Takeaways from the Championship Classic

The Championship Classic delivered in full effect on Tuesday night with some amazing games and reminded us that college basketball is back! Duke handled Michigan St. and Kansas edged out Kentucky in two close and extremely entertaining games.

Duke Is The Clear #1:

After losing number one ranked freshman star Marvin Bagley early in the first half to an eye injury. Duke was without their best player for essentially the entire game. It was going to be an uphill battle for the Blue Devils.

Duke had to lean on their backcourt for the rest of the game and Grayson Allen and Trevon Duval picked up the slack to carry Duke to a 88-81 victory.

Image result for grayson allen from three

(BallDurham.com)

Grayson Allen was controlling the pace of the game the entire time and his shot from three was something to marvel at. He ended up with 7-11 shooting from beyond the arc and was perfect on free throws hitting 8-8. Duval and Allen had amazing chemistry in the backcourt slinging the ball around to the open man every chance they got.

Duval struggled from three point land going 0-4, but that was the only thing he struggled in against Michigan State. Duval stuffed the stat sheet finishing the night with 10 assists, six steals, three rebounds and 17 points.

Marvin Bagley’s injury does not seem to be serious and he is scheduled to play against Southern University on Friday as long as the eye irritation is down. It’s not like they need him to beat the Southern Jaguars anyway so it wouldn’t be surprising if they end up sitting him just to be cautious.

If this game is any indication how the season is going to unfold then look for Duke to remain the number one team for the entire year. If they can play the way they did on Tuesday and add a healthy Marvin Bagley thats the scariest team in college basketball by far.

 

Kansas In The Clutch:

Kansas had a back and forth game with Kentucky on Tuesday night and it was close down until the final few possessions. It was a classic between two programs who know each other so well, with 12 lead changes and 10 ties in the 65-61 Kansas victory. The biggest factor was Kentucky’s inability to hold on to the ball turning it over 18 times and letting Kansas grab 18 offensive rebounds to their 10.

 

Image result for Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk devonte graham

(KUsports.com)

The world of college basketball is primarily dominated by one and done freshman, but it was the seniors Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk and Devonte’ Graham who propelled Kansas to victory against the Wildcats.

Mykhailiuk finished with 17 points on the night even though he struggled from the field shooting 7-18 and 3-10 from three. It was his effort late in the game that really made a difference for his team.

it was a one point game going into the final two minutes and the Jayhawks outscored Kentuckey seven to four and stepped up their defense when it mattered most.

Graham iced the game with eight seconds left hitting both of his free throws putting them up by four points to seal the deal. After his atrocious shooting throughout the game going 3-14 he had to have felt the pressure in the closing seconds but gained his composure and won the game.

Kansas is going to need to step up drastically step up their shooting if they intend to keep up with the Blue Devils this year but this win is a huge momentum boost for Bill Self and his squad.

Overall the Championship Classic was great and adds some more fuel to the fire for this college basketball season. It’s looking like a great year for college basketball.

 

Featured Photo By Bleacher Report

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College Basketball

Winners and Losers of This Past Week in College Basketball

It was a busy week in college basketball with the conference tournaments coming to an end yesterday afternoon. With what is shaping up to be another classic NCAA tournament, we take a look at the winners who benefited from this past week and the losers who didn’t fair so well.

Winners:

Duke:

Arguably the biggest winners over the weekend, Duke became the first team in ACC tournament history to win four games and capture the ACC tournament championship. A projected four seed at the beginning of the tournament Duke jumped themselves into an official two seed by the end of the weekend.

But what is more important for Duke is that they might finally be the team that everyone thought they were going to be at the beginning of the season. Despite being ravaged by injuries at the beginning of the season Duke was considered the best team in the country by far with arguably the most talented roster in the country.

And with the tournament starting later this week the Blue Devils are peeking at the right time.

Michigan:

winners and losers college basketball

(Photo/ Geoff Burke)

The Wolverines had a rough start to this past week after their plane skidded off of the runway on their way to the Washington D.C. The Wolverines weren’t even able to use their game jerseys in their first game against Illinois, they were forced to use their practice jerseys.

Not only did they win their first game but they actually ended up winning the entire Big Ten tournament. It’s hard enough to win the Big Ten tournament being an eight seed, but doing it after a plane crash is something among itself.

 

Rhode Island:

Rhode Island was on the bubble the entire week, most of the week being one of the first four teams out. So they made sure there wasn’t any question about their right to be in the tournament.

Ranked at the beginning of the season Rhode Island was a team on the rise. But throughout the season had to deal with multiple injuries that almost kept them out of the NCAA tournament. But, to no avail the Rams, with a four seed in the A10 tournament, won their first A10 tournament championship and a trip to the big dance since 1999.

Losers:

Oregon:

Oregon did have a decent weekend in terms of wins. They did beat UCLA and they came in second in the tough PAC-12 tournament, which is an accomplishment.

But the Ducks lost one of their key contributors Chris Boucher for the rest of the season in their game against California with a torn ACL. The 6-11 Boucher averaged 11.8 points per game, 6.1 rebounds and a Pac-12 leading 2.5 blocks. His absences could very well have an impact on Oregon’s performance in the NCAA tournament.

Syracuse:

winners and losers college basketball

(Photo/ Getty Images)

The Orange were knocked out in the first round of the ACC tournament earlier this week after losing to Miami.  A few days later they didn’t make the NCAA tournament.  That should be enough of a bad week, but the Orange weren’t done there.

Jim Boeheim single handedly made enemies with the entire city of Greensboro after their loss to Miami in a post game press conference. After asked what he thought about the ACC tournament being in Brooklyn he responded, “There’s no value in playing in Greensboro. None.”

Greensboro responded as any proud city would.

Illinois State:

In yet another mid major snub, the Illinois State RedBirds fell short of a NCAA tournament at large bid.  The Red Birds finished 27-6 overall and 17-1 in their conference, losing to Witchita State in their conference tournament championship game.

Many believe mid major teams like Illinois State should be able to receive at large bids more often and this years Illinois State team would be the team to do it.  But the committee didn’t see it that way, as the Red Birds were left out yet again, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to change any time soon.

 

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It’s on the Haus: Dirk Nowitzki Scores 30K, Gonzaga Basketball Wins, Bruce Chen’s Shoes and an Unruly Gorilla

It’s on the Haus is a daily installment of sports and esports news from the past day. Rather than waiting an entire hour to see the big news on a television program, or going to multiple stories on multiple websites to get your sports fix, It’s on the Haus gives you the biggest sports and esports happenings, all in one place. You may feel guilty for reading this concise article that gives you everything you need to know, but don’t worry, It’s on the Haus.

It’s been a while. If you want a feel for how this series works, take in the last article in the wonderful world of sports news.

Dunking Deutschman Reaches 30K

Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki scored his 30,000th career point in the most Dirk way possible in the Mavs’ 122-111 win over the Los Angeles Lakers last night. Nowitzki becomes the sixth player in NBA history to reach the landmark and the first since Kobe Bryant did it in 2012.

Good for the Dunking Deutschman. He seems to be one of the more well-liked players in the association, even with a detrimental photoshoot to start his career.

LeBron James stopped his dinner to take a video congratulating Nowitzki. In my house, pulling out your phone during dinner is a cardinal sin, but apparently things work differently when your the most famous Sprite endorser in America.

Dirk has just one NBA Finals championship, which is criminal. It’s not fair for someone who changed the game, and maybe if Mark Cuban spent less time ridiculing potential entrepreneurs on television and more time not wasting one of the GOATs in NBA history, Dirk would have more rings.

I scored 21 points in a jayvee basketball game one time, so who’s the real basketball expert here, Mark? No further questions.

Zags Clinch Tourney Spot

The Gonzaga Bulldogs basketball team was already going to make the NCAA Tournament, but just for good measure, they won their conference tournament. The Bulldogs beat the St. Mary’s Gaels 74-56 last night, marking the third time the Zags have beaten St. Mary’s by double-digits this season.

Gonzaga is now 32-1 and in prime position to pursue its first ever national title. However, I’m not here to talk about basketball.

Now, what exactly is a Gael? Well, it’s hard to say. Even though I have the almighty power of Google at my disposal, I’m not going to look it up. Rather, brainstorm with me.

I know there’s such a thing called gale force winds. That has something to do with the bodies of water, and also isn’t spelled correctly. Gazelle sounds sort of like gael, but I figure it’s not the same thing.

I’ll have my intern look into interviewing all athletes on St. Mary’s various sports teams to see if they even know what it means, but I doubt they do. But hey, not knowing is all the fun, right?

What Are Those?

Dirk Nowitzki Gonzaga Basketball Bruce Chen's Shoes Phoenix Suns Mascot

Bruce Chen’s kicks, courtesy of Cespedes Family BBQ’s Twitter account.

Remember the year 2015, when the phrase “what are those” was made into a annoying teen’s favorite meme? Neither do I. That’s not the point. The point is that Bruce Chen, an MLB pitcher and member of China’s World Baseball Classic team, wore some killer shoes in his appearance yesterday in the WBC.

I commend Chen for making this bold fashion statement. When you’re 39 years old and you don’t need traction, you choose to wear comfortable shoes. Who are we as common nonathletic citizens to judge?

Chen tossed 2 and 2/3 innings in the game, but China lost the game 6-0. Maybe if the entire roster chose to wear business casual footwear to the game, the Chinese would’ve earned the dub.

 

Gorilla Makes a Scene, Avenges Harambe’s Death

The Phoenix Suns’ matchup with the Washington Wizards was full of fireworks, most notably being the Suns’ mascot’s shenanigans during the fourth quarter.

My apologies on the terrible cheesy music that was coupled with the video. The piece of media comes from CBS Sports, so please direct your complaints to them.

At first glance, it seems as though the man inside the gorilla is high as a kite. However, upon further review, it appears as though the gorilla actually saved a player from potential injury, as the friendly animal picked up some kind of object off the floor.

All I’m saying is this guy better watch his back. Remember the last time a gorilla tried to save an innocent person from certain implosion? Yeah, that gorilla, known as Harambe by locals, is deader than Jokim Noah’s jumper.

I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’. I see symbolism here, and I see the world getting this gorilla situation right.

 

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We Just Witnessed the Greatest Sports Year Ever

Sports are cool, and they’re even cooler when a season ends with fireworks. Thankfully, in the last cycle of season championships, we were able to witness the greatest sports year ever.

From the 2016 college basketball National Championship, to the latest Super Bowl, none of the championships have disappointed. Each of them saw incredible comebacks or last-second scores. As fans, we are blessed to be able to watch all of these games unfold.

That said, let’s take a stroll down memory lane and reminisce in the previous year’s amazing culminations.

*Of the four major sports in the United States, and the two major college sports, only one doesn’t make the list. Sorry, NHL fans, the 2016 Stanley Cup was good, but not great enough to be mentioned on the list.*

Super Bowl LI

It seemed as though the states to the most northeast in the U.S. were rooting for New England, and the rest of the population became Falcons fans for one day.

Maybe it’s because Atlanta was foreign to the big stage. It seemed so weird seeing a team like Atlanta playing in the Super Bowl since we had become accustomed to seeing either Seattle, Green Bay, or New York represent the NFC for more than half of the Super Bowls played since 2006.

Greatest Sports Year

In Super Bowl LI, Tom Brady did what Tom Brady does- win Super Bowls. (Photo: Getty Images)

Maybe Atlanta became America’s team for one day simply because of the hatred spewed towards New England. The Patriots have made seven Super Bowls since 2001, and won five. New England has also been to the AFC Conference Championship game 11 times since 2001. Picking New England to make it to the Super Bowl has become routine for many NFL pundits because that’s just what they do.

Nevertheless, this Super Bowl just felt different. New England was the heavyweight that everyone had seen win before. Atlanta was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and the popular vote was in favor of the newbies.

No one saw Atlanta jumping out to a 21-3 lead at the half and a 28-3 lead as the third quarter waned. At this point, many fans just wanted to see a close game.

We should be careful what we wish for.

The Patriots scored a touchdown late in the third, and continued to mount a comeback in the fourth.

The final quarter was the equivalent to slowly watching a bottle of soda being shaken. The game continued to feel closer and closer, and before long, New England put so much pressure back into the game that the contest exploded to help make the greatest sports year we’ve seen.

In overtime, it was inevitable. Not only did the Patriots have momentum, but they also had history. It felt impossible for New England to lose the game. Coming back from a 25-point deficit and pushing the game into the Super Bowl’s first ever overtime? That’s just not a game New England loses.

Because of the incredible comeback by those darn Patriots, Super Bowl LI capped what was the greatest sports year of all time.

2017 College Football National Championship

In a narrative much the same as the Super Bowl, Alabama took on Clemson to be called college football’s undisputed champion. In this game’s case, there was no insurmountable lead that ended up being toppled. The game was tight the whole way, and was never separated by more than two possessions.

Clemson found itself down by two possessions twice, and each time it seemed like Bama was gonna keep Bama-ing. At one point, ESPN’s Football Power Index gave Alabama over a 90 percent chance to win the game.

But this is the greatest sports year we’ve ever seen, so hopefully you’re sensing a theme.

Clemson came back, led by crisp drives from Deshaun Watson. Watson may not have won the Heisman, but at least he got himself a ring. Watson completed a two-yard pass to Hunter Renfrow with one second left in the game to clinch a victory for the Tigers.

2016 World Series

Where do we start in this event? So many storylines developed by the time the series was all finished. The Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA Finals after being down 3-1. Once the Cleveland Indians went up 3-1 on the Cubs, there was no way that would be blown, right?

Maybe Cleveland fans got what they deserved for making fun of the Warriors. #WellActually when a city has to root for the Browns, it deserves no other bad omens. The Indians didn’t catch that vibe.

Greatest Sports Year

Rajai Davis hit the most memorable home run in recent years. (Photo: FX Tribune)

Sure, our very own Matt Hagan knew the Cubs would win it all. However, since no one else did, the 3-1 series lead all but wrapped up the World Series.

The Cubs almost lost it. They had a 6-3 lead with less than two innings left to play. With the lead cut to two, Rajai Davis sent the world into hysteria with the craziest turn of events the World Series had ever seen.

Chicago had it all but won, yet in two seconds Cleveland was right back in it. A ball traveled faster than offseason Rob Gronkowski on the way to the club into the left field seats, while it seemed like it was in slow motion, even as slow as Tom Brady running the 40-yard dash in fashionable yet exotic khaki shorts.

Every baseball kid dreams of coming to bat in the tenth inning of the World Series game seven, and the Cubs had that chance. Chicago scored two, and took an 8-6 lead to end the top half of the inning.

Rajai Davis came back up in the tenth, and even delivered an RBI. The Indians didn’t have enough in them, as they fell short, 8-7. However, it still was one of the greatest World Series of all time.

2016 NBA Finals

The Warriors blew a 3-1 lead, and that remains a joke on social media to this day. When you think of Steph Curry, you think of triples galore, an outspoken wife and the fact that he was the MVP on a team that for the first time ever blew a 3-1 lead.

LeBron James put on the greatest performance of all time in a Finals series in the most historically-charged Finals series of all time. Kyrie Irving hit the most clutch shot of his life to clinch the win for Cleveland- in Golden State.

The 2016 NBA Finals will be a landmark for the NBA’s modern era. With super teams becoming more and more evident, this series will forever be known as the time the NBA’s Goliath was taken out.

2016 College Basketball National Championship

Marcus Paige was supposed to be the hero. He hit one of the greatest three-pointers you will ever see. Double-clutch layups are hard enough, but a double-clutch three is just stupid good.

With Paige’s shot, North Carolina tied Villanova, 74-74, with 4.7 seconds left. At that point, viewers of the game had to pick their jaws up from the floor. The shot was incredible.

But what Kris Jenkins did carried more water. A deep triple as time expired sent Villanova into absolute elation.

The Greatest Sports Year

Who knew that game would turn into the precursor to what was to come? With all the great games that happened in the past year, college basketball’s National Championship was my favorite. Everyone has their own favorite, and the games are probably split pretty evenly across the board.

This was a year that we will tell our children and grandchildren about. It was a year that probably will never be topped. We should all feel fortunate that we were alive to take it all in.

If anyone can make a DVD of all these games in it’s entirety, I will throw my money at you. So someone please do that.

 

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Can the Flying Ducks Keep Their Streak?

Oregon basketball has started a streak. They have won their past nine games of this season and have a 33-game win streak at home. The last time the Ducks lost at home was on March 14, 2015, against Arizona, who was ranked fifth in the nation at the time.

Since their last loss at home, winning has been a commonplace for Oregon. The Ducks finished their 2015-2016 regular season at 14-4 in conference play and earned a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament. They knocked off Holy Cross, Saint Joseph’s, and Duke to make it to the Elite Eight. The moral of the story is that this team knows what they are doing.

This raises two new questions: Who got them to this point? More importantly, what is to come?

PERSONNEL


Oregon has five players putting up double figures as they enter conference play. First on the stat sheet is senior Chris Boucher, who is averaging 14.1 PPG while playing 26.4 MPG. However, Boucher currently has a boot on his right foot (ankle injury) and is not expected to return until later in conference play. He leads the team in blocks with 35 on the season, which ranks 10th in the nation overall.

The void of Chris Boucher being gone has been filled quite well by Jordan Bell. He had a career-high 23 points against Fresno State last Tuesday. He also chipped in 16 points against UNLV (the first game Boucher was out). Bell is averaging 10.3 PPG, 8.3 RPG and has 33 blocks in total this season.

The absence of Boucher also allowed Dillon Brooks to make his first start of the season against UNLV and contribute 20 points to the victory. He also added nine points against Fresno State. He is a 6-7 threat who averaged 16.7 PPG last season and as a junior, he has the experience and knowledge to impact the game greatly.

Scorers for the Ducks are coming from all classes in addition to Brooks and Bell. Tyler Dorsey is a sophomore and he is averaging 13.5 PPG just behind Chris Boucher. Senior Dylan Ennis distributes the ball well and averages 3.3 assists per game. Finally, Payton Pritchard, who is playing 27.5  MPG, a rather large amount for a freshman on an experienced team.

Experience is the name of the game for the Ducks. However, the UCLA Bruins’ combination of fresh talent and experience could be road block to this long home win streak.

UPCOMING OPPONENTS


Oregon opens conference play against the UCLA Bruins on Wednesday. They do not get a “warm-up” game. They are taking on the second team in the nation that is led by freshmen. TJ Leaf averages 17.5 PPG and Lonzo Ball is adding 13.7 PPG in addition to 8.3 APG. Isaac Hamilton and Bryce Alford provide the experience for the team and contribute major points as well as high free-throw percentages, which will be key in late-game situations.

Oregon basketball

UCLA Bruins forward TJ Leaf (USA TODAY Sports)

UCLA has the personnel to end this streak. The meeting of these two teams is a rivalry with some bad blood in the past. From 1970 to 1976, UCLA had a home-game win streak of 98 games which included four National Championships. This streak was ended by the Ducks.

This however, is what great games are made of. First, there are two teams with history. Second, both teams have a lot at stake. UCLA puts up 95.8 points a game and leads the nation with 23.6 APG. Their untarnished record for this season would also dissipate. The Ducks risk a 33-game win streak and a win could would be tremendous for their overall ranking.

A win against UCLA does not mean the road gets any easier. After UCLA, the Ducks will take on USC just two days later. USC and Oregon are relatively close in many of the statistical areas. The Trojans are averaging 83.2 PPG while the Ducks average 78.3 PPG. Field goal percentage, rebounds per game, and assists per game are relatively the same. The teams are quite evenly matched and the Trojans are also on a 13-game win streak.

The Ducks can keep their streak if they can contain the Bruins’ large scoring margins by limiting the damage done by impact players like TJ Leaf and Isaac Hamilton. If they can handle UCLA at home and gain some confidence going into USC, then the Ducks should maintain their streak for another week.

 

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Are Freshmen running the College Basketball scene?

Division I college basketball has always been set apart from other collegiate athletics for obvious reasons. However, it is the single sport where freshmen athletes can make an impact and leave after one year. Which brings me to the question: are the Freshmen the ones who are running the show and what does this mean for the sport?

Let’s look at the top five Freshman in the 2016 recruiting class. Harry Giles and Jayson Tatum at Duke University, Bam Adebayo at Kentucky, Josh Jackson at Kansas, and Lonzo Ball at UCLA. Ball contributed 19 points, seven rebounds and four assists in the win over Michigan this past weekend. He is averaging 15 points and 8.8 rebounds on the season. Their team remains 10-0 overall coming out of the weekend.

It is not just the current players either. Take a look at past Freshman who have stayed for a year and left for the NBA. The first name that comes to mind is Anthony Davis, who was drafted as a first round NBA draft pick following his freshman season at Kentucky. Davis led the team to a National Championship, was a first team All-American, and received Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Tournament. In the 2012 title, Davis’ teammates Marquis Teague and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (two other freshman) were the second and third highest scorers with 14 points and 11 points.

Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones, and Justise Winslow were all freshman from the 2014 class that had a stellar year and left for the NBA. They combined for 1,610 points over the course of the season. The other major contributor was Quinn Cook, a senior who added 598 points. They essentially ran the team.

I realize that I have only noted the major power houses in college basketball thus far. So finally I think of Carmelo Anthony. In his 2002-2003 season with Syracuse he averaged a double-double (22 points and 10 rebounds), ranking 1st for freshmen in the NCAA. His professional career has not disappointed either.

There are a lot of stats. However, they are all to make a point. Freshmen run the game of college basketball regardless of the year. The best players and their performance will always be how on-lookers view each successive season.

I could sit here and list off statistics of players like Andrew Wiggins, Kevin Durant, John Wall, or Deyonta Davis, who all dominated their respective years and left. However, the more important question is: what does all of this mean?

This trend is the result of the one-and-done rule. The draft rule is as follows: you must be 19 years of age before the calendar year of the draft and be one year removed from high school athletics. This rule has stood for ten years now. It has allowed the greatest players to make their mark and leave to make money with their talents.

It has irrevocably changed the game.

The level at which players compete is incredible to watch as a fan. This draft rule is a blessing to college basketball, which would lack the finesse without these freshmen bringing fresh talent (pun intended) each year.

In an essence, freshmen run the game of college basketball every single year. This is not a new theme. It has impacted the game greatly and will continue to as long as the one-and-done rule stays.

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Sports cities power rankings: November 2016

Everywhere you look, there’s power rankings available for every in-season sport. However, it can be hard to find rankings on the top sports cities in the nation. There’s always rankings on the top teams in the NFL during the winter, but what if we looked at the overall sports cities power rankings?

That being said, it’s time to break out a new top ten ranking, and that ranking is the top ten sports cities in the nation.

So, how are these rankings done? Well, because this will be a monthly installment, the cities will change based on each of its teams performance. Take a look at this handy dandy list on what goes into rankings, from most important to least important.

  • In-season professional team performance, with the team with a higher percentage of its season played getting higher priority
  • In-season college performance in football and basketball
  • Out-of-season performance of a team
  • Potential to be better or worse as season goes on
  • Amount of teams a city or region owns
  • Slight weightage for college teams in the area

For a city to be considered, it must have two or more of the major professional sports in its area. Sorry San Jose and Portland, but you guys don’t count.

Teams that are technically located outside of their city name will be claimed by their closest city. So, Boston claims the Patriots, New York City claims the Jets and Giants, and so on.

Scores are an average of all totals from each sport. The scale is from one to five, with five being the best.

Now, let’s begin. Go ahead and light me up in the comments and on social media. As a writer, I’m always begging for the approval and validation of my readers.

  1. Cleveland- 3.8- Fans in Cleveland are no longer deprived of rooting for a successful sports franchise. Bar the Browns, and Clevelanders get the privilege of rooting for the 2016 NBA champions, the 2016 AL Pennant winner, and, in some cases, the Ohio State Buckeyes. It’s easy to complain about the Browns, but they are in line to get the number one pick of the NFL Draft. However, the Browns organization is about as successful with drafting as an umbrella is at peeling a banana. Overall, life isn’t too bad outside of Sundays in Cleveland, OH, and the Indians are on the verge of winning the World Series.
    Sports Cities Power Rankings

    Dak Prescott (4) and Ezekiel Elliott (21) could become one of the most dynamic duos in sports. (Photo: The Dallas Morning News)

  2. Dallas- 3.8- It’s surprising to see Dallas so high on the list, but the city has plenty to root for. The Cowboys are 6-1 and look poised to fight for a first-round bye all season. They also have an incredibly bright future. Although the playoff outcome wasn’t what the Rangers wanted, they still won 95 games and took the AL West crown. The Mavericks will need a new face of its franchise, but they still made the playoffs and won 42 games. In the NHL, it’s quite early, but the Stars are 3-4-1 and in position to fight in the Central Division. The state of Texas has multiple colleges to root for, and none of which are located in Dallas, so they don’t get much credit in collegiate athletics.
  1. Boston- 3.4 Boston was the city I expected to see at the top of the list prior to my evaluations. With the Red Sox, Patriots, and Bruins, Boston has enjoyed a lot of success recently. However, the city’s closest university, Boston College, had a combined 0-25 conference record in football and basketball in 2015. The football team is 4-4 this season, but that’s still nothing to get excited about. The Celtics are also popular picks to win a lot of games this season, but they haven’t done it yet. If it wasn’t for the minor scoring weightage for college sports, the city of Boston would have the highest score.
  1. Pittsburgh- 3.75
    Sports Cities Power Rankings

    Evgeni Malkin helps lead the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. (Photo: Pittsburgh Sporting News)

Another team I didn’t expect to be this high is Pittsburgh. However, when delving into the city’s sports, they root for a perennial Super Bowl contender in the Steelers, and the defending Stanley Cup champion in the Penguins. The Pirates weren’t terrible, but they did finish five games under .500 at 78-83. The Pirates could be going downhill with the demise of Andrew McCutchen, but hockey and football seems to always be a constant in the Steel City.

  1. Seattle- 3.7

Sitting atop the NFC West with a comfy 1.5 game lead over the Arizona Cardinals, the Seahawks look primed to make the playoffs for the fifth year in a row. On top of that, the Mariners won 86 games this season, just missing the final AL wild card spot. Fans of the Washington Huskies have plenty to root for as well. It’s not so bad in Seattle. On top of all that, Seattle seems to be the most popular city for relocation or expansion in the NBA – rightfully so.

  1. Detroit- 3.4

The city of Detroit is anchored by having no terrible teams right now, and by college sports. With Detroit being just 50 minutes away from Ann Arbor, Detroit fans get to root for one of the fastest-rising college football programs in the University of Michigan. Not only that, but the Tigers missed the playoffs by just three games, the Pistons made the playoffs last season, and the Red Wings are one of the best hockey franchises in the NHL.

Sports Cities Power Rankings

Derek Carr is giving Oakland fans plenty of reasons to be happy. (Photo: AP)

  1. Oakland- 3.25

Luckily for Oakland, the city is carried by the Dubs. Blowing the first ever NBA Finals 3-1 lead is nothing short of embarrassing, but they’ve still got the most star power in the NBA. The Raiders are finally rising with Derek Carr and Khalil Mack commanding the offense and defense. Baseball is the only thing bringing the city down, as the A’s won just 69 games last season. By November, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Oakland rise on the list.

  1. Houston/San Antonio-  3.25

These two cities had to be paired together, as San Antonio’s NBA organization cannot be left out, and Houston is the closest city to them. With the Spurs and Rockets carrying the city, there’s not much to be giddy about. The Texans are simply terrible, and overpaid a below-average in Brock Osweiler. With nearly no body of work, yet money that would make even Donald Trump squirm, Houston will regret their decision to pay him so much. The Astros are up-and-coming, but underperformed with 84 wins last season. If the two NBA franchises can produce playoff runs, look for this pair of cities to rise on the monthly.

  1. Chicago- 3.25

Other than the Cubs being in the World Series, the city of Chicago is somewhat average. Yes, they do get the Blackhawks, who sit at third in the Western Conference, but the Bears are bad, and the White Sox and Bulls leave much to be desired. In college sports, Chicago doesn’t have much going for them, however they have a very broad college spectrum. Overall, the Bears hold this city back from being ranked higher.

  1. Toronto- 3.2

Last, and technically least on the list is a city outside the United States. Toronto houses just two professional teams, but both of them are pretty solid. The Blue Jays took a wild card spot and snuck into the playoffs, only to be beaten by an eventual World Series team in the Indians. Their basketball team isn’t too shabby, with the best backcourt in the NBA, besides Golden State. In the NHL, the Maple Leafs sit towards the bottom of the basement in the Atlantic Divsion, but it’s too early to write off any team in the NHL yet.

 

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“From Our House to Yours”

A Whirlwind Off-Season for the Iowa State Cyclones

Georges Niang capped off a stellar career with 30 points on better than 50% from the field against the Virginia Cavaliers. (Photo courtesy of iowastatedaily.com)

Steve Prohm’s first season with the Iowa State Cyclones ended with a relatively anticlimactic Sweet 16 loss to the top seeded team in the region, the Virginia Cavaliers. While making the Sweet 16 was an accomplishment, an 84-71 loss was a poor showing for a very talented team.  Iowa State dealt last off-season, with the loss of their coach lovingly nicknamed “The Mayor”, Fred Hoiberg. After a loss to UAB in the first round, Hoiberg jumped ship for a venture into the NBA with one of his former teams, the Chicago Bulls.

This season, the team is staring down another monumental overturn. The difference is roster overhaul is the topic as opposed to a coaching vacancy. Georges Niang decided to come back for his senior season, and ended up finishing as the top scorer in Cyclones’ NCAA Tournament history, as well as the second leading scorer in school history (2,228 career points). His presence on the court will be sorely missed by a team that has been extremely effective on offense during his tenure in Ames.  The team has averaged over 77 points per game every year that he has been there. There were other main scorers, but Niang has been top four on the team since his freshman year, and led the team in scoring his junior and senior year.

His departure is coupled with the exodus of Abdel Nader and Jameel McKay to graduation, as well as the transfers of Hallice Cooke and Jordan Ashton.  Nader and McKay were each double-digit contributors to the Cyclones powerful offense last year and were two of the team’s top three rebounders on the team. The transfers of Cooke, Ashton, and Brady Ernst are not seen as unexpected. They would not likely have seen many minutes due to the returnees for the upcoming season.

However, coming into the off-season, their transfers were not seen as completely certain because there were still major questions to be answered as to who would be coming back to play in Ames.  Recently, several of these matters were put to rest, but there is no shortage of drama for Prohm and company.

The NCAA’s decision on Naz Mitrou-Long and Monte Morris’ return are both huge pluses for the Cyclones. (Photo courtesy of zimbio.com)

Naz Mitrou-Long was granted a hardship waiver for next season.  He was recovering from hip surgery in the off-season.  Long attempted to play through the pain but saw it as best to end his year early in hopes of receiving an additional year of eligibility.  His presence was sorely missed by the team. Perhaps he could have been the difference in the sub-par performance against Virginia. Regardless, his veteran presence will be welcomed in the second act of Steve Prohm’s campaign. Additionally, Deonte Burton and Monte Morris have withdrawn their names from the NBA draft. Burton was a transfer from Marquette and a nice boost off the bench last season. Morris was one of the most dynamic players on the roster last year and will undoubtedly be the clubhouse leader with the announcement of his return. He averaged 13.8 points per game as well as 6.9 assists, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.8 steals per game. Morris is the most important returnee for the team.

This week, the frontcourt got better for Iowa State. They added Louisiana State transfer Merrill Holden. Holden averaged 8.1 points per game and 5 rebounds per contest last season. The graduate transfer is an excellent pick-up and immediately eligible to play for Prohm.  He adds to an Iowa State frontcourt that could have been depleted after their losses from the previous season.

The last remaining question involves the completion of the team’s recruiting class. With the transfers completed, the addition of Holden, and the return of Morris and Long the Cyclones have one open spot for a scholarship. There are four recruits coming in for sure (Jakolby Long, Cameron Lard, Solomon Young, and Donovan Jackson). The outstanding commitment is Emmanuel Malou. The junior college transfer from Yuba College is currently being looked at by pro teams, including the Celtics, and is taking a gander at his draft stock.  He would be another addition to what looks to be a young frontcourt, with the exception being Holden.

There was a lot up in the air at the beginning of this off-season for a team that has made some noise in the tournament recently. It seems as though most of the dust has settled, though. For the most part, the program appears to be intact and ready for another season and a new shot at being the first in over a decade to take the regular season Big 12 conference title from the Kansas Jayhawks.

Three Takeaways From the 2015-2016 College Basketball Season

This year’s college basketball season was one of the most interesting in recent memory.  Story lines poured out of the action on and off the court. Here’s what I consider the main themes of the 2015-2016 season:

  1. Senior Rebirth

Some of this year’s best teams featured multiple seniors. Many of the Naismith and Associated Press Player of the Year candidates were seniors, unlike in previous seasons. The star power was held by many players who have developed over their years at their respective schools. People still question why these players did not develop faster or declare for the draft earlier. Recent trends have shown, however, that perhaps it is better for players to delay the jump to the pros. No one would say that Buddy Hield is not a complete player at this point, yet many people can pick out the weaknesses in Ben Simmons’ game namely his inability to shoot the jumper.

Buddy Hield and Ryan Arcidiacono were two of this season’s most prolific seniors. (Photo courtesy of Fox Sports)

This year, there was a plethora of entertaining seniors to watch. The more notable players included Denzel Valentine, Marcus Paige, and Jake Layman. The final four teams featured line-ups riddled with seniors. The Oklahoma Sooners had several seniors that saw the floor in addition to their Naismith Candidate in Ryan Spangler and Isaiah Cousins. National Champion Villanova had two prominent seniors in Daniel Ochefu and Ryan Arcidiacono. Syracuse had an excellent example in player development with former Duke transfer Michael Gbinije. The Tar Heels had a number of seniors on the team in addition to Paige, the most entertaining being Brice Johnson.

The fact that these players stayed for their whole careers shows that the NBA is not completely killing the amateur game. While some players will still make the jump too early and many top recruits will make the obligated year long trip to play school before leaving to make their money, the landscape of college basketball still shows growth and life which is something we saw this year.

  1. Scandal

Rick Pitino’s Louisville Cardinals missed the postseason due to scandal. (Photo courtesy of the LA Times)

Scandal is wreaking havoc on the game. Several schools were under the gloomy cloud of sanctions this year and some will carry this problem into the following season. An SMU team that started hot missed the tournament due to academic fraud. Likewise, two final four teams have dealt with their own problems. Jim Boeheim and Syracuse are still in muddy waters and North Carolina could be facing some loss of scholarships and postseason bans due to their school infractions.

The king of kings, however, is Louisville.  Rick Pitino’s future remains uncertain as does the team’s season to come. At this point it seems that academic progress failure and scandal are normal parts of NCAA culture. While the NCAA has gotten many things wrong in the past two decades, it does appear that these schools will face harsh discipline at the expense of the student-athletes.

  1. Parity

Many people indicated that this year’s domination of the final four, elite eight, and sweet sixteen by power conference teams was an indication of the lack of the so called “parity” in college basketball. Even ESPN’s Jay Bilas was in agreement with this train of thought. While I recognize the fact that the numbers show an inordinate amount of teams in the latter stages of the tournament, looking at the topic of parity from this one perspective oversimplifies the subject.

It is difficult to look at the season and tournament as a whole and not see the parity available in college basketball. In early season match-ups, Monmouth took down Notre Dame, an elite eight team, and Northern Iowa defeated North Carolina, the national runner-up. There was even a cry for Monmouth and St. Mary’s to make the tournament. Dick Vitale mentioned in his post season summary that there was no respect for the little guy.

Northern Iowa lost in a devastating manner when Texas A&M rallied from down double digits in the final minute of the second round (Photo courtesy of thegazette.com)

We saw, for the first time in history, a 12, 13, 14, and 15 seed win in the same weekend. Northern Iowa was 35 seconds from the sweet sixteen and Stephen F. Austin was a tip in away as well. We saw Middle Tennessee State take out a team that caused many brackets to be busted.  We saw Hawaii take down a very talented Cal team, Purdue get beat by Arkansas-Little Rock, and Yale take down Baylor. That being said, there was very little representation of the small conferences in the sweet sixteen. However, no one would say that just because Butler made the championship that this was an indication of parity. The opposite indication is represented here. The whole story is more complex and we were a few points away from having a year dominated by the little guy in the end chapters of March Madness, and the overall story includes this change in the winds of college basketball  that should continue to make the opening rounds of the tournament interesting for years to come.

Now as we put a wrap on 2015-2016 we look ahead. There are a few final commitments, a few loose ends to tie up and then it is on to the following season. Every indication is that it should be fantastic, with a host of powerful recruits coming in but some of the tale of this season could bleed into the next. At this point it is very difficult to see what is to come in the vastly changing arena of college basketball.

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