It’s a Love/Hate Relationship: Volume II

Posted by jbaumgartner on November 14th, 2012

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC columnist. His Love/Hate column will publish each week throughout the season. In this piece he’ll review the five things he loved and hated about the previous seven days of college basketball.

Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED… a lottery pick play. They’re some of my favorite moments every year – the two seconds that make you go, “Ohh, OhhhhhhWOWWW!” as a talented underclassman goes to a level you weren’t sure he had – and one that definitely translates to the next level. I ventured down to Chapel Hill for Sunday’s UNC-Florida Atlantic game, and soph sensation James Michael McAdoo provided that moment in the second half when he drove baseline, took off from under the hoop and floated all the way to the other side before stretching back and stuffing it home. The season is young, but he definitely looks like a player ready for the next level after blooming during the final weeks of last season. And I can barely wait to see him go head-to-head with Indiana’s Cody Zeller on November 27.

I LOVED… Duke doing what they do in the early season – using superior coaching and discipline to beat a much more talented Kentucky squad. It seems like Coach K specializes in this – he uses the early-season schedule to prey on the highly-skilled but less highly-disciplined youth that comes into college basketball every November. They might not beat those Wildcats in March, but they certainly outplayed them on Tuesday night.

I LOVED… John Calipari saying what we all were thinking on a nationally-televised halftime interview: “They’re (Duke) floppin’ all over the place.” Preach the truth, Cal.

I LOVED… feeling like college basketball was back on November 13. Sometimes it seems like it takes a few weeks to get going, but as soon as Duke-UK heated up in the second half, the energy was there. We had a high level of play early in the year, Dickie V simultaneously trying (successfully) to jump on both bandwagons in the span of one telecast, Blue Devils flying through the air horizontally despite no contact…. ah yes. It’s back.

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ACC Weekly Five: 09.17.12 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on September 17th, 2012

  1. Sports Illustrated: In minor news that is of little interest to anyone, Notre Dame will be joining the ACC as a full member in all sports but football, where it will remain an independent but still schedule five ACC teams each year. This is strong news for the conference on the basketball side of things as Notre Dame has been ready to contend in most recent years. Though it’s likely to be a year or two before the Fighting Irish fully join the conference, once they are here, they will be here to stay. The ACC also approved a new exit fee for schools looking to leave the conference and the price tag is a little north of $50 million. In other words, get comfortable, Florida State.
  2. Raleigh News & Observer: Somehow, the story is still about Notre Dame, even when it’s about North Carolina. In the wake of the internal audit that revealed inappropriately paid for personal trips by UNC’s chief fundraiser Matt Kupec, Tami Hansbrough has joined Kupec in resigning her position. The story is pretty simple: The two were romantically involved and used the university’s money to pay for trips to watch former Tar Heel and Tami’s son Tyler Hansbrough play a couple of NBA games, but mostly to pay for trips to watch Tami’s other son, Ben Hansbrough, play for Notre Dame. It’s unclear whether this news is better or worse now that the Fighting Irish are headed to the ACC, though it remains, undeniably, really stupid.
  3. Daily Press: When the ACC was taking submissions for conference tournament sites for the years 2016-21, they get at least one unusual candidate: Consol Energy Arena, located in Pittsburgh, a bit farther north than the tournament is customarily held. The ACC Tournament has never been held farther north than Landover, Maryland, but the home of the Pittsburgh Penguins is going to take a shot at getting it. With the conference’s center of gravity now gradually shifting north after the recent realignment additions, the possibility makes a good deal of sense, particularly to those not as enamored of the charms of Greensboro, North Carolina.
  4. CBS Sports: Sam Cassell, Jr., has been ruled ineligible to play college basketball this season, a disappointing conclusion for a Maryland team that had hoped to benefit from the services of the son of one of the ACC’s finest. Meanwhile, Sam Cassell, Sr., energetically ripped into the NCAA for, in his mind, unfairly punishing his son. Although the elder Cassell’s biases are obvious, he does have an interesting point regarding who the NCAA has the power to punish:

They do whatever they want. It doesn’t even do any good to fight it. The NCAA just wants kids to fail. It’s not these kids’ fault. The NCAA can’t penalize Notre Dame Prep, so they are squashing the kids’ dreams.

5. ESPN: Mark Gottfried’s recruiting continues to impress as the NC State Wolfpack secured the services of one of the best point guards in the entire 2013 class. Anthony “Cat” Barber signed on to wear red in Raleigh, and the Wolfpack just got a little scarier. Hopefully that will help ease the agony of the still-unresolved situation with Rodney Purvis.

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Who’s Got Next? Tony Parker Commits, Ripple Effect of Greenberg Firing

Posted by Josh Paunil on April 26th, 2012

Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Josh Paunil, the RTC recruiting guru. We encourage you to check out his website dedicated solely to college basketball recruiting, National Recruiting Spotlight, for more detailed recruiting information. Once a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to who the hot prospects are at the lower levels of the sport. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Lead Story: Tony Parker Joins Adams, Anderson and Muhammad at UCLA

Parker Choose UCLA Over Duke, Georgia And Ohio State. (Photo: Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Tony Parker Gives UCLA Top Recruiting Class.  Class of 2012 power forward Tony Parker committed to UCLA Monday over Duke, Georgia and Ohio State, joining point guard Kyle Anderson and small forwards Jordan Adams and Shabazz Muhammad in head coach Ben Howland’s stellar 2012 recruiting class. Parker brings a tremendous inside presence to Westwood and is someone who will be able to rebound as soon as he steps onto campus. He is an elite big man with a great skill set in the low post and has the ability to score through a variety of moves in the paint. He can make a hook over both shoulders and is able to play facing the basket, although he’s at his best with his back to the basket. The biggest knock on Parker has always been the same — that he’s out of shape and lacks stamina. However, the Georgia native has worked hard to dispel that notion and although he can still improve his conditioning, he’s definitely gotten better at running the court and has an improved motor. Once Parker gets to UCLA, he’ll join a crowded frontcourt that already includes sophomore power forwards David and Travis Wear and sophomore center Josh Smith. Every single person in the UCLA’s 2012 recruiting class worked hard on recruiting Parker and Adams even predicted back in December that the Bruins would land him. UCLA fans should remain cautiously optimistic, though, because as we’ve pointed out at RTC, having a highly ranked recruiting class doesn’t necessarily guarantee success, borne out by UCLA’s 2008 recruiting class. Although, there are some differences between this year’s recruiting class and the one four years ago.

What They’re Saying

  • Senior Marshall Wood on asking for a release from Virginia Tech: “I need to get my release so I can review all my options. If somebody gets the job at Tech that recruited me or something and I have a really good relationship with [him], I possibly could still go back. But right now I just want to get the release so I can have more options to look at.” Read the rest of this entry »
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Who’s Got Next? Gathers Commits, McDonald’s All-Americans Announced And More…

Posted by Josh Paunil on February 10th, 2012

Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Josh Paunil, the RTC recruiting guru. We encourage you to check out his website dedicated solely to college basketball recruiting, National Recruiting Spotlight, for more detailed recruiting information. Once a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to who the hot prospects are at the lower levels of the sport. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Lead Story: Ricardo Gathers Chooses Baylor — Big Get For Bears

Ricardo Gathers Is A Huge Get For Baylor Head Coach Scott Drew.

Top-50 Power Forward Gives Scott Drew A Top-Five Recruiting Class. Three months after backing off his commitment to St. John’s, Class of 2012 power forward Ricardo Gathers committed to Baylor, joining point guard L.J. Rose and centers Isaiah Austin and Chad Rykhoek. The Louisiana native is a terrific fit for Baylor because he’s a double-double machine who can get it done on both ends of the court. He was second in scoring during the Nike EYBL last summer, averaging over 20 points a game while leading the EYBL in rebounding with about 12 a contest. He also recorded 20.7 PPG, 16.2 RPG, 3.9 BPG and 2.3 APG as a junior en route to winning the 2011 Louisiana Gatorade Player of the Year award. An interesting story that has unfolded recently is that Gathers de-committed from St. John’s in the first place to give LSU a chance to land him. According to the player, Tigers’ head coach Trent Johnson didn’t recruit him very hard which turned him off to the program. With the new addition of Gathers, Baylor has a top-five recruiting class featuring two of the best big men in the country (between Gathers and Austin).

What They’re Saying

  • Senior Ricardo Gathers on committing to Baylor: “The coaching staff made me feel like I was a main priority, and with the signing class they have coming in, we have a really good chance of being a potential national champion. That was one of the biggest things for me.”

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Introducing the ACC Vault, Another Great Way to Idle Away Hours of Your Time

Posted by rtmsf on December 15th, 2010

Matt Patton is an RTC contributor.

Everyone has a first memory as a fan.  Mine came in 1997, the day before my seventh birthday.  I’m sure I went to college basketball games before this, but none of them stand out.  I was in first grade, headed to the ACC Tournament championship game.  The game was between N.C. State and North Carolina.  The Wolfpack were the electric underdogs, if you can call a team that runs a modified Princeton offense electric.  They were the eighth seed in a nine-team conference, having put away Georgia Tech, Maryland and top seeded Duke in the process. 

How Cool is This? (photo credit: SI.com)

My most vivid memories from the game were Ramses and Mr. Wuf (the mascots) getting into a fight ending with a one-horned sheep and a victorious wolf; N.C. State losing the game; and my younger brother switching his allegiances to the Tar Heels for the rest of the day much to the chagrin of my parents.   A surprisingly thick head of hair topped Herb Sendek’s head, as he led a team of overachievers to the conference championship game in his first year of coaching.  But the real history was held by the man coaching the Tar Heels.  I’m embarrassed to say this, but until yesterday I never knew that was Dean Smith’s last ACC game.  I had no idea. 

This game, along with dozens of “full-length, classic Tournament and regular season men’s basketball games from all 12 ACC member institutions,” is now available online at the ACC Vault.  You’ve likely seen the NCAA Vault (another must-visit site for any college hoops fan), and the ACC and Raycom Sports have followed suit.  The site features games from 1983 through the present with some really cool features that make the viewing process more user-friendly.  I’ll list some highlights for each school after the jump, but seriously, how cool is this?

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Boom Goes the Dynamite: 03.14.09

Posted by nvr1983 on March 14th, 2009

dynamiteWelcome back to the weekend edition of Boom Goes the Dynamite. First off I’d like to commend rtmsf for his strong work on yesterday’s BGtD. You guys really have no idea how exhausting it is doing a full day’s worth of this is and he managed to do it with only a short break although it almost caused me to give up working on the site after being forced to endure the American-Holy Cross game yesterday. As he outlined in his After the Buzzer post last night/this morning, there are 12 conference championship games today. For the sake of maintaining our sanity and having enough energy in the tank for our huge March Madness preview, we’ll be taking multiple shifts but we promise to coordinate it so you won’t miss anything during our handoffs.

6:00 AM: Yes. That’s actually the time I’m starting this thanks to a “short nap” that ended up going from 9 PM to 5 AM. Obviously my posts will be infrequent in the early morning hours, but I’ll be passing along some news and links to you before the games start at 11 AM. The New York Times has been stepping it up with their college sports blog “The Quad” recently and has an interesting post on Louisville‘s Terrence Williams and his pre-game ritual of the giving himself a pep talk during the national anthem. Before anybody thinks this might be a Chris Jackson Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf situation, it should be noted that Williams actually stands during the anthem and is supposedly talking about family members that he has lost and asking that everyone on the court avoids injuries. Of course, we can’t verify this, but if we have any lip-readers in our vast legion of RTC readers, we would love hear your take on this particularly if you have seen this is in person.

7:00 AM: Before I head out for a few minutes to take care of some errands like stocking up on groceries for the coming storm where I probably won’t leave my apartment for 3 weeks. I thought I would pass along one of my favorite things we are doing at RTC right now. We enlisted the help of our correspondents and got them to send us their favorite March memories. We narrowed down the submissions to the 16 best entries and are counting down to #1, which will be revealed on Wednesday (the day before the tournament starts). I’d encourage you to check out the entries we have so far and keep on coming back throughout the day to see what they selected as their favorite March memories and then chime in with your memories on those moments.

8:45 AM: Ok. False alarm on that grocery run. Apparently Costco doesn’t open until 9:30 so after this post I’ll be on a short break. So today’s RTC East breakfast is brought to you by Flour Bakery and consists of their Bobby Flay-slaying “Sticky Buns” and a twice-baked brioche. Here’s a quick run-down of the games (title game in red–there’s a lot of red) that I will be focusing on today:

Early Games

  • UMBC vs. Binghamton at 11 AM on ESPN2 for the America East title
  • Memphis vs. #3 Tulsa at 11:35 AM on CBS for the Conference USA title

Afternoon Games

  • Mississippi State vs. #16 LSU at 1 PM on ESPN2 and Raycom in the SEC semifinals
  • #6 Michigan State vs. Ohio State at 1:30 PM on CBS in the Big 10 semifinals
  • #1 UNC vs. #22 FSU at 1:30 PM on ESPN and Raycom in the ACC semifinals
  • Tennessee vs. Auburn at 3 PM on ESPN2 and Raycom in the SEC semifinals
  • Maryland vs. #8 Duke at 3:30 PM on ESPN and Raycom in the ACC semifinals
  • #25 Illinois vs. #24 Purdue at 4 PM on CBS in the Big 10 semifinals

Evening Games

  • #23 Arizona State vs. USC at 6 PM on CBS for the Pac-10 title
  • Baylor vs. #15 Missouri at 6 PM on ESPN for the Big 12 title
  • Temple vs. Duquesne at 6 PM on ESPN2 for the Atlantic 10 title

Late Night Games

  • San Diego State vs. Utah at 7 PM on Versus for the Moutain West title
  • Morgan State vs. Norfolk State at 7 PM on ESPNU for the MEAC title (Periodic score updates for this one)
  • Buffalo vs. Akron at 8 PM on ESPN2 for the MAC title
  • #5 Louisville vs. #20 Syracuse at 9 PM on ESPN for the Big East title
  • Jackson State vs. Alabama State at 9 PM on ESPNU for the SWAC title (Periodic score updates for this one)
  • Utah State vs. Nevada at 10 PM on ESPN2 for the WAC title
  • Cal State-Northridge vs. Pacific at 11:59 PM on ESPN2 for the Big West title (This one is questionable)

10:55 AM: Ok. I’m back from my extended Costco run and have enough food to last me through the week. A quick summary on the early games. In the America East, Binghamton is a 5-6 point favorite (depending on your gambling establishment of choice). Honestly, I’m surprised that they aren’t bigger favorites since they come in at 22-8 while UMBC comes in 15-16 and the game is at Binghamton. It could be interesting though as they split the season series in the regular season with Binghamton winning the last game of the regular season at home against UMBC 71-51. I’m guessing the America East commissioner is rooting for UMBC to avoid the embarrassment of the CBS announcers having to explain why the conference’s regular season leading scorer (D.J Rivera) was left off the all-conference team. In Conference USA, Memphis is a 14-point favorite against Tulsa. Memphis might be playing for a #1 seed even with their ridiculously easy schedule. We’re hoping this game is more like the first time they met (a 55-54 Memphis win) rather the last time they met (a 63-37 Memphis win). I have a sneaking suspicion that it is going to be more like the latter, but we’ll be following it anyways to get a last look at Memphis before CBS’s new Billy Packer rips the NCAA selection committee for putting them over a Big East team.

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NBA Finals Preview 2008

Posted by nvr1983 on June 5th, 2008

Well it’s the series everybody has been waiting for (ok, not rtmsf). I’ll try to limit my bias in this preview although all of my friends are well aware of the extent of my taunting. Honestly, they’re just happy there isn’t a potential Triple Crown (and eternal bragging rights) at stake here. Anyways, on to what might be the most hyped NBA Finals since 1991 when Michael Jordan formally took the throne away from Magic Johnson (and Larry Bird).

By now, you may have heard that the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers have a little bit of basketball history. Boston comes in sporting an amazing 16-3 record in NBA Finals, but no appearances since 1987 andno titles since 1986 (following that title they selected a forward out of Maryland named Len Bias). Meanwhile, LA comes in with a 9-13 record, but had a 3-peat from 2000-2002 and appeared in the 2004 Finals. However, as Rick Pitino said during his ignominious stint in Boston:

Despite all the hype ESPN has given (wonder who has broadcast rights) to the history of this rivalry–think hammer versus nail (sorry, I can’t help myself)–none of the players that led the franchises to their numerous titles will be walking through that door except for some guy named Kobe Bryant. So instead of focusing on the glorious past of this match-up, I’ll focus on the present and this season.

Head-to-head: Boston 2-0. The Celtics won a November matchup in Boston 107-94 and a December matchup in Los Angeles 110-91. As every talking head on TV has mentioned, Pau Gasol didn’t play in either game (before Chris Wallace and the Memphis Grizzlies gave the Lakers the Western Conference). I could go into a detailed analysis of what happened, but I’ll just give you the link to Henry Abbott’s excellent analysis of the earlier games.

Point Guard: Rajon Rondo vs. Derek Fischer. It seems like this match-up hasn’t been getting much press, but I think it could be the most pivotal of the series. This is definitely a young gun versus experience veteran type of match-up as Rondo is much more athletic than Fischer, but is more prone to making silly mistakes. Along with experience, Fischer has a big edge on Rondo in terms of shooting. With all the helpside defense that Kobe demands, Fischer will likely get a lot of shots. Advantage: Fischer. This match-up is closer than you might think because of Rondo’s athleticism and his surprising maturity. Unfortunately for Boston, Rondo is too inconsistent to give Boston the advantage at PG, but if he plays well he should be able to equal Fischer.

Shooting Guard: Ray Allen vs. Kobe Bryant. Somehow this turned into a rivalry soon after Shaq left LA and Ray Allen told the media that Kobe would go to to Mitch Kupchak in a few years and demand a trade (a few years later. . .). Later, Kobe said that he and Jesus Shuttlesworth shouldn’t be mentioned in the same sentence. Now, the two All-Stars are saying that there never really was a feud. Why do I bring this up? Well because even though these two play the same position, I can’t see them guarding each other much. LA might put Kobe on Allen particularly if he goes into another one of his funks, but Kobe roams too much and that’s a very bad idea against Allen even if he hasn’t been performing up to his standard. As for Allen guarding Kobe, even Doc Rivers isn’t that dumb. Kobe will see a steady diet of James Posey and occasionally Paul Pierce although Ray Allen will probably play some matador defense against him early in the game as Kobe will probably defer to his teammates early as he notes “I can get off any time I want” (insert Colorado hotel room joke here). Advantage: Kobe. This one isn’t even close. Allen has sort of become a wild card for the Celtics. Even when he’s on this position goes to Kobe and the Lakers, but if Allen can hit from the outside he can keep Boston in the series.

Small Forward: Paul Pierce vs. Vladimir Radmanovic. This might be the biggest mismatch of the series (not including the coaches). If they match up head-to-head, Pierce will dominate Vlad. As Shaq once said, “My name is Shaquille O’Neal and Paul Pierce is the motherfucking truth. Quote me on that and don’t take nothing out. I knew he could play, but I didn’t know he could play like this. Paul Pierce is the truth.” An Inglewood native, Pierce grew up idolizing Magic and the Showtime Lakers, but during his time in green, he has torched the Lakers for a career average of 27.9 PPG (his most against any team). My guess is that Kobe will be guarding Pierce in crunchtime. The rest of the time Vlad will try to stay in front of him. The key for LA is for Vlad to hit his 3s, which usually energizes the Hollywood crowd (if it’s after the 6 minute mark in the 2nd quarter when the crowd shows up) and will make Pierce or whoever is guarding him work. Advantage: Pierce. Big edge although this might turn into a Kobe vs. Pierce match-up, which Kobe would still win.

Power Forward: Kevin Garnett vs. Lamar Odom. This is the most interesting match-up of the series. Although Pierce is Boston’s go-to guy, KG is the heart-and-soul of the team. Usually he is able to dominate at the 4 because he is much more versatile than the opposing player. However, Odom’s unique skill set could theoretically pose a problem for KG especially with the amount of help defense he will have to play with Kobe and Gasol. Odom has the type of game that could limit KG’s ability to roam, but Odom is so inconsistent that it may not matter. Advantage: Garnett. If you look at the match-up on paper based on skills, it would be pretty close other than defense, which Odom doesn’t seem to care about most of the time. However, KG’s consistency and effort wins out over Odom’s tendency to space out (insert bong joke here).

Center: Kendrick Perkins vs. Pau Gasol. The Boston fans will really hate Chris Wallace by the time this series is over. Not only did he kill a few years of Paul Pierce’s prime by trading Joe Johnson for Rodney Rogers and Tony Delk (some blame falls on Paul Gaston, the Celtics owner at the time, who refused to resign either player), but he also gave the Lakers Gasol, who poses a tough match-up for Perkins. One of the 3 straight-to-pro starters this series (you probably know the other two) Perkins has grown a lot this year. Playing alongside KG has certainly helped during games, but perhaps more importantly off the court in practice and it shows in his improved performance. Unfortunately for Kendrick, Gasol is basically the worst match-up he could have. While Perkins is a hard-nosed defender with good strength, he isn’t particularly agile and the Lakers pick-and-roll with Kobe and Gasol could give Celtics fans nightmares over the next 2 weeks. Gasol will probably dominate this match-up unless Perkins can somehow turn this into a physical match-up. To limit the Lakers advantage, Perkins will have to try and dominate the glass as the Lakers don’t really have a great rebounder (Gasol can put up numbers, but isn’t going to get physical) while the Celtics have two (Perkins and Garnett). Advantage: Gasol. The Lakers have a clear advantage here as Gasol is one of the best centers in the league, but it’s closer than most people think. Perkins has had some big games in the playoffs and will need to do so in this series if the Celtics are to win #17.

Bench: James Posey, P.J. Brown, Eddie House, Leon Powe, Glen Davis, Tony Allen, & Sam Cassell vs. Luke Walton, Sasha Vujacic, Jordan Farmer, Ronny Turiaf, & Trevor Ariza. The Celtics will probably use Posey quite a bit on Kobe and Brown on Gasol as neither of the Celtic starters appear to match up particularly well. If Posey can focus on staying in front of Kobe and knock down 3s on kickouts, he could become an important facto in the series. Outside of Posey, Brown and House are the most likely to play key roles in this series. Brown primarily for his interior presence against Gasol and House to spot up for 3s assuming Doc notices Cassell couldn’t cut it in a YMCA league. Powe and Big Baby could also contribute in spots, but I have a feeling that Doc will yank around their minutes too much to give either a chance to contribute for more than a game or two. If Doc is smart, Allen and Cassell won’t take off their warm-ups as neither of them has contributed much this season. Meanwhile, the Lakers have a very strong bench. I’m pretty sure Walton would start on most teams in the league. He’s one of the rare players who can come into the game and make an immediate impact, which I attribute to Luke being one of the few players in the NBA who plays with his head instead of his body. Vujacic and Farmer have also proven to be valuable and will spell Fischer when Rondo starts to wear him out. Both of them can hit 3s, which will make them valuable when Kobe decides to drive. As for Turiaf, he’s not a great player, but he’s the only legit thing the Lakers have as a 4/5 backup. Advantage: Lakers. This may be the difference in the series even if Doc doesn’t screw up the rotations like he usually does.

Coaching: Phil Jackson vs. Doc Rivers. The Zen Master with 9 rings as a coach (tied with Red Auerbach) and 11 rings overall (tied with Bill Russell) versus the least stable rotation in basketball history. Advantage: Jackson. This is probably the biggest mismatch in Finals history. Even Ubuntu can’t save Doc in this one and it might cost the Celtics a shot at the title.

Prediction: Lakers in 6. If the Celtics play to their potential (that means you Ray), I think they can win, but he’s just been so inconsistent and the Lakers have been so dominant (in a better conference) that I just can’t pick them to win as much as it kills me if you haven’t caught my bias in the preview. I think LA and Boston will split the opening 2 games and Boston will come back to win 1 of 3 in LA before Kobe takes over in Game 6 and puts the Celtics away.

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NBA Playoffs – JV Conference Preview

Posted by nvr1983 on April 18th, 2008

It seems like the general consensus among NBA analysts is that this will be Boston vs. Detroit in the conference finals unless Lebron goes off for an entire series. I’m hoping to provide a little more insight than that with a preview of each opening round series and brief predictions of what I think will happen for the rest of the conference playoffs. I won’t expound upon the later rounds in great detail as I’ll probably mess up my first round picks making the subsequent previews meaningless.

First Round
#1 Boston vs. #8 Atlanta: This series looks like the biggest mismatch in the 1st round. Boston won all 3 games this year including the last when they sat the starters for the 4th quarter and still managed to win handily despite the fact that Atlanta actually needed the game to help get them into the playoffs. I don’t think there is any question that Boston will win the series easily. The only question I have seen by any analysts will be whether the Hawks will manage to win a game (most analysts don’t think they will). The more interesting thing is the individual match-ups:

PG: Rajon Rondo vs. Mike Bibby: This will be our first good look at Rondo against a quality PG in a playoff series. While Bibby isn’t the same player he was back around 2000 when he was the only Sacramento King who would take (and hit) big shots against the Lakers. It seemed like Bibby was ready to become a star at that point, but he never did. Rondo should have his hands full in this match-up individually, but the Celtics overall advantage is so great that it should actually serve as a great introduction to the playoffs for Rondo. If he struggles, the Celtics should be able to overcome it that night and if necessary they can always rely on Sam Cassell for short periods of time.

SG: Ray Allen vs. Joe Johnson: This match-upprobably has the most star power with 2 All-Stars battling. Johnson, who started his career in Boston before being traded during his rookie season, could give Allen a hard time throughout this series. If Atlanta is going to win a game, Johnson will have to dominate Allen for a night (along with Bibby winning his match-up against Rondo/Cassell).

SF: Paul Pierce vs. Josh Smith: Pierce is certainly the better player in this match-up (he deserves consideration for one of the All-NBA teams), but Smith’s length and athleticism make this an interesting match-up. Smith may also have to help on KG, who will be killing Marvin Williams.

PF: Kevin Garnett vs. Marvin Williams: To be honest, I haven’t seen Williams play much since his days at UNC. He seems to be putting up decent numbers, but this is a really bad match-up for him against Garnett, a MVP candidate. KG’s team playoff troubles and inability to hit the big shot has been well-documented, but that won’t come into play this series.

C: Kendrick Perkins vs. Al Horford: This is probably the only match-up that Atlanta has a decided advantage in with Horford, who will likely finish 2nd to Kevin Durant in ROY voting. Even though he is still the weak link in the starting line-up, Perkins has evolved into a decent NBA center, which might say more about the level of NBA centers in the league than it does about Kendrick’s game. I’m interested to see how Horford’s game has changed since he left Gainesville.

-Prediction: Celtics in 4. None of the games will be close.

#2 Detroit vs. #7 Philadelphia: The veteran Pistons team should win this series pretty easily in 4 or 5 games. The Pistons match-up well against the Sixers 2 best players (Andre Miller versus Chauncey Billups and Andre Igoudala versus Tayshaun Prince). The only real question is how intense the Pistons will be as they have a tendency to take games off even in the playoffs.

-Prediction: Detroit in 5. Philadelphia has a surprisingly tough team, but Detroit is too good to blow this series especially since the Sixers don’t have a Lebron-type player to win the series by himself.

#3 Orlando vs. #6 Toronto: Although the NBA experts have been ripping the Eastern Conference first round match-ups, I have to say that this series and the Cleveland-Washington series could be very interesting. Dwight Howard and Chris Bosh are obviously the marquee stars here, but both teams have good players at the other positions. It will be interesting to see which of the other players (Rashard Lewis, Hedo Turkoglu, Jameer Nelson, T.J. Ford, Jose Calderon, and Rasho Nesterovic) in this series step up and make themselves household names (outside of basketball junkie circles).

-Prediction: Toronto in 6. In such a close series, I’m tempted to go with the home-court. However, in this case I’m going with the relative experience of the Raptors to win a couple of the close games and close out the series in Toronto.

#4 Cleveland vs. #5 Washington: It appears like this is the only first round series in the Eastern Conference that the mainstream media cares about. It seems like the media is focusing on the Wizards (DeShawn Stevenson and Gilbert Arenas) calling out Lebron. However, there are a bunch of other interesting things about this series: (1) Can Washington finally beat Cleveland having lost to them the last 2 years in first round? (2) Can Agent Zero control his ego enough to play a supporting role? (3) Can Lebron win another series with a horrible supporting cast? Our answers: No. No. Yes.

Prediction: Cleveland in 7. I think that Washington is the better team, but Cleveland has Lebron. Ever since the Detroit series it appears that Lebron has decided to start taking over games (not counting the Finals last year that nobody watched). In the end, it will be Lebron (and David Stern’s refs) pushing the Cavs into the 2nd round.

I’ll make longer posts for the later rounds when the match-ups are set. For now, I’ll just stick with predictions.

Second Round
#1 Boston vs. #4 Cleveland: Celtics in 5.
#2 Detroit vs. #6 Toronto: Detroit in 6.

Conference Finals
#1 Boston vs. #2 Detroit: Celtics in 7.

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