Preview – Villanova Wildcats

November 4, 2009

Villanova played in one of the best games of the NCAA Tournament last year when they defeated Pittsburgh with a Scottie Reynolds floater in the closing seconds.  The Wildcats played in their first FInal Four since Rollie Massimino (UVM class of ’56) upset mighty Georgetown in ’85.  Although Villanova was defeated handily by North Carolina, I believe they were the team that proved they belong on the big stage throughout the season.VillanovaWildcats

With slick Jay Wright back at the helm after a mini flirtation with the Philadelphia 76ers and a dynamite Recruiting class, the Wildcats are primed for another run deep into March, hopefully April.  But can Villanova survive the rough and tumble Big East?  In last season’s Final Four edition, Sports Illustrated spoke at length of the physicality of College Basketball.  NBA GM’s said, “College is way more physical then the NBA, the NBA cleans up hand checks and contact around the rim quickly, not College.”  Villanova was the cornerstone of the piece, a piece which left us with the image of all the body pads these Wildcats discarded during the celebration on making it to the Final Four.  Physical indeed.

And when talking Physical Basketball, the list starts with the Big East.  No conference is stronger or more rugged.  The questions will remain to see if Villanova can go through a serious pounding night in and night out from November to March.  That question will linger all season long.  jay_wright

To counter the bumps, bruises, and injuries that may occur along the way, one must have depth.  Nova has put together a deep team this season.  5 key returnees lead a Top-5 Freshman class.  Scottie Reynolds declared for the Draft, but returned to school when it was not clear where he would be taken.  Corey Stokes, Reggie Redding, and Corey Fisher bring back guard depth.  Villanova has a long line to handle the ball and it shows with the talent they have in the backcourt.  Fighting for minutes will be one of the top High School players in Philly, Maalik Wayns.

The frontcourt is where North Carolina exposed the Wildcats last year. Antonio Pena returns.  And Isaiah Armwood and Dominic Cleek give Nova some athletic forwards that can leap, rebound, and get out on the break.

I have always admired the way that Villanova plays, a very attacking style with lots of guard play.  When you hear guard play, you often think a lot of jump shots and threes, but Villanova plays with aggressive guards.  Guards that attack the rim, make the open shot, and make the extra pass.  I see great things for this team.  Expect Villanova to be in the Final Four.

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Preview – Kentucky Wildcats

November 3, 2009

Ever since John Calipari took over the BEST job in College Basketball, a good friend of mine sends me little reminder texts of the Kentucky glory returning to the top.  Recently, he sent me a single picture of the mascot!  (Petro your the man).  I guess this is what happens when your favorite coach unites with your favorite team growing up.   Plus loads of talent doesn’t hurt. images

So minus the hype, where is the Kentucky basketball program?  They are definately a step up from the Billy Gillepsie experiment.  A solid returning core, along with a couple of high flying recruits have the Wildcats standing as the best team in the SEC and a Final Four contender.

The real trick for Coach Cal is to not leave or be involved in any incidents that end in NCAA sanctions.  His last 2 NCAA jobs have ended that way, the ’94 UMASS Final Four banner has been brought down and Memphis’ dream 2007-08 season isn’t in any of the record books.  Two historic seasons that, by NCAA standards, don’t exist.  I think that Kentucky is the setting where Coach Cal can prove he is a top notch recruiter and good college basketball man.  If he can’t, he is just another carpet-bagger, using the system, crushing the program, and then high-tailing it out of town.

Unlike at UMASS and even Memphis, Calipari has a brand name.  Kentucky.  At his previous jobs he had to take guys that the major programs stayed away from.  Reasons such as; questionable academic scores, sketchy professionalism vs. amateur status and so on.  *No Hype supports all of these players and wishes for an end to the NBA Age-Limit rule.* Programs like Kentucky do not need to do that.  Kentucky is right there with Kansas, North Carolina, Duke, etc.  They are the top tier, they can be selective in their recruits.  images-1

So if Calipari brings major sanctions again to yet another program.  He is just that, a sanction.  We will see.

As for the bounce of the ball.  Patrick Patterson was named to the Preseason All-American Team.  A big guy, I wonder how he will be able to adapt to the Dribble Drive Offense, but what a luxury to have a 5-Star player on your team.  The fabulous Freshmen trio of Eric Bledsoe, DeMarcus Cousins, and John Wall are high-flying, some of the most exciting players in the country.

What Calipari does so well is not conform athletic, dynamic, powerful players.  The beauty of the Dribble Drive is that it allows the players to adjust on the fly, trust their instincts, and attack the rim.  Classic basketball.  Too many times do I find myself watching games at all levels where the players are robots, trained in a system.  “move, cut, jump, breathe, pass”  GLAXO1.SP.122807.EDR.JPG

I predict a SEC championship for the Wildcats and a berth in the Elite 8.


College Basketball BEGINS!

October 17, 2009

The 2009-1010 College Basketball season has kicked off across the country with some of the top programs participating in the spectacle of Midnight Madness.  Saturday, October 17th is the first day College teams can have official practices, so to build hype and sell some merchandise, most schools begin their practice at Midnight in front of packed houses.  Fans are treated to dunk contests, scrimmages, and lazer light shows.

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Most coaches enter the building in lavish style.  Tom Izzo came in an Indy RaceCar to remind the Spartan faithful that he hopes to be in Indianapolis for the Final Four in April.  Roy Williams and his Tar Heel Boys had a comedy night.  Duke played a Blue vs. White scrimmage where the coaches were former Blue Devil greats Bobby Hurley and Christian Laettner.

Much, much hype.  So away from all that is the impending start of the College Basketball season.  The best sports season of them all!  Personally I am excited to see if Kentucky can climb back into contention.  Or how good Michigan St. will be.  Can North Carolina compete?  Will Duke finally get into the Final 4 again.  So much intrigue.

My Top 5;

1. Kansas

2. Michigan St.

3. Connecticut

4. North Carolina

5. Purdue

What is your Top 5?


Dez Bryant

October 14, 2009

Baylor Oklahoma St

The NCAA has suspended Oklahoma St. star wide receiver Dez Bryant for the rest of the season after it was discovered that he lied to the NCAA concerning his visit to Deion Sanders’ house.  Fearing that he broke the NCAA rules, Bryant lied to the NCAA officials that he didn’t work out with Sanders or have a meal at Sanders’ home.

First off, bad move by Dez Bryant.  Lying is never good, never acceptable.  But my questions is, why was he being questioned about this in the first place?  The NCAA now monitors and questions positive male role models in their athletes lives?  Student-athletes cannot eat home-cooked meals?

I have a question, did the NCAA check on Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy’s Christian Mission?  Did they find out if someone paid for one of their meals?  Who payed for a plane ride to Phillipines that costs $1100?  I am not accusing or implying that there is foul play involved in Tebow or McCoy’s trip, but seems like a trip to the Far East would raise more red flags then a jog around a track and chicken alfredo around the dining room table.

I think the appropriate punishment should be 1 game.  You can’t lie.  The whole season?  The Head Coach, the leader of the New Mexico Football Team physically attacked one of his assistants, a felony in New Mexico.  His consequence?  He is suspended for 1 game.

The unbalance continues


Derrick Rose – who’s fault?

June 2, 2009

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If you want to be a dancer, go be a dancer.

If you want to throw a curveball, go ride a bus in the Minor League Circuit for a few years.

If you want to save the world because you have the cure for a disease, go do it.

If you want to play basketball, gotta wait.

I have posted many, many thoughts about the age requirement the NBA has imposed to require its’ young players to have had at least 1 year out of High School.  No more Kobe Bryant on one end, no more Kwame Brown on the other.  However, now Univerisities (traditional exploiters) are faced with the fact they have to “re-amateurize” athletes who have been on a professional track since they were 14 years old.

The University of Memphis and, indirectly, The University of Kentucky, are affected that Derrick Rose’s high school smudged his transcript and someone other then Rose took his SAT’s.  In all likelihood, Memphis will have to vacate its’ 38-2 record, Final Four, and National Runner-Up from DRose’s 1 season at Memphis.  As if it never happened.

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 First of all, Rose is an exemplary human being.  He is a symbol of hard work, dedication, and being a team player.  His teammates rave about his leadership and how humble he is.  He does a lot of good in the Southside of Chicago Community, at age 20 Rose has given back to the community more then your average 45-year old suburban father who has his degree from the local University.  

So who’s fault is this?  To give back to his community, to set the example of hard work to athletes, Rose had to wait.  Rose had to watch as Coach Cal profited, the boosters profited, and the University profited from him.  Now, Rose will be tarnished as someone who, “ruined a program”, a “greedy kid”.  Allegations that will haunt his pre-NBA life.

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It’s just a shame.  There should be no age-limit.  I agree with most proponents of the age requirement, that some if not many athletes will fail in the NBA right out of High School.  But does 1 year at College really make that much of a difference?  It certainly does not, it is setting up young men to fail.


Assassin

May 30, 2009

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One of my best basketball buddies says to me this morning, “Kobe looked good last night.”  My response was simply, “He knew what time it was.”

The best closer in the game stepped it up to finish the Western Conference Finals against a game Denver Nuggets team.  A night after LeBron willed the Cavaliers to stay alive, Kobe put Carmelo Anthony and Denver to rest.  Kobe has that Jordan-esque quality of hammering the nail when the job needs to be done.   Like blood in the water, Kobe will hit the jumper, silence the crowd with a ferocious dunk, even block a shot or two.

No, Kobe is not Michael Jordan for various reasons.  2 of the most glaring are that Mike would routinely guard the best offensive player on the other team and Kobe has lost 2 NBA Finals (1 with Shaq), not Jumpman23 at all.

But currently, the NBA is fantastic and Kobe is definitely carrying the flag.  I think he will win his 4th tittle, but more importantly, his 1st title as “the guy”


Kentucky Basketball

May 20, 2009

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John Wall is going to Kentucky.  The dynamic Point Guard who stormed onto the recruiting scene in the past few months is a monumental grab for John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats.  Wall is perfect for the Dribble-Drive offense or as Calipari calls it, “Princeton on Steroids”.  Along side DeMarcus Cousins, Patrick Patterson, and maybe Jodi Meeks, the Wildcats will be the team to beat in the SEC and in the Top-15 of the country. 

Its’ never been a question of if Calipari would bring back Kentucky to the promised land, but it is surprising how quick this happened.  Coach Calipari has longed to be at the head table in the College Coaching ranks, but at Memphis he couldn’t even get into the room to be with the Kansas’, North Carolina’s, and Duke’s.  Now, not only is he at the table, he has the head chair.

Wall’s signing with Kentucky signifies more then a good Wildcat team in 2009-2010, it also is sending shock waves throughout the College Basketball world that the dormant giant is finally awake, and not too happy.  Separated by the Appalachian Mountains, North Carolina and Kentucky have always had a healthy rivalry based on tradition and success.  For a while it was easy for Roy Williams to fly into whatever high school gym had the talent with his Tar Heels gear on and walk away knowing he could get whomever he wants. 

Now the slicked back hair of Coach Cal and the embroidered blazers with UK on them will follow North Carolina to Mt. Zion Academy to Word of God School and so on, making the recruiting process and college basketball world a nuclear arms race once again.  But now with the superpowers back where they should be.