Tuesday, June 24, 2014

2014 NBA Mock Draft

NBA Draft night is looming and prospects from all over the globe will be tuning in to hear their name called and their dreams come true.

Here is my take on this years crop of talent and where I feel they will ultimately land.

1.  Cleveland Caveliers:  Andrew Wiggins, SF, Kansas
The Cavs once agian find themselves picking from the top of the draft.  They have found plenty of luck to win the lottery and need to add some potential explosiveness to their young core of players.  With Kyrie Irving running the show and dishing off to this uber athletic forward should prove to be a winning combination for a franchise still seeking that magic once seen when a particular forward was roaming the court.  Who was that masked man anyway??? 

2.  Milwaukee Bucks:  Jabari Parker, PF, Duke
The semi local product from Chicago will make the short trip to Milwaukee and set up nicely as the marquee player for this once proud franchise.  Parker is NBA ready and is the most likely candidate to be Rookie of the Year.  Should be a nice fit for this super talented player.

3.  Philadelphia 76ers:  Noah Vonleh, PF, Indiana
The 76ers will contemplate taking the best center prospect in the draft, Joel Embiid, but with the season injury to his back and now a foot injury they will pass and gamble on the raw talent out of Bloomington, IN.  Vonleh showed in his one season in the Big Ten he has star potential.  Couple him with Thaddeous Young down low and their terrific draft pick last year Michael Carter-Williams and they have a nice core for the future. 

4.  Orlando Magic:  Dante Exum, PG, Australia
Magic take their point guard of the future in 6'6'' Exum.  He has a great handle and his length at the PG position will make him an intriguing pick for this Magic team.  Adding Exum with Olidipo from last year sets up their back court for years to come. 

5.  Utah Jazz:  Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
High risk and even higher reward for the Jazz.  Embiid was mentioned as the possible first pick in this years draft until he suffered a foot injury.  Picking at 5 gives them the ability to take a chance on him and if he becomes fully healthy will be the steal of the draft.  Has been compared to Hakeem Olajuwon.  Nice!

6.  Boston Celtics:  Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State
The Celts could be looking at their leader going into their future.  He has extreme talent and this past year his character has been in question.  The fans in Boston won't care if he can lead them to the playoffs and beyond.  Rajon Rondo will be a nice act to follow as he transitions to the NBA.  Brad Stevens also will have a great influence upon his development. 

7.  L.A. Lakers:  Elfrid Payton, PG, Louisiana-Lafayette
The rising prospect may have small school written on his jersey but he has big school game in the gym.  He has shown his ability to break down defenders with a devastating crossover.  Will be able to learn more murderous moves from one of the best "killers" in the NBA, Kobe Bryant. 

8.  Sacramento Kings:  Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky
The first Wildcat to come off the board and what a better place than Sacramento.  They have three 20point scorers and adding Randle to their front court with fellow Wildcat Demarcus Cousins will be a very formidable group. 

9.  Charlotte Hornets:  Zach LaVine, PG/SG, UCLA
The 6'6'' ball handler will add length to off set their current point guard, Kemba Walker.  He has multiple skill sets that will translate nicely to the NBA.  Good to see the Hornets are back and the Bobcats when into hibernation.

10.  Philadelphia 76ers:  Doug McDermott, SF, Creighton
The four year wonder is a great pick for the 76ers as they use their second top ten pick.  With him roaming for open shots, which he hits at an alarming rate, will be deadly for opposing teams to deal with.  Great get for a second pick. 

11.  Denver Nuggets:  Aaron Gordon, PF, Arizona
The forward slips a bit in my draft as his shot isn't what you would want from a top 5 or so pick.  Denver taking him at 11 is safe and his potential on rebounding and physically is a plus.  Athletically he is a top talent.

12.  Orlando Magic:  Dario Saric, PF, Croatia
Selecting their second of two picks within the first 12 the Magic take the talented Croatian.  I will not make up anything regarding international players.  I will say this.  International players are usually fundamentally sound and make shots.  They do need some beef up front and they will get it internationally. 

13.  Minnesota Timberwolves:  Rodney Hood, SF, Duke
Needing scoring and potentially a replacement for Kevin Love they go for the scoring forward from Dick Vitale's favorite team. 

14.  Phoenix Suns:  T.J. Warren, SF, N.C. State
The leading scorer in the ACC goes to a young core of players needing a small forward who can fill it up.  What better pick than this one man wolfpack.

15.  Atlanta Hawks:  Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State
Do everything guard from Mr. Izzo's camp will be a great get for this young Hawks team.  After stretching the Pacers in the playoffs to the brink they will need some added shooting and defense to build on an already solid foundation.

16.  Chicago Bulls:  Nick Stauskus, SG, Michigan
The Bulls have a defensive minded coach and some extremely tough individuals but in order to win games you need to put the ball in the hole.  Stauskus can do that and has an eagle eye from deep to stretch the defense allowing, if healthy, Derrick Rose to attack the lane. 

17.  Boston Celtics:  Adreian Payne, PF, Michgan State
The run of Big Ten products out of the state of Michigan continues.  Payne is the best shooting big in the draft.  He will be a nice compliment to their earlier pick and should excell in the pick and roll. 

18.  Phoenix Suns:  Shabazz Napier, PG, UCONN
Newly crowned NCAA champion will use his clutch ability and winning attitude to try and bring back the Suns to the days of Sir Charles and the NBA royalty. 

19.  Chicago Bulls:  Cleanthony Early, SF, Wichita State
Best player off one of the best teams in recent memory showed his worth all year and in the tournament the past two years.  He exploded in the best game of the tournament, against Kentucky, and made himself millions. 

20.  Toronto Raptors:  Kyle Anderson, SF, UCLA
Has the skills of a point guard and size of a small forward.  Should fit in nicely with DeMar DeRozen and Kyle Lowry. 

21.  Oklahoma City Thunder:  Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse
The thought process here is having Ennis run the point and move Westbrook to his more natural scoring guard role.  Let Ennis run the offense and find the other worldly scorers they have in Durant and Westbrook.  Just a thought.

22.  Memphis Grizzlies:  Jusuf Nurkic, C, Bosnia
They need help down low back up to Marc Gasol.  Big Bosnian Bruiser the best answer at this point.

23.  Utah Jazz:  James Young, SG, Kentucky
Lefty shooter just what the Jazz need to spot up for Gordon Haywood and Trey Burke.  Adding him to roster and if they land Embiid will be start of something special in Utah.

24.  Charlotte Hornets:  P.J. Hairston, SG, USA
The former Carolina Tar Heel can score in bunches and has been doing so in the D-League since leaving school.  He stays home and builds himself back up in familier territory. 

25.  Houston Rockets:  Jordan Clarkson, PG/SG, Missouri
The multi talented guard with good size and quickness.  One year is plenty for him to showcase his potential at Missouri.

26.  Miami Heat:  Glen  Robinson III
G.R.III has great size and athleticism to couple with his genes being the son of "Big Dog" Glen Robinson.  NBA body and should love, potentially, playing along side LeBron.  If he stays in South Beach.

27.  Phoenix Suns:  C.J. Wilcox, SG, Washington
Their third pick can shoot it from deep.  He has range, size, and experience.  All three attributes make him a great pick and solid group for team.

28.  L.A. Clippers:  Jerami Grant, SF, Syracuse
Long and athletic wing player has all the characteristics of a great pro.  Just what they need another guy to lob dunks too.

29.  Oklahoma City Thunder:  K.J. McDaniels, SF, Clemson
The defenisve minded stalwart has quick hands and an even greater leaping ability.  With all those scorers they need someone to come in and concentrate on defense.  K.J. will clamp down whild K.D. lights up the scoreboard.

30.  San Antonio Spurs:  Clint Capela, PF/C, Switzerland
The newly crowned NBA champs use their pick on a international project.  They have struck gold in past drafts late with picks like Tony Parker and Manu Ganobili.  They hope this big man is also a diamond in the rough. 

See you Thursday and pick a winner!    

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Safety Dance







Safety Dance!

The NFL Draft begins Thursday and for most experts and the casual fans they would tell you the draft begins with the first pick.  As this is true, when you are a Chicago Bears fan the draft begins when it is time for you to make your selection. 

So if the Bears don't make any draft day deals this grand spectacle starts at #14.

The Bears having not made the playoffs are in need of retooling their roster to better add strength and depth.  This is the purpose of the NFL draft.  You are maybe looking at a starter in your first couple rounds but after that you are looking at adding depth to the rest of your roster. 

The Monsters of the Midway, as they were once known, are in desperate need of help on the defensive side of the football.  They were dead last against the run last year and at times looked foolish out their trying to stop the opposing teams running backs. 

There were times when it looked like they had 11 men on the field and the Bears thought they were playing in a 7 on 7 league.  The chunks of yardage gained against them was pathetic.  They truly need someone on their defense that can patrol the defensive backfield, as well as, take a no holds barred approach to stopping the run. 

This is a very vital part of a successful defense.  Baltimore had Ed Reed holding court for the Ravens for  years and the year he leaves it was apparent. 

The Bears haven't had a quality Safety roaming on defense since Mike Brown.  There was a reason when Brownie was heading up the defensive backfield that the Bears were highly successful on defense.  This season the Bears were punished repeatedly due to having what many felt was an extremely poor Safety in Chris Conte. 

Did you see the last game against Green Bay.  In a win and in scenario Aaron Rodgers once again killed us by exposing a glaring weakness in the defense and propelled the Packers into the playoffs by throwing a game winning touchdown that should have been covered by even an average NFL Safety. 

The Chicago Bears don't have on and it is time Phil Emery goes out and gets one. 

I want to hear Thursday night with the 14th pick in the 2014 NFL Draft the Chicago Bears select Player X Safety, from College Y. 

It better be a safety or I am going to need a new TV in my living room. 

The consensus is the cream of the crop for this years safety draft class are led by the following players per Scouts, Inc.

1.  Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama

2.  Calvin Pryor, Louisville

Scouts has them slotted at 13 for Clinton-Dix and 21 for Calvin Pryor.  The Bears won't get caught up in who is rated at what number but should select the best fit for their style of defense.

It is no laughing matter when it comes to the athleticism of Ha Ha.  He is a couple inches taller than Pryor and approximately the same weight.  He comes from the national powerhouse that is Alabama and its winning tradition. 

Pryor is listed under six feet tall but what he lacks in height he sure makes up for in his ability to create a hit on opposing players.  He is probably better suited to fill the void the Bears have by lending his talent of attacking the running game. 

I wouldn't be opposed to either of these players wearing a Bears uniform next season.  What I hope and pray for is that Emery sees the need and makes an informed choice to better the Bears defense. 

It is apparent the Bears now have the offense they so wanted and needed all the years prior.  Now it is time to solidify the defense, even though most Bears fans would never have thought that would be a problem after so many years of powerful defenses. 

It is time to make the right choice so Emery and the Bears brass need to select a safety.

So when they do Bears fans everywhere...

"can dress real neat from our hats to our feet and surprise them with a victory cry!"

Monday, May 5, 2014

East Bound and Down...

"East bound and down loaded up and truckin'. We're gonna do what they say can't be done." 
- Jerry Reed, Smokey and the Bandit.

The Big Ten conference has once again made their move to make their brand an even larger one than it is now.  The announcement today further cements Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany's vision for where he wants this conference to be. 

The Big Ten and Big East conferences will start a basketball season tip off challenge, starting in 2015 running through 2020, that will allow more exposure to east coast viewership and ultimately east coast money. 

The marriage between the Big East and Big Ten coupled with the continued success of the ACC/Big Ten challenge means the Big Ten is venturing into markets it previously wasn't as successful.  Everyone ultimately wants to be on top of the world and be part of the New York market. 

This opens up numerous opportunities not only for the expansion of the Big Ten Network but each school should see rewards in recruiting.  The more your team is viewed on TV or in person the better you can market your style of play and possibly landing talent from places you may not have been as successful. 

I see this as a win in every way for the Big Ten.  The Big East as well.  The addition of Rutgers and Maryland, from a regional standpoint, was vital to have some Big Ten representation in the east coast. 

From a basketball standpoint it is a slam dunk.  The trouble with early season schedules is there are less and less marquee match ups that the casual fan wants to watch.  The higher profile opponents and having it billed as a conference versus conference battle makes the interest level more appealing. 

I would prefer to see an early season game like Illinois versus Georgetown rather than a cupcake city one like Illinois versus Southwest Texas State.  The more games early in the season that can have a positive impact potentially on Selection Sunday the better.     

Mr. Delany has a good head on his shoulders and is making a great choice with this one. 

The one issue I do have with the attempt to invade the east coast market is the possible move of the Big Ten tournament in the future from past sites in Chicago and Indianapolis to Washington, D.C. 

It makes sense due to having Maryland in the fold but for the rest of the conference's traveling fans it is going to be a nightmare.  I hope it doesn't basically forget about them while working on obtaining the east coast fans.  You want to remember your current members while courting those new to your brand.  It is a fine line they must walk but I have faith in Jim Delany.  He has a clear vision for where he wants the Big Ten to be in the future.

He has a long way to go and hopefully not a short time to get there.  Or stay there. 

He is east bound and we will watch this old bandit run!


Saturday, April 19, 2014

Just another BRICK in the wall

courtesy huffingtonpost.com

I have to wonder if while writing the lyrics for the Pink Floyd mega classic "Another Brick in the wall" they had to be watching their favorite basketball player clang free throw after free throw after free throw. 

Obviously this is really not the case but when I am clutching my hands together during crunch time of a basketball game and player after player can't hit a 15 foot free throw it is nauseating.  I mean 15 feet and there is not one sole in front of you.   

I have been watching basketball for almost my entire life and have found the art of shooting free throws to be the most confusing aspect of the game.

Wrapping your mind around why a player can't hit at a high percentage a wide open uncontested glorified jump shot is mind blowing. 

After watching Game one of Clippers and Warriors the end of the game was disgusting if you are an instructor of shooting free throws.  In the last 30 seconds of the game there were 6 free throws attempted and guess how many were made.

Here is a hint...it is the loneliest number!

That is right!  ONE!

It was horrifying that these multimillionaire professional basketball players can't even make a free throw.  One of the unfortunate bricklayers was none other than Chris Paul.  Shooting his foul shots he looked more like Cliff Paul. 

courtesy businessinsider.com

Games are won and lost on the free throw line.  Good teams can become great teams just by sinking free throws. 

This was never more evident during this past NCAA tournament.  The UConn men's team was deadly from the foul line as Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright sank not only foul shots at an alarming rate but their opponents hearts as well.  I wish I would have counted the number of times the announcers said if they had a late lead it would be hard to beat them as they are so good from the free throw line. 

In the championship game they missed, oh wait, they didn't miss any free throws.  Yes they were 100% on the night they needed to be great.  Kentucky was not so fortunate on the charity stripe.  They were 13/24 for 54%. 

In a game with a winning margin of 6 points if they make even three more then it is a one possession game and Kentucky had shown during their march to the Final Four they were lucky as hell in those situations. 
Even when they played Wisconsin they were able to capitalize on the only missed free throw the Badgers had to hit a game winning three.  Wisconsin goes 19/20 and it wasn't enough as Traevon Jackson's miss proved the difference in ultimately losing.

Missed free throws will kill you in this game.  They seem so simple and yet they are obviously so hard.

Coaches will tell you it is all repetition.  Do the same thing over and over and over.  Practice makes perfect.  For those of you out there who were coached by Jack Cowgill he would stress BEEF.  No not "Where's the Beef?" but B.E.E.F., Balance, Elbow, Extension, and Follow through. 

The visualization of putting the ball just over the front of the rim.  The psychological aspect to the free throw.

This is where the money players rise and the others fall.

The best free throw shooter by percentage in the NBA this year was New Orleans' Brian Roberts at 94%.  He missed 8 free throws all year.

The worst free throw shooter by percentage in the NBA this year was Detroit's Andre Drummand at 42%.  He missed 191.

courtesy blacksportsonlinecom

It is not shocking to be able to guess what positions these two players are.  Roberts being a point guard and Drummand a center. 

If you are going to have the ball in your hands as a point guard directing your team and making plays you better be able to put the ball in the basket during winning time.

The top ten best free throw shooters this year in the NBA were all guards except two of them.  The two who cracked the top ten future hall of fame players in PF Dirk Nowitzki and SF Kevin Durant.  The rest were point/shooting guards. 

Conversely the ten bottom feeders were dominated by centers and power forwards.  With one shooting guard, Tony Wroten Philadelphia 76ers who were historically bad this year, and one small forward, Josh Smith of Detroit Pistons fame who along with Mr. Drummond should have opened a masonry company with all the bricks they laid this year. 

Between the two of them they missed 332 foul shots. 

Seeing these stats must make old timer Rick Barry pull out what hair he has left on his head!  Do you remember Rick Barry?   Are you sure you remember Rick Barry?

Well let me refresh your memory.  He was the super accurate free throw shooter who just so happened to shoot his free throws underhanded.  Some might call it "granny style".  He didn't care what his shot looked like he just wanted to make it. 

courtesy deadspin.com

And make them he did.  To the point of being elected to the Hall of Fame.  When  he retired his 90% career free-throw percentage was the best in NBA history. In 1978-79, he missed only 9 free-throw attempts the entire year.  He had 8 years of being the free throw percentage champion during the 1970's.

I like to use Rick Barry as my example when ever discussing free throws for two reasons.  One, he was 90% in his career.  Two, he shot them the way he did, underhanded. 

The amount of players who struggle so mightily at the line couldn't do any worse than to at least try this style of shot.  The problem with today's athlete is that this "style" wouldn't hold street cred with their homies or would make them less of a player. 

Who gives a chiz.  If it really came down to shooting a foul shot successfully like Rick Barry or shooting a foul shot like Shaq, career 53%, then who would you rather choose?

Hell teams used to "Hack a Shaq" for a reason.  They felt it was better to constantly foul him each time down the floor and take the percentage of him missing almost half the shots.  Getting 2pts compared to Shaq's 1pt sounded pretty good to just about every team in the league.

courtesy someecards.com

I don't know where the solution is but maybe some of these bottom feeding bricklayers should get a new style to their game.  If they want the reward they have to put in the time to either change or get better.

Like Pink Floyd said, "If you don't eat yer meat, you can't have any pudding."

Rick Barry had his pudding and it was served "granny style".

Monday, March 31, 2014

MLB 2014 Predictions

courtesy wallpaperswide.com

The season has begun and already my Chicago Cubs are in last place.  A walk off homer to open things up against the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Ouch!

I know, I know, wait till next year. 

That phrase will be used by plenty of Cubs fans everywhere this year.  The rest of the league, as I see it, will go as follows.

I am shaking my Magic 8 Ball and let the prognostications begin!

American League

East                             Wins  -  Losses
Tampa Bay Rays*      -    95          67
Boston Red Sox^       -    94          68
Baltimore Orioles       -    88          74
New York Yankees   -    87          75
Toronto Blue Jays      -    76          86

Central                        Wins  -   Losses
Kansas City Royals* -    90          72
Detroit Tigers^          -    89          73
Cleveland Indians      -    82          80
Chicago White Sox   -    64          98
Minnesota  Twins      -    60        102

West                           Wins   -  Losses
LA Angels*              -   91           71
Oakland Athletics     -   88           74
Texas Rangers          -   83           79
Seattle Mariners       -   71            91
Houston Astros        -   59          103

National League

East                             Wins   -   Losses
Washington Nationals*- 92           70
Atlanta Braves^          -  90           72
Philadelphia Phillies     -  82           80
Miami Marlins            -  74            88
New York Mets         -  69           93

Central                         Wins   -   Losses
St. Louis Cardinals*   -  94           68
Pittsburgh Pirates^     -  91            71
Cincinnati Reds          -  83            79
Chicago Cubs            -  70            92
Milwaukee Brewers   -  69            93

West                            Wins   -   Losses
LA Dodgers*             - 100          62
San Fransisco Giants  -   85          77
Arizona Diamondbacks- 82          80
San Diego Padres       -  70          92
Colorado Rockies       -  67         95

American League MVP - Mike Trout, LA Angels

National League MVP - Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals

American League Cy Young - David Price, Tampa Bay Rays

National League Cy Young - Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals

American League Playoffs

Wild Card Playoff Game
Detroit Tigers v Boston Red Sox

Detroit Tigers v Tampa Bay Rays
Kansas City Royals v LA Angels

LA Angels v Tampa Bay Rays

National League Playoffs

Wild Card Playoff Game
Atlanta Braves v Pittsburgh Pirates

Pittsburgh Pirates v LA Dodgers
Washington Nationals v St. Louis Cardinals

St. Louis Cardinals v LA Dodgers

Tampa Bay Rays v St. Louis Cardinals

St. Louis Cardinals

World Series MVP
Jhonny Peralta, St. Louis Cardinals

I will check back in October to see how accurate I am.

By the way...my Magic 8 Ball never lets me down.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Make A Difference


I was planning on writing something in regards to the NCAA tournament and how amazing the first four days were.  I was going to couple that with some witty comments about a player or team and follow that up with my predictions on how the rest of the tournament might play out. 

That was the plan.

As we all know plans change. 

The reason plans change in our life are wide ranging.  It could be as simple as you have a flat tire on your car or as major as an emergency in your family. 

The latter of the two examples is where I changed my plans.

I was planning on checking my email like I do everyday.  I opened up the account and before I was to put in my password I came across the picture of Jim Kelly and his daughter.  He was lying in a hospital bed and she was clutching his arm lovingly. 

It hit me like a ton of bricks. 

As an emotional guy I am not afraid to say it brought a tear to my eye. 

As a father of two children it spoke to me of what is really important in life.  It isn't sports.  It is family.  It also reminded me that even though we put our sports heroes on a pedestal they are just as human as the rest of us.  They are not superheros.  They are people.  They are people with real lives.  They are people with kids.

Jim Kelly is battling cancer.  Jim Kelly is preparing for surgery.  This is as serious as it gets. 

He was a Hall of Fame quarterback that led the Buffalo Bills to four straight Super Bowls.  An amazing feat for an amazing person.  Although they lost those games and it was hard on him he got through it.  He will need to channel that bility to overcome and then some in his upcoming days. 

During his playing days he was used to being in control of his team and able to orchestrate their offense with ease. 

On the field he was in control of his own destiny. 

In life he is not.  He, like millions of families, is suffering from something he has no control of.   

He, and his family, are putting their faith and trust in the medical professionals to make him better.  Just as his teammates trusted him to make their team better. 

He has a great battle ahead of him. 

This will be nothing like trying to dodge a Lawrence Taylor pass rush or keeping his passes out of the sticky fingers of Deion Sanders. 

It is real life. 

We as fans and he as a player have used sports to keep our minds off of real life.  We use sports to escape the trials and tribulations we all go through on a daily basis.  We hope just for a few hours our minds can be shut off and just experience sports for the fun and excitement they bring. 

Mr. Kelly, and his family, are now needing to rely on the support from his fans and prayers from his fans to lift him up. 

He was there for you on Sundays to give you an outlet to blow off steam and escape your daily life. 

He now needs you to be there for him and his family. 

Like I stated before sports is great and I love it.  But I love my family more.  When I saw that picture it made me want to spend more time with my family.  It made me want to not get so frustrated when they leave the house a mess or don't put their dishes away. 

It also makes me want to do something to help others. 

We as humans need to look in the mirror and think what it is we can do to make the world a better place. 

There is enough sadness and heartache going on right now in the world from the missing Flight 370 to the mudslide in Washington. 

In Michael Jackson's song "Man in the Mirror" it said "I'm gonna make a change for once in my life, It's gonna feel real good, gonna make a difference, gonna make it right...If you wanna make the world a better place take a look at yourself and then make a change." 

Strong message. 

When you do things for others it does feel good.  It warms your heart. 

What I ask of you is to don't take sports so seriously.  Don't take life for granted.

Take a look at Jim and his daughter in that picture and think what would I do in this situation or what have I done in this situation.  I know what I am going to do.   

I am going to hug my family and go out and try to make a difference. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

March Madness 2014 The Holiday Road

"This is no longer a vacation.  It's a quest.  It's a quest for fun." - Clark Griswold, Vacation.

This is a perfect quote to describe this time of year.  March Madness is not only a quest for fun but a quest for a championship. 

The journey starts Tuesday night and the trip is a long and winding roller coaster of emotion a la "The Screemy Meemy".  Clark Griswold would agree that loading up the Wagon Queen Family Truckster on a trip cross country to Wally World isn't as exciting as three weeks of March Madness. 

It is unlike any other spectacle not even the worlds largest ball of mud can top it which you know is only a few short hours away. 

So the selections are made and we now set our GPS coordinates for Bracket World.  That wonderful amusement park where 68 teams all want to be.  Where you have to "watch those freeways" as you make your way from round to round.  Where each team hopes to take that last exit into the Final Four and possibly cut down the nets.

Are you ready for the thrill of your life?

Well, buckle up, get comfortable, and strap Aunt Edna down tight because this is going to be one hell of a ride!

I will again traverse through each region and list my power conference player to watch, mid major player to watch, a sleeper or slipper pick, potential upset special, my sweet sixteen, my elite eight, and my final four pick.

I will continue with this format and also add a little bit more for some interesting facts about each region.  Those fun tidbits like best player name but I will pick new names and retire those like UCLA's Sooren Derboghosian and Creighton's Mogboluwaga Oginni.  

And away we go!


Power Conference Player to Watch:  Andrew Wiggins, Kansas Jayhawks.

I usually have you track a player from the team I feel will make it through the region but this guys talent is off the charts good.  I also feel the reason you want to watch this kid play is two fold.  One he is an amazing talent and two he is going to be gone from college basketball after this tournament is over.  The days of superior talent staying on campus for their four years are long gone.  He is a one and done guaranteed.  He has silky smooth moves and an ability to fill up the stat sheet to the maximum.  Bill Self will rely heavily on his talent if they are to be able to last into the latter part of the tournament.  A key for this team since star center Joel Embiid is unhealthy in the middle of that paint.   

Mid Major Player to Watch:  David Brown, Western Michigan Broncos

What can Brown do for you?  He can pour in the points with the best of them.  The pride of Roscoe, IL is the leading scorer on this dangerous team out of the MAC.  He averages 19.4pts and is coming of a 32 point outburst in their conference championship game.  He never met a shot he didn't like.

The "Dirk Diggler Those are Great Names" Best Player Name in Bracket:  Wanaah Bail, UCLA Bruins.

The 6'9'' FR forward doesn't see much action on the court but roots his team on from the bench.  I am sure he and his teammates will attest they don't "wanna bail" out of this tournament too soon.  The way they are playing lately they just might stick around. 

Hey, Aren't you...?  Danny Manning, Head Coach, Tulsa Golden Hurricane

Yes, he is THAT Danny Manning.  The former NBA superstar and Kansas Jayhawk is now at the helm of the Tulsa Golden Hurricane.  He was an assistant coach under Bill Self at Kansas and is now directing his own group of student athletes.  He is hoping to hearken back to 1988 and his Danny and the Miracles run that he orchestrated to the national title.  Time will tell but the way this season has gone you can't rule any team out. 

Slipper Pick:  Stephen F. Ausin Lumberjacks

The champions from the Southland conference have won 28 games in a row and are riding an air of confidence that goes a long way in March.  They have balanced scoring led by guard Desmond Heymon and forward Jacob Parker.  The team is full of veteran leadership and they won't be rattled by the stage they will be on.     

Potential Upset Special:  #14 Western Michigan over #3 Syracuse

The latter portion of Syracuse's schedule they have been mediocre at best.  They flirted with losses while starting the season 25-0 and finally their luck ran out.  They are talented but in their last they are 2-5 and squeaked by three other games by a total of 5 points.  I would steer clear of the that Syracuse Orange Kool-Aid. 

Sweet Sixteen:  #1 Florida v. #4 UCLA , #6 Ohio State v. #2 Kansas

Elite Eight:  #1 Florida v. #6 Ohio State

Final Four:  #1 Florida


Power Conference Player to Watch:  Gary Harris, Jr., Michigan State Spartans

This do-everything guard has the highest ceiling of any player on the Spartans depth chart.  The NBA scouts are salivating on this kids decision at the end of the tournament as well.  They are finally healthy and have all their pieces back to where everyone thought they would be at the beginning of the season.  Harris will create havoc on defense and will attack the basket on offense.  Teams can try and stifle his game but good luck with that. 
Mid Major Player to Watch:  Devon Saddler, Davon Usher, and Jarvis Threatt, Delaware Fightin Blue Hens

I usually only pick one player to point out from a small school who is taking on the big boys but this team has a three headed monster that fuels their fire.  These three amigos average 19.7, 19.4, and 18.1 respectfully.  They like to push the ball and score in bunches.  Michigan State will have a battle on their hands but Tom Izzo is one to the best coaches during March Madness tournament time. 

The "Dirk Diggler Those are Great Names" Best Player Name in Bracket: Hippolyte Tsafack, Memphis Tigers

He isn't an active player, as he is redshirting, but he and the Tigers are Hungry, Hungry, Hungry for a long march run through this tournament. 
Hey, Aren't you...?  Fred Hoiberg, Head Coach, Iowa State Cyclones.

The "mayor" of Ames, IA he has rebuilt this team into one of the best teams in the country.  He, as a former Cyclone, has made it his mission to bring credibility and talent back to their campus.  He has former NBA experience as a player with the Chicago Bulls, amongst others, and has brought an air of professionalism to this team.  He has his team playing amazing basketball fresh off a Big 12 tournament championship.

Sleeper Pick:  #7 Connecticut Huskies

It is hard to grasp the concept that UCONN could be a sleeper but just look at their seeding and they are listed as a 7 seed.  They have one of the best players in the country in Shabazz Napier and he can single handily carry a team to a couple wins in this tournament.  The school has plenty of successful history in this tournament with a recent national championship by another talented Huskie, Kemba Walker.  I wouldn't be surprised to see UCONN playing on the second weekend.

Potential Upset Special:  #12 Harvard over # 5 Cincinnati

The brains versus the brawn.  I thought thats what Survivor was touting this season?  The Crimson are a senior laden team with a win in last seasons tournament to use as reference material.  They study hard and play even harder.  Their coach, Tommy Amaker, has made the Ivy League a true basketball threat.  This league has pulled its share of shockers in the past so if Harvard can calculate the proper algorithms then they could be moving on.

Sweet Sixteen:  #1 Virginia v. #4 Michigan State, #3 Iowa State v. #7 Connecticut

Elite Eight:  #4 Michigan State v. #3 Iowa State

Final Four:  #4 Michigan State



Power Conference Player to Watch:  Doug McDermott, Creighton Blue Jays

What a difference a year makes.  For the past three seasons he has been the best Mid Major player out there.  Now with the teams jump to the Big East he didn't disappoint.  He only ran away with, for my money, the national player of the year award.  Known as "Dougie McBuckets" he has once again led his Dad's club in scoring at 26.9pts per game and also grabs 7.0 rebounds per contest.  He has added to his game and is a threat to score from anywhere on the floor.  He shoots over 50% from the field and 45% from three.  He reminds me of Wally Szcerbiack who led Miami, OH to a Sweet Sixteen or Seth Curry who led Davidson to the Elite Eight.  One man shows that can score once they enter the gym.  If Dougie can stay fresh he and the rest of his Blue Jays could be heading to Anaheim, CA and the Elite Eight. 

Mid Major Player to Watch:  Xavier Thames, San Diego State Aztecs

The heart and soul to Steve Fisher's 29-4 club, Xavier, has his hands on the ball both offensively and defensively.  He averages nearly 2 steals a game which in a close game can mean winning and losing if you can create possessions for your team.  He isn't all that shabby scoring the basketball either.  He averages 16.8pts and if the game is close he will be at the free throw line to ice it with an 83% free throw touch.  This team is dangerous with a true road win against Kansas earlier in the season and virtually no one wins at "The Phog".

The "Dirk Diggler Those Are Great Names" Best Player Name in Bracket:  Yilret Yiljep, American Eagles

Y did I pick this guy?  Y not?  The little used Nigerian has logged 10.5 minutes this season and hasn't played since January.  He might be hurt or just not seeing action.  Either way he will be better off as this game should be a real Yawner. 

Hey, Aren't you...?  David Stockton, Gonzaga Bulldogs

The son of NBA Hall of Famer, John Stockton, he is doing his dad's legacy proud by leading his team in assists at 4.2.  The apple doesn't fall far from the tree when it comes to dishing out assists.  He sees the floor well and directs their offense like the veteran player he is.  This senior guard will hope to continue the run of tournaments Gonzaga has been to and try and once again wear that Cinderella slipper.  They ran into a "shockingly" good Wichita State team last year to end their Final Four hopes in the third round.  If they can get past Marcus Smart and OK. State who knows maybe they ruin Arizona's chances this year.  They have seemed to be better suited as underdogs than favorites.

Sleeper Pick:  #9 Oklahoma State

The Cowboys are a team that has experienced their share of ups and downs this past season.  They were a preseason favorite for many to push Kansas in the Big 12.  They have one of the best players in the country in guard Marcus Smart.  The uber talented Smart was a household name when he was suspended for three games after pushing a fan in the stands.  They went through some real soul searching and in the process lost game after game.  When he came back it was business as usual.  He led the team back to consideration for the NCAA tournament and are hot at the right time.  Believe me Arizona fans were not happy to see the Cowboys on their side of the bracket. 

Potential Upset Special:  #11 Nebraska over #6 Baylor

Coach Miles is a program builder and does so in quick fashion.  He lead Colorado State to the tournament before he took the job at Nebraska.  Formerly a football school he is trying hard to make Lincoln a basketball school.  They have a super player in Terran Pettaway and his 18.1pts per game helped Nebraska reach the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1998.  Baylor has plenty of talent as well but they tend to be up and down.  They started strong and faltered then have come back with a strong finish.  I just feel like they are due for a dud and what better team to oblige them than a Big Ten bunch.

Sweet Sixteen:  #1 Arizona v. #4 San Diego State, #3 Crieghton v. #2 Wisconsin

Elite Eight:  #1 Arizona v. #3 Creighton 

Final Four:  #1 Arizona


Power Conference Player to Watch:  Jabari Parker, Duke Blue Devils

The national freshman of the year has produced from the get go.  He is the pride of Simeon High School out of Chicago and has made that school proud.  He is one of the best college players to come around in some time.  He too will be a one and done player and make someone, maybe the tanking 76ers, a very happy franchise.  He has the size, strength, and agility to make all defenses crazy.  He can step out and stroke the three ball or bang inside with his wide frame.  Duke will lean heavily on this Windy City product as they roam out on the perimeter for open trifectas. 

Mid Major Player to Watch:  Langston Hall, Mercer Bears

This 6'4'' senior guard leads his team onto the court and not only is their primary scorer but most importantly he gets others involved with the best of them.  He averages 5.6 assists per game and his court vision allows him to find his teammates and whip the ball through the slimmest of openings.  He will need to bring his A game as the Duke Blue Devils are their opening round opponent.  Duke has past trouble with talented lead guards and the Bears will hope that trend continues.

The "Dirk Diggler Those are Great Names: Best Player Name in Bracket:  Indiana Faithfull, Wofford Terriers

This is my favorite name in the field.  It sounds like when you watch Cops and the perp gives a fake name.  The cop looks puzzled and he knows it can't be right but you sort of hope that it is.  Well in this case he is the real deal.  He comes from Australia and his parents must have wanted him to have a more American name and what better name than a state in middle America. 

Hey, Aren't you...?  Mike Davis, Head Coach, Texas Southern

Speaking of Indiana.  Yes, this is the same Mike Davis who coached Indiana University to the national championship game after Bobby Knight's departure.  He has now taken 3 teams to the NCAA tournament the other being UAB.  He has had a long and winding career and has shown an ability to get the most out of his players.  The stage was too big at Indiana and the sustainability of success at UAB was a long shot but being at Texas Southern has turned out to be a nice fit.  They will play in a first round match up against Cal Poly.  Win that and they will take on Wichita State.  Ouch!

Sleeper Pick:  #12 North Carolina State Wolfpack

The Wolfpack have been mentioned by media types as a surprise addition to this tournament.  They were obviously one of the last teams in with the first round match up again Xavier as the two #12 seeds.  They have been given reason after reason for them to not be in the tournament.  That is exactly what teams like this need to show why they belong.  We have seen the past few years teams on the first day VCU and LaSalle win and win after this start.  They have the ACC player of the year on their team in T.J. Warren and he is one of the best scorers in the country.  This says a great deal about his talent with a conference full of stars and good teams.  If you have a player of his caliber you always have a shot to move on in tournament play.

Potential Upset Special:  #11 Iowa over #11 Tennessee then over #6 UMASS

The Hawkeyes have been one of the most disappointing teams in the last few weeks of the season.  They have done nothing against Big Ten competition but give up on defense and lose games.  I think this team needs a shot in the arm and that remedy just might be teams from another conference.  They were very successful early in the year and after losing 6 of 7 no one is expecting them to advance.  Fran McCaffery is a great motivator and maybe he will fire up this stagnant bunch and have them ready.

Sweet Sixteen:  #1 Wichita State v. #4 Louisville , #3 Duke v. #2 Michigan

Elite Eight:  #1 Wichita State v. #3 Duke

Final Four:  #1 Wichita State


#1 Florida v. #4 Michigan State

#1 Arizona v. #1 Wichita State

National Championship Game:  #4 Michigan State v. #1 Wichita State

National Champion:  #4 Michigan State


The irony of this championship match up is that the last time an undefeated team out of the Missouri Valley Conference had to battle with the Michigan State Spartans.  That was 1979 and Magic and Larry were the focus of that epic night.  This wouldn't pit talents like those all time greats but it would put together one of the best examples of a team as has been seen since I think 2005 Illinois.  Wichita State has gone wire to wire and would be sitting 39-0 and facing history and perfection. 

In their way Tom Izzo's Michigan State Spartans and their finally health group of superior talent.  Wichita State was on the cusp of the final night last year when they lost a double digit lead against eventual champ Louisville and will want to finish the job this time.  As much as I like Wichita State and the team concept they play with it has to come to an end sometime and I just feel it will unfortunately end on championship Monday. 

As all others that have tried to finish a season undefeated it will be a close one but after the dust settles ultimately Michigan State will cut down the nets and give Tom Izzo his second national title. 

Then it will be time to clean and repair America's favorite family fun park!