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State of NCAA Men’s College Basketball is Debatable for What is Best for Game 4

Posted on April 11, 2015 by Chris Kent

As the 21st century moves forward, college basketball is becoming more and more known for the early departures. The so called “one and done era” has been alive for more than a decade. Gone are the days when student-athletes made a splash as a freshman and then continued to do so over three or four years in college.

Look no further than Kentucky for proof of this. Since John Calipari was hired as the Wildcats’ head coach in 2009, Kentucky has been the prime source of the “one and done era.” Add in a few sophomores who decided a second attempt at a Final Four or a national championship was worth coming back for and the Wildcats have been a landslide leader in this trend of kids leaving school early for the riches of playing pro basketball.

A total of seven Kentucky players declared to enter the NBA Draft earlier this week.

A total of seven Kentucky players declared to enter the NBA Draft earlier this week at a press conference shown here.

Last year was no different. After falling two wins short of becoming the first undefeated national champion in 39 years – following their 71-64 loss to Wisconsin in the 2015 national semifinals – , Kentucky announced that seven players from last year’s team have declared for the NBA draft. Among the seven are four starters including the starting backcourt of sophomores Andrew and Aaron Harrison, freshman center Karl Anthony-Towns, and junior power forward Willie Cauley-Stein. The others are forward Trey Lyles and guard Devin Booker, both freshman, along with 7-foot sophomore center Dakari Johnson.

All seven have the ability to play at the next level as either starters or reserves. Some have the potential to start right away for anybody while the fortunes of others will be influenced by how the NBA Lottery turns out. Early mock drafts have Anthony-Towns competing with Duke freshman center Jahlil Okafor – who has also declared for the draft – for the top overall pick. Anthony-Towns is  6-11 and weighs 250 while Okafor is 6-11 and 270. Both were among the nation’s dominant big men last season.

Should all seven of these players be drafted, it would set a new record for the most players selected from one school in a single draft. The Wildcat’s six selections in the 2012 draft – lead by top overall pick Anthony Davis – is the current record. Davis had lead Kentucky to the national title in 2012 in what was Calipari’s first championship. Read the rest of this entry →

Duke and Wisconsin Meet For National Championship 2

Posted on April 06, 2015 by Chris Kent

The national championship of college basketball is here. After an exciting March of dramatic finishes that separated the pretenders from the contenders, the cream of the crop surfaced at The Final Four in Indianapolis, IN this past weekend. Three of the four number one seeds reached the Final Four with Duke, Kentucky, and Wisconsin all winning their regions to advance to college basketball’s biggest stage. Meanwhile, Michigan State was no slouch as a seventh seed. The Spartans reached The Final Four for a nation-leading seventh time since 1999, all under one of the elite coaches in the country in Tom Izzo.

Bo Ryan has taken the Badgers to new heights with back-to-back trips to The Final Four.

Bo Ryan has taken the Badgers to new heights with back-to-back trips to The Final Four.

With the Blue Devils defeating Michigan State 81-61 and the Badgers upsetting undefeated Kentucky 71-64 in the national semifinals on Saturday, Duke and Wisconsin advanced to tonight’s championship game. This is virtually an even game. Both teams have been ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 poll the whole season and have a combined record of 70-7 entering tonight’s title game. The Badgers are 36-3 and won the regular season Big Ten Championship as well as the conference tournament title. The Blue Devils finished second to Virginia in the ACC regular season standings at 15-3 and reached the ACC Tournament Semifinals

before losing to Notre Dame who went on to win the tournament title.

Wisconsin’s victory on Saturday avenged their loss to the Wildcats a year ago in the national semifinals, a 74-73 thriller that was decided on a 3-point basket by then-freshman guard Aaron Harrison. With the Badgers returning to The Final Four this year, Wisconsin has become a national program. Badgers’ head coach Bo Ryan has emerged as a great coach and has brought national prominence to the Wisconsin program in this his 14th year at the helm of the Badgers. This followed his highly successful career in the Division III ranks as head coach at The University of Wisconsin-Platteville where he won four national championships in the 1990’s.

Ryan will be matched up against Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski who is no stranger to the national championship game. This is the ninth national championship game that Krzyzewski has lead the Blue Devils to. He is 4-4 in the title game. The two schools met earlier this season back on Dec. 3 in Wisconsin where Duke prevailed 80-70 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Blue Devil freshman center Jahlil Okafor had 13 points and six rebounds while senior center Frank Kaminsky scored 17 points and grabbed nine rebounds for the Badgers. Read the rest of this entry →

Never Mind RPI: Behind The Logic of The Bracket 2

Posted on March 05, 2015 by Ashley Andrews
There is no doubt that Kentucky will be at the top of the bracket when the NCAA Tournament bids are announced on March 15tth.

There is no doubt that Kentucky will be at the top of the bracket when the NCAA Tournament bids are announced on March 15tth.

The schedule says that the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament starts on St. Patrick’s Day, but the ongoing action up until that day can be the real March Madness. The migration from locks, bubbles, and outsiders continues right up until the last whistle of the last conference tournament, and the tiny window in which the committee assimilates all that information into a bracket is arguably the maddest time of March.

Teams like Kentucky, Virginia, and Wisconsin are unlikely to get a surprise come Selection Sunday, regardless of how their final couple of games turn out. But there is much more that goes into settling the field for play, especially starting with the two and three seeds. Before the men’s NCAA basketball tournament hits the airwaves, the committee is hitting the books to set it up. Here’s what (might) be going through their minds:

Peaking At The Right Time
Coaches use this term all the time. They just mean they’re hoping their team is playing their best basketball of the season when March arrives.

The committee wants these teams. They are likely to provide clemency to early sputters. Kansas can write off its early mugging by Kentucky, for example, because their recent results have been far more in line with what’s expected from a premiere team. And early season rankings are disproved annually. Strong play at the end of the regular season and in the conference tournament carries considerably more weight that early-season jitter games. The reason is obvious: Teams that come into March like a lion will provide the most exciting games and the best chance at a deep tournament run.

Losses, Yes. But To Whom?
Herein lies the debate over relative strength of conferences. Gonzaga has been dinged repeatedly for being dominant only because the West Coast Conference is not exactly viewed as hoops heaven, a criticism verified by BYU’s defeat of Mark Few’s squad.

Meanwhile, a different ocean laps against the shores of many of the ACC’s home states, the arena where Duke, UNC, Louisville, and their mates (including Syracuse, which is taking a mulligan on postseason play this year as self-imposed sanctions for compliance no-no’s) have locked up like combative rams in arguably one of the most brutal conferences in the country. Coming out of that fray with four losses will likely shine more brightly from the bracket than only a couple of blemishes in other locales.

But what of the SEC? Georgia head coach Mark Fox insists that the league is being downgraded because Kentucky is clobbering all of them, but that after the Wildcats there’s a high level of parity and quality in the league. Meanwhile there are thousands of fans screaming about the legitimacy of smaller leagues, the home of Cinderella.

Tickets, Please. Tickets. And Ratings, Too.
When it all shakes out, we have to face the reality that the NCAA–non-profit organization or not–is looking to make money. Venues cost money. Officials cost money. Security, staff, hotels, everything involved in the tournament is expensive, and the only way to cover these costs is to make sure that fans are in the seats. A no-friction road to the Final Four, especially in a distant regional arena, could spur many fans to skip early rounds and wait on their favorite to get to Indianapolis. The NCAA doesn’t want that. They want interest in those early games. So the committee may choose to set up a challenge for high seeds that fans may feel is unwarranted, strictly to ensure that those fans come to the games. This could be how seedings mysteriously drift downward for favorites and/or upward for dark horses. A 4/13 game is considerably more worrisome to fans of the favorite than the 1/16 arrangement, which since its 1985 inception has never seen an upset.

The same thing that sells tickets also turns on televisions, and viewership pays the broadcasters’ hefty bills–including those to the NCAA itself. The selection committee must make sure there’s intriguing TV to be had.

These are matters that aren’t settled on the court but in the conference room. While some fans may feel that the bracket should be established with nothing but hard basketball facts, the reality is that the committee must take some of these factors into consideration to keep the tournament accurate and, perhaps most important, financially sound.

Atlanta Hawks and Golden State Warriors are the NBA Midseason Leaders, But Will They Be Standing in June? 8

Posted on January 31, 2015 by Dean Hybl
Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors have the NBA turned upside down.

Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors have the NBA turned upside down.

At the halfway point of the 2014-2015 NBA season the league seems to be turned upside down.

The best records in the league are held by the Atlanta Hawks and Golden State Warriors, two teams with marginal pedigrees.

The Warriors last hoisted the NBA championship trophy 40 years ago when Rick Barry and Jamaal Wilkes led the way.

The last championship won by the Hawks was in 1958 when the team was based in St. Louis and Bob Pettit was the quintessential NBA star.

Conversely, two teams with nearly half of the titles in NBA history between them, the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers, are out of contention and already looking at next season.

According to top sports betting sites listed at www.sportsbettingacumen.com, the Warriors and Hawks are now among the favorites to win the NBA title.

However, given that neither team has a great track record of playoff performance, it is hard to slot them in as the likely finalists just yet.

Even with a 36-8 mark to start the season and two legitimate stars in Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, it will be tough for the Warriors to make it out of the tough Western Conference. With seven teams in the conference already with 30 victories, the Phoenix Suns close behind (28 wins) and the Oklahoma City Thunder (23-23) now healthy and likely to push for a spot in the playoffs. Read the rest of this entry →

The Sixers Aren’t That Bad 7

Posted on January 11, 2015 by Mike Brest
Michael Carter-Williams has shown glimpses of greatness for the Philadelphia 76ers.

Michael Carter-Williams is a double-double threat every night, but must improve his shooting consistency if he wants to be an NBA star .

Philadelphia 76ers’ owner Josh Harris changed the franchise forever on May 14th, 2013. That was the day he hired Sam Hinkie to be the team’s general manager. It didn’t take long for Hinkie to make a name for himself. His first bold move took place on draft day. He traded the only all-star on the team, Jrue Holiday, to the New Orleans Pelicans for a top-five protected first round draft pick for the next year and Nerlens Noel. Noel was in the mix to go number one overall before tearing his ACL during the college basketball season. Later in the draft, the Sixers used the eleventh pick to select point guard Michael Carter-Williams out of Syracuse University.

The 2013 76ers were just as bad as advertised under first year head coach Brett Brown. Philadelphia actually shocked the world, winning the team’s first three games, what were the odds of that? but it was all downhill from there. During the season, the 76ers tied the NBA record for most consecutive losses (26). Hinkie was busy on the day of the trade deadline. Center Spencer Hawes was sent to Cleveland, while center Lavoy Allen and guard Evan Turner were dealt to Indiana. Philadelphia received a couple players and draft picks in return. The 76ers finished the season 19-63 for the second worst record in the league.

The 2014 draft was vital for Sam Hinkie and the organization. The Sixers selected Kansas freshman Joel Embiid third overall. Embiid, a 7 foot Cameroon native, was expected to be the top pick before injuries ended his only season as a Jayhawk. Many analysts have called him a franchise changer, and he’s been compared to Tim Duncan and Hakeem Olajuwon. He has not played a game this season and in all likelihood, won’t. It’s the same route Noel took last year. With the Pelicans pick from the Holiday deal, they selected Elfrid Payton tenth overall. Philly immediately traded Payton to the Magic for their selection (which was two picks later) Dario Saric. Saric is only 20 years old and is currently playing in Turkey. He’s under contract for the next two seasons in Turkey. Saric has the skill set of a point guard even though he’s 6 foot 10. He’s able to push the ball in transition and is very versatile. Saric won Euroleague MVP for the month of November. He will be able to join the Sixers in 2016. In the second round of the draft the 76ers selected K.J. McDaniels, Jerami Grant, and Jordan McRae (once they made some trades). Read the rest of this entry →

Remembering Sports Greats Lost in 2014 6

Posted on December 31, 2014 by Dean Hybl
Earl Morrall spent 22 seasons in the NFL and helped lead the Miami Dolphins to a perfect record in 1972.

Earl Morrall spent 21 seasons in the NFL and helped lead the Miami Dolphins to a perfect record in 1972.

One inevitable component of the end of the year is reflecting on those who we lost during the previous year. As always, we said goodbye to many sports greats during 2014.

Below are brief remembrances of just a few of those who passed away in 2014. Click here to check out a more comprehensive list.

Jean Beliveau – Hockey Hall of Famer – 83 years old
A member of the Montreal Canadiens for 20 years and a member of the NHL Hall of Fame, Jean Beliveau helped lead his team to 10 Stanley Cup Championships and is considered by many as one of the 10 greatest players in NHL history.

Rob Bironas – NFL Kicker – 36 years old
After bouncing around the Arena Football League and several NFL tryouts, Rob Bironas finally got his shot with the Tennessee Titans in 2005 and was their kicker for nine seasons before being released prior to the 2014 season. He developed into a Pro Bowl kicker and scored 1,032 points while converting 85.7% of his field goal attempts.

Rubin “Hurricane” Carter – Professional Boxer – 76 years old
Best known by many for the feature film “The Hurricane” in which Denzel Washington chronicled his life as a professional boxer and 20 years in prison, Rubin Carter had a career record of 27-12-1 as a middleweight and lost to Joey Giardello in his only championship bought. He was twice convicted of a triple murder, but the conviction was eventually overturned and Carter became a champion for those wrongly accused of crimes. Read the rest of this entry →

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    • Al Kaline: From Kid Star to Hall of Famer
      May 31, 2015 | 4:25 pm
      Al Kaline

      Al Kaline

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month was only 20 years old in 1955 when he collected a league-leading 200 hits and won the American League batting title with a .340 batting title.

      Much like the young stars of today, Al Kaline took the baseball world by storm in the 1950s when he made his major league debut at 18 and just two years later finished second in the MVP voting. In making his first All-Star team in 1955, Kaline not only won the only batting title of his career, but he also hit 27 home runs, scored 121 runs and drove home 102 runs.

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