The Voters Have Spoken

With the AP Poll coming out with their official rankings for college basketball before the season starts you might be asking yourself if they got it right? To that I answer your question with another question, does a fat baby fart? The layperson who keeps up with college basketball their first thought is that a Duke or Kentucky should be ranked number one coming into the season and finding out that they aren’t would obviously be some sort of mistake. The truth is going into this season the Jayhawks of Lawrence Kansas are the top team in the nation and they are in this position for good reason.

Like most years Kansas is coming into the season with an outstanding recruiting class, Quentin Grimes and Devon Dotson are two of the bigger names that most are excited to see take the court in Phog Allen this year. And while the Kentuckys and Dukes of the country can boast star studded freshman classes as well one area where they have come up short the past ten years or so is in their veteran upperclassman presence. Kansas has repeatedly had experienced players that play major roles that have the conference and tournament experience that helps give them an edge in some of the bigger stage games. This season the biggest of those returners are LaGerald Vick, Mitch Lightfoot and Udoka Azubuike. The biggest factor in this duo is without question going to be Azubuike, the 7 footer is without question the most dominant big man in the Big 12 and possibly the country. Staying healthy has been a concern in the previous two years but when he is on the floor. With a 75% field goal percentage (that took place entirely in the paint) Azubuike was close to averaging a double double in points and rebounds. His size and improvement in his feetwork on the low block has allowed for him to turn most matchups in the post to “Barbecue Chicken” as Dr. O’Neal has so eloquently described it. Coach Bill Self has also been able to land some PAC-12 talent as Charlie Moore, a double digit scorer formerly at Cal will join the roster this year as well.

Kansas for the most part ran the tables in the first place voting receiving 37 first place votes to Kentucky’s 19 and while the rosters play a role in that so does the staff that is at the front of the bench. Coach Self not only has the championships and Final Fours to support his resume, he also has been a part of a level of dominance that is rivaled only by that of the Roman Empire. For 14 straight seasons Kansas has been the Big 12 regular season champions and while some might try to “poo poo” this achievement this was done in the conference that put him up against Blake Griffin, Kevin Durant, LaMarcus Aldridge and Michael Beasley just to name a few. Coach Self has proven that he has the ability to garner the proper mix of veteran players along with younger talent to fit into his system that plays a grit & grind style of basketball that can only be found in the Big 12 and Charlottesville Virginia with Tony Bennett.

The Jayhawks have an interesting non-conference schedule this year so they will put their ranking and experience to the test very early on this year. On top of that the Big 12 won’t be a pushover either as several teams in the conference are in the top 25 and returning key players. Don’t be surprised though when we see that Kansas hasn’t dropped out of the top ten all year and is a lock for a one seed come late April. The reason being Coach Self has the one piece that he has always needed in order to have a successful season which is a dominant big man. Look back on any of his more successful years and you will see there was an outstanding big man on the block. Azubuike fits that description ten times over and he has the surrounding pieces to make this team a juggernaut on both ends of the floor. If you follow any obnoxious Kansas fans on social media you might want to get a head start and block them now because the Rock Chalk Mafia will be out and about flexing their muscles this year.

 

AP Poll Top 25

  1. Kansas
  2. Kentucky
  3. Gonzaga
  4. Duke
  5. Virginia
  6. Tennessee
  7. Nevada
  8. North Carolina
  9. Villanova
  10. Michigan State
  11. Auburn
  12. Kansas State
  13. West Virginia
  14. Orgegon
  15. Virginia Tech
  16. Syracuse
  17. Florida State
  18. Mississippi State
  19. Michigan
  20. TCU
  21. UCLA
  22. Clemson
  23. LSU
  24. Purdue
  25. Washington

Instant Reaction: Celtics and Sixers

Instant over-reactions from Celtics (105) – Sixers (87).

Jayson Tatum led the way for the Celtics with 23 points and nine rebounds, and the Celtics beat the 76ers 105-87.  The Celtics dominated the Sixers on opening night.  Embiid is right, it’s not a rivalry – the Celtics are way better than the Sixers.

A couple of quick notes:

Celtics:  The Celtics are going to lead the league in wins this year.  The Celtics are DEEP – they they have nine guys that can give them quality minutes.  They dominated last night’s game even with off nights from Kyrie and Hayward.  This team is going to be a ton of fun to watch this year.  My biggest question for them is who gets the ball in crunch time?  It’s going to be Kyrie.  He’s proven it on the biggest stage but are we sure it shouldn’t he Tatum?  Must be nice.

Sixers:  Who do the Sixers go to when they need a basket?  Embiid is obviously their guy but what about on nights he’s not feeling it?  Horford did an excellent job on Embiid last night (he always does).  They don’t have a single guy on that team, besides Embiid, that can create his own shot.  That worries me, especially come playoff time.  The Sixers bench is going to be awful this year (Reddick needs to start over Fultz).  Hopefully Wilson Chandler can provide some quality minutes when he returns from injury.

Markelle Fultz:  What the hell is wrong with him? It was painful to watch him out there last night.  It’s so obvious that he’s only comfortable shooting from one spot on the floor -the top of the key.  The Sixers can’t play Simmons and Fultz together; neither can shoot and it’s obvious the Sixers struggle with the two of them together on the court.  Fultz finished the night with a +/- of -16 last night, the worst on the team.  I’m officially worried about Markelle Fultz.

Kyrie Irving:  Kyrie finished with only 7 points last night, shooting 2-14 from the floor.  You can tell Kyrie was going through the motions last night.  We didn’t see his typical dribble – crossover finish at the cup once last night.  To be honest,  I didn’t even notice Kyrie out there last night.   I know that he’s played in big time games but its opening night.  He should be up for opening night, especially after a six month layoff.  It’s obviously an overreaction but Kyrie looked disinterested for most of the night.  Are we sure Kyrie is going to stay in Boston?

Jayson Tatum:  Mfer is a  superstar.  I’m going to say it, Tatum has a CHANCE to be a top three player in the league.

Jaylen Brown:  He didn’t dunk on Embiid – everyone calm down.

NBA Roundtable: 2019 Season Preview Edition

The NBA season is finally here!  Who will exceed expectations?  Who will fall short?  Who will win this years Finals?

Our “NBA experts” answer the big questions.

1. What are you looking forward to most this NBA season?

jimbby

Killian: Drama: Is drama not the best part to every NBA season? There is no team sport in which we believe we actually know the players more than the NBA. LeBron is in LA, Jimmy Butler is bullying his teammates, Golden State is trying to make a permanent stamp in history, and that is just surface level. The NBA has the greatest grasp on its fans, of course the NFL has more viewers but the engagement NBA twitter is second to none. It is the easiest to follow each storyline, with fans being the content generators.

Arnold: The trade deadline/blow it up teams.  Does Jimmy Butler make it to the trade deadline ( I hope so)?  Where does he end up?  Does Portland finally blow it up and break up their Lillard – CJ backcourt?  What about Washington?  Do they breakup their Wall – Beal backcourt?  Does Charlotte finally trade Kemba Walker?  Do the Lakers say “eff it” and trade their young pieces for a star at the deadline (Hello Lillard)?  What about Detroit?  They can’t ride with a Blake – Drummond duo right?  You know what’s fun?  A Blake Griffin for CJ or Lillard trade.  Or what about a Beal for Blake trade?  SO MANY FUN POSSIBILITIES.

Tom: This season will be dominated by the chaos in LA with Lebron and dynastic talks of Golden State, but what we all should be focusing on is the Eastern conference. The 76ers stayed pat this off-season while the Celtics got stronger with two starters from injury. The burgeoning rivalry in theEast between the Celtics and 76ers but sprinkling in the Raptors who just need to go all in and trade for another star. Will Kyrie stay with the Celtics? Did the 76ers mess up by not adding another star? Can Kawhi still play at an elite level?

Coach Red: Without question a Post LeBron Eastern Conference is what I can’t wait to see. There are so many grown men who have had their lives ruined or caveated due to LeBron and now that he is no longer in the Eastern Conference coaches like Dwane Casey, Brad Stevens and Tyron Lue have no excuse. Dwane Casey was for years stifled at the hands of LeBron led teams and while his situation has changed as he is no longer in Toronto there should be a quick turn around in the next few years up in Detroit. Brad Stevens now has the ability to out basketball opposing teams now that the best in the league is no longer impeding his path to the Finals. If the Celtics don’t make it to the Finals there will definitely be dissention in the Stevens fan boy section as to whether he is the chosen one who will bring balance to the league. And Lue, Lue like every other coach who started with LeBron James on his roster will have this year to prove whether or not he can actually be considered a good coach. Brown and Blatt failed miserably but Spoelstra proved he was legit and now it is time for Lue to do the same. Is he truly a savant with in game adjustments and X’s and O’s or was it all just a façade with LeBron doing all the work behind a little red curtain? We gon see!!


2. Which team will exceed expectations?

pgruss

Killian: I know I always sound like a homer, I will not say that they will make the playoffs but I believe the Cavs will beat their over/under by more games than  any team in the O/U range of 32-40. Not a smoking hot take in my opinion. They have experienced guys, that that experience winning. Of course, Bron not being there makes a massive difference (last time he left, they ended up with the #1 pick). I just believe that the shambles he left behind this time would kill the previous shambles.

Arnold: Toronto Raptors: Lebron is finally out of the Eastern Conference and no team is happier than the Raptors.  Toronto has won 50 plus games in three straight seasons and they just replaced Demar Derozan with Kawhi Leonard.  People  (including me) forget that Kawhi Leonard was a top-three player TWO years ago.  Toronto is DEEP, they have 10 guys that can give them quality minutes in the playoffs.  Most people are predicting a Sixers – Celtics ECF matchup.  I’m riding with the 6 and predicting a Celtics vs Raptors match-up  (Celtics in 7).  But don’t be surprised if you see Drake sitting court side at the 2019 NBA finals yelling at Kevin Durant.

Tom: The team most likely to exceed expectations will be the Washington Wiz… joking. The team will be the Thunder. Russ, PG13, Shroder, Roberson and Adams. OKC has the talent to play with anyone in the league. If Russ can keep himself from pounding the ball all game long OKC can make a jump. With a competent PG in Shroder playing beside him, Russ needs to play off of the ball. If Russ can control himself OKC can beat the Rockets and end the Golden State dynasty.

Coach Red: The Dallas Mavericks are going to be the team that catches everyone off guard. I think Vegas has them around 35 wins for the season and I think there is significant underestimation of their roster. Everyone is on board that the team will be fun to watch with Doncic and DSJ along with it being Dirk’s final year (most likely), but I believe with the versatility that we are going to be seeing from the way Carlisle uses Doncic at multiple positions to DSJ being used more off the ball as opposed to dribbling the leather off of it like last season they could easily finish in the top half of the Southwest.


3. Which team will fall short?

sixers

Killian: Sixers: Health will always be a question with this group of guys. Who is Fultz? There are too many questions with this team. I think that the Sixers fans believe this to be a 60 win team, but with health concerns, the loss of free agents, and the lack of additions, I can see things being delayed ANOTHER year.

Arnold: Philadelphia 76ers:  I just don’t trust that medical team.  Three (if you count Fultz) of their best players have suffered season ending injuries.  Embiid, Simmons, and Fultz all sat out their rookie year due to injury/who knows what.  And guess what, they just added another player in Zahier Smith to that list.  I just don’t trust or see Embiid/Simmons staying healthy enough.  Injures suck, hopefully Embiid and Simmons can stay healthy this year because I am officially done trusting the process.

Tom: By mid-season the Lakers will be floating around 20-18 and this is when Lebron will start having back-issues. He didn’t come to the Lakers to compete this season, but to see which young players were worth keeping until the Lakers go all in next season. Lebron will return to help salvage the Lakers season, but they will get bounced in the first round by OKC or the Rockets.

Coach Red: When looking at who isn’t going to live up to expectations I am definitely going with the Bucks. I am not sold on Giannis having the offensive tools to be a true superstar this year as it is till pretty clear that he does not have a jumper. Budenholzer can make the offense as pretty and up tempo as he wants but that isn’t going to change the fact that The Greek Freak is not a threat outside the paint, this man couldn’t hit the side of a house if he was in the family room. It is not hard to gameplan for a team whose biggest offensive threat needs to be inside the paint to be effective. The front office has done a weak sauce attempt to surround him with a collective perimeter threat to compliment his deficiencies and we will have another year in the books where we are saying “once he gets a jumpshot he will be unstoppable”. This is the year that more people jump off the Giannis MVP train and get a ticket on the Giannis Is a Solid #2 train.


4. One bold prediction:

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Killian: Trae Young will be ROY. He by no means has the most talent in the class, and we can probably say that he has the lowest floor of anyone in the lottery. He will be able to shoot whatever he wants (this may end up being a weapon against his campaign) and he will be the primary ball-handler, so he will get all of the counting stats. I would imagine he will have low efficiency, but he will put up numbers

Arnold: This will be the last year of the Golden State Warriors dynasty.  More to come in a future column….

Tom: Deandre Ayton will easily be a top 5 center this year and the unanimous rookie of the year. Follow me here name 5 better centers…. Ill give you Embiid, Towns, Jokic.. who is next? (Davis is a PF) Ayton doesn’t even have to have a good game and he is consistently getting double-doubles. Booker and Ayton are already the best Guard/Center combo in the league.

ayton

Deandre Ayton tearing up Pre-Season

Coach Red: This is a little far out on the calendar but I believe the Laker roster we see at the start of this season is going to be almost identical to the one we see at the start of next season. I think after a year in LA and making the playoffs as an 8th seed (best case scenario). LA falls short of many of the top free agents that they are hoping to sign in the offseason. LeBron is still the best player in the NBA but the appeal to play with him is a currency that has shown to be progressively diminishing. The guys around LeBron will get better over the course of the year but LeBron is going to find himself stuck in a legitimate rebuild as opposed to the “just wait till my homies get here” phase everyone believes them to be in.


5. You’re 2019 NBA Champions….

warrios

Killian:  Golden State: Do I want it? No. Am I rooting for it? No. But there is no one that believes they are remotely knowledgeable on the workings of the NBA can make any other pick. There is a world in which someone else wins the title, but please lead me to the person that is willing to bet a significant amount of money so I can drag the clown to the poor house.

Arnold: Golden State Warriors.  I know, it’s a boring pick but does anyone expect anything else?  They’ll sleep walk through the regular season/first round, coast through the second round, and wake up for the WCF vs Lebron and the Lakers.  The Finals will be close between the Warriors and Celtics but the Warriors experience will be too much for the young Celtics.    I’m going with the Warriors in six.  If it wasn’t for Draymond’s technical in 2016 the Warriors would be shooting for a five-peat…….a five–peat.  What the hell.  I can’t even spell my name right five times in a row.

Tom: OKC will win it all this year. Add Roberson, subtract Melo and a competent guard (Shroder). OKC and Russ will find a way to down his usage, make open shots off the ball and improve those around him. The Golden State dynasty will end when Boogie messes up the Warriors juju and Durant will go to the New York Knicks.

Coach Red: Golden State without question is going to win this year, the only real question is will they do it in 16 games. The Warriors have cultivated a system within their system which involves getting stars of varying levels to join their roster to keep things fresh as they roll to another championship. Warriors players have said it themselves, they’ve been there before and the feeling (while great) isn’t the same level of excitement and euphoria as it was the first time they won the title. Now what gets them going and prevents them from having a year where they look to be dreading the regular season like they have in the past is by living vicariously through the ringless stars that join their team. This year it is Cousins and while he brings a scary presence in the paint he also oddly enough gives the Warriors something to work towards as they have won so much the only way they can stay locked in is through the possibility of watching someone on their team get their first ring.