Monthly Archives: March 2014

The time has come in March where the pressure of the words ‘win or go home’ rises to immense pressure. While this postseason’s bracket proposes upsets in multiple regions, the time has come for the premier players to elevate their talents as the cream of the crop. Before you decide to fill out your billion dollar bracket, let’s review the tournament before tip-off.

South Region

As the south region features the talents of Andrew Wiggins and Kyle Anderson, many believe it is the Florida Gators title to lose. Riding a 30 game winning streak, head coach Billy Donovan will have his senior led team prepared for his opponents best shot. However, many will be anticipating to see how Kansas Jayhawks freshman Andrew Wiggins performs on the biggest stage of his basketball career thus far. Jayhawks nation as well as  Bill Self hopes Wiggins can carry the load as the health status of Joel Embiid becomes unknown.

While we seek for upset alerts in the tournament, be aware of the No. 5 seed vs No. 12 seed matchup between the Virginia Commonwealth Rams and the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks who are currently on a 28 game winning streak. Also, an intriguing game to see is the Ohio State Buckeyes against the Dayton Flyers. The inconsistent scoring of the Buckeyes may cause them to have a first round exit.

Midwest Region

The Wichita State Shockers reserve the right to be angry after the release of the Midwest region bracket. As a consolation prize for going undefeated through the regular season and conference tournament, the Shockers have drawn the likes of the Michigan Wolverines, Duke Blue Devils and defending champions Louisville Cardinals with the potential of drawing a second round matchup with the Kentucky Wildcats.

The spotlight of individual talent will be on display throughout the region headlined by Duke’s freshman phenom Jabari Parker who recently became the latest recipient of the Wayman Tisdale award that is given to the nation’s top freshman. The region also consists of talented players such as Russ Smith, Nik Stauskas, Julius Randle, Jahii Carson, Marcus Foster, and T.J. Warren.

West Region

With the No.1 seed being awarded to the battered Arizona Wildcats, they also may be the first 1 seed to be eliminated with the possibility of playing Marcus Smart and the Oklahoma State Cowboys. The bottom of the West region bracket contains talented teams that can advance far featuring the Wisconsin Badgers, Baylor Bears, and Creighton Bluejays led by senior and National Player of the Year candidate Doug McDermott. All eyes will shift on him as he is playing in a his final tournament.

 

Without a clear favorite, the opportunity to represent the west region in the NCAA Final Four becomes more interesting to watch. A dark horse team to watch is the underachieving No. 10 seed Oregon Ducks and No. 6 seed Baylor Bears led by the frontcourt of Cory Jefferson and Isaiah Austin.

East Region

Winning its regular season conference and tournament, the Virginia Cavaliers have earned its right as a 1 seed in the tournament. The ACC Champions would like to continues its success going into the tournament behind the coaching of Tony Bennett and the leadership of Joe Harris. However, the heavy favorites have became Tom Izzo and the Michigan State Spartans as they would showcase their full strength becoming the Big Ten Conference Tournament Champions.

The Iowa State Cyclones have a great chance of becoming the last man standing of its region led by the talents of DeAndre Kane and Melvin Ejim. We can not ignore the other teams representing the East Region with the likes of the No.2 seed Villanova Wildcats, No. 6 seed North Carolina Tar Heels, and a potential Cinderella team in No. 11 seed Providence Friars led by point guard Bryce Cotton.

The month of March brings us enjoyment because our favorite players shine on the brightest stage of their careers and our favorite teams aspirations of becoming national champions. This also may be our last time watching some of our favorite gamer changers and future NBA players perform at the amateur level. Welcome to the tip off as the madness of March begins.

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Under the Radar Players Watch List 3.0

My latest article ‘Under the Radar Players 3.0

Ball Game Jones

        The madness of March has arrived as teams begin to shape into form preparing for the NCAA Tournament. Where anything is possible come tournament time, we take a look at the game changing players in the latest installment of the under the radar players to be aware of in men’s college basketball.

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Darrun Hilliard II- Villanova University

     Head coach Jay Wright has the Villanova Wildcats playing its best basketball in recent memory with the performance of Darrun Hilliard II. The junior guard has elevated his play, becoming a primary option averaging 18.6 points per game in his last five games, 14.4 this season. While the Wildcats are head into the Big East Tournament with 1 seed aspirations to the big dance, Hilliard must continue to be the go to guy in order to be successful going forward.

Jarnell Stokes- University of Tennessee

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Under the Radar Players Watch List 3.0

        The madness of March has arrived as teams begin to shape into form preparing for the NCAA Tournament. Where anything is possible come tournament time, we take a look at the game changing players in the latest installment of the under the radar players to be aware of in men’s college basketball.

usa-darrun-hilliard-villanova-slideshow

Darrun Hilliard II- Villanova University

     Head coach Jay Wright has the Villanova Wildcats playing its best basketball in recent memory with the performance of Darrun Hilliard II. The junior guard has elevated his play, becoming a primary option averaging 18.6 points per game in his last five games, 14.4 this season. While the Wildcats are head into the Big East Tournament with 1 seed aspirations to the big dance, Hilliard must continue to be the go to guy in order to be successful going forward.

Jarnell Stokes- University of Tennessee

     In his junior season, Jarnell Stokes is a physical force for the Tennessee Volunteers as they are fighting for positioning for the tournament. He is a man amongst boys on the court setting career high numbers in points and rebounds with 14.5 ppg while grabbing 10.3 rebounds per game. Currently on a four game winning streak, the Vols will need Stokes to impose his will during the SEC Tournament to make a deep run.

London Perrantes- University of Virginia

   The Virginia Cavaliers are beginning to peak on the eve of the ACC Tournament due to the huge contribution of freshman point guard London Perrantes. Not averaging staggering numbers, however, Perrantes has become the floor general of the offense, leading the conference in assist to turnover ratio. His performance over the course of conference play has earned him All-ACC Freshman team. The future is bright for Virginia and Perrantes in March and years ahead.

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Buddy Hield- Oklahoma University

     The Oklahoma Sooners have found success of their basketball program finishing second in the Big 12 Conference led with the talents of sophomore guard Buddy Hield. Stepping  into a bigger role from his previous season, Hield has become the primary scorer for this team with a career high 16.8 ppg. It will be critical for Oklahoma to advance in the tournament as he has shown the ability to catch fire in games.

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Terran Petteway- Nebraska University

     Terran Petteway has the Nebraska Cornhuskers playing its best basketball in recent memory this season. Petteway, who started off his college basketball career at Texas Tech has now found a home in the Big Ten Conference as he carries the Cornhuskers with 18 ppg and 4.9 rpg. While Nebraska continues its stretch of dominance winning 10 of their last 12, Petteway has averaged 19.2 for the duration of that span. Nebraska has the opportunity to become a bracket buster behind the leadership and play of him.

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Joseph Young- Oregon University

     The Oregon Ducks have returned to natural form on the eve on the Pac-12 Tournament, closing the regular season on a seven game winning streak. A key contributor is the University of Houston transfer Joseph Young. The junior guard has been able to make a scoring impact immediately to this team, leading the team with 18.2 ppg. While defense continues to be Oregon’s nemesis, the fast paced offense can outscore anybody with Young leading the way.

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Markel Brown- Oklahoma State University

     The Oklahoma State Cowboys has had an up and down season, threatening the potential chance of making the NCAA Tournament. One bright spot that has kept Cowboys fans optimistic is senior guard Markel Brown. He has improved every season of his college, setting career highs in points, rebounds, and assists while carrying his team in various situations this season. A guard with his size and caliber can takeover a game come clutch time.

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Briante Weber- Virginia Commonwealth University

    The season of March Madness means it is time to prepare for head coach Shaka Smart and the VCU Rams. The staple of success for the Rams is their stifling defense led by point guard Briante Weber. Along with career high numbers across the board, Weber is among the leaders in the nation in steals with 3.6 per game in the Atlantic 10 Conference. Beware of the full court defense being put on notice that leads to easy points beginning with the ball pressure from Weber.

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Kendall Williams- University of New Mexico

     New Mexico has been able to duplicate its regular season success without head coach Steve Alford with the help of Kendall Williams. Williams has been able to become the catalyst at the guard position with career highs in points and assists. The senior will look to avenge his lost last season as a three seed as they would lose to Harvard in the opening round of the 2012-13 NCAA Tournament.

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Alan Williams- UC Santa Barbara

     The UCSB Gauchos have the potential to become a cinderella story out of the Big West Conference led by the man in the middle Alan Williams. Williams is difficult to contain in the paint averaging an astonishing double double at 21.6 ppg, 11.6 rpg and 2.4 blocks per game. The junior has the opportunity to upset a high seed team by first winning its conference tournament.

61 vs. 81

 

On Monday, we all witnessed the latest chapter of achievements in LeBron James illustrious career as he eclipsed the 60 point plateau. The career high total of 61 points also became the franchise single game scoring record in Miami Heat history. While scoring 25 points to match the total points the Charlotte Bobcats scored in the third quarter, James would finish the game shooting a staggering 22-33 from the field. The question many have been left with is: Where does this game rank in comparison to Kobe Bryant’s 81 point game?

 

 

The 81 point game versus the Toronto Raptors by Kobe Bryant may be the best single game performance we have ever seen. With a more than lackluster roster that featured Smush Parker and Kwame Brown, Bryant was forced to carry a heavy load throughout the season. This game was no different for The Black Mamba. Shooting over 50% from the field, his shot selection was high demanding, yet never in question as Phil Jackson and Kobe’s teammates were desperate for a win. The Raptors put forth a valiant effort as they threw multiple schemes at him, but to no avail.

 

 

The historic night of LeBron James comes during the final stretch of the 2013-14 regular season where he looks to win his 5th Most Valuable Player Award. Overshadowing the performance of Al Jefferson who finished with 38 points and 19 rebounds, King James played with a killer instinct that we have never seen. It was almost as if he was trying to make us remember why he is the best basketball player in the world as supposed to playing second fiddle to Kevin Durant. Shooting 66% from the field was incredible in itself, aggressively attacking Charlotte’s defense at will. In spite of that, James would go on a shooting clinic that we have never seen in his career as he shot 8-10 from the 3 point line, making his first eight attempts.

 

 

However, how significant is this performance?

 

It is hard to give such enormous credit to James for his performance of 61 points with New York Knicks All-Star Carmelo Anthony scoring 62 points against the same defensively challenged Bobcats team. The puzzling performance from James is remarkable, however does not compare to the all time great scoring performances the NBA has seen.

 

There are many games left to play in his career, we can not make the final decision until it is all set and done. However, this particular performance in comparison to the 81 point game of Kobe Bryant does not measure to another.

Center of Attention: Top 10 NBA Centers

 

In today’s NBA, the center position has lost its significance as it has became diluted and heavy guard play in the association. The league lacks a true dominance at the center position and no consistent play unlike Shaquille O’Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon, or Patrick Ewing. The prerogative of a big man on majority teams is to set screens and rebound as opposed to being a focal point on the low block in an offense. Let’s appreciate the elite big men in the league as we take a look at the top 10 centers in the NBA right now.

 

 

 

10. Nikola Vucevic

While the Orlando Magic continue to improve for the future, an important piece to their puzzle of success is Nikola Vucevic. During his third season, his offensive productivity has elevated as he is averaging a career high in points at 14 points per game while grabbing 10.8 rebounds. The former USC Trojan can become a focal point for this Orlando franchise with the talents surrounding him in Aaron Afflalo, Tobias Harris, and Victor Oladipo. For a player of his size and stature, the key to Vucevic taking that next step involves becoming more of a defensive side of the ball. Orlando will contemplate on opening their check books to retain him as he awaits free agency.

 

 

9. Andre Drummond

     Andre Drummond has grasped the attention of many around the league with his athletic abilities for the Detroit Pistons. Becoming a starter this season, he has been able to show us his capability as a center, averaging a double double at 13.2 ppg and 12.9 rpg. His ability to score without plays being called for him is an asset while scoring off second chance points. As he continues to improve his overall game, Drummond can become a franchise player where Detroit can build around him.  His growth as a player may slow down if the Pistons do not fix the logjam in the frontcourt of Greg Monroe and Josh Smith.

 

 

 

8. DeAndre Jordan

This season has been a turnaround for Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan. Due to the change at coach with Doc Rivers taking over, he has been playing the best basketball of his five year stint in Los Angeles becoming a strong candidate for Most Improved Player of the year. Averaging career high numbers in points, rebounds, and blocks, he must sustain his overall play for the Clippers in order to reach championship aspirations. While Jordan continues to improve his free throws and post moves, his athleticism has allowed him to become a defensive anchor.

 

 

 

7. Marc Gasol

The current reigning Defensive Player of the Year has had a difficult season with knee injuries. However, Marc Gasol is the best player for the Memphis Grizzlies when healthy as he is a focal point on both sides of the ball.  Since his return to the team, the Grizzlies have been playing +.500 basketball as they make a late regular season push towards the NBA Playoffs. Memphis will not reach the postseason without their man in the middle performing at a high level.

 

 

 

6. Roy Hibbert

The Indiana Pacers success begins with their productivity on defense that starts with the 7 footer in Roy Hibbert. The former Georgetown Hoya has not lived up to expectations with the max contract deal he signed in 2012 worth $58 million dollars. He is inconsistent and does not rebound well for his size. Nevertheless, his role for head coach Frank Vogel does not undermine his value to the Pacers as he is the last line of defense to the rim. Hibbert allows Indiana’s perimeter defenders to become more aggressive. When called upon, Hibbert can have an offensive post presence. His post moves allows the Pacers to slow the game down in the postseason.

 

 

 

5. DeMarcus Cousins

As the Sacramento Kings continue to find ways to improve its team, the centerpiece for their franchise is DeMarcus Cousins. Averaging career highs in points and rebounds, Cousins is having his best season as many considered him an All-Star snub. His downfall continues to be his lack of maturity in his fourth season in the NBA. Many remain skeptical if he is the player to build around due to his antics that were recently on display against the Houston Rockets which resulted in an one game suspension. Cousins talent is not the question, rather his leadership skills and intangibles are.

 

4. Dwight Howard

     The Houston Rockets are beginning to peak at the right time of the season on the eve of playoffs. The answer? Dwight Howard. Although his stats from his previous season in Los Angeles (17.1 ppg, 12.4 rpg, 2.4 bpg) mirror this season’s (18.9 ppg, 12.5 rpg, 1.8 bpg), Howard is playing in a comfortable role in Houston with the arsenal of James Harden and Chandler Parsons surrounding him while being an eminent force on the defensive side of the ball.

 

3. Chris Bosh

You can make the argument that Chris Bosh is the Miami Heat’s second most valuable player to their team this season. Being undersized at the center position, he is able to pose as a threat to the opponents center due to his talents on offense and defense. Becoming more efficient behind the arc has also helped spread the floor in Miami for Lebron James. Although he is not averaging staggering stats at 16.9 ppg and 6.8 rpg, he has shown the ability to step up in clutch situations when his number is called. It is difficult seeing Bosh leave Miami under any circumstances as he has the option of becoming a free agent this summer. However, his worth may increase as the season progresses.

 

 

2. Joakim Noah

      The storyline remains the same for the Chicago Bulls as Derrick Rose ends his short season with yet another knee injury. However, the Bulls continue to find success with the help of All-Star center Joakim Noah. A strong candidate for Defensive Player of the Year, he has elevated his role on the offensive end  as he averages a career high in points and assists along with two triple doubles this season. Noah’s leadership and dominance has became contagious to his teammates that may lead to a spot on the All-NBA team. With the postseason in reach, Noah will relish the opportunity in leading his team with the possibility of taking down the Miami Heat or Indiana Pacers.

 

1. Al Jefferson

The center who is most effective for his team this season, thus far, has been Al Jefferson for the Charlotte Bobcats. As the Bobcats are fighting for playoff position, the catalyst has been the man in the middle who is arguably the most underappreciated player in the NBA. Averaging a double double with 20.5 ppg and 10.4 rpg, the offseason acquisition has helped turn Charlotte in the right direction of success going towards the future. Jefferson is a load to handle on offense as he score inside and outside the paint. With limited exposure nationally, the playoffs should help Jefferson and the Bobcats gain respect going forward.