Friday, June 29, 2007

Ouch! and rating the NBA draft

United States gets waxed by the Argentines, 4-1. But they kept it tied for 64 minutes, and this was a game exactly noone expected them to win. I was hoping for 2-1 or 3-2 loss rather than a blowout, but oh well. Neither Nguyen nor Moor saw anytime, but there's plenty of opportunities coming up, and probably better for them to get a crack at someone other than Argentina. For the US, Justin Mapp & Ben Olsen did pretty well. I would expect Olsen to be the team's MVP, but stopper Jay DeMerit may be the one who lands a starting job on the national team out of this tourney.

The NBA draft happened last night, along with a ton of trades. Here's my thoughts on how the teams fared:

Boston Celtics: A
Landed Ray Allen without losing Paul Pierce or Al Jefferson, and they should be looking at a postseason berth next spring. They also snagged Glen 'Big Baby' Davis, who I think was underrated this year and should be a solid bench presence.

New York Knicks: A
Also put themselves on the cusp on a postseason berth by snagging Zach Randolph by ditching Steve Francis, who they frankly didn't need. Randolph and Curry have to learn to play together, but there's now more to work with in the paint than before.

Chicago: A
Joakim Noah should be ready to play, and play the way that Scott Skiles wants his guys to play. He and Tyrus Thomas could fill PJ Brown's minutes nicely. Filling out the roster with Aaron Gray and JamesOn Curry in the second round knocked this grade up to a solid A.

San Antonio: A
The World champs keep winning because of their ability to use Europe as their personal farm system. Getting lottery-level talent in Tiago Splitter, but still being able to keep him overseas for a year or so while they bring in guys like 2nd rounder Marcus Williams and previously drafted Luis Scola next season should keep them in the hunt every year for a championship.

Charlotte: A-
I must be one of the few that liked what Charlotte did, which is to give themselves a chance to win now. Jason Richardson gives the Bobcats a veteran with explosive playoff capability. I think it's better to get known quantities than to be in a constant state of rebuilding from the ground up. Having watched the big-market Bulls & Knicks try that, it's not pretty and is not guaranteed to lead anywhere good.

Portland: A-
I'm not a huge fan of the big trade, but they do walk away with Greg Oden and more playing time for Lamarcus Aldridge. The presence of Steve Francis might pose problems, but it looks like they might buy him out anyway. Channing Frye also will be good insurance in the paint in case of injuries.

Washington: A-
When a guy like Nick Young falls in your lap, it's best just to go ahead and grab him. Dominic McGuire will also be able to contribute next season.

Los Angeles Lakers: B+
The Lakers did well, despite all of the name-calling Kobe has been doing lately. Crittenton should be a reliable point for years to come, and they rolled the dice on foreign players in the second round, which pay off magnificently, or could get them what you expect out of the second-round, which is very little indeed.

Atlanta: B+
Al Horford will probably be the best power forward out of this draft (Durant's a small forward), and Acie Law has always been dramatically underrated in my opinion. They got what they could expect, although I'm still not sure it'll get them to the playoffs anytime soon.

Dallas: B+
Getting Nick Fazekas and Reshawn Terry was a draft job that squeezed all the potential out for the position Dallas had going in. Fazekas should be a part-time starter for years, and Terry should be able to contribute off the bench as well.

Memphis: B+
Getting Mike Conley Jr. was the right move. This will be the best point guard out of the draft this year, and there's no point not getting him right away rather than taking a risk on a big man who might take years to develop and then leave.

Seattle: B
I don't see the point in losing a game-changer like Ray Allen, but they still walk away with Kevin Durant and a handful of wings. Seems like they could've gotten some better than Jeff Green at #5 tho.

Golden State: B
Picking Brandan Wright for Jason Richardson was a solid move, but it's way too soon to tell if that will be a really good trade or a bust.

Utah: B
Morris Almond should the backcourt depth, but I wouldn't look at Kyrylo Fesenko ever taking any PT from Mehmet Okur. An uninspiring draft for the Jazz.

New Orleans: B
Julian Wright should be a solid pro for years. Nothing to criticize, but nothing to brag about either.

Minnesota: B
Solid pick-ups of gators Corey Brewer and Chris Richard, no matter what happens with KG.

Detroit: B-
They picked up a solid guard in Rodney Stuckey, but will he be better than Nick Young? Nothing here that's going to get them back to the Finals at this point.

Phoenix: B-
Alando Tucker found a club that could actually use his talents, but otherwise, I don't understand sending off a first-rounder for only cash when you are so close to a championship. You need help now.

Los Angeles Clippers: C+
I'm not a big fan of the Al Thornton pick, but I would keep on eye on Jared Jordan. I think he's kinda diamond in the rough that Jerry West used to be so good at finding.

Houston: C
Not that Aaron Brooks won't be a fine player, the pick just underwhelms me.

New Jersey: C-
Oh, that's what New Jersey needs- another headcase. Sean Williams may be shot-blocking presence NJ wants, but it's hard to see him having the intangibles needed to earn his minutes on the floor.

Miami: D+
On one hand, they managed to get some cash and a second round pick out of the 76'ers for free, but on the other, Daequan Cook's going to be a few years away -if ever- from helping.

Orlando: D
I don't know what Orlando was doing, giving away everything and only getting Milovan Rakovic, and I think they didn't know what they were doing either.

Indiana: F
Nothing to redeem a losing season and no help on the way here. Sometimes, you just fail, and it's the Pacers turn this year.


Yeah, these guys didn't pick up anything really, but they also are young teams already making hay in the playoffs. No need to worry about draft picks right now.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Soccer & Post-Draft NCAA field of 65

I watched the USA-Mexico game a bit, as well as the end of the US-Canada match, and while I do appreciate the young talent that is coalescing, I do worry about the US's lack of killer instinct. At least 3 goals that would've sealed either game went by the way-side, and maybe all that luck balanced out when Canada's late goal was waived away, but the US can't count on luck.
A very young team now travels to South America for Copa America, and is going to face some tough competition, but the Americans actually have some talent. Look for Indiana Alums Drew Moor and Lee Nguyen to get some PT. Nguyen could start in the midfield.

After the early-entry fallout appears to have settled, and now that Iowa's Tyler Smith can play right away for Tennessee, we've got us some new rankings!
Tyler Smith was exactly what Bruce Pearl need, a guy who can score on the low block, defend on the wing, rebound, and rack up some assists. His presence is going to open things up for Chris Lofton and Ramar Smith, and allow the Volunteer bigs to play with a little more abandon. Wow, what a get! Also, the return of Brandon Rush in my mind is way over-hyped. Yeah, Rush will be playing before the end of the year, but he got a bad injury that usually takes a full year to eighteen months to fully recover from. I think he returns and Kansas makes a run at the Final Four, but I don't think Rush will be the impact player Bill Self needs to get his first championship (or Final Four).
I've included what I think should be the favorites for the automatic-bids, but all 14 of those clubs should pretty much be a one-and-out. Albany & IUPUI could cause some trouble if they can face off against a 2 or a 3-seed.

1 Tennessee (SEC)
2 Memphis (C-USA)
3 UCLA (Pac 10)
4 Georgetown (Big East)
5 North Carolina (ACC)
6 Louisville (Big East)
7 Indiana (Big Ten)
8 Michigan State (Big Ten)
9 Kansas (Big XII)
10 Washington State (Pac 10)
11 Texas A&M (Big XII)
12 Oregon (Pac-10)
13 Marquette (Big East)
14 Southern Illinois (MVC)
15 Mississippi State (SEC)
16 Stanford (Pac 10)
17 Butler (Horizon)
18 Arkansas (SEC)
19 Clemson (ACC)
20 Davidson(Southern)
21 Gonzaga (West Coast)
22 Virginia (ACC)
23 Connecticut (Big East)
24 Illinois(Big Ten)
25 Virginia Commonwealth (CAA)
26 North Carolina State (ACC)
27 New Mexico State(WAC)
28 San Diego State (MWC)
29 Western Michigan(MAC)
30 Auburn (SEC)
31 Pittsburgh (Big East)
32 Wisconsin (Big Ten)
33 Kent State (MAC)
34 Missouri (Big XII)
35 Ohio State (Big Ten)
36 Florida (SEC)
37 Wyoming (MWC)
38 Northern Iowa (MVC)
39 Kansas State (Big XII)
40 Georgia (SEC)
41 Syracuse (Big East)
42 Duke (ACC)
43 Western Kentucky (Sun Belt)
44 George Mason(CAA)
45 Alabama (SEC)
46 Minnesota (Big Ten)
47 Alabama-Birmingham (CUSA)
48 Texas (Big XII)
49 Kentucky (SEC)
50 Providence (Big East)
51 Arizona (Pac 10)

Automatic Conference Bids {14}

Albany (America East)
Belmont (Atlantic Sun)
Weber State (Big Sky)
High Point (Big South)
California-Santa Barbara (Big West)
Columbia (Ivy)
Rider (Metro Atlantic)
Hampton (Mid-Eastern)
Sacred Heart (Northeast)
Austin Peay (Ohio Valley)
Holy Cross (Patriot)
Stephen F. Austin (Southland)
IUPUI (Summitt)
Grambling State (SWAC)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Good on you, Coach Hep

Coach Terry Hoeppner will be remembered as the man who reinvigorated Indiana University Football, and the IU Fans.

A class act, he will be missed. Best thoughts and wishes to his family and friends.

As my great-grandmother would've said in her thick Irish accent, "May y'have been half-an-hour in heaven, 'fore the Devil knew y'were dead!"

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

There'll be a new Devin in town!

Devin Ebanks, consensus top 20 recruit for 2008 (and in some places a top-10 recruit!) has signed on to play for the Hoosiers. The sleek scoring 6-8 forward has been drawing comparisons to Kevin Durant (let's not get too excited just yet tho') and will join guards Bud Mackey and Eshaunte Jones on the IU Basketball floor in Fall 2008. Sampson is trying to land one more big man to round out what is becoming another very nice class.

IU has held up fairly well this summer, no major defections or NBA hopeful losses that will hurt next season. However, there is one area of concern, and that's the back-up center spot. Ben Allen didn't get a lot done, and while he's always got to potential to contribute more, IU fans were looking forward to top 100 center Eli Holman to provide some defense off the bench or Juco top 20 DeAndre Thomas to provide that second low-post threat. Thomas is reportedly over 300 pounds, and may not be able to help much until quite late in the year. Holman is still trying to get eligible with his test scores. It's a pair of question marks to watch this off-season, and if neither are ready this fall, Brandon McGee (a borderline top-100 recruit, the same as Patrick Ewing Jr. was a few seasons ago) may be asked to contribute a lot more right away.

Side note about preseason rankings, a lot of folks are giving UCLA top 4 rankings while Georgetown is quite lower. I'm not sure I think UCLA is so much better than Georgetown. They both lost scorers that made their offense run, but otherwise both clubs return nearly everybody from a Final Four team. I don't think the Hoyas defense is going to dip anymore than the Bruins, and I don't think either offense will particularly suffer from the losses they've sustained. UCLA got a couple of nice recruits, but the guards Georgetown picked should be as good as any frosh backcourt duo in the nation. I don't mind if the people think that UCLA will be better than Georgetown, but statistically we should expect two very good teams with very little separation between them.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Spurs Sweep!

It looks like the LeBron vs. Jordan silliness has quieted down, at least for another season.
I watched only bits and parts of this series, but to me it looked pretty simple. The Spurs had a vicious defense. The Cavs don't have a defense anywhere near championship caliber. They've got hustle, but they don't even have offensive balance. It merely confirmed my thinking that Cleveland had been more "lucky than good" in upsetting Detroit.

I'm looking at who's coming back and who's not before making revisions on next year's NCAA field, which I'll post next week. There's been a lot of movement in the Men's basketball over the last month, and some very surprising decisions (Roy Hibbert coming back to Georgetown being tops on the list).

Indiana Basketball fans gotta be wondering about next year's incoming big men. Is DeAndre Thomas (reportedly over 300 pounds) going to be able to get into playing shape by the Big Ten season? Will Eli Holman qualify academically? And what's 2008 recruit 6-8 Devin Ebanks' choice- Rutgers or Indiana?

Friday, June 08, 2007

What a champion looks like

I don't think Cleveland is dead in this series. I do believe LeBron James is a future Hall-of-Famer, and will belong in the discussion for All-time NBA squads. Of 12. He's got quite a way to go before you start thinking All-time first team. But he'll bounce back, find a way to compete, and Mike Brown's a good coach. He'll get his guys in position to win a couple over the next four games. I think the series will be over as soon as San Antonio returns home.

The Spurs are a great defensive team. That's the half of the equation that everyone forgets after a brilliant offensive performance. Heck, I didn't bring up in my smack-down the fact that Michael Jordan was 9-time All-defensive first team, as well as 1988's Defensive player of the year.

Offensively, the Spurs just aren't the Duncan show. Sure sure, Duncan's amazing in post, but there are few defenses that have found a way to put the clamps on Tony Parker. And if Parker isn't on, they can go to Manu Ginobili. And then there's Fabricio Oberto in the post, Horry, Finley, and Barry waiting to hit shots from anywhere, not to mention Bowen's corner threes.

The Spurs are a great team.
The Cavs have some nice young guys around a really awesome player.
But the Cavs aren't a great team.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

NBA Finals not over... Oh yes, they are!

Cleveland got exactly what it needed out of LeBron James, and out of the Pistons to get to the NBA Finals. Also, it's all Chris Webber's fault.

If the Pistons had any killer instinct, they would've grabbed one of the game 3 or 4 in Cleveland. But they didn't. They still weren't worried, figuring they'd turn it on for game 5 at home.

But LeBron had the game of his life thus far, scoring 29 of the Cavs last 30 points, and 48 overall. Let's bracket this performance before we get excited about whether he's the best ever.

The Pistons needed to do what the '94 Knicks did. Go into a scrappy underdog's arena, hang with them until the fourth quarter, and then put the clamps on for the big road win. And they seemed to be doing it until the fourth quarter. Down 1 point to start the fourth quarter, the Pistons got backhanded by rookie Daniel Gibson, who seemingly couldn't miss, and they folded up and went home.

If I'm to criticize one player, it'll be Chris Webber. And it's not for his performance, because he played fine throughout the series, if not exactly dominating. But everywhere Webber goes, he seems to bring a laid-back attitude and real lack of killer instinct. Maybe he had some bad luck while with the Kings, but I gotta think all these disappointing teams (Bullets/Wizards, Warriors, Sixers, and now the Pistons) had him in common. And if there was one thing that hung the Pistons, it was just lack of a killer instinct.

Returning to the discussion of whether LeBron is the best ever ("OMG, he's so much better than Jordan than Jordan at this age"), I'd like to remind everyone that Jordan hit the game-winning shot for a NCAA championship his freshman year of college, left for the NBA a year early, and then in his second year in which only played eighteen games, meaning that he essentially had only one year of NBA experience, he dropped 64 points in a playoff game on one of the greatest teams ever! Those Bulls only won 30 games and were in the playoffs.

Let's compare this achievement vs. Lebron:
Jordan was one year older than LeBron but had 3 less years of NBA experience.
Jordan's team won 30 games and had the 8th seed.
LeBron's team won 50 games and had the 2nd seed.

Jordan was facing one the consensus Greatest teams of all times.
LeBron was facing a weaker version of a team that didn't make the NBA Finals last season.

Jordan's team lost in OT, while LeBron's won in double OT.

Don't get me wrong, it was a great performance, but I think it's more akin to Reggie Miller's 25-point fourth quarter against the Knicks in '94 (also a win for the road team). And it's great that LeBron's figuring out when he needs to be great for his team to win, but he's going to have show a lot more greatness, on a very consistent level for years to come, before he's on Jordan's level. There's greatness, and then there's greatness on Bill Russell or Michael Jordan's level. And very few players are there. Additionally, I've had just about enough raving of LeBron's vaunted passing. It's very good, but Magic Johnson he ain't. And certain columnists who stupidly posit that "Jordan doesn't see that pass" clearly don't remember Michael Jordan, and ought to be smacked.

Cleveland's about to find out what a champion looks like. Hopefully LeBron will file these losses away and figure out how to be one himself someday.

Spurs in six.