Thursday, November 30, 2006

UNC 98, OSU 89 – Closer than it Appears

I mentioned in yesterday’s blog that I would provide analysis on the Wednesday night ACC-Big 10 Challenge match-ups, however, taking into consideration that blogging is not my full time job, I actually wanted to eat dinner. Last night between 7pm – 9pm I began to feel pretty Somalian, which was awful, and knowing full well that I have more than a bowl of fly infested rice in my fridge, I decided to take a stand. Plus, I need to finish the 900 pieces of leftover Thanksgiving dishes before they start to ferment. With that said, I did not completely disregarding the rest of this tournament, I just decided to take the low rode and comment solely on the Ohio State at North Carolina game.

When schedules were announced in the early Fall, this was the type of game you mark on your calendars along with last Saturday’s Kansas-Florida dual. Much of the pre-season hype was generated due to a number of factors:

For North Carolina
- Return top 4 scorers from last years team including potential POY Tyler Hansbrough
- The incoming freshman class rated no less than number two overall including the top ranked point guard (Tywon Lawson), the top ranked shooting guard (Wayne Ellington) and, the diamond of the class, the top ranked power forward in Brandon Wright

For Ohio State
- Return a very senior laden core lead by junior point-guard Jamar Butler and senior shooting-guard Ron Lewis
- The incoming class rated no less than number two overall including three McDonalds All-Americans in Mike Conley, Daequan Cook and possibly the best center to enter college basketball in the past 20 years, Greg Oden
- Did I mention Greg Oden?
- Oh yes, and don’t let me forget…Greg Oden

Now that the season is well underway, this game has remained highly anticipated as Ohio State is off to a nice start with Cook leading the team in points (almost 18 per) while the other freshman, Conley, leads the team in assists with a 6.3 average. The one piece of the Buckeye machine that is missing is Oden – out with a surgically repaired right wrist until conference play begins in January. For UNC, Hansbrough has picked up where he left off last year averaging 22pts/8rebounds with the three highly touted freshman just behind him with averages of 16, 12 and 10 (Brandon Wright also contributes on the glass with 7 boards per). Coming into the game, Ohio State was generously voted number one overall by majority of the polls while UNC holds the sixth position. Now to the game!

Both teams excel in transition basketball and the start of the game did not dissapoint. Ohio State came out firing on all cylinders scoring 16 quick points to UNC’s 9. At this point, OSU was on pace to score over 120 pointss for the game!!! Proving that the advent of the shot-clock was meaningless, shots were hoisted at a frenetic pace with UNC typically getting a shot off with about 20 seconds left on the shot clock. To me, their transition offense is unmatched in college basketball. They also do a nice job of getting into their secondary break and if that doesn’t work, they can always dump it in to “Psycho T”.

About halfway through the first half it was evident that Ohio State was finding soft spots in the Carolina defense for easy lay-ups and kick-outs, mounting a 10 point lead. However, just as I finished writing that sentence, the heels stepped up their defense and canned a few big three’s to cut Ohio State’s lead to just two (40-38) with four minutes to go in the half. This tempo continued until intermission with Ohio State leading at the half by a score of 48-44.

In just one half, the excitement, skill level, intensity and overall quality of play had already surpassed that of any of the previous ACC-Big 10 tournament games this year. At the half, there were 18 players who entered the game and 16 of them scored (Ron Lewis with 13 for OSU and Hansbrough with 7 for UNC), Ohio State shot 61% from behind the arc connecting on 8 three’s, and UNC held a +4 rebounding margin.

The second half was much of the same regarding tempo, however it was apparent that UNC made several defensive adjustments, continued to attack the glass and began forcing the ball inside (and essentially taking back the lead with a 9-0 run). As we all know, basketball is a game of runs, and Ohio State made one of their own by the 10 minute mark to take the lead back. This pace remained consistent throughout however the second half Hansbrough-Ellington combination proved too much to contend with (Ellington scoring 17 second half points scoring 19 total on his nineteenth birthday!). Hansbrough ended the game with a stellar 21 point/14 rebound performance. The Ohio State freshman struggled a bit down the stretch as they simply ran out of steam trying to keep up with what seemed to waves upon waves of fresh UNC bodies. With that said, there’s no need for OSU to be disappointed. Senior guard Ron Lewis netted 31 points, Daeqaun Cook scored 14 points and point guard Mike Conley showed glimpses of brilliance with his ability to get to the rim and manage the game.

With only 8 scholarship players available for this game and having Oden sidelined as well, who knows what the possible outcome would have been. It will be interesting to see how OSU’s style changes when Oden is inserted into the lineup. Currently they’re a run and gun, transition team where the bigs aren’t traditional post players. I’m also a bit worried that Oden is receiving too much hype before ever stepping foot on the court at this level. I realize that he was only the 4th 2-time national high school player of the year and already has an NBA-ready body, I’m just not sure he will live up to expectations so quickly. Having said that, I do see him contributing immediately on the defensive end which should help propel the Buckeye’s to at least an Elite 8 birth.

There has been recent concern about the Tar Heels having too much talent and whether or not that would hurt team chemistry. To me, having too much talent is a problem that I’m sure most coaches wouldn’t mind having. Their up-temp, transition offense creates more possessions than the average team which equates into enough touches for those players who need them. The way in which Coach Williams has been subbing also allows for each player to play at their highest level without having to endure much fatigue. UNC certainly has the talent to make the Elite 8 of the big dance and should no doubt take home the ACC crown.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Let the Games Begin!

Monday night tipped-off the 8th annual ACC-BIG Ten Challenge with the ACC historically dominating the event. The early season schedule for most teams typically boasts what everyone’s favorite one-eyed commentator likes to call, “cup cakes,” so this event will certainly be a challenge for a host of teams in each of these power conferences. In addition to annual bragging rights, there are a few streaks capable of being broken such as Illinois’ 51 game non-conference home winning streak and Duke’s undefeated record in the event (as well as their own 42 game non-conference home winning streak). It’s also an opportunity for the average fan to not only see some of the best brand of college basketball and top tier talent, but to also be introduced to players who don’t receive much notoriety such as super freshman Greivis Vasquez of Maryland, hard working Ben McCauley of N.C. State, soon to be star Jack McClinton of the “U” and former walk on with the huge heart, 5ft. 8inch Errek Suhr. In the infamous words of Ron Burgundy, “Let the Games Begin!”


N.C. State 74, Michigan 67
The first game of the eleven that will be played over a span of three days was Michigan at N.C. State in what was made out to be the game of the…wait, never mind, it wasn’t made out to be anything! With Michigan consisting of a senior laden team, there are high expectations amongst fans, administrators and Mike Tyson that anything less than an invitation to this year’s Big Dance is considered a failure – not to mention Tommy Amaker’s job might be on the line as well. Despite differences in styles, both teams rely on balanced scoring and hard-nosed man-to-man defense and there was nothing short of that in this game, at least for N.C. State who had four players in double figures lead by forward Ben McCauley’s 19pts/8rebs. It’s safe to say that if basketball does not pan out for Ben, he will have a lucrative future in waste management because he gets all of the garbage and does most of the dirty work. Forward Brandon Costner finally showed why he was a McDonald’s All-American just two years ago with a well-rounded 17pts/11reb effort. Despite a late game surge, a few highlight reel blocks by the uber-athletic Brent Petway and a one-man offense in Dion Harris (24pts), Michigan couldn’t really put a consistent effort together and N.C. State was able to exploit weaknesses in the Michigan defense with its signature efficient offense. By the looks of this game, Michigan has the athletes to overcome this loss and be competitive in the Big 10, however I see “underachievers” written all over them. On the flip side, N.C. State has the ability to overachieve in the ACC if they continue to scrap and play as a team, however it’s quite crowded at the top of the conference.


Maryland 72, Illinois 66
Maryland is off to a solid start and there senior leadership is showing through players like D.J. Strawberry, Kenny Ibweke and Mike Jones. Against Illinois, MD is without Ibweke however Illinois enters the game minus go-to guy Brian Randle. This is clearly an Illinois team in need of much help. Despite the sluggish start, each team proved to be scrappy with persistent inside play. At times, Maryland’s young backcourt of Grievis Vasquez and Eric Hayes play a bit too fast, entering the game with high energy, but a knack for losing composure. The lead went back and forth for a quite a while until midway through the second half, Vasquez decided to take over scoring 15pts of his 17pts in the second half. Not showing any signs of intimidation by the rautious crowd, Vasquez played with heart, emotion, confidence and the swagger of a surly veteran. Despite the quality inside presence of forward Shaun Pruitt (18pts/11rebs), Maryland seemed to want “it” that much more. I personally like this Maryland team and I like their chances in the ACC and NCAA tournament. This will be Gary Williams finest coaching job ever (06-07 ACC Coach of the Year), meshing solid veteran leadership with high energy freshman and will lead MD back to the top tier of the ACC. Going out on a limb, I’m also calling the Terps my sleeper pick to make Elite 8. Illinois on the other hand, I don’t think they’ll fair as well. It’s hard to judge a team without one of their leaders in Brian Randle, but in the Big 10 there’s Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan State and everyone else.

Wisconsin 81, Florida State 66
Coming off a tough loss to a highly ranked Pitt team, it was a sluggish start for Florida State posting “0” points in the first five minutes of play. With Alondo Tucker taken to the locker room for a scratched retina, Florida State could not take advantage as Wisconsin proved they’re much more than their All-American combo-forward. They received great contribution by Chris Rock look-alike, Kammron Taylor (18pts) and solid inside play as Florida State struggled to defend the post. Late in the first half and early second half, the Seminoles athleticism, pressure defense and scoring from Auburn transfer, guard Toney Douglas (24pts) helped to mount a slight comeback, but in the end Tucker (22pts/5 boards) and Wisconsin throwing it into old-school Dick Bennett mode, proved to be too much to handle. The duo of Tucker and Taylor create quite a formidable backcourt and as long as Brian Butch remains a consistent inside presence, Wisconsin should do no worse than runner-up, Big 10 conference champs (Ohio State?) and an Elite 8 birth. Florida State remains an enigma, especially with zero inside presence and 10 points out of Al Thornton doesn’t help either. I don’t see Florida State qualifying for the tournament unless they make a stellar showing in the ACC tournament. On a side note, interesting attire by Wisconsin Coach Bo Ryan; for all you Division III lovers out there, Ryan made a bold move by sporting the Dave Madeira (Head Coach, Muhlenberg College) rust colored sport jacket, sands the corner-of-the-lip fungus.

Duke 54, Indiana 51
Much is at stake in this game as both teams are struggling to find their identity and put together 40 minutes of consistency on either end of the floor. Sluggish starts are becoming the MO of the tournament and this game did not disappoint. Turnovers plagued both teams early (Coach K even removed Greg Paulus from the starting lineup as the sophomore point guard is having trouble adjusting to game speed after injuring his foot AND has been a turnover machine). Both teams had a hard time finding their rhythm offensively (9-7 Duke at the 10 minute mark); only DeMarcus Nelson enjoying a solid start scoring seven points out of the gate. Duke went into halftime with a 12 point cushion due to a combination of signature pressure defense along the perimeter and the very Jerry’s Kids-like decision making by Indiana. Indiana made a formidable comeback lead by freshman Armon Bassett’s 16pts and the all-out hustle play of former walk-on Erekk Suhr. Throughout the game, McRoberts was nowhere to be found on the offensive end and his over-willingness to share the rock is becoming his weakness. Duke’s defense is way beyond their offense at this point in the season (54 points was the fewest points scored by a Blue Devils team since 1982 – Coach Krzyzeweski’s second season in Durham), however the extended early minutes for the freshman should pay off late into the season. Inconsistent point guard play will certainly remain a problem in conference play should that continue and don’t be surprised to see teams like Maryland, Virginia, and Georgia Tech finish ahead of the Blue Devils in the conference. I don’t see them making it beyond the 2nd round of the NCAA’s. Indiana flat out has problems. They can’t get the ball in the hole and don’t seem intent on running the offense through potential All-American D.J. White; at the same time, White appeared much like McRoberts in that he did not display the assertiveness that he showed as a freshman. Indiana will finish in middle of the pack in conference play and might, might just gain an at-large bid to the tournament however the NIT is more realistic.

Northwestern 61, Miami 59
After the Duke game, I was pretty spent and the inside of my lip looked like the skin of Edward James Olmos from biting it so much. I caught only glimpses of the game, but did see enough to witness a star being born in Miami guard (Sienna Transfer) Jack McClinton with his 30pt effort including hitting five from down-town. Anthony King adds some beef in the middle (8pts/10boards) and if they can get some additional support, look for Miami to challenge a few teams in ACC play. Northwestern was lead by guard Craig Moore’s 24 points on 7 three’s – I have no comments on Northwestern as they’ll never be a player in the Big 10 conference or NCAA tournament play – Coach Bill Carmody would’ve been better off staying at Princeton.

Wednesday (Analysis to come)

Michigan State at Boston College
Virginia at Purdue
Iowa at Virginia Tech
Ohio State at North Carolina
Clemson at Minnesota

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Feast Week: No Feast, all Famine for Major’s

As a pure basketball fan, you’ve got to appreciate the current state of college basketball where the assumed “mid-majors” are equally enjoying center stage with the traditional major programs. We are only a few weeks into the season and it’s too early to make outright predictions, however aside from Florida steamrolling over sub-par foe (we’ll see what happens in Saturday nights Florida/Kansas showdown in Vegas), the landscape of college basketball is completely wide open and I love it! Some may call me hypocritical because I root for Duke (the Yankees, Fighting Irish, and Cowboys of college hoops) but in all honesty, this is great for the continued success of all programs, big and small, throughout the country.

Just last Saturday I provided a list of significant upsets against top flight division one teams within the first week or so of basketball. Sports writers throughout the country insisted that the general public should not “over hype the early upsets” – see Jay Bilas’ blog from November 17th on ESPN ( – but is it over hyping or just facing reality? Instead of downplaying the losses of the Goliath programs, we should celebrate the victories of the David’s of the world. Below are some of the impact mid-major victories that have happened throughout Feast Week:

- Picked to finish sixth in the Horizon League, the Butler Bulldogs remain unbeaten by upsetting Gonzaga in the Preseason NIT at Madison Square Garden – They leave NYC with wins over Indiana, Notre Dame and Tennessee

- Blake Ahearn, the man who held off J.J. Redick to a close second in free-throw shooting for the past three years, lead Missouri State with 25 points while defeating 7th ranked Wisconsin

- Not a good week for the Big East as they offer five of the weeks top seven upsets:
Old Dominion took down Georgetown (albeit Georgetown is in much better hands as the year progresses), Cincinnati fell to woeful Wofford, Jackson State upended Rutgers, Brown got the better of Providence (at Providence) and Seton Hall lost to FDU at home (FDU’s last defeat of SHU was in 1968!) – let’s hope these early losses are indicative of things to come for the Big East

- Marist beat Minnesota in the Old Spice Classic – lead by the best point guard you never heard of Jarrod Jordan (lead the nation in assists last year AND put up 21pts/8asst/8bds in a close loss to Arkansas)

- And without diminishing Butlers early victories, the biggest “Shocker” of them all is Wichita State’s victory over the 6th rank LSU Tigers lead by combo-guard/forward P.J. Couisinard’s 11pts/7bds (despite Big Baby’s outstanding individual effort; 17pts/14bds). This coming after the Shockers edged last year’s darling, George Mason, last Saturday at GM during the Final Four banner-raising ceremony

If this trend continues throughout the course of the year, multiple mid major teams and conferences may end up with similar RPI ratings as those of the majors. Conferences who have historically received one automatic bid may receive additional at-large bids due to significant out of conference wins, leaving the big conference, “on-the-bubble” teams out of the tournament. Surely this will lead to continued debate as to whether or not the field of 65 (play-in game) needs to be expanded. Funny how this is even becoming an issue because a few major programs and conferences are complaining when for years the mid-majors have been at the beckoning call of the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee for years.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Coping with Reality

Tonight was a big night for me, the first nationally televised Duke game (against a solid Air Force team) as part of the CBE Classic in Kansas City (formerly known as the Guardian Classic). Now, despite the fact that I had to listen to Dick Vitale predict that the current top four teams in the country will make it to the final four (shocker there Richard!) and unfairly compare “Tiger” Dan Shulman’s lack of hair to his own, the game proved to be worth the rush home from work. Now, as you might have picked up from my introductory blog, I consider myself the biggest Duke fan who did not graduate from the actual university. With that said, I have grown into “that guy” who is not fun to watch a game with and if you think there is intense Krzyzewski face on the sideline, you should see the “looks-like-he’s-walking-against-the-wind” face that I make when watching the Blue Devils play. Luckily, I had the apartment to myself for the next few hours and I was ready to wreak havoc at the television!

What may make the 2006-2007 Duke season a bit frustrating is the fact that their two big guns from last year, J.J. Redick and Sheldon “the Landlord” Williams, have graduated and the multiple question marks surrounding this years leadership, experience and underclassman adjustment. Last year, despite the fact that Duke was eliminated from the 06 NCAA tournament in the Elite 8, there was always a sense of assurance that Redick would hit a huge three in the clutch or Williams would come up with a big block or rebound. According to Duke’s standards, some would say this is a rebuilding year. Returning to the lineup are sophomores Josh McRoberts and Greg Paulus, and lone upperclassmen DeMarcus Nelson. A mixed bag as to expectations with this triad considering last year McRoberts was often caught “J.J. watching,” Paulus lead the ACC in assists but couldn’t guard one-game sharpshooter Jason McElwain (you might know him as J-Mac) on a good night, and DeMarcus Nelson logged about 15 games in the past two years due to injury. Joining the team are three McDonald’s All-American’s in athletic combo guard Gerald Henderson Jr., multi-talented two guard Jon Scheyer and local product, power forward Lance Thomas (and the biggest surprise, another local product in seven foot center Brian Zoubek). This combination is a recipe for much uncertainty, however, I like what I see in this group thus far. Through three games, albeit all against sub par competition, there has been a nice balanced attack on the offensive end (including all four freshman averaging around 10 points/game and a different leading scorer in each game) with much focus on execution rather than making highlight-real plays accompanied by gym-rat like defense that is the staple of Duke basketball.

Tonight’s game paired Duke against a senior-laded Air Force squad, lead by 2nd year coach Jeff Bzdelik, that returns five starters who helped the Falcons earn an NCAA tournament birth last year. They run a very efficient, Princeton-like offense where constant movement, crisp passing and dead-eye three point shooting are their keys to success.

Finally, the game. Thomas and Nelson paced the Devils in the first half with 12 and 10 points respectively while the Blue Devils as a team shot an astonishing 74% from the field. Great shooting combined with gritty defense lead the Devils to a 38-24 halftime advantage. Despite the generous lead, there were a few things of concern. First, when a team shoots that well in the first half, you can almost always count on that not continuing in the second half; Second, McRoberts attempted just four field goals in the first half; Third, the Falcons hit only two three’s (a team that shoots well over 50% from behind the stripe). In the second half, Air Force opened with an 11-5 run to cut the lead to 43-35 with about 15 minutes to play and started to connect from behind the arc. Thomas was a non-factor in the second half scoring just 3 points and adding 1 rebound. It was also pretty obvious in the first half that Zoubek and Henderson were having trouble defending the Princeton-style offense and didn’t see much action in the second half. This is the time where the three captains took control. Sparked by an “and-one” off of a full court man-to-man steal by Nelson, the Devils wouldn’t look back. Paulus began to manage the clock and methodically pick apart the Air Force match-up zone (8 points/5 assists), McRoberts continued his consistent all-around play (9 points/6 rebounds/5 assists) and Nelson tossed in a career high 23 points along with 6 rebounds and some great pressure defense.

The final score, 71-56, certainly was not indicative of how close the game truly was. Despite some of the flaws such as unforced turnovers, an inconsistent post-up game, and a superstar who’d rather pass than shoot, it was a solid win over the type of mid-major team that could pose a threat in the post season. Some initial thoughts following the game if Duke intends on succeeding in conference play: 1) McRoberts needs to grab the marbles (“Marbles!…Juevos! Grrr”) and start taking some initiative offensively, Paulus needs to get back to last season form and cut down and turnovers and 3) the freshman need to stop running into each other while setting screens.

Now, luckily for the sake of my television and my vocal cords, I remained quite calm during the course of the game. I continuously repeated to myself, “remember, these are just freshman!” It brought me back to a moment in time when my friend Bill and I played for Muhlenberg College freshman year and rarely paid a lick of attention during practice. We would often loosen the tops to the water bottles or hoist our practice shorts above our naval while impersonating our coach who seemingly produced a solid white substance from the corners of his mouth. That being said, these freshman are playing on basketball’s largest stage coping with the type of pressure one feels when riding on the bus having just eaten a queso burrito, while attempting to enjoy life as a regular student. Maybe this is the year I sit back, relax and enjoy the ride.


Saturday, November 18, 2006

What’s Going on with the Majors???

What’s the deal with all the early season upsets? Your answer…you guessed it, parity. With the new rule within the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement regarding NBA eligibility, we are now seeing the best of the best freshman enter college for at least one year (and it’s argued that this years class may be the best of all-time). Also adding to the parity is the fact that there is no longer an intimidation factor between mid-major players/teams and high major, thanks in part to several factors: 1) All of the incoming freshman know each other from playing against one another in AAU so they enter college knowing who is legitimately good and who is over-hyped; 2) The George Mason factor – having beaten the likes of Michigan State, North Carolina AND Connecticut to the get the Final Four gave hope to all of the potential Cinderalla’s from the mid-major conferences.

With that said, here are some of the early season upsets:

- Oral Roberts over Kansas
- Vermont over Boston College
- Northern Arizona over Arizona State
- Air Force over Stanford
- Butler over Indiana
- Western Kentucky over Georgia (coach Dennis Felton’s old alma mater)
- Southern Utah over Utah
- North Texas over Charlotte
- Bradley over DePaul (there must have been extensive Jerry Wainwright face!)
- NJIT over Manhattan (to a lesser extent, however this is NJIT’s first year in Division I!!!)

Other Observations of note (based on east coast televised games):

- So far Texas combo forward, Kevin Durant, is living up to the Hype (through the first 3 games he’s averaging 20.7 points, 9.3 rebounds and 3.7 blocks just tossed in another 29 points and 10 boards in a win over St. Johns on Thursday night)

- Without heralded freshman center, Greg Oden, Ohio States other diaper dandies (Mike Conley, Daequan Cook) are leading the way

- Michigan State freshman, Raymar Morgan, is big time and has put his stamp on future stardom

- St. Johns BLOWS – It’s sad when an opposing player scores more than your entire team! (Maryland forward, Kenny Ibekwe, outscored SJU in the first half 22-21)

- Center Roy Hibbert and combo forward Jeff Green can take the Hoyas to the promise land
Rutgers basketball not faring as well as their gridiron counterparts – on Wednesday night they shot an astounding 19.1% from the floor (making a total of 9 field goals)

- Arizona freshman forward, Chase Budinger, hit for 32 in Arizona's win over Northern Arizona, the high flying carrot top is the real deal

- The primary inside option for the Louisville Cardinals is highly touted freshman center, Derrick Caracter – the big guy traded-in triple bacon cheeseburgers from The King for a treadmill over the summer and it has paid off thus far

- 5 foot 6 inch Oregan point guard, Tajuan Porter, starts his Duck career by averaging 31 points through three games. I guess the recruiting guru’s missed the mark on this kid!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Name Game

For all intents and purposes I had planned on following the Georgetown vs. Vanderbilt game last night, but of course my wife made plans for me without asking in advance. Despite the delay, I did happen to catch the game from the 10 min mark until the final whistle, drawing three observations (none of which include Vanderbilt): 1) Roy Hibbert is a beast – albeit Vandy’s big guys stand 6-8/6-9 and are white, nevertheless at 7-2 Hibbert eats up space in the lane, keeps the ball high, and is now attacking the basket like Kirstey Alley in a buffet line; 2) Jeff Green is a flat out All-American – not sure which team as of yet, but at 6-9 with a guard-like handle and passing ability, there is no one in the country as versatile (last nights stat-line: 19pts/8reb/6ast in just 23 mins); 3) If the Hoya guards can contribute in the same fashion as they did last night, teams ranked 1-7 are in trouble.

With all of that said, the unexpected plans did produce one positive result. During a TV timeout, one of the commentators mentioned the name, Nate Funk, a versatile swingman out of Creighton. Immediately what came to my mind was how many other “Funks” are out there? What other college basketball players possess a name that I can exploit to satisfy my jaded humor? So I began my search and here’s what I found Similar to the parity of play within college basketball, the names of the players in 2006 produce a broad range of substance. This is much different from last year where student-athletes such as Chris Porn (Elon College) and Chief Kickingstallionsims (Stetson College) were far and away the best of the best as far as 2005 player names. So, without further ado, I present to you the 2006 player name All-Americans:

1st Team:

Austen Powers (CS Northridge) – Yeah baby, Yeah!!! Oh behave!
Longar Longar (Oklahoma) – I’m guessing he’s from the same tribe as Duane Duane
Charles Jim-George (Cal Riverside) – His parents couldn’t decide on just one name so they gave him 3
Lee Cummard (BYU) – This guy must be LOADS of fun!
Uwemedimo Eshietedoho (Maryland/Baltimore-County) – Like an asian person named Xiang, we’ll call him Steve

2nd Team:

Luc-Richard Mbah a Moute (UCLA) – Moute kicks Boute!!!
Thanasi Panagiotakopoulos (Northern Colorado) – Would love to see the back of his jersey
Radar Onguetou (New Hampshire) – I’m guessing he’s deadly from behind the arc
LucQuente White (Texas Tech) – Like the low budget hotel, LaQuinta
Bienvenu Songondo (Wyoming) – Hola, bienvenu, welcome!

3rd Team:

Emmanuel Bidias a Moute (UC-Santa Barbara) – Distant cousin to Luc Richard Mbah a Moute?
Duke Sturdivant (Georgia St.) – Ever see the Will Ferrell Saturday Night Live clip about dog obedience training? “Hi, I’m Dale Sturdivant!”
Drew Crank (Richmond) – Imagine the wild times they would have if he hung out with Lee Cummard?
Cleve Woodfork (Tenn-Martin) – Definitely sounds like a member of Ron Burgundy’s news team
Kyle Ohman – (Liberty) – this is a personal favorite as a weird guy back at undergrad always started sentences saying, “Oh man!”

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Age Old Questions for the Sporting Mind

1) The Miami Dolphins have historically struggled to run the football and yet teams like the Lions and Bears have had continued success year after you think it's because the Dolphins have two flippers and these other teams like the Lions and Bears have four legs?

2) Why don't basketball coaches like Pat Riley and Phil Jackson wear their team's uniforms during games like baseball coaches?

3) What bra size is the Rutgers RAC?

4) Am I the only one that found it hard not too laugh when people kept referring to middle linebacker Bryan Cox as being hot headed...think about it.

5) Why does the NCAA allow Stephen F. Austin to compete in the women's basketball tournament?

6) Which of the following is most worthy of being the captain of the All-Alien Team?...Willie McGhee, Otis Nixon, Dennis Rodman, John Elway or Scottie Pippen

7) Why do they call it the Big East...most of the states out West are much larger like Texas and shouldn't there be another conference called the Bigger West?

8) Who has larger eyebrows, Martin Scorsese or Bobby Knight?

9) If they call Randy Johnson the Big Unit, what is David Eckstein's nickname?

10) Now that Steve Spurrier is their you think the GameCocks will have any trouble "getting up" for games?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


First let me start off by saying that well before I attended Rutgers from 1994-1998 I was a Rutgers football fan. Since the early 1980's my parents starting taking me and my brother to Rutgers football games. Back before ESPN, fantasy football, players hiding Sharpie pens in their socks and Harry Carson invented the Gatorade dump we were cheering on our beloved Scarlet Knights. Not since the Frank Burns coaching era at Rutgers has there been this much excitement around the football program. However, ever since the Rutgers football team beat Louisville, every so called "expert" has been sounding off about everything from where Coach Schiano is going to the SEC has better food than the Big East (I'll bet my life on the Fat Cat Especial beating out any other sandwhich in the US). So after having to listen to all of these "experts" all week I thought it might be best for me to answer some of their questions:

- What's a Rutgers?...Well Rutgers just happens to be the birthplace of college football. So well before the Florida Gators were deciding on using the Izod gator as their logo, Rutgers was playing in the first college football game against Princeton University.

- Schiano is going to to take over for Paterno if he doesn't leave for Miami...Back when Greg Schiano was thinking about taking the coaching job at Rutgers, Joe Paterno tried to get Schiano to stay away...not because he was offering friendly advice but because he knew that if Rutgers had a successful football program, then Penn State wouldn't be able to take New Jersey's top prospects. We'll after this year's success there will be a better chance of a Penn State football player actually having to study for an exam then landing a top New Jersey prospect.

- The SEC has historically been the best conference so it must be today...growing up the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were arguably the worst football franchise in NFL history...that was until Tony Dungy took over and brought respectability to the organization. For kids growing up today they only know that the Buccaneers have won more Super Bowls then the 49ers or Cowboys in the last couple of years...the last I checked Herschel Walker and Bo Jackson were no longer player at Georgia and Auburn.

- Troy Smith deserves the Heisman...Now this is not meant to take anything away from Troy Smith but Ray Rice is running with teams stacking 32 men and an armored truck in the box against him. Even when Louisville tried to shut down Ray Rice he managed to dominate in the 4th quarter when the game counted most...He ended up running for over 120yds and 2 TDs, before we hand Smith the trophy let's see how he does against Michigan.

- Lee Corso thinks Rutgers and the Big East doesn't deserve a shot at the championship if they go undefeated...Lee Corso is so old that he should know better being that he played in the first college football game between Rutgers and Princeton.

Whether Rutgers is able to run the table or not, it's time for everyone to recognize that they are for real and that they're not a one year wonder. With the recruits they have already signed and all of the other future New Jersey high school recruits getting in line to TRY to get a scholarship, it looks like the sleeping giant has just started to wake up.


Thursday, November 09, 2006

And You Call This a Bowling Alley?

Last night was a very exciting day for me, or at least it was until I was exposed to such a disastrous first half display, as it was the first televised regular season college basketball game! ESPN Deuce (you had to see that coming) aired the Maryland regional of the annual Coaches vs. Cancer classic featuring the University of Maryland against national power, University of Vermont. I kept a running dialogue of the game, however, you will notice a slight fade in action as I began to doze off.


- Coming to you from Collage Park, Maryland is one of my favorite tag teams outside of Jenna Jamison and Kira Kerner, Brad Nessler and Jimmie Dykes! Anyone with the last name “Dykes” is ok in my book.

- Was just thinking, does anyone miss the old “Deuce” network that featured a young Kenny Maine sporting a flannel shirt being introduced with a background of classic porn music? I know I do.

- 17:04 mark, a few minutes into the half and I’ve began to pick the lint out of my belly button – what a rough start to a highly anticipated evening!

- For the opening night, there were a slew of empty seats; I honestly think there was far better attendance for the 2006 Our Lady of the Worthless Miracle vs. the Hadley School for the Blind. Also, Gary Williams certainly did not let his fans down; within the first 4 minutes the man perspired straight through his sport coat leaving no room for imagination and clearly reminding me of Ron Jeremy, circa 1995.

- “Way short, and way too quick…that’s not Vermont’s style.” Thanks Jimmie, not sure if Vermont ever really had a “style.”

- TV Timeout at the 15 minute mark – thank GOD! Sluggish start, no consistency on offense and the pace is quite erratic. The Terps lead 7-4; I rushed home from work for this!

- College Hoops 2K7 looks pretty good – however, have you noticed how much better the game looks on TV versus the way it looks on your own Playstation and/or Xbox? Not to mention, no one will be able to figure out that advanced dribbling move.

- 14:05 mark, this is ridiculous, Maryland should be ashamed of themselves on their own home court. Come on guys, Vermont’s got five white dudes out on the court!!! Tied at 7-7.

- Promising outlook for Maryland, remember the names Greivis Vasquez and Eric Hayes; a couple of under the radar freshman who will be logging major minutes in the backcourt this year. Hayes could be the next Steve Blake and speaking of labeling someone, “the next” I think that term is being used a little too often these days and in the wrong context. For instance, Harold Minor was dubbed the next Jordan (or baby Jordan) and Adam Morrison the next Larry Bird – these expectations are certainly a set up for failure; we need to start toning down the player to player comparisons. For instance, a guy like Joe Jones at Texas A&M can clearly become the next Dontonio Wingfield!

- 10 min mark and it’s 12-11 Vermont, at least I get to looking forward to the Texas/Alcorn St. in the other regional tomorrow night…

- Love the Vasquez kid (6-5 point guard), plays with fire and not afraid to take big shots on a senior laden team. A bit erratic at times but has a good basketball sense and the crowd seems to love him already.

- TV Timeout at the 7 min mark

- Oh good, I was wondering when the MLS Cup kicked off…

- By the way, is there any better name in college basketball than Nate Funk?!

- Back to the game – interesting stat line, Vermont is out-rebounding Maryland 16-9 and Vermont has yet to insert a player over 6-8. Center Ikene Ibekwe and forward James Gist are non factors thus far.

- Vasquez leads the Terps with 7 points at the 5 minute mark.

- I can’t seem to get my eyes off Vermont’s head coach Mike Lonergan. It’s not that I’m attracted to him (although I do give credit to handsome men such as Brad Pitt, George Clooney, and certainly Andy Garcia) but Coach Lonergan has a massive case of Robin Williams hand; he’s got that gangly hair that sneaks out of the sleeve, looks like he’s holding a Chia Pet.

- Maryland transfer Bambale “Bam Bam” Osby sinks a sweet baby hook to put the Terps up by 5. He also has an even sweeter baby ‘Fro! Reminiscent of an old college favorite, Jerryl Sasser, from SMU circa 1999 – down 20 to Stanford on national television while shouting “You can’t hold me!” Classic.

- At the 3:30 mark and all I can think of is the Pizza Hut 2 medium pizzas, breadsticks, dessert and 2-Liter soda for $19.99! However, coming up at the half, Doug Gottlieb!

- Maryland has started to pull away (28-19) after increasing the defensive pressure – with a minute to go, the overall tempo favors Maryland but some nice offensive exchanges despite the 7 point Maryland lead. Senior guard Mike Jones, WHO?!, paces Maryland with 11 pts having hit his last 5 shots and the lead at the half stands at 36-27.

Start of the 2nd Half

- I’m really not sure if I can make it!

- A few minute into the game and for those who are not aware, by January, Bob Knight should pass Dean Smith for all-time wins in college basketball. What a formidable list of coaches he has passed to get here including Smith, Phog Allen, Jim Phelan (who wins the Ronald Reagan award for not remembering coaching his last 5 seasons) and Brian Ellerbe…wait, what?

- At the 16 minute mark, the Catamounts commit their 17th turnover leading to 20 Maryland points. Hmmm, five white starters, 3 black guys on the bench – uh, coach?

- Tomahawk dunk by Gist, he’s alive! At least he didn’t stand over the guy, flex his muscles and do a shimmy before getting back on defense (cough, cough). Terps up by 17 with 10 minutes to go…with that said, writing a real time article for such an outstanding game is not for me. It’s questionable whether or not I can bear to manage such a feat for Texas vs. Alcorn St. although Texas may start 5 freshmen so you never know (can't wait to see Kevin Durant). Jgshmesh!

Later, Deuce

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Deuce's 2006/07 Preseason College Basketball All-Americans

I'll keep it short and sweet, my first team All-American squad is comprised of your typical household names whereas I took a chance on some potential high-risers for my second and third teams.

1st Team

Tyler Hansbrough - C/PF (UNC)
Joakim Noah - C/PF (Florida)
Glen Davis - C/PF (LSU)
Brandon Rush - SF (Kansas)
Ronald Steele - PG (Alabama)

2nd Team

Aaron Gray - C (Pitt)
Nick Fazekas - PF (Nevada)
Alondo Tucker - SF (Wisconsin)
Morris Almond - SF (Rice)
Dominic James - PG (Marquette)

3rd Team

Josh McRoberts - C/PF (Duke)
Joseph Jones - PF (Texas A&M)
Jared Dudley - SF/PF (BC)
Chris Lofton - SG (Tennessee)
Aaron Afflalo - SG (UCLA)

Player of the Year: Tyler Hansbrough

Honorable Mention All-Americans: Richard Roby, Kevin Durant, Roy Hibbert, Malik Hairston, Marcus Williams, Jeff Green, Jermareo Davidson, Jarrius Jackson, Nate Funk, Julian Wright, Curtis Sumpter, Sean Singletary, Al Thornton

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Introducing The Lord Himself

The French know him as “le Demon,” in German he goes by “der Teufel” and when it’s all said and done, they call him “el Diablo” in Spanish country…Here at Sports Talk he simply refers to himself as “The Lord Himself.” In an age where privacy does matter, unless you have an affliction for public displays of humiliation, I will allow this man to remain anonymous, but do let me introduce a great friend, confidant, and the brother who suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome that I never had. As you will notice, Sports Talk has finally figured out the infant-like complexities of incorporating links to our homepage and out of curiosity, I’m sure some of you are wondering what “Sell the Knicks” is all about. Let me officially introduce The Lord Himself.

For the many years of friendship that we’ve shared, I don’t know any other human alive who absolutely lives his life by the success of the big three New York sports franchises: the Knicks, the Giants and the Yankees. He’s like a jock-strap to an athlete, a tampon to “mother nature,” a “muskrat” to a disabled person…he shows genuine support especially in times of need. However, there comes a crossroad in every man’s life when you have to ask yourself, do I continue to live my life in agony, or do I listen to Duke and throw in the towel before Apollo dies? As a New York sports fan, there is nothing that scorches my friends’ soul much like the embarrassment that tips off approximately 41 times a year at Madison Square Garden. The Lord Himself has finally come to that crossroad, and has admittedly listened to Duke.

His site,, is one man’s dedication, and I quote, “to the expediting of Isaiah’s departure, the advancement of the NBA’s marquee franchise, and anything NBA related.” Oh yeah, he’s also interested in matters related to your groin. I urge you to help The Lord Himself negatively reflect on what is forecasted to be an awful Knicks season and build enough momentum to finally get rid of Isaiah Thomas and owner Jim Dolan for good. Good night, good luck and be well, your resident basketball aficionado – Deuce.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

50 John R. Wooden Candidates, ARE YOU KIDDING ME???

The John R. Wooden Award is the most prestigious individual honor in college basketball, blah, blah, blah. If it’s so prestigious, then why do they select, or in better terms provide the goodwill of announcing an astounding 50 potential candidates?! In all honesty, when the selection committee announced the 50 candidates on October 25, what they were simply doing was boosting the confidence of a few players who fall under the national radar while at the same time embarrassing themselves by placing such players onto the same stage as a Tyler Hansbrough, Joakim Noah and Josh McRoberts. You’re telling me that in addition to the three athletes I previously mentioned that Caleb Green (huh?), Courtney Lee (what?) and Rodney Stuckey (wait...but…) might deserve the same recognition given to former award winner’s Larry Bird (’79), Michael Jordan (’84) and Tim Duncan (’97)? I quote myself while playing NCAA College Football (pick a year) on Playstation when the computer flawlessly drives down the field leaving me absolutely helpless, “Yeah, I Forgot.”

Since it’s creation in 1976, the John R. Wooden Award is bestowed upon the nation’s best player…hmmm, let me see here, the key words being Nation’s, Best and Player. Yup, in my mind I seriously think Loren Stokes of Hofstra University fits the bill – “Yeah, I Forgot.” What the Preseason National Selection Committee should do, in the words of Little John, is “keep it real” and focus on the top 10 candidates who have a realistic chance of winning the award. Now, all jokes and running sarcasm aside, I can’t agree more that the playing field in men’s college basketball has leveled out and created a parity of sorts with the rise of recent mid-major play; no one more than I enjoys seeing the likes of a George Mason rip-roar through Michigan State, North Carolina and UConn to play on the worlds greatest of stages. It’s a salute to the coaching and the massive hearts of the players, but unfortunately anyone would be crazy to think that the National Player of the Year will come from Southwest Wichita Southern at Missouri Pinebluff (my apologies to the historically all-black college that I just offended, I’m sure your fielding a great team in 07)!!!

In January 2007, the list of 50 will be trimmed to 30 followed by a national ballot in early March. On Tuesday, March 27, 2007, a 10-player Wooden Award All-American team will be announced and here is where I think the focus should be. Focus on those top 10 players in all of America based upon last year’s performance and individual team records – which is another rule I think is garbage considering a player such as Texas all-everything freshman, Kevin Durant, may be the next coming of the original Big Ticket – who have the chance to stand at the podium at the downtown Los Angeles Athletic Club (as opposed to the uptown location) on April 7, 2007. Now, without further ado, I present Duece’s Top 10 Preseason John R. Wooden Award Candidates in no particular order (and some fodder of the additional 40 candidates mentioned in the original list):

Corey Brewer – A dynamic 6-7 wing who serves as Florida’s Jack of all Trades, master of none (~ 13pts/5reb/3ast/2stl). Brewer has a motor that keeps going and is able to change the momentum of the game with his defensive. It certainly helps that two other Wooden candidates are teammates of Brewer.

Glen Davis – Big Baby did the smart thing by remaining an amateur for one more year to improve upon his overall game, not to mention working on putting down that extra cheeseburger or two! Davis bulldozed the Southeastern Conference (~ 18pts/10reb) and helped the Tigers upend Duke and Texas to get the Final Four. With the loss of several key cogs from last year’s team, defenses may collapse on Big Baby if his supporting cast cannot pick up the slack.

Nick Fazekas – Runs like Big Bird and jumps like Jarrod pre-Subway diet, but the two-time WAC player of the year can certainly fill it up (~ 22pts/10reb). He’s the only mid-major in quite some time to make the preseason Wooden list two years in a row and it will take a special effort from “Zeke” in 06-07 to make it to the podium.

Tyler Hansbrough – Psycho “T”, almost enough said. 19pts and 8reb’s a game…as a freshman! If this man-child can simply duplicate his efforts from 05-06 (26 and 8 vs. BC, 40 and10 vs. Ga. Tech, 27 and 10 at Duke against first round pick Sheldon Williams) while leading UNC far into the tournament, voting for the Wooden trophy will be just a formality.

Al Horford – The “other” big man who makes up one of the best frontcourts in the nation at Florida is at times lingering in Joakim Noah’s shadow. This baby-faced giant quietly averaged ~ 11pts and 8 reb a game for one of the more unselfish, high-profiled teams in the country. This year Horford will look to contribute more offensively while defenses focus his frontcourt counterpart.

Josh McRoberts – Despite playing third fiddle to J.J. Redick and Shelden Williams, McRoberts was considered a lock by many to forego his remaining eligibility and submit his name into the 2006 NBA Draft, but luckily for all true college basketball fans, he decided to stay. This year will hopefully be the year for McRoberts to showcase the talents that we were put on hold. He will have the gigantic burden of leading a very young Blue Devil team into treacherous waters; if he can somehow come close to averaging a high double-double and the Sweet 16, lookout!

Joakim Noah – The face of Gator basketball reminds me of a poor mans Sandra Bernhardt when it comes to looks; thank God that his looks don’t translate into his game-play! His best asset is his endless high energy, and not to quote Hubie Brown on draft night, but he also has great athleticism and length. He was consistent throughout 2006 but his true coming out party was in the big dance where he was able to showcase his talents against the best of the best. He’ll look to improve upon his ~13pts and 7rebs a game while leading the Gators to back to back titles.

Brandon Rush – The third Rush brother to hit the scene, Brandon appears to have the most promise of them all. The Big 12 freshman of the year averaged a team leading ~14pts and almost 6rebs a game, but unfortunately he returns with a bad taste in his mouth having barely showed up in the first round tournament loss to Bradley. The promising Jayhawks return all five starters and key bench players, and will look to Brandon to lead by example on the court.

Al Thornton – “Big Al” is just that in the biggest of games. Despite posting averages of ~ 16pts and 7rebs, Big Al was at his best against the biggest and best teams (37/ and 6 vs. BC, 21 and12 vs. Va. Tech., 37 and 15 and 26 and 6 vs. Duke, and 27 and 12 vs. Maryland). This senior all everything swingman could be the key to leading the Seminoles back to the NCAA tournament after getting snubbed by the selection committee last year.

Julian Wright – Is he a power forward, is he a small forward, is he a point forward...who knows? His situation was similar to that of Josh McRoberts where as a freshman he was not the teams first, second or even third option, yet he was almost able to post a double-double without having any plays called in his name. He has great perimeter skills and Bill Self’s plan was to play Wright on the wing this year, but with the recent dismissal of center C.J. Giles and the injury to Sasha Kaun, Wright will be called upon to pick up the slack in the frontcourt.

The others on the preseason Wooden award candidate list with ZERO chance:

Aaron Afflalo – Not even the best player on his team
De’Angelo Alexander – Um, no
Morris Almond – Potential first team All-American but plays for the Rice Owls
Jon Brockman – In the Eric Montross mold and I don’t believe Montross won this award
Jamar Butler – Once Greg Odom’s wrist heals, Butler will be second, third or fourth fiddle.
Coleman Collins – Great competitor who plays with passion, but not a sexy pick
JamesOn Curry – This former drugs salesman has cleaned up his life, but struggled his sophomore year; don’t expect a big turnaround in 07
Jermareo Davidson – Best player on the Tide goes to Richard Steele
Jared Dudley – Still not sure how he does it year after year
Aaron Gray – Big stiff, a better version of Chris Burgess
Jeff Green – Will share the stage with Roy Hibbert
Roy Hibbert – Will share the stage with Jeff Green
Caleb Green – Do you really want to give an award to a guy who attends a school beginning with the word “Oral?”
Malik Hairston – Underachiever on an underachieving team
Adam Haluska – Wait, isn’t this guy white?
Lamont Hamilton – He attends St. Johns, enough said
Brandon Heath – Not enough publicity
Jarrius Jackson – Ahhh, haaa…you just got suspended!!!
Dominic James – Possibly the second best point guard in the country, but not quite there yet
Joseph Jones – New a kid named Joe Jones in undergrad
Acie Law – I fought the law and law did not win
Courtney Lee – Stop, please…my side hurts from laughing
Chris Lofton – Excellent shooter, but close to being one-dimensional
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute – Moute kicks booty, but this award will have to wait a year!
Sammy Mejia – The pride of the Pride, but come on, it’s the pride
David Padgett – Returning from major knee surgery and may not return to his old form, which wasn’t that great to begin with
Brian Randle – (Cricket noise)
Richard Roby – One dimensional shooting guard with little or chance to ever win the award
Blake Schlib – First of all, you’re name is Blake, second…well,
Mustafa Shakur – “You’re going to ask yourself, is today the day…is today Jimmy Shaker day?”
Sean Singletary – Does dysentary rhyme with singletary?
Jason Smith – Tall goofy white guy, forget it
Ronald Steele – Best point guard in the nation, but not a sexy enough choice
Loren Stokes – see Sammy Mejia
Rodney Stuckey (E. Washington)
Kammron Taylor – This Chris Rock look-alike is a nice roll player to Alondo Tucker
Alondo Tucker – Honorable mention for the top 10 list, if this were a top 11 list, he’d certainly make the cut
Rayshawn Terry – Not even the second or third best player on an extremely deep UNC team
Ayinde Ubaka – god bless you!
Marcus Williams – Excellent wing player with a bright future, but is probably one year away from being a serious award candidate