Thursday, January 31, 2008

Game-Planning 11: Early Edition

After a one-week hiatus, the Game-Planning blog is back. I decided to forego writing it due to being very busy this past week with school, and I also considered that not many people would care about much outside of the Super Bowl.

Now, I guess it depends on how you interpret matters such as this, but to me this would be an early edition of Game-Planning, right? Or are you considering this late from last week? Nonetheless, it's here and I have some great game to break down for you. But first, I would like to tell you have I have fared with my predictions so far this season. I will say that I'm pretty sure I did better than Dan's Ravens-Eagles SB prediction. Overall, I have posted a solid 33-16 record on my predictions. I have had a winning record in all but two weeks and have made beautiful upset calls such as Texas beating UCLA, Villanova over Pitt, and West Virginia over Marquette to name a few.

However, I have been wrong on more than a few occasions as well. Most notably, I was dead wrong in thinking Indiana would defeat UConn and I admit it was a terrible predictions. (There ya go, Tracy) I was also wrong in picking Clemson to upset my favorite team, Duke. This in no way means that I will stop being wrong though as that is what makes bloggers like myself so popular. Anyway, without any furthur adieu (that's how it's spelled; not ado, Nomarfan)...

1st Quarter- #2 Duke at #3 North Carolina

I thought I would start this edition of Game-Planning off with a bang heading down Tobacco Road to the greatest rivalry in all of college basketball. You have no right calling yourself a basketball fan unless you tune in to watch this game. In my opinion, Duke has no choice but to shut down Tyler Hansbrough or they lose this game. That is much easier said than done though as the Blue Devils have not featured a solid big man all year. Look for the Tar Heels to get Lance Thomas in foul trouble very early similar to what Maryland did.

Both of these teams love to get out and run so expect to see a score in the 80s by the end of this one. Duke is led by DeMarcus Nelson (15 pts, 6 reb, 3 ast), Gerald Henderson (14 pts, 5 reb, 2 ast), and Greg Paulus (10 pts, 2 reb, 4 ast). UNC, on the other hand, is led by Hansbrough (22 pts, 10 reb, 1 ast), Wayne Ellington (17 pts, 4 reb, 2 ast), and Ty Lawson (14 pts, 3 reb, 6 ast).

The big matchup that I want to watch in this game is Paulus against Lawson. These two are both fantastic players coming off great games. Lawson had 16 points, 10 assists, and 3 steals the other night against Boston College. Paulus is averaging 19 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals in his last two games against NC State and Miami.

By 11:30 on Wednesday night we will know the winner of this game. I am picking the North Carolina Tar Heels. Duke's lack of a good interior presence will doom them in this one. Make sure you tune in on Wednesday, February 6th at 9pm eastern time on ESPN.

2nd Quarter- #11 Indiana at Illinois

You may be asking yourself what the big deal is with this game, right? Let me explain. Eric Gordon, the Hoosiers' star, committed to home-state Illinois before backing out and deciding to play for rival Indiana. Last time these teams met, the Hoosiers got the better of the Fighting Illini by four points at home. This time, however, they will be going on the road into Illinois where Gordon will most likely be verbally abused by the student body in Champaign.

Indiana is led by Gordon (21 pts, 3 reb, 3 ast) and D.J. White (17 pts, 11 reb, 1 ast) who, as I mentioned before in my blogs, combine to form one of the better inside-outside tandems in the entire nation. Trying to stop them will be Illinois, who is led by Shaun Pruitt (13 pts, 8 reb, 1 ast), Trent Meacham (11 pts, 2 reb, 3 ast), and Brian Randle (10 pts, 6 reb, 1 ast).

The key to this game will be how Gordon responds to all the despise among the home crowd and whether the Illini will be able to keep White off the boards. All that pressure is tough for a freshman and Pruitt, with the help of his teammates, is more than capable of stopping White. I say Illinois takes the W in this one. Make sure you tune in to watch Thursday, February 7 at 9pm eastern time on ESPN.

The Halftime Show

During this segment of The Halftime Show, I will be talking about the Final Four. As I see it now, Memphis, Kansas, North Carolina, and UCLA are all near the top of my list of the best teams in the nation this year. However, Texas, Duke, Tennessee, and Michigan State are not far behind. After that, you have the sleeper teams such as Texas A&M, Baylor, Kansas State, and Xavier that could always make a nice tournament run come March.

Anyway, my midseason Final Four choices are North Carolina, Memphis, Michigan State, and either Kansas State or Xavier. I'm not quite sure on the last pick. I'm thinking it will be one of those last four teams though. I like Xavier's chances just because they have a fantastic ball handler to rely on late in games in Drew Lavender. I also chose the Spartans because of the dynamic inside-outside duo they feature in Drew Neitzel and Raymar Morgan that many, many teams will have trouble matching up with. Tom Izzo definitely has the experience to know what he's doing.

Memphis and UNC were fairly easy picks. Both are having great seasons and have very good chances at #1 seeds, especially the Tigers. The other four teams rounding out the Elite Eight will be Duke, Texas, UCLA, and once again either Xavier or Kansas State. Nonetheless, we still have over a month of basketball to play before the regular season wraps up and the seedings for the tournaments are announced. Enjoy watching all the great basketball until then.

3rd Quarter- USC at #17 Washington State

Washington State, in my humble opinion, is one of the most overrated teams in college basketball. It was one of my easier predictions in calling their loss to UCLA earlier this year. They are led by Derrick Low (14 pts, 1 reb, 2 ast), Kyle Weaver (12 pts, 5 reb, 4 ast), and Aron Baynes (11 pts, 6 reb, 0 ast). The Cougars will be facing the Bruins yet again on Thursday and expect the same result.

USC, on the other hand, is led by freshman OJ Mayo (20 pts, 5 reb, 3 ast), who I have already spent time writing about why I am not a fan, and Davon Jefferson (13 pts, 6 reb, 1 ast). This is a team that lost their first game of the season to Mercer by FIFTEEN points! They have come a long way since then though with impressive wins over Southern Illinois, Oklahoma, and Washington and close losses to Kansas and Memphis by four.

The last time these two teams met Wazzou won by 15 points. In that game, the Trojans shot from the free throw line only four times compared to the Cougars' eighteen attempts. USC also had thirteen turnovers to WSU's 7. (If it matters, five of those thirteen were supplied by Mayo.) In conclusion, USC can win this game if they limit their turnovers and get to the line early and often.

Do I see that happening against a very disciplined team such as Wazzou? No. That's the exact reason as to why I'm picking Washington State in this one. Make sure you tune in Saturday, February 9th at 3:30pm eastern time on ABC.

4th Quarter- #6 Georgetown at Louisville

If you're a fan of my posts you'll now that I don't think the Hoyas are as great as everyone is chalking them up to be. Roy Hibbert is vastly overrated as he was shut down and held to only six rebounds against the undersized Memphis frontcourt not too long ago. They are led by Hibbert (13 pts, 7 reb, 2 ast), DaJuan Summers (11 pts, 6 reb, 2 ast), and Jessie Sapp (10 pts, 4 reb, 4 ast). They are currently 8-1 in Big East play.

Louisville is one of favorite teams to do very well in the Big East and NCAA tournaments. They are peaking at just the right time with back-to-back wins over Rutgers by 37 and Marquette by 14. The Cardinals are headed by many players as they have five players averaging at least ten points per game but none averaging more than thirteen. They have a balanced attack under Coach Rick Pitino who, like many of his past teams, loves to play with pressure defense on the opponent.

Honestly, I think G'Town will lose this one to the surging Cards of Louisville. The score in this game will probably get up in the 70s or 80s so it should be fun to watch. The game will be shown Saturday, February 9th at 9pm eastern time on ESPN.

Overtime- Clemson at #3 North Carolina

I focused much of the First Quarter segment on the Tar Heels so Overtime will be used to talk about Clemson and the last time these two teams met. The Tigers are led by K.C. Rivers (15 pts, 7 reb, 2 ast), who is one of five players on Clemson's roster that averages 11 or more points per game. The other key player for them will be Trevor Booker. He, along with the rest of the frontcourt, will have the job of stopping arguably the best big man in the nation, Tyler Hansbrough.

The last time these teams played it was a hard fought battle in the Littlejohn Coliseum. Clemson ended up losing by two but if not for a defensive lapse at the end, Wayne Ellington doesn't get such a good game-winning shot. Another reason the Tigers lost that game was their free throw shooting. I just read an article in my local paper this week about the poor free throw shooting going around nowadays. Where has it gone? Clemson shot 14-27 against UNC last time while the Heels were 24-30 that game.

I'm going with the upset in this one. After defeating Duke on Wednesday, North Carolina will let their guard down just long enough for Clemson to sneak in and take the victory in Chapel Hill. This game can be seen Sunday, February 10th at 6:30pm eastern time on FSN.

Double Overtime- #4 Kansas at #12 Texas

After predicting the Longhorns' upset of UCLA, I seriously considered making them my pick to win it all. Since then, however, it has been a roller coaster ride for Texas. They dropped two straight and three out of five games to Michigan State by six, Wisconsin by one, and Mizzou by thirteen. Texas then followed it up by winning their next three games before getting their asses handed to them by Texas A&M. I do believe they are on the up again, and their handling Baylor very nicely on the second of February proves it. (Baylor is my dark horse pick for the NCAA Tournament.) In that game, D.J. Augustin didn't play that well. I think that shows that this team relies on more than just their one playmaker.

Texas is led by Augustin (20 pts, 3 reb, 6 ast) and A.J. Abrams (17 pts, 3 reb, 2 ast). They also receive much-needed contributions from Damion James (13 pts, 11 reb) and Connor Atchley (11 pts, 6 reb) down low. They will be going up against the 22-1 Kansas Jayhawks, who are spearheaded by Darrell Arthur (13 pts, 6 reb, 1 ast), Brandon Rush (13 pts, 5 reb, 2 ast), Darnell Jackson (13 pts, 7 reb, 1 ast), and Mario Chalmers (12 pts, 3 reb, 5 ast).

Kansas has a very tough game against Baylor on Saturday before having to travel to Austin to play this game. I do not see the Jayhawks winning both games. That is why I'll be picking the Texas Longhorns to win this game. Kansas won't be able to shut down all of Texas's weapons and it will cost them. Make sure you tune in to watch Monday, February 11th at 9pm eastern time on ESPN.

The Postgame Video Vault

That's it for this week's Early Edition of Game-Planning. I will be back with more next week. Enjoy your day!

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Poll Result- Which team is currently the best in the NBA? 50% of voters thought it was the L.A. Lakers while 25% agreed on it being the Boston Celtics. The Suns and Hornets also drew 12% of the vote each.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Game-Planning 10

Many of you will be lying around this weekend with nothing to do. You'll be feeling sorry for yourself even though you have absolutely no control over what weekends will feature football. This weekend, sadly, does not. On the flip side, that gives you all the more reason to watch college basketball (or you could try some other ideas that Mac thought of). So here are the games that you should check out...

1st Quarter- Gonzaga at Memphis

Winner: Memphis

Why They'll Win: I'm predicting a Tiger win to keep the undefeated season alive. This is really their last tough game before the big showdown against the highly-ranked Tennessee Volunteers. Memphis is led by Chris Douglas-Roberts (17 pts, 5 reb, 2 ast), Derrick Rose (14 pts, 4 reb, 4 ast), and Joey Dorsey (7 pts, 10 reb). They are currently ranked #1 in both polls and they've only been in one game that they won by less than ten points. The Tigers are a scoring machine as they have scored at least 90 points on five occasions and average 81 points per game. They shoot 36% from deep and 47% from the field. Now, I've said it all year long and I'll say it again: free throw shooting will be the death of this team. They shoot a terrible 59% from the charity stripe. Concerning Gonzaga, they're led by Matt Bouldin (15 pts, 4 reb, 3 ast), Josh Heytvelt (12 pts, 5 reb), and Jeremy Pargo (11 pts, 4 reb, 6 ast). The Bulldogs were ranked at the beginning of the season but have fallen out of the top 25 due to their four losses to Texas Tech, Washington State, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. They, too, average a good amount of points per game with an average of 76. I expect this game to be highly competitive and very high scoring.

When To Watch: Saturday, January 26th at noon eastern time on ESPN.

2nd Quarter- Doubleheader

Game 1: UConn at Indiana

Winner: Indiana

Why They'll Win: The Hoosiers are ranked #7 and the Huskies are unranked, but don't think that means this game will be easy for Indiana. We've already seen UConn give Memphis, Gonzaga, Georgetown, and Marquette trouble. They even posted a nice victory over Cincinatti. They're led by Jeff Adrien (14 pts, 9 reb, 2 ast), A.J. Price (14 pts, 4 reb, 6 ast), and Hasheem Thabeet (11 pts, 8 reb). Indiana is led by the inside-outside tandem of D.J. White (17 pts, 10 reb) and Eric Gordon (22 pts, 3 reb, 2 ast) and will be the two that UConn needs to keep in check. If they dont, the Huskies have no shot at winning this one.

When To Watch: Saturday, January 26th at 1pm eastern time on CBS.


Game 2: Washington at Arizona

Winner: Arizona

Why They'll Win: The 11-7 Huskies will travel to Arizona to face the 12-6 Wildcats in what should be a very good game. I'm picking Arizona for two reasons in this game and it doesn't have much to do with team talent because they're too close to choose. Washington is 1-2 on the road and Arizona is 7-2 at home. Therefore, my winner will be the team that plays well at home. Nonetheless, Washington's leader is Jon Brockman (19 pts, 12 reb), who I think is one of the more underrated big men in the nation this year. Arizona is led by a trio of players in Jerryd Bayless (19 pts, 3 reb, 4 ast), Chase Budinger (17 pts, 6 reb, 3 ast), and Jordan Hill (14 pts, 8 reb).

When To Watch: Saturday, January 26th at 3pm eastern time on FSN.

Halftime Thoughts-

CollegeHoops.Net's Hot Topic of the Week: Mississippi State's winning streak is what has everyone buzzing right now. I'll be honest and admit that I don't know a whole lot about this team; I did, however, decide to do some research. The Bulldogs are 4-0 in the SEC and have won all of their past eight games. Their best player is probably Jamont Gordon, who averages 18 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists per game. Mississippi State is not a very good three-point shooting team though (33%) and are an even worse free throw shooting team (60%). I don't see this team getting all that far in March but this is definitely a team to watch.

3rd Quarter- Texas Tech at Texas

Winner: Texas

Why They'll Win: Quite frankly, the Longhorns aren't as good as I thought they were. Yes, D.J. Augustin (21 pts, 3 reb, 6 ast) and A.J. Abrams (18 pts, 3 reb, 1 ast) are very, very talented in the backcourt, BUT Connor Atchley, their big guy, is somewhat reminiscent of Mehmet Okur in the way he prefers to stand out by the three-point line and shoot from there, which could be the main reason he only averages 6 rebounds per game. Nonetheless, Texas has won their last two games by two points each time over Oklahoma State and Colorado. They are a surprising 3-1 against ranked teams while the Red Raiders are 2-2 against those ranked in the top 25. Bobby Knight's team is led by Martin Zeno (17 pts, 5 reb, 3 ast), Alan Voskuil (13 pts, 4 reb), and John Roberson (12 pts, 3 reb, 3 ast). The bad news about these three is that they are all guards. That is the reason Texas will win this game. The Longhorns don't really have a solid post presence but neither does Texas Tech.

When To Watch: Saturday, January 26th at 8pm eastern time on SNY.

4th Quarter- Duke at Maryland

Winner: Duke

Why They'll Win: I know my choice may seem like a homer pick but it really isn't. The last time I picked a team that gave UNC trouble to beat Duke I was wrong (see Duke-Clemson), and I've learned from my mistakes. The difficulty in picking this game is very great though. You don't know which Maryland team will come to play on any given day. Will it be the team that knocked off #1 North Carolina? Or will it be the team that lost to Virginia Commonwealth, Ohio, and American University? Thoughts aside, the Terrapins are led by Greivis Vasquez (17 pts, 5 reb, 6 ast) and James Gist (15 pts, 8 reb). As for Duke, they will suffocate the Maryland guards on defense and they won't stop attacking when on offense. Look for the Blue Devils to get Gist in foul trouble very early on. This will negate any frontcourt advantage Maryland had coming into the game. Duke is led by DeMarcus Nelson (14 pts, 6 reb, 3 ast), Kyle Singler (13 pts, 6 reb), and Gerald Henderson (13 pts, 5 reb, 2 ast). This should be one of the better games of the weekend.

When To Watch: Sunday, January 27th at 6:30pm eastern time on FSN.

Overtime- Villanova at Pitt

Winner: Villanova

Why They'll Win: I am not impressed by this Pitt team at all and apparently neither are other coaches. The Panthers are ranked 17th in the Coaches' Poll and have lost both Levance Fields and Mike Cook to injury. They are now led by freshman DeJuan Blair (12 pts, 9 reb) and Sam Young (19 pts, 7 reb). Due to the injuries I mentioned a sentence or two ago, Pitt is without a playmaker on offense. Ronald Ramon is the only other possible option for that position. If 'Nova actually won this game, it would be considered an upset according to the polls, but not an upset in my mind. Yes, they have three conference losses already, but they've posted nice wins over Pitt earlier in the year and Syracuse at the Carrier Dome. The Wildcats are led by the super sophomore, Scottie Reynolds (17 pts, 3 reb, 4 ast), and the junior, Dante Cunningham (11 pts, 7 reb). Those two form one of the better inside-outside tandems in the country along with Neitzel-Morgan of MSU and Gordon-White of Indiana.

When To Watch: Wednesday, January 30th at 7pm eastern time on ESPNU.

Double Overtime- Texas at Texas A&M

Winner: Texas A&M

Why They'll Win: I already explained the Longhorns earlier in this post so I'll spend most of this blog space writing about the Aggies of Texas A&M. Simply put, A&M will win if they get DeAndre Jordan the ball inside and Joseph Jones has a decent game because, as I mentioned before, Texas lacks a solid interior player. My main concern is that Turgeon's squad has lost each of their last three games to Baylor, Kansas State, and Texas Tech. My question is when will we see the A&M team that won 15 of their first 16 games of the season with wins over Ohio State and Washington? Finally, they are led by Josh Carter (14 pts, 4 reb, 2 ast), Joseph Jones (11 pts, 5 reb), and DeAndre Jordan (10 pts, 7 reb).

When To Watch: Wednesday, January 30th at 9pm eastern time on ESPN2.

That would be the end of this week's edition of Game-Planning. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it. Here's a video to pass the time between now and the Gonzaga/Memphis game...

Have a good weekend, everyone!

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Game-Planning 9

As many of you already know, basketball is the basis of my life. Everything I do and think about revolves around the sport that Dr. James Naismith invented over a century ago. So believe me when I say that I was quite upset in missing BOTH the North Carolina/Georgia Tech and Duke/Florida State games the other night. Nonetheless, I try to be optimistic in my life so I decided to get a head start on the upcoming marquee matchups by breaking them down for your enjoyment.

Author's Note: Every time you see a link to the phrase "per game", you should click on it. It will take you to a blog that I've read on recently that held was very good in my opinion.

1st Quarter- Villanova at Syracuse

Winner: Villanova

Why They'll Win: The Wildcats of Villanova are ranked 25th in the most recent AP poll and are led by Scottie Reynolds, who averages 17 points, 3 rebounds, and 4 assists per game. This team doesn't really have a true center to rely on. However, Syracuse doesn't have a dominant big man either. This game will be a matchup of very good backcourts. I'm still contemplating as to whether Eric Devendorf's absence will hurt or help the Orange. The majority of people would say hurt because of his experience and scoring (17 per game), but you can't forget that at times he would hog the ball out on the court. I always looked at him as a negative influence on the team (I'm sure many would disagree with that assumption). Regarding Syracuse, they're led by the fantastic freshmen duo of Donte Green (19 pts, 8 reb, 2 ast) and Jonny Flynn (15 pts, 2 reb, 5 ast) who, by the way, recovered nicely from his weak performance in the NIT game I attended and saw him play in. Notwithstanding, I still think 'Nova takes the win in this one. Syracuse has unimpressed me with their play against so many mediocre teams such as West Virginia, Cincinnati, and Massachusetts.

When To Watch: Saturday, January 19th on ESPN at noon eastern time.

2nd Quarter- Ohio State at Tennessee

Winner: Tennessee

Why They'll Win: You probably know that I've picked against the Volunteers quite a bit in my previous eight editions of this blog but I'm threw with all of that. This team is very good even if Chris Lofton isn't having the season everyone was expecting him to have. They're led by JaJuan Smith (15 pts, 3 reb, 3 ast), Lofton (14 pts, 3 reb, 3 ast), and Tyler Smith (13 pts, 6 reb, 4 ast). They've posted nice wins over Xavier and Gonzaga. As a team, Tennessee shoots 35% from deep and 47% from the field. Their Achilles' heel would definitely have to be their shooting 67% from the line. Worth mentioning are the six players scoring at least nine points per game. The Buckeyes, meanwhile, are coming off a 6-point loss to the highly-ranked Spartans of Michigan State. They're led by Jamar Butler (15 pts, 4 reb, 6 ast) and Kosta Koufos (14 pts, 7 reb). Ohio State has defeated Syracuse by fourteen and Florida by thirteen.

When To Watch: Saturday, January 19th at 3:30pm eastern time on CBS.

Halftime Thoughts-

A must-read for college hoops' fans is Grant Wahl's annual "Magic Eight". In it, he says why the Tar Heels will NOT be cutting down the nets this year. He also tells how one of the eight teams in the article WILL be winning it all. Of those are Kansas, Memphis, and Xavier to name a few.

CollegeHoops.Net's Hot Topic: This was an interesting choice this week. It's called Sleeper of the Century and it tells, using advanced statistics, who some of the best freshmen in the country are. You'll be surprised who's #2...

I'm pretty sure I called it. Washington State doesn't have nearly as good a team as UCLA. They were not as good as many had presumed. Their defensive stats were nothing but overrated due to their weak schedule. This team will be lucky if they make it to the Sweet Sixteen.

3rd Quarter- Texas A&M at Kansas State

Winner: Texas A&M

Why They'll Win: The Aggies are currently ranked tenth in the AP poll and are led by Josh Carter (13 pts, 4 reb, 2 ast), Joseph Jones (11 pts, 5 reb, 2 ast), and DeAndre Jordan (10 pts, 7 reb). They're coming off a loss to Texas Tech and that will be all the more reason to pick against Kansas State on Saturday. That was only their second loss of the season--the first one coming to Arizona. They have seven players averaging seven points per game, each one having no more than 13. A&M shoots 39% from long-range and 51% from the field. However, they shoot a paltry 61% from the free throw line, but Kansas State isn't much better at 68%. They also shoot considerably worse from deep at 31%. The Wildcats are led by Michael Beasley (25 pts, 13 reb) and Bill Walker (16 pts, 7 reb, 2 ast). They've gotten nice wins over Cal and Oklahoma yet have losses to teams such as George Mason and Notre Dame (no offense, IrishR#1).

When To Watch: Saturday, January 19th at 4pm eastern time on ESPN.

4th Quarter- Clemson at Duke

Winner: Clemson

Why They'll Win: It pains me to think that Duke isn't going to win this game. I'll root for them, but their lack of a great post player will definitely hurt them in this game. That's my main reason for choosing Clemson. It will be close with no team going ahead by more than six or eight points. Clemson is currently ranked 24th in the AP poll and are coming off a 16-point victory over NC State. Their only loss this season has been to #1 North Carolina by only two points. They're led by K.C. Rivers (15 pts, 7 reb, 2 ast) and Trevor Booker (13 pts, 9 reb, 2 ast); all of the Tigers' starters average AT LEAST eleven points per game. The Blue Devils, on the other hand, don't feature a solid post presence and are led by DeMarcus Nelson (14 pts, 6 reb, 3 ast), Gerald Henderson (13 pts, 5 reb, 2 ast), and Kyle Singler (13 pts, 6 reb, 2 ast). Duke will most likely play stifling man-to-man defense the entire game but when Clemson starts pounding the ball inside, it will be very difficult for the Dukies to pull ahead even on their home court. Duke shoots 39% from three-point range, 69% from the stripe, and 48% from the field.

When To Watch: Saturday, January 19th at 6pm eastern time on ESPN.

Overtime- Dayton at Xavier

Winner: Xavier

Why They'll Win: I knew I had to break down a Xavier game soon or else Tracy would send a search party out to come and kill me so here it is. The Flyers, who are ranked 14th, are led by Brian Roberts (20 pts, 3 reb, 5 ast) and Chris Wright (10 pts, 6 reb); they've defeated ranked teams such as Louisville, Pittsburgh, and Rhode Island. Their only has been to George Mason by nine points early on in the season. The downside is that Dayton has a NEGATIVE assist-to-turnover ratio. The Musketeers have a decent 1.3/1 assist-to-turnover ratio and are led by Drew Lavender (12 pts, 2 reb, 5 ast) and B.J. Raymond (12 pts, 4 reb). They are ranked 20th in both polls and have four losses to Miami of Ohio by two, Arizona State by twenty-two, Tennessee by seven, and Temple by nineteen. In my opinion, Dayton is a little overrated and I'm going with the upset pick in this one. Drew Lavender will literally pick their defense apart. Xavier averages nearly 80 points per game.

When To Watch: Thursday, January 24th at 8pm eastern time on CSTV.

And that will do it for this week's edition of Game-Planning. If you didn't notice, there are four great games on Saturday that you won't want to miss. Besides, you need something to relieve the stress of midterm examinations. Have a great weekend!

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The NBA...In January

Yes, this is the blog in which I'll tell you who the best of the best are in the League as well as mentioning the most MVP-worthy players of the 2007-2008 season. Anyways, there were some great finishes yesterday in the NBA. John Salmons had a game-winning runner for the Kings and Kobe had a game-winning pull-up J for the Lakers. So in the spirit of it all I found a YouTube video of Kobe Bryant Game Winners. Back to the actual premise of the blog though...

The STRONGER Rankings

1. Los Angeles Lakers (26-11) - Now I am a Suns fan but I'll admit that the Lakers are definitely for real. They're tied with my team, Phoenix, for the division lead and are riding a 7-game win streak. LA are also 9-1 in their last ten games. They haven't lost in the month of January. In those past seven wins, however, they've defeated their opponents by an average of 14.3 points including a win over New Orleans by 29. And, trust me when I say this, the Lakers are not a one-man show. Lamar Odom, Andrew Bynum, Derek Fisher, and Jordan Farmar average a combined 48.2 points per game.

2. Dallas Mavericks (26-12) - The Mavs are only one game back of the Spurs as I type this and have pulled out wins in seven of their last eight games, which included wins over Atlanta and Detroit. Dirk and Josh Howard are averaging 22 and 20 points respectively; Jason Terry and Devin Harris aren't too bad either averaging 15 and 14 points apiece. A marquee matchup coming soon will be Dallas against the Lakers on January 25th. Alas, it is not on cable TV.

3. Boston Celtics (30-6) - The Celts have dropped two games in a row and three of their last four! What is up? Well, I suppose it's worth mentioning that they haven't scored more than 86 points in those four games. What bothers me even more is WHO they have suffered losses to. That would be the Wizards...twice and the Bobcats once. They should get back on their feet by the end of the week as they have both the Sixers and Knicks coming up on their schedule.

4. Phoenix Suns (26-11) - I tried to be unbiased in putting these guys fourth. The Suns are 7-3 in their last ten games. Recently, they've lost to Utah and New Orleans and have defeated Denver. This season Phoenix is 0-2 versus the #1-ranked Lakers. On the flip side, it's been a truly collective effort for this team as six players are averaging double figures in points. Back to addressing negatives though, they are being outrebounded by an average of 47-41 and that could definitely be this team's downfall come April/May/June (the playoffs are long!).

5. New Orleans Hornets (25-12) - Even if the Hornets don't get a high enough seed to get home court advantage, they'll still win. That is why this team is #5. They have the second-best road record in the NBA at 15-5 and are 8-2 in their last ten games. They don't have a particularly difficult schedule coming up either. The Blazers are the only tough foe in their next five games. After that, however, they'll have to go on the road to San Antonio for a divisional matchup.

MVPs- 35 to 40 Games In

1. Kobe Bryant - Sorry, you're probably getting tired of seeing all the Lakers atop these lists, aren't you? Yet can you possibly justify not putting him here? He's averaging 28 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists (which are all above his career averages, by the way) for the NBA's #1 team. If it matters, he shoots 86% from the line.

2. LeBron James - Does someone have any clue as to why LBJ is SEVENTH in's Race to the MVP? I sure as hell don't. Yes, his team is only 18-17 but his team is playing well again as they've won seven of their last nine games. As for King James, he's putting up crazy-good numbers: 29 ppg, 8 rpg, 8 apg. Unless the Cavs fail to make the playoffs, he should finish in the top three of MVP voting.

3. Dwight Howard - The Magic's center is averaging a cool 23 points, 15 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 2 assists per contest. In his last three games he's scored 66 points and grabbed 45 rebounds. He's been held to less than 10 rebounds only FOUR times all season so don't expect to stop this guy from hitting the boards hard every single game.

4. Chris Paul - CP3 is playing better than any other point guard in America right now (sorry, Nash) while averaging 22 points, 10 assists, 4 rebounds, and 3 steals. He also shoots 37% from beyond the arc, 88% from the line, and 48% from the field. And did I mention the Hornets are 25-12?

5. Kevin Garnett - Anyone that lives north of New York is probably thinking to himself/herself, "What is this guy doing? Does he even watch basketball?" I got news for you: stats like his aren't as impressive when he plays in one of the weakest divisions, the weaker conference, and with two other amazing basketball players. As of today, KG is averaging 19 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks. To the contrary, he's only had 15 rebounds in the last two games, both of which were against the Wizards and were losses for Boston.

In conclusion, I've realized that after reading this, 90% of people on the West Coast will absolutely love me. There's always next time though. But, to remind you, I wrote a blog similar to this one a little over a month ago and here were my lists way back when:

1. Spurs (New Rank: 6)
2. Suns (4)
3. Magic (9)
4. Celtics (3)
5. Hornets (5)

1. Dwight Howard (New Rank: 3)
2. LeBron James (2)
3. Kevin Garnett (5)
4. Allen Iverson (7)
5. Steve Nash (8)

That's all for now. Have a good week (if you can).

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Poll Result: 87% of voters deemed that the Tar Heels of North Carolina are unworthy of the top spot in the poll due to their recent play. However, 12% thought that as long as they were winning they should stay at #1.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Game-Planning 8: Midterm Edition

I know that a lot of the people reading this blog are current students so I will not disappoint and will aptly name this the Midterm Edition of Game-Planning. Yeah, I know all of you nerds (shout out to chrono) are exempt but I don't want to hear it. After you're done reading this blog, you should go hit the books. Admit it, you are amidst the wonderful procrastination stage of your studying for exams. Anyways, I don't want to get in the way of the process so I'll just start the part of the blog people like to read.

1st Quarter- NC State at North Carolina

Winner: North Carolina

Why They'll Win: The favorite will win this game, but not by as big a margin as many are predicting. This will be a very close game. The Wolfpack are 11-3 currently and are led by freshman J.J. Hickson (17 pts, 8 reb), senior Gavin Grant (14 pts, 5 reb, 3 ast), and sophomore Brandon Costner (11 pts, 6 reb, 2 ast). They defeated a tough Villanova team on the road and took down mid-major Davidson by one point at home. Embarrassing are their losses to New Orleans and East Carolina. NC State shoots a below average 30% from deep, 71% from the charity stripe, and 46% from the field. Being led by a freshman to go up against the #1 team in the country doesn't sound all that good to me, which is why I chose UNC to win this one. The Tar Heels are an undefeated 16-0 (coincidence with the Patriots record, I swear) and are #1 in both the AP and ESPN/USA Today polls. They're led by Tyler Hansbrough (22 pts, 10 reb), Wayne Ellington (18 pts, 4 reb, 2 ast), and Ty Lawson (14 pts, 3 reb, 6 ast). Sadly (or joyously for Duke fans), they've been stumbling as of late. After leaving the state of South Carolina with a not-so-convincing victory over Clemson, UNC proceeded to defeat North only twelve points.

When To Watch: Saturday, January 12th on ESPN at noon eastern time.

2nd Quarter- Washington St. at UCLA

Winner: UCLA

Why They'll Win: Washington State, in my opinion, is the most overrated team in the top ten and this game will prove that. I'm saying the Bruins will take this game by a minimum of 12 points. The Cougars are led by Derrick Low (13 pts, 2 reb, 1 ast), Kyle Weaver (12 pts, 5 reb, 4 ast), and Aron Baynes (12 pts, 7 reb). Their "big" notable win? That would be their win over Gonzaga. They've had close games with Air Force, Baylor, and Washington. Washington State shoots 34% from long range, 77% from the free throw line, and 50% from the field. UCLA, however, is one of the better teams in the country and is poised to make a deep run come tourney time. They're led by freshman sensation Kevin Love (17 pts, 10 reb, 2 ast), Josh Shipp (15 pts, 3 reb, 3 ast), and Darren Collison (12 pts, 3 reb, 4 ast). They have impressive wins over Stanford, Davidson, Michigan State, and Maryland. Their only loss came at the hands of Texas on a last second lay-up.

When To Watch: Saturday, January 12th on FSN at 2:30pm eastern time.

Halftime Thoughts-

In the new power rankings by Luke Winn of, he put Memphis first, North Carolina second, and Kansas third. For RIGHT NOW, there couldn't be a more perfect top three. He definitely hit the nail on the head. However, I do think he has Tennessee a bit too high at number four, but I digress...'s Hot Topic of the Week: The top fifteen in the nation is what has this particular message board buzzing as if it's a bee's nest in the summer. The person who posted had Kansas first, UCLA second, Memphis third, and UNC fourth. Some other interesting choices were Xavier at 9 and West Virginia at 15, both of which I think are too high for them as of now. I would like to hear your opinion on it.

My next topic of discussion has absolutely nothing to do with today's college basketball. Instead, we're going back a few years to talk about the greatest in history. (Author's Note: Special thanks to Andy Katz for helping me with this topic.) I will attempt to countdown the top three. This is very tough to try and put these in any order but here goes:
3. Lew Alcindor, UCLA, 66-67; 29 ppg on way to 30-0 record.
2. Pete Maravich, LSU, 69-70; 44.5 ppg while shattering scoring record.
1. Oscar Robertson, Cincy, 57-58; 35.1 ppg and 15.2 rpg made this year remarkable.

3rd Quarter- Georgetown at Pitt

Winner: Georgetown

Why They'll Win: You may know me to be not the biggest fan of the Hoyas this season if you've read any of my previous posts. However, they're facing a Pitt team that has lost two of their last four games after losing players to injuries. G'Town is 12-1 right now and are led by Roy Hibbert (12 pts, 6 reb, 2 ast), DaJuan Summers (12 pts, 6 reb, 2 ast), and Jonathan Wallace (11 pts, 2 reb, 3 ast). The Hoyas do not have really a big win on their schedule (in fact, they don't have a win against an opponent that is currently ranked) and this is their best opportunity. The Panthers shoot 35% from deep, 71% from the line, and 47% from the field. They're led by Sam Young (18 pts, 7 reb) and DaJuan Blair (12 pts, 10 reb), and they've lost Levance Fields and Mike Cook to injuries. Prior to that though, they had an impressive win over the Duke Blue Devils. Nonetheless, I don't see Georgetown losing this game.

When To Watch: Monday, January 14th at 7pm eastern time on ESPN.

4th Quarter- Ohio State at Michigan State

Winner: Michigan State

Why They'll Win: Both teams are undefeated in conference play, yet I'm definitely giving the edge to the Spartans in this one. They rely on the play of Raymar Morgan (18 pts, 7 reb, 2 ast) and Drew Neitzel (13 pts, 3 reb, 5 ast). Their only loss to date is their 5-point defeat at the hands of UCLA. Michigan State has posted wins over NC State, BYU, and Texas. They shoot 36% from behind the three-point line, 75% from the stripe, and 50% from the field. If you stop the inside-outside tandem of Neitzel and Morgan, you stop this team. However, it's easier said than done. The 12-3 Buckeyes will have their hands full in this one and will make it interesting. The fabulous freshman, Kosta Koufos, leads the frontcourt with his 15 points and 7 rebounds per game. Jamar Butler (14 pts, 4 reb, 6 ast) has also been vital for this young Ohio State team. They have six players averaging 22+ minutes per game. Their three losses came to Texas A&M, North Carolina, and Butler (all ranked), but they can boast their wins over Syracuse and Florida.

When To Watch: Tuesday, January 15th at 7pm eastern time on ESPN.

Yes, I know this post is coming a little late so I decided to give you a link to recaps of the past games on Thursday night that you may have missed if you've been living under a rock.
A) West Virginia at Louisville
B) Illinois at Wisconsin
C) Washington State at USC

And here's a video for the road. It's the top ten NBA plays of the year 2007. Enjoy.

That ends this edition of Game-Planning. I hope you liked it, but don't spend too much time in front of the tube this weekend. You need to study!

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Saturday, January 5, 2008

The Good & The Bad of The Top 8

So here I was at my computer. Sitting. I was trying so very hard to think a good blog idea that people will read. Then it hit me. Break down what's good and what's bad about the AP Top 8. However, some may have opened this thinking I was referring to college football. I am most certainly not. I'm talking basketball. You can leave this page. Now, for those of you who actually want to read this blog, continue on. But, first, here are the eight teams that will face my criticism.

1. North Carolina Tar Heels (14-0; 1,772 votes)
2. Memphis Tigers (12-0; 1,744 votes)
3. Kansas Jayhawks (13-0; 1,667 votes)
4. Washington State Cougars (12-0; 1,534 votes)
5. UCLA Bruins (13-1; 1,499 votes)
6. Michigan State Spartans (12-1; 1,419 votes)
7. Georgetown Hoyas (10-1; 1,324 votes)
8. Tennessee Volunteers (12-1; 1,259 votes)

I'll start with number eight and work my way down the list in descending order.

#8 Tennessee Volunteers
Key Players: Chris Lofton (15 pts, 4 reb, 3 ast), J.P. Prince (14 pts, 4 reb, 3 ast), Tyler Smith (13 pts, 6 reb, 4 ast).
The Good: It's truly a collective effort with this group. They have six players averaging at least 8 points per game, and eight players are averaging at least 18 minutes of playing time. This all indicates that Bruce Pearl is getting his players to buy into the kind of system he wants them to play, which is to pressure the team on defense and run with the ball when they get it. After suffering a 19-point loss to #16 Texas, Tennessee has won seven straight games with wins over Xavier and Gonzaga. They have a couple tough tests coming up with Mississippi, Vanderbilt, and Ohio State.
The Bad: Chris Lofton is not playing the basketball he's capable of playing out on the court. His sophomore and junior seasons were successful when he averaged 17 and 21 points, respectively. However, there has been a significant drop-off and he's averaging only 15. He has had four games with ten or less points. He only had four all of last season, two of which came when he was injured. Next is the problem I have with their frontcourt. Their "big guy" down low is only 6'9", and he's only averaging five rebounds. Their next tallest guy is Tyler Smith who, at 6'7", is putting up decent numbers but still lacks the great rebounding total (his average is 6). That will kill them against a good rebounding team like Mississippi.
March Forecast: I see this team making a run to the Sweet 16, but not much farther than that. As I mentioned earlier, they just don't have a good interior player.

#7 Georgetown Hoyas
Key Players:
DaJuan Summers (13 pts, 6 reb, 2 ast), Roy Hibbert (12 pts, 6 reb, 2 ast), Jonathan Wallace (10 pts, 2 reb, 3 ast).
The Good: The Hoyas are 11-1 and look ready to run the table in the Big East, as long as Pitt stays out of their way. They are 7-0 at home this season and have very good depth with nine players averaging at least 18 minutes of play per game. Patrick Ewing Jr. has been playing pretty well as of late as well. In the big game with Memphis, he posted a nice stat line of 10 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 steal. His problem? Shooting from the outside. Back to the team as a whole though, Georgetown has outscored their opponents by an average of 73-52 since the loss to Memphis.
The Bad: The have played a weak schedule so far with the exception of Memphis, whom they lost to. Roy Hibbert was downright terrible in that game as well with only 6 points, 6 rebounds, 0 free throws attempted, 3 turnovers, and 4 personal fouls. Of the top 8 teams, I think Georgetown is the second weakest behind Washington State. I watched the entire game against the Tigers, and NOT ONE player stepped up for them at the end. They don't have a go-to player, and, in my humble opinion, Roy Hibbert is overrated.
March Forecast: Not much more than a Sweet 16 for this team. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if they got knocked off in one of the early rounds.

#6 Michigan State Spartans
Key Players: Raymar Morgan (18 pts, 7 reb, 2 ast), Drew Neitzel (14 pts, 3 reb, 5 ast).
The Good: Raymar Morgan has emerged as a threat down low and has combined with Neitzel to form one of the better inside-outside combinations in the country. They've had a couple good wins as well, which include beating Texas, BYU, and NC State. They lost to highly-ranked UCLA by only five points. They have a very good chance at winnning the Big Ten with their biggest opponents being Indiana and Wisconsin. Goran Suton is doing a decent job for the Spartans on the boards, averaging 8 rebounds per game to go along with his 9 points.
The Bad: If Morgan or Neitzel has a rough game, then the team may be in serious trouble. Against Kevin Love and UCLA, Morgan went for only 10 points and 2 rebounds, well below his season averages. They lost that game. It's their major area of concern when they lean so heavily on two players like that.
March Forecast: This team is definitely capable of getting to the Elite 8, depending on the draw. They may even sneak into the Final Four. Now winning when they get that far? It most likely will not happen because teams with good big men will start to shut down Morgan.

#5 UCLA Bruins
Key Players: Kevin Love (17 pts, 10 reb, 2 ast), Josh Shipp (15 pts, 3 reb, 3 ast), Russell Westbrook (12 pts, 3 reb, 6 ast).
The Good: What's not to "love"? (pun not intended) The Bruins have impressive wins over Michigan State, Stanford, Cal, Davidson, and Maryland, all of which may be dancing come March. They have a big game coming up against #4 Washington State. It will be a tough test and will prove how serious of contenders they are. More good news is that this team has recovered from most of the injuries they had earlier in the season. Darren Collison is back averaging 12 points, 3 rebounds, and 4 assists. UCLA has eight players averaging at least 18 minutes of PT, and five players are averaging double figures in points.
The Bad: This team falters once in awhile from behind the arc. Against Texas, the shot a whopping 29% from deep. The inexperienced Love also has trouble in big games, which is natural for freshmen like himself. He had only 11 points and 5 rebounds in the game. Another underclassman, Westbrook, had trouble scoring only 7 points and 2 rebounds. These young guys for UCLA have trouble when the games become more meaningful. I just hope for their sake they don't crumble at the end of the season when even more pressure is put on them.
March Forecast: This team is very skilled, and I'd say they are a Elite 8/Final Four team depending, of course, on who stays healthy and who responds well at the end of games.

#4 Washington State Cougars
Key Players: Derrick Low (13 pts, 2 reb, 1 ast), Kyle Weaver (12 pts, 5 reb, 4 ast), Aron Baynes (12 pts, 7 reb).
The Good: The Cougars have six players logging a lot of minutes for them right now (22+). All six are averaging at least 9 points per game. They are riding a 13-game winning streak (they're undefeated) and have posted wins over Washington and Gonzaga to name a few. The have two big games coming up against USC and UCLA. As a team, Washington State shoots 77% from the line, 34% from deep, and 50% from the field, all of which are decent numbers. They defeat their opponents by an average score of 69-50. The Cougars have held their opponents under 50 points seven times in thirteen games, which is a credit to their defense. They average 7 steals and 4 blocks per game.
The Bad: Their cupcake schedule will be the downfall of them. They've been playing teams like Boise State, Mississippi Valley State, Baylor, Portland State, Citadel, North Carolina A&T, etc. They could quite possibly lose four of their next five games and fall tremendously in the rankings. Washington State has one, maybe two, good teams they've played, and they've only won by an average of four points.
March Forecast: The Sweet 16 will be as far as this team will go. Struggling with teams like Air Force and Baylor, the Cougars can't compete with the powerhouses of tough conferences.

#3 Kansas Jayhawks
Key Players: Darrell Arthur (14 pts, 6 reb, 1 ast), Darnell Jackson (13 pts, 7 reb, 1 ast), Mario Chalmers (12 pts, 3 reb, 5 ast).
The Good: Kansas is 14-0 and have wins over Arizona, USC, Georgia Tech, and Boston College. They've won those games by an average of ten points. They also have depth. Eight Jayhawks average 17+ minutes of playing time. Kansas also averages 11 steals and 6 blocks per game. They shoot 39% from deep and 53% from the field. And, finally, they've scored 85 points or more in nine of their fourteen games. This team can put the ball in the basket better than a lot of teams that are ranked this high.
The Bad: Free throw shooting is crucial come tournament time. Kansas shoots just 64% from the charity stripe. Darrell Arthur averages a horrid 3.1 turnovers to every assist. Darnell Jackson and Sasha Kaun aren't much better. Back to the free throw concern though, their best player at shooting them is Brandon 76%. They haven't one guy that they can depend on to sink free throws at the end of games. This problem will be the death of the team.
March Forecast: Elite 8 or a Final Four is where this team will probably be at the end of March. However, as I mentioned earlier, they won't make it to the National Title Game because of their free throw shooting.

#2 Memphis Tigers
Key Players: Chris Douglas-Roberts (17 pts, 5 reb, 2 ast), Derrick Rose (14 pts, 5 reb, 5 ast), Joey Dorsey (8 pts, 10 reb, 1 ast).
The Good: This team may very well be the most talented team in the entire nation. They may also be the best team in the nation. The Tigers go about 9 or 10 deep, but they'd almost have to with the frenetic pace that they play at. It's hard enough for teams to keep up with them, let alone actually beating them at the end of the game when Memphis still has fresh legs coming in and the other team is tired. They shoot a lot of three-pointers and are decent at making them with 37% of them making it through the hoop. Memphis averages 9 steals and 7 blocks per game, which have only helped them to their fantastic 13-0 start. Of all the undefeated teams left, I think they have the best shot of anyone at going the distance undefeated. The Tigers have had impressive wins over Oklahoma (by 10), UConn (by 11), USC (by 4), Georgetown (by 14), and Arizona (by 13).
The Bad: Free throw shooting should be a major concern of John Calipari. His team shoots an absolutely abysmal 57% from the line. Their best is Doneal Mack with 75%. However, NOT ONE other person on the team shoots even 70%. The only other possible problem for Memphis is the incredibly weak conference schedule. They play in Conference-USA, which doesn't boast many top teams, yet they have managed nice wins over tough teams in their non-conference schedule.
March Forecast: The Final Four and beyond for Memphis. They are definitely one of the two best teams in the country. After watching the Clemson vs. North Carolina game recently, it's very possible to say they are the BEST team in the country.

#1 North Carolina Tar Heels
Key Players: Tyler Hansbrough (22 pts, 10 reb, 1 ast), Wayne Ellington (18 pts, 4 reb, 2 ast), Ty Lawson (13 pts, 3 reb, 6 ast).
The Good: If not for the loss of Bobby Frasor, I may be even more excited about the chances this team has at a national title. With the scare that was provided to UNC by Clemson recently, I think this makes the Tar Heels even more dangerous when March rolls around. They've proved that they can come through in the clutch. North Carolina basically has six players that receive most of the playing time and contribute most of the scoring. As a team, they shoot 38% from deep, 74% from the line, and 50% from the field. Danny Green and Wayne Ellington are the ones you need to watch out for when they spot up from deep during a game. North Carolina has beaten, most notably, Davidson, BYU, Ohio State, Valparaiso, and Clemson. However, none of those teams are currently ranked with the exception of Clemson.
The Bad: They've had a weak non-conference schedule as they have faced a total of ZERO ranked teams. They also are without the services of Bobby Frasor, as I mentioned earlier. If Lawson gets in foul trouble, they don't have a reliable backup point guard to go to. Those are my only two worries with this deep, well-coached, and experienced Tar Heel team.
March Forecast: Anything less than being at the Final Four will be a huge disappointment for this team. I don't see them falling out early in March either.

That's all I have to say in regards to the main premise of this blog. But I'm not done, and you should definitely not stop reading this blog. I will now talk about my overly premature Final Four picks. It's very early, but I'll go with North Carolina and Memphis as the sure ones. I'll put Kansas in their as well. For the fourth spot, I don't think it will be anyone else that was mentioned in this blog. It may be UCLA or Michigan State, but I'll go with the Texas Longhorns. D.J. Augustin and A.J. Abrams make this one of the tougher backcourts to defend in the country. For more on the very impressive Clemson/UNC game, click on this link. Have a good day!

Poll Result- 60% of voters thought that Pitt would make it as far as the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament this year while 20% thought they would lose in the 1st or 2nd round. Also worth mentioning is the 20% that thinks the Panthers are going to make it to the Final Four this season.

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Thursday, January 3, 2008

Game-Planning 7

Hey everyone, I hope you had a happy and safe New Year's Eve. It's been awhile since I've made a post; I was pretty busy over the break. Nonetheless, I'm back now and I'm ready to feed you with some college hoops information. This is the time of the year when it starts to heat up. Conference games begin. Some tough non-conference games are scheduled. So without further adieu...

1st Quarter- Kansas at Boston College

Winner: Kansas

Why They'll Win: The Eagles are 8-1 at home this season with their lone home loss coming to Providence by nine points. They're led by Tyrese Rice (20 pts, 4 reb, 6 ast) and Shamari Spears (12 pts, 8 reb, 1 ast). BC doesn't have much down low as they only have one starter over 6'6". The Kansas Jayhawks, however, have THREE starters over 6'6". I think size will be the difference-maker in this one, and Boston College will be handed their third loss of the season on Saturday. Kansas is led by Darrell Arthur (13 pts, 6 reb, 1 ast), Mario Chalmers (12 pts, 3 reb, 5 ast), and Darnell Jackson (12 pts, 7 reb, 1 ast). They run a nice hi-lo motion offense that should spell trouble for BC if Kansas has a decent shooting night.

When To Watch: Saturday, January 5th at noon eastern time on ESPN.

2nd Quarter- Louisville at Kentucky

Winner: Louisville

Why They'll Win: Isn't this game always a treat to watch? Rick Pitino goes back to his old college to coach against for their arch rival. Well, things aren't very perfect for either team this year. Pitino and Louisville were a highly-ranked team to start the season but have faltered somewhat with losses to BYU, Dayton, Purdue, and Cincinatti. Kentucky brought in a new coach, Billy Gillispie, that was supposedly the coach who would turn around the program. However, they've put up a paltry 6-6 record with losses to Gardner-Webb, UAB, and San Diego to name a few. Anyways, the Wildcats are led by Patrick Patterson (18 pts, 8 reb, 2 ast) and Joe Crawford (16 pts, 3 reb, 2 ast). The Cardinals are headed by a group of guys that it is near impossible to only choose a few. They have EIGHT players averaging at least 16 minutes per game so they have quite the depth on their roster. I think Louisville will pull out the win against against a rival school in a hostile environment.

When To Watch: Saturday, December 5th at 4pm eastern time on CBS.

Halftime Thoughts-

As of now it looks as if six, maybe seven, conference will draw at least three bids in the NCAA Tournament when March rolls around. Of course, it's a long season and anything can happen. Not surprising are the conference such as the ACC, Big East, Big 12, Pac-10, and Big Ten. Surprising is the Atlantic-10. On a side note, it's interesting that the SEC has a good chance at having less teams dancing come tourney time than the A-10!'s Hot Topic of the Week: Mid-Season All-American talk is buzzing through the online forums as you read this. Making the CollegeHoopsNet's list were DJ Augustin, Eric Gordon, Shan Foster, Michael Beasley, and Kevin Love. Interesting that there is not even one ACC or Big East player on there, and three freshman made the list. I could, however, see putting Trent Plaisted of BYU in there over Love. Plaisted is having a phenomenal season and I'm very impressed with his play.

Can the Memphis Tigers go into the regular season undefeated? Quite frankly, it's probably too early to call, but I'll try anyways. They still have Gonzaga, Houston, and Tennessee left on their schedule. I can't really imagine them losing to anyone else on their schedule, but you never know. Houston will be an interesting matchups because BOTH teams absolutely love to get the ball up the floor as fast as possible. We'll just have to wait this one out.

3rd Quarter- Pittsburgh at Villanova

Winner: Villanova

Why They'll Win: I worry about the Panthers. They've lost both Mike Cook and Levance Fields, and they suffered a loss to Dayton. Also worth mentioning is that they were down at halftime in their last game...against Lafayette. I can't see Pitt pulling out a W on Saturday. Everything seems to be against them. They have no momentum whatsoever and are struggling with every team they play. Villanova, on the other hand, has been led by Scottie Reynolds (17 pts, 5 ast, 3 reb) to not only a 10-2 record but also a #17 ranking in the AP poll. They are fresh off a loss to DePaul, a conference foe, and it's only natural that they'll come out with a chip on their shoulder next game. Coming into that game, they were riding a nice 6-game winning streak. Jay Wright will have his players focused, and Pitt is in trouble.

When To Watch: Sunday, December 6th at noon eastern time on MSG.

4th Quarter- Marquette at West Virginia

Winner: West Virginia

Why They'll Win: Some of you may be thinking why I even have this matchup in my blog. Well, the Golden Eagles are ranked 10th, and the Mountaineers are one of the more dangerous teams in the Big East, in my opinion. They are a solid 10-3 and are led by Alex Ruoff (16 pts, 3 reb, 3 ast) and Joe Alexander (15 pts, 7 reb, 2 ast). Coach Huggins' squad has had a couple tough losses so far such as a 2-point loss to Tennessee and a 6-point loss to Oklahoma. They didn't come to mess around, and Huggins will have these kids ready to not lose their THIRD game in a row. West Virginia is in the middle of a tough stretch of games right now that started with Oklahoma and will end with Syracuse on January 13th. It's important for them to regain focus or they could fall tremendously in the next couple weeks.

When To Watch: Sunday, December 6th at 2pm eastern time on MSG.

That is the end of this edition of Game-Planning. Come back next week for another set of game that you won't want to miss. I hope you have a good weekend, but don't spend too much time in front of the television.

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