Friday, March 30, 2007

Dominant College Basketball Players--Numbers 6 & 7 and Current Players

This is the next to last installment in a series of post examining the most dominant college basketball players since the 1990-91 season. In this edition, I reveal the numbers 6 & 7 most dominant players and examine where current players might fit into all of this.

6) Jamal Mashburn (Kentucky): Along with Rick Pitino, Mashburn put UK basketball back on the map. I’ve heard it argued before that Mashburn was the single most important recruit to an individual program...ever. It’s hard to argue with that. Mashburn’s arrival in Lexington made it OK for top-tier players to come to the Bluegrass again. I really do believe that Monster Mash was indirectly responsible (although Pitino was obviously the main force) for the collection of talent that came together in Lexington in ’96. His game was ridiculous. Hard to pick out a more versatile player. Overpoweringly strong in the post and even better facing the basket, he was an offensive juggernaut who took pride in hitting the boards. His defense could have been better, but now I’m starting to nitpick.

7) Grant Hill (Duke): Until late in his Duke career, Hill never had to be “the guy” for the Blue Devils. However, he was the epitome of dominance during the season in which he took Duke to the Finals against Arkansas (his senior season). Hill was always an excellent all-around player, but I never really thought he made those around him better. He lacked that killer instinct that makes the great players great. Unselfish almost to a fault. However, despite these criticisms, Hill was perhaps the most talented all-around player that the college game has ever seen. Ultra smooth with the ball in his hands but decidedly uncool. (I know that description kind of sounds like I'm dogging Hill. It's just that I felt like I had to justify his exclusion from the Top 5, which is hard to do.)

Current Players:

As always, this isn’t about the best players. Rather, it’s about the most dominant. Otherwise, Alando Tucker and Arron Afflalo would have made the cut.

There are 4 current players that I think deserve to be on this list.

Glen Davis (LSU): Not even a First or Second Team All-American this year in my book. In fact, I wouldn’t even give him SEC Player of the Year honors. Instead, I’d give Chris Lofton the nod. Still, the Big Infant has put together an excellent career in Baton Rouge, and I think he’s going to be a much better pro than the experts seem to think. Davis would fit into the Overpowering Beasts category, despite the fact that he is remarkably agile for a man his size, or any size for that matter.

Kid Nut Raven (Texas): All year I tried to resist proclaiming Durant the best player in college basketball. After all, Alando Tucker put in a whole career for the Badgers. Alas, what can you do? Durant is incredible. He has a Jordanesque competitive streak and truly seems to make those around him better. That being said, I still wouldn’t draft him ahead of Greg Oden. Give me Oden, I’ll trade for Rashard Lewis, and you can have Durant. You’ll sell some tickets and you might very well have the best player in basketball, but I’ll take the rings. Unless your name is Michael Jordan, big men win championships in the NBA. I’d probably put Durant in the Early Exits category, but, and I hate to admit this, I would also have to consider him for Top 7 status.

Tyler Hansbrough (North Carolina): OK, so I’m backing off the whole next Elton Brand thing. He might not be a future Hall of Famer, but I’m still pretty in love with his game. Has anyone ever played harder? Like Davis, I’d probably put him in the Overpowering Beasts category.

Acie Law IV (Texas A&M): Yes, his senior year has probably been considerably better than his first 3 years at TAMU, but it’s not like The Fourth hasn’t put together a nice career. Tremendous in the clutch and a great team leader, it is no coincidence that A&M became a basketball force to reckon with during The Fourth’s stay in College Station. I’d put Law in the Breakthrough Performers category, despite the fact that his scoring average didn’t jump that much this season.

A few more comments on current players.

Corey Brewer (Florida): Would receive serious consideration for The Defenders category but seems to turn it off and on at times.

Nick Fazekas (Nevada): Numbers at Nevada are hard to ignore. Consistently amazing statistices throughout his career. Possibly a Keith Van Horn-type case.

Dominic James (Marquette): Really disappointing this season, but I think he’ll be on this list when it’s all said and done. The second coming of Jameer Nelson.

Joakim Noah (Florida): His energy, ability to run the floor, and passion are unmatched. Still, he’s not as good as Al Horford, and his numbers just don’t support his cause.

Greg Oden (Ohio State): I might need one more year. Then again, it would be hard not to put him in The Defenders category right now. Old Man Greg changes games like no one in recent memory.

Alando Tucker (Wisconsin): Great career. Will be a steal for someone on draft day, but I’m just not willing to call him dominant. Like Arron Afflalo, Tucker’s a tremendous all-around player but lacks that edge that makes him truly dominant.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Dispatch from the Jungle: Precise Location Unknown

Friends, allow me to indulge your curiosities:
Your first reaction to Natty's question may be to assume that, because of my extreme aversion for short limbs, I hate Wee Man because he has tiny, fat legs. Well, my friends, if that's the arrow you’re shooting, you missed the target by a mile. No, my disdain for Wee Man is not affected by his physical appearance. Let's be honest, he did not choose to be so diminutive in stature, and as many of you know, the wrath of my hatred only falls upon those who are different from myself because of choices they make, like choosing to be a Jew. While I'm not certain whether Wee Man chooses to eat pork, I do know that he has chosen a life of douchebaggery. No one made him shave his farty head, no one forced him to dress like a tool, and certainly, there is no person other than Wee Man who can be blamed for his decision to hold himself in such high regard in various celebrity circles because of his affiliation with a second-rate show on MTV. Wee Man is a fake! He's never contributed anything positive to society, and he's drinking his life away like so many Big Gulps. In fact, the only thing that Wee Man has going for him is that he is not Tim Boling.

Now regarding that fateful intramural battle, I remember it started like any other game upstairs at the Beck Center. Natty was shooting threes from Winchester when he should’ve been blowing by the rest of us, Runs was ball-fakin like an m-f’er, and T.Monk was wearing the ugliest shoes known to man. As for myself, I was running around getting red-faced, averaging my customary 2 baskets per game. Then, what started as your typical held-ball transformed that game into the stuff of myth. To my recollection, the Devastators fired up another brick, and I extended my outstretched arms to grab the rebound. At that same instant, the rotund mound of rebound that was Tim Boling got real ballsy and decided to physically challenge my outright possession of the ball. It was in that very moment that Mr. Boling went from being just another Sig to being forever branded as my arch nemesis.

In a fit of rage rivaled only by that of Bruce Banner, I violently ripped the leather from his chubby grasp. Then, in a rare moment of unbridled anger, I launched the ball at his unsuspecting head while simultaneously spitting in his ear. As a result, the landscape of intramural basketball at Transylvania University was forever altered. You may be asking yourselves “Is Leonard proud of this uncharacteristic act of intramural brutality?” The answer, my friends, is a resounding no. However, it would certainly be a disservice to everyone involved if I were to alter the truth. Thus, the legend lives on.

Also, it’s really hard to get a good hotdog out here, so if one of you guys could stop by Sam’s on Limestone and send me a couple dozen, it would be much appreciated. I know not when I shall return, but the promise of my name living on through this story is all the comfort I need here in my home atop the trees.

With Sincerest Regards,

Bron Bron's New Home

Lebron James is building a new home in a suburb about 20 miles south of Cleveland. The master bedroom's two story closet will be larger than many of the homes in the suburb, which means it will probably be burned to the ground by disgruntled neighbors within the next year. As ESPN reported, "Lebron is building a home fit for a King." But the type of king who felt his home needed to be way too fucking big and expensive - maybe a king like Louis XIV. Here is a list of what the house will include:

Two-story closet in Master Bedroom
Bowling Alley
27x27 foot Dining Room
Barbershop (the actual one from the movie, with the actors playing their respective parts when Lebron needs a haircut)
Large portraits of himself
Statue of himself
3 winding staircases
Exercise Room
Hot Tub
Pool Table/Game Room
Large Pool
5.6 Acres of land
Enough fur coats and jerseys to field seven baseball teams, three football teams and Fat Joe's Terror Squad

Here is what the home will not include:

Monday, March 26, 2007

To Kill A Mockingbird

"Mockingbirds don't do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don't eat up people's gardens, don't nest in corncribs, they don't do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That's why it's a sin to kill a mockingbird."

First, I should note that, by naming this post “To Kill A Mockingbird,” I don’t mean to argue that Tubby Smith was forced out at Kentucky because of his race. And don’t, for a second, dupe yourself into believing that Ol’ Orlando wasn’t forced out. Whatever comes out in the next couple of weeks, regardless of whether Tubby took the Minnesota job before resigning at UK or whether AD Mitch Barnhart was planning on sticking with Tubby for one more season, try to be honest with yourselves. Mitch Barnhart forced him out. Rick Pitino forced him out. Kelenna Azubuike’s failure to get off a shot in overtime against Michigan State forced him out. Joe Crawford’s inability to grasp the game of basketball forced him out. The Florida Gators’ 2005 recruiting class forced him out. Chris Lofton forced him out. Randolph Morris’ lack of character and general indifference to all those that helped him forced him out. To some extent, Tubby forced himself out. But, most significantly, Big Blue Nation forced him out.

I truly believe that Tubby Smith would have been forced out, regardless of his skin color. Make no mistake, race is an issue in Kentucky, just as it is in every state, as much as those condescending northerners would like us to think they’re past all that. We could be talking about Billy Donovan or anyone else, and, if what has transpired under Tubby’s watch had occurred under anyone else’s, rest assured, Big Blue Nation would be calling for his head. As we’ve heard repeated over and over again, success at UK is measured in Final Fours and National Championships, not sissy Elite 8’s and SEC championships.

Take a look at Tubby’s tenure at UK. A better than 75% winning percentage. A national championship. 10 years and 10 NCAA tourney appearances, with no first round exits. 3 Elite 8’s. Plus, 2 number 1 seeds in those tourneys. 5 SEC regular season titles and 5 SEC tourney titles. 2003 Henry Iba Award winner for best coach in college basketball. And don’t forget that Tubby played a large part in the rebuilding efforts at UK as an assistant under Rick Pitino.

There is no doubt that the UK program has been somewhat disappointing (by UK standards) the past 2 seasons. But, ask yourself, would Tubby have been forced out if Kelenna Azubuike gets a shot off against the Spartans in the 2005 Elite 8? If that shot goes in, Tubby is just 2 years removed from a Final 4 appearance, and he’s not going anywhere. Over the course of the last 10 years, I would argue that UK has been one of the 4 most dominant programs in college basketball (along with Connecticut, Duke, and Kansas). In fact, I’d stand by this statement, even if you took away the 1998 national championship season and just looked at the landscape of college basketball over the last 9 years. Put simply, UK has been one of the most dominant programs in college basketball during Tubby’s tenure.

I would argue that the main factor leading to Tubby’s departure was the 2005 recruiting season. The Cats got a much-heralded quartet of supposed future stars—Randolph Morris, Joe Crawford, Rajon Rondo, and Ramel Bradley. Morris, Crawford, and Rondo, all McDonald’s All-Americans, were hailed by Big Blue Nation as the answer to their long (7-year) championship drought. While UK had reeled in the Mother Load, further south, in Gainesville, Pitino-protégé Billy Donovan was putting together a talented, while far less-hyped, class of recruits. The class consisted of a single McDonald American, Corey Brewer, two players with basketball in their blood (Taurean Green and Al Horford), and Joakim Noah. 3 years later, these class’ divergent paths have been well-documented. While the 2005 Florida class has a national championship to their credit, is working on another one, and boasts 3 sure-fire lottery picks, their Bluegrass counterpart has failed on any number of levels. Rondo, the best of the 4, wasn’t exactly interested in team chemistry and left for the NBA after his sophomore year. New York Knick Randolph Morris has epitomized the state of confusion and lack of excitement in UK basketball for the past 2 seasons, never displaying more than an iota of work ethic or loyalty during his stay in Lexington. Joe Crawford may be the least intelligent basketball player that doesn’t play in the post that I have EVER seen at a program in the big 6 conferences. He seems utterly incapable of grasping anything resembling an offense. He seems equally incompetent and lost on the defensive end of the floor. Ramel Bradley, for all of his hard work, has turned out to be nothing more than a slightly above average college point guard with an affinity for pounding his chest, popping his jersey, and displaying the Dynasty symbol to the eRUPPtion zone at altogether awkward moments. Plainly stated, these guys have been flops.

But UK fans can’t complain. These are the types of players they have been dying for Tubby to recruit. That’s not to say that Tubby’s recruiting has been stellar of late. The Perry-Thomas-Obrzut class will most likely look good compared to a Jared Carter class. Still, I don’t buy the “Tubby can’t recruit” argument. It would be hard for anyone to complain about Tubby’s pre-2003 recruiting. So, let’s just look at recruiting from 2003 to the present. Kentucky fans seem to love McDonald’s All-Americans (I admit that all fans do). Anyway, from 2003 to the present, there have been 120 McDonald’s All-Americans. 118 of those can be assigned to a college team or the NBA. 20 went to the NBA. 11 went to Duke. (By the way, to put into perspective just how dominant Duke recruiting has been for the last 5 years, consider that the Big 10 landed 11 McDonald’s All-Americans as a conference. The SEC also landed 11.) Anyway, Kansas has landed 8 Big Mac All-Stars, though David Padgett, Micah Downs, and J.R. Giddens have all since transferred. North Carolina has reeled in 7 All-Americans. Ohio State and Texas each got 5. Arizona and UCLA are next with 4 apiece. Georgetown, Georgia Tech, LSU, Syracuse, and Kentucky landed 3 McDonald’s All-Americans over this 5-year period. As I mentioned before, 2 of those 120 talented high schoolers can’t be assigned to the NBA or a college team…yet—Patrick Patterson and Jai Lucas. UK appears to have (or, possibly, have had) a shot with both of these talented high schoolers. If you add Patterson and Lucas to UK’s totals, that puts the Wildcats at 5, tied for fourth in the nation and right behind Duke, Kansas, and UNC. I’m not saying that this proves that Tubby is a great recruiter and that UK fans have nothing to complain about, I’m just trying to put things into perspective, something that seems to be lacking in Lexington.

The best argument I’ve heard from a UK fan as to why Tubby’s departure is a good thing goes something like this: “Sometimes change is good for change’s sake.” I actually agree with this, and maybe it is time for a change. But UK, and, more specifically, Mitch Barnhart, better have a plan in place. As much as some UK fans may want to deny it, college basketball has changed. As Runs With Two Horses has pointed out, bringing in a guy like Thad Matta can instantly boost your team to elite status. I would argue that the opposite can also happen.

So, where does UK go from here?

If they can bring in Billy Donovan, Bruce Pearl, Tom Crean, or even Rick Pitino, I think the UK program can go on without skipping a beat. All of these guys have big personalities, and they can recruit. With 3 of Donovan’s 4 juniors potentially leaving this season, now is as good a season as any for Billy D to come to the Bluegrass. However, I would ask all of those Donovan advocates to remember just how soft Donovan’s Florida teams played before he landed his current group of juniors. Pre-2005, Billy D’s teams were known more for their lack of defense and underachieving ways than for their competitiveness and limitless upsides. I can’t see Pearl wanting to leave the love fest that is Knoxville right now, but, considering that he’s pretty much a big goofy jackass with an enormous ego that happens to be a very good college basketball coach, I can see him relishing the limelight that comes from being the head coach at perhaps college basketball’s most storied program. I don’t know what I would do if Tom Crean came to UK. I have a big man-crush on Crean, and, as general rule, I don’t like UK basketball. I just pray that doesn’t happen. I can see Pitino leaving for UK, but I can’t see Tom Jurich being outsmarted by the giant screw-up that is Mitch Barnhart.

If you’ve read my previous posts on college coaching, you know that I would detest the idea of UK bringing in favorite sons John Pelphrey or Travis Ford. It’s all far too incestual and messy for my taste. Plus, if UK wants to go young, Tony Bennett is the choice. However, making the decision to pursue Tony Bennett would require an eye for talent that Mitch Barnhart simply does not possess. He’s more likely to pursue Tony’s dad, Dick, the architect of the Wisconsin program, who is now retired and closing in on death. Pelphrey apparently has an exciting team located somewhere around the Gulf that almost made the Tournament out of the mighty Sun Belt Conference. He may be a promising coach, but does Big Blue Nation want a promising coach. Travis Ford has improved the Massachusetts program but still seems a little green. I can see Billy Gillispie being a good fit. In fact, he might be one of the best fits from the non-Donovan/Pearl/Crean group of coaches. I’ve heard Mike D’Antoni rumors, and he would be an incredible steal (and I think the best of the whole bunch), although I think this is just one of the many crazy, unfounded UK rumors I’ve heard during my life in the Bluegrass. Now, on to Mark Few and Jay Wright. Few doesn’t have the personality that is going to placate the Wildcat faithful, who like to worship their program’s head coach. How do we even know if Jay Wright can coach? When you have guards like he has had over the past couple of years, you basically have two extra coaches on the floor at all times. What about John Calipari? Way too crooked for Big Blue Nation. If Calipari makes Big Blue Nation happy, Big Blue Nation has given up on the whole “let’s run a classy program and win” mentality that has made the Cats what they've been since the Eddie Sutton era. Bottom line: UK deserves to be picky and should be picky, but they need to move quickly.

As someone who doesn’t like UK basketball, I hope UK hires Rick Barnes out of Texas. I don’t think Barnes is as incompetent as some seem to believe. However, the idea that UK would run Tubby out of Lexington to hire Rick Barnes is just too delicious. Then again, maybe Kevin Durant will decide to sit out a year and follow Barnes to UK. If that happens, you all will have the last laugh.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Finally, We Can All Say It: We Were Real Sick of That Black Guy as Our Coach

How the National Media Views Kentucky Fans' Thoughts:

I'm a realist, most of our readers know that by now. So I think it's appropriate for me to just come out and say what was on the minds of the 10 or so million Kentucky fans throughout the world: Enough with the black coach already, this is KENTUCKY.

Nine years without a final four, six straight losses to Florirda, four to Vandy, five 10-loss seasons ... these were all insignificant to the real reason Tubby wasn't right for this job, because he's a black man. Folks, let me be the first one to tell you that the days of affirmative action, civil rights, and equal opportunity are long gone. Thank god for these glorious seven years of a Republican administration which has been able to roll back a lot of the crap those hippie Democrats were pulling off in the 60's and 90's. White is back guys, and we are here to stay. Yee-Haw.

Let's just stick to the cold hard facts of this whole situation. Tubby was black. First and foremost, that is not the standard of success we expect here at Kentucky. We are the winningest program in college basketball, and should demand a coach of a superior race. What are we going to do next hire a Mexican or something? That makes me want to throw right up on your face C.M. Newton. I might just move to Texas and start shooting things to feel more American.

Second of all, Tubby was proud of his background and actually supported African American organizations in the state. What in the hell is all this about? We give you a job at the best basketball university in America even though you are a black man and you have the audacity insult us like that? How dare you sir, how dare you.

I'll be honest, when I first heard Tubby announced as our coach I was 12 years old and I thought I had time warped into some futuristic year 3000 bullshit. My daddy told me the world might be coming to and end. And finally, there was speculation that BET had purchased the University. But I am a good and decent person, and I chose to continue supporting our basketball program. How much integrity do I have? Ask yourself that right now.

What it all comes down to was Tubby's black skin, and nothing more. Although, all of his cousins and brothers (I think that's what they call them, except probably spelled differently) running around all over town didn't help anything either. Tubby was black, and unwilling to change that. And we as a program, cannot except that willingness to fail.

(Editor's Note: I really think it is ridiculous that the national media is even discussing this as a race issue. There are racist people in Kentucky, but most aren't racist to the point they actually cared what color of skin our basketball coach had. I think the only people who really cared about Tubby being black were people over 60, just based out of pure ignorance. The only significant thing about it, is that most of the residents in Kentucky express their opinions about college basketball, so these racist ideas occasionally are heard. But if you read the message boards, when a racist comment is mentioned [very rarely this happens] there is an overwhelming response condemning the remark and person, usually asking that person to quit posting on that certain site. I have never seen a racist comment supported by other posters in my life.)

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Bluegrass Madness

So I guess all you guys already heard the big news. That’s right, Ron Artest pled not guilty to misdemeanor domestic violence charges. In other news, Orlando “Tubby” Smith dissed the Cats and packed his bags for the beautiful beaches of Minnesota. I’ll pretend like I’m not astounded by this development, but let’s be honest, nobody saw this coming. But there are some reasons that this makes sense. First, Tubby is made for Big Ten basketball. If there was a way to score basketball by defense and rebounding, Tubby would be much happier with his profession. Second, a lot of people are asking why he didn’t go to Michigan. Bear in mind that Michigan was only paying Amaker $175K a year, which is about what Minnesota will be paying Tubby next month. I think the lower expectations benefit Tubby, and he’ll be happier to do things his way instead of worrying about an omniscient fan base that is all too eager to offer its insight. Third, I think Tubby is a man of great pride that wanted to go out his way. He didn’t want to wait for a jack-ass AD to show him the door. I respect Tubby and I wish him well.

I think this change was necessary. Don’t listen to the talking heads saying that UK fans are a bunch of ingrates. There is a different standard at UK than there is at almost every other school (Duke, UNC, UCLA, Kansas, and Indiana are the others). Dick Vitale still doesn’t get it. He finally compared UK to the Yankees, and then made an apologist’s argument about how Joe Torre does an outstanding job. Nobody cares. It’s a different standard, and Tubby knew that coming in, and you can be damn sure the next coach will understand the situation. Tubby is going to do great for Minnesota, but I’ll guarantee you that no UK fan would accept whatever success the Gophers have during the next five years as adequate for UK. The excitement and prestige has slowly trickled away from the program and both sides needed a change. Bear in mind UK is going to be able to get pretty much any coach they want. I don’t think UK needs to make a big splash with a coach that has national recognition. When you become the coach at UK you are immediately one of the biggest names in coaching, so whoever they get IS the big name in coaching.

I’ve stated my case before, the guy is John Pelphrey. It sounds like people are already saying that he is a great candidate, but he’s a little too green. Ten years ago, that was the same reasoning that UK didn’t hire Billy Donovan. Let’s not let history repeat itself. I’m going to go ahead and tell you my dream situation. Get Pitino to make an illustrious return, amongst much pomp and circumstance, and bring in Pelphrey as an Associate Head Coach. Pitino can agree to do a three-year contract and then ride off into the sunset on a white horse and leave a loaded program to my boy John P. The radio hosts in Louisville are already saying that Pitino would probably leave UofL and go to UK if Louisville AD, Tom Jurich allowed UK to communicate with Pitino. Word is that Jurich would not allow that. Please send me your silly recommendations and I will explain to you why you are right or wrong. If you don’t take advantage of my knowledge on this subject you are only cheating yourselves. By the way, who is most excited about this situation? The answer my friends is a certain Mr. Tony LaRussa. He’s laughing it up over a dry martini right now. Stay off the roads, faithful readers, Tony is on the prowl.


Colin Cowherd on ESPN Radio probably had the best quote about Tubby leaving when he said, "The Tubby supporters out there are the same people that put on seven pounds and instead of working out, they buy bigger pants."

Sam Bowie came in a close second when he expressed concern that Tubby was forced out and the lip service offered by the administration may be "People talking out of both sides of their necks." I don't think Sam should be alone in his trepidiation if Mitch Barnhart and Lee Todd do actually have mouths on the sides of their necks.

Pat Forde wrote the most accurate piece about Tubby leaving...ironic, considering he's the only national media guy who lives in Kentucky and actually had UK Basketball as his beat.

For the flip side, check out William Reed's article. It makes some valid points, but it loses credibility with a nice little no-reason Kentucky-is-a-racist-rant in the middle.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Dominant College Basketball Players--Complete Players and Breakthrough Performers

This is the fifth installment in a series of posts examining the most dominant players in college basketball since the 1989-90 season. We're getting very close to the Top 5, which will be expanded to 7. I know I usually wait a few more days between posts, but, with the Sweet 16 starting on Thursday, I just couldn't help myself.

Category 9: Complete Players

I couldn’t put these guys in the scorers or defenders categories, because they were excellent on both ends of the floor (with the exception of Van Horn, but we'll get to that later). This category includes players that were incredible talents with a knack for making those around them better. These guys had great all-around games, but they were willing to defer to their teammates (sometimes too often). In some cases, they played on teams with so much talent that they didn’t have to dominate. Still, they stood out, and some earned serious consideration for the Top 5.

Calbert Cheaney (Indiana): Four-time IU team MVP, three-time All-American, and 1993 national player of the year (Wooden and Naismith). Who knows how high Calbert could have been ranked if he hadn't been constrained by the robotic offense of Bobby Knight? Tremendous jump shooter, he somehow found ways to fill it up in the Hoosier system. A team leader and excellent defender, I believe his development was ultimately stunted by Knight’s coaching.

Nick Collison (Kansas): One of the most underrated college players within my viewing lifetime, and that’s saying something because it’s not like he wasn’t in the spotlight during his career as a Jayhawk. A fierce competitor and rugged interior defender, Collison knew how to fill up a stat sheet. As a senior, he averaged 18 ppg and 10 rpg, but stats never told the whole story for one of the hardest workers I've ever had the pleasure to watch. After Drew Gooden left Lawrence for the NBA, I thought Collison would have difficulty scoring. To the contrary, his game improved, as he became adept at scoring and passing out of double teams like few players I can remember. Ran the floor at a pace that belied his skin color. An effective outside shooter and one of the best rebounders within my viewing lifetime. While his shoulder injuries haven’t helped, I'm shocked he hasn’t been more of a force in the NBA.

Tony Delk (Kentucky): Received serious consideration for the Top 5. While some might argue that Delk was overrated because of his incredibly talented supporting cast at UK, I would actually argue that Delk was underrated for that very reason. A lethal long-range shooter, Delk could score in a variety of ways. The consummate team player, I can only imagine what this guy’s numbers would have been like if he was even the slightest bit selfish. An incredible competitor, Delk hustled as if he was just a role player struggling for minutes. For as a good as Delk was on the offensive end of the floor, he was perhaps just as strong on the defensive end. Quick, deceptively strong, and insanely long-armed, I would come very close to calling him a shutdown defender. The heart and soul of the ’96 Wildcats. I’m still convinced that he got screwed in the NBA. Off the charts basketball IQ (but not in the same way that Joe Crawford has an off the charts basketball IQ).

Christian Laettner (Duke): As is the case with Delk, it’s hard to assess Laettner’s level of dominance in light of the strength of his supporting cast. An excellent college scorer, Laettner had pretty good range for his size and had a strong post-up game. A fiery competitor and team leader, it was Laettner’s intangibles, despite his impressive numbers, that made him special. Also a very good rebounder and underrated defender. While Laettner did garner Top 5 consideration, it was an absolute joke that he was on the 1992 Dream Team. That spot should have gone to Isiah Thomas or Dominique Wilkins. If they were determined to put a collegian on the roster, the spot should have been reserved for Shaq.

Ed O’Bannon (UCLA): Admittedly, one of the weaker defenders in this group, but still a good defender. Great rebounder for his size and underrated passer. Tremendous team leader. O’Bannon had a knack for filling up stat sheets without really needing the ball in his hands at all times. In his senior season, became something of a point forward and really shined. Averaged 16 ppg and 7 rpg as a sophomore, 18 ppg and 8 rpg as a junior, and 20 ppg and 8 rpg as a senior. I know the Bruins had a lot of talent on that 1995 team, but O’Bannon the Elder was the main reason UCLA was able to keep the Razorbacks from repeating.

Keith Van Horn (Utah): OK, I admit that maybe Van Horn is in the wrong category, but hear me out. Maybe it was because of the lack of talent in the conference he played in, but Van Horn was more than just a scorer in college. An excellent rebounder and great passer for a big man, he was the leader of a Utah team that made it to the 1998 national championship game. While his NBA career would be marked by a disgusting inability to play defense and a disgusting ability to be disgusting, Van Horn wasn’t quite so bad on defense in college. Having Andre Miller at the point definitely didn’t hurt his numbers. Averaged 18 ppg as a freshman and over 20 for the rest of his career at Utah. During his time with the Utes, they never received below a 4 seed in the NCAA tournament, and they reached the Sweet 16, the Elite 8, and the championsip game during Van Horn's last 3 seasons. Yes, I do realize that the Kentucky Wildcats were responsible for the Utes' exits during these 3 seasons.

Category 10: Breakthrough Performers

There is no doubt that these 5 players put together impressive careers. Each of these players probably could have fit into another category. However, their final seasons were absolutely incredible. They went from being excellent role players with the tools to play at the next level to nearly unstoppable college performers.

Caron Butler (Connecticut): Could have fit into the Early Departures category just as easily. However, Butler’s second season at UCONN deserves special attention. While his first season as a Huskie was nice (15.3 ppg and 7.6 rpg), it was his sophomore season that put Butler on the map (20.3 ppg and 7.5 rpg). Put simply, he was unstoppable. After just one season, Butler had developed an NBA-ready game to go with his NBA-ready body. Underrated shooter, great slasher, good passer, and hard-nosed defender, it was hard to pick out a weakness in his game. Despite all of these strengths, Butler’s greatest asset may have been his willingness to be a team player. One of the strangest things about Butler’s career at UCONN was that he was seemingly underexposed and underrated, two things it’s hard to be as a Huskie. I would argue that, during his sophomore season, Butler was one of the most intimidating players college basketball has witnessed over the course of the last 20 years.

Austin Croshere (Providence): Croshere had an excellent career as a Friar, but his senior season was pretty incredible. He posted up, scored from the outside, hit the open man, averaged 7.5 rebounds per contest, and played reasonably good defense. The ultimate team leader, Croshere willed the Friars to the 1997 Elite 8. Extremely hard to defend, as he was too big for wings and had too much range for post players to cover. I admit that this might be the biggest reach of all the players I have discussed in these posts, but consider the fact that Croshere averaged more points as a senior (17.9 ppg) than Grant Hill did during his senior season (17.4 ppg).

Josh Howard (Wake Forest): The 2003 ACC player of the year put together an excellent career at Wake, but his senior season was his coming out party. One of the most versatile players that I can remember. Played in the post when needed and was excellent on the wing. Found ways to score and played smothering defense (probably could have been in the defenders category). An incredible team leader, Howard’s senior season, which saw him average 19.5 ppg (up from 13.9), was a revelation that was somehow missed by NBA scouts, as he fell to the bottom of the first round in the draft.

Paul Pierce (Kansas): I almost put Pierce in the Complete Players category, but he didn’t truly blossom until his junior year. During his freshman and sophomore seasons, Pierce was more of an athlete that happened to play basketball (although this is probably something of an overstatement). By his junior season, however, he had developed more than hints of the offensive repertoire that would serve him well as a Celtic. Not quite the shooter he would become as professional, Pierce got to the bucket with a solid post-up game, a slasher’s mentality, and excellent ballhandling skills for a player of his size. A bull on the boards and a lockdown defender, Pierce could defend the 1-4 spots. It’s hard to single him out from a Jayhawks squad that included Jacque Vaughn, Raef LaFrentz, and Scot Pollard, but Pierce’s all-around game demanded just that.

Brandon Roy (Washington): One of the most sophisticated offensive games I’ve ever witnessed in a college player. An underrated athlete, Roy was nearly unguardable as a Huskie. Unlike a number of players with preternatural scoring abilities, Roy was an excellent passer and always seemed to be looking to get others involved. I would have put him in the scorers category, but his leadership, ability to make those around him better, and strong defensive play moved him to a category that took into account his all-around game. Roy’s scoring averaged jumped from 12.8 as a junior to 20.2 as a senior.

Who did I miss? By the way, a friend of mine (C-Burns) was wearing a Rebecca Lobo New York Liberty jersey/T-shirt to class the other day. It was awesome. I asked him whatever happened to Rebecca Lobo, and he told me that she got "impregnated by a giraffe." Does anyone know if there is any truth to this? (By the way, I'm now worried that any serious responses I may have received regarding these categories will be lost and replaced by numerous Rebecca Lobo-giraffe jokes. Please don't let this happen. If you feel you must make a giraffe joke, put it at the end of your suggestions. That being said, I realize I've brought whatever happens on myself.)

Monday, March 19, 2007

Dominant College Basketball Players--Dictators of Pace and Disruptors of Tempo

This is the 4th installment in a series of posts examining the most dominant college basketball players since the 1989-90 season. The 2 categories included in this post are dominated by guards that had a seemingly innate ability to impact the flow of the game. Additionally, all of these players were team leaders that seemed to be able to will their teams to victory.

Category 7: Dictators of Pace

Whether it was because of their leadership qualities, their personalities, or their playmaking skills, these point guards set the tone of nearly every game they played in. More then just dictating pace, these floor generals controlled the game.

Mateen Cleaves (Michigan State): Perhaps the ultimate floor general. Tracy Morgan was one heck of a point guard and had a knack for winning. He set the tone on both ends of the floor and made those around him better. He wasn’t the flashiest playmaker, but he directed the Spartan attack efficiently. Didn't make spectacular passes but great at finding the open man. Probably a little overrated.

Jameer Nelson (St. Joseph’s): That rare scoring guard who truly makes those around him better. An excellent passer with superb court vision, Nelson’s upper body strength allowed him to get into the paint and create scoring opportunities for teammates. His height had no effect on his ability to get to the basket. He had an incredible ability to impose his will on a game, and his intensity was infectious.

Jalen Rose (Michigan): The coolest college basketball player of all-time. Like Shane Battier, Rose dominated games by the sheer force of his personality (but in a much cooler way). The king of trash talk, Rose was the leader of the Fab Five. In fact, it was Rose, not Webber, that led the Fab Five in scoring during their freshman season. While he would spend the majority of his pro career hoisting up shots from the wing, he was an excellent college point guard. He excelled at leading the break and slashing to the basket. However, as a 6-8 point guard, he could also back his defender down to slow the game’s tempo.

Deron Williams (Illinois): Like Rose, Williams was a physically imposing point guard, equally adept at leading the break or posting his man up in the paint. Like Cleaves, he used his superior upper body strength to dominate weaker point guards at both ends of the floor. In fact, he was so good on the offensive end of the floor that he never received enough credit for being an excellent defender. Made spectacular passes look easy. Always seemed to be in complete control of the game.

Category 8: Disruptors of Tempo

Much like the dictators of pace category, this category is all about the speed of the game. However, rather than setting the pace like the point guards in the preceding category, the players in this category disrupted the pace of the game. They played at a speed all their own, namely at a pace that no one else could keep up with. When they weren’t exhausting those assigned to defend them, they were harassing their opponents on the defensive end. Most importantly, they were winners, as proven by their national championships. An alternative title for this group could have been “Energy Guys that Just Win,” but that didn’t really have much of a ring to it.

Juan Dixon (Maryland): One of the quickest guards in ACC history. Played in a different gear than everyone else. A solid shooter, excellent penetrator, and an excellent college defender, Dixon's greatest strength was his competitive nature. With the exception of Allen Iverson, he probably created the most one-man fastbreaks in the history of college basketball. While he did have an excellent supporting cast, Dixon was the main reason the Terps won the 2002 national championship.

Richard Hamilton (Connecticut): Like Dixon, Rip had an impressive supporting cast on his 1999 national championship team. Simply outworked the competition. One of the most underrated college basketball players within my viewing lifetime. A solid defender and underrated passer, Rip’s midrange game set him apart from his peers. Always seemed to do the little things needed to win games.

As always, I'm taking nominations.

Wells Diagnosed With Type 2 Diabetes

David Wells, a pitcher for the San Diego Padres, was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes yesterday by his local doctor in California. Wells has given hope to a nation with his courage in handling the situation. In his first meeting with reporters today, Wells was quoted as saying, "I will beat this." During a time where there is little hope in the world, Wells has inspired a nation, and maybe even the world.

Wells continued answering questions from reporters, and claimed to also be attempting to beat, "the scientific theory, growing old, terrorism, jealousy."

This will cause a drastic lifestyle change for the slightly overweight pitcher, who has often been criticized by team managers for his eating habits and late-night drinking binges. "For the longest time he's been to modern baseball what John Daly, Babe Ruth, and Chris Farley were to golf, classic baseball, and comedy ... the champions of abusing substances and food," said Padres general manager, whom I forgot to ask his name, "This might have been a sign from some higher authority."

Wells believes he won't have any problems with his Type 2 Diabetes. "There are many famous people, famous athletes even, with diabetes like ... like ... Adam Morrison. I'm sure there have been others. I'll be honest, I haven't done my research," said Wells.

However, the interview ended abruptly when Wells was unable to continue due to personal reasons. At the mention of "not eating fast food ever again" Wells became lightheaded and had to sit down. Several seconds later when a reporter asked "what vegetables Wells enjoyed eating" he began dry-heaving and had to leave the room.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


Mcsweeney's just published a blog I wrote several weeks ago on its website. I submitted it after I posted on AwesomeUSA and it has been featured today. Check it out at Mcsweeneys.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Isiah Thomas gives Isiah Thomas High Marks

Today, Isiah Thomas was given a multiyear contract extension as head coach after team President Isiah Thomas praised the improvements the team has made under Thomas. Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan announced yesterday that he had decided to extend Thomas' contract as head coach after extensive discussions with President Isiah Thomas. Nine months after Thomas was told the Knicks needed to show "evident progress" or he would be fired, Isiah Thomas came to the defense of Isiah Thomas, stating, "Thomas has turned this franchise around this year. We are not were we want to be yet, but I think with a multiyear contract extension worth several million dollars, we can see the change we wish to see."

"Isiah Thomas is a great coach, a humanitarian, and a scholar of basketball," Isiah Thomas said in a conference yesterday, adding, "I'm also very grateful for this extension and the opportunity to get the Knicks in the playoffs." After several disappointing seasons under Larry Brown, who recently admitted to trying to coach "every team on the face of the planet", the Knicks are poised to make the Eastern playoffs, requiring them to be one of the top eight teams in the conference.

"I think one of our main problems last year was the strained relationship between coach/president," Thomas said, "We don't have that this year. I love Isiah and Isiah loves me."

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Field of 65--version 10

(about 1 week has passed since last version)
Ohio State (30-3); UCLA (26-5); Florida (29-5); Kansas (30-4)
*Ohio State is my overall number 1. UCLA was the best team in the nation during the regular season, and that has to count for something.
North Carolina (28-6); Wisconsin (29-5); Georgetown (26-6); Memphis (30-3)
*Memphis jumps to a 2 seed on the strength of a 22-game winning streak. It doesn’t hurt the Tigers that I just found out that Chris Douglas-Roberts considers Jalen Rose his mentor.
Texas A&M (25-6); Pittsburgh (27-7); Oregon (26-7); Washington State (25-7)
*After a little bit of a slide in conference play, Oregon finishes the season with an impressive Pac-10 tournament run, which included a 24-point win over USC in the championship game. Somehow the Ducks are winning in spite of the incompetence of Ernie Kent.
Texas (24-9); Southern Illinois (27-6); UNLV (28-6); Notre Dame (24-7)
*Texas proves they deserve a 4 seed after making it to the Big 12 championship game. Now, it’s just a question of how far Kid Nut Raven can carry them in the Big Dance.
Nevada (28-4); Virginia Tech (21-11); Virginia (20-10); Louisville (23-9)
*Nevada falls from a 3 seed after not even making it to the WAC championship. Despite an early loss in the ACC tourney, UVA holds on to a 5 seed based on the Cavaliers’ share of the ACC regular season title.
Maryland (24-8); USC (23-11); BYU (25-8); Tennessee (22-10)
*After a strong end to their regular season, the Terrapins drop to a 6 seed after getting beat in the first round of the ACC tourney by 12th seeded Miami. USC would have jumped more spots, but the Trojans got absolutely dominated by Oregon in the Pac-10 championship game.
Marquette (24-9); Boston College (20-11); Vanderbilt (20-11); Butler (27-6)
*Back-to-back losses to Arkansas keep the Commodores out of a top 6 seed.
Winthrop (28-4); VCU (27-6); Villanova (22-10); Creighton (22-10)
*OK, I’m guessing you don’t see why I have 3 mid-majors seeded ahead of the next line of traditional powers. Well, Winthrop took care of business in the Big South Conference tourney after going undefeated in conference play, capping a regular season in which they only lost 4 games—to North Carolina (by 7), Maryland (by 11), Wisconsin (by 3), and Texas A&M (the only blowout, by 20). Oh, and the Eagles have an 18-game winning streak. VCU won the regular season title in a very strong Colonial Athletic Association and then won the CAA tourney. Only one of their 6 losses was by more than 9 points, and none of them were to bad teams. Creighton, who I’ve been down on all year, had the second best record in an overrated (but still competitive) Missouri Valley and won the MVC tourney, picking up a win against Southern Illinois in the championship game. I have more respect for mid-majors surging into the field than traditional powers stumbling to the finish.
Kentucky (21-11); Duke (22-10); Indiana (20-10); Arizona (20-10)
*The one interesting thing about having these traditional powers in the 8/9 game: the prospect of seeing them take on and possibly upset the 1 seeds in the second round of the tourney. Runs with Two Horses is especially excited about a potential match-up between Randolph Morris and Greg Oden. Just when I thought Arizona might be turning the corner, they put together an altogether uninspiring performance against Oregon in the first round of the Pac-10 tourney.
Davidson (29-4); Purdue (21-11); Kansas State (22-11); West Virginia (22-9)
Purdue had a strong Big 10 tourney, dominating Iowa and giving Ohio State a decent challenge in the semifinals. I also think K-State answered some questions with their conference tourney play, dominating Texas Tech and losing to Kansas by 6. West Virginia also had a solid Big East tourney, beating Providence and playing Louisville tough. These are the 3 bubble teams I feel strongest about, and they happen to be the 3 I can see the selection committee screwing.
Texas Tech (21-12); Xavier (24-8); Syracuse (22-10); Michigan State (22-11)
*I’m really not as high on Xavier as the media seems to be. I know they finished first in the A-10, but the A-10 is really weak this year. I think they should be in, but I also think the Musketeers are squarely on the bubble. I’m also kind of confused why no one is talking about Michigan State being on the bubble. I know they beat Wisconsin, but anybody can anybody on a given night. One game does not a season make. I think they deserve to get in, but an 8-8 Big Ten record isn’t exactly overwhelming.
Illinois (23-11); Stanford (18-12); George Washington (23-8); Holy Cross (25-8)
Michigan State, Illinois, and Stanford are my last 3 in. They are my only selections that I’m not completely confident about. A few comments about teams I left out: I know everyone seems to love Drexel, but give me a break. You don’t get an invite for being 4th in the Colonial Athletic Association (no matter how strong that conference is this year). Speaking of the CAA, Old Dominion got a look (more like a glance), but I just couldn’t justify the Monarchs displacing Illinois or Stanford. I know no one gave them a second thought after they lost to Albany in the America East tourney, but Vermont was a solid bubble team. Akron, runner-up in the MAC was an even more compelling bubble team that no one was talking about after they lost to Miami OH. I honestly don’t understand why anyone is talking about Florida State being a bubble team. I love Al Thornton, and, yes, we’re all being deprived by not getting a chance to watch him in the tourney. However, the Seminoles were 7-9 in the ACC. If you can’t finish at least .500 in your conference, you don’t get an at-large in my book. That takes care of Arkansas, 7-9 in the SEC for the regular season. If Air Force gets in, a terrible mistake has been made. The Falcons have lost their last 4 games and didn’t even get out of the first round of the Mountain West tourney. In case you were wondering, my first team out was Georgia Tech. I really think I may have made a mistake not putting Georgia Tech in the field.
Gonzaga (23-10); New Mexico State (25-8); Long Beach State (24-7); Albany (23-9)
*Does anyone doubt that Gonzaga will get a higher seed than they deserve? If they get a higher seed than Winthrop or VCU, the selection committee should be disbanded. New Mexico State has a lot of talent and could be a dangerous first round opponent. I’ve watched Long Beach State twice this year, and they have a right to be angry if they get lower than a 14 seed.
Texas A&M Corpus Christie (26-6); Oral Roberts (22-10); Wright State (23-9); Miami OH (18-14)
*I hate it that Miami OH beat Akron in the MAC championship. Akron deserved to dance.
Eastern Kentucky (21-11); Niagara (22-11); Belmont (23-9); Weber State (20-11)
*Niagara is riding an 11-game winning streak heading into the tournament.
Pennsylvania (22-8); Central Connecticut State (22-11); Florida A&M (21-13); Jackson State (21-13); North Texas (23-10)
*Jackson State against North Texas in the play-in game.

IN: Albany; Florida A&M; George Washington; Gonzaga; Miami OH; New Mexico State; North Texas; Wright State
OUT: Air Force; Akron; Delaware State; Georgia Tech; Massachusetts; Santa Clara; Vermont; Western Kentucky

Thursday, March 08, 2007

I'll Take Two Powerball Tickets and A Yoo-Hoo

Several days ago I began pondering the likelihood of a perfect bracket. I thought to myself of all the years people have been filling out brackets and all the people who actually fill out a bracket, someone has to have penciled in the perfect bracket. Why hadn’t this ever made ESPN? Why hadn’t someone gotten their 15 minutes of fame, a mention at the ESPY’s, and a 10-year anniversary special on ESPN Classic for filling out the perfect bracket? Something had to be done. I contacted AwesomeUSA’s research and marketing staff to get some financial backing. They gave me 10 dollars and a Hardee’s Thickburger combo meal and told me I wasn’t welcome in their offices anymore. With that, I pocketed the ten dollars and found a scientist masturbating in some bushes near my car. He accepted the Thickburger combo meal and in three days had returned this stunning report. Here it is, courtesy of Codename Curveball. We thank him for the hours he brushed off work and complied this data. For your pleasure:

So you think you are going to have a perfect bracket this year? Someone has to have done it before, right? Well, my friends, in this situation I have to turn to my other friends, numbers. Hereís a simple exercise to show how difficult it is to pick a perfect bracket.

Assume that you have a 50% chance of picking the winner in each game. Likely, you always have a better chance than this, but for simplicityís sake, we will assume this initially. Since each game is independent, the probabilities multiply and you are essentially asking, ìIf I threw a coin 63 times (corresponding to the number of games), how many times would you guess it correctly?î The answer to that is:

100%*0.5^63 = 0.0000000000000000108 % chance

You have a 0.000000648% chance of winning the powerball if you play one ticket. I like them odds. Basically, you have a better chance of buying two tickets and winning the lottery twice than you do of winning the bracket. Alas, this situation is sort of a worse case scenario, and you can do better. The best case scenario is when the team with the higher seed always wins the game. In that case, letís call the odds like this:

1 versus 16 seed: 1 seed has a 16/17 or 94% chance of winning

2 versus 15 seed: 2 seed has a 15/17 or 88% chance of winning
and so on, remembering that there are 4 of these games, so the chances of all the 1 seeds moving on is 100%*0.94^4 = 78%, etc.

By that reasoning, you have a 0.003% chance of picking all of the first round games correctly. That is 1/32,656.

In the second round::

1 versus 8 seed: 1 seed has an 8/9 or 88% chance of winning

2 versus 7 seed: 2 seed has a 6/8 or 75% chance of winning
and so on…

The final numbers look like this:

First round correctly: 0.003%.

First two rounds correctly: 0.000004%.

First three rounds correctly: 0.0000002%.

First four rounds correctly: 0.00000004%.

All of it correctly: 0.0000000005%.

That is 1/19,704,059,564.

You're 134 times more likely to win Powerball.

Good luck.

-But let's be honest: If the perfect bracket does ever happen, it will be some girl who filled out the bracket because she likes the sport with the orange ball and dunk shots.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Dominant College Basketball Players--Big Dancers and Big Assholes

This is the third installment in a series of posts concerning the most dominant college basketball players in my viewing lifetime (1989-90 season to the present).

Category 5: Big Dancers

For this group, it’s not just about the tournament. Otherwise, Miles Simon would be on the top of the list. The players in this category had excellent careers. It’s just that their legacy/reputation has been (somewhat) exaggerated because of the way they went out. For some, this means that their play in the tourney was better than their play during the rest of their careers. For others, the tourney gave them a spotlight that they didn't have during the regular season, though they didn't necessarily play any better in the tourney. Either way, they were the darlings of March Madness

Sean May (North Carolina): It’s easy for people to remember May as the player that dominated the 2005 NCAA Tournament, but they would be forgetting two good, but uninspiring, years that May spent as an overweight and out-of-shape player limited in the number of effective minutes he was able to provide. His junior year was quite impressive, but the tournament is where he made his name. Maybe the best set of hands on any big man in college basketball history. Very nimble for a man of his size.

Antonio McDyess (Alabama): The epitome of the player who turns himself into a lottery pick by virtue of his play in the NCAA Tournament. The only player on this list who didn't have an undeniably excellent non-tourney career. McDyees seemingly came out of nowhere during the 1995 Tournament, but he’d actually put together a pretty (physically) dominating season leading up to the dance. But in March, McDyess was a revelation. A man among boys, Dice’s chiseled frame and hard-nosed play tantalized NBA scouts and earned him a hefty payday as the number 2 overall pick in the 1995 NBA Draft.

Bryant Reeves (Oklahoma State): A skilled big man down low, Big Country was more dominating than Eric Montross. Montross had an excellent supporting cast, and I would argue that he wasn’t even the most important player on his national championship team. (I'd make the case for George Lynch.) Big Country, on the other hand, had a strong but not spectacular supporting cast. (However, Randy Rutherford was a very good college point guard). For those of you who don't buy my Big Country over Montross argument, consider the numbers. Country averaged 19.5 ppg as a sophomore, 21.0 as a junior, and 21.5 as a senior. Montross never even averaged 16ppg during his Tar Heel career. Country also had better rebounding numbers. Reeves’ Cowboys exceeded everyone’s expectations in March of 1995, and no one seemed to have an answer for Big Country. Unfortunately, his pro career was absolutely pathetic.

Dwyane Wade (Marquette): Contrary to popular belief, Wade was not a secret prior to the performance he put on against Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament. In fact, he’d spent the entire previous season quietly piling up points and garnering attention from NBA scouts. With his penchant for making the impossible look possible, it was the UK tourney game that made Wade a household name, at least in the Bluegrass. He put on a Jordanesque performance that even surpassed his regular season, and became a lottery pick the following June.

John Wallace (Syracuse): One of the most complete NCAA Tournament performances I’ve ever seen. Wallace willed his Syracuse teammates to the 1996 NCAA Championship against the powerhouse Kentucky Wildcats. While ‘Cuse would not win the championship, Wallace’s blend of post-up power and jump-shooting was something to behold. The consummate leader, Wallace put together an excellent career at Syracuse, but it wasn’t until the tourney that he really showed everyone how well-rounded his game was. I still believe he got screwed in the NBA. The Knicks were not a good situation for a “tweener” that needed some touches.

Category 6: Big Assholes

On some level, these guys were incredibly dominant. However, for the most part, these guys’ attitudes got in the way of their dominance. Still, when they were playing hard and their tempers weren’t getting the best of them, they changed games. Think Derrick Coleman.

Kenyon Martin (Cincinnati): Great shot blocker. Could run the floor with the little guys. There wasn’t a 4 or a 5 that could guard him. He had no offensive skills to speak of, but he was so athletic that he didn’t need any. One of the best finishers I’ve ever seen. While he played hard most of the time, it wasn’t hard for opponents to get under his skin. Never the level-headed one, his temper was his downfall. Might be the basketball equivalent of Kellen Winslow, Jr.

Rasheed Wallace (North Carolina): A game-altering shot blocker and all-around excellent defender, Wallace also had a considerable array of post moves for a college big man. Additionally, he could run the floor and was an excellent passer. As a collegian, Wallace’s outside shot wasn’t nearly as reliable as it became in the pros. However, he wasn’t quite the technical foul-prone idiot that he would become, either. When Sheed’s head was in the game and he was playing hard, there’s been no better. Unfortunately, Sheed’s short attention span seemed to get the better of him for considerable portions of games. He is the proud owner of the coolest tattoo in the history of the world. One of my all-time favorite college basketball players.

Your thoughts?

The Big Crazy Beats up Bitches

You know the old saying, you play with fire, and eventually Ron Artest beats up a woman and embarrasses your entire franchise. The Maloof Brothers made a fortune with their Vegas Casinos, but this betting man could have beaten the pants off the house in this Ron Artest situation. Even Kevin McHale, Danny Ainge, and Billy King look like geniuses now that the Kings humiliated themselves by keeping Ron Artest around too long. Maybe you can’t really get value for a guy like Artest, but there’s a reason for that: HE’S A FUCKING PSYCHO!! Ron-Ron’s latest escapade involved pushing a woman down several times, then preventing her from calling the cops on him, while a three year old cried in the background. From a legal standpoint, I think his best argument is going to be grabbing his crotch and yelling “Chivalry is dead!”

Artest has noticeably struggled to adjust to playing for new coach, Eric “Taxis are for Pussies” Musselman, but he was still turning in strong averages of nearly 19 points, 7 boards, and over two steals a game. So let’s average it out: the Kings had a bad record, which brings out Artest’s TO attitude, he didn’t like the new coach, but his numbers still made him an attractive guy to several teams. Can this woman sue the Kings for negligence? At least she was able to shatter the windshield on his Hummer with a pot…which is terrible publicity for the Hummer on many fronts. Luckily for the Kings, they may be able to remain competitive with their nucleus of Mike Bibby, and….uh….Brad Miller. Honestly, how the hell did Sacramento get this bad this fast? Look at their roster, and you’ll see that Mike Bibby, Francisco Garcia, and Corliss Williamson are the only guys on their team that were noteworthy college basketball players. Go ahead, I defy you

The good news is that this isn’t the last we’ll see of Artest. He’s nearing a Mike Tyson level of insanity. Remember this is the same guy who got a part-time job at Circuit City when he was playing for the Bulls, so he could get a discount, because he was housing an entourage of nearly 20 people. Don’t rule out the possibility of him playing games of 21 against grade-school kids for five bucks a pop. I’m already looking into booking him as entertainment for my wife’s birthday party.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Field of 65--version 9

(about 1 week has passed since last version)
UCLA (26-4); Ohio State (27-3); Wisconsin (27-4); Florida (26-5)
*Even with UCLA’s loss to a Washington team that was fighting for its tournament life, the Bruins are my overall number 1. They’re also my pick to win it all. If Luc Richard Mbah a Moute’s name was Jamal Thomas and he wasn’t Cameroonian royalty, no one would know about him. He averages 8.6 ppg and 7.7 rbg. Solid player with fine numbers but that’s all.
Kansas (27-4); North Carolina (25-6); Texas A&M (25-5); Georgetown (23-6)
*I’m having trouble not giving Kansas a 1 seed. If they win the Big 12 tournament, I think they get a 1 seed ahead of either Ohio State or Wisconsin, depending on who wins the Big Ten tourney. Did anyone watch the Duke-UNC game on Sunday, specifically the Gerald Henderson-Psycho T incident? I’m not saying that someone couldn’t make an argument (however weak) that there was nothing wrong with Henderson’s actions. I’m simply pointing out that Billy Packer’s irrational/emotional/embarrassing defense of Henderson (as if no one could possibly see anything wrong with what had just taken place) is just another example of the idiocy of one of the worst commentators ever. I'm not trying to argue that Packer always roots for the Blue Devils, as many seem to believe. Rather, I'm arguing that Packer lacks objectivity no matter who is playing. Acie Law IV is spectacular, and Joseph Jones is a beast. But Antanas Kavaliauskas is Detlef Schrempfesque, and that is a great thing. Georgetown barely holds on to its 2 seed after losing to Syracuse.
Memphis (27-3); Washington State (24-6); Pittsburgh (25-6); Nevada (27-3)
*Considering how bad C-USA is this year, I can’t justify giving Memphis a 2 seed...yet. If they win the C-USA tourney, I’ll reconsider. That being said, depending on their draw and regardless of their seed, I might have Memphis in my Final 4. They’ve got good guard play and some big bodies. I can’t say enough about the job Tony Bennett’s done at Washington State. I would never have imagined the Cougars would have 24 wins at the end of the regular season.
Southern Illinois (27-6); Maryland (24-7); Oregon (23-7); Texas (22-8)
*Maryland jumps up to a 4 seed on the strength of 7-game ACC winning streak. They’re playing as well as anyone right now. Plus, they have 5 guys averaging double-digits. The freshmen at Ohio State and UNC get all the hype, but the Longhorns have 4 spectacular freshmen as well. Kid Nut Raven has had at least 30 points in his last 3 games. As much as I like Alando Tucker’s game, Kid Nut Raven gets my vote for Player of the Year.
Virginia (20-9); Notre Dame (23-6); Louisville (22-8); UNLV (25-6)
*Why is Notre Dame being overlooked? I’m not in love with the Irish, but they only have 6 losses. A Virginia win over lowly Wake Forest would have given the Cavs the outright regular season ACC title.
Marquette (23-8); Vanderbilt (20-10); Virginia Tech (20-10); Tennessee (22-9)
*The selection committee is not giving the second best SEC team in the field a 6 seed. What does that mean? The SEC tournament provides a huge opportunity for some SEC team to get a very nice seed. When last week began, Virginia Tech was in position to lay claim to a piece of the ACC regular season title. Then, the Hokies dropped games against Virginia and Clemson. Tennessee presents an interesting dilemma to the selection committee. Do you seed the Vols based on their performance with Chris Lofton in the lineup, or do you take the team’s entire body of work into consideration?
Butler (27-5); USC (21-10); Boston College (19-10); Duke (22-9)
*Despite USC’s losses to Washington and Washington State this past week, Tim Floyd has done a great job with the Trojans this year. It’s hard to tell which Boston College team is going to show up on a given night.
BYU (23-7); Arizona (20-9); Kentucky (20-10); Indiana (20-9)
*For all the criticism I’ve heaped on Arizona this season, Lute Olson’s team is looking pretty good heading into the postseason, finishing the season 4 games above .500 in the Pac-10. While Indiana hasn’t been playing very well of late, I must say that Kelvin Sampson has done an excellent job with the Hoosiers in his first year at the helm.
Winthrop (28-4); Villanova (21-9); Georgia Tech (20-10); West Virginia (21-8)
*Georgia Tech had a huge week, picking up wins against UNC and Boston College to get to .500 in the ACC. I’m getting tired of hearing about the possibility of West Virginia not getting an invite. They don’t have the toughest non-conference schedule, and they had a pretty favorable Big East schedule. Still, the Mountaineers are 9-7 in the Big East, have a great overall record, and own an impressive win over UCLA. However, I will admit that, if WVU falls early in the Big East tourney, they may deserve to be left out. There’s not much that separates the 9-12 seeds. I think you could randomly assign seeds to these 16 teams, and it would be hard to complain. Hopefully, the conference tournaments will clarify things.
VCU (26-6); Xavier (23-7); Michigan State (21-10); Stanford (18-11)
*Even if VCU loses to George Mason in the Colonial Athletic Association tournament championship, they deserve a bid. The CAA is too competitive not to give the regular season champion an invite, especially a regular season champion that gets to the final game of the conference tournament.
Syracuse (21-9); Purdue (20-10); Illinois (21-10); Kansas State (21-10)
*With a 10-6 record in the Big 12, it would be ridiculous to leave Kansas State out of the tourney. That being said, I can’t imagine the selection committee is going to do Bob Huggins any favors.
Air Force (23-7); Texas Tech (18-11); Davidson (29-4); Creighton (22-10)
*I know everyone seems to love Air Force, but we should probably consider the fact that the Falcons have the 4 seed in the Mountain West Conference tournament. How can you give Air Force a bid and leave out Purdue? Purdue played a Big Ten schedule and only has 3 more losses. Plus, Matt Painter's team is a 5 seed in the Big Ten tourney. They have a ton of solid wins, which I've listed in at least 2 previous posts. Sorry...I guess I'm just preparing myself for the selection committee's inevitable snubbing of the Boilermakers. With Appalachian State falling to College of Charleston in the Southern Conference tournament semifinals, Davidson becomes the conference’s loan representative. If the Missouri Valley Conference gets more than 2 teams in (Southern Illinois and conference tournament champion Creighton), then the selection committee has made a horrible mistake.
Massachusetts (23-7); Akron (23-6); Vermont (25-6); Long Beach State (22-7)
*UMASS gets my last at-large bid. Travis Ford’s team has played well all season, and, if they get to the A-10 tournament championship against Xavier, they’re going to have a strong case for an invite. The Vermont-Albany American East championship game should be a good one. After losing just 6 games this season and getting a win over Boston College, it will be a real shame if Vermont loses.
Holy Cross (24-8); Santa Clara (21-9); Western Kentucky (22-10); Texas A&M-Corpus Christie (23-6)
*Holy Cross and Bucknell both have a single conference loss…to each other. They play for the automatic bid in the Patriot League tournament championship. I love watching Santa Clara play. I’ve stayed up until 2AM twice now to watch them, and both times it was worth it. If you haven’t seen John Bryant play yet this season, you’re missing out on 305 pounds of awesome. His white man afro is the second best hairstyle of the year. The best: Brent Petway of Michigan shaved the Wolverines’ football helmet design into his hair against Ohio State. Anyway, I can’t tell you how badly I want Santa Clara to beat Gonzaga in the WCC tourney championship game. With South Alabama’s loss to Middle Tennessee State in the Sun Belt tourney, the Hilltoppers of Western Kentucky face Arkansas State in the semifinals.
Oral Roberts (21-10) Pennsylvania (21-8); Belmont (23-9); Eastern Kentucky (21-11)
*Belmont gets an auto bid after beating East Tennessee State in the Atlantic Sun championship game. Eastern Kentucky picks up an auto bid after upsetting Austin Peay in the Ohio Valley Conference championship. If Western Kentucky can win the Sun Belt tourney, the Bluegrass state could have 4 representatives in the Big Dance.
Weber State (18-11); Central Connecticut State (21-11); Delaware State (19-11); Niagara (21-11); Jackson State (18-13)
*Niagara and Siena will face off for the MAAC bid after Siena upset regular season champ Marist.

IN: Belmont; Creighton; Eastern Kentucky; Georgia Tech; Massachusetts; Niagara
OUT: Appalachian State; Austin Peay; East Tennessee State; Georgia; Marist; Missouri State

Friday, March 02, 2007

Shaq Attack is Back

Uh oh ladies and gentlemen. Uh oh. You may know him from Kazaam. You may know him from Pootie Tang. You may know him as Neon from Blue Chips. Or like me, you may know him from Steel. However you do know him, and let's be honest - you all do, there is only one thing I need to say on this late Friday night: Shaq is back.

Shaquille Rashaun O'Neal is back folks, and if Dwyane Wade decides to forgo surgery and come back this season the rest of the league needs to watch their backs, especially Brad Miller. In his last 5 games Shaq has averaged 20 points a game and 10 rebounds. That isn't including tonite's 31 point 16 rebound 6 assist game against the Pistons, because I don't have the mental capacity to add that into the average. With Wade out, Shaq has shown he can still put up 30 point nights and monkey dunk on a lot of people. I have been reluctant to believe the reports out there that Shaq was falling apart and was really only useful in drawing double teams, blocking a few shots, playing point guard at the all-star game, and wearing a Fu Manchu. Shaq of course isn't Shaq in his prime, but he has not fallen off to the point some people believed. His minutes per game is increasing from about 25 to 30 and is shooting well over 60% from the field, and an amazing 30% from the line. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Shaq is truly, truly back.

It is great to see Shaq playing like his old self. He has long been one of my favorite NBA players, even though he played for the Lakers. He, joined with Charles Barkley, is one of the few athletes (maybe only 2) who can say anything they want and it isn't taken out of context or taken too seriously, due to the fact that he doesn't take himself too seriously. He is a refreshing figure in a sport that is crying for some personalities. If it weren't for a really hot girl didn't work at our mall CD store I would have bought his CD when I was in junior high.

You may feel that I am prematurely shooting my wad here, but I don't care. I am more excited about the NBA season right now, than I have been in several years. The only thing I still need to see is Shaq spinning out of the post, and throwing down a one handed dunk off an oop from Eddie Jones and I will declare them the East Champions.