Wednesday, November 19, 2014

November Reign

By Sports Enthusiast and Guru Ryan Mitchell, Contributing Blogger

The 2014-2015 College basketball season has officially arrived after its long 7-month hiatus, following UCONN’s surprise run through the tournament last spring. Yesterday marked the start of a new season with ESPN hosting its annual 24-hour marathon of games. This year, the marathon was culminated in a pair of ranked showdowns as part of the annual Champions Classic Event in Indianapolis. The event featured #4 Duke running away from #22 Michigan State and #1 Kentucky throttling #5 Kansas.

Much like last year, the hype floodgates following this event are wide open amongst the media and fans alike. One only has to look back to the results of the same event last season in Chicago, in which #2 Michigan State knocked off #1 Kentucky and #5 Kansas took care of #4 Duke, to realize the overall impact, or lack thereof, on determining the outcome of each participant’s season. Following the event last year, the aforementioned outlets would have had you believing that Michigan State and Kansas were destined for a collision in the Final Four in Dallas because of their showings on that chilly November evening.

As it played out, Duke was knocked out in their first game of the NCAA tournament, and neither of those schools reached those lofty expectations or Dallas. In fact, it was event that sent Kentucky into a regular season nosedive in which they were only an 8 seed headed into the tournament. In fairness, the Wildcats then went on a semi-miraculous run of buzzer beaters and close game victories that spared the group of entirely being labeled failures. Unfortunately for them, their luck ran out to a more disciplined and mature UCONN team in the National Championship game. This begs the question, that for all of that hype and all of the talking heads supposed “expertise,” where was UCONN in that conversation that night in November where we all fawned over the supposed pre-Final Four?

Thus, as media and fans, let’s hold ourselves to the higher standard that we will keep things in perspective this season and not buy into sensationalism or incomplete early season rankings and results! It’s a simple request and one that will make your viewing this season far more enjoyable. Look outside of the rankings and look outside of the “Big 5 conferences” when viewing. Keep looking outside of network affiliated conference promotions that will cloud your ability to think of any other game that night. The best part of college basketball is that there is always a game being played and the significance of that game remains to be determined. No matter how small it may seem because of the names on the jersey, it’s of the same importance because one of those teams can and will ruin your school or your bracket come tournament time.

 Enjoy the “November Reign”  

Friday, November 14, 2014

College Basketball is Back

As college basketball kicks off tonight, I can't help but think of the crazy moments, as well as the head-scratching moments, of the past. Like, how did Kentucky not win it all with John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe on the same team? And, the same goes for that UCLA squad with Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook and Darren Collision.

The truth is, college basketball is so unpredictable that anything can truly happen in March. Isn't that why we watch? It's the unimaginable madness, those diaper dandies and that "One Shining Moment" song sung by Jennifer Hudson (Okay, maybe not that) that keeps us glued to our seats.

But, forget March for now. The college hoops regular season is upon us, and the long journey begins. Despite a 2014 NBA Draft regarded by some experts as one that will go down as one of the best in history, there are plenty of returning star athletes and story lines to keep us interested. Can Sean Miller finally reach a Final Four with Arizona? Will Kentucky, loaded with recruits and the return of the Harrison brothers, win it all? Can Wisconsin break through with most of their team returning, and will they have to go through Arizona in another epic game to do so? Will other traditional powerhouses like Kansas, Duke or North Carolina make another run?

All these questions and more will be answered in the ensuing 5 months. In case you want to jump the gun and relive the best March moments, I suggest clicking on this website, one of the best and little known ones on the planet. Otherwise, sit back and enjoy the ride. It should be another insane roller coaster.

Friday, November 7, 2014

NBA: Quick Takeaways and Season Predictions

Except for that irresistible chocolate you've been dying to have, there's nothing sweeter than a buzzer beater. That was on full display Wednesday night, when Gordon Hayward nailed a step back jumper at the buzzer, sending the Utah crowd into a frenzy, and Lebron and company packing with another loss.

Buoyed up by that epic finish, I thought there was no better time to get into my quick takeaways and predictions for this season.

High Ceiling Out West

San Antonio is definitely the favorite, but the rest is up for grabs! With Durant out for up to two months and Westbrook out at least a month, who knows about Oklahoma City? The next six teams feature a lot of exciting potential, but time will tell on who emerges out of the pack of Golden State, the Los Angeles Clippers, Portland, Houston, Memphis and Dallas.

My initial thoughts are that Golden State looks great under Kerr, but much of their success will depend on a healthy David Lee and Andrew Bogut. As for Houston, they are an exciting team to watch and off to a huge start, but their bench leaves much to be desired, Harden can't guard a chair and Howard isn't a winner. Despite getting thumped by Golden State, I believe the Clippers will wind up a top 4 seed, but they are a team that has underachieved for years. Portland has a very bright, young team, but they must have home court to do anything special. On the other hand, Memphis plays maybe the best defense in basketball, but they have lacked offensive firepower and battled injuries for years. And for my Dallas Mavericks, they have a much more talented team this year under a great coach, but they must learn to gel together and play good defense if they want to go anywhere in the playoffs.

The East Garbage

It's only been two weeks, but how bad is the Eastern Conference? You only have 4 teams with winning records, and if you're scoring at home, that's 11 with losing ones. Out West, you not only have 8 teams with winning records, but 3 of them are also undefeated.

Despite how poorly Cleveland has looked, I still expect the East to be a two-team race between them and Chicago. But, I will say that Miami, Washington and Toronto have the talent to make for an interesting playoffs, especially if a guy like Derrick Rose or Kevin Love were to go down. As much as some people hate the New York teams, it's far less interesting when they are both lousy. If the Bulls and Cavs can develop a fun rivalry, or those younger teams can rise up and challenge them, it could make for an exciting playoffs.

The Flames: Will They Burn Out?

The two initial surprises to this point have to be Houston and Sacramento. As crazy as it sounds, Sacramento is 4-1. It seems that Demarcus "Boogie" Cousins has finally tempered his inner demons and become a leader behind his immense talent. I still think they just don't have the talent to make the playoffs, and see them winning 35 games at the most. As for Houston, they're sitting pretty at 6-0, but I think their lack of depth will catch up with them. Trevor Ariza has been a wonderful addition, adding the defense they badly needed. But, I think losing two starters in Lin and Asik will catch up with them. Look for them to get a top six seed, and fizzle out in the playoffs.

The Predictions

It's lame and predictable, but I see the Spurs beating the Cavs in the finals. If Rose is healthy, the Bulls have a better overall team than Cleveland, but I can't bank on his health. As for a bold prediction, I think you will see Golden State in the finals in the next four years. Stephen Curry is already a dark horse MVP candidate, Klay Thompson got paid and is thriving early, and Steve Kerr seems like the perfect man for the job. I believe they will be the most fun team to watch this year and a tough out for anyone because of their hunger and talent.