Friday, March 30, 2007

'88 Jayhawks need some love

Why does the 1988 NCAA title game get no love? I've wondered this question for awhile (and since it's Final 4 time, I thought this topic was appropriate). The '88 game between Kansas & Oklahoma gets lost in the shuffle, and never gets nearly the constant rehashing that NC State/Houston or Nova/GTown get. The aura surrounding the '85 game has been blown out of proportion while the Kansas upset has been woefully underappreciated in comparsion.

I think the '85 title game is a tad overrated. GTown & Nova were from the same conference and saw each other 2 times during the year. Also, there was no shot clock at the time (which is always an advantage an inferior team can exploit). And Villanova was renowned for their deliberate pace, so having to play this style in the title game was not a difficult adjustment for Rollie's bunch. Villanova also liked to play a matchup zone which was enhanced by the fact that there was no 3pt. line in '85, and a zone or sagging man was a smart move when going vs. Ewing.

Matter of fact, in 'Nova's 2 reg. season games vs. the Hoyas they only lost by an average of 4.5 ppg -- a 2-point loss in OT in Philly, & a 7-point loss in DC. St. John's & Syracuse were the only teams to beat the Hoyas in the reg. season (Redmen by 1, Cuse by 2), but every other time that they played the Hoyas (twice for Cuse, thrice for the Redmen), they got pounded. Basically, Nova played the Hoyas closer than any Big East team in '85. Nova kept both games in the 50s with their slow-down pace.

The '88 game shared a lot in common with the '85 game. Can't quite remember the point spreads for either game, but I clearly remember that the Sooners were a huge favorite similar to GTown. Kansas was a 6-seed to Nova's 8-seed, and both Oklahoma & GTown were 1-seeds. No doubt GTown '85 was a better team than the '88 Sooners, but I really feel the '85 Villanova's squad was better as a whole than the '88 Jayhawks. The Wildcats had 4 very good college players in Ed Pinckney, Gary McLain, Dwayne McClain, & Harold Pressley. Pinckney & Pressley turned into servicable pros. This Nova team was better than they get credit for; their ability definitely gets played down to help build up the David/Goliath storyline.

Kansas was playing a conference foe who had beaten them twice in the regular season by 8 points each time. Oklahoma was the Big 8 reg. season & tourney champ, and was one of the best teams in the country (Similar to GTown/Nova). Oklahoma was 30-3 entering the tourney while Kansas was 21-11 (GTown was 30-2 & Nova 19-10 in '85).

The final was a foregone conclusion where basically everyone expected the Sooners to pound the Jayhawks; again sounds familiar to '85. The Sooners had one of the best starting fives in the country with Ricky Grace, Mookie Blaylock, Doug Seiger, Harvey Grant & Stacey King. While the Jayhawks were basically Manning. Well, I guess current Portland GM Kevin Pritchard was a solid college PG & swingman Milt Newton was nice, but after that there was nothing. Really. Nothing.

Granted, Manning was the best player on the floor (and in the country), and he came up huge in the title game with 31, 18 rbs, & 5 stls. Also, the Jayhawks had a sizzling 1st half where they scored 50 points & shot 70%, somewhat similar to Villanova's near perfect 2nd half shooting. The Jayhawks were not quite as deadly from the field for the game as Villanova's 79%, but Kansas' 64% wasn't too shabby. Everyone praises Larry Brown for job in '04 with the Pistons, but his job in '88 might have been his most impressive job of his career.

Villanova's upset is not as miraculous as it seems. Still quite impressive--they did happen to beat one of the best teams of the 80s. But the absence of the shot clock & 3pt. line sure made things easier for an upset, and Villanova had perfected a deliberate style & matchup zone all season. NC State in '83 did a similar thing where they did a tremendous job milking the clock. I just feel that the '88 Kansas upset needs to be held in a similar regard as the NC State & Villanova upsets. Maybe not quite as classic of an upset but pretty close.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

NBA Athletes-in-Action

Happened upon this wonderful set of photos of past & present NBA ballers getting their swerve on off the court (thanks to Free Darko for the find).

One jarring trend of this group of photos is the inordinate amount of pics of back-up centers. I think the photog has an unhealthy fascination with 7-footers who can only handle limited minutes. Or maybe it's just the ubiquitous nature of the back-up bigs. I remember when living in a NBA city for a few years that most of my public sightings of NBAers heavily consisted of just the back-up bigs--I'm not kidding.

Anyways, a few of my favorites from the 100+ photos of NBA athletes-in-action:

1) Is that Gerald Wallace or Charlie Murphy in the first pic? Actually with that suit more like Buck Nasty from the Playa Haters Ball.

2) Pau looking rather Euro-Trashy. I believe this is from the Versace Spring '06 Wifebeater collection.

3) According to the tagline on Flickr, it says this is Glen Rice. Sorry, but I'm 95% sure that's not Glen.

4) I see Cherokee is taking after his sister and joining the rock world. It looks like he went the sensitive emo/new wave route instead of the fire-breathing, free-for-all sleaze rock way of his sister.

5) JJ found himself a nice wholesome Duke co-ed. I'm guessing her name is Hannah, she's from Bergen County and she picked up JJ in her Saab (gift from Daddy), since he wouldn't drink & drive.

6) Rico Suave! Francisco Garcia pulling the best talent from this group of photos.

7) Odd juxtaposition: wifebeater paired with what looks to be a cosmo or appletini. Devin Harris somehow makes it work.

8) Had to do a double take on this one. Really thought this was White Chocolate for a second, but it's just Lil' Travie Diener up past his bedtime doing his best JWill impression.

9) Chris Duhon shaking the moneymaker. I believe this is step #8 in Coach K's formula for building a winning organizaton/team in business or sports.

10) Wow, didn't know JTerry was this popular with the over-processed, guido-tastic set. Figured they would be more into Wally.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

NCAA 2nd Round-up

-Wazzu blew the game vs. Vandy. They did it by bad turnovers and some poor shot selection down the stretch--two things that you don't equate with this year's Wash. St. squad. Especially Kyle Weaver made some terrible decisions late (7 TOs overall) & Taylor Rochestie, their savvy guard, made some very uncharacteristic mistakes late. I think the key that made this year's Wazzu team so much more than the sum of their parts was their ability to minimize mistakes & execute precisely. Also, Bennett should have called a timeout in the 2nd OT before Rochestie's ill-advised 3pt, a rare mistake by Tony as well.

-Let's say I'm not surprised by USC. I have been big on USC since the start of the year and they were my sleeper pick since the pre-season as a team that could do damage. They did not upset Texas either. Many people are pointing to what Texas did not do right, but the simple fact is USC is a better team overall & are one of the best defensive clubs in the country (Sorry, Sports Guy). They have one of the best backcourts in the country, and Taj Gibson is as underrated as a post player in the country. Again, PAC-10 teams having to work harder to impress pundits who don't want to stay up late or watch Fox Sport.

-Even though I'm a big backer of USC, I really can't see them getting past UNC. USC's major weakness is on the frontline. Basically, their only player of subsatnce is Taj Gibson, really he's it. Brandon Wright can neutralize his effort, but that still leaves no one to contend with Hansborough.

-I said Nick Young was probably the most underrated player/draft prospect in my preview & he made me look real good this weekend. He's a great athlete with long arms who's got a nice stroke (he's been shooting great this year). He's a nice ball-handler with the ability to create space for himself in the mid-range--a talent that very few players have currently in the NCAAs. His nice footwork allows him to showcase a nice turnaround fadeaway jumper. This guy should have been a 1st round prospect all year, not sure why some mocks had him so low all year, especially while overrating Dom James, a guy I thought Young was better than all year.

-My upset special of Long Beach over Tenn, let's say I was off; a lot off. Long Beach tried to up the pace with the Vols, and in general, that's not a good formula for an inferior opponent to do. Although, Winthrop & VCU came thru, but then again I thought (like many people) they were easy upset picks.

-I mentioned in my preview that Oregon should get to the final 8 because I felt Wisconsin was the weakest 2-seed, and the Badgers definitely made me look smart. They were lucky to get a win vs. Corpus Doug Christi. But UNLV is better than I realized, and could make the Ducks advancing to the next round a rough road.

- If the over/under on the Pitt-UCLA is 85, I think I'm taking the under.

-When I saw the Oden foul live I definitely thought an intentional was in order. But after watching the replay, Oden did seem to be reaching for the ball, and had a hand on the ball before pushing Xavier's Cage into the basket. I think it makes the call more borderline than blalant, and when it's borderline at that time of the game, the refs should swallow the whistle, like they did.

Monday, March 19, 2007

National Champions!

Well, my alma mater, Amherst, did it this weekend, winning the Division III National Championship after controlling the championship game from start to finish on Saturday, defeating the defending champs, Virginia Wesleyan, 80-67.

I'm thrilled that we've entered the broadband era, which allowed me to watch the last four games of the run either via live webcast or on CSTV from across the country.

It was fun to watch: the guys played with a lot of teamwork on both ends and had great balance - five guys in double figures in the championship game - though the clear leader was point guard Andrew Olson, a Steve Nash for the D-3 game.

Congratulations to the guys and to Coach Hixon for the crowning achievement in his long career.

I am waiting (impatiently) for the guys at to update their bracket game to see just how high I climbed after my homer pick of Amherst to win it all came through.

Have I mentioned that we have three starters coming back, including Olson... oh, alright, that's a wrap on the D-3 updates for this year... back to the big boys.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

NCAA Roundup (Thurs. Primetime session)

-Thank you, Eric Maynor. You pretty much single-handedly salvaged one of the most unappealing days in NCAA tourney history. I guess I should not only thank Mr. Maynor, but the whole VCU squad & their young coaching stud, Anthony Grant, who put together an inspiring effort. I picked VCU in my preview because I felt they had the athletes to overwhelm Duke, and to me that was the difference. They put their athletic advantage to great use in a non-stop torrent of pressure defense which gave Paulus & Co. fits all game. It was sort of strange to see Paulus' strong numbers at the end of the game, because I don't think they were indicative of how overwhelmed he looked on both ends, especially how Maynor outplayed him.

-How bout how Maynor took over the game at the end like he did vs. George Mason. I loved how he waved off his teammates on the last play, and calmly took his time bringing the ball up the court where he knew he could abuse Paulus or Scheyer off the dribble. I actually felt he was taking way too much time bringing the ball up, and was yelling at the TV for him to hurry up, but Maynor knew exactly what he was doing. Just wish Raft was doing the game, we would have heard "ONIONS" a lot.

-The only other game of note during the night session, and the only other tight game of the day, was Xavier-BYU. I had Xavier in this game pretty much for the simple fact that they were playing across the river from Cincy. Drew Lavender hit some tough shots down the stretch to save Xavier's season. And now onto a battle for the state of Ohio in round 2 vs. the Buckeyes.

-Two games I thought would be closer were the Weber-UCLA & Pitt-Wright St. I felt Weber & Wright. St could stay close to UCLA & Pitt because of their conservative styles of play, but Weber never was a threat, and Wright St. was close but let the game get away right before the half.

-One of the more disappointing teams of the day was Gonzaga. I had them over Indy, but they could not generate any consistency whatsoever on offense. On top of that, they must of missed 6-8 point blank shots thru-out the game, with Kuso being the main culprit. And it wasn't like Indy was all that great on offense either, it was just a very difficult game to watch with combined poor play. Even without Heytvelt, the Zags had enough talent to compete better than this. The Zags might had a worse showing than Stanford today: consider the Zags got to stay on the West Coast, and the Cardinal had to play a
12:30 game in the Eastern Time Zone vs. a team playing an hour from home.

-Really like the Friday afternoon slate of games. The only game that doesn't interest me is the Wisconsin-Corpus Christi tilt. I think all the other 12:30 & 2:40 games have the goods to be competitive, I even think N. Texas might put a scare in Memphis, just a feeling. Also, my upset special of the tourney is at 2:30 with Long Beach playing Tenn.

-I would love for Albany to beat Virginia. But even though I think the Cavs are not as good as their 4-seed, I think Albany is not as good as their 13-seed, and they really don't have much outside Jameer Wilson is terms of scoring ability. Although, I do like their young coach, Will Brown, to possibly make this game closer than Virg would like.

Draft Watch:
1) Eric Maynor is surely rocketing up many GMs & scouts draft boards with his play the last 2 weeks. Only seen him play a few games, but I have been real impressed so far. He reminds a lot of GP, but with shades of Chauncey thrown in. He sort of moves like Billups & even sort of resembles him in the face. And most importantly, he seems to ooze confidence & calmness like Billups. The kid is cool as ice. His body & defensive prowess remind me of Payton. Where else he reminds me of GP-- his shaky outside shot. This is definitely the sorespot in his game, and the mechanics on his shot need some tweaking. He does though have a knack for hitting floaters in the lane, which is nice. But what stands out about Maynor's numbers is his stellar 3:1 asst/to ratio. He led the Colonial in assists with 6.3 and he also did a nice job rebounding from the PG spot, similar to GP. Where I was slightly surprised was his steals numbers--only 1.2 per. I would have figured it to be higher, but he's still a nice ball-hawk on defense. Still want to watch him a few more games before I declare him a 1st round talent, but the small sample size so far has been encouraging.

2) Josh McRoberts sticks around the lower lottery slots because of his nice physical attributes. He is a legit 6-10 with a long wingspan, and nice athleticism. The other thing that makes him special is his great ball-handling & passing ability. The issue I have, is with his tenacity. Duke needed McRoberts to step up too many times to count this year, and it seemed to me McRoberts more often than not did not play up to his full potential.

3) Derek Raivio is probably a longshot to make the NBA, but I think he might have a chance at a second round selection. Obviously his physical specs are not great: he's not very big, and his lateral quickness will make him a huge defensive liability. But his straight-ahead speed on the dribble is underrated and his handle is very good & he does show good passing skills. To me what makes him 2nd round caliber, is his shooting. Not just that he is a good shooter, it's his hair-trigger release which could be effective vs. the bigger guards he would be facing in the NBA.

(I'll deal with draft prospects on Ohio St., UNC, UCLA, & Pitt later.)

NCAA roundup (Afternoon session)

-Pretty uninspiring early session pack of games. Not surprised with how well Davidson competed, the same goes for Penn. Although, I thought Stanford would bring more to the table, but then again, they were given a tough draw by having to play L'Ville in Kentucky, and not to mention were given the 12:30 time slot which is not fun for a West Coast team.

-Wanted to mention them in my tourney preview musings (but I felt I already gave enough love to the PAC-10), but Wazzu is legit. I felt this way before the tourney after watching them in the Pac-10 tourney. I was probably much like the rest of the pundits in feeling dubious of Wash. State's success, but seeing how they performed in a playoff-type setting in the Staples Center, I became a believer. Tony Bennett totally deserves his Coach-o-Year accolades not for only having his squad overachieve, but for putting such a well-schooled team on the floor. This team just rarely makes mistakes on either end of the floor. Sounds cliche, but they are the epitome of playing within themselves & not trying to force things. Well-known that they are great defensively, but also don't turn the ball over much--only 10.3 TOs per. This has a lot to do with their heady guard tandem of Taylor Rochestie & Low. Low gets most of the pub, but Rochestie might be just as important with the way he shoots & just generally makes sound decisions with the ball. Another underrated player is Robbie Cowgill: nothing spectactular, but a tireless defender & ultimate role player. Don't forget about their all-everything player, Kyle Weaver. He's the one legit NBA prospect on the team, who's length makes him a terror on the defensive end.

-One more thing about Tony Bennett & Wazzu--I believe they are something like 9-2 this year after trailing at the half. That to me is a sign of a good coach. To me, it means he is either making good technical adjustments in the locker room or he is doing a good job motivating his troops, or it could be a combo of both.

-Even though Belmont eventually got blown out by GTown, I thought they did a solid job on defense. And their defense was mostly of the zone variety. No-brainer. If you visited this site before, you know I'm a huge proponent of throwing copious amounts of zone or sagging man vs. teams that run Princeton-type sets, also the same vs. flex sets. Make them prove they can hit their outside shots before you even consider playing a man2man. An even if they hit some jumpers, you have to be willing to stick with the zone because even if their hitting shots, a zone doesn't allow the offense to get much rhtyhm, which is key for Princeton-type teams. Prime example: last year's West Virginia team was loaded with great shooters and were a team that was a team you look at on paper and would not want to zone. But they were even deadlier vs. a man because of their flawless execution of their variation on Princeton. They would get so much rhtyhm & continuity from possession-to-possession vs. a man. But Syracuse was successful last year at home vs. West Virginia because their 2-3 totally stymied any rhythm from the Mountaineers. And even though WVa hit a fair amount of jumpers (I think Pittsnogle hit 5-6 3pts), they could not build any type of consistency possession-to-possession vs. the zone.

-Draft watch:
1) Acie Law is a definite 1st rounder, and possibly the best PG on the board. Some people worry about his quickness, but I think he's fine in that department. Instead, I worry a little if he is a true point. But the way the NBA is going with more shoot-first type points flourishing, Law might be ok; reminds me of Nick Van Exel. He's got a sick crossover.

2) Jeff Green is nice. Some mocks have Corey Brewer higher than Green, and I have to disagree with them. I'll take Green before Corey. Green is a better shooter than Brewer, and has a more proven mid-range game. While both guys are solid rebounders for SFs, Green averages 6 per to Brewer's 4.5. The only case you can make for Brewer is he might be a little bit better on the defensive end. Also, love Green's high b-ball IQ.

3) Roy Hibbert has improved his game over the course of the year, but still not that enamoured with him. Granted, he is 7-2 and has some decent moves on offense. He still doesn't have great movement and does not generate great momentum at the rim; had trouble finishing off easy shots today. Also, he is not much of a rebounder for a guy his size in college. Hey, he's still a definite 1st rounder, I am just not sure he will ever be a consistent starter in the NBA. So maybe I don't want to take him in the first 15 picks.

4) E. Ibekwe (Maryland) is a sleeper pick I've like since watching him in the Worlds this summer. Did a great job crashing the boards & finishing with authority for Nigeria. He's 6-9, a tremedous athlete who rebounds well and is a great shot-blocker. You're not talking about a starter at the next level, but hopefully someone who can be a nice hybrid forward off the bench in the vain of Stromile or Hakim Warrick. Needs some weight and has very little in the way of offensive skills, but could be a nice energy guy who can finish on the break & off of offensive boards in the half-court. Consider him in the early 2nd round, maybe even very late 1st.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Amateur Hour

Here at the Painted Area we focus most of our energy covering the big boys who play-for-pay. But now it's the time of the year where we give some love to the guys who play for free--well, maybe not at Memphis or Louisville--but you get the idea.

It's March, and once again the NCAAs' tractor-beam has sucked The Painted Area in with the best format in all sports. In my mind, few days on the yearly calender are better than the opening Thursday & Friday of the tourney. The 4x4 set-up of games is hard to beat (Well, it's not quite always 4 games x 4 time slots, because sometimes you get that 5pm EST West Coast game, but close enough). Granted, the sheer quality of basketball of the NBA playoffs can't be touched, but the excitement that the tourney can churn in the first 2 rounds is hard to beat. Below are some bullet-point early musings about the dance:

--The one 1st round upset I feel good about picking is Long Beach St. over Tennessee. Long Beach is a senior-laden team with some good athletes and are led by a Aaron Nixon, a guard with great post-up ability. Tenn was nearly upset by Winthrop last year and I just that impressed with SEC this year outside of Florida.

--I like 11-seed Winthrop over 6-seed Notre Dame. This seems to be a chic upset special, but I have liked Winthrop all year, and they just happened to be matched up vs. a Irish team that I don't think is that impressive.

--I planned on Davidson being the dark horse that I was going ride before the brackets were announced. But now that they're matched up with Maryland, I am not so sure I like their upset chances. Maryland has been playing well lately and are filled with great athletes.

--I think I am going with VCU over Duke. I am not official with that pick right now, but I just think VCU is very good, and have the athletes to give Duke plenty of problems.

--The upper sub-regional in the East is brutal. To me, you have 3 teams that are Final 4 caliber: UNC, Texas, & USC. Yes, USC is that good, even though they get very little credit from ESPN (Surprise, they play most of their games on FOX Sport Net & are on the West Coast, so why should Dicky V worry about them). Their perimeter is as good as any in the country. And Nick Young is probably the most underrated player/draft prospect in the nation. Although, Arkansas could cause some problems with their size, something that USC lacks. Also, Marquette & Mich. State are better than their respecrtive 8 & 9 seeds would indicate, and the winner will give UNC a mighty tough test in the 2nd round.

--I really like Oregon's chances of advancing to the Elite 8. I think their sub-regional is somewhat weak--I am just not that sold on Wisconsin right now with Butch out & their suspect outside shooting. Plus, Oregon's backcourt is one of the deepest in the country, and have plenty of guys who can fill it up & shoot lights out from deep.

--Kansas is scary good. No team has more raw talent than the Jayhawks (not even Florida). They have 4-5 players who are legit 1st round prospects. They have great athletes at every position compounded with great length. They have multiple guys who can fill it up--Chalmers, Wright, Rush, Arthur, & even Collins off the bench can create opportunites. If they can just concentrate on the defensive end, they should be in really good shape. But they did get a tough draw with possibly having to play to best 2-seed, UCLA, in San Jose.

--Syracuse & Drexel got hosed. No way Arkansas should have gotten in. The SEC was the weakest of the 6 major conferences in my mind. The SEC having the 2nd-ranked league in the RPI is a joke, because no way was it better than the PAC-10 or Big East. Probably would not have taken Illinois this year as well. Besides OSU & Wisconsin, I thought the Big 10 was pretty mediocre. Syracuse was 10-6 in the Big East this year--at worst the 3rd best conf. in the country--and were 7-3 in their last 10 games. Quite honestly, I can't think of a better team that has gotten robbed in recent memory than this year's Cuse team. And this is coming from a guy who loves seeing the Orange choke, especially love pestering Cuse fans (who grew up all around me) when they underachieve.

--Another small note about getting hosed: How did the committee put Niagara in the play-in game over the likes of Central Conn. St? Cent Conn comes from the NEC conf., which is one of the worst leagues in Div I along with the MEAC or SWAC. Granted, the MAAC is nothing special, but it is easily better than the NEC. Plus, Niagara's RPI was about 10 spots better than Cent Conn. You can bet Hubie & the old man are none too pleased with the Purple Eagles heading to Dayton.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Goin' Back to Salem!

The D3 Tournament was good to The Painted Area this weekend.

The alma mater, Amherst, is headed back to Salem, Va. for the Final Four for the third time in four years - hopefully this year will be the year we go all the way!

Also, I picked three of the Final Four teams correctly in my bracket on - I'm sitting 38th of 825 overall... possibly with an outside chance of winning the grand prize of $0 if Amherst goes all the way. Yes, I am aware that this is arguably the most pathetic thing I've ever bragged about in my life!

Anyway, I just wanted to give a shout-out - I find it reasonably amazing that I was able to watch both of Amherst's tournament games from across the country this weekend, thanks to the high-quality video webcasts that these folks put together.

Now, will pick up the webcasting with live video of Friday's semifinals at the Salem Civic Center (home of the rodeo scene from Borat).

It should be good stuff - four of the top eight teams in the Top 25, including the defending champs from Va. Wesleyan:
6 p.m. ET: (#6) Amherst vs. (#2) Wooster
8 p.m. ET: (#4) Virginia Wesleyan vs. (#8) Washington U.

The national championship will be broadcast live on CSTV at 5 p.m. ET on Saturday.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Let's Make This Perfectly Clear

In a blog post on Monday, Bill Simmons rekindled the warm-and-fuzzy idea that the U.S. should send an Under-22 team to the Olympics:
    Speaking of Durant, it's not too late for the USA Basketball Committee to switch gears and send an under-22 squad to represent us in the 2008 Olympics. Would you rather root for NBA stars stuck in an impossible "if we win, we're supposed to win, and if we lose, we screwed up" situation ... or an underdog team of college kids/NBA rookies featuring a starting five of Durant, Greg Oden, Julian Wright, Jon Scheyer and Darren Collison, with Brandan Wright, Spencer Hawes, Chase Budinger, Daequan Cook, Chris Lofton and D.J. Augustin or Mike Conley Jr. (we could only have one of the two) coming off the bench? Seriously, is there one basketball fan on the planet who wouldn't rather root for the kids next summer?

    Either way, one thing's for sure: Durant needs to be on that team. I'm pretty sure we can find a place for a 6-foot-9 forward with 27-foot range in the 2008 Olympics.

We've said it before, and now we'll say it again: this idea is all well and good, as long as you're prepared for the following:

1. This team would likely finish dead last out of 12 teams at the Olympics. Anyone who saw the entertaining Angolan team play in last year's World Championship knows that even that team would crush these under-22's.

It is professional men against college boys. That worked back in the day, but the world is much, much better now.

2. I have doubts that this team would even qualify for the Olympics. Only two teams from the Americas get automatic qualifiers - Argentina and Brazil, and probably Puerto Rico, too, would all be better than this under-22 team.

The 3rd-5th place teams in the Americas go to a qualifying tournament which includes the following:

-Africa (2): 2nd/3rd place teams
-Americas (3): 3rd-5th place teams
-Asia (2): 3rd/4th place teams
-Europe (4): 4th-7th place teams
-Oceania (1): 2nd place team

The top three teams out of this 12 advance to the Olympics. I have a hard time believing that the college team could beat any of the European teams in this tourney (we're talking the likes of Lithuania, Italy, Serbia, Turkey) and they'd struggle to get past Puerto Rico and New Zealand, too.

But say, the U.S. were to make it to Beijing - here's a potential lineup of 12 teams for the Games:
Based on what I saw at the World Championships last summer, Lebanon is the only team that this college team would have a chance of beating out.

So, if you're willing to accept that such a college team would finish in 11th place at best, and would struggle to even qualify, then go ahead. But somehow, I don't think it would be acceptable to U.S. fans.

I liked the idea from Blazers Edge to consider using recently retired players, but my thought as an alternative to NBA players is to consider using Americans who play in the EuroLeague.

As I wrote in September:
    I find it really amusing that people often suggest that we should send some form of college players – a clear loser – instead of pros, when there’s a logical alternative: send Americans who play in the EuroLeague. Players like Anthony Parker, Maceo Baston, Trajan Langdon, Drew Nicholas, Scoonie Penn, Tyus Edney and many recognizable ex-NCAA names have been vital contributors on the EuroLeague scene in the past few years.

    These guys have some big advantages:
    1) They are thoroughly familiar with the international game, in terms of the rules and such;
    2) They are familiar with, and respectful of, the skills of the best international players (a major problem in the Greece loss);
    3) They are simply much better players, much more experienced in general, than kids in college.

    I’m in favor of continuing to send NBA players, but if we’re going to send a team of non-NBA players, it should be these guys. And I really do believe that we should reserve at least one roster spot for one of these guys, just to have on the bench to say, “Hey, Papaloukas can’t shoot, but he loves to drive left and he’s always looking to dish – go under the screen against him, for god’s sake!”

Certainly, things have changed a little with the increase in the NBA's age limit - college players like Oden, Durant and Wright *are* better than some of the EuroStars above (I know Parker and Baston are in the league - I wrote this in Sept.), but I doubt they'd be nearly as well-prepared to step into the international game as the guys with extensive European experience.

I love Durant as much as anyone, but remember, the U.S. team lost because they couldn't stop Greece (101-95 in a 40-minute game), not because they couldn't put it in the hole. Would I rather have Durant - a subpar defender who would have no idea who he was guarding or what their strengths/weaknesses were - or Parker - a solid defender who'd have a thorough knowledge or every player he went up against? Starting an NBA franchise, I'd obviously take Durant. But considering Team USA's needs, I'd take Parker.

Considering I've already linked back to myself twice (the Internet equivalent of referring to oneself in the third person?), why not keep it going: I'll also point back to what I think has been an underrated factor in U.S. underachievement: roster turnover. Argentina and Spain, for example, have kept much more of their rosters intact from year to year, while the U.S. has overhauled. I think the U.S. is headed on the right path with the current three-year commitment.


One other completely random response to that Simmons blog, in regards to his thoughts on where to place Spencer Hawes within the storied continuum of white centers: the guy looks like a poor man's Rik Smits to me.

Exceptionally skilled offensive player in the low blocks, but not much of a presence on the boards or defense. Smits was probably a better shooter, but not so ambidextrous. Of course, Smits was a few inches taller and also had better hands - below-average hands are what concern me about Hawes the most.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

MAAC Daddy

This is a little shoutout to the Niagara Purple Eagles, the 2007 Daddy of the MAAC. Not only is Niagara the alma mater of Professor Hubie, but also the alma mater of our old man. The old man was on campus at the same time as Calvin Murphy, when the Purple Eagles were considered a national power. He stills like to regale us with tales of playing pickup with Murph, and still likes to point out the fact that if there was a 3pt. line in the good ole days, Murph would have averaged 50+ per game.

This is the second MAAC title for the Purple Eagles in 3 years after missing out on the NCAAs for 35 years between 1970-2005 (Murph's last year was '70). This year's Purple Eagles are well-balanced bunch who spread out the scoring duties (5 guys average double figures), and pound the glass well (exceptional on the offensive glass). Senior Clif Brown is probably their best all-around player who cleans the glass while 5-11 Tyrone Lewis brings a great spark off the bench with his great athleticism. Junior Charron Fisher is their version of Chuck Barkley, a bruising undersized PF with a knack for getting to the basket.

But they're from the MAAC which is pretty low-level D1, so they are headed for 15 or 16 seed and likely a shellacking in the 1st round. Although, if they play a weak rebounding high seed, they might have a slim chance at an upset. But as I told the old man, he better enjoy this victory now because the next game will be a date with a team like Georgetown or UNC.