Where is the fun in today’s March Madness?

By Joe Hines
PSDC Staff & Chicago Guru

March-Madness-NCAA-Basketball

I enjoy the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, AKA March Madness, as much as the next guy. I dutifully fill out brackets and watch them go up in flames along with 99 percent of the rest of the population midway through the first day of the tourney. Here in Northern Illinois, there isn’t much of a regional interest since, for the second straight year, no team from the state made the tournament. The University of Wisconsin is only about 60 miles from where I sit now, and most of my basketball-loving friends have adopted the Badgers as they wind their way through the West Region as a No. 1 seed. Here in my hometown of Rockford, we root for Wichita St. because the Shockers excellent guard, Fred Van Vleet went to high school here. [Read more…]

March Madness: The Factors at Play

By Josh Wiggins
PSDC March Madness Contributor

march-madness

March is upon us and we are only two weeks away from Selection Sunday. The frenzy of March Madness is already taking hold and will soon captivate a nation. Fans and analysts alike have been watching all year, and every one of them seem to have a unique perspective on how this tournament will play out. Whether driven by heart or head, these predictions often fail to turn out exactly as planned year after year. The reason for this? Everything. The thing about college basketball is that there are so many factors at play in each round, each game, even each possession. The field is always filled with brilliant coaches, prolific players and a few spoilers. This year will be no different, and the only thing we can be certain about is the uncertainty of each and every result. [Read more…]

A New Arizona and Weekly Impressions

By Nate Muzika
PSDC Writer

You might have noticed that we missed a week here at Weekly Impressions. On behalf of myself and Project Shanks, I apologize for the lost week. The real crime is that a full roster of my best Grammy jokes has gone out the window because that event is no longer topical and relevant. That leaves us with little to discuss from the realm of pop culture this week because I refuse to discuss the Biebs and I had to throw out all of my Philip Seymour Hoffman jokes because they made me seem like an even bigger jerk than I actually am.

We also missed a chance to discuss Arizona’s first loss in a timely fashion, but fear not loyal readers, the Wildcats are still involved in this week’s edition. Arizona won’t get sympathy from the rest of the nation. Look around and plenty of teams are banged up or missing key pieces, but the challenge is to see if Arizona can maintain without forward Brandon Ashley.

1. Biggest Takeaway: Bye Bye Brandon. As you all know, Arizona is without the services of Brandon Ashley for the rest of the year. Brandon is a 6’8 forward from Arizona who was averaging 11.5 points per game and 5.8 rebounds per game. He was also a vital cog in the Arizona offense and his length really made the Cats a supremely long, athletic and deep team as a whole. He is not to be confused with Ashley Brandon, who sounds like a really hot sorority girl or a new diva in the WWE.

Brandon-Ashley-Arizona-Wildcats-1

Anyway, Arizona lost to Cal and had to bounce back with a hard fought victory over Oregon on Thursday. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson filled in admirably with 14 points and 10 boards, but the Arizona offense was out of sorts all night and Arizona struggled to get a win. Aaron Gordon was 2-of-11 from the free throw line, Nick Johnson shot threes like he was aiming for the 25-point hoop in Rock-N-Jock basketball, and T.J. McConnell was just 2-of-9 from the field. With all of those issues, the Cats still found a way. [Read more…]

Fools Rush In – A Semi-Serious Assessment of Modern Day Court Rushing

By Tommy Guastaferro
PSDC Writer

A couple weeks ago I attended a UNC-Wake Forest game at the LJVM Coliseum in Winston-Salem, NC, home of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. The Tar Heels were then-ranked 19th and had suffered losses to NCAA powerhouses, Belmont and UAB. Wake Forest came out victorious, which means that as with EVERY minor upset these days…the court was REQUIRED to be rushed. Sadly, the Wake student section who rushed the floor was not even able to cover up the Demon Deacon mascot that is painted on center court.

Photo Credit: USA Today

Photo Credit: USA Today

I went to college. I get it. You pregame hard before the game with all the Beast (I guess being Wake students, they probably pregamed with Stella Artois) you can afford, then sneak in a flask, and if you have any reason whatsoever…you rush the court. However, you damn well better make sure you have enough people to cover up the center mascot. [Read more…]

College Hoops: Welcome Back and Weekly Impressions

By Nate Muzika
PSDC Writer

This isn’t exactly breaking news, but college basketball has changed immensely since the advent of the one and done rule. There is no one way to build a basketball team. Duke has largely tried to field a team of veterans and upperclassmen with the obvious exceptions of building their teams around Jabari Parker this year and Kyrie Irving a few years ago. Kansas has had obvious success this year with a crop of youngsters led by Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins, and other teams like Connecticut have largely either stayed away from building teams around impact newcomers, or have been unable to land them.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Photo Credit: Getty Images

This has brought about a variety of outcomes in March. For instance, we’ve seen a talented group of Florida players return for their junior seasons to repeat. We’ve seen Butler make two title game appearances very ugly and uncomfortable. We’ve seen a veteran Kansas squad beat Derrick Rose, and we’ve seen stars like Michael Beasley, Kevin Durant, James Harden and Blake Griffin fail to lead their teams to anything of significance. We’ve also team a team of one and done guys get it done and win a national title under John Calipari with Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Throughout it all, many coaches, like Bill Self have self-evaluated their teams each offseason and decided the best route to go. Play it with veterans, rely on highly touted freshmen or hope for the perfect combination of both? John Calipari has completely bucked that trend and decided to turn Kentucky into a new team each season and rely on the young guys while turning over a large portion of the roster. Regardless of how you feel about Cal’s experiment (I love it, but understand the shouts from those that disagree with his approach) you have to at least admit that it is interesting to see how his program will evolve each season. [Read more…]

College Hoops: The Future and Weekly Impressions

By Nate Muzika
PSDC Writer

I’ll start of by saying I watched Battleship last night. Yes, I might have been a few beers deep and I might have been overly excited because of the hoops action from Monday, but honestly it wasn’t terrible. Is it a good movie? Hell no. But it is nowhere near as bad as the critics would have you believe. Regardless, it could have been the best movie ever or the worst movie ever and I would not have noticed because I was too busy salivating over the magic basketball that we saw on Monday. Duke and Syracuse were in trouble until late and Kansas played a classic against Iowa State. The Worldwide Leader certainly had my attention Monday night. Before we get into the weekly impressions, I’d like to wish the best to Colorado’s Spencer Dinwiddie and Pitt’s Durand Johnson who are two Weekly Impression favorites that are now out for the season.

Photo Credit: AP

Photo Credit: AP

1. Biggest Takeaway: Ohio State is not elite. I have many friends and family members from the Buckeye state that would pay to have Aaron Craft’s underwear on their heads, so they will be disappointed to hear me say this, but OSU is not currently a national title contender. Back to back losses to MSU and Iowa prove that the Buckeyes are not legit. Sure, Craft, LaQuinton Ross and Lenzelle Smith are all good players, but offensively the team is a joke and I think the last two games have exposed OSU as a fraud.  Don’t worry though Buckeye fans, football season is fast approaching!! [Read more…]

College Hoops: Pac-12 Fun and Weekly Impressions

By Nate Muzika
PSDC Writer

Some crazy things have happened since our last edition of Weekly Impressions; Colorado upset Oregon, Coach K created a mini ‘benchgate’ scandal at Duke, temperatures in Pennsylvania dropped so low that I can no longer feel my ears and apparently there was some sort of college football game on Monday night.

1. Biggest Takeaway: Colorado’s upset of Oregon is proof that the Pac-12 is going to be really fun to watch. Sure, Arizona looks to be the cream of the crop and is perhaps my favorite team to watch play basketball due to their insane length and athleticism, but behind the Wildcats, things are going to be plenty interesting. Oregon is good, Colorado is good, UCLA is good, Arizona State has one of the best players in the country, Oregon State has a gunner that is fun to watch and Washington State would have trouble beating a four man team. Okay, Washington State isn’t THAT bad, but they are horrific offensively and just generally unpleasant to watch.

Photo Credit: AP

Photo Credit: AP

The conference race is going to be fantastic behind Arizona, and the league features so much talent. Arizona has seven big time players. UCLA features Kyle Anderson. Colorado has Spencer Dinwiddie, Arizona State has Jahii Carson, and I’ve always loved Oregon’s Mike Moser. Some of the teams are capable of beating Arizona, and if nothing else, the battle for second should be interesting. [Read more…]

College Hoops: Holiday Hiatus and Weekly Impressions

By Nate Muzika
PSDC Writer

Welcome back to Weekly Impressions. It has been awhile because something called Christmas got in the way of my planned college hoops binge watch. Frankly, too many teams take long breaks during the holidays and my family found it was unacceptable for me to sit on the couch in a coma like state watching basketball and slugging beers while family members were in from out of town. In the meantime, I had the chance to see The Wolf of Wall Street. The film was very good and hilarious, especially in the beginning, but I soon found out that we were in for roughly eight hours of the same repeated scenes and ideas. Jonah Hill works as a new-age comedic version of Joe Pesci from past Scorsese films. The movie runs longer than and is less rewarding than the six-overtime game between Syracuse and Connecticut a few years ago, but it is still worth a watch even though it is perhaps the most vulgar and reprehensible movie I’ve ever seen. Translation = Don’t go to see the movie with anyone who is young, old, or lives life by a general moral or ethical code and is offended when others don’t live by those same codes.

1. Biggest Takeaway: My biggest takeaway from this past week is that a hell of a lot of people around me care about Missouri basketball, and perhaps it is time for the rest of the nation to join them in caring. I fielded questions from my uncle about Missouri during the holiday. Then, I end up visiting my girlfriend’s family and watching the Missouri-North Carolina State with my girlfriend’s cousin’s husband. I have no idea if that is grammatically correct, or if that is the proper way to identify that human, but I’m just going to leave it in the column and see what happens.

missouri-basketball

Photo Credit: USA Today

Anyway, Missouri beat North Carolina State 68-64 and has a tilt with a very beatable Long Beach State team before SEC play begins. Missouri also has a legit stud in Jordan Clarkson, who is averaging 20 points per game, 4.3 assists per game and drilling half of his shots from the floor. Jabari Brown adds some firepower next to Clarkson by shooting over 41% from three-point land. My favorite thing about Brown? He is jacking 6.4 threes a game, which is an awesomely high number. [Read more…]

Top Five College Basketball Teams from the Last 20 Years

By Dennis Alfonsin
PSDC Contributor

1996-kentucky-basketball

The game of men’s college basketball has evolved tremendously over the last two decades. We have seen a new wave of hall of fame caliber coaches come to surface. Leaders like Bill Self, John Calipari, Billy Donovan and others have established strong coaching pedigrees. There have been more teams added to the already beautiful NCAA Tournament, with one of those teams making a run to the Final Four when VCU stunned the field in 2011. The most notable difference between now and 20 years ago is what fans know as the “one-and-done” student athlete (I use that last term loosely). The year 2005 saw the NBA determine that in order to be draft eligible, an athlete must be at least 19 years old and one year removed from high school. This would change the NCAA forever. So I wondered, amidst all of this change over the last 20 years, what are the top five teams during that period?

5. 2008 University of Kansas Jayhawks

The 2008 Jayhawks had a team that was characterized by the mixture of young talent and experienced leadership. Upperclassmen such as Russell Robinson, Mario Chalmers, Brandon Rush, Darnell Jackson and Sasha Kaun had several times been the rigors of the regular season and tournament play. The 2007 team advanced all the way to the Elite 8 before being bounced by a strong UCLA team. There were the youngsters like the confident point guard Sherron Collins, the polished forward Darrell Arthur, and the towering Cole Aldrich. The 2008 version of the Kansas Jayhawks had a well-rounded team poised to make a run. [Read more…]

College Hoops: The Monsters and Weekly Impressions

By Nate Muzika
PSDC Writer

Another week of college hoops is in the bag, and honestly, college basketball fans should feel delighted that the past week and the upcoming week both feature some interesting matchups. Typically, this is the part of the season that is filled with major conference teams feasting on cupcakes. The weeks after the early season tournaments and before conference play are usually pretty bad, but this year there seems to be some good matchups that are worth looking forward to (and back at). Longtime readers of this column (and by longtime, I mean anyone that has read the first two columns) might be disappointed to see that there is no mini movie review this week. I haven’t hit the cinema since I saw Out of the Furnace.  On the other hand, Eminem and Rihanna dropped one of the most anticipated videos of the year with “The Monster” this week. The video is underwhelming, but the song is an absolute hit and a good way to look at the week that was in college basketball.

Photo Credit: AP

Photo Credit: AP

1. The Monsters. My biggest takeaway this week is that the cream is starting to rise to the top in college basketball and therefore, the monsters are separating from the pack. The four teams standing at the top of the AP Top 25 are all undefeated and are all monsters in some sense of the word. Arizona is 11-0 and features an absurd balance of size, skill and athletic ability. Additionally, the Cats feature a true floor general in T.J. McConnell who gets the athletes the ball when and where they need it to score. McConnell is a magnet for steals, is averaging 6.5 assists per game, and is shooting 38% on threes. Yeah, I’d say that is a pretty solid line for a floor general. He is matched up in the backcourt with Nick Johnson who leads the team in scoring at 15.5 points per game. As great as the backcourt is, the frontcourt is even scarier. Regardless of what the Arizona athletic department lists their heights as, I believe that Brandon Ashley, Aaron Gordon and Kaleb Tarczewski are all at least eight feet tall with 12-foot wingspans. Arizona is the most dangerous team in the country, but they aren’t perfect, as they have needed to withstand some tight games to earn their undefeated record. Like Bowser in a Super Mario game, the Cats are vicious but beatable. [Read more…]

College Hoops: Conference Challenges and Weekly Impressions

By Nate Muzika
PSDC Contributor

Another week of college basketball has come and gone and since the last time this column appeared we have been treated to the Big 12/SEC Challenge, the Big 10/ACC Challenge, two straight Kansas losses and an entirely forgettable movie where Casey Affleck, Woody Harrelson, Zoe Saldana and Christian Bale do their best to carry a script that appears to have been written by a third grader. Seriously, I saw Out of the Furnace and was left feeling like the actors gave their all, but that the script and overall story lacked depth and discipline just like a Scott Drew coached team. Wow, that actually sets up a semi legitimate transition to our first point of the week.

1. Kitty Litter:  Kentucky is struggling. Yes, Julius Randle is still my college hoops man-crush. Yes, the Cats still have athletes and size that is almost unmatched. Yes, I believe in John Calipari. Yes, Willie Cauley-Stein made a mistake dying his hair golden, and if I ever do a mock draft for this site, that decision will certainly impact his draft position. So, maybe that last point isn’t a positive. Whatever, Kentucky is not the juggernaut that I expected them to be. They lost to Baylor on Friday (see, I told you there was a semi legitimate transition from the introduction to this point). Sure, Baylor is talented and athletic and has some good shooters, but in reality this is a game that we expected the Cats to win. The reality is the Cats folded late in the game. It is still looking like the Harrison twins should not be trusted in big spots, and for whatever reason, John Calipari has lost all faith in his bench and in sophomore Alex Poythress.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Kentucky rebounded with a win over a tough mid-major in Boise State, but the Cats need to improve a ton to be a legit title contender. Kentucky still has non-conference tilts against North Carolina and Louisville before they get into SEC play.

Verdict:  Play Alex Poythress more and hope that the young guys improve (they will). This can still be a Final Four team, but the road is much harder than most expected.

2. Andrew Wiggin is great, but Kansas isn’t. A week ago, Andrew Wiggins was considered by most to not be assertive enough. Some ignorant fans considered him overhyped and even argued that he would end up a bust in the NBA. Well, Wiggins took over the last two Kansas games and absolutely dominated. He was everything that his critics demanded. Guess what? Kansas lost both games. Wiggins put up 22 and five against Colorado on an efficient shooting night, but the Jayhawks fell on a desperation heave at the buzzer by Askia Booker[Read more…]

Seven Teams That Could Win the NCAA Basketball Title

By Tommy Guastaferro
PSDC Contributor

This year college basketball is as deep and talent rich as any in the last decade. Unlike the past couple seasons, there are over a half dozen teams in the year’s NCAA basketball field that have a real and legitimate shot to take home the NCAA Championship. Let’s take a closer look at the seven teams who have the best chance of cutting down the nets on April 7.

Arizona – They’re kind of the Arrested Development of college basketball. Critics seem to love them, they have a good cast, but who has seen them play? Aside from just playing in late West Coast time slots, their biggest win came against Duke on a holiday weekend Friday night (Come on!). Freshman Aaron Gordon gets a lot of the hype, but junior guard Nick Johnson has been the real star this season.

aaron-gordon-arizona

Why They Will Win: Arizona has very good talent on a well-balanced team. They have been the most impressive team thus far and possess all of the tools it takes to make a deep tournament run.

Why They Won’t Win: Honestly, I don’t see any glaring weaknesses. I do think there are more talented teams and that may be the only roadblock for this squad.

Odds of Winning the Title: 4/1

Kentucky – This team is absolutely loaded on paper, but that doesn’t necessarily win championships. The talented roster has yet to come together as a cohesive unit, especially on defense. They also have looked very inconsistent on the offensive end so far this season. However, IF the young talent can figure it out…oh boy.

Why They Will Win: Kentucky is hands down the most talented team, and it’s not really even close. They played a D+ game against a veteran Michigan State team and still almost pulled off the victory.

Why They Won’t Win: I don’t see any real leadership yet. There is also the risk that all of this talent just doesn’t blend together and the young players never “get it.”

Odds of Winning the Title: 4/1 [Read more…]