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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NBA Players in The Big Dance

March 30, 2009

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The Final Four is the celebration of great teams.  The 4 teams who are playing the best right now are going to Detroit with the opportunity to cut down the nets and become National Champions.  A small minority in the crowd on Saturday and Monday night are there to see how individual stars will translate to the next level, the NBA.  Here’s my perspective, laid out in 5 categories of the players from the Sweet 16 going for NBA glory.

Get your Weight Up, not your Hate Up! – Players who have great potential, must gain weight and get stronger.

Robbie Hummel – Purdue

Austin Daye – Gonzaga

Kyle Singler – Duke

Chase Budinger – Arizona

Danny Green – North Carolina

Shoe Dollares!  Get that Money! – Leave now, get paid for you and your Family.

Blake Griffin – Oklahoma

Hasheem Thabeet – Connecticut

A.J. Price – Connecticut

Ty Lawson – North Carolina

Kalin Lucas – Michigan St.

Earl Clark – Louisville

Terrance Williams – Louisville

Solid NBA Career – Maybe a 2nd Teamer, Role Player, Career of playing bball

Tyler Hansbrough – North Carolina

Goran Suton – Michigan St.

Scotty Reynolds – Villanova

Sam Young – Pitt

DaJuan Blair – Pitt

Athletes – Players with upside, maybe could benefit from another year of school.

Stanley Robinson – Connecticut

Deon Thompson – North Carolina

Sean Taggert – Memphis

Jordan Hill – Arizona

Stay in School! – Don’t go unless you would like to toil in the D-League or Greece

Sherron Collins – Kansas

Jhonny Flynn -Syracuse

Ed Davis – North Carolina

Willie Warren – Oklahoma


The New Elite

March 30, 2009

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The Kentucky job is open, let me be the first to say that Colin Brady will listen to any offers.  Yeah right, I’m dreaming.  But seriously, why wouldn’t you listen to the offer of College Basketball’s Camelot?  The all-time winningest program, a fan base that is 20,000 strong every game, and the highest paid, most visible job in the State of Kentucky.  Of course, with all that comes pressure.  Billy Gillepsie is a fine coach, but wasn’t ready for the hottest seat in basketball.  Kentucky needs a tenured, battle tested coach that comes from a top program.

I have believed for a while, that the target should be Tom Izzo.  Izzo has the credentials, a National Championship, 5 Final Fours since 1999 and has the toughness and basketball philosophy the Bluegrass State would love.  My boy JK will hear nothing of it when I mentioned this to him, as all good Spartans should.  But all coaches are competitors and why not challenge yourself at the highest level of your craft?  Again, I’d take the Kentucky job.

But after this weekend, Tom Izzo is staying put.  After the dismantling of the #1 overall seed in the Tournament, Michigan St. has placed itself in the Elite of College Basketball.  Izzo has made the Michigan St. job a job that someone from Illinois, USC, or even Connecticut would move to.  

I believe there to be 5 programs that exemplify the word elite.  UCLA, North Carolina, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky are the benchmarks for College Basketball.  Now add Michigan St.

What does a program need to do to attain this recognition?  Your team must go to Final Fours and win a National Championship.  Other ingredients are; win Conference Championships, produce NBA players, play on TV, and dominate their geographic region in recruiting.

Look at Michigan St.’s Resume:

5 Final Fours since 1999

2000 National Champions

4 Regular Season Big 10 Titles since 1999

Conference Tournament Title in 2000

Since 2000, 10 MSU players have been drafted

5 out of the last 10 Mr. Basketball’s from Michigan have went to MSU, including a couple Mr. Basketball’s from Illinois

 

So the facts are facts, Michigan St. welcome to the Elite!  Plus, the War Drill is rowdy.


How Sweet the 16 iS

March 27, 2009

Great night of basketball last night. 

Started out with Pittsburgh vs. Xavier, a great match-up.  Pitt is a popular pick for the National Champion, but have struggled in the 1st two rounds.  I dont really believe it to be a struggle, more of the “Pitt” way.  They just win, thats really all that matter.  Pundits just have a better time questioning how smooth it was and what not.  Bottom Line is a victory is a victory.  It did look like the Panthers could lose yet again in the Sweet 16, but the swagga of LeVance Fields was the dagger!  A DEEEEEEP 3, followed by a steal and a bucket.  Big Time player!

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Connecticut was just too much for Purdue, I like the Boilmakers, but the Huskies is just too big inside and too fast on the outside.  Hasheem Thabeet can alter a game just by being in uniform, once he swatted a few shots away, the Purdue players were looking over their shoulder the whole game.

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Missouri and their “Forty Minutes of Hell”, Nolan Richardson scheme overwhelmed the Memphis Tigers.  There were times were I honestly believed that there were 8 Missouri players on the court.  They were EVERYWHERE!  I love how Mike Anderson uses 11 guys, all who are almost the same player.  He has a great system, kids that have bought into not being a star, but being a part of something.  Interesting note, the last C-USA game Memphis lost was to a Mike Anderson coached UAB team.

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The most anticipated game of the tournament for me.  Duke – Villanova.  DEEEEEFENSE.  WOW.  The intensity and defense was played at such a high level, that I do not believe the teams were nervous or struggled offensively, I believe the defense was just that good.  A see-saw game, but Villanova used their  Big East pedigree and took the game from Duke.  That has been Duke’s MO, lack of desire, toughness.  I am not a fan of Duke, but I am a Coach K fan after the Olympics. However, when the Dukies play a high-caliber team, you just get the feeling that the other team wants it more.

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Three Cheers for the Big Bad Big EAST!!!!!


Anthony Grant

March 25, 2009

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Anthony Grant is in Alabama for his second interview for the open Crimson Tide job.  I wrote earlier, that Anthony Grant is a great young coach with championship experience (Assistant Coach at Florida for those 2 titles) and a strong ability to recruit at a mid-major like VCU (see Eric Maynor).

If Grant can get to a major program with all those resources, I think he could eventually land with a premier job.  I consider a premier job a Florida, Kentucky, Kansas, Duke, North Carolina, Michigan St., etc. 

I think Alabama is a great job, I think it is a little better then Georgia because of Georgia’s in-state competition with Georgia Tech.  I think you can dance in March every year with Alabama and potentially a Final Four.

Let the carousel begin!


The New Land of Point Guards?

March 23, 2009

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For years the Mecca of basketball, more specifically, Point Guards have come out of New York City.  Let’s go through the list; Bob Cousy, Tiny Archibald, Lenny Wilkens, Earl the Pearl, Kenny Anderson, Kenny Smith, Mark Jackson, Bessie Telfair….the list goes on and on.  For a while it seemed like the best Point Guard out of high school, out of college had that NYC swagga.  

I used to notice that Kenny Anderson woud get a basket, steal, dime when you most needed it.  Same with Mark Jackson and even Stephon Marbury.  Kind of like getting that last basket in pick-up, because winners keep the court.

While NYC will always be the Mecca of the Basketball World, a new land of Point Guards has risen from the Mid-West.  That land is Chicago.  Chi-town is more known for its’ sausages, Wrigley Field, and a bald-headed superstar.  Led by Isiah Thomas, Chicago has churned out lots of talented point guards.  Thomas, Mo Cheeks, Doc Rivers, Quinn Buckner, and Tim Hardaway are the founding fathers of the Windy City’s floor generals.

The new prototype 1 from Chicago is the thick, strong, powerful guard who is absolutely fearless.  Where does this mentality come from?  I think it comes from Michael Jordan.  While not a Point Guard, Jordan’s body type mirrors those of Chi-Towns PG’s.  And can you honestly say that any basketball player in Illinois, never mind the country, didn’t model themselves after Jordan?

Let’s look at the current Chi-Town PG’s. Dwayne Wade, definately a PG in college and a PG/facilitator in the Pros.  We all know his resume.  The #1 Pick in the 2008 NBA Draft was Derrick Rose, definite Rookie of the Year and the next great PG in the NBA. In the current Sweet 16 portion of the NCAA Tournament, Jeremy Pargo of Gonzaga and Sherron Collins of Kansas are both Chicago raised.

While I don’t know if we can say that New York City has been un-seated as land of the Point Guards, the Windy City puts up a great argument.


Time to take a deep breatH. Madness!

March 23, 2009

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So the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament is done.  Phew!  What a long, long stretch of basketball that was wonderful in any way that you look at it.  Spent Thursday staying up late watching the first round, started off Friday watching the games, took a hiatus to drive to Boston to hang with some friends and watch some more ball.  8 games, many EVIL DECKS of cards later, the 1st round was complete. 

The weekend was amazing, great finishes.  Saturday and Sunday.

Observations:

Syracuse appears to be primed for a run to the Final Four, focused and balanced.  Look out for the Orange.  

Louisville survives a valiant effort by Siena.

Pitt has 2 dogfights, but advance.

The dominance of the Big East.  5 teams from the best conference in America advance to the Sweet 16 to show the country what the best conference was this season hands down.

The return of Ty Lawson literally saves my bracket.  I have Carolina winning the entire thing, a chance that would of been crippled if the point guard was out or even if he returned to be an average player.  Looked like Lawson brushed off the cobwebs in the 1st half and turned up the juice in the second half, showing no signs of a damaged toe.  Keeping me alive in the Madness!

Best Sweet 16 match-up :  Villanova vs. Duke.