Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Jahlil Okafor/Myles Jones: The New Image of Duke Athletics

Freshman big-man Kahlil Okafor (photo via Zimbio)
Jahlil Okafor was my winner of the player of the year (not to take away anything from or discredit Frank "The Tank" Kaminsky). While him and Frank were probably the final two candidates for the award, their numbers were quite similar and Kaminsky may have gotten the edge being he is a senior. Okafor held a slight edge in steals, blocks, rebounds, and field goal percentage (although Okafor not a 3-pt shooter like Frank) per game while Kaminsky in points and assists per game.

But this post isn't necessarily about Duke Basketball specifically, but more Duke athletics as a whole. Growing up when I thought of Duke sports I'd think of JJ Redick, Christian Laettner, Matt Danowski,  Zack Greer. Of course the first two being basketball players and the latter two being lacrosse players as those sports are probably the two most successful programs at the university.

All 4 of those players were elite players who scored through discipline and fundamentals. All 4 had their "haters" on a national scale. And all 4 were white.

Junior star Myles Jones (photo via sportsmancave)
But today, it's two new players who are the face of Duke athletics: Jahlil Okafor on the basketball side. Myles Jones on the lacrosse side. Both likable guys, both physically dominant, both considered the big man on the field, both wear #15, both wear the left leg sleeve. Both national champions. Both african-americans.

Jahlil Okafor will most likely go pro this summer but take a moment to appreciate these two great athletes who are the current faces of Duke athletics. They're raw athletes who use their strength to straight up ball at their level. Now that's not a line were accustomed too with Duke sports.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

2014-2015 UConn Men's Basketball (Condensed) Season Review

Thanks Ryan Boatright for a great 4 years! (photo via cbssports.com)
          With yesterday's disgusting loss to ASU (at Gampel) in the first round of the NIT, the season is officially over for the UConn men. They'll finish with an overall record of 20-15 (10-8 in the American). It was a season of ups and downs marked by injury, inconsistent play, and heartbreaking corner 3's from the opposition. 
          Ryan Boatright graduates in the spring and was the star of this years squad. He averaged 17 points, 4 assists, 4 rebounds, and a steal a game this year shooting 85% at the line, 41% from three, and 42% from the floor following in the footsteps of UConn's dominant point guards. He'll enter his name in the 2015 draft where I think a team will take a chance on his size somewhere in the mid-late second round range. Also graduating are Pat Lenehan, Dan Guest, and Terrance Ditimi who all saw minimal minutes. 
          So in many respects besides the loss of Boatright next years team is returning quite a bit, but if UConn wants to get back to the tournament they'll need to get bigger, faster, stronger in the offseason. 

An Emphasis on Bigger

          Daniel Hamilton is listed at 6'7, 190 on the schools website. If he can add a good 5-15 pounds on him in the offseason then he could be a a real presence for the Huskies heading into next season in regards to driving and defensive play. Kentan Facey, listed at 6'9, 206, averaged just over 5 rebounds per game (in just over 20 minutes per game) and is another guy would benefit from adding 5-15 lbs and becoming a force down low.

An Emphasis on Faster

          Terrance Samuel is more of a defensive player but in certain situations this year he was asked to be the Huskies primary ball handler. He did an average job, at best, but every now and then he was good for a drive in the lane that ended with a nice looking layup. If Samuel can develop his speed, more specifically his quickness, he could add a nice offensive game to his repertoire which would raise his stock immensely. 

An Emphasis on Stronger

          Amida Brimah is listed at 7'0, 230 on UConn's website. Not only have I seen him play but I've sat next to him in math discussion and he is not 230. He's no more than 215. But weight is not necessarily my issue with Amida. It's his strength. While he was a superb shot blocker, he only averaged 4.4 rebounds a game partly because of his lack of frame/beef. If he can add some weight and get stronger this offseason and become a 6 or 7 boards a game type of guy, then we don't even need Diamond Stone...(but we'll still take him) 

          Rak "The Rock" Lubin and Rodney "Ferrari" Purvis showed promise down the stretch and a healthy Omar Calhoun and Sam Cassell Jr. combined with incoming frosh Jalen Adams and Steve Enoch could make for this Husky team to be right back at 23 wins next season.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

2015 Bracketology

Midwest and East Picks
          I don't have anything to crazy in the Midwest. I like #9 Purdue over #8 Cincinnati which isn't too much of an upset. As a(n)? UConn fan I've followed the American conference quite closely and Cincy is nothing special this year. Let's face it, whoever comes out of this game is losing in the next round anyways...
          The WVU vs. Buffalo and MD vs. Valparaiso games are two games I'll be watching closely. Although I don't have the upset in either game the buzz is certainly there for one.
          I have Texas over Butler which again isn't too crazy of an upset considering the roster talent and schedule that UT has/has played.
          No upsets in the second round but the Wichita vs. Kansas game could be a good one considering it's a battle of Kansas teams and Kansas hasn't looked great this year. 
          I have UK vs. ND in the regional final here, and ultimately UK winning the region. With that being said, keep an eye on the possible second round match up of Kentucky vs. Maryland...

          #5 UNI vs. #12 Wyoming is another game getting the "upset-buzz" but I don't buy it. UNI has lost 3 games all season and Wyoming has lost 7 games just in the Mountain West.
          I like Providence in the Sweet 16 because I'm a fan of the Kenton/Dunn guard duo and also not a fan of an Oklahoma team whom have I watched and think are very overrated, and have been since they had the Griffins in the post.
          I find UVA overrated as well despite their 29-3 record this year. I think they'll lose in the 2nd round to MSU who I think is a team that is getting hot at the right time after taking Wisconsin to OT in the Big 10 Championship game. Head coach Tom Izzo is a guy who's got the experience and knowledge to get this team to the Final 4 which I think he does in 2015.
          For MSU to get there they'll have to get by Louisville who would have to get by Villanova. I don't like 'Nova because they are never a team that goes far and have no real studs this year and I'm a fan of Louisville's big men. But ultimately I think Dawson, Valentine, Trice, and Forbes will be too much for Pitino and Louisville in the regional final.

West and South Picks
          A couple interesting ones in the West region. First, I like another #9 over #8 in Oregon over OSU. I'm a big fan over the Ducks' Joseph Young and Dwayne Benjamin who I think get the job done against the Cowboys.
          Arkansas vs. Wofford and UNC vs. Harvard will be two more good games to watch. I really like Arkansas coming out of these 4 teams only because I'm not sold on UNC this year who much like Kansas have been inconsistent on a week to week basis.
          Continuing down the West region my upset picks start to come out. First, I like BYU beating Ole Miss in the play-in game and then winning 2 more games en route to a Sweet 16 appearance. I love the Cougars Tyler Haws (22 points per game) and Kyle Collinsworth (14 point per game and 9 rebounds per game).
          I have Georgia State knocking off the Bears. Baylor is another #3 seed that I think is overrated as this certainly isn't the Bears most talented roster in the past few years. Georgia State however is a physical team that can match up and has some key stars in R.J. Hunter (20 points per game, also the coaches son), Kentucky-transfer Ryan Harrow (19 points per game and 4 assists per game), and Louisville-transfer Kevin Ware (8 points per game, remember the broken leg story for the Cardinals in '13?). Health is a question surrouding this Panther team but if healthy they have the talent to turn some heads.
          I like OSU over VCU only because I love the game of OSU freshman PG D'Angelo Russell who is a college version of Russell Westbrook in my eyes. This one hurts because VCU head coach Shaka Smart is a guy I have a lot of respect for. VCU star Briante Weber being out for the season really hurts them in this match up.
          No real surprises up to the regional final but it's their where I have #2 Arizona knocking off #1 Wisconsin. I think Arizona coach Sean Miller tags up Kaminsky and then the athleticism of UA takes over.

          I like SJU shot blocking ability to thrust them over SDSU in another #9 over #8.
          I like the Utes advancing to the Sweet 16 behind swingman Delon Wright (15 points per game, 5 assists per game).
          I have #13 EWU over #4 Georgetown who I think is another overrated team because of inconsistency. EWU is #3 in the country in points per game lead by sophomore guard Tyler Harvey (23 points per game).
          Continuing down I have #11 UCLA over #6 SMU. Not because SMU just knocked out my Huskies, well yeah that's exactly it. At least one Hamilton will beat the Mustangs when it counts.
          I have another #10 over #7 in Davidson over Iowa but there's not much factual logic behind this one. Steph Curry (Davidson alum) is an MVP canditade for the Warriors and since when is Iowa good at basketball?
          I have Duke over Gonzaga in regional final because Okafor > Wiltjer

Final Four
          I've ultimately got Kentucky over Duke in the Final. I know it's not exciting in the sense that it's two #1 seeds but this would be a very exciting game between two legendary programs. I like Kentucky in a close one because of their experience in the sense that they were here last year. While perfection is tough in any sport, if my Lady Huskies can do it on the womens side, this Wildcat team is capable of doing it on the men's side.

Of note: I like Manhattan, Dayton, BYU, and Robert Morris in the play-in games