NCAA tournament upset teams

2018 NCAA tournament mens basketball giant killers

A giant killer is a team that can knock off a top dog. A giant killer is a team like Western Kentucky, Florida Gulf Coast or the George Mason. They are teams that can cause problems in the NCAA tournament, but the average spectator might not necessarily pick them because they are a small school.

The following teams will most likely be ranked as No. 8-16 seeds in the 2018 NCAA tournament. These are teams that might not be from a power conference, but have all the makings to win at least one game come March.

Missouri Tigers

NCAA tournament upset teams

Michael Porter Jr. (Photo from scoopnest.com)

Most killers don’t come from a power conference. Missouri has been a great team all season. As we creep closer and closer to March, Missouri is waiting on Michael Porter Jr., who is one of the top five freshmen in the country. Getting Porter back come tournament time means that a good team that could fall to a No. 7-10 seed could be extremely dangerous.

The Tigers are 18-8 and have won their last five games. They are 3-2 against the top 25 this season and are the No. 3 team in a very loaded SEC. Porter has missed every single game this season, and adding a top five player can only improve a team that is one of the biggest surprises in the SEC this season.

Nevada Wolf Pack

Even though Nevada is a ranked team, they are still going to slide on selection Sunday. Nevada’s strength of schedule is 109th in the country, and that will lose them some respect from the committee. They are 22-5 and first in the Mountain West Conference.

One of their best wins is against Rhode Island, a team that is coming on strong as of late. They lost by six and four respectively to Texas Tech and TCU. They are 14-3 in their last 17 and don’t seem to be slowing down.

One of the toughest things for a snub in the seeding is seeing just how hot a team is come tournament time. The Wolf Pack are one of the hottest teams in the country and believe they can play with anyone. Nevada will probably get placed as a very strong No. 9 seed coming into March. They will be a tough second round matchup for almost any No. 1 seed.

Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders

NCAA tournament upset teams

Middle Tennessee in their 2017 run. (Photo from athlonsports.com)

Well well well, welcome back to the Blue Raiders. The Blue Raiders are 13-1 in their last 14 games, have an RPI of 29 and have a 11-1 road record. For most teams come March, road records wouldn’t matter. But depending on how low the seeding comes for the Raiders, an NCAA tournament game could seem like a road game.

They have lost only five games all season. Three of those games are to USC, Miami and Auburn, teams that are inside the RPI top 50. They have also lost those three games by 14 total points.

If Middle Tennessee falls to the same No. 11 or 12 seed that they did last season, they should be a nightmare of a first-round matchup.

Vermont Catamounts

Speaking of hot teams, the Catamounts have won their last 15 games. They are 22-5 overall and don’t have a single loss outside of the top 95 in RPI. Their worst loss was to Bucknell by four points on the road. In all five of their losses, they have lost by 10 or less, and four of the five losses have come on the road or on neutral sites.

The team does lack good wins, being that their best win is probably a one-point home win against Bradley. The Catamounts have a fair amount of NCAA tournament experience and are led by Anthony Lamb and Trae Bell-Haynes, who make up 42.5 percent of the team’s scoring.

Vermont locks down on defense and can score pretty well also. The Catamounts could be a team advancing to the second weekend in the NCAA tournament.

No. 14-16 seed

Well there’s always one team that comes out of no where to surprise. Here’s an attempt to pick the No. 14-16 seed, if there is one, that can pull off a major upset.

Montana Grizzlies

The Big Sky’s regular season leader gets a shout out. Montana is 20-6 this season and 13-1 in their last 14. Notable loses include a three-point loss at Washington and a 13-point loss at Penn State. They have beaten Pitt and Northern Colorado (probably their best win) and are 8-5 in road games this season.

Montana’s strength of schedule is 329th in the country which isn’t bad, it’s really bad. They lack wins over any possible tournament teams, but have performed well against the nation’s top RPIs. It only takes one top seed to struggle for a lower seed to have a chance.

If we are taking a shot here, Montana and their 68th ranked defense could shut down a top dog and get the Cinderellas dancing.

 

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A recap of Paul Pierce’s historic Celtic career

Very few basketball players get to experience what Paul Pierce did Sunday night. He got to watch as his number 34 get hoisted into the rafters at TD Garden in Boston Massachusetts. A finals champion, A finals MVP and a 10 time Allstar, Paul Pierce stayed through the good and the bad with the Boston Celtics.

Now he gets to put his name in the same category with names like Larry Bird, Bill Russell and Robert Parish. Here’s a look back on his fifteen seasons with the Boston Celtics and why he is one of the Celtic greats.

Background:

Paul Pierce was the Celtics 10th overall pick in 1998. He is a 6-foot-7 small forward, drafted out of Kansas. Pierce spent 15 seasons with the Boston Celtics before being traded to the Brooklyn Nets.

Pierce received Big 12 MVP his sophomore season at Kansas. He has his High School, College and now NBA jersey all retired.

He trails only John Havlicek on the Boston Celtics All-time scoring list.

He played alongside stars like Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Antoine Walker and Shaquille O’Neal. Pierce holds the Celtics’ record for most three-point field goals made and also ranks third in team history in games played, second in points scored, seventh in total rebounds, fifth in total assists and first in total steals.

He is fifth in NBA history for total three pointers made behind: Reggie Miller, Kyle Korver and former teammates Jason Terry and Ray Allen.

The Stats:

Paul Pierce, (Photo by NBA Photos/NBAE via Getty Images).

In Paul’s 15 year Celtic career he never averaged under 16.5 points per game. That 16.5 campaign came in his rookie season where he shot 44 percent from the field and 41 percent from three.

The Celtics made the playoffs in 10 of the 15 seasons that Paul was in the white and green. His Celtics career regular season statistics read as 21.8 points per game, 6.0 rebounds per game and 3.9 assists per game. His player efficiency rating was 20.6 on average throughout his Celtic career.

Pierce played in 1,102 regular season game and scored 2,4021 points in those games. He shot 44.7 percent from the field, 37 percent from three and 80.6 percent from the free throw line over those 1,102 games.

He was never held scoreless in TD Garden (including the games he later played as a visitor). A statistic called wins shared shows that Paul Pierce contributed over 138 wins himself in his time.

In his Celtics career the Celtics were on average +6.8 points per season when Paul Pierce was on the floor versus when he was off it. He scored 2,843 points in the playoffs averaging 20.9 points per game. In the Celtics 2008 banner year he averaged 21 points and shot 44 percent.

The Captain and the Truth:

What makes Paul Pierce so special is that he stayed with the Celtics. He is different because unlike players today that want to leave the team that they were drafted from, he rode with the good and the bad. He spent 15 years in Boston and barring a trade would have probably spent his whole career there.

Paul Pierce is one of the greatest Boston Celtics ever, and now after all the box scores and statistics have closed it is time to say it. A sure Hall of Famer has finally left his mark on the NBA and has left behind one of if not the greatest Celtic resume of all-time.

Paul Pierce will go on New England sports fans mount rushmore. He will sit up their with Tom Brady, David Ortiz and Patrice Bergeron from their perspective sports. The thing that Paul did for the city of Boston was never make excuses. His teams would change year in and year out. Some of his teams were less than spectacular, but at the end of the day he wanted to win, and he did everything in his power to do so for the Boston Celtics.

Pierces’ level of consistency and his dedication led him to a night of being honored for his achievements. A man best remembered for his pull up buzzer beaters or his 41 point performance to beat LeBron in the 2008 Eastern Conference Finals has finally cemented himself as a Boston Celtic legend, and that is the Truth.

 

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Cleveland Cavaliers trades

Cleveland Cavaliers: What just happened?

Let me paint you a picture. It’s Feb. 7, the Cleveland Cavaliers are 31-22, have lost 13 of their last 20 and their chemistry is a mess. There seems to be no consistency and the new guys that have been integrated aren’t getting it done.

Now it’s Feb 8 and approximately two hours before the trade deadline. One or two guys on their entire roster seem safe from being moved. Dwyane Wade has been traded to Miami for a second-round pick. Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye and a first-round draft pick have been traded for Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. Rodney Hood and George Hill have essentially been acquired in multiple team deals for Iman Shumpert, Derrick Rose and Jae Crowder.

So what really did just happen? Are the Cavaliers still the team to beat in the East?

Buyers or sellers?

Coming into the trade deadline, many thought the Cavaliers would be buyers. What that essentially means is that they would put together a package of players in hopes to lure an All-Star level player as a trade partner. They sought out DeAndre Jordan to anchor the back of their defense and to possibly fix the defensive breakdowns they have been having.

That trade didn’t end up going through. Then they decided to evaluate their team based on their recent performances.

The Cavaliers found a way to both buy and sell. They received great players without giving up the team’s two top prospects. It was clear that Isaiah Thomas wasn’t meshing well with the Cavaliers roster. They wanted to move him and get a return for him.

What the Cavs are getting

Cleveland Cavaliers trades

George Hill (Photo by ESPN)

Rodney Hood is currently averaging 16.8 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game. He also has a PER of 15.56. He’s shooting 38.9 percent from three, 42.4 percent from the field and 87.6 percent from the free-throw line. He takes the role of starting shooting guard on a Cavs team that has been searching for production at the position.

George Hill’s season averages are 10.3 points, 2.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game, with a 14.15 PER. He’s shooting 45.3 percent from three, 46.9 percent from the field and 77.8 percent from the free-throw line. He now steps in as the probable starting point guard and will share those duties with Jordan Clarkson moving forward. There has been a supreme lack of production at the position ever since Kyrie left town.

Jordan Clarkson’s numbers are 14.5 points, 3.0 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game with a 17.18 PER. He’s shooting 32.4 percent from three and 44.8 percent from the field as well as 79.5 percent from the free-throw line. Clarkson has had a little bit of a disappointing season this year. He was buried behind Lonzo Ball and has played less minutes this season because of it.

Lastly, Larry Nance Jr.’s stats are 8.6 points, 6.8 rebounds and 0.5 bpg per game with a 19.55 PER. Nance is extremely athletic. He helps protecting the rim, like DeAndre Jordan would, but to a lesser scale. Nance shoots over 60.1 percent from the field and will be a valuable contributor for the Cavs off the bench.

Will the Cavs become a better team?

The Cavaliers will be interesting for a while now. With Kevin Love hurt, the team is already missing a piece, and with all these new faces in town, it is going to take a while to get accustom to all the different talents. In this situation, it is going to get worse before it gets better. There are a lot of players on this team that are new and don’t necessarily know how to play with each other.

This Cavaliers have 29 games left before the season ends. Barring something crazy, they will certainly make the playoffs. Essentially, the Cavs have 29 games to get accustom to each other before the games really matter and it comes playoff time.

There’s no doubt this Cavs team will be different. Ultimately, they will be better with new faces. This team can only improve on a steadily declining record.

What this means for LeBron

These trades make LeBron James’ decision this summer interesting. In this situation, James got both what he wanted as well as what he didn’t want. He was looking for the Cavaliers to bring in some big superstars instead of above average starters. This team got better as a whole, but still doesn’t have enough fire power to beat the Warriors.

The trade with the Lakers has also helped them free up cap space for this summer. It’s interesting how the Cavaliers have helped one of the teams rumored to be making a push for James. The Lakers now sit in a better situation and look much better as a possible landing spot for James.

 

Featured image from Cavaliersnation.com

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Virginia Cavaliers basketball

Virginia Cavaliers: Consistent as always

The Virginia Cavaliers are dominating defensively again. It seems like every season the Cavaliers are giving up barely 60 points per game on defense. They win games they “shouldn’t” and frustrate dominating offenses.

The Duke Blue Devils dove into the Virginia’s tremendous defense last Saturday and came up short against the Cavaliers.

This season

The Cavaliers have now won 13 straight games, have a 21-1 record and are 10-0 in the ACC. No team has scored more than 68 points this season against their lockdown defense. The Cavaliers are 3-1 against ranked teams and have lost their lone game on the road against West Virginia. They are first in Division I basketball in points allowed at 52.7 per game and are +16.5 in point differential.

They have forced at least 10 turnovers in 20 games this season and have given up more than nine assists just eight times this season. This shows that many teams struggle to share the ball against this team, and many of the baskets that are scored are isolation baskets.

Offensively, the Cavaliers are lifted by three different guards. Ty Jerome, Devon Hall and Kyle guy lead the way, accounting for 38 of the Cavaliers’ 69.2 points they score each game. No single Cavalier averages over 1.7 turnovers per game on offense.

Virginia has the slowest pace in college basketball. They force you to not only defend for 30 seconds on defense, but they are fine with a team taking 30 seconds to take a contested shot when they are on defense. They are built to wear you down, and they are built that way every season.

Most teams aren’t conditioned to grind out games, and teams with good offenses struggle against the Cavaliers because of their lack of conditioning. When the second half rolls around, teams slowly fall apart while the Cavaliers are consistent and fight on.

Week by week

Virginia Cavaliers basketball

Tony Bennett (Photo via google.com)

It seems like each week, the Cavaliers are picked to lose. Many experts see it as a strong offense against the Cavaliers defense.

Duke ended up being a victim of that this past week. The Blue Devils were the home favorite and ended up dropping a game to a suffocating defense. The Blue Devils scored 15 points less than their previous season low offensively, and they did it on their own court.

Duke shot just 26.7 percent from three and turned the ball over 16 times. When Virginia gives you 65 possessions a game and you turn the ball over on nearly a fourth of them, you are going to struggle.

The one struggle with Virginia that causes concern is their lack of rebounding. Being able to control the glass is a big part of winning games in March and April. The Cavaliers got beat on the glass by 13 rebounds against the Blue Devils. They are tied for 313th in Division 1 basketball with 32.5 rebounds per game.

The Cavaliers struggle at rebounding because of how small they are at nearly every position. They start three guards that line up at 6-foot-2, 6-foot-4 and 6-foot-5 and are generally small at every position. Isaiah Wilkins starts at power forward and is the Cavaliers’ leading rebounder, standing just 6-foot-7. Jack Salt is their starting center at 6-foot-10.

What’s ahead

The Cavaliers have eight ACC games left to play. As of right now, there aren’t any ranked teams left on their schedule. This season, they are 4-0 against the remaining schedule they have left and have beaten each team by an average of 15 points per game.

The Cavaliers have a very good chance of getting into the ACC tournament at 29-1 and 18-0 in conference play. With stingy defense and timely scoring, the Cavs seem to have found their identity yet again. Their identity looks the exact same year in and year out, and what’s even better is that it works.

Predicting a destination for this team

The Cavaliers have history going against them. Even though many of Tony Bennett’s teams have been excellent, they struggle come tournament time.

In the last four seasons that the Cavaliers have made the NCAA tournament, they have not made a Final Four and have only made one Elite Eight. This team can struggle at times offensively, and barring some deep heroic threes, they would have a few more loses than they do.

I think they finish at 28-2, lose to Duke in the ACC final and lose in the Elite Eight yet again. This team is very good, but the ACC is a gauntlet. It’s tough to make it all the way through.

The NCAA tournament is where absolutely anything happens. Tony Bennett has had better teams that have lost to worse teams. In terms of guessing just how far they go, I’m trusting the historically unpredictable NCAA tournament.

 

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College basketball All-Star roster

Creating college basketball All-Star starting lineups

As the NBA, NHL and NFL All-Star weekends are all upon us, we look to fill a college basketball roster of Division I players deserving of falling under an “All-Star” title.

Steph Curry and LeBron James had an NBA All-Star draft, so now it’s our turn. Time to break down the best college basketball players as of Jan. 29.

Team Trae

College basketball All-Star roster

Trae Young (Photo from Sports Inquirer)

The captain of this team and starting point guard has to be Oklahoma’s Trae Young. Young is leading all of college basketball with 29.6 points and 9.6 assists per game. He may be the most exciting player in college basketball and has taken the league by storm.

Angel Delgado, Seton Hall: Trae Young’s biggest assets are people who can score around the rim. Who better to have on his team than a walking double-double?

Delgado is averaging 13.4 points and 11.7 rebounds per game. He dominates the paint and seemingly grabs every miss on the defensive end. His rebounding ranks fourth in Division I basketball.

Allonzo Trier, Arizona: Trier has been one of the most consistent guards in the country this season. He is averaging 19.7 points, 3.0 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game. Trier has benefited from having Deandre Ayton on his team, but he is scoring at a high rate and has been extremely important to the Arizona Wildcats’ success.

Devonte’ Graham, Kansas: Team Trae needed a strong off-guard, and Graham is exactly that. Graham is shooting over 41 percent from three and is averaging 17.3 points and 7.3 assists. Obviously Graham is more of a point guard, but he seems to shoot it better off the catch while Young shoots it better off the dribble. Graham is the leader of this nationally ranked Jayhawks team and has been the go-to scorer when they need it most.

Jock Landale, Saint Mary’s: The final member of Team Trae is Jock Landale, who has been unbelievably consistent. He is averaging 22.1 points per game and grabbing 10.4 rebounds as well. He is shooting over 65 percent from the field and has helped the Gaels get off to a 21-2 start this season. Landale is a big reason why the Gaels are nationally ranked and has 15 games with at least 20 points this season.

Team Marvin

College basketball All-Star roster

Marvin Bagley III (Photo by Dennis Wierzbicki)

At this point, you have to stay with the trend. Marvin Bagley III of the Duke Blue Devils will be the captain of the other team. Bagley is quite possibly the future No. 1 pick in this year’s NBA draft. He has a ton of athleticism and has the numbers to back that up. He is averaging a double-double like many others on these rosters.

Bagley is averaging 22.0 points per game this season along with 11.6 rebounds. He is shooting over 61 percent from the field and over 33 percent from three. Bagley is impressing and therefore is deserving of this captain position.

Deandre Ayton, Arizona: We obviously couldn’t put Ayton and Trier on the same team, that wouldn’t be right.

Deandre Ayton is another one of those athletic freaks at 7-foot-1 with a 44-inch vertical. Him and Bagley in the same frontcourt would be something we all would like to see. Ayton is averaging 19.5 points and 10.7 rebounds per game. He is also averaging just under two assists and two blocks as well. Ayton shoots nearly 62 percent from the field and over 34 percent from three.

Jevon Carter, West Virginia: Jevon Carter is the leader of West Virginia. He scores 17.3 points, dishes out 6.5 assists and grabs 5.1 rebounds per game. He is a guard that does just about everything for a very good Mountaineer team. Carter is a senior and has shown his experience throughout this season.

Trevon Bluiett, Xavier: Bluiett has been one of the more exciting players to watch throughout his career. His ability to hit contested shots and be a streaky and consistent shooter put him on this All-Star roster. Bluiett averages 18.9 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game. He is shooting a scorching 43 percent from three and 46.2 percent from the field overall.

Collin Sexton, Alabama: Sexton is a freshman who would go against Trae Young. He is averaging 18.5 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.3 assists. He shoots almost 36 percent from three and has turned Alabama into an SEC contender. Sexton is a tremendous ball handler who has the ball on a string, can finish in traffic and shoot both off the dribble and spotting up.

These are 10 of the best college basketball players so far this season. They all have performed at a high level, which earned them all a spot on these All-Star roster.

 

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Kentucky Wildcats basketball

Lowering expectations for the Kentucky Wildcats

It seems like this happens every season. A Kentucky team filled with young talent normally finds a way to get it together midseason. The No. 2 recruiting class in the country has been struggling as of late.

They struggle to score outside of the paint and outside of second-chance opportunities. What’s even worse is it seems like this team just lacks toughness when the game is on the line. This Kentucky team hasn’t taken a step to being a title contender, and with the SEC being a strong basketball conference this season, who knows if they ever will.

Recent

The last two games, the Kentucky Wildcats have blown a second-half lead. They have lost to both South Carolina and Florida in those games. They blew a 10-point second half lead to South Carolina and let the Gators go on an 11-2 run to lose by two.

The Wildcats struggle to make plays because they have no clear leader. In past years, they have had at least one upperclassman around to lead a young recruiting class. This season, the Cats have 14 players on their roster, eight of them are freshmen and four are sophomores. Wenyen Gabriel is the most experience Wildcat on the team. He played nearly 18 minutes a game last season and now plays significant minutes again. He is used to SEC conference play and has more experience than others on the team who played less minutes last season.

Kentucky is 0-2 against the top 25 and are 2-3 in their last five games. They have lost five games this season to Tennessee, UCLA, Kansas, Florida and South Carolina and struggle in the clutch because they don’t have any defined playmakers.

Losing to South Carolina seemed to be one of the tougher losses for a struggling Kentucky team, especially since South Carolina struggles on the offensive end.

The biggest strengths of Kentucky is their length and their big men. They dominate the glass and the paint. However, Chris Silva had 27 points and eight rebounds in the Gamecocks’ win. He controlled the game and the paint. He especially controlled the paint in the waning minutes of the game, when the Wildcats began to falter.

The offensive struggles

Kentucky Wildcats basketball

Quade Green, Kentucky guard (Photo from USA Today)

In the five games that Kentucky has lost this season, they are 3-for-13, 6-for-21, 7-for-19, 1-for-11 and 4-for-17 from three. In total, that is 21-81, which is 26 percent.

The two most capable offensive weapons on the Kentucky Wildcats are Kevin Knox and P.J. Washington. Washington has been quoted by John Calipari as, “The toughest kid on our team,” and both have shown flashes of being the go-to guy.

With no clear go-to guy, the Wildcats struggle to close games. In years past, they have always had a guy who steps up and takes the shots when the game gets tough. Last season, they had Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox. Prior to that, they have had Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, John Wall and Brandon Knight among others.

As of right now, the Wildcats haven’t established that person yet. They are still in search of a leader and someone to take the important shots.

Figuring it out

The talent is there with this team. There is no doubt they are similar to previous Kentucky teams. Any team coached by Calipari has a good chance of getting a clear identity.

The sky shouldn’t be falling yet, but there is cause for concern. Kentucky as of right now isn’t a skilled enough team from the perimeter or in the clutch to run deep into March.

What they can do

Kentucky is now unranked for the first time since 2014. Two out of their next three games are at home against some of the bottom of the SEC. One thing they need to do moving forward is to find an identity before it’s too late for them.

Every season, Kentucky finds a way to take young talent and turn it into National Championship contenders. This season, Calipari is going to take the underdog mentality and have the whole Wildcats team rally behind it.

Don’t write the Cats off yet, but they still have a long way to go before March comes around.

 

Featured image by Chet White of UK Athletics

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The life of the home underdog

This college basketball season it is nearly impossible to win on the road. Ranked teams and unranked teams a like, it is tough to go out and grab a win on the road. 36 mens college basketball teams are undefeated at home this season. In the last week, there have been over 35 home underdogs across college basketball that have won games. Many of which have knocked off ranked teams in that time. Just last Saturday, January 20th, five ranked teams lost to unranked teams on the road.

Being an underdog isn’t necessarily a bad thing anymore and during this college basketball season it almost seems like a compliment. Teams are rallying and finding a way to win in their home building.

Newly ranked Nevada fell victim to the home underdog Wednesday night in a one point, double overtime loss. What we’ve learned so far is that it is a nightmare to win on the road in college basketball. Home crowds and the comfort of your own gym propel teams that maybe shouldn’t win and cash it into the win column for the home team.

The Best Home Dogs:

Last season, at this point, only seven teams were undefeated at home and only two of those teams were from the power five conference (Oregon and Florida State). This season the home underdog has been dominant. The most impressive home underdog has been the North Carolina State Wolfpack. They are 3-0 as a home underdog and have knocked off Duke, Clemson and Penn State on their own court.

The other 3-0 home underdog this season is Wyoming, the team who beat Nevada Wednesday night. They are 12-8 this season and have played well in their own building. Of their loses, they have lost to two ranked teams as well as South Carolina but all of those games were road or neutral sites.

College basketball is getting pretty even these days. Being a home team is the great equalizer. It takes a strong team to win conference games on the road and an even stronger team to be a Vegas favorite going into a road conference game.

Predicting this weeks upsets:

Underdogs

Chris Silva, (Thestate.com).

Saturday:

Well here is a chance to take two home underdogs. Iowa State is at home against Tennessee who is number 22 in the country. Iowa State plays good defense and rebounds at a better clip then Tennessee does. To beat Tennessee you have to hit them inside and get close to the basket.

Iowa State has lost just three games at home this season and two of those were two red hot Kansas State and the Kansas Jayhawks. Iowa State is coming off a disappointing road loss to Texas where they lost by 16 and they are due for a good home showing.

The second choice could be an easy one. South Carolina has been playing great basketball as of late. They are much better on offense which had been somewhat of a struggle to start the season. On the other side number 14 Texas Tech is going through the offensive struggles. They just scored 58 in a loss at Texas and scored 52 in a loss at Iowa State. They are struggling to score which opens up doors for a thriving home underdog.

Both teams are extremely good defensively. South Carolina has come on strong offensively but Texas Tech is trending the wrong way. South Carolina is coming off great shooting performances in their last couple games. They went 11-21 from three in their win against Florida and went 10-23 in their loss to Tennessee.

These two teams seem to be trending the wrong way. South Carolina has won three of their last four and have played some of their best basketball as of late. Texas Tech has won two of their last five and is slowly regressing offensively. If South Carolina can get both Chris Silva working as well as their outside shooting game they will beat the Red Raiders.

NCAA Tournament:

Winning in the NCAA tournament means that you can win in hostile environments. The teams that go into hostile environments late in January and throughout February and grab wins are the teams that will be hanging around come April.

South Carolina is starting to turn their season in that direction as well as other teams, but for right now it will be interesting to see how the end of the college basketball season turns out. With all the parody and all the big time wins for teams there is no telling what will happen on any given week.

 

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Trae Young

Can Big 12 teams slow Trae Young down the second time around?

Well Trae Young is still leading all of college basketball in assists and scoring. However, now there are scouting reports, and most teams in the Big 12 have already gotten a taste of him.

Although his numbers are impressive, this is where the part of the schedule gets difficult. This is the time for Wooden Award candidates to show if they really are special. Conferences are ready to get another swing at Trae Young, and this is where numbers start to slow down a little for star players.

Can Big 12 teams slow down Trae Young the second time around? Or will his numbers continue to be off the charts?

Schedule

Oklahoma has played one of the hardest schedule’s in all of college basketball this season. They have played six games against ranked teams so far. They are 5-1 in those games and swept TCU, which has only lost four games all season.

Young has continued to put up numbers, but has struggled shooting wise to get them. He has also struggled with his increasing turnovers. He has had halves of games where he shoots under 30 percent, but still finds a way to get to 30 points and 10 assists. Young is finally seeing signs of struggle and proving that he might actually be human.

The truth is, Kansas State may have just shown the blueprint in how to contain and beat the Oklahoma Sooners. A team scoring over 92 points a game scored 69 points and never even got close to on track on offense. Young had 20 points and 6 assists, but turned the ball over a career-high 12 times. It seemed like the first time all season where Young didn’t help his teammates and instead hurt their production. He shot just 2-for-10 from three and went just 8-for-21 overall.

One of the biggest things that Young likes to do is get to the free-throw line. Like James Harden and other NBA stars, getting to the free-throw line is an easy way to not only get your shot on track, but also get some quick and easy points. Trae Young went just 2-for-4 from the free-throw line in the game against Kansas State. He did not leave his normal Trae Young impression on the game.

In games that Young has drastically less than 10 assists and more than four turnovers, the Oklahoma Sooners are going to struggle. Against West Virginia, Young had 29 points and five assists. He also had eight turnovers to go along with those five assists.

Seeing him twice

Trae Young

Trae Young taking it into the TCU defense. (Photo from Tulsaworld.com)

The Big 12 is starting to become familiar with the explosive Trae Young. He is getting a lot more attention, and teams are learning that he wants to play fast. They are slowing the game down and attempting to cut down on live ball turnovers.

What’s crazy about Young seeing TCU two times already is he was actually better the second time around.

In the first matchup, Young had 39 points on 9-for-23 shooting and 15-for-18 from the free-throw line, He also added four rebounds, 14 assists and seven turnovers.

In the second time around, Young had 43 points on 15-for-27 shooting and 3-for-7 from the free-throw line. He added 11 rebounds, seven assists and nine turnovers as well.

For a team that’s well coached and has seen Young twice, TCU got torched by the young guard. What does that mean for the rest of the Big 12 and stopping Young and the Sooners?

How to slow the Sooners down

It’s definitely not easy to do so, but slowing Young down is a five-person job. One thing that has been done is getting the ball out of Young’s hands early in the possession.

Making the offense run through someone else means that Young isn’t as involved. Obviously Young is the most dangerous with the ball in his hands. He shows that to us with his scoring and assisting statistics.

Another thing that’s vital is chasing him off the perimeter. Obviously that’s easier said than done due to his extended range, but it’s always better to give up twos against bigger guys than to give up threes where he is most comfortable.

The most important part is slowing the game down. Young loves to get out in transition and getting easy baskets because of it. If a team controls the speed of the game, he gets frustrated and is more likely to try and force things. He gets frustrated and looks to make plays that are tougher because the way he plays is taken away.

Don’t let him get to the free-throw line and get him in a groove easily from the stripe.

Moving Forward

Even though Oklahoma has stumbled as of late, they are still in the thick of the Big 12. Young is one of the toughest people to guard in all of basketball, and it is going to be tough for almost every team from here on out moving forward. Trae Young is the best guard in America right now, and it takes a whole team to contain him on any given night.

 

Featured image from USAtoday.com.

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The Hottest Team in College Basketball

College basketball has been impossible to predict as of late. Duke lost by 11 to a 10-5 North Carolina State team. Michigan State got steam rolled at Ohio State and then followed that up by barely beating Rutgers at home in overtime.

Last week every team in the top 10 lost besides two. The inconsistency of teams has fans grasping for some sort of certainty as we hit the middle of the college basketball season.

The number two ranked Mountaineers:

The West Virginia Mountaineers are now 15-1 this season. They are 3-0 in conference play and have rattled off 15 in a row after their opening night loss to Texas A&M. They are 2-1 against the top 25 and 2-0 against the top 15. The Mountaineers outscore teams by an average of 18 points a game.

As of January 13th they will be getting their second leading scorer from last season back. Esa Ahmad has been cleared by the NCAA to play. He had eligibility problems that cost him the first half of the 2017-2018 season, however he will make a return for the Mountaineers. Ahmad averaged just over 11 points a game last season and can help contribute to an already solid offense.

Press Virginia:

College Basketball

Jevon Carter, (Fansided.com).

Many teams struggle with West Virginia due to their grind it out press. The team presses every single defensive possession and gives no easy baskets. Opposing teams have to work for every single point they score, and that wears on a team. They give up the eighth most two point field goals in the country. Which if it wasn’t already obvious, nothing comes easy against this terrific defense.

The Mountaineers press forces nearly 22 turnovers a game which is good for 4th in the country. They themselves turn it over just 13 times a game which is 58th in the country on the other side. One of their major strengths is the way they dictate the pace. West Virginia doesn’t get tired when they play teams.

The backcourt of Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles not only pick you up full court, but they also push the pace on offense. The team is eighth in the country in steals (10.9 per) and 10th in the country in offensive rebounds (14.7 per).

These two statistics in particular show just how well the backcourt dictates pace. Due to the speed of the guards the offensive rebounds are high, because the guards push it they create lots of space in the lane to crash the offensive boards.

When playing the number one ranked defense in college basketball the Mountaineers not only won the game but also won the defensive battle. They out shot the Virginia Cavaliers from the free throw line as well as from the three point line. They out rebounded the Cavaliers, and turned them over at a clip of 14 to the Mountaineers 10. The Cavaliers are one of the best teams in the country in protecting the ball, and the Mountaineers got a big win against a tough defense.

Jevon Carter:

It seems like Jevon Carter has been at West Virginia for forever. Well in today’s college basketball, he has been. He’s a four year senior who has increased his scoring every season he has been at West Virginia.

Carter is averaging 16.1 points, 6.8 assists, 5.5 rebounds as well as 3.6 steals a game. He is the teams best defender and their leader. He does a little bit of everything for the Mountaineers but what he truly brings is both experience and structure.

Jevon is the go to guy for this West Virginia team. When they need a big basket, he’s the one to take it. When they need a defensive stop, he seems to be in the right spot at the right time. He contributes time and time again to making winning plays that keep this team afloat.

The Big 12:

West Virginia is leading the way in the best conference in college basketball. The Big 12 has more then half their teams inside the top 20. They have four teams in the top 12 and three in the top nine. A conference that used to be dominated by Kansas has now been the deepest and most competitive in college basketball.

With all the unpredictability in college basketball this season West Virginia has quietly sat back and executed. It hasn’t always been pretty or high scoring, but the Mountaineers have rattled off a fifteen game winning streak.

Experience in the backcourt, good coaching and great defense is always a good combination come both conference play and NCAA tournament play. Look for the Mountaineers to make a deep run and make people remember just how tough the “Press” Virginia defense is.

Featured image from ESPN.com.

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2018 NBA All-Star game starters

Predicting the NBA All-Star starters

NBA All-Star weekend is a great time for players to get some rest, have fun and entertain. Being the best at your job is always sought after, just like being an All-Star in the NBA is.

This season, there are many different combinations that are worthy of being starts for the All-Star game on both the East and the West. With the Western Conference having the majority of last year’s All-Stars, the Eastern Conference could potentially have some new faces in their starting lineups.

Eastern Conference

2018 NBA All-Star game starters

2017 NBA All-Star game (Photo from Clutchpoints.com)

There is a little bit of difference here.

2017 starters: Kyrie Irving, DeMar DeRozan, LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jimmy Butler.

Obviously Butler is now a member of the Western Conference, so he will be replaced. Like every year, the big man has been taken out of most starting lineups due to the NBA trying to increase scoring and excitement. The five that seem most likely to get the call include a new face who was previously in the Western Conference.

Irving, DeRozan, James, Antetokounmpo and Victor Oladipo seem to be the most deserving. This would obviously put Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid on the outside looking in, but they would be reserves.

Oladipo has proven that he can be a No. 1 for a surprising Indiana Pacers team. Oladipo’s numbers read as 24.8 points, 4.1 assists and 5.3 rebounds per game. He is averaging well over his career average in every statistic previously listed. He is shooting nearly six percent better than his career average and has a player efficiency rating over 24. He is more than deserving of a starting spot in a weak Eastern Conference.

Oladipo is the second leading scoring guard in the East only behind DeRozan. Oladipo is shooting the exact same from the field per game as Steph Curry. Oladipo is shooting just over 49 percent on almost 18 attempts, which is the same as Curry exactly.

Oladipo is having his best statistical season of his career. His stats match up against all other Eastern Conference guards. In comparison to someone like Joel Embiid, Oladipo has played in more games, averaged more points, played more minutes and as of right now, the Indiana Pacers have a better record than the Philadelphia 76ers. The Pacers have overachieved based on rankings, and that is why Oladipo’s been so important.

Western Conference

The Western Conference is home to the league’s best big men.

2017 starters: Steph Curry, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard and Anthony Davis.

This year there doesn’t seem to be too much difference.

This year’s starters could have some parody. There are three point guards in the West all deserving of a spot. Curry, Harden (I guess we can officially call him a point guard now) and Russell Westbrook.

Durant seems like a sure thing, and the final spots seem to be between the Pelican big men. In the end, I think the lineup for the West has to be Curry, Harden, Durant, Davis and DeMarcus Cousins.

Last year, in Russell Westbrook’s MVP season, he didn’t start in the All-Star game. This season, he has less impressive numbers and has more help. He is still the third best guard among that trio. It does not help that the game is being held in L.A., which means that Curry is put ahead of him.

It’s hard to pick between the two Pelican big men. They both have solid numbers and compliment each other well. In the Western Conference, the two are fourth and fifth in the voting, and they are both more than deserving for a spot in the frontcourt.

The argument for getting both of the Pelican big men to the starting lineup starts with this: DeMarcus Cousins is averaging 25.8 points and 12.5 rebounds per game. Anthony Davis is averaging 25.8 points as well and 10.3 rebounds per game. The two are averaging double-doubles in the same frontcourt. They both have a player efficiency rating over 23.7. A guy like Kawhi Leonard being hurt opens the door for both big men.

Karl-Anthony Towns is another guy averaging a double-double and is up over 23 in his player efficiency rating. He plays the exact same minutes as Cousins. The only difference is he is averaging just over 20 points per game which is nearly 20 percent less than both Cousins and Davis, and they are on the same team.

Ultimately, the last two spots in the Western Conference starting lineup are likely two of the three previously listed players. Davis and Cousins have made strong cases as All-Star starters, and they share the same frontcourt.

The hometown guy

Kyle Kuzma will find his way on a roster here. He has put up great numbers and at times has been the most important piece for the Lakers. It seems like the voters love to have a hometown guy, and Kuzma, at this point, seems to be the most deserving.

 

Featured image from basketinfo.com.

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