Monthly Archives: November 2010

“College Football Week 12: Has it really been 3 months?”

Texas A&M quarterback, Ryan Tannehill (pictured above), has been absolutely stellar since taking over the quarterback reigns for the Aggies. Can he spoil Nebraska's final season in the Big 12?

 College Football is entering Week 12.  Yes, the season has already spanned 3 months.  Yes this season has had its fair share of drama.  Just ask Auburn, Gene Chizik, and Cam Newton.  But this year has also had its fair share of stellar play.

 
 

 

See Auburn, Oregon, TCU, and Boise State.  All of these teams look to be contenders to play in the National Championship game out in Arizona come January 10th. Here is a look at the marquee matchups:

Ohio State at Iowa:  Ohio State has won 5 straight Big Ten Titles.  Lose this game, and that reign ends.  Win this game.  And they put themselves in position to at least share the title with a win over rival Michigan in the regular season finale.  This Ohio State team has had almost unreasonable expectations placed on it since the preseason.  The majority of the country, including myself, were shocked when they went down in Camp Randall on October 16th.  Due to Michigan State going down to Iowa, the Buckeyes regained new life.  Now the Buckeyes look to show Iowa thanks by beating up on them in Iowa.  Senior Quarterback Ricky Stanzi has had a stellar career for the Hawkeyes.  Both of these teams really playgreat defense in every sense of the word.  The only difference is Ohio State also puts up 41.6 points a game.  Ohio State will have a little bit too much offensive firepower in the end as they grind out a hard fought victory on the road at Iowa by 3.

Virginia Tech at Miami (FL):  The top 2 teams from the ACC Coastal Division square off in South Beach in a game that always has huge implications regarding the ACC Champion.  VTech started out slow this year and suffered back to back losses to Boise State and James Madison to open up a year in which many had them as a big time National Title Contender.  Miami on the other hand has been a mar of inconsistency.  This team has not pulled together a 3 game win streak the entire season.  Could they put together their first this week?  I would have given the U a chance at home had Jacory Harris been available to play.  But sadly, Jacory, who is extremely inconsistent in his own write will be unavailable for the Canes on Saturday.  Frank Beamer has led to the Hokies to 10 or more wins 6 consecutive years, and 11 of the last 15 years.  The man flat out knows how to win.  Look for Beamer to ride a very balanced offensive and defensive attack to an ACC Coastal clinching victory over the U.  Hokies by 6 on the road.

Arkansas at Mississippi State:  So what if both of these two teams take up 2 of the bottom 3 spots in the SEC West.  This half of the SEC has been insanely good this year.  No Conference even touches the competitiveness and ability of the teams in this half of the SEC.  All of the teams have 7 or more wins for crying out loud.  Either way, both of these teams are still looking to place themselves into a solid Bowl Game.  The Razorbacks are currently riding a 4 game win streak in which they have scored 38 or more points in each contest (which is not surprising in that average 37.9 points a game on the year).  Mississippi State on the other hand was riding a 6 game win streak until they got “Rolled” by the Tide last weekend.  Though the Bulldogs have rode a solid defensive unit to a very successful season thus far, Greg McElroy exposed the Bulldogs secondary last week.  Expect Ryan Mallett to do the same with his 3rd ranked passing attack in the entire country.  Razorbacks by 3 on the road in a tough SEC battle.

Nebraska at Texas A&M:  Nebraska is looking to bring home a final Big 12 title before they depart for the Big Ten.  Though the rest of the conference may be bitter towards the Cornhuskers, they have not really done too much about it.  Nebraska currently sits atop the Big 12 North and is looking to clinch a spot in the Big 12 Championship game.  Minus a hiccup against Texas, this Nebraska team has been one of the country’s elite, riding a very strong rushing attack and an amazing defensive unit.  Texas A&M is also having a great season in their own right.  Since turning over the quarterback reigns to, Ryan Tannehill, the Aggies have really gelled and are currently riding a 4 game winning streak.  Will the new school pass first Aggies be able to take care of business against the old school running Cornhuskers?  Not on this day.  Look for Nebraska to punch their spot in the Big 12 Title Game with a tough 3 point win on the road.

So there you have my look at this week’s marquee games.  I will admit that I did not call too many upsets this week.  Though I did go with all road teams to come out victorious.  But I am sticking with my gut on these games.

Enjoy the great slate of College Football games this weekend.

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.

-TheSportsKraze

 

“Amazing Streaks”

UConn Women's Head Basketball Coach, Geno Auriemma (pictured above), has led the Lady Huskies to 80 consecutive victories. Is this one of the greatest streaks ever in sports?

After watching the UConn Lady Huskies, led by the legendary Geno Auriemma secure their 80th consecutive win over the number 2 ranked Baylor Bears, it got me thinking.  What is the greatest streak or record in sports history?

Here are my top 5 team streaks of all time:

5.  From 1991 to 2005, Bobby Cox, who is recently retired, led the Atlanta Braves to an unfathomable 14 consecutive divisional titles.  Plenty of teams go 15 years without even making the playoffs once.  Just ask the Reds about that.

4.  In 1979, the Philadelphia Flyers went an unthinkable 35 games without a loss.  The NHL is a brutal League where no teams has ever won more than 62 games during regular season play.  This team was able to go 35 without suffering 1 defeat.  It was a good time to sport a Flyer’s jersey.

3.UCLA’s 7 consecutive NCAA Men’s basketball titles.  During this amazing time of utter dominance by John Wooden and the Bruins, they also won 88 consecutive games!  Could you imagine a team doing something like this in this day and age.  The last Men’s team to sport a perfect season was the Indiana Hoosiers in 1976.

2. The Boston Celtic’s won 8 consecutive NBA Titles between the 1958-1959 season and the 1965-1966 season.  Will any team ever touch this?  I mean 3-peats are great, but that is not even half of an 8-peat.

1. California’s De La Salle’s High School Football won 151 straight games over a 12 year span.  This is not easy task at any level, especially the high school level, where the kids really change every couple of years due to graduation, etc.  The previous record was only 72.  This streak spanned from 1992 to 2004!

I know there are other major streaks out there.  So here are my honorable mention top team streaks of all time.  

–  Penn State Women’s Volleyball 109 match winning streak and the University of North Carolina Women’s Soccer 103 game win streak. 

– The LA Lakers scintillating 33 game win streak. 

– The Oklahoma Sooner Football 47 game winning streak between 1953 and 1957.

What are your top streaks?

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.

-TheSportsKraze

“Buckeye Nation Seeks Redemption”

Ohio State Super Freshman, Jared Sullinger (pictured above), will be scoring early and often in helping lead the Buckeyes deep into March Madness this year.

2007 was the year of the Gator in College sports.  And really it could have been called the year of the Buckeye.  Two dates that will forever live in infamy in the eyes of all related to the school that sports the “Best Band in the Land (Ohio State)” are as follows:

January 8th, 2007–  On this date, a heavily favored Ohio State team was downed by a Florida team that featured a lethal quarterback tandem in Chris Leak, and some freshman named Tim Tebow.  The Buckeyes were the best team in the country all year and fully expected to ride their horses, Ted Ginn Jr. and Troy Smith to their first National Championship since 2002.  Sadly for Brutus and the Buckeyes, Florida demonstrated the amazing speed of the SEC and dominated Tressel’s team 41 to 14.

April 2nd, 2007– A few months after the BCS National Championship massacre, Ohio State was led by 2 outstanding freshman in Mike Conley Jr. and the ultimate big man (who calls himself a chameleon on commercials), Greg Oden on the basketball court.  The Buckeyes were looking to redeem themselves from the embarrassment that Gator Nation had laid on them a few months before on the gridiron.  This was the Buckeye’s chance to reign on the Gator parade.  Florida was the defending National Champs that had returned all 5 starters and were the heavily favored squad.  Donovan’s team featuring the likes of Joakim Noah, Corey Brewer, Lee Humphrey, Al Horford, and Taurean Green did not disappoint.  Ohio State once again suffered a defeat and was once again number 2.

Fast forward to 2010.  Both basketball programs appear to be back at the forefront of the College Basketball stratosphere.  Florida is ranked number 10 in the country and appears to be the favorite to bring home the SEC.  Ohio State is ranked 5th, and look to be a major contender to bring home the Big Ten title despite the loss of last year’s National Player of the  Year, Evan Turner.

I know it goes unspoken, but you better believe the Buckeyes are looking to extract some revenge on their Southern rival.  This is a rivalry that has really kind of flown under the radar.  Yes, I realize that Ohio State got a little redemption when they handily defeated the Gators in December of 2007, but neither team was ranked at the time.  Both teams were in the rebuilding phase.  Well now both teams are ranked again and looking to make a run at the Final Four.

This is the first major showdown of the season.  And boy should it be a doozy.  Florida features a squad led by Kenny Boynton, Erving Walker, and seniors Alex Tyus and Chandler Parsons.  This team is experienced.  This team has speed.  This team can shoot the rock.  And you better believe that Coach Billy Donovan has them ready to play on a night in and night out basis.  Plus Kentucky no longer is the super squad of a year ago.  Though they are tough, the SEC will now have to go through the Swamp.

Ohio State is a team that I have been saying for some time now will be one of the last team’s left dancing come March.  I will not stop talking about this squad any time soon in that they were a major pick that I spotted over a year ago.  They have the perfect mix of experience and talent.  They returned 3 senior starters and 1 junior starters.  Plus they brought in a phenomenal freshman class which features many players off of the same AAU team.  Freshman like Jared Sullinger, Deshaun Thomas, Aaron Craft, and Jordan Sibert are ready to make a major impact now.  And honestly, Sullinger and Thomas could easily be 1st team All Big Ten performers this year and be players of the one and done variety.  Thad has been to a championship game as mentioned earlier.  He is accustomed to winning and playing deep into the tournament.  Well expect this team to have a major shot at being the last one standing.

Look for Ohio State to Gator Chomp the Gators tonight in the first big time matchup of the season.  This Buckeye team is the real deal.  Could 2010/2011 be the year of the Buckeye?

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.

-TheSportsKraze

“Weekly Nickel”

Ohio State Head Basketball Coach, Thad Matta (pictured above), has much to clap about. His squad looks to be serious title contender this year with a phenomenal mix of experience and major talent.

Another wild week in the Wide World of Sports has come to an end and we are on the cusp of another one.  You can always count on sports to be there to provide entertainment no matter the time of year.  This week will be no different.

Here is this week’s “Weekly Nickel.”

5.  NHL action continues.  I know hockey is not America’s sport, but who does not like to watch guys fly around the ice and get physical with each other?  Plus Alex Ovechkin, the world’s best player, has the Washington Capitals looking to be the team to beat.

4.  The NBA Bus rolls on.  This week is full of marquee matchups such as the Heat and Magic on Wednesday.  Who will reign supreme in the state of Florida?  Can the Heat start to get things together or will their lack of a major post presence and point guard continue to shoot them in the leg?  Plus the Celtics take on the Hawks on Monday night.  Can the young Hawks get back on track?  And then to cap it all off, Kevin Durant heads to Boston on Friday to show the East just how tough the West really is.  It should be a great week in the NBA.

3.  It’s totally awesome baby! College basketball is back in a big way.  So for all of you out there who have lost hope on both your College and Pro Football teams, have no fear, college basketball is here.  A major showdown is taking place on Tuesday night when 5th ranked OSU takes on 11th ranked Florida.  Both of these teams look to be Final Four contenders.  OSU has been a pick of mine for some time to head to the mecca of College basketball, The Final Four.  They are definitely a team that you will want to keep an eye on this season. 

2.  Favre takes on his former team and Tom Brady matches up with Peyton Manning?  What a week it will be for the NFL as we rumble into Week 11.  I am especially looking forward to the Colts/Patriots showdown.  Who is your MVP thus far (Manning or Brady)?

1.  College Football is slowly, but surely heading into the final couple of weeks.  Let the BCS bonanza began.  Some major matchups in the big conferences this weekend.  The Hokies take on the U in an ACC rumble with much on the line.  Ohio State looks to keep their Big Ten title hopes alive with a big time road game at Iowa.  Nebraska takes on Texas A&M.  And Ryan Mallett looks to make a statement against Mississippi State.  Boy has the SEC West been the epitome of the Wild Wild West this season.  Each team other than Mississippi has 7 or more wins. Talk about depth.  Also do not forget to keep a close eye on the developing Cam Newton story.  Could this be Reggie Bush part 2?

So there you have this week’s version of the “Weekly Nickel.”  You will not want to miss any of the action.  Also continue to pay close attention to Major League baseball free agency, featuring two of the best playoff performers of all time, Cliff Lee and Derek Jeter.

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.

-TheSportsKraze

“NFL Week 10 Predictions”

Eagle's Quarterback, Michael Vick (pictured above), sports the highest QB Passing Rating in the League. Can he lead Philly to a big Monday Night win in the nation's capital?

NFL Week 10 is already upon us.  The Falcons shocked the Ravens last night in the ATL with a major drive in the last 65 seconds of play.  Atlanta may be the cream of the crop in the NFC.  Or at least when they get to play at home.  Matt Ryan is now 18 and 1 all time as a NFL starting quarterback when playing at home.  Roddy White, even though he had a couple of drops, continues to put up MVP type numbers.

Do not sleep on the Ravens though.  They are still one of the AFC’s elite. 

Lets take a look at the Pick’em scoreboard.

TheSportsKraze:   73                          CV3:  78

I still got to make up a good amount of ground the expert out of Ohio University.

TheSportsKraze Picks:

Lions at Bills:  The Bills have been heartbroken 3 straight weeks.  That streak ends this week against a team that has lost 4 games by 5 or less points.  Sorry Lions.  I feel another heartbreaker coming this week in Buffalo.  Bills by 3 at home.

Vikings at Bears:  Brett Favre and his off field issues versus Da Bears.  It is a shame that Miss Sterger cannot start at linebacker alongside Urlacher and Briggs.  It won’t matter on this night.  The Vikings have way too much inner team turmoil to beat a tough Bear’s team in Chicago.  Bears by 7 at home.

Jets at Browns:  I know the Browns are hot.  I realize that they are coming off two big time wins over the Saints and Patriots.  But the Jets are my AFC favorite for a reason.  They run the ball with great efficiency and also stop the run as good as anybody.  The difference in this one will be the Brown’s inability to shut down the Jet’s vaunted rushing attack.  I got New York by 7 on the road.

Panthers at Buccaneers:  Tampa Bay is coming off a tough loss to the Falcons and really looking to demonstrate why they feel they are one of the NFC’s elite teams.  Well they are fortunate enough to get to play one of the NFL’s worst teams at home coming off of a loss.  The Panthers have been horrific in nearly every facet of the game all year.  The Buccaneers may struggle early, but look for Tampa to win by 10 at home.

Texans at Jaguars:  Both of these teams are tied in the AFC South Divisional race.  Honestly through 8 games, the Texans have been one of the League’s most dissapointing teams after showing so much promise early on.  They have a prolific offense that is arguably the most balanced in the League.  But they struggle to stop the pass.  Luckily for Houston, they are taking on a Jaguar squad with an anemic passing attack.  Look for Houston to steal one on the road by 7.

Bengals at Colts:  The Who Deys travel to Indy after a heartbreaking loss on Monday Night to the rival Pittsburgh Steelers.  I realize that the Colts are beat up at nearly every position (except quarterback).  But they have Peyton Manning.  I will admit I was utterly shocked to see Indy lose last week to Philly.  Do not expect them to lose for a 2nd week in a row though.  For the first time all year, I am picking against my home town team.  Colts by 7 at home.

Titans at Dolphins:  The 1st place Titans head down to Miami to take on a really inconsistent Miami team.  A Miami team that has not won a home game all season long.  Look for Chris Johnson to go wild after having a bye week to rest his legs.  Titans run away with this battle by 8 on the road.

Chiefs at Broncos:  I wanted to pick the Broncos to upset the KC boys in this one.  But I can’t do it.  The Chiefs have the number 1 rushing attack in the NFL.  Denver is the 2nd worst team in the League at defending against the run.  Expect big numbers out of the Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones.  KC by 13 on the road.

Cowboys at Giants:  America’s team heads to the Meadowlands to take on the G Men.  Arguably the NFC’s best team versus the NFC’s worst team.  I realize that Dallas has talent, but they have way too much inner turmoil and finger pointing going on to pull off this upset.  It may be a rivalry game, but the Giants have the best offensive and defensive balance in the NFC, and possibly the entire NFL.  Look for the Giants to make a statement with a 14 point win at home.

Seahawks at Cardinals:  The Seahawks head to Arizona after being thoroughly embarassed by the G Men last week.  Well expect the losing to continue.  Neither of these teams really stand out in any way.  I just know that the Seahawks looked like a mid level college team last week and I expect their horrific play to continue.  Cards by 9 at home.

Rams at 49ers:  These are two teams that have shocked the experts for opposite reasons.  One team has thoroughly exceeded expectations while the other has under achieved in a big way.  I think the Rams are much improved from last year’s embarassment, but I see them choking a big one on the road this week.  Expect Patrick Willis and the 49ers D to confuse rookie Sam Bradford late in the game on their way to a big 3 point victory at home.

Patriots at Steelers:  Two of the AFC’s best lock horns in the Sunday Night Game.  The Patriots were embarrassed by an Ohio team last week while the Steelers ripped another Ohio team’s heart out.  The Steelers continue to wow the entire League with their great defense and innate ability to win big games.  I normally would never pick a NE to lose coming off of a loss.  But I just think that the Steelers are too tough.  Pittsburgh by 1 in the best game of the week.

Eagles at Redskins:  The team that sports the quarterback with the highest QB rating flies into the nation’s capital for the primetime game of the week.  Can Mr. Vick continue to lead the Eagle’s high powered offense against one of the worst pass defenses in the League?  You better believe it.  Eagles over the Skins by 3 in the Monday Night Affair.

CV3’s Picks

Bills over Lions by 3
Vikings over Bears by 7
Jets over Browns by 3
Titans over Dolphins by 7
Buccaneers over Panthers by 14
Texans over Jags by 6
Chiefs over Broncos by 7
Cowboys (inspired with new coach) over Giants by 3
Cards over Seahawks by 1
Rams over 49ers by 6
Pats over Steelers by 3
Eagles over Redskins by 7
UPSET ALERT
Bengals over Colts by 3
They won’t miss the field goals this time

So there you have it.  The two major games to keep an eye on are the Patriots/Steelers rumble on Sunday Night and the Eagles/Redskins duel on Monday Night.

Also, I realize that CV3 and myself missed out on picking the Thursday Night Game.  But I would like to keep the format the same way and put out on picks on the Friday every week.  So the Thursday game will be a pass game every week, and one we get to watch for straight enjoyment.

It should be a great weekend in the NFL.

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.

-TheSportsKraze

College Football Week 11 is like Seven-Eleven?”

I fully expect USC Head Coach, Lane Kiffin (pictured above), to be running his mouth in a big way if his team can pull off the upset at Arizona this weekend.

We find ourselves already in the 11th week of the College Football season.  The games have added meaning now.  Conference titles are beginning to take shape.  The BCS picture is started to become a little less foggy (no way it could be as foggy as that Miami (OH) vs BGSU game last night).  But the one thing I will state.

College Football Week 11 is like Seven-Eleven.  It is always open.

Here is a look at some of the marquee matchups this weekend.

Kansas State at Missouri:  This is a colossal matchup in the Big 12.  Both of these teams have lost control of their destiny in making the Big 12 title game.  They will need to continue to win and receive a little help from others, but they do have a shot at making a big time non BCS Bowl game.  KState has struggled throwing the ball all year, but they do run the ball with ease.  The running game, led by senior Daniel Thomas has been a main reason why this team has had any success this year.  Missouri, on the other hand, has a very strong passing attack, and a phenomenal defense.  This was a team that was undefeated 3 weeks ago and had just knocked off the number 1 ranked Oklahoma Sooners.  Now they have lost 2 straight, and are looking to make a statement.  Expect a big day for Blaine Gabbert as Missouri finally gets back on track.  Tigers win by 10 at home.

Mississippi State at Alabama:  Both of these teams are very dangerous to any opponents.  Alabama still arguably has the most talented team in the country, even with 2 losses.  Mississippi State is riding a 6 game win streak and is looking to show the world that their win over Florida was no fluke.  Sadly for the Bulldogs, they are facing a Nick Saban Bama team that will be coming out with a vengeance in front of the home crowd.  Both of these teams run the ball with ease and really play lock down defense.  The only difference is, Bama has big play wide receives like Julio Jones and Marquis Maze that can change the game with one play at any time.  Look for the Tide to Roll to a 14 point victory at home.

South Carolina at Florida:  These two SEC powerhouses have been extremely unpredictable all season long and it will be interesting to see who comes to play this weekend.  Whichever team plays for keeps will be heading to the SEC Title Game.  Will Steve Spurrier be able to Gator Chomp his former team in the Swamp? In order for Spurrier and the Gamecocks to have a chance to celebrate, they will have to get a huge performance from freshman Marcus Lattimore.  Sadly for the Gamecocks, the Gators finally seem to be finding rhythm both offensively and defensively and you know that they are used to big game atmospheres.  If this game was in South Carolina, I would be picking the Gamecocks.  But it is in the Swamp.  Gators by 3 at home.

USC at Arizona:  This will be a big time matchup in the PAC 10 as old power takes on new power in the desert.  For some reason, I have lost confidence in this Wildcats squad.  Their performance last week against Andrew Luck and the Stanford Cardinal was abysmal.  They looked to be feeling the pressure of being in a meaningful game in front of a national audience.  Well this week, ABC is featuring this nighttime duel.  Expect USC to come out loose and ready to go.  I mean, they do not get to participate in the postseason this year.  So what could be better than spoiling Arizona’s season in front of the entire country?  Expect USC to take care of business and win this one by 6 on the road.  Lane Kiffin will surely be running his mouth after this one.

So there you have it.  Week 11 appears to be wide open with some stellar matchups.  Expect some great battles and down to the wire finishes following last weekend’s massacre filled Saturday.

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.

-TheSportsKraze

“College Basketball Preview”

Super frosh, Kyrie Irving (pictured above on the right) has a lot to live up to at Duke. Could he be the next Jay Williams (pictured above on the left) and lead this team back to the Final Four?

College Basketball is back and better than ever folks..or is it?

Many of you probably do not even realize that regular season games have already been played.  I am not sure what the deal is with the lack of publicity thus far, but you better believe that come mid January (when College Football is done), College Basketball will be the center of attention again.  For many, it will become the prime event within the next week in that their College Football team is down and out.

In my opinion, NCAA Basketball has the best and most exciting tournament of them all.  March Madness may be the most consistently well done event that we have in American sports today. It never dissapoints. And yes, I realize that they expanded the tournament field, but you better believe the excitement will still be there come mid March.  Now a few years down the road when they hit their eventual goal of 96 teams, some of the luster may be faded.  But at this point, it will still be a top notch thrilling event.

A long while back, on July 13th to be exact, I gave my “Early Preseason Top 5.”  It read as follows:

1.  Duke

2.  Ohio State

3.  Michigan State

4.  Purdue

5. Butler

And my sleeper picks to make a run at the Final Four were UK, Syracuse, WVU, and Kansas State.

Not much has changed in my eyes from my super early preseason top 5.  There are a couple of minor changes though. 

Here is my real “Preseason Top Five.”

1.  Duke-The defending National Champs return the majority of last year’s squad.  Look for Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler to play at an All American level all year.  Expect the Plumlee brothers to emerge into a formidable post combo.  And do not forget about the arrival of super frosh point guard, Kyrie Irving.  This kid can flat out play with the top guards in the country already.  Plus a little Curry (Stephon Curry’s little brother) will be mixing in with the backcourt.  Coach K has much to like with this very deep and talented squad.

2.  Ohio State-I have said it numerous times, and I will say it again.  It is Final Four or bust this year for Ohio State.  With 4 returning starters, and arguably the best and most college ready Freshman Class in the country, this team will have the talent and the experience to ride all the way to the National Championship.  Thad Matta should be smiling all day and every day with this group.  The freshman class includes the likes of arguably the best big man in the entire country, Jared Sullinger,  a small forward in Deshaun Thomas that can get up and down the floor with the best in the country, a lock down defender in Aaron Craft, and the very smooth all around talent that is shooting guard Jordan Sibert.  Not to mention the Buckeyes feature a junior, that could take home Big Ten Player of the Year in William Buford, plus returning starters, Diebler, Lauderdale, and Lighty.  This team could definitely go the distance.

3.  Michigan State-Tom Izzo has been to 6 Final Fours in the last 12 years for a reason.  The only difference this year is Tom Izzo actually has a team with Final Four talent.  I can only imagine how good this team could be.  Kalin Lucas will be running the point and poised to show why he was Big Ten Player of the year 2 seasons ago.  Durrell Summers, Delvin Roe, Draymond Green, and Korie Lucious are full of experience and ability.  Plus Izzo brought in arguably the best Freshman Power Forward/Center in the country, in the very long and versatile Adreian Payne.  This team could be flat out scary.  I cannot wait to see them match up with Duke on December 1st and Ohio State on February 15th.

4.  Pittsburgh-This Pitt team appears to be the cream of the crop in the Big East.  Though they struggled against a tough Rhode Island team the other night, that is how Jamie Dixon likes it.  His Pitt squads over the years have typified the term, “Winning Ugly.”  This team brings back some very talented mainstays off of last year’s 25 win team such as Ashton Gibbs, Brad Wanamaker, and Gilbert Brown.  I will state that this team does not wow on paper as some of these other top teams I am discussing do.  But Pittsburgh always seems to find a way to win 25 plus games in the rugged Big East and I expect no different this year.  Look for Gibbs and Wanamaker to really lead this team to the top of the Big East.

5. Kansas State-Frank Martin’s Elite 8 team of a year ago looks poised to make another deep run this year.  And we all know if they don’t, they will have to deal with the wrath that is their Coach, Frank Martin.  This team is relatively young and will deeply miss guard Denis Clemente, but they will be led by two very talented seniors in Jacob Pullen and Curtis Kelly.  These two will provide one of the more formidable high low combos in the entire country.  Look for this team to be similar to Pittsburgh.  Very tough and hard working.  A team that beats you with defense and exceptional effort, especially on the boards.  Would you expect anything else from a Frank Martin coached team?

My sleepers to make a Final Four run are UK (depending on Kantor’s elgibility), North Carolina, Illinois, and Butler.

Key Items to Note

Number 1: Purdue will be Hummel-less this year.  Due to this fact, Purdue will no longer be a top 5 or even top 10 team.  They will be solid and make the tournament, but they are no longer a real “contender” in my eyes.  My condolences go out to Hummel, his family, and all of Boilermaker Nation.

Number 2: The Big Ten looks to be the cream of the crop without a doubt.  Basketball has been dominated by the Big East for the past 4 or 5 years, but the torch appears to have been passed to the old school Big Ten.  ESPN and many of the experts jumped the gun last year saying that the Big Ten was the elite conference.  Well now they are.  Ohio State, Michigan State, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Purdue all look to be sure fire tourney squads.  And without Hummel going down, I would have said that Ohio State, Michigan State, and Purdue were all National Championship contenders.  Also do not sleep on a very experienced Illinois team and a very solid Bo Ryan led Wisconsin Badger team.  All of these squads are dangerous.

Third: Can Coach K bring home his 5th National Title?   You better believe that he can.  But will he?  There is a lot of basketball to be played, but on paper, Duke is definitely the team to beat.  Keep an eye on Super Frosh, Kyrie Irving.  He will provide fireworks for the Cameron Crazies.

Fourth: Can Brad Stevens lead Butler to another magical tournament run? The talent is there once again.  Shelvin Mack, Ronald Nored, and Matt Howard all return from last year’s National Runner Up.  Will the run continue?  Will Stevens stay through his entire 12 year contract?  We will find out soon.

So there you have it.  It is the Big Ten’s year to shine.  What a season we have in store.  The unpredictably of March Madness is always one of the most fascinating things that happens in sports.

In the words of Dickie V, “Its totally awesome baby!”

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.

-TheSportsKraze