Monthly Archives: March 2010

“Rising Stars at McDonald’s”

Jared Sullinger during a 2010 Columbus Northland Vikings basketball game.

Tonight is the biggest night of the year for high school hoop’s stars.  It is a chance for the nation’s top players to go at it head to head on national television in front of a big time crowd.  You better believe that college coaches from all over the country will be in attendance or watching tonight hoping to lure some of the unsigned studs out of this 2010 class.

Some of the storylines for the evening.  Well first of all, the East has two players that will be playing in their future home in Buckeye nation tonight in Jared Sullinger and Deshaun Thomas.  These are two of the top players in the country at their respective positions and Sullinger is really expected to dominate this evening’s affair and lead the East to a victory.  Thad Matta will be licking his chops after this one and many Buckeye fans will get over the sting of losing to Tennessee last weekend knowing what is coming next season.  As I have said many times before, Buckeye fans should be booking their tickets to the 2011 Final Four already.

The guard matchup tonight should be very entertaining.  On the East side you have Kyrie Irving who is heading to Duke alongside arguably the most athletic player in the class Josh Selby.  They will be going up against two phenomenal defenders in Brandon Knight and Cory Joseph.  The most eye-popping stat about these 4 top flight guards,  3 of them are uncommitted for college!  You better believe coaches will be watching these matchups closely.

Another intriguing matchup will be on the wings tonight as two future Tar Heels will be locking horns in Harrison Barnes and Reggie Bullock.  This is the start to a fight for playing time in Chapel Hill.  The East squad seems to possess the greater athleticism while the West seems to have the better shooters as a whole.  Knowing this, I will be going with the East to win this edition of the McDonald’s All American Game.  Shooters generally get nervous in atmospheres like this and the team that can get to the rim and get the easier shots will win.  Not only does the East have more athleticism to get to the rim, they have the best post player in the country in Jared Sullinger playing in his hometown looking to wow the Buckeye nation before he even officially steps foot on the campus.

Really pay attention to this game.  As you all saw this year, Freshman really do make a huge difference at the next level.  For instance John Wall and Demarcus Cousins came into Lexington and led Kentucky to 35 victories this year.  They were both first team All Americans.  Ever since the rule of players needing to spend a year out of high school before entering the draft was instilled, the college game has become much younger and talent heavy.  It stinks that we only get to see the players for one year at the college level, but the entertainment value of this season would have went way down without guys like John Wall and Xavier Henry.

Any thoughts on where Cory Joseph, Brandon Knight, and Josh Selby will end up?  Who wins tonight?

Stay tuned for the next edition of Sportskraze.

-Kraze

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“A Misstep by UTEP?”

Even though the NCAA tournament is not over yet, coaches are jumping ship all over the place.  It is kind of reminiscent of the way coaches move around following the last regular season game in College Football.  I mean, I guess this a little different in that none of the coaches moving around are still getting ready to coach their team in the biggest ball game of the year.  Many college football coaches leave their teams to fend for themselves in big time BCS Bowl Games.

One of the transactions today that caught my eye was UTEP’s hiring of former USC Head Coach Tim Floyd.  UTEP is coming off a fantastic season in which it went 26 and 7 and received an at large build to March Madness.  It was not their fault that their former coach, Tony Barbee jumped ship for Auburn.  A scum bag move in my eyes, but it is a business after all.  That is a topic for another day.

But let’s talk about the Miner’s new coach.  Good old Tim Floyd.  Now I am not questioning the hire on Floyd’s credentials.  The man has a plethora of experience ranging from both college head coaching jobs to even being the coach of the Chicago Bulls.  But the man scampered away from the mess that he helped create at USC with the whole OJ Mayo incident.  He claims that he left because he no longer wanted to work at USC but we all know that this is baloney  The man ran away from his problems (kind of similar to Pete Carroll in a way).

He is a proven winner as a college head coach though and has been around the block in all different types of situations.  But his last stop was a blunder for the off the court issues.  Hopefully he has gotten the unethical recruiting tactics out of his system and is ready to just recruit and coach (fairly).

I am pulling for the guy to do well. I just think it is a shame that UTEP had to shop for a new coach in the first place.  Any thoughts on this hire?  Will coaches ever stop abandoning programs that they build up for programs that are struggling in the so-called “power” conferences?

Stay tuned for the next edition of Sportskraze.

-Kraze

“Winners?”

The NCAA Men’s College Basketball All-American team was announced today.  What a group of 5 guys.  Do you want to know something that they all have in common?

None of them will be participating in next weekend’s Final Four in Indy.  How often does that happen?  Can you remember a group of first team All Americans that had 0 participating in the Final Four?  Goes to show you how unpredictable this year’s version of March Madness has truly been.

Now I am not trying to take away from any of these guys.  They are all 5 great players with very strong futures ahead of them.  All 5 of these guys will be drafted in the first round with 4 of them likely being lottery picks.

So lets take a closer look at the Fab Five.  The leading vote getter was Ohio State’s Evan Turner.  Turner, with a very long 6 7 frame appears to be an instant impact player in the League.  With his great size and uncanny ability to score from the interior and perimeter, the transition should be quite smooth for the best that Buckeye nation has to offer.  The only weakness is his inability to take care of the ball at times.  Hopefully he works heavily on his ball handling and decision-making before he straps up in the pros.

The next guy is Big Blue Nation’s John Wall.  Wall had the most high-profile freshman year of anybody since the Longhorn great Kevin Durant.  I mean the guy hit a game winning shot as time expired in his first collegiate game.  From day one, Wall has been a national phenom and rightfully so.  The man even has his own nationally recognized dance.  I don’t see people doing the “Kobe Bryant.” He was an extremely highly touted freshman and lived up to all the expectations.  Wall’s speed is outstanding, but his inability to stay in front of opponents defensively at times is something that he could definitely work on.  Also at times, he did not play great help defense as Jay Bilas pointed out time after time during the UK/WVU game (Bilas definitely is not a big UK supporter).  Wall also has a similar problem to Turner in that he can play out of control at times and turn the ball over.  The beautiful thing though is that he is not even 20 years old yet!  Wall will be a big time performer in the League for years to come.

Wall’s teammate Demarcus Cousins joined him as a 1st team All American and was easily the best big man in the country this year.  “Boogie” as he was proclaimed on CBS during a story that aired in between tourney games during the 2nd round has outstanding size, to go along with great hands, and just an all around fantastic offensive repertoire.  It definitely will not be Cousin’s talent that holds him back heading to the next level.  He is continuing to improve his maturity level but this will be his biggest hurdle heading to the NBA.  If he can learn to not overreact on the court and refrain from whining to the refs, he will be in for a big time career in the League.  I will say that I have never seen a man whine more about getting hit in my life.  Being a guy his size, you have to expect to get hit a lot.  Just suck it up and play ball Boogie.

Then you got the 2 studs coming out of the Big East in Wes Johnson and Scottie Reynolds.  These 2 players had fantastic seasons and really were their team’s leaders on and off the floor.  Wes Johnson has a very quite demeanor, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that he does not have a big time game.  Johnson will have to continue to work on his strength and continue to demand the ball at the next level.  At times his quite demeanor can let him get lost in the shuffle.  He will have to be more proactive at the next level in order to prevent this from happening.  But he should definitely be in for a solid career. 

Scottie Reynolds might have been the best leader out of any of these guys for his respective team.  But he may have more growing pains than the other 4 guys as he hits the League.  His outstanding work ethic should help him turn into a solid performer at the next level in time.  Scottie’s lack of size (6 2) and lack of blazing speed will make things tough though.  It is very tough to be an undersized guard at the next level without amazing wheels.

All 5 of these guys will go on to have nice careers in the NBA though and were very fun to watch this year in College.  It still behooves me that none of them will be playing in Indy next weekend.

Does this surprise any of you?  Do you think any of these guys will tank big time in the League?

Stay tuned for the next edition of Sportskraze.

-Kraze

“Elite 8 Day Two Predictions”

I will be honest.  I have no idea what to expect heading into day 2 of the Elite 8.  The only thing that I do know for certain is that two more teams will punch their tickets to the Final Four.  That is the only thing we can be sure of the way that this tournament has gone thus far.  This has to have been the most unpredictable March Madness of my lifetime and maybe ever.

So the first game of the day features a streaking Tennessee team versus the perennial titan Michigan State.  Honestly surprised that both teams have gotten here, but this should be a great matchup.  Tom Izzo may be the best coach in the country and Bruce Pearl is a very up and coming coach.  Tennessee has great athleticism and really plays a deep rotation while Michigan State is reeling from injuries.  The Vols have been knocking off the titans all year and this should not change on this day.  I got Tennessee stamping a ticket to the Final Four and defeating a very tough Spartan squad.  I would probably pick this game differently if Kalin Lucas was available to play.

The second game of the day features a very familiar face in the Duke Blue Devils taking on an extremely athletic Baylor Bears squad.  Both of these teams can score with a fury even though they do it in different ways.  This Duke team is the typical methodical and fundamentally sound Coach K led squad while Baylor loves to get out and run.  Duke is looking for their 11th Final Four appearance under Coach K and first since 2004.  6 years is way to long for Duke to go without making a trip to the Final Four.  I have Duke heading to Indy behind a great Scheyer/Singler performance.  If Duke does struggle from 3 point range in this one though, look for Baylor to pull the upset.

Enjoy the games today.  They should both be very competitive battles.

Stay tuned for the next edition of Sportskraze.

-Kraze

“Down Goes Frazier..Down Goes Frazier”

Two more games played today.  Two more upsets on Day one of the Elite 8.  This tournament continues to amaze me and I admit that I was wrong in both of my predictions for the games on the first day of the Elite 8.  But I was happy to see the underdogs pull through.  I mean Butler, out of the Horizon League, is heading home to Indianapolis to play in the Final Four!  Can you really think of a better scenario for this tournament?  And then there seems to be justice in the world in that at least one team out of America’s “best” conference is heading to the Final Four.

The first game of the day between Butler and Kansas State had possibly the worst played first half that I have witnessed in an Elite 8 contest in my lifetime.  Absolutely atrocious play that was lacking in every way.  Then in the 2nd half, the tempo and level of play really picked up though and made up for a lackluster first half.  Butler deserved the win in the end though and continues on their magical run.  Indianapolis will be going crazy for the Bulldogs over the next week in anticipation for their team coming home to play in the Final Four.

The second game of the evening I will admit really surprised me.  Who really saw UK going down?  They were by far the most talented team in the country all year.  And with Kansas, the other juggernaut being out of the tournament, it appeared inevitable that the Big Blue would be celebrating come April 5th.  This game was a very odd game, but entertaining nonetheless.  I mean West Virginia did not hit a 2 point field goal the entire first half, yet they were winning at the half?!  How many times does that happen.  And lets not forget, West Virginia is not known for their 3 point shooting.  Well it saved them tonight.  This is a Bob Huggins team for god sakes.  They make a living in the paint and off put backs. 

Kentucky’s one flaw all year, if you could find a flaw in this outstanding team was their struggles at times to hit from the perimeter and make free throws.  Well both of these problems played a huge role in the team’s exit for the tournament on this day.  They ended up going 4 of 32 from 3 point range and shot just 55 percent from the free throw line.  I mean if the Wildcats hit their shots on this night, they have a very good chance to win this game.  It’s really that simple.

An interesting fact from this battle.  West Virginia stayed in a 1-3-1 zone nearly the entire game.  Can you ever remember a Bob Huggin’s team playing the majority of the game in zone?  Huggins has always coached teams that play hard-nosed man to man the majority of the game.  Well Huggs showed why he is a great coach on this night and went with the zone.  He realized that his guys could not match up with the amazing talent of UK in man and took his chances on forcing UK to shoot from the perimeter.  This turned out to be a great decision.

Also, how about Joe Mazzulla?  It is safe to say that the Mountaineer back up point guard had the game of his life.  This was his first time scoring double digits in a game since 2008.    He played his heart out as his typical for a Bob Huggins coached player.  Not to mention he made John Wall look like he was standing still defensively at times.  Though John played great in the offensive transition game, Mazzulla blew by King Wall in a similar fashion to that of Devan Downey in late January.  Wall has a very bright future ahead of him, but his inability to keep his man in front of him defensively is lacking at times.

And one final note on the game.  Hugs moves to 8 and 1 coaching vs John Calipari.  Calipari may have had a much more talented team, but Bob found a way to beat him again.  Calipari can have his lottery picks and 5 star recruits.  Huggins will take his hard nosed workers and find a way to beat the slick haired Calipari.  Calipari is a fantastic recruiter.  But he really should have won a title with this team just like he should have with the Memphis team in 2008.  Not many coaches have hands down the most talented team in the country in multiple years.  You have to take advantage of these opportunities and Cal has shown an inability to win the big one.  I still think Calipari is a great recruiter that will continue to put together strong UK teams.  But his in-game coaching at times could use some work.  I mean why didn’t he have his guys pressing all night tonight?  Why did he let his team attempt 32 three pointers when they were dominating the Mountaineers inside? Little things such as these cost him a trip to the Final Four.

Best of luck to both Butler and West Virginia in the Final Four.  They are both very deserving teams.  Wall, Cousins, Patterson, and maybe Bledsoe are all about to sign huge pay days.  They will get over the loss in time.

The tournament continues to be an enigma to all.

Stay tuned for the next edition of Sportskraze.

-Kraze

“Elite Eight Predictions”

This tournament thus far has truly epitomized why the NCAA tourney has been proclaimed “March Madness.”  Millions across the country filled out brackets.  And most of those millions have done an awful job (myself included).  And would you really want it any other way?  It has truly been madness from the first tipoff.

That has become the nature of this tournament.  People love seeing Cinderella’s and underdogs knock off the Goliaths or the big dawgs.  Who really didn’t like seeing Northern Iowa shock the world and Kansas in the second round unless you were a Kansas fan?  Who did not like seeing Butler knock of Syracuse on Thursday?  I mean people love upsets.  They keep people guessing and make this tournament fun.

So today we have two great matchups.  The first one is between a Butler team on a 23 game win street and a very tough Frank Martin led Kansas State team.  These are two great up and coming coaches matching up in Brad Stevens and Frank Martin.  This is a 2 vs 5 seed matchup.  Many would quickly say the game is for Kansas State to lose.  I would say not so fast.  Butler outplayed a very strong Syracuse team the other night.  They figured out how to get easy, makeable shots against the vaunted Syracuse 2-3 zone.  They are in this position for a reason.  Also winning 23 straight games in today’s college basketball game is no easy feat.  I do not care what conference you are in who you play. 

Kansas States guards will need to come up big today and the bigs will really need to exert their presence in the paint.  I give the edge to Kansas State due to their bigs.  Though it would be a wonderful story to see Butler come home to Indianapolis for the Final Four, I think this Kansas State team is too good to lose today.  The strike will be striking midnight on this very strong Butler team.  It will be a very competitive game, but the Big 12 will be the first power conference to land a team in the Final Four this year with a hard-fought victory over a gutsy Butler team.  We will go with K State winning a very close game 72 to 69 (take the score with a grain of salt).

The second game of the day is a matchup that everyone has been looking forward to since Selection Sunday.  Many have proclaimed this the best matchup of the tournament.  Two heavyweights from the power conferences slugging it out for a chance to book a ticket to Indianapolis.  Kentucky hands down has looked like the best team in this tournament.  They just have played outstanding and are really clicking on all cylinders.  West Virginia has really not played great the entire tournament.  But that is Bob Huggins basketball.  Winning ugly.  If Huggins can make this an ugly game, his Mountaineers will have a chance to pull the upset.  You do know that Bob’s players will exert an outstanding effort level and leave it all on the floor tonight.

So my prediction for this one.  West Virginia and UK will go back and forth in the first half and the game will be close heading into the 2nd half.  Also you will see a ton of yelling from two of the country’s best and most intense coaches (John Calipari and Bob Huggins). Devin Ebanks will be guarding John Wall a good amount today.  Huggins typically likes to put his athletic swing men on another team’s catalyst guard.  Also be ready for an outstanding battle on the boards.  These are two of the strongest and best rebounding teams in the nation.  But in the end I think that Kentucky’s overall talent will prove too much for West Virginia.  West Virginia will really miss the services of their staring point guard Darryl “Truck” Bryant, and run out of gas in the end.  I got Kentucky winning a bruising battle by single digits.  We will go with a 70 to 62 score prediction (once again take the score prediction with a grain of salt).

Please enjoy the games tonight.

Stay tuned for the next edition of Sportskraze.

-Kraze

“It Keeps Getting Better and Better”

Night one of the Sweet 16 was something special.  Many thought that both sets of games would turn into blow outs and not be nearly as entertaining as rounds 1 and 2.  Well those many, myself included, were wrong. 

In the first set of games, West Virginia found a way to get by the running Huskies out of Washington.  Bob Huggins is back in the Elite 8 for the first time since 1996.  This was an extremely sloppy game that featured 44 turnovers.  It is extremely atypical for a Bob Huggins coached team to turn the ball over more than 15 times in a game, much less 21 times.  But who really cares?  There are no style points in this tournament.  Painting a Picasso is not going to vault you farther into the tournament then surviving a battle.  The NCAA tournament is a tournament of survival.  As Mick Cronin said in the Big East tournament, there is a such thing as a one point blowout.  Even if you win all 6 games by one point in this tourney, you are still the National Champion.  And also you have to admit that regardless of the many turnovers, the tempo and dunks of this one were very entertaining.

In the other early game last night, Butler found a way to win a 23rd in a row and upstage the heavily favored Orangemen of Syracuse.  I will admit I was shocked at this outcome.  I did think Butler was a solid team.  But I thought Syracuse was a sure-fire Final Four team.  I was wrong again.  The Big East appears to have been vastly overrated this year.  Only one of the eight tourney teams are left as we enter the 2nd night of the Sweet 16!  This tournament has taught me that you should not pick by the conferences teams come from.  Pick on the matchups.  Pick on who has the best chance of winning.   Just because a team comes from a tough conference does not mean they are necessarily going to win a ball game on a given night.  Syracuse would have had a huge advantage inside had the senior Arinze Onuaku played.  He was hurt.  Butler took advantage of this and won the ball game. It was a wonderful season for a Syracuse squad that really over achieved from day one.  Best of luck to Andy Rautins and the seniors.

Then after seeing a one seed go down, could the 2nd set of games really top the first?  You better believe it.  In the game of the tourney thus far, Kansas State held off a gutsy Xavier Musketeers team in a game that needed 2 OT’s to decide a winner.  This was just an amazing game that you could say so much about.  It was a slugfest from the tip-off and K State appeared to be on their way to a blowout.  A resilient Xavier Muskies team found their way back into the game though and refused to die.  After the game the players from both teams said it best.  They all said in their own way, “Guys didn’t want to go home.  We were refusing to lose.”  And that they did.  This game in my opinion featured the two best guard combinations in the country.  Many will say aren’t you forgetting about the guard combo in Lexington?  These sets of guards may not be as talented as that combo, but they looked phenomenal and exhibit a far better chemistry.  I would rather have either one of these sets on my team than the one that UK features.  Holloway and Crawford combined for 58 points for the Muskies, while the K State backcourt of Pullen and Clemente put up 53.  Then I will also state that this game featured a matchup of two of the most up and coming coaches in the country.  Both Frank Martin and Chris Mack did phenomenal jobs this year and will have these teams back dancing next year.

Then finally the nightcap.  Not nearly as exciting as the K State/Xavier game, but the Wildcats are always fun to watch.  Kentucky showed too much athleticism and handled a tough Cornell team 62 to 45.  Cornell is known as a phenomenal shooting team and on a night where they shot 33 percent from the floor and 62 percent from the charity stripe, they had 0 chance to beat a much more talented Kentucky team.  Kentucky deserves credit though and is the heavy favorite to win the title at this time.

So hopefully you were able to enjoy the amazing first night of the Sweet 16.  Maybe tonight will bring some more similar excitement?  We can only hope.

Stay tuned for the next edition of Sportskraze.

-Kraze