Philadelphia 76ers 2017 NBA Draft

Philadelphia 76ers 2017 NBA Draft Profile

Day three of NBA Draftmas is here to trust the process. Philadelphia fans are itching for their team to become contenders. This year they take another step closer to becoming a playoff team.

Summary

Philadelphia 76ers 2017 NBA Draft

(Photo Credit: ohn Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports)

Philadelphia has not made the playoffs since 2012. Their overall record since then is 109-301. The future is beginning to look bright despite the recent failure. The 76ers improved their win total by 18 from last season, showing that the process is indeed working.

Not all signs are pointing in the right direction though. Last year’s first overall pick, Ben Simmons, did not play a single game due to injury. Their franchise center, Joel Embiid, also dealt with injuries. Embiid was looking like the hands down rookie of the year until he went down with a foot injury. This is his third major injury, and it is never a good sign when big men have multiple knee or foot injuries. If he can remain healthy, he is going to be a top-three big in the NBA.

The 76ers struggled offensively, averaging 102.4 points per game, which ranked 25th in the NBA. They shot 44.2 percent from the field and 34 percent from behind the arc. Those percentages ranked 27th and 25th, respectively. They also turned the ball over at an alarming rate with 16 per game, ranking dead last.

Defensively, the Sixers gave up 108.1 points per game. Opponents shot 46.1 percent against the Sixers. Philly needs to improve both offensively and defensively.

Like many teams drafting early, youth and inexperience plagued the 76ers. To develop into a playoff team, the talent inside the organization needs time on the court together. Simmons and Embiid must remain healthy for this team to start pushing for the playoffs. If they remain healthy and this year’s pick pans out, the 76ers should be geared to dominate the East relatively soon.

Picks & Needs

The 76ers have five picks in the draft, four of which are in the second round. This gives Philly wiggle room to possibly move up for a second first round pick.

First Round: No. 3 (via Sacramento)

Second Round: No. 36 (via New York), No. 39 (via Dallas), No. 46 (via Miami), No. 50 (via Atlanta)

The Sixers have a very solid frontcourt made up of Embiid, Jahlil Okafor and Dario Saric. Brett Brown has publicly stated that Simmons will play point guard. The Sixers still need a very reliable shooting guard who can get buckets.

They could also use some depth at the small forward position. Robert Covington is average at best and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot is still young and developing. It will be highly unlikely that the 76ers draft five players. One of their late second-round picks could be used on a foreign player who may stay overseas for a few seasons, but five rookies would be too much on an already extremely young team.

Targets & Thoughts

Philadelphia 76ers 2017 NBA Draft

(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

Pick #3: Malik Monk, SG, Kentucky

The Sixers need scoring help from the guard position badly, and Malik Monk is a scoring machine. The SEC Player of the Year averaged 19.8 points per game in his freshman season at Kentucky. Monk shot 45 percent from the field and 39.7 percent from behind the arc.

Every now and then Monk would go off with impressive scoring games. Monk scored 47 against North Carolina, 34 at Ole Miss, 37 versus Georgia and 33 against Florida. He showed just how great of a scorer he is. At his age, he can develop into an ever better scorer in the NBA.

Pick #36: Jaron Blossomgame, SF, Clemson

Jaron Blossomgame is one of the oldest players in this draft. He will have maturity and experience that a lot of draftees won’t have. Blossomgame will be a solid scorer off the bench. He has nice length and size to be a quality NBA defender as well, but will need development in that area.

Pick #39: Frank Mason III, PG, Kansas

Frank Mason III could become one of the best backup point guards in the NBA. Mason has a natural ability to push the ball and creates quick offense. He isn’t afraid to attack the rim to get to the free throw line. Mason will be able to come in and play anywhere from 20 to 25 minutes per game and be a solid role player.

Pick #46: Alpha Kaba, PF, France

Alpha Kaba already has connections on the Sixers. Kaba played with current 76er Timothe-Luwawu-Cabarrot in France. Kaba is able to stretch the floor, something the Sixers could use from a big. Alpha Kaba would not come to the NBA this season and the Sixers could allow him to continue his development for a few seasons overseas.

Pick #50: Aleksandar Vezenkov, F, Bulgaria

Aleksandar Vezenkov is a raw European prospect who is capable of some good outside shooting. Philly will keep Vezenkov overseas until they need him. He has the talent to play in the NBA one day.

Conclusion

The Sixers have another top-three pick that will help them continue the process. Drafting Malik Monk would push the Sixers into playoff contention next season. It isn’t going out on a limb to say Philadelphia will be a seven or eight seed in the East next season. Getting to the playoffs would be the first step. They need that valuable playoff experience for their young core.

In the second round, the Sixers have four more picks that would allow them to be flexible in the draft. They will draft a few players who will stay overseas. Philadelphia is not far from contending for a championship and this draft will push them much closer.

Thanks for checking out the Philadelphia 76ers 2017 NBA Draft profile and tune in tomorrow for day four of NBA Draftmas to see what the Phoenix Suns are going to do.

Day 1 Draftmas: Boston Celtics

Day 2 Draftmas: Los Angeles Lakers

 

Featured Image by Fadeaway World

You can “Like” The Game Haus on Facebook and “Follow” us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles written by other great TGH writers along with Matthew!

“From Our Haus to Yours

Plup’s Luigi Pleases the Crowd at CEO: Dreamland; Mew2King Takes Home Top Prizes

The CEO: Dreamland win for Jason “Mew2King” Zimmerman was impressive. He beat top seeded Juan “Hungrybox” DeBiedma, overcoming a 2-4 2017 record against Hbox. The bounce back win was a great story, but it took a back seat to the rise of Luigi.

The last month for Justin “Plup” McGrath was not spent playing Melee. Plup, being a top-10 player, spent the last couple weeks traveling across South Korea and focusing on anything but Melee. In his first tournament back, the readiness and performance was in question. Then, late Saturday night, Plup sent out this tweet:

In light of this tweet, Plup took to the CEO ballroom floor and proceeded to turn heads with a character most people would say couldn’t win a major. Plup’s Luigi was assumed a gimmick when the day started, but no one was thinking that at the end of the day.

Furthermore, Plup took out Michael “Nintendude” Brancato and Sami “DruggedFox” Muhanna, proving early on his Luigi was for real. He made it into a winners semifinal at a major by going all Luigi. It’s a rare sight seeing Luigi anywhere near Top 8. Stephen “Abate” Abate was the first Luigi to make a deep run at The Big House 5 where he almost brought the venue down with his win over Johnny “S2J” Kim (the invisible celing set). The play of Ben “Luigikid” Tolan making deep runs at SSS, and Eduardo “Eddy Mexico” Lucatero Rincon help legitimize Luigi with strong wins in Southern California.

The best part is Plup has no recorded tournament sets with Luigi, so in his first try he finished fifth. He gave the eventual champion, M2K, a ride before the inevitable readjustments coming from M2K’s counter pick of Marth from Sheik.

SFAT Loses the Runback

SFAT and M2K. Photo courtesy of YouTube.com/vgbootcamp

It’s rarer than rare to see a performance similar to Zac “SFAT” Cordoni’s at CEO: Dreamland. The only other player with similar results that come to mind is William “Leffen” Hjelte who has beaten multiple gods before he was considered one himself. SFAT is slowly developing those next level mind games to be able to compete with the likes of M2K and Hungrybox.

Despite a 2-16 lifetime record against M2K for SFAT, he entered grand finals up 3-2 in sets against a player who’s absolutely had his number. All signs pointed to SFAT winning his first major with Gods in attendance. But, as history has shown us before, never count out any of the Gods to get the reset win in grand finals.

M2K, who lost in game 5 against SFAT in winners finals, made key adjustments and played better on Final Destination. Two of the best players statistically on Final Destination played four games on the flat stage. The count was 2-2, but M2K took back stage control and forced his will on SFAT’s Fox.

Unfortunately, SFAT ran into M2K who has historically had his number. The southern California Fox main is creeping into the title conversation. He’s real close to breaking the ceiling, but M2K wasn’t going to let that happen at CEO: Dreamland.

You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Blake!

Northwestern Basketball

Why You Should Root for Northwestern in the NCAA Tournament

The main question here isn’t why should you root for Northwestern, but why not? Chris Collins finally did it. Come Thursday March 16 the Wildcats will make their NCAA tournament debut against Vanderbilt in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Northwestern

The Wildcats celebrate their first NCAA tournament bid (Photo/ USA Today)

Northwestern was the only team in a power five conference to never appear in the tournament before this past Sunday.

They had just seven winning seasons since the 2000-01 season. Their best finish in the Big Ten was tied for fifth in the 2003-2004 season. They also did not have a winning conference record since the 1967-68 season until this year.

The program is quickly turning around from the looks of things. The Wildcats finished 10-8 in Big Ten regular season play with a win over Michigan in the final seconds. They won two games in the Big Ten tournament against Rutgers and Maryland until they eventually fell to Wisconsin in semifinals.

Now Northwestern looks to make their mark on the NCAA tournament after drawing an eight seed.

Only three first-time tourney participants have made it to the sweet sixteen before being eliminated since 1985: Florida in 1987 (six seed), Florida Gulf Coast in 2013 (15 seed) and Cleveland State in 1986 (14 seed).

It’s been a while since a first-time tourney goer has been such a high seed. The last school to make the tournament for the first time and be better than a ten seed was UC Irvine in 1998 as a nine seed. The highest seed for a first timer since 1985 was the Florida team in 1987.

Northwestern is looking forward with a real chance to compete in the tournament despite being the last power five conference team to make the tournament.

The Wildcats face a ninth-seeded Vanderbilt team in the first round of the tournament. The Commodores snuck into the last-minute at-large bids with a win over Florida in the SEC conference tournament. Vanderbilt has 15 losses on the year, including their loss in the SEC tournament to Arkansas. Some may say the nine seed is generous.

Only 11 teams in the past 60 years with 14 losses have received an at large bid before this year. Vanderbilt tops that with its 15 losses.

The Wildcats not only have a real chance of beating Vanderbilt in the round of 64, but they also have a chance to win their second game in the round of 32 where they would most likely face Gonzaga. Many believe Gonzaga is the weakest of the four one seeds.

Northwestern

Northwestern students also celebrated Sunday with the Wildcats first bid to the NCAA tournament (Photo/Patrick Gorski- USA Today)

What is also interesting is that it would be hard to find a reason to root against them.

Most of the time when people root against a team, it might be for multiple reasons with the most popular probably being its a rival team. The team also may always be good, or maybe you just don’t like them. None of those apply to Northwestern.

You can’t say they have a true rival since they have never been good. There may be just a couple Big Ten teams. As stated before, they haven’t ever been good, so you can’t dislike them for that. The only other reason we can think of that a person may not like them is because they didn’t get accepted into the school. However, it is a pretty hard school to get into.

If you’re looking for a feel-good story, this would be the one. It is also a story that could very well last until the second weekend of the tournament. Perhaps you just want a random team to root for. Northwestern deserves your attention either way, because why not.

 

You can “Like” The Game Haus on Facebook and “Follow” us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles written by other great TGH writers along with Cameron!

“From Our Haus to Yours”

The Local: Hungrybox’s Injury Issue, Salem and M2K’s Performances at Smash Conference

Genesis 4 is still two weeks away. The Smash world will now focus in on these next two weeks to prepare for one of the marquee events of 2017. Tournaments have slowed; aside from Smash Conference, there has been no high-level matches since Don’t Park On The Grass. That said, there’s still plenty of news to cover around the entire Smash community.

Hungrybox Struggled with his Finger Injury

Photo via https://twitter.com/LiquidHbox/status/816358130611318785

Juan “Hungrybox” Debiedma was not the main story of this weekend, but his finger injury suffered last week playing dodgeball has his Genesis 4 status in question. Hungrybox did say on twitter that he’s planning on playing at Genesis 4, but that he might have to switch up how he holds his controller and try a different button press for his aerials (he usually uses the Z-button).

However, Hungrybox did make an appearance at MVG”s Smash Conference in Florida this weekend, and he didn’t look like his usual self. On top of losing to players he often beats, Jason “Mew2King” Zimmerman and Justin “Wizzrobe” Hallett, his aerial spacing and conversions on hits were clearly not as precise as normal.

Hungrybox will play at Genesis 4, but how effective his play will be is still up in the air. He has two weeks to rest or practice holding his controller different ways.  A half healthy Hungrybox can still make a deep run, but it’s hard to see a scenario where he takes out a God with a busted finger.

Mew2King Wins Smash Conference for Melee

M2K got the win, but the real story was Wizzrobe and Zac “SFAT” Cordoni’s performances at this event. SFAT went 1-9 against M2K in 2016, but early in 2017 he took an early 5-3 game lead with a set win and a game five loss at the Smash Conference. He even had success against M2K on Final Destination, taking two games off him.

On the other hand, Wizzrobe nearly outshined everyone by taking out Ryan “TheMoon” Coker-Welch 2-0, SFAT 3-0, and Hungrybox 3-0. He unfortunately fell to M2K, a matchup that’s known to heavily favor M2K. His performance doesn’t go unnoticed though, and is a building point heading into one of the biggest events of the year.

Finally, M2K earned his first tournament victory of 2017, but it did not come easy. SFAT had him on the ropes on game four in the second set, but a bad positional decision from SFAT gave M2K the corner, and eventually the edge guard. The entire match favored SFAT’s pace of play, but in the end, M2K was able to repeatedly overcome large stock deficits to win.

Salem Takes Smash Conference for Smash 4

Photo via https://smashboards.com/threads/smash-wii-u-at-smash-conference-lxix-mvgs-finest-take-on-florida.444611/

Saleem “Salem” Akiel Young, a legend in Brawl for taking an Apex, earned another career victory by winning Smash Conference over Jamaal “Samsora” Morris Jr. The Bayonetta main had little trouble disposing of the other Florida players, only dropping one game the entire tournament. He made a statement by taking care of busisness in a tournament that featured the likes of Eric “ESAM” Lew, Jestise “MVD” Negron, and Andrew “ScAtt” Huntley.

Even M2K entered Smash 4 and made a splash before being eliminated by Esam. Esam, on the other hand, made an insane losers bracket run to finish third, after falling to Samsora’s Peach earlier in winner’s bracket. It was a tournament of mixed results, as ScAtt was eliminated in losers round two by Florida native, Day.  Strong players had to face off against each other earlier because of upsets, allowing for players like ScAtt, MVD, and dyr to fall out of bracket early in the day.

The consistent and balanced play of Salem and Samsora flashed. Both players had no trouble navigating through a tough bracket and might be two players to watch out for the rest of 2017.

You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and eSports articles from other great TGH writers along with Blake

Why the AP Preseason Poll Deserves More Attention

The Associated Press’ NCAA Basketball Preseason Poll has a dual nature in that, it is both meaningful and not meaningful simultaneously. Every year the poll comes out creating a buzz about who should be higher and who should be lower. As with any preseason poll, power ranking or vote basis is complete speculation. So why should you care? Aside from bringing attention and excitement at the approaching season what does it provide us with? History shows that the AP Preseason Poll provides us with a gaze into the future and that we should give it significantly more attention.

Every year in the NCAA tournament brings with it new surprises, bigger upsets and more underdogs advancing. However, the trends found between the AP Preseason Poll and the NCAA Tournament can’t be ignored.

Despite Ben Simmons choosing LSU, the Tigers were the only team ranked in the preseason not to make the 2016 NCAA Tournament. (Photo courtesy of thebiglead.com)

To begin, a high volume of teams appearing in AP Preseason Poll make the NCAA tournament.  The 2015-16 season preached having no definitive power. Still, only one team in the preseason Top 25, LSU, did not make the Big Dance. Over the past ten years, an astounding 85 percent (214/250) of teams in the preseason poll make it to March Madness.  In addition, two teams counted against the percentage were Syracuse in 2014-15 and Connecticut in 2012-13.  Syracuse made a self-imposed ban so they became ineligible. UConn became ineligible due to Academic Progress Reports. Removing those two blemishes moves the 10-year average to 86 percent. Even the most inaccurate year, 2009-10, was still extremely predictable before the season began. Essentially, the Associated Press is able to make an educated guess about one-third of the NCAA field before the season begins.

Percentage of Teams in AP Preseason Poll to Make Tournament
Year Percentage
2015-16 96%  (24/25)
2014-15* 84% (21/25)
2013-14 92% (23/25)
2012-13^ 84% (21/25)
2011-12 84% (21/25)
2010-11 92% (23/25)
2009-10 72% (18/25)
2008-09 80% (20/25)
2007-08 92% (23/25)
2006-07 80% (20/25)
*=Syracuse self-imposed ban.
^=Uconn APR ban.

Not only do they predict who the teams who will be in the tournament well, but in general they are able to identify the very best teams in the tournament. At the end of the year, out of 350-plus teams, we watch four play in April. The majority of those teams are included on the AP’s radar.

Shaka Smart and the 2011 VCU Rams were one of the biggest surprises in the past decade. (Photo courtesy of csmonitor.com)

Over the past decade of basketball, an average of 90 percent of the Final Four has appeared in the poll. Only four teams in the decade were not in the poll, but made the Final Four. Two of them were the surprising runs of VCU and Wichita State to the Final Four in 2011. The poll of the 2007-08 preseason contains a nice surprise.  The top four teams in the poll are the four teams that made the Final Four. That was also the only year since tournament expansion that all four Number One seeds made the Final Four.

Moreover, 81 percent of the teams in the Elite Eight and 68 percent of teams in the Sweet 16 made appearances in the poll. Every year, of course, there are schools like Davidson that make a run. It is difficult to predict those runs during your bracket challenge in March, but the point is, the AP has their finger on the best teams in October.

Teams in Each Round that Appeared in AP Preseason Poll
Year Final Four Elite 8 Sweet 16
2015-16 75% (3/4) 75% (6/8) 75% (12/16)
2014-15 100% (4/4) 87% (7/8) 68% (11/16)
2013-14 100% (4/4) 87% (7/8) 68% (11/16)
2012-13 75% (3/4) 75% (6/8) 62% (10/16)
2011-12 100% (4/4) 100% (8/8) 87% (14/16)
2010-11 50% (2/4) 62% (5/8) 62% (10/16)
2009-10 100% (4/4) 75% (6/8) 62% (10/16)
2008-09 100% (4/4) 87% (7/8) 75% (12/16)
2007-08 100% (4/4) 75% (6/8) 62% (10/16)
2006-07 100% (4/4) 87% (7/8) 62% (10/16)

Not only does the AP know about the best teams, but also about the best team. In the past decade, only three champions began the year outside the top ten. Only one began the year unranked. Having the champion ranked at the top spot twice shows that the writers have a deep insight. The average rank for the champion in the preseason, not including the unranked Huskies in 2011, is 5.7.

Preseason Ranking for Champion
Year Team Rank
2016 Villanova 11
2015 Duke 4
2014 Connecticut 18
2013 Louisville 2
2012 Kentucky 2
2011 Connecticut NR
2010 Duke 9
2009 North Caroilna 1
2008 Kansas 4
2007 Florida 1

While the Associated Press may not always rank the Final Four as the top four teams, this is still impressive. The AP shows the ability to weed out the teams not up to par before teams play their first game. This is weeks before teams have even scrimmaged or had an exhibition.

In the next month or so, the AP will release the 2016-17 Preseason Poll. This ranking should be given serious consideration. Remember that history proves this ranking to be quite informative.

 

How SEC Basketball is on the Rise

SEC basketball is not held in high esteem, but it should be and will be soon. Right now when people hear the letters SEC they think two things: bone-crushing football and Kentucky basketball. There is not much thought given to the basketball league that has not finished higher than fifth in conference RPI since 2011-12.

However, conference RPI is not always the best indicator of league strength from top to bottom. The PAC-12 proved this in the 2016 NCAA Tournament. The PAC-12 was second in conference RPI but went 2-5 in the round of 64. By percentage the AAC was the only conference worse in overall tournament record. This means that there is more to a conference’s power than the RPI. So even though the SEC is weak in that perspective, there are other things to rate them on.

The truth is that SEC basketball is subtly moving toward relevancy at more than a Big Blue Nation perspective. It will not happen overnight, but the tools are in place and all indications are that the SEC will have a heavy handed affect on March Madness for years to come.

Where it starts: Coaching

John Calipari is the best recruiter in the SEC and one of the best in the nation. (Photo courtesy of espn.com)

Coaches control everything. They are in charge of the program’s recruiting success or failure, in game management and tactics of their teams and the integrity of their programs. The SEC is exemplary in this category starting at the top. John Calipari is the best coach in the SEC, no argument there. While before it seemed he was the only one that mattered, he is no longer the only relevant coach in the conference. Other coaches with storied careers are beginning to make waves.

Ben Howland was the architect behind the three straight UCLA Final Four appearances. After a brief hiatus from basketball, he carries a 413-225 career record into his second season at Mississippi State. Bruce Pearl (257-139) finds himself in a similar situation. The difference is that his was more than just a brief hiatus, and he went from one SEC school to another. After three years off, the coach that formerly led the Tennessee Vols to the Elite Eight. Furthermore, there is Rick Barnes (619-333) who now coaches at Pearl’s former school. He once led Texas to 14 straight NCAA tournaments, including a Final Four, two Elite Eight appearances and two Sweet Sixteens.

There is more to add to the list including Frank Martin at South Carolina, Billy Kennedy at Texas A&M and Andy Kennedy at Ole Miss, among other notable names. In reality, had Billy Donovan not left for the Oklahoma City Thunder and the ACC not have four of the greatest coaches in the game (Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Boeheim, Roy Williams and Rick Patino), the SEC would be have the best coaching arsenal in the NCAA. Regardless, there is an overabundance of elite coaches and that is where growth begins.

Where it leads: The Recruits

High profile coaches bring in high profile recruits. High profile recruits lead to better classes. Better classes lead to better teams. It is a very linear and logical progression. Year in and year out big programs replace their losses without skipping a beat. Thankfully the best example, Kentucky, is in the SEC. They are proof that this strategy can and does work. The SEC has not always been the most prolific in this category, but that is changing.

Obviously the main source of recruits is Kentucky and this year is no exception. They have been top two in recruiting every year since 2009. The program has been keeping the SEC afloat in the pool of relevancy for quite a while. However, there are indications that other schools will join the party.

Surely no one has already forgotten the mania that was Ben Simmons nine month vacation at LSU. Last year the Tigers also grabbed Antonio Blankley, another top 25 recruit. Malik Newman, even though he has now transferred to Kansas, was a great grab by Mississippi State as part of a stellar 2015 class.

The 2016 class was no exception for Kentucky, but there are other SEC schools rising. Mississippi State had a second straight top 25 class with Ben Howland at the helm. Also in the top 50 are Texas A&M, Arkansas, Georgia and Tennessee. Alabama even squeezed in aftergrabbing two 4-stars thanks to Avery Johnson.

In addition Bruce Pearl was able to elevate his 2016 class by getting to work as soon as his show-cause ban lifted. Auburn ranks 25th this year, but it is the 2017 class that should have everyone murmuring about SEC basketball. The Auburn Tigers currently hold the top spot. Arkansas, Vanderbilt and Texas A&M made the top 25 while LSU is sitting pretty at 26.

The way the conference is headed right now, players will continue to flock to these schools.  The coaches that everyone want to play for are there.  They can help develop young men into NBA stars. The only thing that remains is seeing if success will be found. While not every coach in the SEC is grabbing top 100 prospects left and right, their resumes make it much easier to get any players that they may desire.

Where it ends: Results Tested and Made in March

NCAA Tournament success is the paramount of all measurements. Even just an appearance or several straight appearances can lead to a school being viewed in a more positive light. Now, the SEC has not had the most amazing tournament record over the past decade, but there are some positives to look at.

In 2015 there were five bids by SEC teams. That is a stark improvement from the three per year of the past several seasons. The horizon brings a few more bright hopes. Currently, ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi has four squads in the 2017 NCAA Tournament (Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Florida and Texas A&M). That is not very many, but he has Mississippi State in the first four out.

The Aggies may have found some stability for their program. (Photo courtesy of ncaa.com)

Texas A&M also looks to be on its way to being a tournament regular, and had they not met a talented Oklahoma team last year, they may have been the Final Four participant from the region. Additionally, there are some teams not there who could find a way to sneak in. LSU, Auburn and Arkansas all could find themselves with a bid.  If any of those teams, plus Mississippi State find their way in, then the SEC could put six schools in for the first time since 2008.

 

The most exciting thing about the SEC right now is the potential. There are potential tournament regulars outside of just Kentucky now. SEC basketball is no longer a joke.

Coach Cal’s Crazy Idea: So Crazy It Just Might Work

Kentucky Coach John Calipari was blasted by several outlets last week for his ideas on changes to conference championship tournaments. Coach Cal proposed holding a pre-season or early season event in which each team was guaranteed a certain number of games in place of the end of season tournament.

Kentucky coach John Calipari thinks that the Conference Tournaments could use some major reworking. (Photo courtesy of hoopshabit.com)

Many columnists made this out to be that Calipari wanted the NCAA bid to be determined at the beginning of the season. Calipari was egregiously misrepresented in what he was proposing on several occasions. Therefore, before exploring the details and logistics of the idea, it is important to quickly hash out exactly what Cal’s idea entailed: a gathering in which each team was guaranteed three games.  This figure was not set in stone, just an example to get the ball rolling. The meeting would not determine the automatic bid, but rather each conference would follow the Ivy League structure in which the regular season champ won the trip to the dance.

Now, before everyone’s heads spin, it is important to note what Coach Cal was generating: an idea.  This was not a formal proposal to the SEC, nor was it something that the NCAA cabinet members will have on their desk next week in a 700-page document. It is an idea that Calipari put out there that is worth exploring as to whether or not it could actually work, or would be beneficial for college basketball, even though a proposal like this could help the Selection Committee become more consistent in choosing post season teams. But, before a subcommittee is put together to explore whether or not it is good for the NCAA, there needs to be discussion about whether or not it could even work.

When considering a change this major, the logistics should be the first thing that comes to mind. Can the schools commit to this? Can the venues be reserved? With the power that college basketball has, this should not be very difficult.  Changing the date should not eliminate the school’s ability to make the trip. Having a few guaranteed early regular season games in one place would in all likelihood cut the cost of travel for many programs.

There are other things to consider, though, such as the additional early season events that are already in place. There is nothing preventing a team from doing the preseason conference tournament and then going out to the Maui Invitational in late November.

Another detail would be the deciding of the automatic bid to the Big Dance.  The NCAA Currently gives one automatic bid to each conference.  For most smaller conferences, this is the only chance to get in. Two things could be done: the regular season champion could get the bid or there could be a Conference Championship game between the top two. These are each outcomes that could be put together with relative ease.  For the sake of argument, it could even be a conference by conference decision. At current point, the NCAA seems to fluctuate as to what it values in the selection process, so the elimination of the tournament could possibly eliminate some grey area of the criteria they use.

Now, the question becomes, would this be beneficial for the NCAA? Is this something that would elevate college basketball to a new plane as far as viewership and integrity of the game and season? It is an extremely complex discussion to have that contains a wealth of issues both large and small. The biggest obstacles are the ones that would need to be discussed first and as with anything, money talks.

These changes have the power to greatly help or hinder the constant revenue stream that is College Basketball. Corporate Sponsorships come in wide varieties for the conference tournaments as they currently stand and are a great impetus to continuing the status quo. Changing the time of year would put these preseason tournaments in competition with the Goliath that is the NFL and its understudy in College football. This would affect corporate money being poured into the sport, but how much is lost would take a significant amount of research.

However, scheduling could eliminate this problem by keeping games to days that football is not on. Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday nights have no NFL games and a few NCAA games here and there. These games could get ratings with not many other sports on. Big Monday and Super Tuesday could turn into early season conference encounters. With reasonable certainty it could be concluded, if done right, that the sponsorship money would be down in comparison to end of year tournaments. The other side to this thought is that it would be up form typical early season money, which could mean that the loss is counteracted in a way.

Right now, there is not much significance put on the beginning of the season in college basketball.  Teams face lesser opponents in hopes of being ready for the bigger fish in the sea.  However, wouldn’t a better warm up for young players be to see the competition at its highest level first? If the season were opened this way, teams could have a good gauge of where they are at within their conference and know how they need to prepare, further intensifying regular conference play a month or two down the road. Old rivalries at the beginning of the season could make the beginning of the season much more watchable as well.

In fact, packing healthier competition into the beginning of the season would be excellent for college basketball and team’s attempting to strengthen their schedule. The team’s strength off schedule would rise and with the additional games against conference opponents there would be more separation between teams and less grey area. Currently the NCAA is not consistent in what they value. This change would force them to value the same thing for the whole field: the regular season. And some teams would have drastically different looks to their schedule.

Let’s take a bubble team like Florida.  Their first ten games include “stellar” opponents such as North Carolina A&T, Vermont, Richmond, and Jacksonville among others. Replace one of those games with an extra game against Kentucky, LSU, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, and throw in some other SEC competition and we may be talking a different story about their tournament bid.

The same is true for Final Four participant and bubble team Syracuse. Many thought that this team should not have gotten into the tournament. Had they replaced games against Montana State, Colgate, Cornell, and Elon with something like Duke, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Virginia, Miami or even Louisville perhaps they would have been more than a shoe end into March Madness. This team would have greatly benefited from some changes in the early season format. These are just the possible benefits as scheduling relates to the beginning of the season.

In addition, when we begin to discuss the end of season issues, there are many coaches that complain about what the current structure says about the significance of the season as well as what the conference tournaments do to their teams. With the current structure, this undoes a whole body of work for those teams in smaller, one bid conferences. Teams in the MEAC, OVC and MVC could go undefeated or have great conference records and not reach the tournament.

Monmouth was a great case study for this. They went 17-3 in conference, 28-8 overall but they come from a conference that is typically one bid.  After Iona won the MAAC tournament there was significant discussion about Monmouth as an at large contender. They didn’t get in. They did not get in because they did not win the last game. They even scheduled and beat Power 5 opponents, such as Notre Dame.

Now, there is something to be said about the spirit of March Madness that exists in Conference Championship week. A team like Holy Cross never could have made it into the tournament. That is a true showing of what the spirit of March Madness is, but is that what is best for the players, coaches and the sport as a whole? Coaches like Tom Izzo, Roy Williams, and Calipari himself hate the conference tournaments because they are extremely stressful and draining right before the road to the Final Four begins. As insult to injury, sometimes the NCAA Selection Committee decided that the tournament doesn’t even matter. This was exemplified when a few hours after a decisive win over Texas A&M, Kentucky was seeded below the conference runner-up.

So right now it seems that the regular season is quite meaningless at times and the conference tournament doesn’t always help you either. So what’s the point? If money is the only thing keeping the current structure in place then it cannot be what’s best for the sport.  Sometimes changes have to be made that will negatively affect the bottom line if it is the right thing to do for the players and coaches.

So, there is some depth and reality to the crazy idea that Cal proposed. This could actually happen and big conference coaches would be on board with it.  But let us keep some drama at what would be conference tournament week. Let’s keep a Conference Championship game, much like college football. Send the top two teams in and reward them for their season of work but keep the integrity of the month of March. Heck, it could even be a conference by conference decision as opposed to an overall NCAA regulation.

Coach Calipari may not have solved the ongoing debate in college basketball that is conference post-season play. However, he has definitely created some much-needed attention to the idea and given college basketball fans as well as NCAA officials a realistic proposal to ponder.

NCAA Baseball: Super Regionals Preview

Regional Picks: 10 for 16

Gainesville Super Regional: Florida St Seminoles at Florida Gators

For the second consecutive year, these bitter rivals will meet with a spot in Omaha on the line. The Gators have had the edge lately, eliminating the Seminoles last season and sweeping a three game series this year. They also have plenty of momentum after blowing out Georgia Tech in the regional final. In case this team didn’t look dangerous enough, they are now fully healthy as first baseman Peter Alonso returned from a broken hand to hit 8-14 with three home runs in the regional. Florida St rolled through the Tallahassee Regional, capping it off with an 18-6 blowout of South Alabama. The Noles have one of the hottest, most dynamic offenses in the country, led by Dylan Busby who is batting .500 with 6 home runs in the last 7 games. This certainly has the potential to be a great series with two elite offenses, but I think Logan Shore and AJ Puk on the mound will be the difference, and the Gators will prevail.

Louisville Super Regional: UC Santa Barbara Gauchos at Louisville Cardinals

Louisville has been a complete juggernaut at home, now with a 36-1 record after three easy wins over Western Michigan, Ohio St. and Wright St. They head into their fourth consecutive super regional with tons of confidence, especially in starting pitchers Kyle Funkhouser and Brendan McKay, who only gave up a combined one run in the regional. They will be a tough test for the young Gauchos, who appear to have put it all together after a rocky finish to the regular season. UCSB will need a strong start from ace Shane Bieber, who shut out Washington in game 1 to have a shot against Louisville’s top 10 offense. The Gauchos pitching should give them a chance, but Louisville has a much better offense, and when you add in the home field advantage, the Cardinals should advance.

Coral Gables Super Regional: Boston College Eagles at Miami Hurricanes

This is a matchup of ACC schools, but that’s about all they have in common. The Hurricanes are amongst the baseball blue bloods, with a four National Titles and an NCAA Tournament streak that dates back to 1973, while the Eagles haven’t been to Omaha since 1967, and before this season hadn’t had a winning record since 2010. Miami got a test in their regional, but defeated Long Beach St in an 8-7 walk off win. Miami didn’t get their usual production from star Zack Collins, who had more strikeouts than hits in the regional, but saw Willie Abreu and Jacob Heyward (Jason’s brother) step up. Boston College is probably the closest thing to a Cinderella in this year’s tournament, but after beating Utah and Tulane twice, are done flying under the radar. They’ll need their pitching to stay hot, as the Eagles only gave up eight runs in three games. However, Miami is on another level from the teams BC eliminated, and will likely have too much offensive firepower.

College Station Super Regional: TCU Horned Frogs at Texas A&M Aggies

An in-state battle between the past and the present in the Big 12, TCU is looking to make it back to back super regional wins over the Aggies. However, this time, the road to Omaha will have to go through College Station, where A&M is coming off of an easy regional win, having blown out Binghamton, Minnesota and Wake Forest. They scored 30 runs in the last two games, in large part because of Boomer White, a TCU transfer, who is batting .398 on the year. His old team is also high on confidence, entering their third consecutive super regional. Coach Jim Schlossnagle has this team playing as well as anyone in the country, after three wins over Oral Roberts, Arizona St and Gonzaga. The Frogs dominated all three aspects of the game, hitting .318, posting a 1.33 ERA and not committing a single error in the regional. Texas A&M can get hot at the plate, especially at home, but I like TCU’s well-rounded and experienced team to advance.

Lubbock Super Regional: East Carolina Pirates at Texas Tech Red Raiders

Texas Tech survived a scare against Dallas Baptist in the regional final, largely due to Hayden Howard’s work out of the bullpen, and three clutch RBIs from Orlando Garcia. The bullpen also pitched four shutout innings earlier in the weekend, which allowed Tech to come back from a 3-1 deficit to defeat New Mexico. They will meet the East Carolina Pirates, the last remaining team from North Carolina, who are arguably the most surprising team still in the field. The Pirates stunned defending National Champs Virginia on a walk off in the second game, before taking care of William & Mary to advance. The Pirates offense was on full display, as they scored at least eight runs in all three wins. The Pirates proved that they can play with anyone in the country, but I think Texas Tech in Lubbock will be too much for them.

Starkville Super Regional: Arizona Wildcats at Mississippi St Bulldogs

Mississippi St. may have come from nowhere to win the SEC title, but they are certainly in the national spotlight now. Their improved pitching was on full display in the regional final win over Louisiana Tech, where State shut out the other Bulldogs, allowing only two hits while striking out 14. They also have the advantage of playing at one of the most hostile venues, where they boast the biggest crowd in the country, and the cowbells don’t stop all game. The lone representatives of the Pac 12, Arizona came out of the losers bracket to knock off Lafayette twice and advance. The Wildcats showed off their pitching, particularly their bullpen, which the Cajuns had no success against. This pitching should be enough to keep things interesting, but the Bulldogs are a better team, and should take it at home.

Columbia Super Regional: Oklahoma St Cowboys at South Carolina Gamecocks

It was a great weekend for Gamecocks fans, as the team advanced through the Columbia Regional, and watched archrival Clemson get knocked out, opening the door to host a super regional. Carolina had a rough start, losing to Rhode Island and winning ugly against Duke, but turned it around to outscore their final three opponents by a combined 43-8. Oklahoma St. was the only team to knock off a national seed, and absolutely dominated Clemson twice to advance. The Cowboys hit .385 in the regional, and never trailed at any point. They come in hot, and also have the advantage of staying in South Carolina for an additional week, cutting out much of the travel. This is probably the most even match-up of the round, but I think Oklahoma St will score just enough to get it done.

Baton Rouge Super Regional: Coastal Carolina Chanticleers at LSU Tigers

After a series of rain delays, on Tuesday LSU became the fifth SEC team to qualify for super regionals. The Tigers got a great performance from Jared Poche, who threw six scoreless innings out of the bullpen just three days after starting against Utah Valley. The bats came alive, spurred by a go ahead home run from Greg Deichmann, and LSU was able to knock off Rice. This weekend, they will get a visit from Coastal Carolina, fresh off upsetting NC State in the Raleigh Regional. The Chants loaded the bases with one out in the ninth down by two, but because of a bizarre rain delay, had to finish off the game the next day. Coastal eventually took the lead, and held on thanks to All-American closer Mike Morrison. The Chanticleers are a team that simply finds ways to win, and has some of the best pitching in the country. However, LSU has pitching to match and should advance at home.

 

Cap, Gown and Gone: Top Five Most Impactful Graduate Transfers

Transfers in college basketball are a huge part of the way a team can build an identity. The graduate transfer rule has the power to immediately affect the destiny of two teams in each case. As opposed to the normal transfer regulations, players do not have to sit out a year and are eligible to play immediately.  That means they not only have a large immediate impact on the team they are leaving, but also that they have the ability to change the fortune of the program they are headed to in an instant. Many times, players that were under-recruited from smaller schools use this rule to jump to a big conference school.

Several players should have a significant impact as graduate transfers in the 2016-2017 season. Here are five players to watch:

 

Canyon Barry (SG), The College of Charleston to Florida

Canyon Barry was one of the most sought after transfers in the nation. (Photo courtesy of 247sports.com)

Barry was one of the most sought after transfers on the market this off-season.  He averaged a whopping 19.7 points and 3.4 rebounds per contest last year. He is a perfect example of a player having an excellent career at a small school and utilizing the graduate transfer rule to make it to a bigger school with an immediate impact. Florida loses its leading scorer, Dorian Finney-Smith, to graduation, so a scorer like Barry will be very much appreciated.

L.G. Gill (F), Duquesne to Maryland

Maryland’s roster will look completely different next year. Melo Trimble is one of the only players that is coming back of significant value. Gill is an impact player that adds veteran depth that Mark Turgeon is desperate for at this point. The forward averaged 10.1 points per game as well as 6.1 rebounds. With the departures of Robert Carter and Diamond Stone, Gill will have an immediate impact on the boards for the Terps and also bring some scoring ability. He is an efficient shooter at over 43% from the field meaning that he will make good use of looks created by Trimble. The Dukes lose their third leading scorer, as well as team leader in rebounds per game, but it is a huge gain for the team in College Park.

Merrill Holden (PF), Louisiana Tech to Iowa State

Merrill Holden played just over 23 minutes per game for the Bulldogs last year and still averaged 8.1 points, 1.1 blocks and 5 rebounds per game. To put that in perspective, that makes his per 40 minute averages 13.9 points and 8.5 rebounds with almost 2 blocks per game. While he does not have a significant amount of range, he does have the ability to impact both sides of the floor for the Cyclones with his shot blocking, rebounding and inside game. He will be an excellent addition for Monte Morris and Steve Prohm in the post-Georges Niang era.

 

Christian Kessee(G), Coppin State to Memphis

Christian Kessee will provide some depth to the Memphis roster. (Photo courtesy of chatsports.com)

Kessee is another example of a small program player making it to a higher level of competition. He averaged 14.6 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game. The guard rebounds well for his size and also is an accurate shooter from behind the arc at just under 40%. Last year his three point percentage was actually higher than his field goal percentage, so he needs to work on being a more effective shooter from inside. Kessee is an all around offensive guard that can create opportunities for himself as well as others around him. The same as many other teams on this list, Coppin State loses their leading scorer. Memphis could always use a decent outside shooter and Kessee will be a key piece to the post-Pastner Tigers.

Jordan Mathews (G), Cal to TBD

Things were looking up for the Cal Golden Bears after Ivan Rabb elected to return to school. The announcement by Jordan Mathews was a bit of a surprise in the past week. He suddenly indicated that he would be leaving what would have been an extremely strong Golden Bear team after he graduates to play elsewhere. Initial indications are that Gonzaga is the leader to land Mathews. Mathews is no small loss for Cal. Without Ty Wallace and Jaylen Brown for the upcoming season, he would have been the leading returning scorer. Mathews averaged 13.5 points per game as well as 3.4 rebounds.  He shot over 41% from behind the arc, and that astounding figure was down from the previous year. Mathews’ offensive ability is something that would be a great addition to any team. With Gonzaga losing Kyle Wiltjer to graduation and Domantas Sabonas to the draft, there will be no shortage of room for Mathews to grow if he chooses to transfer there. This late transfer decision is undoubtedly one of the most surprising and impactful this offseason.