Thuuz NBA Conference Previews

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The NBA season is quickly heating up as teams enter their third week of games. Here are some predictions for how each team will finish in their respective conferences.

All records and stats as of 11/11/13
Eastern Conference

15. Orlando Magic (3-5)
The Magic are a team built for the future with wily veterans thrown in to help the younger players get better. Ultimately, Orlando should realize the spoils awaiting them in the 2014 draft and work through a rebuilding year by giving talented young players like Victor Oladipo and Nikola Vucevic plenty of minutes.

14. Charlotte Bobcats (3-4)
The Bobcats are another team with nice young pieces such as Kemba Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Cody Zeller. Al Jefferson also scored a big free agent deal with the team, but they lack depth or an outside shooting presence (27.8% three point percentage). Charlotte is another team that needs to develop young talent and tank for a spot at Andrew Wiggins.

13. Philadelphia 76ers (4-4)
To say the 76ers first three games of the 2013-14 season were a surprise would be a huge understatement. Philadelphia, widely considered to be the least talented team in the NBA, knocked off Miami, Chicago and Wizards en route to a 3-0 start. They have fallen back to .500, thanks to the worst defense in the NBA, but a nucleus of Evan Turner, Thaddeus Young, and Michael Carter-Williams, not to mention an injured Nerlens Noel, will make this team fun to watch for years to come.

12. Boston Celtics (4-4)
Out of all the bad Eastern Conference teams, Boston seems to have the least young talent. Management sold out the Celtics for little in return in last summer’s trade with Brooklyn, leaving Boston to look to future drafts for hope. Boston is definitely a few years away from making another deep playoff run.

11. Toronto Raptors (3-5)
Toronto is in an interesting conundrum. They seem to have the talent to make a push for a 7 or 8 seed in a weak Eastern Conference, but the Rudy Gay Pop-A-Shot Machine is taking away valuable shots from young studs like Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross. GM Masai Ujiri should look to trade Gay to a contender at the deadline and hope to build for the future.

10. Washington Wizards (2-4)
Washington has five players averaging 13 points per game, but the cupboard is bare after that, and they are giving up almost 110 points per game as well. A stellar backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal could lead Washington to the brink of the playoffs, but an aging frontcourt will need to hold up to do so.

9. Cleveland Cavaliers (3-5)
Cleveland could end up looking a lot like the 2012-2013 Warriors going into the season. A young star point guard with injury problems. A second year two-guard who hasn’t proven himself yet. A rookie small forward that carries great expectations. An often injured center, who when healthy is an incredible rim protector. And of course, Jarrett Jack. Watch out for Cleveland if they stay healthy.

8. Milwaukee Bucks (2-3)
Milwaukee is a typical mediocre Eastern Conference team. They have the pieces for a 40-45 win season and a high seed, but have no chance of getting past more physical, talented teams like Indiana or Miami. The Bucks have some talented players and decent depth, but lack the star power to carry them far come April.

7. New York Knicks (2-4)
New York screams inefficiency. Carmelo Anthony, JR Smith and Andrea Bargnani are all volume shooters and play lackadaisical defense. Throw in an aging Amare Stoudamire and Metta World Peace, and you have a team that looks good on paper but are definitely not playoff material and will get shredded by a team like Chicago.

6. Detroit Pistons (2-4)
Detroit is a team loaded with frontcourt talent, and it will take good coaching to put in a scheme to make the Pistons offense hum. Greg Monroe has been fantastic so far and Andre Drummond does not look far behind. Hopefully, Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings will not shoot Detroit out of a playoff spot. The Pistons could get hot in the playoffs and overtake a low seed with a weak defense.

5. Atlanta Hawks (4-3)
Paul Millsap and Al Horford are looking like the best frontcourt in the NBA and Jeff Teague is thriving from it, averaging 10.1 assists per game. Kyle Korver is shooting over 54% from three point land and Atlanta is looking like a force to be reckoned with in the East. What will hold them back from joining the upper echelon of teams is depth and shoddy defense.

4. Chicago Bulls (3-3)
In typical Bulls fashion, Chicago has one of the best defenses in the NBA but cannot score, shooting a measly 26.3% from three-point range. Derrick Rose has been just so-so in his return, so the Bulls must turn to their hard-nosed defense and strong frontcourt play if Rose does not return to form. Chicago’s defense will definitely benefit them come playoff time, but they need to win now to get a favorable first round matchup

3. Brooklyn Nets (2-4)
This is Brooklyn’s year. Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Joe Johnson are fading and Deron Williams’ scoring is down for a 4th straight season. The Nets management absorbed a huge luxury tax bill to build this team and expectations are very high. The vets will need to step up, role players will have to emerge, and Brook Lopez will have to carry the load for Brooklyn to challenge Indiana and Miami.

2. Indiana Pacers (8-0)
The Pacers are off to a blazing start, thanks to the best defense in the league and the emergence of guard Lance Stephenson. Roy Hibbert is averaging a whopping 4.4 blocks per game and star forward Paul George is among the league leaders in scoring. If anyone can take down Miami, its Indiana, with their physicality and tenacious defense along with a bolstered bench

1. Miami Heat (5-3)
Miami has had some impressive wins (Chicago, Los Angeles Clippers) coupled with brutal losses (Philadelphia, Boston) to open the season. The third time will be the hardest for the Heat as the look for another championship. Both Lebron James and Chris Bosh are shooting a whopping 58% from the field and Dwyane Wade has been playing much better as well. Miami will need a MVP season from Lebron along with good bench play to get them home-court advantage for the playoffs. Then the real fun begins.

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15. Utah Jazz (0-8)
This is a really bad team. Gordon Hayward and Enes Kanter have been playing reasonably well, but Utah is really just waiting for next summer, where they will have a high draft pick and lots of cap space. Along with Hayward and Kanter, the Jazz have some nice pieces in Alec Burks and Derrick Favors, but the rest of the team really has no future in Utah.

14. Sacramento Kings (1-5)
Sacramento lacks a real proven second scorer behind DeMarcus Cousins, even though Isiah Thomas is currently averaging 18 points per game. The Kings have some snipers and good guard depth, but they need a strong post presence to complement Cousins. The front office needs to develop Ben McLemore and make sure they research top college talent so they make a successful lottery pick.

13. Phoenix Suns (5-2)
The Suns have been the Western Conference’s version of Philadelphia; a team thought to have little talent that has started the year on a tear. Eric Bledsoe is playing at an All-NBA level and Phoenix needs to lock him up after the season. Markieff Morris and Miles Plumlee are two other players at the nucleus of the team who are off to stellar starts. Phoenix should look to trade vets such as Gerald Green or Goran Dragic and develop young players like Alex Len for the future.

12. Denver Nuggets (2-4)
The loss of Andre Iguodala has hurt the Nuggets in various ways so far, as they are struggling on defense and trying to find a second scoring option behind Ty Lawson. Granted, the return of Danilo Galinari will help, but its hard to see Denver making a run at the playoffs with a team full of 6th men and fringe starters. Someone needs to step up if Denver is going to be competitive.

11. Portland Trail Blazers (5-2)
Portland is a team that improved its depth from last year, and could have the next Damian Lillard in CJ McCollum. They have good young players paired with role-playing vets, and they could be scary in a couple of years. However, right now, they don’t have the talent to get over the top in a loaded Western Conference.

10. New Orleans Pelicans (3-5)
What we have learned from New Orleans so far other than the fact that their new mascot is the creepiest thing to walk this Earth is that Anthony Davis is a special talent. But other than the ‘Brow, the Pelicans aren’t looking great. Big name free agent Tyreke Evans is shooting just 32% and Jrue Holiday is turning the ball over 4 times a game. The Pelicans look good on paper, but will need more efficient backcourt play to sneak into the playoffs.

9. Los Angeles Lakers (4-5)
Without Kobe, the Lakers have actually looked quite impressive in a handful of their games. They have wins over Western giants like the Clippers and Rockets, and young players like Jordan Hill and Nick Young have stepped up. If the Lakers can hold it together until Kobe returns, it seems inevitable that he will lead them to the playoffs. The question is, can they hold it together?

8. Memphis Grizzlies (3-4)
Memphis is a grind-it-out, defensive minded team, and a question going into the season was whether they could put up the points to win games. So far, they have had good, balanced scoring from both Mike Conley and their stellar frontcourt. If the Grizzlies sneak into the playoffs, their intense defense could create havoc for a team like the Clippers, who Memphis has bested in the postseason the last two years. Conley and Co. will have to put up points for the Grizzlies to succeed.

7. Dallas Mavericks (5-3)
Dallas is off to a good start thanks to resurgent play from Dirk Nowitzki and solid scoring from Monta Ellis. Dallas is aging, however, and it will be interesting to see whether the old legs of Nowitzki, Vince Carter, and Shawn Marion hold up. Dallas has the talent to get to the postseason, but don’t have the stamina to advance.

6. Minnesota Timberwolves (5-3)
Minnesota has the talent to make the playoffs and perhaps even advance. Whether they do that depends on the health of cornerstones like Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio. The Timberwolves can blow up the scoreboard with their offense and have a strong interior with Love and Nikola Pekovic.

5. Golden State Warriors (4-3)
The high-powered Warriors now have high expectations on their backs after an impressive playoff run. The signing of Andre Iguodala has helped Golden State on the defensive end, and the Splash Brothers continue to shoot the lights out. The bench will need to step up if the Warriors are to duplicate their playoff run.

4. Houston Rockets (5-3)
Dwight Howard is putting another ridiculous year on the glass, averaging 15 boards a game coupled with 17.6 ppg. James Harden is filling up the scoresheet but needs to be more efficient with his scoring. The Rockets are a great offensive team but will need a player to step up as a perimeter defender to compete with the Tony Parkers and Chris Pauls in the West.

3. Oklahoma City Thunder (5-1)
Oklahoma City was a question mark after their poor performance in the playoffs once Russell Westbrook got injured. But Westbrook returned after missing only two games and he and Kevin Durant are averaging nearly 50 combined points per game. Oklahoma City looks ready to challenge San Antonio and Los Angeles for the Western Conference title.

2. San Antonio Spurs (7-1)
The Spurs have looked great to start the year, playing stellar defense and having very balanced scoring. Gregg Popovich will try to conserve minutes for Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili after a grueling playoff run last year and let Tony Parker and emerging star Kawhi Leonard run the show. If the legs of Duncan and Ginobili hold up, San Antonio has a great chance at the NBA Finals again.

1. Los Angeles Clippers (5-3)
Lob City is back in effect in Los Angeles, with the Clippers scoring at the highest rate in the NBA and having five players average more that 11 ppg. Deandre Jordan is having a breakout year, shooting 60% from the field and pulling down over 13 rebounds per game. The Clippers offense looks unstoppable with Chris Paul running the show and snipers like JJ Redick firing up threes, but Los Angeles must get tougher defensively to overcome tough teams like San Antonio and Memphis.

2013-2014 College Basketball Preview

College basketball never fails to amuse, whether it’s upsets, crazy dunks, or stellar shooting. The whole season is devoted to what finishes it off, March Madness. Here is an overview of college basketball’s key points and how teams can reach their ultimate goal, a National Championship.

Conference Previews

ACC- The ACC is possibly the most storied conference in college basketball. However, it has not lived up to expectations in recent years. Duke is a perennial power, but the likes of UNC and others have not achieved desired goals in the last couple years. The realignment of conferences has brought Notre Dame and Pittsburgh into the fold for stiffer competition, but we do not know how that will play out.

Winner- Duke. The addition of Jabari Parker will boost this squad to a conference championship and hopefully much more in a conference with many unproven teams.

Big 10- With half of the teams from last year’s Final Four, the Big 10 has emerged as the most highly contested conference in the country. The state of Michigan surely supports this statement with Michigan and Michigan State, two of the top teams in the land. Ohio State is a top contender as well. With many prime games throughout the season, the Big 10 is surely a conference to keep an eye on.

Winner- Michigan State. The Spartans finished last year with a solid record and actually improved during the offseason, with their young players maturing.

Big 12- With two teams in the Top 10, the Big 12 is emerging as a power conference. The Big 12 has two of the five preseason All-Americans, guard Marcus Smart of #8 Oklahoma State, and freshman star forward Andrew Wiggins. Wiggins is said to be so good that NBA teams that have no hope of making the playoffs might tank to draft him.

Winner- Kansas. Wiggins, although amazing, cannot carry the whole team on his own. Thankfully for Kansas, they have other weapons to win this conference.

Pac-12- After two dismal years, the Pac-12 showed some upside last year. This year, Arizona’s highly ranked recruiting class, which includes the #4 recruit Aaron Gordon, has driven them to #6 in the AP poll. Oregon is emerging as a powerful squad, reaching the Sweet 16 in last year’s NCAA Tournament. Besides these two teams, the Pac-12 cannot boast about any other teams, which is problematic for Arizona and Oregon in the strength of schedule aspect of their ranking.

Winner- Arizona. Without any other real competition out there, Arizona should cakewalk to the Pac-12 championship.

SEC- Well known as a stellar football conference, basketball is not the SEC’s strong suit. However, the SEC is about one team: Kentucky. Home of one-and-done star freshmen who want to move on to the next level, Kentucky is always the center of preseason speculations. Raking in five of the top nine recruits in the ESPN 100, they have set high expectations for themselves.

Winner- Kentucky. The talent level is off the charts with this young group. The job for Coach Calipari is to groom these young talents and shape them into mature players, and Kentucky will enjoy lots of success.

3 Mid-Major Teams to Watch:

Virginia Commonwealth University- Most famous for their 2011 Cinderella story run to the Final Four, VCU is often looked over in March Madness talks, but they are the real deal. With a quality coach in Shaka Smart, and lots of pinpoint shooters, VCU is a team to watch come March.

Gonzaga- After a well too short stay in last year’s NCAA tournament, the Bulldogs have their sights set on proving they can hang with the big dogs. Although losing their star forward, Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga brings back many experienced players to help guide this team on what they hope to be a deep tournament run.

Wichita State- After last year’s journey to the Final Four, Wichita State is poised for another impressive year. Bringing back the bulk of its core, Wichita State has the big game experience to fuel another impressive showing this year.

Final Four- Duke, Michigan State, Kansas, Kentucky

NATIONAL CHAMPIONMichigan State. Michigan State has the most experienced team out of those in consideration for the ultimate prize. Every senior on this team has experienced the Final Four at least once. The only starter from last year gone is Derrick Nix, who averaged 9 points and 6 rebounds per game. They have two explosive guards in Gary Harris and Keith Appling, and a pair of veteran versatile big men in Adrien Payne and Brendan Dawson.

Final Word

The biggest unknown this season is how the superstar freshmen will perform throughout the year, especially Kentucky’s team. Also, pay attention to some of the emerging rivalries consisting of some up-and-coming teams. Nonetheless, this year should be an exciting one.

College Football: Week 11’s Best Games

This year in college football has posed many questions regarding who the real best teams in college football are. Week 11 should provide some of those answers. Here is a breakdown of the three most intriguing games during the best week of college football.

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1. Oregon at Stanford- Thursday, November 7, 9:00 ET- ESPN.

Thuuz Rating: 90/100

With a shocking upset last year, Stanford crushed Oregon’s dreams of a perfect season, National Championship game berth, or even a Rose Bowl berth in one heart-wrenching game. This game poses the always intense matchup between Oregon’s high-octane offense and Stanford’s unrelenting defense. Oregon has the second best yardage and scoring offense in the country (with an insane 632 yards per game and 55.6 points per game), behind only Baylor. Oregon’s dual threat quarterback, Marcus Mariota, leads the nation with a 95.5 QBR, which measures a quarterback’s overall performance rather than just their passer rating. On the other side, Stanford’s defense ranks second in the country in sacks, and first in the country in yardage loss. Stanford’s defense was the reason the Cardinal won last year, holding Oregon to 28 points less than their lowest total prior to the game. With both teams coming off bye weeks, lots of preparation has been put into this game. Let’s see if Stanford’s defense can stop Oregon once again, or if Oregon’s high powered offense will prevail in this emerging Pac-12 North rivalry.

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2. LSU at Alabama- Saturday, November 9, 8:00 ET- CBS.

Thuuz Rating: 87/100

A great rivalry in the SEC, LSU vs Alabama is always a classic. With many opinions about who the real #1 in the BCS should be, Alabama can prove their #1 ranking with a strong game against an always tough Tigers team. Allowing only an astounding 9.8 points per game, Alabama leads all of college football in scoring defense. Besides allowing 42 points to Johnny Football’s Texas A&M, Alabama has allowed 10 points or less in each of its seven other games. LSU is 16th nationally with 40 points scored per game. The deciding factor for this game, however, will be Alabama’s defense against LSU’s offense. Besides a nail-biter versus Texas A&M, Alabama’s offense has not been forced to score many points because of its lack of worthy opponents. Tune in to witness what should be a great matchup.

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3. Oklahoma at Baylor- Thursday, November 7, 7:30 ET- FOX Sports 1.

Thuuz Rating: 87/100

Not a greatly talked about game before the season, the performance of both teams has turned this game into a pivotal Big-12 showdown. Unranked prior to the start of the season, Baylor has brought themselves into the spotlight with a blazing offensive attack. Ranked in the top 10 nationally in nearly every offensive category, including first in passing yards per game, yards per game, and points per game, Baylor has scored at least 60 points in all but one game. However, Baylor has not experienced a big-game atmosphere like this one since they have not played a ranked opponent yet this season, and this game begins a stretch of three games against ranked opponents. Coming off a victory against another high-powered offense in Texas Tech, Oklahoma has experienced how to handle an offense like Baylor’s, but that is much easier said than done. Much like the Oregon-Stanford matchup, this game pits a high octane offense against an effective defense.

 

Final Word

Thursday will be college football heaven with two Top 10 showdowns on the same day. Be sure to watch all three mentioned games, which will surely have a great impact on the BCS standings moving forward.