Hey Final Four! Where’s The Sexy?

Posted on April 2, 2010. Filed under: Basketball, NCAA | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Final Four Weekend Is Here!  Who’s excited?  Anyone?  Going once . . . going twice . . . I’m not buying into the hype of NCAA’s main event this year either.  Unless you are a fan of Duke, Michigan State, WVU, or Butler, you probably aren’t planning your Easter weekend around college basketball.

Why?  There’s No SEXY:  If you love defense and inside play, then you will disagree, but if you lust after the fast paced, up and down the floor, gimme an alley-oop transition game, you won’t get it here.  You’ll get gritty work on the boards and nasty loose ball battles.   Here’s a rundown of each semi-final game:

Butler Bulldogs vs Michigan State Spartans:  The supposed undercard of the two games on Saturday is a matchup between the ambitious young gun leader and the unflappable final four mastermind . . . who wins?  Butler coach, Brad Stevens, doesn’t even look old enough to shave let alone lead a team to the Final Four.  Yet in just his third year at the helm, he has.   Ranked 6th in the country in defensive efficiency, the Bulldogs are riding a 24 game win streak and have to be confident heading into their first Final Four in school history.  But there’s one question . . . 

Is being close to home an advantage?  Not always.  Distractions are aplenty and players can fall victim to the HEY, AT LEAST WE MADE IT mentality and lose focus on accomplishing what you set out the season to do.  Not just get to the Final Four, but win the National Championship.  

It’s been well documented that Tom Izzo has gotten to the Final Four at a break neck clip.  To get to college basketball’s promised land six out of twelve seasons is remarkable.  But he’s only taken home one title.  So there’s plenty of motivation for Sparty to excel in Indianapolis and at the same time, there’s none of the pressure.  The loss of Kalin Lucas has brought this squad together as a team and as long as Korie Lucious takes care of the ball, they have a shot.  

Duke Blue Devils vs West Virginia Mountaineers:  The perceived elitists take on the perceived hillbillies . . . both with historically sucessful head coaches, this is the Final Four’s main event.  Bob Huggins is quickly becoming a legend in Mountaineer country and would cement his hero status with a National Championship for his hometown. 

Coach K is already an icon and would bookend this decade with titles if his Blue Devils went all the way, giving him four total (1991, 1992, 2001).   This will be a surprisingly physical match up, with the play in the paint the deciding factor.  

Rebounding will be huge and both of these teams rank in the top ten nationally in offensive rebounding percentage.  A less than stellar shooting team in the tournament, West Virginia relies on second and third chances for a big part of their offense.  Duke has a reputation to be a finesse team, but this year they have a sneaky good, physical, defense.  Although when spread out, they can be driven on.  If the Mountaineers game plan to drive into the lane, they can get to the foul line for some easy points,.  Overall, boxing out and rebounding will win this game.  

You would think the focus on defense and rebounding would lend itself to a Big East/Big Ten tempo . . . and even though Butler and Duke can hang with the physical play, you’d be right.  That’s why I pick West Virginia and Michigan State to win close, need to get a lucky bounce here and there type games and advance to the finals.

What do you think?

P.S.  Using the term “sexy” when talking basketball reminds me of one of the funniest Will Ferrell moments EVER.  Here it is for your laughing pleasure:

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Who Wins The Title Tonight? Vengeful Home Cooking or Overpowering Talent?

Posted on April 6, 2009. Filed under: Basketball, NCAA | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

75 PERCENT CORRECT. . . One and a half out of two ain’t bad, right?  In my Final Four picks, the North Carolina prediction rang true – are they on a mission or what?  I also got the Michigan State vs UConn game HALF right . . . You can’t get a pick half right you say?  Sure you can.  By predicting everything that needed to happen for a win, then picking the wrong team to do it.  

I said that the team who was more efficient offensively, worked the transition game and won the battle on the stripe would come out on top.  With 22 fast break points, Michigan State effectively took away Hasheem Thabeet’s shot blocking power (had 2 blocks, less than half his average) because he doesn’t run the court well and couldn’t get into solid defensive position.  Tom Izzo’s team had five less turnovers and UConn left 12 points on the table by going 21-for-33 at the line.  They lost to the Spartans by nine points.  You do the math . . .

So here we are.  North Carolina against Michigan State for the National Title.  Two savvy coaches.  Two talented big men inside.  Two quick fast point guards that can score and ignite their teammates.  One streaky defense that is on the right side of the streak and one lock down defense you can be sure will hold teams below their scoring averages. 

And ONE home court advantage . . .

But North Carolina has already eschewed the idea of playing Michigan State at Ford Field as an advantage for the Spartans – see the 35 point lashing Tyler Hansbrough and crew put on State early in December.  Don’t forget, Tar Heels fans, that the stakes are higher now and Tom Izzo has his entire roster to game plan for instead of the injury riddled squad previously pummeled by the basketball wonder boys that wear Carolina Blue.  Michigan State’s Goran Suton didn’t play due to a knee injury.  Kalin Lucas shot 20% from the field and Michigan State totaled 21 turnovers.  It’s a marvel they didn’t lose by more after giving the transition point machine Tar Heels so many extra possessions.

That embarrassing loss will be Tom Izzo’s motivating muscle, he will use it as a fire starter to keep the flames of desire burning in the pits of his team’s collective belly as he prepares his guys to battle against all odds for the National Championship.  But will it be enough?

DRUM ROLL PLEASE . . . I’m going to go out on a limb and pick Michigan State to avenge it’s early season ass whooping by North Carolina.  They will have to take care of the ball and continue to be like glue on defense so the Tar Heels’ outside shooting doesn’t get in a rhythm, and I think they can do it.  Kalin Lucas will have to outplay Ty Lawson.  Izzo is a whiz at the chess game inside the game and will concoct schemes to throw North Carolina off balance and out of their comfort zone.  PICK: Michigan State 81-79  

It will be interesting to watch Goran Suton versus Tyler Hansbrough . . .

Hey, who said White Men Can’t Jump?

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Quick & Easy Final Four Picks

Posted on April 4, 2009. Filed under: Basketball, NCAA | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

I say this will be quick and easy because most of you who are reading sports blogs in your spare time must have an already sophisticated knowledge of the game, so I won’t undermine your intelligence with a ton of information you already know, for instance:

No matter what anyone says to be politically correct, Villanova is the perceived underdog against North Carolina.

Goran Suton will have to be as effective, if not even more so than he was against Louisville to beat Hasheem Thabeet and Jeff Adrien under the rim, for Michigan State to win.

Plus I am in a hurry, so here you go:

Ty Lawson On The Drive

Ty Lawson On The Drive

Ty Lawson is in a zone and Villanova is collectively focused and playing insanely good basketball.  They had to be to outrebound Pitt.  Who does that?  Villanova . . . BUT I also think North Carolina is on a mission having lost in the Final Four last year . . . 



Jeff Adrien Doing A Slamma Jamma

Jeff Adrien Doing A Slamma Jamma

This game will come down to efficient offense since both teams are stout defensively.  If Michigan State turns the ball over, Uconn has a crazy transition game with a red hot Stanley Robinson but they also need smart play from AJ Price and Craig Austrie, who both turned the ball over more than they assisted against Missouri.  Eventhough the Spartans are playing in their backyard, I just think Uconn will beat them on the free throw line, and that tends to make the difference in high stakes games . . . Ask Pitt. 

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