Archive for the ‘Basketball’ Category

Spurs-win-NBA-title-jpgWell that was anticlimactic…

The NBA finals ended in a somewhat predictable way given the first game of the series and the similar results over in the NHL. The Spurs wrapped up Game 1 with a 15-point victory at home. LeBron was the only Heat player to score over 20 points, though Wade and Bosh were not too far behind. The bench was abysmal, with the exception of Ray Allen’s 16 points. On the other side, the Spurs only had 1 underperformer, Kawhi Leonard, while the rest of the starters had at least 13 points and Ginobili added an 16 more points. The Spurs out-rebounded Heat by 10 and had 14 more assists. The Heat also fell into foul trouble early. All of this was in addition to LeBron’s struggles with the lack of air-conditioning and early exit from exhaustion. That early exit had little to do with the actual end result of the game, as the Spurs really just surprised and outplayed the Heat at almost every aspect of the game.

NBA: Finals-Miami Heat at San Antonio SpursMoving forward, the rest of the games were mostly dominated by the Spurs, with the exception of close Heat win in Game 2. Specifically for the only Heat win, the 2-point victory came at the hands of LeBron’s 35 points and solid performances from Lewis, Bosh, and Wade. They were better with rebounding but still struggled breaking the defense and finding assist opportunities. The Spurs were a little more muted in this game, with the best performances coming from Duncan with 18, Ginobili with 19, and Parker with 21 points. Neither of the benches were that strong and the other starters were also a little weak.

dm_140616_nba_legler_lebron_futureThe rest of the games were essentially blowouts. While LeBron was still averaging about 28 PPG throughout the playoffs, his supporting cast was failing him. Wade was still a contributor but could not provide defense to save his life. Bosh was also involved but faded in and out. The reliance on the 3-point shot is still a bit of a mystery when considering that he was playing the PF-C spot and provided little rebounding and defensive support. Ray Allen seemed to still have some pep left off the bench but could not do enough to make up for the starter inconsistencies and he could not serve as a regular starter. Lewis disappeared in Games 4 and 5, but was able to help a little with the points through most of the other games. The point guard position has to be the biggest focus for the off-season. Wade cannot slide to that position anymore with his lack of the mobility he once showed off. Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole are not accurate and not the answer when playing against the best of the NBA. If the Heat want to return to and compete for another championship, they will need to find a point guard who can actually pick up assists and score from the arc when open. No bench meant no chance to win.

duncanfiveAs bad as the Heat were in comparison to their previous playoff series, the Spurs were really just that good. Duncan’s potentially final season was capped off with him being able to consistently be a top scorer without needing to move, jump, or seemingly try. Parker is just as fast as earlier in his career and was able to score at will throughout the series. Ginobili seemed to be able to score without issue from the arc and greatly boost the teams bench performance. Besides the big three, Kawhi Leonard has risen as a possible future star for the team. While his MVP status may have been a little hasty, his performances in the final three games was almost as impactful as LeBron’s for keeping the Heat in any contention. The rest of the bench was able to contribute just the right elements to help the blowout wins happen. Patty Mills likely is¬†the future at the point and Danny Green has a chance to be a major player as well.¬†Bosh should take a look at Splitter/Diaw to see how a successful center should play the position. The Spurs earned that championship and no one should take that away from them.

nba-finals-2Ultimately, the conversation will still be about the Heat. While some will take a bit of time to talk about the Spurs and their formula or the pending retirements of some of the key players, but the future of LeBron and the coming Heat changes appear to be more interesting. There are already comparison of some of the NBA’s best in terms of their awards and honors, with Duncan being the closet in individual success compared to Michael Jordan, with LeBron falling short in the fourth spot. There is already a lot of pressure and hate against LeBron, and most of it is completely undeserved. There are times that he is a little arrogant or comes across a little boastful, but that is the life of a superstar. That life also knowingly incurs the hate from people who are jealous or just love to hate talent. If the Heat had anything to appreciate, it had to be LeBron’s performance. He tried to stay confident and tried to stay positive, but he proved his talent on the court. The team forced him to be more of a selfish player when they failed to be accurate as he passed off the ball. When the Heat fell quickly in the quarters that LeBron failed to score regularly, his supporting cast could not step it up. LeBron is the Heat’s future, or a team that can lure him away. If the Heat will fix their problems, it will be to replace either Wade or Bosh and fix the problems with the point guard. They could also use at least one more significant contributor from the bench.

The Spurs can celebrate their 5th championship and figure out their future, but fans and analysts are likely going to overemphasize the future of LeBron and the Heat.

Postseason Highs and Lows

Posted: June 11, 2014 in Basketball, Hockey

The NHL and the NBA are both deep in their playoffs and nearing the ends of their respective final series. There is a lot to be excited about with the way both sports have produced exciting match ups, but it seems to be ending with a little less of that energy that has made both playoffs so enjoyable.

NHL: Stanley Cup Final-New York Rangers Media DayAdmittedly, I am not an NHL fan and have not closely followed the playoffs, but the path to the championship was filled with exciting moments. The finals opponents did not get to their positions without some trial and strife. The LA Kings may have won Game 7 against the Sharks in convincing fashion, but they were taken to a 7-game series to move ahead. The trend continued in the conference semifinal as the Kings were taken to the brink again against the Ducks. The Blackhawks were thought to be the team to be able to stop the Kings run, but fell short again in another Game 7.

In the Eastern Conference, the Rangers started with a tough series against the Flyers and finished with a 2-1 win in Game 7. Initially down 3-1 in the series against the Penguins, the Rangers were able to find their stride and win 3 straight to gain entry into their conference finals. They were not a stifled in their conference championship, finishing the series in 6 games with a combination of convincing wins and overtime thrillers.

quick1-594x360The finals have not been nearly as thrilling, unless you count the first two games going to overtime and the second game being a double overtime. Regardless of the closeness of the first few games, the 3-0 victory in Game 3 was much more convincing for the Kings and puts them in place to finish the series tonight. It looks like the Rangers will likely fall short within the next two games and the Kings will gain the title of champions for the second time in three year. I may not be watching the game tonight, but hockey fans should be prepared for a fight in Game 4.

Moving on to the NBA…

NBA-finalsThe Spurs and Heat are matched up for the second straight year and the finals look like they are falling into the same pattern. The teams did not have the same struggles as their counterparts in the NHL. The Spurs had the roughest time with their first round matchup against the Mavericks, but breezed past Portland and Oklahoma City into the finals. The Heat similarly breezed through their conference, with only a slight push from the Indiana Pacers and a touchy Lance Stephenson. Prior to the finals, the Wizards were able to boast their ability to move past the first round for the first time in their franchise history and Damian Lillard had one of the most exciting shots of the entire playoffs as the Blazers finished off the Rockets in the first round.

NBA: Finals-San Antonio Spurs at Miami HeatEntering into the finals, the Spurs were leading in almost every major statistical category, with the exception of FG%. In the first and third games, the Spurs demolished the Heat and made the series look like the Heat have virtually no chance of a three-peat. In both games, the Spurs only needed relatively short blocks of time to make the Heat defense look like they came from the D-league. Point guard play seems to be the problem for Miami, with no one able to cleanly match against Parker and Leonard. Chalmers and Cole cannot seem to score accurately or provide any real defense to stop the point. In Game 3, the Spurs were freely scoring with 71 points in the first half and 19 of their first 21 shots to start the game. The younger talent on the team seemed unable to miss. The Heat were able to steal Game 2 but need to prove something in Game 4 if they want to appear to have any chance to come back in the series.

Interestingly, my greatest fascination is actually with the postseason already. Since the series looks like the Heat could fold way too easily this time around, the result of the finals and its meaning in the postseason seems much more intriguing. The Donald Sterling drama will continue to linger, as he refuses to let the sale go through and acknowledge that public opinion is significantly against him. Regardless, the Heat losing could mean major changes in the league to greatly affect the next year. The Spurs are near the end of their dominance in the Western Conference. Duncan, Ginobili, and Popovich are close to the end of their careers, and Tony Parker has a lot of milage on him. The young guys are good, but their future will be questionable without the veteran leadership.

The Heat are seemingly in the middle of their dominance in the Eastern Conference, but Dwayne Wade seems to be a little too banged up to be considered a longterm continued star for his home team. LeBron is polarizing but mesmerizing at the same time. Where he goes, the rest of the league tunes in. If the Heat win, he will definitely stay in South Beach, but there could be changes if they lose. Melo seems to be the talk of the NBA with regards to being the latest move to the Heat, but the Big 3 and Melo would have to take pay cuts to all work together. With Chris Bosh seeming to be comfortable in Miami, this is now a more complicated situation than prior to Melo’s or the public’s interest in an enhanced Heat squad.

NFL and college sports may be where I put most of my attention, but these championship series still deserve their due.

It would be easy for the entire discussion of the NBA’s playoffs to be about the play on the court. In a year where five 1st round match-ups go to 7 games and 8-seeds have chances of knocking off 1-seeds, the competitiveness is off the charts. There are few teams that look like they can breeze their way through the conference finals, if they can even make it out of the first two rounds. Unfortunately, there is just as much action happening off of the court, and it happens to be with one of the playoff teams.

The Clippers are fighting their battle against the Thunder, but owner Donald Sterling have caused them to rally against another opponent…owner Donald Sterling. This is not new to the organization, as Sterling has made comments and run the organization in some questionable ways in the past. The element that made the current situation more volatile was his direct and public displeasure for racially-diverse individuals attending his games. The soundbite has been played millions of times by now and it was mostly silence from Sterling after the story broke. Other than saying that he wanted to remain connected with the team, there was no reaction about his actual comments until more recently.

vstiviano-MAGIC-2So what did he say…after posting a picture with Magic Johnson, Stiviano, Sterling’s girlfriend, was told by Sterling to take the Instagram post down. She eventually removed the picture, but Sterling went on to say, “It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to?” He went on to make comments about not wanting to have black people brought into his arena. Sterling supposedly was shocked to later find out that he had been recorded and the audio was leaked to the public.

This reveal produced an immediate public reaction of disgust and anger toward the owner. Many were ready to remove ownership immediately, and the NBA was too. Though there is a process that has to be followed, new commissioner Adam Silver addressed the public to announce that Sterling had been given a lifetime ban from NBA activities, a fine, and a forced sale of the team would be decided by the other NBA owners. This tough decision is something that has not been experienced in other major sport, but the NBA got it right. No tolerance for bigoted comments and poor leadership of an organization is the right call.

Sterling decided to break his silence finally with an interview with Anderson Cooper. During this interview, Sterling proceeded to claim that he was sorry for his comments and was in disbelief that he would ever say such hurtful things. He seemed to blame Stiviano for the commentary and proceeded to reinsert his foot into his mouth by dragging Magic Johnson back into the conversation. Now claiming that Magic has failed to be a good role model for¬†people of color, he contradicted himself by trying to insert comments about Magic’s greatness around commentary against Magic’s outreach and example to the children of Los Angeles.

sn_a_cliipers_kh_600x600The impact of this interview and Sterling’s statements only intensifies the frustration with a man who clearly does not understand the concept of racism. You do not need to be a social justice advocate to recognize that Sterling has continued to make statements that are just plain offensive. He shows a lack of integrity and respect for anyone of color. He could not even just give a straight apology in front of Anderson Cooper. He had to interject comments of continued disrespect and return to referencing his opinions of Magic Johnson. If he wants to talk about poor examples, he should just look at himself in a mirror and take a moment to think about what he has been saying publicly. He has perpetuated social rifts between people of different races by failing to own the statements he has made on multiple occasions. Acting like he is shocked at himself, ignoring his past (un-adjudicated) discretions, and continuing his poor public representation do not make a case against his racism.

The NBA and Clippers organization has reacted quite professionally throughout this process. Silver announced the decision against Sterling and immediately pushed for the owners to start the process of the forced sale. The players protested Sterling’s involvement with the team by hiding the Clippers logo on their uniforms around the time of Silver’s announcement. Coach Doc Rivers took the high road and tried to keep the team focused on playoff success and commented only to state his displeasure with the failure of Sterling to understand his¬†impact on the topic of racism and failure to appropriately apologize for his indiscretions.

The hope is that Sterling can be removed completely from the Clippers and we can get back to basketball. The games go on but this wretched situation continues to fester in the background. The NBA has made a bold decision and definitely needs to continue to stand behind it.

March Madness is Upon Us!

Posted: March 24, 2014 in Basketball, College

While my team failed to make the NIT, there are 68 other teams that have high hopes to end their season the champion. After the first weekend, 68 has been reduced to 16, with some pleasant surprises in the early rounds.

In the first four, Albany, NC State, Cal Poly, and Tennessee survived. While these teams are given a chance to continue, it is never assumed that they really get any momentum from their play-in game. Cal Poly and Albany were set up to take on Wichita State and Florida, respectively. Meanwhile, NC State and Tennessee had more favorable match-ups against Saint Louis and Massachusetts.

The first full round was a wild ride! There were a number of upsets that truly stunned audiences and gave some cinderella teams real hope to press forward. The #1 and #2 seeds all survived, though Virginia was given a scare against Coastal Carolina, but here are the most interesting headlines from the Round of 64.

  • dm_140321_ncb_duke_mercer_highlightPittsburgh had a 9-8 match up with Colorado and dominated the game with a 29-point win.
  • VCU’s experience with the tourney has been beneficial in the past, but Stephen F. Austin University was ready to play and steal a 2-point win.
  • Dayton looked to be the upset king on day 1 with a last second win against state rival Ohio State.
  • Stanford upset a lot of brackets that believed New Mexico had a shot to go deeper this season.
  • Harvard achieved a rare tournament win against the struggling AAC team Cincinnati.
  • On day 2, North Dakota State surprised Oklahoma, as the state came up 0-3 with loses for OSU and Tulsa as well.
  • Tennessee became the only play-in team to steal a win versus their first real tournament opponent versus UMass.
  • Mercer joined the BEAT DUKE club (with Lehigh) with a 78-71 win against the Blue Devils. This makes Duke’s 2nd first round loss in the past 3 years.

The second round was a little more straightforward but included a few fun upsets as well. There was a lot of faith in the undefeated Wichita State, but Kentucky’s youth and energy propelled them to a close victory after WSU’s final shot was just off the mark. The rest of the #1s survived, but a few other big teams were not so lucky.

  • -61997e82daf0f2a7Dayton was ready for the second round as well and shocked Syracuse, who failed to sink a single 3 the entire game. The Flyers move into the Sweet 16.
  • Kansas gets sent home early after Stanford surprises the Jayhawks, though they were not the only #2 seed to fall.
  • Iowa State squeaked by UNC. Though not an upset by the rankings, the Tar Heels are left with a controversy with the game clock operation that changed the play on the court in the final 1.6 seconds.
  • Connecticut plowed through former conference foe Villanova in this AAC-Big East matchup.
  • Baylor demolishes Creighton, as two players from the Bears are able to outplay and outscore McDermott after 40 minutes.
  • Tennessee and Mercer made up an 11-14 matchup, which left Tennessee to join Dayton as the two sub-10 seed teams to make the Sweet 16.

There are a number of great match-ups coming up this Thursday and Friday. Virginia and Michigan State are two very possible Final Four teams, but have to face each other (and Iowa State or Connecticut) to get there. Louisville and Kentucky met up for a state rival showdown. We get a break for a couple of days, but the action starts back up later this week.


Maryland’s season is over (pending a potential bid to the NIT) and the Terps have nothing to show for it other than a big regular season win versus rival UVA and a look to the future. There were a number of close games, including the start of the season versus UConn. At times, the season felt like a roller coaster. Seth Allen injured before game one. Hosting the President for the Oregon State game but losing at home. Winning the Paradise Jam only to pick up back to back losses to Ohio State and GW, and then to lose to Boston University at home. Getting close games at home but suffering staggering defeats on the road at Pitt and FSU. Not being able to close out games against major opponents until the final game of the season. Taking FSU to the wire in Greensboro but allowing a jam to close the door on the Terps in the final appearance in the ACC.

Highlights Throughout the Season

kwyant-20140309-0007On the high side, nothing was bigger than closing the season against UVA and taking the game to overtime. Even though there were times that UVA looked like they had a chance to make a run, the Terps were able to find ways to stay in it. The Paradise Jam was a great set of games as well. Even though the teams were not the top in the country or from the major conferences, the win over Providence in the finals was a quality moment to make up for the close UConn loss. After the rough 24-point loss to FSU in Tallahassee, the team was able to rally at home for a redemption 12-point victory to split the series (until matching up in the ACC tourney).

The problem was that the low side was much, much larger. The season started with a 1-point loss to UConn where the Terps had the final shot to make an early season statement. The third game of the season against Oregon State saw Maryland losing to the Beavers at home in front of the Obamas. While the loss to Ohio State was not a surprise, the 2-point loss to the Colonials was a tough one to swallow, especially when that was followed by a 6-point loss to Boston University at home. Pitt and Florida State were able to bully the Terps on the road. After a wavy middle part of the season, the Terps found ways to lose their match-ups against ranked teams by no more than 4 points per game. They played Pitt at home, Duke on the road, and Syracuse at home. The double overtime loss to Clemson did not help either.

The Terps ended the season with a record of 17-15 (9-9 ACC). This was actually a step back from last season, when the Terps started with a tough close loss against Kentucky at the start of the season, finished the regular season with a record of 20-11 (8-10 ACC), went on a mini run with wins over Wake Forest and Duke in the ACC Tournament, and ended up in the NIT semifinals (losing to Iowa). Losing Alex Len was tough but the hope would be that the incoming recruits can fill the gaps currently in the roster.

Breaking Down the Team’s Performance

Rather than ranking the individual players, I have chosen to look at this from a positional standpoint. From an overall perspective, the team played small with no truly dominated inside players. While it appeared that there should have been an outside game with the 3-point shooters, the team struggled at time, especially with its top shooters. The incoming recruits are bringing more size and inside game, which should fill the gaps in the final ACC season.

NCAA Basketball: Virginia at MarylandPGs:¬†Seth Allen is the clear best player on the team at this point. Although he does not always play as a 1-man, he can score and pushed himself to clean up the play of the rest of the team, particularly in the second half of the season. His 3-point shot is a little off at times, but he is the future of the team to build around. The only other player to truly play point was Roddy Peters. He has a lot of development left to do. His passing/assist game is not clean. He can smoke it through the paint on the fast break. This is a team that needs a true point guard…one who can actually run the offense effectively.¬†B-

SGs: The conversation in this category is all around Dez Wells. He is a talented, NBA-style player, but his play this season was inconsistent. He disappeared during the first half of games in the second half of the season. He averaged less than 5 points per first half. In the second half of games, he seemed to turn it up. A lot of his points were from driving and drawing fouls. It is not clear if he is playing tentative and scoping out his opponents or if he has something else going on. The other significant SG was Nick Faust. He played with passion but not with consistency. He may be one of the better defenders, a guy who can disrupt offenses and score on the fast break. His 3-point shot was not as on-point later in the season, but there were a few solid makes that turned the tide of a few games. C+

SFs: The bulk of the 3-point shooting seemed to come from Evan Smotrycz and Jake Layman. These guys seemed to play well at different times. Smotrycz was bothered by back spasm issues at different points but seemed to play with passion. Layman started the season hot, especially from 3, but cooled off later in the final games. Their defense was something that was suspect at times. Shooting guards and small forwards were able to have their way against Maryland because of the poor match-ups. Both players have potential to improve their game prior to next season but there is some serious work to do. C

PFs:¬†This section of the team had the most depth but struggled the most overall. Free throws are supposed to be high percentage opportunities. Jonathan Graham had the best percentage at 47%, Charles Mitchell struggled with a poor 32.9%, and Damonte Dodd truly was abysmal at 12.5%. None of these forwards were taller than 6’9″ and none of them played larger than their actual size. Charles Mitchell did rebound relatively well at 6.3 per game, but the others fell below 3 per game. Second chance opportunities were hard to come by. This was a squad that failed to make a presence inside and failed to put up great point averages to cause the overall game for Maryland to be balanced. It is not clear who will be the lead player from this group for next year.¬†D+

bal-terps-trio-maryland-basketball-20140314C:¬†There was only one true center this season. Shaquille Cleare stands at a short 6’9″, particularly in the way that he played like the rest of the PFs. In the end, it is tough to say that there was a true center in the first place. Cleare finished the season with only 3 points per game and under 60% at the stripe. Like the power forward position, this is the biggest area of need to strengthen the inside game and open up opportunities on the outside.¬†D+

Coaching: It is easy to highlight that Mark Turgeon struggled in his third season, but he also showed a lot of passion for the team. It is hard to know how a coach impacts the game when you cannot be in the huddle or follow the stats and visuals on the court in the same way, but there was a tentativeness that plagued his coaching throughout the season. He allowed the ball to stay along the perimeter on offense too long, leaving the Terps without points on many trips down the court. Defensively, the Terps did not seem too bad, but there were a number of possessions when the defense forced opponents to hold their shots until the end but still dropped them in. There have been some questions about his post-game interviews as well. He has placed blame on everyone except himself. There is time to turn this around, and the basketball team is in a better position to succeed in the B1G move than the football team, but he is going to need to do it quickly. C-

Definitely hoping for some major, positive changes for our move to a new conference.

Alex LenI have been more critical than most about Alex Len’s draft stock after only 2 seasons at the University of Maryland. Even with his size and natural ability, he looks a little lost at times. I thought he probably could use one more year in college, partially out of my selfishness of wanting to have him in the competition of our last year in the ACC. Still, all the conversation recently pushed him to the top of the draft and leaving early definitely paid out for him in the end.

Congratulations to the newest Phoenix Sun! Make your Maryland family proud.


2013 has been a great year in sports. College basketball seemed like a free-for-all throughout the season as no one team could hold the #1 spot for longer than a few weeks. Indiana, Michigan, Louisville and others were seen as likely frontrunners to lead the pack into the tournament. Most of the well-known contenders made it to the big dance, but even just getting in was not a guarantee.

wichita-state-mascotMy home school, Maryland, struggled to find consistency throughout the season. While they had two huge wins over Duke (including one in the conference tournament), a failure to win needed road games and a weak non-conference schedule hurt their chances to go further than the NIT. Kentucky was last year’s champions but Calipari learned that he cannot always just trust in his laurels of young talent. The reality is that he will be back next season, but a 1st-round loss to Robert Morris in the NIT was certainly a shocker. Tennessee missed out to get at least one extra win to match their relatively decent schedule and solid end stretch.

So on to the march to the tournament…

2013-03-11-gonzaga-4_3_r536_c534The #1 seeds started off strong but even their seeding was a bit of controversy. Gonzaga was the consensus #1 in the pools at the end of the season, but Louisville took the top spot in the tournament selection. Indiana was able to last long enough to make it to a #1 and Kansas rounded out the top group. A few teams experienced some early tournament scares, but Western Kentucky and Southern made Kansas and Gonzaga fans sweat it to the end of the game. Both 16 seeds looked to be the first to make history over a #1. Then there always has to be a #1 who goes first. While Gonzaga performed well prior to the tournament, they quickly became the team fans shouted overrated at when Wichita State. Louisville ended up being the only survivor, with Kansas and Indiana losing to eventual Final Four teams (Michigan and Syracuse).

ncaa-duke-louisville_0401Added to the impressive positioning for Louisville was a horrific injury to Kevin Ware in the Elite Eight matchup, breaking his leg in two places. There was an immediate rally by the team to solidify their placement in the Final Four, but a somber feeling overshadowed the win and served to put their victory into perspective. The team has rallied around their strong-willed player and look to finish up with a championship.

One of the big surprises in the seeding was with the misplacement of Ole Miss and Oregon. Both schools won their conference tournaments but ended up as 12 seeds. To prove their worth, they both pulled off their 5-12 upsets (along with fellow Pac-12 school California). Ole Miss ended up falling to La Salle in the round of 32, but Oregon showed a little life with their defeated of semi-overreated Saint Louis. Speaking of La Salle, they pulled off the upset over Big 12 school Kansas State with a slight 63-61 win.

0327-eagles_full_380The most significant upset had to be the tournament run by 15-seed Florida Gulf Coast. Only established in 1991, the school was not even on the map until they went from 15-seed “happy-to-be-in-the-tournament” team to Sweet Sixteen surprise. Knocking off Georgetown and San Diego State, the small school quickly became the Cinderella team that everyone wanted to get behind. They also changed the nickname for their basketball program to Dunk City¬†after they impressively were able to play above the rim with lob after lob, some of which became SportsCenter highlights. They may have lost to Florida, but they put up a fight and their coach received the recognition needed to get picked up by USC as their new head coach.

With all of the excitement so far, there are some great match-ups left to experience. Louisville looks to avoid the upset by Wichita State, while Syracuse and Michigan have a battle of the 4-seeds. Prediction for the moment would have to go toward Louisville, especially after their domination of Duke, but the reason it is called March Madness is because it is impossible to know what will happen. Enjoy the end of the college basketball season!


Going back to my previous post, the conference realignment has caused a lot of disturbance in the college sports landscape. I talked about a complete scrapping of the current system and breaking it down into the four regional conferences. This would allow for a better football playoff system and even potentially readjust March Madness to fit the new format (though it would not be necessary). So how does that play out…

With four conferences and two divisions per conference, each division could host a team for the playoff. The current BCS could still be used to help identify the ranking between the divisional champions for seeding purposes. Each division would host a championship (like the current conference championships), allowing for each of the teams to be selected without the controversy of questioning the lack of appreciation for teams with perfect records that would arguably deserve more of a consideration for higher bowls games. The evened out talent also helps that cause. If the NCAA chose to, they could also simply do conference championships and a 4-team playoff system.

Time to break down the conferences into their divisions…

West: The most logical breakdown of this conference would allow for states bordering the water. The Pacific would boast some of the great Pac-12 teams, like Oregon, USC and Stanford. With the Mountain division, the Arizona schools and Boise State would be able to help create some great possible match-ups, even with greater presence of the MWC.

  • Pacific: California, Fresno State, Hawaii, Oregon, Oregon State, San Diego State, San Joe State, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Washington, Washington State
  • Mountain:¬†Arizona, Arizona State,¬†Air Force, Boise State, BYU, Colorado, Colorado State, Nevada, UNLV, Utah, Utah State, Wyoming

521950720-18140919 131997320-23122828 67086818

South: With a Central division anchored by the states of Oklahoma, Kansas and Arkansas and a Gulf division dominated by Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, this conference has some truly great competition both within the division and the greater conference. The teams a essentially divided between a northern and southern group.

  • Central: Arkansas, Arkansas State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, New Mexico, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State,¬†Texas Christian, Texas Tech,¬†Tulsa
  • Gulf: Alabama, Auburn, Baylor, Houston, Louisiana Tech, LSU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, SMU, Southern Miss, Texas, Texas A&M

sns-college-football-pg-151 337285820-19225624 522239360-18140933

East: The combination of ACC and SEC schools makes this a very entertaining conference, and also finally unites Florida and Florida State in the same division. The east coast has a strong combination of teams that may have a little more strength in the southern schools than the north, but still boasts some possible strong match-ups with Florida, Louisville, Clemson, South Carolina, Virginia Tech and Florida State in the mix.

  • Mid-Atlantic: Duke, East Carolina, Kentucky, Louisville, Maryland, Navy, NC State, UNC, Virginia, Virginia Tech, West Virginia
  • Coastal: Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Miami,¬†Middle Tennessee State,¬†South Carolina, South Florida,¬†Tennessee,¬†UCF,¬†Vanderbilt

sns-college-football-pg-150 sns-sports-main-pictures-372 147997240-19225916

North: Anchored by the B1G, the dividing line for the divisions is the coastal schools plus Ohio and west of the Great Lakes. Both divisions boast some great talent: Ohio State & Penn State in the New England area and the Michigan schools, Indiana schools and Wisconsin in the Great Lakes division.

  • New England: Army,¬†Ball State,¬†Boston College, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Kent State, Ohio State, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Syracuse, Temple
  • Great Lakes: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Iowa State, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Northern Illinois, Purdue, Wisconsin

522023140-18140924 523289400-18140950 sns-college-football-pg-149

Even with these divisions (which do divide some of the more classic talents), there would still be opportunities for the teams to meet outside of their divisions. Ohio State-Michigan is still a yearly match-up and could be an additional meeting in the bowl season. Texas-Oklahoma could also meet up between the regular season and postseason. Army, Navy and Air Force could use their non-conference schedules to travel for yearly competition. Arizona might be a little left out with the Pac-12 mostly in the Pacific region but they get match-ups against the best of the MWC (Boise State, BYU, Colorado State and Utah State).

I focused on trying to keep the divisions divided by state (with the exception of Ball State joining the New England division), but there could be a little more separation of teams within states that are not traditional match-ups (like Florida State versus UCF or Tulsa versus Texas Tech).

Using this conference and divisional setup, the most recent year would have had a playoff system at the end of the regular season that ended up like this…

  • #1 v. #8: Notre Dame (BCS #1) v. Kent State (BCS #25)
  • #2 v. #7: Alabama (BCS #2) v.¬†Louisville (BCS #21)
  • #3 v. #6: Florida (BCS #3) v. Boise State (BCS #19)
  • #4 v. #5: Oregon (BCS #4) v. Kansas State (BCS #5)

Keep in mind that Ohio State was on penalty (final BCS #3) and Penn State will also be able to rebuild after another few years. But here would be the re-imagined playoffs based off the actual final standings from this past season…

  • #1 v. #8: Alabama (BCS #1) v. Utah State (BCS #16)
  • #2 v. #7: Oregon (BCS #2) v.¬†Louisville (BCS #13)
  • #3 v. #6: Ohio State (BCS #3) v. Kansas State (BCS #12)
  • #4 v. #5: Notre Dame (BCS #4) v. Georgia (BCS #5)

All of these possibilities are also not taking into account that the ranking would be different with a changed conference and divisional setup that would have also changed the schedules. I would be happy to take any thoughts about this new setup if anyone would like to comment.


March Madness: 2013 Edition

Posted: March 18, 2013 in Basketball, College

The conference championships are over and the field is set. The tournament is not filled with as many automatics as in the past and there are a number of teams that could pull upsets. The numbers ones are fallible and the number twos have been beaten by teams that did not make the tournament, but that is the best thing about the competitive field.

Starting with the snubs, each of the teams that missed out were only a win or two away from making the field. Maryland had two big wins over Duke and a home win against NC State, but fell three times to UNC and had a very weak non-conference schedule. A win over Kentucky at the beginning of the season and an extra road win in conference would have been better. Virginia had a slightly better placement in the conference and a win over Duke, but their RPI and SOS were also too high. Tennessee may have had the closest argument but failed to get a strong enough record in a weak SEC. Alabama and Kentucky both missed key opportunities in their conference in both the top-50 representatives and early in the conference tournament. Southern Miss is just not in a great conference and lost to Memphis three times, missing a chance to at least take advantage of a power within the conference.


Now onto the tournament…

314_largeMidwest: Anchoring this region is Louisville, the #1 team of the tournament. With a possible late matchup against Duke, there is a lot of talent in this group. The bulk of the teams in this region seem to be more from the Mid-Majors. Creighton can always be a dangerous team but Memphis is the team to watch out for. The easy prediction would be to say that Louisville can make it out of this region with little challenge. Duke will have to get past both of the Mid-Major powers but will likely not meet up in the region final. There are a number of teams that are vulnerable in this region for beating each other up before meeting with the top 2. Saint Louis and Michigan State are likely upsets early but could make a move if they get a little momentum. Look for Louisville to make the most of their last season in the Big East with more than a conference championship.

233_largeWest: Originally thought to be the outright #1 team, Gonzaga still made it to the big dance with a big position. As the only Mid-Major to get a spot in the top 3 of any region, their road is going to be tough, with possible match-ups with Pitt and Wisconsin before likely meeting Ohio State. Kansas State could be the buster of this region, though Wisconsin/Ole Miss will not be an easy out before meeting the Zags. Notre Dame and Arizona could also be dangerous if they get hot quickly. The top teams in this conference do not have much to worry about as the bottom half are easy outs overall. The strongest team to possibly pull an upset would be Ole Miss, but Gonzaga will likely match up with the Buckeyes or Wildcats as their biggest match-ups.

271_largeEast: Originally sitting at the #1 spot at the start of the season, Indiana is poised to make quite the run. Losing out in their conference semifinal, Zeller and company will be looking for redemption and will have to get passed a couple of teams that really show up come tournament time. Marquette, UNLV and Syracuse are not going to make things easy for Indiana or Miami. In particular, the Orange will look to avenge their conference championship loss with a strong run in the tournament. Probably surprised that they were skipped over for a #1 spot, Miami will be looking to make a statement with a fairly veteran lineup that has been very dangerous. NC State and Butler will also be looking to push against this group, but Indiana will probably rise to the occasion. It may be tempting to pick an upset with Montana and Davidson for their previous success but these are not the same teams.

287_largeSouth: Poised to be the toughest of the regions to get through, Kansas is likely to be in for a real test. After they get passed WKU, they will likely face UNC and have trouble with the 4-guard/shooter lineup. Michigan and VCU will likely make a push as well and face a tough Jayhawk team after a few days rest. On the other half of the region, Georgetown, Florida and UCLA are poised to avoid the early round upsets and meet up with either the Jayhawks, Tar Heels, Rams or Wolverines in the regional final. This is the most exciting region with possible match-ups including UNC-Villanova, Kansas-UNC, Georgetown-Florida, Michigan-VCU and VCU-anyone, if they can get some momentum.

Likely bracket busters include Creighton over Duke (#7 v. #2), New Mexico State over Saint Louis (#13 v. #4), Oregon over Oklahoma State (#12 v. #5), UNC over Kansas (#8 v. #1), Colorado over Illinois (#10 v. #7) and Ole Miss over Wisconsin (#12 v. #5).

The final four is really tough to predict this year, though it is the top half of each region that could fluctuate and all of the #1s and #2s are vulnerable to a tough slate of teams. The finals will probably be Indiana versus Louisville with the Hoosiers claiming their final place atop the college basketball landscape.


So much of my focus with the college realignment with the NCAA has been on the ACC and the B1G because of my connection with Maryland, but some significant news has been brewing for some time about the state of the Big East. Seven Catholic schools have had enough of the realignment and the continued dismantling of the Big East. West Virginia left for the Big 12. Pittsburgh and Syracuse are joining the ACC next season and Louisville is joining the following year. Rutgers is following Maryland to the B1G, while Notre Dame has decided to choose their partial alignment with the ACC. So what is left with the Big East?

That was the very question asked by the Catholic 7 (Georgetown, Depaul, Villanova, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall and St. John’s). These are not major football schools, but their mission statements and athletic foci are in alignment. Seeing the writing on the wall, they connected and talked with the current commissioner about a division. The agreement is all but finished. It is inevitable. The Big East is…not dead?

The Catholic 7 are going to be their own conference and slowly add in similar colleges, including Xavier, Dayton, St. Louis, Butler and Creighton over the next two years. The poaching will continue, as they look to get their conference up to the 12 teams needed for a conference tournament champion that would arguably be competitive with the power conferences. Not only are the Catholic 7 getting the chance to leave so quickly, but they get 2 additional prizes…the Big East name and their conference tournament in Madison Square Garden. This leave the current remaining teams in the Big East without a name or consistent identity.

The remaining teams after all of the other transition (UConn, Cincinnati and South Florida) are looking to add a very wide array of teams to fill the gaps, including East Carolina, Houston, Memphis, SMU, Temple, Tulane and Central Florida. The get their numbers up to 12, they are also looking to add Tulsa and Navy. With less of a consistent identity than the other conferences (big institution type or region), the current name being tossed around is America 12. It is difficult to think that these teams are excited about the hodgepodge nature they have been thrown together and have to be concerned about other poaching or moves. UConn wanted desperately to move to the ACC but Louisville was taken instead. They could try to make another play, and there is always the possibility of the B1G to go after UVA and/or UNC, causing the ACC to poach other teams from the Big East/America 12.

The fate of the Big East/America 12 is still yet to be written, but there will be more moves and surprises within the next year to bring this question to light.