Thursday, March 31, 2005

I'm Good

Notice I posted my upcmong Final Four posts at the beginning of the week, and on the exact day ESPN discusses their Superstars and Go-To Guys, I had already scheduled to discuss them. Stuart Scott's got nothin' on me, haha.

Final Four Report- Superstars and Go-To Guys

These are the guys that, with the game on the line, you want with the ball:
Louisville's Francisco Garcia, already a prolific shooter and scorer, has been shooting 44% from 3's and 49% from the floor in the tournament. He has come up absolutely huge in the postseason, posting 3 20+ point performances.

Michigan State wants the ball in the hands of either Shannon Brown, a smooth outside shooter and great athlete, or Maurice Ager. Tom Izzo has the luxury of going with 2 outstanding finishers around the rim with quick first-steps who shoot 80% and 84% from the line.

For UNC, their big 3 of Raymond Felton, Rashad McCants, and Sean May are all great scorers. In this case, you run a play through Felton, a lightning-quick PG with great passing skills, for Rashad McCants, the most talented pure scorer in the Final Four. Why not go down low right away? Let McCants do what he does best and keep the big fella down low for a last-second tip-in, as May is an excellent offensive rebounder (two-thirds of his rebounding total is on the offensive end).

Jay's Pick: Deron Williams, who has played like a man possessed this postseason, has all the tools to make the big play. He is an excellent shooter with a great midrange game, makes great decisions with the ball, and can find the open man (8.5 apg in the tournament) if the defense collapses.


I love the argument goin on with the comments about the Frontcourts. Love. It. Great stuff whoever is writing. Although, I need to comment that the 03-04 Lakers weren't much of a team, whereas UNC is a very cohesive offensive unit (forget D...that's the only reason they could choke). I do agree that Sean May is the dominant force that all opponents can only pray has an off night.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Final Four Report- The Frontcourts

#1 Illinois, although known for their smalls, gets solid play from bigs James Augustine (Jr) and Roger Powell (Sr). Augustine has improved his regular season stats to average a double-double (12.3 pts, 10.3 boards) in the tournament, and the 6-6 Powell is versatile enough to post smaller defenders and take bigger forwards out on the perimeter. The Illini also bring 7-2 senior center Nick Smith and 6-10 senior forward Jack Ingram off the bench, however both are perimeter-oriented players.

#4 Louisville is boosted by the muscle and hustle of freshman Juan Diego Palacios (averaging 10 and 7) and senior Ellis Myles (10 and 9). Both are physical defenders who do the little things on D. Junior small forward Francisco Garcia is the most potent scorer for the Cardinals, averaging 21 pts in the tourney. He is an outstanding long-range shooter whom ESPN's Jay Bilas has likened to Reggie Miller.

#5 Michigan State does not start a true power forward, but the versatile senior Alan Anderson usually moves into the post to guard opponets' toughest players, as he did with Kentucky's Chuck Hayes in the Elite 8. Junior center Paul Davis has been a horse of late, going for 15 and 11 in the postseason. My only problem with him is, at 6-11, he has blocked only 1 shot in the tournament. He is a Luke Schenscher-type player with a bit more bull in him, yet not enough to handle a true post presence (we all saw what Emeka Okafor did to Schenscher in last year's finals).

Jay's Pick: For #1 UNC, versatile senior Jawad Williams, who can spot up for 3's, run the floor, and crash the boards, senior David Noel comes off the bench to do the dirty work, and talented freshman phenom Marvin Williams is a great athlete and excellent shooter with raw ability. The reason I picked UNC, however, is 6-9 junior F-C Sean May. He is the best big guy in the Final Four, averaging 21.5 and 11.8. In the last month of the season, May had 8 consecutive double-doubles, including a 26 point, 24 board clinic against Duke. I don't see any team coming close to containing him, period.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Final Four Report- The Backcourts

#5 Michigan St has arguably the deepest and most-experienced guards in the Final Four. They play a rotation of 5 to 6 guards, led by senior Maurice Ager (14.3ppg in the tourney) & sophomore Shannon Brown (13.5 ppg, including 24 against Kentucky).

#4 Louisville features senior Larry O'Bannon (17.8ppg in the tourney) and junior Taquan Dean (17ppg), both of whom have increased their scoring in each round. These two came up huge in the Cardinals' come-from-behind victory against West Virginia, scoring 24 and 23 pts, respectively, and taking over the game after star forward Francisco Garcia fouled out with 4 minutes remaining.

#1 North Carolina is led by stellar juniors Raymond Felton (12.7ppg, 4.2 rpg, 6.9apg in '04-'05) and Rashad McCants (17.8ppg in the tourney). While Jackie Manuel and Melvin Scott provide senior leadership and solid roleplay, it is really Felton and McCants that, when playing well, bring this team to a whole new level.

Jay's Pick: I'd be a fool not to go with the three-headed monster on #1 Illinois. All season, juniors Dee Brown (aka the One-Man Fastbreak) & Deron Williams and senior Luther Head have driven the best team in the nation, each averaging 13+ pts (led by Head's 15.7), 3+ boards, and about 4 assists per game. With Deron Williams stepping up his game (up 4 pts and 2 assists, to 16.5 and 8.5) and their cohesive, heady play as a unit (leading backcourt in assists) expect the Big Three to hit more than their share of Big Shots this weekend.


Must-Read Article from ESPN..."What if No One Went Pro?" discusses the possible men's NCAA Tournament if players like Amare Stoudemire, LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony, TJ Ford, and JR Smith stayed or attended college for 4 yrs. A preview:

In an alternate universe, Emeka Okafor and Ben Gordon returned to Connecticut for their senior years.
In an alternate universe, Carmelo Anthony is a junior All-American at Syracuse.
In an alternate universe, Amare Stoudemire and Dajuan Wagner are a lethal one-two scoring punch for Memphis.
In an alternate universe, Luol Deng is still at Duke and he's been joined by freshmen Dwight Howard and Shaun Livingston.
In an alternate universe, the NBA has an age restriction and all high school phenoms go to college – and stay for four years.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Final Four Report- The Coaches

This year's Final Four features some of the most intriguing stories surrounding coaches in recent memory. Rick Pitino is the first to coach 3 different schools to a Final Four ('87 Providence, '93, '96, & '97 Kentucky, and '05 Louisville); Bruce Weber of #1 Illinois recently lost his mother, and his brother just coached the high school state champion (will brother follow brother in winning rings? would that be unprecedented?); Tom Izzo of #5 Michigan St is coaching his 4th Final Four in about a decade ('99, '00, '01, & '05) and is leading the most improbable team to advance; lastly, Roy Williams will attempt to win his first national championship in his 17th season of coaching, with his alma mater no less.
Jay's Pick: Rick Pitino
His team finished as the #4 seed IN THE NATION, and received a #4 IN THE TOURNEY! So what did the coach do? Motivate his team to beat the hottest squads in the best conferences, dominating Georgia Tech (ACC), #1 Washington (Pac 10), and overcoming a 20-pt deficit against West Virginia (Big East).


All this week I'll be focusing on the men's Final Four, posting "scouting reports" and making picks for the following for all 4 teams:

Mon- Coaches
Tues- Backcourts
Wed- Frontcourts
Thurs- Superstars and Go-To Guys
Fri- My predictions

make sure to check it out and comment!!

Kentucky/Michigan State Thriller

OK, where to begin. First of all, how did that last-second, double-clutch, desperation 3 go down for Patrick Sparks? UN-FREAKIN-BELIEVABLE. Good call by the officials to count the trey after review (I think we all can now draw the pattern on Sparks' shoes after those tense few minutes of staring at the replay). That shot was straight out of a movie with that crazy bounce, not to mention how Sparks redeemed his missed FT towards the end of regulation. HOWEVER, that Hollywood-feel for Kentucky was destroyed by their coach, Tubby Smith, at the end of the 2nd OT. State was guaranteed 2 FT's if fouled, so why would he call for Rajun Rondo to score a quick 2 with 12 seconds left, cutting the time to 7.1 seconds? After being fouled, State's Alan Andersen hit both, putting Kentucky down 4 again, only now they need to hit a 3, foul again, and hit another shot- all with 7.1 seconds left! In that situation, you need to assume State will hit both when fouled, so you need to go for the 3 to tie instead of trading off 2 points and staying down 4. Bottom line- bad call by a good coach to ruin a storybook ending.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Biggest Fantasy Steal Ever

Grant Hill continues to impress. This is a guy who has come back from multiple ankle injuries and surgeries to play at the highest level. Over the last 10 games in which Hill has played, he has averaged 22.9 pts & 5.4 boards, and has shot an outstanding 56.9% from the field. For the year, he is averaging 19.7 ppg, 4.6 rpg, and 3.3 apg. I happened to gamble on him in my fantasy NBA league this year after managers continued to pass on him, and he has been the biggest steal in the draft (for my long-standing first-place team I might add). People tend to forget that he was averaging 25.8, 6.6, and 5.2 in his last healthy season. It's too bad the NBA doesn't give out a Comeback Player of the Year award.

Friday, March 25, 2005

JJ Redick or Salim Stoudamire?

After watching #3 Arizona's All-American guard Salim Stoudamire stroke a lefty jumper to beat #2 Oklahoma State in the NCAA tourney, I got to wondering- who is the better outside shooter this yr? Duke's JJ Redick or Lute Olson's prize southpaw? So I hit the statbook courtesy of ESPN's college site (take note of the underlined numbers):

REDICK: 22.1 ppg, 42% FG, 94% FT, 41% 3FG, 198 FGM, 118 3FGM

STOUDAMIRE: 18.7 ppg, 52% FG, 91% FT, 52% 3FG, 208 FGM, 119 3FGM

Not only did Stoudamire shoot at much higher percentages from 2's and 3's, he made more of each than Redick (which is impressive, considering JJ had 772 shot attempts vs 635 for Salim). SO which guy has the better stroke? Numbers don't lie- Stoudamire in an upset.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Knicks/Celtics "T-it-up"

I was actually in the Garden for this one- a total of 7 technicals were called (Ricky Davis, Paul Pierce, Coach Doc Rivers, and Antoine "Walkah" for Boston & Stephon Marbury, Tim Thomas, and Jerome Williams for NY). This set a new NBA record, as NY snapped Boston's 7-game win streak and won its 2nd-straight game without Kurt Thomas, who averages a double-double on the season.

Box Score