Bragging Right Preview and Prediction

Bragging rights are on the line once again at the Enterprise Center Saturday night when the Missouri Tigers and University of Illinois Illini meet for the 49th time.  Missouri will look to keep this rivalry relevant as they try to end the Illini’s 5 game win streak in the series.

The 2017 meeting was one to forget for a tournament bound Missouri team as they had serious ball control issues. The Tigers had 21 turnovers en route to a 70-64 loss in a game that they were favored.  The Illinois got a dominate performance from sophomore Trent Frazier scoring 22 points off of the bench. The loss a tough one to take for most Mizzou fans as they were the favored team, they did have the big-time recruits even without Michael Porter Jr.  This loss stung for the Tiger faithful, they will look to avenge this loss and the Illinois dominance on Saturday night.

If this game didn’t have enough intrigue to it the Tigers have three players that originally committed to Illinois on their roster in Jeremiah Tilmon, Mark Smith and Javon Pickett.  The Illini faithful will undoubtable bring their full focus of hatred to these players, which will make for an even more raucous atmosphere. Despite the two teams not being highly ranked, this game still has plenty of intrigue to the St. Louis community. 

The actual game will be an interesting matchup of differing styles.  Missouri brings a hard-nosed defensive effort against a faster Illini attack. Illinois allows 12 offensive rebounds per game while also being the sixth most foul prone team in the nation. Jeremiah Tilmon has continued to develop most recently dominating the boards against a respectable Xavier team that defeated Illinois earlier in the season. Ball control will be the name of the game for Mizzou, the offense will have to break the pressing Illini and be able to set up their half court offense.  If Tilmon is allowed to establish himself on the block early it will open up shots for guards Jordan Geist and Mark Smith. 

It will be a bitter sweet pill for Illini fans to swallow if it is Tilmon and Smith that make the difference on Saturday night. Illinois will have to feed off of the crowd to establish their style. Madness and energy from the crowd and in game will make the difference.

Prediction:

Illinois was able to establish their tempo last year. The addition of Mark Smith will allow the Tigers to control the tempo better and the advantage on the inside is just too much to overcome for Illinois. 

Tigers when in an ugly one: 68-60.

CBB Picks ATS December 19

Picks ATS December 19 2018

CBB: Virginia -8.5 at South Carolina

Virginia is 6-3 against the spread during their 9-0 start, holding teams to an average of 51ppg. South Carolina is in a rebuilding mode this season. Virginia will be to much for the Gamecocks to handle on both ends. Look for a low scoring game that covers by double digits.

Virginia -8.5

CBB: Auburn -125 at NC State

A lot of people are high on NC State heading into this matchup with SEC powerhouse Auburn. Going to Raleigh is never easy for any team but Auburn is full of veterans that will be ready for the crazy atmosphere. The Wolfpack are 8-2 ATS this season, I am a believer in veteran guard pulling off big victories. Give me the Tigers to pull it out.

Auburn ML

CBB: Samford at Tennessee Total: 149.5

Tennessee has shown offensive prowess that they didn’t have last season. Admiral Schofield has developed into a SEC Player of the Year Candidate. Tennessee jumps on Samford early and coast to the victory 85-60.

Under 149.5

CBB: Southern Mississippi at Kansas State Total: 128

K-State overs have been my go to most of the season. This one seems to low for a team that they should route. K-State Wins 70-61

Over 128

CBB: Arkansas Little-Rock at Memphis -14

I love Penny Hardaway’s attitude. He has brought relevance back to the program and will be a contender next season. At home they dominate and lesser Little-Rock team.

Memphis Tigers -14

Game One of the NCAA Basketball Season

The NCAA Basketball season is back! November basketball doesn’t mean much in the long landscape of college basketball.  Teams that struggle on the first night mostly can regroup  when crunch time hits in February and March but as a sports community we are always quick to judgement so let’s judge away.

The Good- The ACC

As a Duke fan I try and keep my ACC biasis in check most of the time but this league is just to good to ignore.

Syracuse and Virginia will most likely be the most boring teams in basketball but their defensive ability will smother teams of all leavels.  Combined they both gave up just 76 points.

North Carolina avenged their loss to Wofford last year (they also covered -10.5).  Wofford is veteran team that gave them all they wanted.  North Carolina has a very underrated freshma class to compliment Luke Maye and Cameron Johnson.  This team is good.

We will get to the biggest statement win at the end of this article, don’t ignore the domination that Florida State showed last night. Florida is a solid team out of the revamped “basketball” conference the SEC.  Florida was never in that game.

The ACC showed how dominate they could be last night,  even Pittsburgh won!

The Bad- The Atlantic 10

The A-10 was set for some regression in 2018-19. Rhode Island lost their big stars and their coach.  St. Bonaventure lost a litany of starters, VCU has not been able to return to  since Shaka Smart moved on to Texas and the SLU Billikens are still transitioning into relevance under Travis Ford but opening night for this league did not go well.

George Mason, took a loss at home to the Ivy League’s Pennsylvania Quakers, traditionally not a terrible loss but for a team many saw as a top three contender in the Atlantic 10 this was very surprising.

George Washington continued its irrelavane after a dismal 2017-18 seaosn falling at home to American East’s Stony Brook Seawolves.  A game that saw George Washington blow an earyl 22-0 lead! George Washington is not good but this was a game that they were suppose to cruise to a win.

The Temple Owls were able to pull out a victory over La Salle but they did not look impressive to say the least struggling to keep the lead against a very unimpressive Lasalle squad.

Finally conference preseason favorite the SLU Billikens won but showed their potential issues in a ten point victory of Southeast Missouri State.  The Billikens could not find any shooting stroke making just 4-25 three point shots.  In today’s game lack of shooting will come back to haunt them.

Davidson and Rhode Island looked good beating two lesser teams but overall this was not a night to remember for the respected Atlanic 10 Conference.  Luckily for them they were over shadowed by a few games that had a bit more media draw.

THE SEC also had a pretty rough night.  Cough, Kentucky, Cough, Florida.

The Zion

There is a belief that Zion is the Holy Land and it truly exists.  Duke’s Zion Williamson, Cam Reddish, RJ Barrett and Tre Jones are the Zion of college basketball. The domination of the number two ranked Kentucky Wildcats was the tip of the iceberg of what this team can be.

While the four freshman bring the flash, role players Jack White, Marques Bolden, Alex O’Connell and Javin Delaurier complemented them perfectly on Tuesday night.  Talks of this team going undefeated are premature in the loaded ACC.  Games against defensive minded Syracuse and Virginia will give the Blue Devils trouble this season, but they established themselves as the true contenders, potentially the favorites to win it all.  There is a lot of basketball to play anything can happen over these next few months but as you watched the destruction of an extremely talented Kentucky team you could almost hear a collective groan from the rest of the college basketball world.

SLU Billikens can take over St. Louis

High expectations.  They are hard to live up to in the sports world.  The Saint Louis Men’s Basketball team will face that during their upcoming season.  With high expectations comes excitement.  The city of St. Louis has a hunger for sports, but a thirst for winners.  You can live a lot longer with no food then water. The Billikens are set to provide the city with all of the refreshment they want in 2018-19.  They may even take over the sports scene in this city. I can be as bold as to say in three months SLU Basketball could take over the #2 role in the city behind the Cardinals and a head of the Blues.

Most polls have the Billikens as the team to beat in the Atlantic 10.  Lead by stars and Preseason All Conference Second Team selections Javon Bess and Jordan Goodwin the Billikens will look to take a step forward in the exciting A-10. If rising sophomore Hassan French continues his development, the Billikens will be an A-10 title contender for the next several years. From a talent perspective, this is the best team on paper in the conference. But with there being so many new faces, there may have been chemistry concerns in the preseason.  Those concerns were wiped away after game one of the preseason as SLU dismantled Quincy with a dominate 85-42 victory.  Transfer Tramaine Isabell lead the way with 19 point and 7 assists.

St. Louis is a city that loves its sports, despite not having an NBA team the city still shows its passion for basketball every year during the Arch Madness Tournament (Missouri Valley Conference Championship) held at the now Enterprise Center.  Fans also made their passion for the game very evident when the SEC tournament made its way to St. Louis in 2018.  It is also hard to find a fan base that takes a basketball rivalry as serious as the Bragging Rights Game between Illinois and Missouri. I know most North Carolina basketball fans will rightfully argue their rivalry is bigger but from a midwestern standpoint there is very little that lives up to hype of that game.  As good as that rivalry is though both Illinois and Mizzou have not been conference championship contenders for a few years now.  SLU is a legitimate contender in a conference known for shaking up  March Madness.  Dayton and St. Bonaventure just last season made an impact in the tournament of basketball Goliath’s.  Why can’t SLU be next? Since the exit of the Rams just two years ago there has been a gap in the sports community.  The Cardinals have struggled for relevancy in the NL Central, the Blues have broken our hearts on more than one occasion and the dream of a soccer team is still a few years away.  This is the perfect time for the Billikens to take advantage of a city that still feels abandoned.

The talent of this team is great but their charismatic leader is the perfect person to lead them to victories on the court and victories in the local media.  Ford has a knack for recruiting high level talent going back to his days with Oklahoma State when he convinced Marcus Smart, now of the Boston Celtics, to not only come there but stay an extra year.  Ford has begun to work his magic on the transfer market with Tramaine Isabell, as well as the local market convincing local 4-star recruit Cart’Are Gordon to join his already rising SLU squad.  Ford is what the city needs after dealing with a litany of coaches whom have personalities that are not exactly media friendly or attention grabbing. Cough, “Mike Matheny”, Cough “Jeff Fisher”, Cough “Ken Hitchcock”.

For a good example of the personality of Travis Ford check it his role in the comedy movie “The Sixth Man”.

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=sixth+man+travis+ford+funny+moments

 

The Blues have not lived up to expectations. Mizzou Basketball just lost its best player Jontay Porter. Mizzou Football is a mid-level SEC team, that’s being polite. The Billikens have a chance to take this city by storm and create a new love for the sport of basketball.  We early season matchups with Florida State, Seton Hall and Butler will show us what this team is really going to be all about.  They have the potential to be great.  The expectations are high, isn’t that where we want them to be.

Check out the next SLU preseason game against UMSL Thursday November 1 at Chaifetz Arena.

Early Look at Billikens Basketball

Travis Ford’s second season as Billiken’s Head Basketball Coach was about progressing the program in the right direction.  Finishing the 2016-2017 season with a record of 11-21 placing them 11th in the Atlantic 10, there was only one direction for the program to go.  The 2017-2018 season was a huge step forward for the program finishing the season with  a 17-16 record including making it to the quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 tournament.  In the third year of the Travis Ford era the Billikens are no longer looking at a rebuild, they are looking at a potential league championship and NCAA bid.

The Billiken’s will have three of their top four scorers returning in So. Jordan Goodwin,  Sr. Javon Bess, and So. Hassan French. Joining the three headed SLU monster will be highly ranked transfers former Maryland guard Dion Waley and former Drexel guard Tramaine Isabell.  Both will add depth to an already stellar A-10 lineup. Waley, once a top 50 recruit, shot 36% from behind the arch last season while averaging a career high 4.4 ppg for Maryland.  Isabell has had a much more impactful career in college hoops.  Beginning his career at Mizzou Isabell didn’t establish himself much until transferring to fellow A-10 competitor Drexel in 2017.  Isabell not only doubled his minutes played but also his output, averaging 21 PPG to go along with 7.5 RPG.  Both players will be eligible to play right away under the grad transfer rule.

The Billikens suddenly have experience at guard to complement numerous freshmen and a seasoned frontcourt that formed the identity of last season’s team. Adding the veteran guards solidified the teams depth but the biggest offseason pick up for the SLU Billikens is local product Carte’Are Gordon.  The four star recruit that played his high school ball at Webster Groves will be looked at to make an immediate impact for the Billikens. Choosing SLU over basketball powerhouses like Kansas and I guess Illinois has put the Billikens in a rare situation, having a talented player that can bring national attention. Gordon also brings the size that seemed to be the biggest problem for the young team in 2017.  Pairing him with rising sophomore Hassan French should make for a troublesome tandem for any mid- major.

Travis Ford will enter the A-10 season in a very different place than he began his first two seasons.  With the decline of St. Bonaventure, Rhode Island and Dayton the Atlantic 10 is up for grabs.  Ford has amassed a group of talent that should be able to make noise in the conference, so much so that many different preseason polls have the Billikens as the favorite to win the conference and put themselves in a position for an NCAA tournament bid.  While I love that the Billikens are looking to be relevant the fanbase needs to take it slow with their high expectations.  Ford will deal with the transition of new faces coming together on the court.  Basketball is a team game and it will take time for the transfers and young core to come together.  Don’t be surprised if they stumble out of the gate only to recover in time to win the conference.

SLU will be a fun team to watch this season, Ford has already established the modern basketball trend of position less basketball.  No numbers, no positions just great athletes that can fill in the lanes and have multiple purposes.  This team will be fun and this season will be worth the price of admission.

Top 5 Sports Blunders

Athletes can do amazing things.  They physically have the ability to defy logic while in play.  Their gifts are respected, honored and immortalized in history.  But even athletes make mistakes, JR Smith’s recent mistake in Game 1 of the NBA Finals may go down as one of the worst of all time.  It had me thinking what other brain farts on the field were worse.  So here is my top ten Sports Blunders of all time.

5. Ruben Rivera’s worst baserunning ever

Ruben Rivera never really lived up to his cousin Mariano’s family legacy.  A career .216 hitter with little impact in his professional career does have something historic on his resume. Rivera may have the worst baserunning moment in the history of Major League Baseball.  In 2003 while playing for the Giants Rivera was on base in the 9th with the game on the line, Marquis Grissom roped a shot to right field that was overrun by the fielder.  Rivera then proceeded to resort to third grade t-ball status.  It must be seen to be believed.

Rivera gets completely confused around second base, at first unsure about what is happening in the outfield, where the outfielder misplays a line drive.  Once Rivera realizes that the ball is still in play and no out has been recorded, he heads to third, but forgets to tag up at second.  He goes back to do that, and then heads to third, where it looks like he will be out by 10 feet.  However, the third baseman misplays the ball and it kicks away from him.  Eventually Rivera is tagged out and his career was tagged out shortly after.

4. 1982 NCAA Tournament Game:  Fred Brown passes it to the wrong team.

The 1982 NCAA Championships matched two iconic programs fighting it out as Michael Jordan’s North Carolina Tarheels taking on the Patrick Ewing’s Georgetown Hoyas.  This game had everything you could want, future NBA legends, Hall of Fame Coaches and back and forth action.   With 17 seconds left in the game and North Carolina leading 63-62, Georgetown Guard Fred Brown mistook Carolina’s James Worthy for a teammate and passed the ball right to his opponent. Worthy was fouled by Eric Smith with two seconds to go.  With no timeouts left the Hoyas were unable to get the ball down the court after two missed free throws.  In the heat of the moment even the best make mistakes but this one will live on in the memory of Hoya fans as an all time blunder.

3. Leon Lett fumble recovery… sort of.

Leon Lett was a 2-time pro bowl defensive lineman for the Dallas Cowboys during their early 90’s dominate run.  Lett was a dominant force at times for a strong Cowboys defense.  While his playing career had many highlights he is known more for his two massive mistakes. His famous Super Bowl fumble was pretty embarrassing but the Cowboys destroyed the Buffalo Bills so the embarrassing moment was overshadowed by victory

On Thanksgiving day in 1993,  during a rare snow and sleet storm in Dallas, the Cowboys, who came into the game with a 7–3 record, were leading the 8–2 Miami Dolphins by a score of 14–13 with 15 seconds remaining in the game.But instead of allowing the ball to die down and let the refs pick it up, Leon Lett comes rumbling, bumbling and stumbling on top of the ball, squirting it into the arms of shocked Dolphins. Re-kick. The Dolphins take advantage of the second chance and win.

2. Jim Joyce Noooo!

Mental mistakes don’t always just happen to athletes officials some times don’t make the best decisions. On June 2 2010 the Detroit Tigers were taking on the Cleveland Indians in a central division showdown.  The Tigers had Armando Gallarraga on the mound putting on an amazing performance retiring 26 straight Indian batters when Jason Donald stepped up to the plate.  Donald hit a weak ground ball to First Baseman Miguel Cabrera, Cabrera tossed to the covering Gallarraga to complete just the 21st ever Perfect Game in MLB history…..or so we thought.

Veteran umpire Jim Joyce called Donald safe at first thus ending the bid for perfection.  Upon review it showed that he baserunner was out by at least a step and a half.  Joyce, whom was voted as the top umpire in Major League Baseball the year before had just made one of the most epic wrong calls in the history of the game.

Gallarraga never was able to capture the same stuff he had that night, his career ending after a few subpar seasons.  Jim Joyce is still umpiring, but every time his name is brought up you can’t help but think of that call.

1.Chris Webber’s huge mistake

Chris Webber was arguably the best college basketball player in the country during his time at Michigan.  Webber, the #1 ranked recruit going into the 1991-1992 season brought size, speed and athleticism to the power forward position unlike anything the game had seen.  He could run point, post you up and hit jumper in your face while grabbing ten boards a game.  The cornerstone of the historic Fab Five teams college resume will always be tarnished but not because Michigan was forced to bring down the banners.  It will be tarnished for the biggest mental mistake in the history of college basketball.

On April 5th 1993 the Webber’s Michigan Wolverines were in the National Championship game against Dean’ Smith’s North Carolina Tarheels.  With seconds left in the game and the Wolverines down Webber had the ball and charged down court. Then it happened

“Webber brings it into the frontcourt … they have no timeouts remaining … Oh! He calls it, too many timeouts! That’s a technical foul! He called a timeout, and Michigan doesn’t have any!”

North Carolina shot the two technical free throws and sealed up another National Title.  Webber and his teammates had to just watched as for the second year in a row their dreams of a championship would go down the drain.  Webber to this day doesn’t want to talk about the miss timed timeout.  He went on to have a great NBA career, currently one of my favorite NBA Analyst to listen to.  But forever I will remember him as the guy that called the worst timeout in college basketball history

Jayson Tatum- Make Basketball Great Again in the STL

The last time the city of St. Louis had a professional basketball team was in 1976.  The ABA’s St. Louis Spirits did not make it into the NBA when the two leagues merged.  As the Spirits left so did the spirit of professional basketball in the Gateway City.  It is time for the city to recapture its passion for the sport by watching one of its native sons emerge on the grandest stage professional basketball has to show.

Celtics GM Danny Ainge made a controversial move when he traded away the #1 overall pick to the 76ers. Washinton’s Markelle Fultz was looked at as the can’t miss star of the draft.  His length and athleticism was thought to be elite on all levels.  Ainge took the gamble moving down to draft Duke Freshman  and St. Louis native Jayson Tatum. Jayson Tatum has emerged as an underrated rookie star for the Boston Celtics. If you are not sure who Jayson Tatum is, he is the guy  from the Imo’s commercials.

While flashier rookies  like Ben Simmons and Donovan Mitchell have been getting the headlines Tatum has quietly brought his team to the verge of the the Eastern Conference finals. Tatum, a graduate of Chaminade Preparatory School in Creve Coeur, Missouri, has given St. Louis sports fans a reason to watch the NBA playoffs.  With key stars, Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward going do with season ending injuries Tatum was forced to take a more prominent role on a team that finished  with the #2 seed in the Eastern Conference. His scoring and defense have transitioned perfectly into the professional level.  Unlike most lottery draft picks Tatum has not been forced to be the savior of the organization.  Instead he was put in a position that allowed him to play a role, he was able to develop throughout rather then burden himself with the weight of the organization.  The regular season went well for Tatum averaging 13.9 PPG, 5 RB, shooting 43% from three and an astounding 53% shooting overall.  Tatum’s production has been taken to the next level for the Celtics in the playoffs.

In Game 1 of the second round series against the third seed Philadelphia 76ers, Tatum had a career-high 28 points in a 117–101 win, becoming the first Celtics rookie to score 25 or more points in a playoff game since Larry Bird (Maybe you have heard of him) during the 1980 NBA Playoffs, also against the 76ers. Tatum continued his strong play in Game 2 of the series scoring 21 points, those points would be the fourth game in a row Tatum reached the 20 point mark, making him the youngest player ever to accomplish that surpassing a guy by the name of Kobe Bryant (Maybe you have heard of him).  Brad Stevens has been called the best coach in the NBA for his ability to develop players, having them exceed expectations by putting them in a place the helps them excel.  The best example of the Stevens approach has been the production of Jayson Tatum.

St. Louis has had its fair share of NBA talent over the last few years.  Players like Larry Hughes, Darius Miles, and Bradley Beal have made an impact at the NBA level but Tatum is showing that he may end up being the best of the bunch.  He goes about his business quietly and professionally.  He plays in a major market and will be put in the spotlight as he develops and he will develop under the leadership of Brad Stevens.  Next season the Celtics may be the favorite in the Eastern Conference when their injured stars return but for now Tatum is the guy leading the charge of the dynamic Boston offense.  Tatum is the star that the St. Louis fan base needs, giving the fanbase a player and a team to follow.

Tatum is becoming the face of St. Louis basketball.

 

 

NBA Draft Preview

The 2018 NBA Regular Season is coming to an end next week.  As the race for championship continues the battle for the bottom is s till very interesting. Let’s begin our mock draft

Phoenix Suns select Deandre Ayton, Center, Arizona

Deandre Ayton tenure at Arizona was not one the university will not be one of that many will remember for positive reasons.  Fact is that Ayton is the clear #1 selection for a Suns team that is in full rebuild mode.  Devin Booker and Josh Jackson give them some light at the end of an extremely dark tunnel but with the addition of a player like Ayton that tunnel may have an emergency generator that keeps the lights on for at least the extent of a rookie contract.  The Suns last attempt drafting a big man was not successful, former Maryland big man Alex Len has not developed into an impact player that they hoped when they used their 5th overall pick on him in 2013.  Ayton though is considered to be that blue chip prospect that can help this team back to relevance.  This is a no brainer at #1, the only way to screw it up is to not do what everyone thinks you should do.

 Memphis Grizzlies select Luka Doncic, Guard, Real Madrid

Luka Doncic enters the 2018 NBA draft as one of the most respected Euroleague resumes. Doncic also led Slovenia to last summer’s Eurobasket title. Doncic is comfortable in the lead guard position but will most likely need to learn to play a wing role along side Mike Conley. The Grizzlies have to find a direction for the franchise as they begin to see the decline of Marc Gasol, a young talented import is the answer, he can be the next star in a Grizzlies uniform.  The Grizzlie will probably still stink next year but at least they will get nice media coverage with this pick.

Dallas Mavericks select Marvin Bagley, Forward, Duke University

The Dallas Mavericks are one of the two teams that have been openly tanking to help their draft position.  They find themselves picking number three on draft day and will score themselves a marquee forward to build their franchise around. Marvin Bagley was one of the most productive college basketball prospects all season long at Duke, utilizing his athletic mismatch to score in the paint and manufacturing easy baskets on the offensive glass at an elite clip.

Atlanta Hawks select Jaren Jackson, Forward, Michigan State

The Hawks stink, but they really stink defensively. The answer for them is Jaren Jackson. His shot blocking numbers (5.5 per-40) are off the charts, and teams are intrigued by has ability to protect the rim and defend in space while also being able to space the floor (39.6% from three). The Hawks have no identity, they are looking to build around point guard Dennis Schroder.  They need to cut bait with everyone over 25 and build their team around the length of Jackson and the continuing development of Taurean Prince. The Hawks are still very far away from being a competitive team.

Orlando Magic select Michael Porter Jr., Forward, Missouri

The Orlando Magic have a couple of nice pieces to build around with Evan Fournier and Nikola Vucevic. The impending free agency of cornerstone Aaron Gordon leaves an opening at the power forward position, the perfect fit will still be available with Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr. Porter Jr’s injury derailed what could have been a fun year for the Tigers in the now basketball strong SEC.   Porter Jr is a scorer with the size of a power forward and the movement of a point guard.  While I could see the Magic taking a shot on Trae Young here, they would be wise to go with MPJ his size and skill will make him an immediate impact.

Sacramento Kings select Trae Young, Guard, Oklahoma

This is a dream for the Sacramento Kings.   A draft full of centers! Hopefully they make the intelligent decision and take the best player n the board for them.  Trae Young is a captivating player that will give the Kings some attention in the California market. Trae Young alongside De’aron Fox may not work out in the long run due to the fact that both players are very ball heavy.  But if I am the Kings and a talent and marketable asset like Young falls into my lap I have to go with it.

Chicago Bulls select Mohammad Bamba, Center, Texas

The Chicago Bulls greatest dream would be for Trae Young to fall to them but that is unlikely. So they will have to go to plan b.  Luckily for the Bulls plan b is Mo Bamba! All-league defensive potential is the center of Bamba’s appeal, and while Texas’s season wound up a disappointment, he’s shown plenty of ability and held steady as a top selection. The Bulls have a built a nice core of young talent lead by 2017 first round pick Lauri Markkanen, Kris Dunn, and Bobby Portis.  The Robin Lopez stop gap is coming to an end.  Plug in Bamba and let him swat shots all over the arena.  His skills will continue to grow on the offensive end.

Cleveland Cavaliers (from Brooklyn) select Wendell Carter, Forward, Duke

Wendall Carter is a man at 6′ 10″ 260lbs. Carter was as solid as possible for the Blue Devils last season and is ready to make the transition to the NBA.  Carter has the ability to spread the defense with mid range shooting as well as be a stable force in the middle. Pairing Carter with the range of Kevin Love will give that Cavaliers a solid punch in the middle and from the outside. His impressive skill level, passing and on-court feel should help him find an NBA fit, and a different system might unlock more of his skills.

New York Knicks select Mikal Bridges, Guard/Forward, Villanova

The Knicks shocked everyone last season going with Frank Ntilikina with the 8th overall pick in the 2017 draft. Ktilikina showed glimpses of his potential during the season, but it has been the emergence of Trey Burke that has brought the most impact to the Knick during the season.  The Knicks have a strong core with the Unicorn, Enes Kanter, and a few different options at the point.  A great addition will be some 3 and D wing help like Mikal Bridges.  His upside could very easily point him in the top 5 so this could be a steal for the Knicks.

Philadelphia 76ers (from LAL) select Jalen Brunson, Guard, Villanova

I am going to be honest in saying this probably is a long shot, the realistic pick for the Sixers would probably be Lonnie Walker from Miami or Miles Bridges from Michigan State.  Brunson doesn’t have the traditional tools of an NBA top ten pick, his athleticism has been questioned as well as his size. He relies on his considerable craft to compensate for a lack of top-flight quickness and understands how to pick his spots, change speed and direction and score the ball.  Brunson brings a lot of grit as well as considerable leadership to whatever team he plays for.  With the talent the Sixers have put together strong leadership is something that they have to value.

Brunson is a long shot in this spot, the Sixers really need a defensive stopper at the guard positon, Walker from Miami really does make a lot more sense but to see Brunson in Philly would be awesome for everyone.

 

That’s my top ten at this point…things always change this time of year I will continue to update a we get closer to the draft.

 

 

National Championship Pick

The 2018 Men’s Basketball National Title game will take place Monday night. The Alomodome will become the Thunderdome as two teams enter but only one team will leave with the title.  The Michigan Wolverines will try and keep the Villanova Wildcats from winning their second title in a three year span.

Villanova opens up as a 6 and half point favorite after their thrashing of the Kansas Jayhawks Saturday night in San Antonio.  When Jay Wright sat down with his coaching staff and mapped out the game plan I am sure he had a great strategy.  I am sure they figured they would break the record for 3-pointers in a Final Four game, IN THE FIRST HALF! This Villanova team came out and punched Kansas right in the stomach and wasn’t going to stop until the final horn went off.  The Wildcats have taken an NBA approach to their college games and so far it seems to be working very well, they have been passing up on two’s for three’s and hitting them at an unstoppable rate. Through their five games in the NCAA Tournament, Villanova is hitting 42.3 percent of its three-pointers while sinking at least 13 treys on four occasions.  Villanova has had an amazing season going 18-0 in non-conference games Wildcats went 13-3 against the ESPN RPI top 25 and 50 teams, respectively, while also ranking No. 1 at KenPom.com, checking in with the top mark in adjusted offensive efficiency and top 15 on the defensive side. This is a team that has almost single handedly ended the season for ousted the nations top conference the BIG12 beating West Virginia, Texas Tech and Kansas in convincing fashion.  This is also a team that boasts multiple players that have been in this game before, including Phil Booth who put up 20 points against the Tar Heels just two years ago. It will be hard to make a case against the Wildcats walking through Michigan.

Michigan has gotten to the national championship game thanks to its stellar defense and ability to slow the game down. The Wolverines are holding opponents to 58.6 points per game and a lousy 38.7 shooting percentage.  The perimeter defense has been dominate in the NCAA tournament, but they have not seen an offense with near the efficiency of Villanova.  For Michigan to be successful they will need to have better performances from Charles Mathews and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkmann.   They have to pick up their game so that Villanova can’t double and even triple team big man Mo Wagner.  Michigan will also have to hit from the line, which has been an issue all season. In Villanova’s four losses this season, the Wildcats have allowed opponents an average of 23 trips to the charity stripe. Michigan has been bad at free throws this season – shooting 66.2 percent as a team – but attacking the hoop may be the path of least resistance.

Michigan has had a great season, but Villanova has been dominate most of the season.  Jalen Brunson and company are just way to loaded on the offensive end, even though the Wolverines will put up a fight, this just doesn’t seem like an even matchup.  I like Michigan to stick around if they can shoot half as well as they did in the Texas A&M game but fall in the end due to their free throw shooting troubles. Villanova walks out of this one with the victory and Jay Wright’s second title in three years.

Prediction: Villanova wins 80- 74

Final Four Picks

Loyola- Chicago Ramblers vs. Michigan Wolverines (-5.5)

The Final Four begins on Saturday with a matchup of two teams that play a similar style.  Strong defense and efficient shooting will be the name of the game.  While this game is not considered the main course of the evening it will be the most expensive appetizer the menu can offer.

When breaking down the South Region of the NCAA tournament bracket I listed Loyola-Chicago as a potential bracket buster.  When I said that I really only saw them winning the first two rounds.  They have shocked myself and the world be making it all the way through the region.  Last second shoots and supreme offensive and defensive basketball lead them to the Final Four, no one can argue they earned it.  Miami had better athletes, Tennessee was better defensively, Nevada had multiple better scorers, and Kansas State was just bigger, but none of that mattered to the Ramblers besting each playing their brand of basketball.  Talk all you want about Sister Jean, this team is good and they have a great chance on Saturday. But I have to follow my instinct on this game.

While the Ramblers are a great story, every story has two possible endings.  Happy or Sad.  Saturday the Michigan Wolverines will play the role of antagonist.  Talk all you want about Michigan having an “easy” journey to the Final Four.  They took care of business in each game the way their fellow higher seeds could not.  They imposed their will on other teams by smothering them defensively and hitting the big shots.  Moritz Wagner will force the lone big man for the Ramblers Caleb Krutwig out of the paint which will open up lanes for Charles Mathews to drive with little to no resistance.  Clayton Custer will still make plays but to see another day of above 50% shooting against a John Beilen coached team is just not believable.

The Ramblers will keep it close but eventually Michigan will impose their will on the smaller team. I see Michigan winning by double digits, I will take the 5.5 and run with it.

Michigan to win and taking the points -5.5

Kansas Jayhawks vs. Villanova Wildcats (-5)

While chaos was the theme of the South and West sides of the bracket, two #1 seeds made their way out to the East and Midwest.  A battle of two top programs as well as top coaches of our generation takes place on Saturday as the Jayhawks take on the Wildcats. This is the main event of the evening and the world seems split on who will come out on top.

Senior guards will be the main focus with AP Player of the Year Villanova’s Jalen Brunson takes on All-Big 12 point guard Devonte Graham.  Villanova has made already taken down two top level Big12 teams defeating both West Virginia and Texas Tech on their way to the Final Four and all the advantages seem to lean towards Nova in this matchup.  Multiple scoring options for Villanova make them very dangerous. I believe they will look to attack Udoka Azubuike early to force Bill Self to put in freshman Silvio De Sousa.  De Sousa showed immaturity in the Elite Eight matchup with Duke nearly costing Kansas the game. If De Sousa is forced into actions and makes similar mistakes Villanova has the experience to bury the Jayhawks.

I am a huge fan of the job Bill Self has done this year. He has taken his least talented team in years to the Final Four.  That has to be respected.  Ultimately Villanova is the better team and will advance.  While I believe Villanova will advance I am looking at Kansas to cover the 5 points.

Villanova Wins, Kansas covers +5

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