
Adreian Payne and Michigan State are heating up as March approaches. The Spartans are tied with No. 1 Indiana for first place in the Big Ten entering their game on Tuesday.
(Image courtesy of buckey extra.dispatch.com)

Georgetown Hoyas-(19-4, 9-3)-The Hoyas have taken advantage of Syracuse’s three losses in the Orange’s last six games; Georgetown has won seven straight games, including three against ranked Big East opponents, and is in a three-way tie for first place.

Gonzaga Bulldogs-(25-2, 12-0)-Gonzaga has won 16 of its last 17 games and the Bulldogs’ only loss in the new year was a one-point defeat at the hands of Roosevelt Jones and the Butler Bulldogs on the road. Gonzaga played and defeated the four teams remaining on its schedule by an average of nearly 13 points this season. It would be no surprise if the Bulldogs do not lose until the NCAA Tournament.

SELL

Butler Bulldogs-(21-5, 8-3)-Butler has proven that its best is very good after the Bulldogs defeated No. 1 Indiana in December. However, Butler has lost three of its past eight games. Even though the Bulldogs play in an improved A-10, they have gradually fallen from their top 10 ranking.

Michigan Wolverines-(22-4, 9-4)-There is no doubt that the Wolverines have a roster that has the ability to play in Atlanta for the Final Four but Michigan has slipped up several times lately. The Wolverines lost three of their past five games. All four of Michigan’s losses this season have come on the road and the No. 7 team in the country will have to be able to play away from Ann Arbor, Mich. in order to go deep in the tournament.

Cincinnati Bearcats-(19-7, 7-6)-Cincinnati has been ranked for most of the season but fell out of the top 25 this week after losing three of their past four games and four of seven. All of the Bearcats’ losses have been by ten points or fewer, with four of them being by less than five points, UC has struggled to emerge as one of the best teams in the Big East. Cincinnati is tied for ninth in the conference with games against Connecticut, Notre Dame and Louisville remaining on its schedule. The Bearcats were projected to be a No. 3 seed in ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi’s projected NCAA Tournament but they are falling quickly.

HOLD

Notre Dame Fighting Irish-(21-6, 9-5)-In the past two weeks, Notre Dame defeated No. 11 Louisville in five overtimes and No. 20 Pittsburgh on the road. However, the Fighting Irish also lost to No. 9 Syracuse by 16 and unranked Providence by 17. Notre Dame has a lot of potential but the team has been too inconsistent.

Marquette Golden Eagles-(18-6, 9-3)-With the exception of a loss at Green Bay in December, Marquette does not have any horrible losses this season. The Golden Eagles were routed by Florida and Louisville, two teams that have been at the top of the polls for most of the season, but they have faired well in their conference schedule. Marquette hasn’t proven that it’s a great team but has exceeded expectations in one of college basketball’s toughest conferences. With four road games and two matchups against ranked opponents remaining on their schedule, the Golden Eagles have a challenging home stretch before the Big East Tournament.

Indiana’s non-conference schedule raises questions

The Indiana Hoosiers sat comfortably atop the preseason college basketball rankings with over double the number of first place votes than No. 2 Louisville in the AP ballot. Even though the 12-1 Hoosiers rank in the top eleven teams in the country in terms of points, rebounds and assists per game as well as field goal percentage, Indiana’s non-conference schedule raises questions about how the preseason No. 1 team will fare in the long run this season.

Indiana lacks a true road test and wins against high caliber opponents in its non-conference schedule.
Indiana lacks a true road test and wins against high caliber opponents in its non-conference schedule.

Through 13 games, Indiana’s best wins are a 24-point blowout victory against North Carolina, who is now unranked despite being ranked fourteenth at the time of the matchup, and a nail-biter against Georgetown in the Progressive Legends Classic Championship in which IU needed an overtime period to pull out the win.

Indiana’s lone loss was in an in-state matchup against Butler, who was unranked at the time but is now ranked eighteenth.

The Hoosiers have yet to compete in a true road test—their non-conference schedule was composed of 10 home games and three matchups on neutral courts. In those games on neutral courts, Indiana did not play like the best team in the country, as its rank indicated. IU was only winning by five points with nine minutes remaining in the second half against Georgia before winning by 13. In the game against Georgetown, there were nine lead changes and the Hoosiers’ largest lead of eight points was short-lived. Not much needs to be said about Indiana’s performance against Butler other than that the Hoosiers let a winnable game slip from their grasp in overtime.

The majority of IU’s home schedule was filled with “cupcake” teams that are incredibly unlikely to win their conference tournaments and make the NCAA Tournament because receiving at-large bids are probably out of the question. It is no surprise that Indiana University and Athletic Director Fred Glass scheduled games against opponents that the Hoosiers could score at least 100 points against in guaranteed blowout wins but Indiana had nine of those games instead of challenging itself against more formidable opponents.

Opponent

Opponent’s RPI (as of 12/30/12)

Score

Bryant

201

97-54

North Dakota State

345

87-61

Sam Houston State

227

99-45

Ball State

252

101-53

Coppin State

280

87-51

Central Connecticut State

133

100-69

Mount St. Mary’s

97

93-54

Florida Atlantic

232

88-52

Jacksonville

294

93-59

A few of these games may have been necessary in order to boost the team’s confidence and to give some of the guys towards the end of the bench in-game action but how much will nearly a dozen thirty-point blowouts help the development of a team with its sights on a national championship?

Indiana’s Big Ten schedule, which includes nine games against teams currently ranked, will certainly challenge the Hoosiers but they haven’t been tested enough to appropriately prepare for the difficult conference schedule that awaits them, beginning with a road game against Iowa on Monday, December 31st.

_______________________________

Duke and Michigan State are two schools that Indiana, and the rest of the country for that matter, should look to model themselves after in terms of the difficulty of their non-conference schedules. The Blue Devils have faced No. 3 Kentucky, Minnesota, VCU, No. 2 Louisville, No. 4 Ohio State and Temple. While Duke lacks an away game on its résumé, the Blue Devils have half a dozen wins against tournament bound teams.

Michigan State is known for playing top-ranked competition and scheduling road games that most programs of its caliber would not. The Spartans kicked off their 2012 campaign with games against No. 23 Connecticut and No. 7 Kansas. Tom Izzo’s team then went on the road to play Miami (FL) and Bowling Green. It is no coincidence that since 1995 when Izzo became the Spartans’ head coach, Michigan State has won a national championship and has six Final Four appearances.

The Top 15 College Basketball Programs Based on Current NBA Players

A discussion with my friends Braxton and Max last night about which college basketball program has the best current professional players inspired me to go through the current players in the NBA and find the top fifteen programs. I ranked the teams based on the number of players currently in the league and their level of production over an extended period of time. Duke took the number one spot because there are 17 former Blue Devils in the NBA and many of them are major contributors on their teams (or at least they were when they were in their primes).

Duke has nearly twenty former players in the NBA and many of them put up big numbers at the highest level. (Image courtesy of http://www.forbes.com/pictures/emdm45efll/4-duke-blue-devils/)
Duke has nearly twenty former players in the NBA and many of them put up All-Star level numbers. (Image courtesy of http://www.forbes.com/pictures/emdm45efll/4-duke-blue-devils/)

1Duke University

Luol Deng-17.7 ppg 7.0 rpg 2.8 apg/43 career playoff appearances/1-time NBA All-Star

Carlos Boozer-14.4 ppg 9.8 rpg 2.0 apg/66 career playoff appearances/2-time NBA All-Star

Shane Battier-6.8 ppg 2.3 rpg 44.2 3P%/74 career playoff appearances/NBA Champion/All-Rookie First Team

J.J. Redick-14.2 ppg 2.3 rpg 4.9 apg/44 career playoff appearances

Kyrie Irving-23.6 ppg 3.7 rpg 5.5 apg/2012 NBA Rookie of the Year

Elton Brand-Career averages of 18.0 ppg 9.3 rpg 50 FG%/30 career playoff appearances

Kyle Singler

Austin Rivers

Dahntay Jones

Chris Duhon

Mike Dunleavy Jr.

Gerald Henderson

Corey Maggette

Josh McRoberts

Miles Plumlee

Nolan Smith

Lance Thomas

2. University of North Carolina

Vince Carter

Raymond Felton

Ty Lawson

Danny Green

Marvin Williams

Harrison Barnes

Ed Davis

Antawn Jamison

Rasheed Wallace

Jerry Stackhouse

Tyler Hansbrough

Wayne Ellington

Brendan Haywood

John Henson

Kendall Marshall

Tyler Zeller

Brandan Wright

3. University of Connecticut

Ray Allen

Kemba Walker

Rudy Gay

Ben Gordon

Caron Butler

Emeka Okafor

Andre Drummond

Hasheem Thabeet

Jeff Adrien

Richard Hamilton

Jeremy Lamb

A.J. Price

Charlie Villanueva

4. University of California at Los Angeles

Russell Westbrook

Kevin Love

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute

Arron Afflalo

Darren Collison

Matt Barnes

Trevor Ariza

Jrue Holiday

Ryan Hollins

Malcolm Lee

Earl Watson

5. University of Kentucky

Rajon Rondo

DeMarcus Cousins

Brandon Knight

Tayshaun Prince

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

Eric Bledsoe

Jodie Meeks

Enes Kanter

Chuck Hayes

Keith Bogans

Darius Miller

Anthony Davis

Josh Harrellson

Terrence Jones

Doron Lamb

DeAndre Liggins

Nazr Mohammed

Daniel Orton

Patrick Patterson

John Wall

6. Wake Forest University

Tim Duncan

Chris Paul

Jeff Teague

Al-Farouq Aminu

James Johnson

Josh Howard

Ishmael Smith

7. University of Florida

Joakim Noah

David Lee

Al Horford

Corey Brewer

Udonis Haslem

Chandler Parsons

Bradley Beal

Marreese Speights

Mike Miller

Matt Bonner

8. University of Texas

Kevin Durant

LaMarcus Aldridge

Tristan Thompson

P.J. Tucker

Daniel Gibson

Jordan Hamilton

Royal Ivey

Corey Joseph

Dexter Pittman

9. Marquette University

Dwyane Wade

Wesley Matthews

Steve Novak

Jae Crowder

Jimmy Butler

Darius Johnson-Odom

10. Kansas University

Paul Pierce

Mario Chalmers

Kirk Hinrich

Nick Collison

Markieff Morris

Marcus Morris

Thomas Robinson

Cole Aldrich

Darrell Arthur

Drew Gooden

Xavier Henry

Brandon Rush

Josh Selby

Tyshawn Taylor

11. Syracuse University

Carmelo Anthony

Wesley Johnson

Kris Joseph

Dion Waiters

Hakim Warrick

12. University of Arizona

Andre Iguodala

Jason Terry

Jerryd Bayless

Chase Budinger

Jordan Hill

Richard Jefferson

Luke Walton

Derrick Williams

13. Georgia Institute of Technology

Chris Bosh

Thaddeus Young

Jarrett Jack

Will Bynum

Derrick Favors

Anthony Morrow

Iman Shumpert

14. University of Washington

Isaiah Thomas

Nate Robinson

Spencer Hawes

Quincy Pondexter

Terrence Ross

Will Conroy

Brandon Roy

Tony Wroten

15. Georgetown University

Greg Monroe

Roy Hibbert

Jeff Green

Thunder Trade Harden to Rockets for Lamb, Martin, and Draft Picks

With just three days before the first games of the 2012-13 NBA season, the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets agreed to the terms of a deal that sends reigning Sixth Man of the Year James Harden, Cole Aldrich, Daequan Cook, and Lazar Hayward to Houston in exchange for Kevin Martin and Jeremy Lamb to go along with two future first round draft picks and a second round pick.

This trade comes after Oklahoma City failed to sign Harden to a maximum contract that Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Serge Ibaka already have. The 2011 Western Conference champs lose their best scorer off the bench. The 23-year-old shooting guard has seen improvements in his points per game, field goal percentage, and assists each year that he has been in the league.

James Harden, the centerpiece of the deal, will finally get his shot at a starting role in Houston. The Arizona State product would start for just about any team in the NBA other than Oklahoma City and will likely be expected to carry a very young and inexperienced Rockets squad.

James Harden will be one of the Houston Rockets go-to scorers. Courtesy of http://espn.go.com/nba/story/_/id/8562868/oklahoma-city-thunder-trade-james-harden-houston-rockets

Daequan Cook is the player in this deal who can make the second biggest impact for the Rockets after James Harden. Cook started twenty-two games for Oklahoma City last season on a team with lots of depth. Similarly to Harden, his experience on elite teams and ability to be a double-digit scorer may elevate his value on his new team.

Cole Aldrich and Lazar Hayward will continue their roles as bench players in Houston. Aldrich saw limited action in two years with the Thunder. He has never scored more than seven points in a game but has shot the ball well, connecting on 53% of his shots. Hayward has averaged just eight minutes and three points per game in sixty-eight games during his two year career.

Oklahoma City Thunder fans should analyze the trade before over-reacting to the loss of James Harden. Kevin Martin has a career average of 18.4 points per game and a lifetime 44% field goal percentage. He has had five seasons where he’s averaged over twenty points per game. The Thunder are getting a proven scorer and a veteran who will be eager to join a team destined for the playoffs after only playing in one playoff series over his eight year career.

Jeremy Lamb is a rookie with a tremendous upside. Along with Kemba Walker, Shabazz Napier, Alex Oriakhi, and the rest of the Connecticut Huskies, Lamb won the NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship in the 2010 season. With Walker in the NBA, Lamb averaged nearly eighteen points per game and made close to half of his shot attempts last season.

Add in two future first round draft picks to the equation and the Thunder may be able to get over the loss of James Harden quite easily. They get a lottery-protected first round draft pick that is originally from the Toronto Raptors. The other one will likely be towards the end of the first round since Houston acquired it from the Los Angeles Lakers.

This deal is favorable for both teams but especially the Oklahoma City Thunder. Martin is just as much of a scorer as Harden. The only question with OKC’s new shooting guard is how he will deal with coming off of the bench if they choose to use him in the same manner as his predecessor. Lamb may struggle to get playing time as a rookie but can develop into another scoring option in Oklahoma City’s backcourt over time.

The Thunder have drafted well in recent years and a significant portion of their lineup has been developed through the draft. Nick Collison, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Serge Ibaka have all been drafted since 2003. With two more first round picks, including one that is guaranteed to be a lottery pick, there is no reason why the Oklahoma City Thunder won’t become a better team because of this major deal.

NBA Draft Instant Reactions

It was no surprise when former Kentucky forward-center Anthony Davis was taken by the New Orleans Hornets with the number one overall pick but the next fifty-nine picks remained mysteries until the official announcements from NBA commissioner David Stern. As expected, six Kentucky players were drafted along with a handful from UNC, Duke, UConn, Baylor, and Syracuse, and of course, this year’s draft had no shortage of European players that you have never heard of, with names that you wouldn’t dare to try to pronounce.

The Winners

  • Kentucky Wildcats-6 picks-Anthony Davis (1-NOH), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (2-CHA), Terrence Jones (18-HOU), Marquis Teague (29-CHI), Doron Lamb (42-MIL), Darius Miller (46-NOH)
  • North Carolina Tar Heels-4 picks-Harrison Barnes (7-GSW), Kendall Marshall (13-PHX), John Henson (14-MIL), Tyler Zeller (17-DAL)
  • Syracuse Orange-3 picks-Dion Waiters (4-CLE), Fab Melo (22-BOS), Kris Joseph (51-BOS)
  • Baylor Bears-3 picks-Perry Jones III (28-OKC), Quincy Acy (37-TOR), Quincy Miller (38-DEN)
  • Boston Celtics-The Celts shocked the league by coming within one win from advancing to the NBA Finals after the Big Three were nearly broken up early in the season and despite Rajon Rondo trade rumors in the regular season. With the Big Three most likely losing a member, 37-year-old Ray Allen who became a free agent after the 2011-2012 season ended, Boston reloaded its roster with fresh legs and young talent, especially in its frontcourt. They added former Ohio State forward Jared Sullinger along with a pair of ex-Syracuse players-Fab Melo and Kris Joseph. With KG returning to the Garnett of his mid-twenties and Rajon Rondo playing in his prime, the Celtics could make another run at the Finals in the next few years in the post-Big Three Era.
  •  Houston Rockets-Houston seems to be stuck in a cycle of seasons around .500 and a roster with average players. However, the Rockets are looking to change that identity. They have made serious runs at acquiring Dwight Howard and made the most of their three picks in the top eighteen selections last night. With the twelfth pick, Houston drafted UConn shooting guard and NCAA national champion Jeremy Lamb. Four picks later they drafted Iowa State standout Royce White and completed their draft by selecting University of Kentucky forward Terrence Jones. If White can get over his fear of flying and Jones doesn’t butt heads with Houston’s coaching staff, then the trio of Rockets draft picks can change the culture in Houston as they mature over the next few years in the NBA.
  • Oklahoma City Thunder-OKC may have had the steal of the draft by picking up Perry Jones III, who slipped down to the 28th pick. Runners-up in last season’s NBA Finals, the Thunder made the most of their sole pick in the draft to improve their frontcourt and it gives them a player who could replace Serge Ibaka if they can’t sign him to a long-term contract down the road.
  • New Orleans Hornets-Drafting Anthony Davis with the first pick in the draft improved their future more than can be described in words but Austin Rivers and  Darius Miller take New Orleans’ draft to the next level. Along with shooting guard Eric Gordon, the Hornets could have a very formidable starting lineup in a few years.

What Were They Thinking?

  • Golden State Warriors-The Warriors certainly added some talented small forwards and centers by drafting Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green, Festus Ezeli, and Ognjen Kuzmic. And that is exactly why I am questioning their draft as a whole. Yes, Barnes was the best player available with the seventh overall pick and has great potential to develop into a very good player at the next level. Green is a fantastic leader and team player, someone who you would not question his passion for basketball. With Ezeli, it never hurts to add a seven-footer who can grab rebounds and contest shots. But did Golden State’s front office look at their roster closely enough before draft day? They only have three guards, their best being Stephen Curry, and none of them are players who can take over a game with their outside shooting or penetration in the lane. If they plan to deal Andris Biedrins or Andrew Bogut, who earn a combined $21 million per year, then I will feel much better about their draft because no team needs more centers than point guards and shooting guards combined.
  • Chicago Bulls-I have to wonder if Derrick Rose’s injury-prone 2011-2012 season that limited to only 39 regular season games and will likely have him missing much of next year caused the Bulls to start panicking. With the 29th pick, Chicago drafted Marquis Teague out of Kentucky, which means that the Bulls have three point guards in addition to their three shooting guards. Jae Crowder and Draymond Green were both available when Chicago was on the clock. As a Bulls fan, I would have been thrilled if either of those forwards were Chi-Town bound to learn from and play alongside Luol Deng, Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, and Carlos Boozer. Instead, the Bulls got an insurance policy. Teague will get his share of playing time with D-Rose out but he will go to the bench as soon as the 2011 MVP returns to the court. Unless Teague changes positions as a Bull or Rose becomes an off-guard, the two point guards probably won’t be on the floor at the same time during most situations. As good as Teague may be in the future in the NBA and as much as the Bulls may need another ball-handler until Rose comes back, I would have preferred Crowder or Green.

The Most Anticipated Matchup

  • Boston Celtics vs. New Orleans Hornets-It will be a family rivalry that is unlike any other we’ve seen in professional sports. Coach Doc Rivers of the Celtics scheming defenses to stop his flashy shooting guard son Austin Rivers. You have to wonder if Doc Rivers will get a Father’s Day card in the mail after Kevin Garnett throws an elbow into the younger Rivers next season.

The Best European Names of the Draft

  • Kostas Papanikolaou-SF-48th pick-Greece-New York Knicks
  • Izzet Turkyilmaz-PF-50th pick-Turkey-Denver Nuggets
  • Tornike Shengelia-SF-54th pick-Georgia-Philadelphia 76’ers
  • Ognjen Kuzmic-C-52nd pick-Bosnia-Golden State Warriors

NBA Mock Draft Picks 1-10

1. New Orleans Hornets-Anthony Davis-PF/C-University of Kentucky
Davis was the best player on the best team last season. He was the National Player of the Year on the University of Kentucky team that won the national championship. He can be expected to start from the first game of the season and be a dominant big man on offense and defense for at least the next ten years. Along with Eric Gordon, Jarrett Jack, Emeka Okafor, and Chris Kaman, Anthony Davis would complete a very solid starting lineup for New Orleans.

2. Charlotte Bobcats-Thomas Robinson-PF-Kansas University
The Bobcats are coming off of the worst season in NBA history with a 7-59 record. Anthony Davis would have been a great addition to their roster, but after the Hornets won the number one pick, Thomas Robinson is the next best option. The Bobcats are a team made up of great college players who haven’t panned out in the NBA. D.J. Augustin averaged nineteen points per game and an All-American at Texas, Kemba Walker led UConn to a national championship in 2011, D.J. White was the Big Ten Player of the Year in 2008 at Indiana, and Derrick Brown led Xavier to an Elite Eight and Sweet Sixteen in consecutive years. Between Gerald Henderson, Augustin, and Walker, Charlotte’s guards are not as bad as the team’s record would suggest-the trio averages 38 points, 10 rebounds, and 13 assists per game. Robinson will be a force down low for Charlotte and will hopefully allow them to be competitive in the NBA next season.

3. Washington Wizards-Michael Kidd-Gilchrist-SF-University of Kentucky
The Wizards have two talented, young guards in John Wall and Jordan Crawford, along with veteran center Nene. What they are missing is a good forward. Kidd-Gilchrist was a starter for UK as a freshman and was an integral part of their national championship run. He averaged nearly 12 points per game and 7 rebounds per game for the Wildcats and can be expected to put up the same, if not better, numbers for the Wizards next season.

4. Cleveland Cavaliers-Bradley Beal-SG-University of Florida
Beal averaged fifteen points per game and seven rebounds per game as a freshman for the Florida Gators, who made an Elite Eight run last season. The Cavs have the 2011-2012 Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving at point guard and a good veteran at forward in Anderson Varejao, along withTristan Thompson. Beal and Irving could develop into a very nice scoring duo for the Cavs.

5. Sacramento Kings-Harrison Barnes-SF-University of North Carolina
The Kings were in the top ten in scoring and rebounding during the regular season and Harrison Barnes (17 ppg and 5 ppg at UNC) will only help Sacramento. Barnes has proved himself to be a top ten draft pick over the past two years at UNC and he will complement the pieces that the Kings already have in place-Marcus Thornton, DeMarcus Cousins, Tyreke Evans, Isaiah Thomas, and Jimmer Fredette. Assuming that Cousins can keep his emotions in check, he and Harrison Barnes could be a great scoring and rebounding duo down low.

6. Portland Trail Blazers (from New Jersey Nets)-Perry Jones III-PF-Baylor University
The Portland Trail Blazers had at least one player at every position average double figures in points, except for center. At 6’11”, 220 lbs., and nearly a 7’3″ wingspan, Jones could transition to playing center for Portland.

7. Golden State Warriors-Andre Drummond-C-University of Connecticut
Many NBA teams look for prospects who were good for one or two seasons in college, who will develop into stars at the next level. Andre Drummond is one of those players who was good in college at UConn, averaging 10 points per game and 7 rebounds per game, but Golden State will try to take him to the next level in his game. He has the size to be a force down low but he still needs a lot of work on his offensive game and free throw shooting (29%). The Warriors are in desperate need of a good center to go along with David Lee at power forward and Steph Curry at point guard.

8. Toronto Raptors-Terrence Jones-SF-University of Kentucky
Jones has two years of experience on very talented Kentucky teams that have made deep runs in the NCAA Tournament. He can play as a 3 or 4 man and creates a lot of mismatches with his size when he plays small. He averaged fifteen and nine during his sophomore season, which is very impressive considering how much talent was on John Calipari’s squad last year. Toronto has talent and depth at center and the guard positions, but they are lacking at the forward position and Terrence Jones should be able to fill that void well.

9. Detroit Pistons-John Henson-PF-University of North Carolina
Henson showed improvement in each of his three seasons at UNC. He is a double-double machine and has lots of big game experience from his time at Chapel Hill. He will be a good option in the post for Rodney Stuckey and Brandon Knight.

10. New Orleans Hornets (from Minnesota Timberwolves via Los Angeles Clippers)-Jeremy Lamb-SG-UConn
In his freshman year, Lamb was a key player on UConn’s national championship team in 2011. In his sophomore season he averaged 18 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists. In addition to Anthony Davis, Jeremy Lamb will help turn the Hornets franchise around.

From the Press Box–April 4th, 2012

After an extended leave of absence from writing, due to finals, college visits, and scholarship applications, I’m finally on Spring Break. So much has happened since my last post on March 18th, both for me personally and in the world of sports. I finally experienced world renound Chicago-style pizza at Giordano’s, was accepted to the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern and had a great campus visit (followed by being notified in the mail that the first year in Evanston would be upwards of $60,000 and I lost any interest I had in the school), officially became a second semester senior, and most importantly, decided on Indiana University for college and can not be happier about it. A month’s worth of sports headlines have taken place in the past eighteen days; the Major League Baseball season officially kicked off in Asia, the Kentucky Wildcats won their eighth national championship, Nike released the new NFL uniforms, and Mohammed El Akkari, an International Basketball Federation player for Moutahed of Tripoli, allegedly scored 113 points in a single game.

March Madness

Going into the NCAA Tourney, UK was clearly the best team in the country and I picked them to win the National Championship, yet it was so difficult to choose the Wildcats because of the reservations I had about them. Coach Cal had choked in his previous appearance in the title game as well as Kentucky was relying on freshmen and sophomores to not crack under the pressure riding on them to win it all. Not to mention that UK entered the NCAA Tournament on a one-game losing streak after being defeated by Vanderbilt in the SEC Championship.

Coach Calipari and the University of Kentucky needed the National Championship to validate their one-and-done focused program. In each of Cal’s previous six seasons, going back to his tenure at Memphis, his worst postseason finish was in the Sweet Sixteen. His teams were eliminated three times in the Elite Eight, once in the Final Four, and once in the National Championsip in 2008 (Memphis later had its entire 2007-2008 season vacated due to Derrick Rose’s misconduct regarding his false SAT score). If he had fallen to Kansas, many of his critics would question his ability to close out a season. No one can argue his greatness from November through February, but if UK would have lost in the NCAA Tourney a part of Big Blue Nation would have been ready to show him the door out of Lexington.

Overall, this was an ideal tournament for college basketball. There were some major upsets, with #2 seeds Duke and Missouri exiting in the first round, and three double-digit seeds advanced to the Sweet Sixteen, but no “Cinderellas” made it to the Elite Eight. It was exciting to watch the likes of Xavier, Ohio, and North Carolina State challenge major powers in college basketball, but at the end of the day, the best matchups are between the premier teams. The 2011 National Championship between UConn and Butler may have been the ugliest college basketball game I’ve ever seen. Upset-minded md-majors and Cinderellas can make the first two weekends of the NCAA Tournament two of the best weeks of the year, but once the Final Four rolls around, basketball powerhouses are the only teams who can guarantee high-quality basketball that is enjoyable to watch.

Jared Sullinger to the NBA

I can’t argue with his decision to leave because there is a direct correlation between the number of years of college and when a prospect is drafted. Sully has nothing left to prove in college. He’s averaged 17 points and 10 rebounds for his two years of college, with a shooting percentage above 50%. He has lead Ohio State to the Elite Eight and Final Four in consecutive years and the Buckeyes have sixty-four wins in that time span. However, don’t expect him to be dominant in the NBA as he is in college. While he is physically big at 6’9″ and 265 lbs., he lacks the height and the jumping ability to average a double-double immediately at the next level. If he can develop a consistent outside jumper, he can become a very nice role player. He shares the size and stature of Indiana Pacers forward David West, who has career averages of sixteen points per game and seven rebounds per game. The longer he stayed at OSU, the more NBA teams would begin to see him plateau at the college level and it could only hurt his draft prospects.

Joe Flacco Thinks He’s the Best QB in the NFL

On WNST 1570 in Baltimore earlier this week, Joe Flacco said that he believes he is the best quarterback in the NFL. I have no problem with him thinking this. If I were an NFL owner or coach, I want a QB who thinks that he is the best every single snap. However, his thoughts about how he stacks up compared to the rest of the starting quarterbacks in the league should not leave a four inch radius in his brain. He is only opening himself up to more criticism than he already deserves and his resumé does not warrant him being a top five quarterback, let alone the best one in the NFL. Last season he threw for 3,610 yards and 20 touchdowns while Aaron Rodgers threw for 4,643 and 45, Eli Manning threw for 4,933 and 29, and Tom Brady threw for 5,235 and 39, to name a few of the league’s elite quarterbacks. Of course, statistics alone do not define a player and Flacco’s two AFC Championship Games help his case but still not enough. If I rank all of the starting quarterbacks in the NFL, he is thirteenth on my list. Eli Manning has two Super Bowl rings, Aaron Rodgers has one, Tom Brady has three, Ben Roethlisberger has two, Peyton Manning has one, and Drew Brees has one. Until Flacco gets some jewelry on his hand, he is not in the conversation and should be careful about publicizing questionable statements.

Ubaldo Jimenez Beans Troy Tulowiztki

The pitch was by all means intentional, especially considering the bitter feelings Jimenez has towards his former club. It’s a shame that he was willing to plunk Tulo in the preseason. He deserves his five-game suspension, but he still may be able to make his scheduled start if the MLB hasn’t responded to his appeal in time. Hopefully Jimenez does not start for the Indians if they face the Rockies this season because there is a high likelihood that Colorado would get revenge in some form or fashion.

FIBA Player Drops 113?

It is highly unlikely that a story like this could be completely fabricated but part of me is still skeptical. Mohammad El Akkari averaged just under eight points per game heading into his three-point shooting contest that happened to occur in the middle of the Lebanese Division A League Final Eight game. Maybe it’s that basketball overseas is different than what we’re accustomed to in the NBA and there were 314 total points in the game, but Akkari’s performance is out of the ordinary by all means. There are only three players in the modern era of the NBA who I could rationalize their taking of sixty-nine shots in a game–Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson, and Monta Ellis. To make 40 of 69 shots from the floor and 32 of 59 from behind the arc is beyond comprehension. I’m not sure who his team was playing that night, possibly a team of local nuns or fifth-grade rec basketball team, but his performance goes down in history nontheless.

Joey Votto’s Contract

It is great to see that the Cincinnati Reds are committed to winning and have a “World Series or Bust” mentality. However, the 10-year, $225 million dollar contract should raise an eyebrow. The Reds have no idea how good Votto will be in ten years, but if the first baseman can lead Cincy to a World Series, then it won’t matter as much. The 2010 N.L. MVP’s price tag makes it difficult to re-sign second baseman Brandon Phillips, which is very hard to swallow since Phillips is one of the best Reds on and off of the field. The contract extension tops off the biggest offseason in Cincinnati Reds history and is a great way to kick off the season with their best player under contract until 2023.

Mo Egger Interview

I got the chance to interview sports talk show host Mo Egger of ESPN 1530 tonight and it was fascinating listening to him talk about his career and Cincinnati sports. The interview will takes lots of editing but should be posted in the next week.

Matchup of the Day

St. Louis Cardinals @ Miami Marlins. Tonight’s game is Opening Day in America since the Oakland A’s and Seattle Mariners played in Japan last week and also is the first game played in Miami’s new stadium. Two excellent pitchers in Kyle Lohse and Josh Johnson face off in the National League matchup.

Video of the Day

Courtesy of http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OBMQ79NweQU

Royce White: The Definition of Versatility

Iowa State is not known for its basketball program. The 2011-2012 season marked the fourteenth time that the Cyclones were selected for the NCAA Tournament. Iowa State made the Final Four once in 1944 but their most famous appearance in the tourney was when they were upset by 15 seeded Hampton, only the fourth time such an upset had occurred.

After the Cyclones’ 23-11 season and fourth place finish in the Big 12, behind three top 10 teams in Missouri, Kansas, and Baylor, the selection committee chose Iowa State as the 8 seed in the South region. Much of their success can be credited to redshirt sophomore Royce White. The 6’8″, 270 lb. power forward spent the first eighteen years of his life in Minnesota, first as a two-time state champion in high school and then he committed to the University of Minnesota to play for Tubby Smith. After multiple run-ins with the law in his freshman year as a Golden Gopher, including charges for theft, disorderly conduct, and trespassing, White transferred to Iowa State. John Calipari had contacted the talented forward to play for Kentucky but he decided on Iowa State instead. Since his transfer was before the end of his freshman year, Royce White could not play for a scholarship in the following season and was forced to redshirt in the 2010-2011 season.

In his first full season of playing college basketball, White hit the ground running and quickly became the Cyclones’ go-to player. In the opening game of the year, Royce White scored 25 points and pulled in 11 rebounds as Iowa State defeated Lehigh 86-77. The Minnesota-native recorded a double-double in the next game with 21 and 14 as he was began a season-long routine of putting up big numbers on a nightly basis. Iowa State reached the national spotlight when the Cyclones defeated #5 Kansas, giving the Jayhawks their first conference loss of the season. White and Iowa State tallied their second victory over a top 25 team in their last regular season game of the season against #10 Baylor. Despite heading into the Big 12 tournament on a high note, Iowa State lost to Texas in its opening game.

Courtesy of http://www.mysanantonio.com/slideshows/sports/slideshow/Texas-vs-Iowa-State-36531.php

Iowa State was matched up against the Connecticut Huskies in the Round of 64 of the NCAA Tournament and defeated the reigning national champions 77-64 after a hot-shooting performance. The Cyclones were 6-16 from behind the three-point line and were nearly perfect from the charity stripe, missing only one of their twenty free throw attempts. White played very well against Jim Calhoun’s squad, scoring fifteen points, securing fourteen rebounds, and racking up two assists.

As the Iowa State Cyclones advanced to the Round of 32, the media took a closer look at the Big 12 team and found that it was the Minnesota transfer, who was named to the All-Big 12 First Team and Big 12 Rookie of the Year that was making the Cyclones go. Royce White boasts himself on being the only player in the country who leads his team in every major statistical category. Despite playing power forward, a position which is traditionally known for scoring points in the paint and grabbing rebounds, White shines in every aspect of his game. Royce White has the ability to put up 25 points every game but focuses on the team’s success over his personal glory. He averaged 13.1 points, 9.2 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 1.2 steals, and 0.94 blocks per game in the 2011-2012 season.

White faced a difficult test Saturday night when he was matched up against the front-runner for Player of the Year Anthony Davis of Kentucky. Even though Iowa State was defeated 87-71, White was one of the few bright spots for the Cyclones, finishing with 23 points, 9 rebounds, and 4 assists. For the Cyclones’ opening possessions, it was Royce White who took the ball down the court and played point guard. Although, for most of the game, White was playing well in the paint, getting open for easy baskets and scoring crucial points whenever Kentucky started to pull away. His best play of the game was when he stripped Davis on defense and went coast to coast for the dunk. Despite his large stature, Royce White has exceptional ball control and court vision.

Courtesy of http://ksrcollege.com/

If White declares for the NBA draft, he will likely be a first round draft pick. Although, if he stays for his remaining two years of eligibility, Iowa State could be a very formidable team. They are only graduating two seniors, Chris Allen and Scott Christopherson. The guard duo combine for twenty-four points per game and will surely be missed, but with many young players with post-season experience, Iowa State can rebuild to challenge the powerhouses of the Big 12.