Archive for the ‘Hoops’ Category

Final Four….One for the Kids

Posted: April 5, 2012 by centennialsports in Hoops, NCAA

By Matt Parker

The stage was set.

Fake smiles all around....these two men hate each other

The Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the largest fixed-domed structure in the world.

New Orleans, Louisiana, a city recovering from natural disaster, the founding of Lob City, and Bountygate.

For one long weekend residents could forget the torture they’ve endured in recent years and focus on a multi-billion dollar business built on the exploitation of unpaid labor.

Ahhhhhh the NCAA.

The first matchup had all the glitz and glamour of a Hollywood production; the Final Four, an inter-state rivalry, future NBA stars,and two big-name college coaches who can’t stand each other.

It was the Calipari family versus the Pitino family, and they were going to the mattresses in the Big Easy.

Yet another version of Calipari’s lottery pick factory was making a run at a national title, even though someone messed up Anthony Davis’ face on the assembly line.

A lock for the first overall pick in this year’s NBA Draft, Davis is best known for this cameo on Family Guy:

Kentucky’s superior talent had them as 8.5 point favorites so it came as no surprise when they jumped out to a quick lead, but Louisville weathered the early storm and seemed determined to deny the Wildcats their predicted destiny.

Louisville sparkplug Peyton Siva was held in check by the Wildcats’ athleticism on the perimeter, and was held scoreless for the first 30 minutes. Louisville shot just 35 percent but, it was their rebounding that kept the game close, finishing with a 19-6 advantage on the offensive glass.

Future Stars

With 90 seconds remaining the Kentucky lead was only five, but the nail in the coffin came courtesy a thunderous Davis dunk. Still, the scrappy Cardinals had the mighty Wildcats on the ropes and could leave New Orleans with their heads held high.

Kansas-Ohio St. didn’t exactly bring the same kind of hype, but the final product delivered.

Ohio St. controlled the tempo from the outset. Their half-court offense slowed the pace of the game, while Kansas seemed clueless and error-prone. Jayhawks’ star Thomas Robinson was frustrated by Deshaun Thomas, and Big Ten defensive player of the year Aaron Craft was wreaking havoc. The Buckeyes were in cruise control.

Then all of a sudden, Ohio St. fell apart.

Foul trouble in the second half relegated Thomas to the bench, and Robinson reaped the rewards. Kansas rallied from a 13-point deficit to take the lead late on.

Sullinger's reaction when he saw how far he dropped in draft status

Jared Sullinger shot a dreadful 5-19, as the first-team All-American finished with just eleven points. Let this be a lesson to all: when the NBA says it wants to give you big money, take it before they change their minds. If you’re a projected lottery pick, returning to college can only hurt you and your wallet. If you don’t think you’re good enough to go to the NBA don’t be the one to tell them, let them learn the hard way. Sullinger may be teaching a course on this next year at Fall So Hard University.

Kansas led by a total of 3 minutes, 48 seconds. It wasn’t pretty but it was enough to earn a date with Kentucky on Monday night.

The title game presented matchup of ideologies between the two winningest programs in college basketball history. Calipari‘s one-and-dones against Self’s juniors and seniors. Could Calipari finally win a title? Could Kansas pull off the upset?

One thing we know for sure is that Self is one helluvacoach. Eight straight Big 12 titles, a national championship in 2008, and this year’s Naismith Coach of the Year award leaves no doubt he’s one of the best in the biz. Another national title would cement his place in history.

But under the intense spotlight, Calipari’s prodigies dominated. Kentucky jumped out to an 18 point first half lead and weathered a Jayhawks’ run late on to hold on for an eight-point victory.

Throughout the tournament Kansas showed an innate ability to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, but Kentucky refused to fall prey Monday night. The best team doesn’t always win in college basketball, but the Wildcats left no doubt Monday night.

A one point loss at Indiana, and a setback to Vanderbilt in the SEC title game were their only losses all year. Poise, toughness, and unselfishness are qualities rarely held by teams led by freshmen, but Calipari’s kids are changing the landscape of college basketball.

This is a squad that can beat you in a number of ways. Against Louisville, Kidd-Gilchrist had an off night and Davis, the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, picked up the slack on the offensive end. In the title game, Davis had only six points but led the team in assists, rebounds, and blocks as Doron Lamb led the team in scoring.

But this title is all about Calipari. He joins a very exclusive club of coaches with national championships and stakes his claim as one of the best in modern college basketball history. He can exhale. But he’s not about to rest on his laurels, on Friday he’s going recruiting.

The factory rolls on.

That is all.

Advertisements

Self vs. Calipari II: Redemption?

Posted: April 2, 2012 by skrizznasty in Hoops, NCAA

By Michael Skrzyniak

Cal versus Self 2.

Mirrors in letters, gameplan.

Legacy versus relief.

This haiku represents everything you must know for Monday night’s clash between the top-seeded Kentucky Wildcats and Bill Self’s resilient Kansas Jayhawks squad.

With Self at the helm in 2008, Kansas defeated a Memphis Tigers team led by John Calipari in one of the most memorable NCAA championship games. Everyone remembers where they were when Mario Chalmers launched that three-pointer that sent the game to overtime, where Kansas eventually won 75-68. Derrick Rose does, and the Mario Chalmers curse has followed him in the NBA.

Too soon, D-Rose fans? Sorry about that. But you got to hit those free throws…

The rosters are eerily similar. Once again Calipari is blessed with a future overall number one draft pick, 2012 AP Player of the Year Anthony Davis. However the surrounding cast is vastly stronger. Joey Dorsey and Chris Douglas-Roberts were no Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones, or Marquis Teague.

Bill Self’s philosophy hasn’t changed much since his title run. Experienced guards: In 2008 it was Mario Chalmers and Brandon Rush. This year it’s seniors Tyshawn Taylor and Connor Teahan. Self is also blessed with dominating big men. Thomas Robinson and Jeff Withey are Cole Aldrich and Darrell Arthur … only better.

Future Raptor Thomas Robinson leads the Comeback Jayhawks

Kentucky has dominated the tournament thus far, winning most games by double digits. Last night’s eight-point victory over Louisville was the lowest margin of victory for Calipari and the Cats.

The Jayhawks’ journey is a different story . It started in the Big 12 tournament when Kansas overcame a 19-point deficit over Missouri. The trend has carried throughout March.

Purdue was up 11. Ohio State, 13.

The story however, ends the same way: Bill Self smiles with arms raised in victory.

The key to the game is Anthony Davis. How Calipari decides to attack Thomas Robinson and Jeff Withey is what we’re all looking forward to. Withey is the X-factor. Withey’s staunch defence limited Jared Sullinger to 5 of 19 shooting. Withey also blocked seven shots, including one that led to an Elijah Johnson lay-up that put the Jayhawks up three with 64 seconds left.

Withey’s next challenge is just as frightening: Anthony Davis and his 15 points per game and 23 total tournament blocks. The problem with Davis is not just his length, but his versatility. His ability to knock down shots away from the basket means Self needs to find a way to not only contain Davis, but also try and limit Jones, Teague, Kidd-Gilchrist and Doron Lamb, all future NBA players.

Louisville ranked third in the NCAA, holding opponents to 38% shooting.

Kentucky didn’t get the memo.

The Wildcats hit 57% of their shots last night, featuring numerous alley-oop finishes.

Speaking of which…

http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/1034991/Animation2.gif

Ridiculous.

It’s difficult to examine Bill Self’s coaching performance throughout the tournament and declare this year’s run as his most impressive. The Jayhawks have played just one complete game, when they defeated a depleted North Carolina team in the Elite 8. However, Self continues to unriddle his team’s early lacklustre performances and he now finds himself one win away from his second national championship.

John Calipari is also one win away. He is 40 minutes away from overcoming the last hurdle in his incredible career, a championship.

He’s been close before, though. We have already mentioned his 2008 heartbreaking tale and in 1996 Calipari took a fortuitous UMass team to the Final Four, where it lost to Kentucky, the eventual champion.

Is the time now for Calipari to finally win the big one? He is arguably the best college basketball coach of the last five years and he is unquestionably the best recruiter.

Brandon Knight, John Wall, Tyreke Evans, Demarcus Cousins, and Derrick Rose were all coached by Calipari. However, the depth of talent on the 2012 Wildcats trumps any starting five Calipari has ever put on the court.

If he doesn’t win it this year, I really don’t know what else Calipari can do.

Whether Bill Self further cements his legacy or Calipari has his one shining moment, Monday night’s championship game will answer many questions.

Most of us are just praying the game is better than last years.

Superman … The Whore of Orlando

Posted: March 23, 2012 by centennialsports in Hoops

By Matt Parker

Notice the poster doesn't say Loyalty on it?

Well Dwight, you’ve really painted yourself in to a cornernow.

After months of speculation, Dwight Howard chose not to opt-out of the final year of his contract and stay with the Orlando Magic for one more year.

The deadline day announcement was met with excitement and relief in Orlando as they desperately try to hold on to their superstar.

Those poor people.

All this does is delay the inevitable. He can do it all over again next year, flip-flopping on whether to stay or go, and flirting with other teams like a drunken 50 year-old divorcee.

At his press conference he used the words loyalty and respect like they were punch-lines. His actions over the last year show that he knows little about these traits. Reports had him changing his mind several times that day, refusing to sign the waiver that would keep him in Orlando for the 2012-2013 season until the very last minute. The chances of Orlando convincing him to stay long term seems about as likely as this guy finishing his novel….

It’s pretty obvious that Howard loves the attention, but he’s walking a very thin line here. If he misplays his hand, that booming smile of his will inspire images of the Grinch planning his raid on Who-ville.

There is no doubt this will be the turning point of his career. This is his one chance to cement a legacy and keep his reputation intact where others before him have failed.

After what he has put that city through , not staying in Orlando would make him worse than Lebron, Bosh, Carmelo, and

Proud Miami Heat supporter

Nickleback combined.

At least Lebron and Bosh didn’t slut themselves around for two years knowing perfectly well they weren’t coming back. At least Carmelo was up front about his intentions and the Nuggets were able to get good value for their prized asset. At least Nickleback……yeeeeah I got nothing there.

It’s not like Orlando hasn’t been through this before. Shaq left for the bright lights of L.A. in 1996, and they had to endure the torture of watching him lead the Lakers to a three-peat.

They couldn’t let this happen again could they?

Management has abandoned any sense of pride and dignity in their attempts to woo Howard. They consult him on trades, coaching decisions, they call him every day to reinforce their desire to keep him.

What could be more pathetic? Maybe a late night drunk-dial begging him to stay?

Oh yeah, that happened too.

Former Magic CEO Bob Vander Weide resigned after drunk-dialing Howard in the wee hours of the morning begging him to stay. You can’t make this stuff up.

Orlando isn’t the only city affected by Howard’s indecisiveness. Teams like the Lakers, Bulls, and Nets, have pursued him for over a year now.

The Nets built a new building in Brooklyn and traded away a king’s ransom to bring in Deron Williams from Utah. Howard was supposed to be the last piece of a championship contender. Now he can’t make up his mind, Williams can opt out after this year, and the team is facing the prospect of moving into the biggest market in the league with Brook Lopez as their star attraction … and that idea has the same success possibilities as this did…

He controls the fate of many people, and is capable of changing the entire landscape of the NBA. As the game’s best center, he can turn any team into a legitimate contender or bring the Magic organization to its knees.

To Orlando, Howard is like that really hot girl you once dated that you might let flirt a little because in the end, you knew she was coming home with you. Your friends told you she was no good, but you didn’t listen. You were blinded by the glitter and status. So after she leaves you for someone else and you’re left with nothing, all alone in your room wondering how you could have been so stupid, all you can do is just shake your head and mutter “what a whore”.

That is all.

CP3 for MVP

Posted: March 18, 2012 by centennialsports in Hoops

By Mike Skrzyniak

There's a new MVP in LA (Photo courtesy Howard How/Getty Images)

There may be bigger (Kevin Durant), stronger (Lebron James), and flashier (The Phantom of the Opera, err.. Kobe Bryant) players who will be favourites for the Maurice Podoloff Trophy, but it’s the quiet demeanour and extreme effectiveness that makes Chris Paul the perfect choice for MVP this year.
Let me explain.

My first question to you is, did anyone expect the Los Angeles Clippers to challenge for a division title this year? If you said yes, then you’re a dirty, lyin’ son-of-a-gun.

The Clippers have arguably been the biggest joke of a sports franchise in the last 20 years. They has only participated twice in the playoffs since 1993. They probably know more about golf than our own resident golf girl . Homer and Marge were once referred to as the “Los Angeles Clippers of backyard tennis.” Great comment Lou.

I could go on and on with Clipper jokes, but I digress.

We sometimes forget that Chris Paul was destined for the other Los Angeles team. You know, Kobe and friends… but instead of heading to a veteran team playing in the same back court as one of the best ever, and protected by two seven-foot monsters, Paul was traded to the Aokigahara Forest of the NBA( read up, you’ll understand).

Not only has Paul brought the Clippers back to relevance, they are now the feel good underdog story the NBA hasn’t seen since the Golden State Warriors during the 2007 playoff run. Not only are the Clippers back, but they will be a difficult match-up in this year’s playoffs.

The point guard from Winston Salem, North Carolina is scoring 19.7 points per game, while contributing 8.4 assists for the fifth-seed Clippers. These stats won’t shock you, but his impact toward the team’s success goes much harder than what shows in the box score. The Clippers are averaging six less points per game compare to last year and they also rank 10 spots higher in offensive points per game. Paul is second in the league with 2.24 steals a game which is essential to the Clippers to run ‘n’ gun style. The athleticism in the open court sets up easy baskets for rising stars Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. The media has christened the Clippers as Lob City. The new nickname refers to the plethora of rims destroyed by thunderous alley-oops and crafty pick and rolls. The Clippers aren’t afraid to flex a little swag when necessary. Right Kendrick?

Some people may argue that Chris Paul may not be the MVP of his own team, let alone the entire NBA. Blake Griffin did hatch the metaphorical egg that is Clipper fever with his constant highlight-reel dunks, But this time the Clippers are winning. Paul’s teammates may be putting up equal individual numbers to last year, but this year the points mean something.

The Clippers are now more than just fantasy player options.

We may be used to MVP point guards scoring an abundance of points (Derrick Rose) or recording absurd amounts of assists (Steve Nash) but it’s the balance of both these elements of the game that makes Paul so dangerous. Paul’s scored 25 points or more 10 times this year and in 12 games he has recorded double-digit assists.

I understand the Thunder are in first place, I understand that LeBron is having his best statistical season and I understand Kobe is still doing what Kobe does, hell, even Kevin Love is having a surreal year, but what Chris Paul has done for the Clipper organization is nothing short of transcendent. The Clippers are no longer a laughing stock.

It has been the “Lake-Show” for quite some in Los Angeles but thanks to Chris Paul, the other LA team is stealing the spotlight.