Category Archives: Sports

The College Football Playoffs Are Finally Set

For the first time in the history of college football, there will be a four team college playoff to decide who hoists the National Championship Trophy will come January 10th, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

The teams that made the final cut are The Ohio State Buckeyes, The Alabama Crimson Tide, The Ducks from the University of Oregon, and The Florida State Seminoles.

The request for a new playoff system has been requested for quite some time now. A lot of the sports world did not like the fact the BCS bowl selection took place.

Now more people than not are for the playoff system. The system is still flawed for some but better from where it was from previous years.

For the most part there was no movement between the first and second placed teams. The Alabama Crimson Tide, and the Ducks from the University of Oregon. They never strayed far from their positions.

The final two spots were a different story. The Seminoles from Florida State did the most movement. Even though, they did not lose one game during the season.

The top two teams have one loss each. The Buckeyes are also undefeated.

The reasoning for the placement is the toughness of the schedule and the conference each team is in respectively. The #1 team is Alabama, coming out of the powerhouse that is the SEC.

Oregon is coming out of another powerhouse from the west the PAC 12 conference, Florida State comes out of the ACC, and finally Ohio State coming out of the BIG 10 (but the conference has 13 teams, different conversation for a different day).

Other notable mentions were the Baylor Bears, and the TCU Horned Frogs. At one point TCU was ranked third a week prior to the final announcement, before Ohio State took the final spot in the last announcement.

With that said the teams are set, and there will be two games played on the first day of the New Year. The first is the Rose Bowl where the #2 Oregon Ducks will face the #3 Florida State Seminoles.

The Seminoles were always in the top four teams, but they struggled the whole season to beat some clearly easy wins against unranked teams. Despite this they were able to overcome this and still remain undefeated.

The Seminoles are the defending National Champions after defeating the Auburn Tigers. They are also led by reigning Heisman winner Jameis Winston. This year the Seminoles have struggled to say the least.

Yet they are still undefeated and share an undefeated record with the Buckeyes. This year Winston was not even nominated for a finalist in this year Heisman Trophy.

The Oregon Ducks on the other hand now have this years Heisman winner Marcus Mariota. Mariota was the clear winner gaining more than 90% of the total votes, second highest in the history of the Heisman voting.

This year Mariota was having a standout season. Leading into the bowl games he has 3,783 yards, 38 touchdowns, and only two interceptions.

His competition included another player that is in the College Football Playoff, Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper.

Also included in the list was University of Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon. Gordon was coming off a FBS record for single game rushing yards, only to have his record beaten the next week.

The matchups should be action packed, with four different types of high powered offenses.

The first matchup is the Rose Bowl between the #2 Oregon and #3 Florida State. One team has no losses while the other has one loss. Yet the team with the one loss is actually ranked higher than the undefeated team.

Jameis Winston and the Seminoles look to power through the quick play running Oregon. Even though, the Seminoles have struggled their past few games, they have found a way to win each one of those games.

This game will be like no other. It will show off the last two Heisman winners. Two amazing quarterbacks showing off their arm and capabilities on the field.

If the regular college football season is any indication of what will happen on January 1st, then the play of the quarterbacks is quite important.

The way Oregon runs their offense they will be scoring and scoring fast. The Seminoles will have to combat this with Jameis Winston and his arm.

Winston has thrown 17 interceptions this season. That against a high powered offense is definite trouble for the undefeated Seminoles.

The point is not to try to keep up with Oregon, but to combat them with smart offense, and even better defense.

The Florida State defense will probably not completely stop the Ducks, but they can at least slow it down enough for the Seminole offense to make the game competitive and try to come out victorious.

On the side of Oregon, they are already the favorite to win the game. They have their Heisman winner and a great overall offense as well as a defense.

Every game except the game they lost of course has been a dominant win for Oregon. That cannot be said for Florida State, who barely squeaked by in certain games, and in some cases needed overtime to carry them to a win.

In that case Oregon should probably prevail, but given the fight in the Seminoles it is easier said then done.

Next there is the Allstate Sugar Bowl between #1 Alabama and #4 Ohio State. The Crimson Tide has been in the first place spot for quite some time. They have not lost their ranking since they were ranked #1.

They are arguably the most difficult conference in the US next to the PAC 12. Alabama have been putting on clinics on their way to their wins.

They are led by head coach Nick Saban. Saban has four national championships under his belt, while at LSU he won one, at Alabama he has three (2009, 2011-12).

Along with a great coach at the helm they also have Amari Cooper who is having a stellar season and is leading all receivers in yards and points.

On the other side there is the Ohio State University. Leading them is a familiar name in Urban Meyer. Who left the Florida Gators, and tried his luck in his home state of Ohio.

Coach Meyer has led the Buckeyes to a 12 win season for the past three years, after they were not bowl eligible for the previous 2 years.

If the backs weren’t against the wall of the Buckeyes ranked 4th facing Alabama, they have to do it with their back up of the back up quarterback. That’s right they are facing the #1 team in the nation with their 3rd string quarterback Cardale Jones.

Yet with this same quarterback they were able to dismantle the Wisconsin Badgers in the BIG 10 championship. After the game they destroyed the Badgers 59-0.

In total Wisconsin only had 78 total yards on the ground, they held another Heisman hopeful Melvin Gordon who was leading the nation in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns to no touchdowns for the first time this season.

So the likelihood of this game being a great game is more than likely. Both of the games that will be played on New Years Day should be great and the championship January 10th.

No matter what the outcome of the Rose and Sugar Bowl, we are in for a treat when the four best teams in the nation face off against one another, and the final two will battle and claim the first ever College Football National Championship Final.

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Rapid Reaction: No. 2 Oregon 51 – No. 7 Arizona 13 (Pac-12 Championship)

By Ariel Bedford


The Ducks came into Santa Clara looking for revenge. Removing any doubt of their playoff worthiness as Kings of The West Coast, Oregon simply bottled up Arizona—claiming another Pac-12 football crown on a rainy Northern California night.

How Ducks Won: UO ran the ball with more effectiveness, especially from the quarterback position. Marcus Mariota finished the game with 313 yards passing and three rushing scores, including two key touchdown runs in the first half. Oregon’s Heisman front runner was looking to tuck and sprint much more often this time around, unlike early October in Eugene when he tallied only 1 yard on the ground versus the ‘Cats and Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Scooby Wright.

X-Factor of Game: OLB Tony Washington, Oregon. The Senior from Rancho Cucamonga made up for the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty he received after a sack on AZ QB Anu Solomon late in the regular season match that may have cost them a close victory. His sack on the aforementioned Solomon in the title game, with 4:03 left in the second quarter for a loss of 6 yards to the Arizona 35, was the signature example of constant pressure applied  by Defensive Coordinator Don Pellum’s unit throughout the battle.

Stat of the Contest: After three quarters of play, Arizona only amassed 45 rushing yards as a team.

Why It Matters: Besides securing a spot in the inaugural College Football Playoff by beating a Top 10 opponent, Oregon put the nation on notice—the Ducks are ready to play physical, championship caliber football versus anyone the committee pits them up against. The defense stifled ‘Zona’s version of the zone read attack crafted by Head Coach Rich Rodriguez, forcing the ‘Cats into 3rd and long situations on a very consistent basis.

Offensively, it wasn’t a perfect outing for UO. With 10:16 left in the second quarter OL Doug Brenner committed a false start on 4th and goal from Arizona’s 1-yard line; another false start by DL Erik Armstead made the chip shot field goal try in wet Levi’s Stadium slightly more slippery, with kicker Aidan Schneider missing a 27-yard attempt.

Despite choppy play at times from the offensive line, Oregon washed over the Wildcats to make a legitimate case for the top overall seed. Depending on how the rest of Championship Weekend pans out, the Ducks might be hitting Bourbon Street instead of going back to Cali for the National Semifinals.

Featured Photo Credit: Image via seatvalet.com


Ariel Bedford writes for Scouts Alley. A freelancer from Florida, he also is a contributor for Bleacher Report. Check out his personal media profile page and follow him on Twitter @mpcmi.

 

If The NBA Playoffs Started Today

The playoffs start in the last weeks of April, and it should be a good one this year. For starters there is the return of the injured Derrick Rose to the Chicago Bulls, the new big three in Cleveland, and the always powerful western conference. These results were based off the week of November 14-17.

If for some strange reason the playoffs kicked off tonight there would be quite a mix-up of the usual teams that are in the playoffs each season. 

For example, the defending champion San Antonio Spurs with the eight seed would face the hot Memphis Grizzlies with the first seed.

That is one of the surprises early in the season.  Yes we know that it will never happen having playoffs in the middle of November, but wouldn’t it be fun to see some of the other irregular playoff matchups as of now. 

Let’s start with the always powerful Western Conference

We discussed the defending champs taking on the Grizzlies.  These teams actually battle it out come playoff time, but most of the time the Spurs are first place while the Grizzlies are in the eight seed.  

The Spurs and the Grizzlies are two great teams.  So whether one is first, last, or vice versa.  These playoff bound teams will always put on a show in the stacked western conference.

Next, there is the battle of the 2 and the 8 seed.  There is the second seed Houston Rockets, and the 7th seed New Orleans Pelicans. 

The Rockets, since picking up James Harden and Dwight Howard are always a force coming out of the west.  They are no strangers to the playoffs.

The New Orleans Pelicans on the other hand are the new kids on the block but with their star Anthony Davis having a stellar season and their offense improving since last season; it is not farfetched to see the Pelicans chasing the Larry O’Brien Trophy. 

The third seed in the west in this young season is the Golden State Warriors and their young high flying team.  With names like the “Splash Brothers” both Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry lead this team with fast-paced offense and high percentage shooting. 

Besides their superb shooting, they also have big men that can hold down the paint, and yes take great shots.
The team that they will face off against will be the Phoenix Suns. 

The Suns were not even a playoff team last year, but with star Eric Bledsoe showing the league and the naysayers criticizing him of his big contract in the off season why they paid him so much. 
He also has the likes of Goran Dragic, and Isaiah Thomas in the starting lineup it is time to consider that the ever so difficult has improved even more with the Suns stepping it up this season. 

They are moving in the right direction to be a force in the west for the next few years.

If this team were in the eastern conference it would be a playoff team without a doubt.  That just shows how difficult the West is.  Not only do you have to win, but win a lot. 

The Phoenix Suns should be in the playoffs come April, but we shall see how that goes. 

The final hypothetical matchup is one between the Dallas Mavericks and the Portland Trailblazers.  The Blazers have the 4th seed while the Mavs have the 5th seed.  These two teams are always in the mix. 

The Mavs won it all back in 2011.  They were able to take care of the Miami Heat in six games.

These teams still have a tough long road ahead of them.  In this hypothetical situation there is a  team that  finished in second place last season, but are not even in the playoffs. 

This team is the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Thunder has an excuse a pretty good one at that.  They are missing not one but two of its stars.  The Thunder had initially started out with their biggest star, Kevin Durant. 

Durant’s loss was an instant impact.  Durant is the defending NBA scoring champ, so you know that the Thunder is missing that.  

If that was not enough of a tough loss, a few games in the season they lose their other star Russell Westbrook. 

The Thunder look to get their stars back sometime during the season, and hopefully they are able to bounce back and be in the playoffs again.

Now let’s look at the Eastern conference.  The East has been known to have a handful of good teams. 

Yes they are not as stacked as the West is but the teams that are in the playoffs and most notably the top five or six are constant visitors to the playoffs. 

The first mock matchup comes with the number one Toronto Raptors vs. The Brooklyn Nets.  The Raptors are looking to bounce back from last season. 

This matchup will be a rematch of last years first round playoffs where the Raptors who were the Atlantic Division champs and the 3rd playoff berth. 

The Raptors are one of the hottest teams this season.  They stumbled in the playoffs where they were able to take the Nets to seven games, where they were able to beat the Raptors.

With young stars like Demar Derozan and Kyle Lowry the Raptors look to continue being on top of the Atlantic and what looks like the Eastern Conference as well.  

They face off against the Brooklyn Nets.  The Nets are kind of a mystery at times. 

They are not talked about as much as other notable Eastern Conference teams.  With a combination of young and old stars the Nets are always in the mix come playoff time. 

The current leading scorer Joe Johnson, Deron Williams, Kevin Garnett, and Brook Lopez it’s hard to say that they cannot succeed in April.
The next matchup comes with the seven seeded Miami Heat vs. the Washington Wizards. 

The Heat coming out of the NBA Finals a loser, and losing their biggest player in the offseason look to show what they got without the services of LeBron James.

They still have the majority of their core in Miami, with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh.

Yet, without James the Heat struggle, but that does not mean that they will get it together and show why they went to the NBA Finals for four straight years.

The Wizards, who are trying to go back to the playoffs after they took on the heavily favored Chicago Bulls and taking care of them in five games.  

They still look to continue from last years success and after adding some help on the bench and starting lineup its looking good for Washington’s chances. 

They have the services of John Wall, and the veteran Paul Pierce to help them get there.

The next matchup is the Chicago Bulls vs.  The Milwaukee Bucks.  The Bulls who were taken care of by the Wizards last season look to come back to the playoffs with a chip on their shoulder. 

They will also have their young star Derrick Rose somewhat healthy after missing all of last season and only playing 10 games in the last two seasons. 

Besides Rose’s return they were also able to add the team with the Spaniard Pau Gasol joining the Bulls this season, after he left the Lakers for the Windy City.  

The Bucks are a surprise team right now even early in the season, but yet they are still in the mix.  Who knows if that will continue this season. 

Yet they have a stacked roster on paper.  There is O.J. Mayo, Brandon Knight, Jared Dudley, Larry Sanders, and Zaza Pachulia it’s easy to say they are playoff bound.

The final matchup is the fourth seeded Cleveland Cavaliers and the fifth seeded Atlanta Hawks.  The biggest news of the offseason was in Cleveland. 

For starters the Cavs got the first overall pick again, the return of LeBron James, and the signing of Kevin Love. 

The Cavs are the favorite to win the NBA Finals now that they have both James, and Love, but you cannot forget the young Kyrie Irving it is difficult to bet against this new big three. 

The Hawks on the other hand are playoff bound again after last season where they were able to nab the 8th seed before being taken out by the number overall seed Indiana Pacers.  

Yet they continue to be there when playoffs start.   Paul Millsap, Jeff Teague, and Kyle Korver are the ones leading the Hawks to the top of the east, but can they push through the first round of the playoffs or will it be the same story as the last few years.

Talking about the ones that are currently not in the mix is the former first seed in the Eastern Conference the Indiana Pacers. 

The Pacers have a dismal record and look pretty bad in this young season.  They are also missing their star Paul George, who was injured playing with Team USA in the FIBA championships. 
They are trying to come back and be a force in the east how they have for the past two years.  They took on the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals last two years.

So you know they are doing something right, but will that be the same this season.

We will hypothetically see this season, to see if these teams will be in the same spots they are now. 

Or will we see one of the teams that are currently out of the playoffs be the first seed or will they stay out?  Will teams that were in the conference finals, that are now out of the playoffs make a run again. 

We will see but if the playoffs started today it would still be a good two months of playoff basketball.

SEC-ular Sacrament: The Week That Giants Will Fall?

By Ariel Bedford


 

“It’s… About… To go-DOWN!”—a rap phrase by one Jay-Z that has never resonated more than when used to describe this upcoming weekend’s slate of college football games within the Southeastern Conference.

       Photo via rockdalenews.com
                                     Photo via rockdalenews.com

Mississippi State travels to Tuscaloosa. Auburn heads to battle UGA “Between the Hedges” with a motivated monster of a running back in Todd Gurley returning as starter. SEC East defending champs Mizzou taking on a suddenly hot Texas A&M Aggies squad led by freshman QB Kyle Allen. Most of the six head-to-head SEC matchups have some meaning in one way or another.

The implications of these contests will be huge after the dust settles Saturday. Why, you ask? Because the cannibalization of the conference will truly become apparent for all to see. A best case scenario would probably be the Bulldogs squeaking by ‘Bama, and only LSU and Texas A&M falling out of the AP/Coaches Top 25 ranks after respective losses.

The worst case scenario could be the Bayou Bengals, Aggies, Bulldogs, and Auburn Tigers losing on the same day. This chain of events would cluster the entire conference and make for some potentially wild outcomes before two combatants are chosen to face off in the Georgia Dome come December.

Photo via athlonsports.com
                                      Photo via athlonsports.com

If you’re a fan of SEC football, be on alert for the next 60 hours. The results from this weekend’s games could jeopardize your beloved conference’s chance of getting ANY team into this year’s CFP format, let alone two…

Featured Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons


Ariel Bedford writes for Scouts Alley. A freelancer from Florida, he also is a contributor for Bleacher Report. Check out his personal media profile page and follow him on Twitter @mpcmi.

 

 

The Lakers’ Struggles Continue

By Omar Rodriguez


After an already dim preseason, the Lakers were hit hard in the first game of the season.

Julius Randle, the No. 7 overall pick of the 2014 NBA draft is out for the rest of the season after breaking his leg in the fourth quarter of the game.

The Lakers, as of now, are still winless at 0-5.  This is the worst start of the season since they were in Minneapolis in the late ’50s.

The only shining star so far has been the return of the “Black Mamba.”  Kobe Bryant is averaging 27 points a game this season and is leading all scorers for the Lakers this season.

Los Angeles for the most part stays in the game against their opponent. Towards the end of the game is when the opposite team begins to distance itself.

Yet, the Lakers continue to move on.  In his first season as Lakers head coach, Byron Scott remains positive about his team.

The Lakers are not expected to go far this season and were ranked as one of the worst teams at the start of the 2014 season.  Kobe Bryant was ranked the 40th best player in the NBA, which is the lowest ranking of his NBA career.

Jeremy Lin and Carlos Boozer are the most notable new faces.   Boozer is averaging 10 points with only 5.6 rebounds per game.  His production was never in question and he will begin to improve as the season goes adjusting to a new offense.

The thing that really needs work is his defensive skills down in the paint.   Coach Scott is expecting more from Boozer on offense but especially his defense.

Ed Davis, who is behind Boozer in the starting lineup, has been outperforming the veteran who is entering his 12th season in the league. Yet Scott still has faith in Boozer, so he will remain in the starting lineup until further notice.

Jeremy Lin is also in the starting lineup for the Purple and Gold, replacing the injured and aged Steve Nash.  Nash is out for the remainder in the season after re-injuring his back carrying groceries.

So that means that Lin will definitely have his minutes for the Lakers, but his performance and defensive prowess are still in question.

He is averaging right around 11 points, which is one point more then his career average.  Lin is also averaging five assists per game, which is on par with his career.

He is still trying to learn the Lakers’ offense and work out his kinks with his teammates, but Lin is still projected to be a solid player in both scoring and minutes behind Bryant.

Defense is still the most important thing that the Lakers will have to work on as the season progresses.

The points will be there for the Lakers as its new stars, rookies and bench come together to make the team a contender in the tough Western Conference.

The Lakers are not expected to go far this season, according to the media, but it’s up to Los Angeles to write its own story this season.

Still, the odds are against them.

They lose their promising rookie, and they still have not won a game this season with their atrocious defense.  The Lakers should take these things in stride and prevail.

Kobe Bryant, who is right back in the swing of things after only playing 10 games last season, is the leader of this team.

He is known for motivating or upsetting his fellow teammates and expecting them to perform to the Laker standard.  He knows what he wants and what to expect from his team.

If the Lakers are able to improve their defense and get their offense up to speed, they should be near the top half of the Western Conference come May.

With teams like the defending champion San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, and the Los Angeles Clippers in the mix, it will not be an easy task.

With all that in mind, the Lakers are facing an uphill battle, but it’s something that the organization, the players, and their new coach Byron Scott are ready to face.

Heisman Watch 2014: Who’s In at Week 11

By Ashley Gulick


Although there is still a lot of football left to play, the 2014 Heisman Watch is beginning to finally take shape and produce a notable list of legitimate frontrunners. At Week 11 of the 2014 season, here are my thoughts as to which players are rising to the “cream of the crop.”

1) Dak Prescott – QB Mississippi State

Although the Bulldogs scraped out a 17-10 victory over Arkansas on Saturday night, it certainly was not their prettiest win of the season by any means. But, enter quarterback Dak Prescott. Once again, Prescott proved his ability and efficiency as a leader under pressure, and that is why I have him at the top of my Heisman list.

After a 69-yard pass to Fred Ross for the go-ahead touchdown, Prescott was more than clutch in a game-winning moment. After going 18 of 27 for 331 yards and a TD, Prescott is now the first Mississippi State QB to throw for 300 yards since 2007. The Bulldogs are also on an 11-game win streak, which is the second longest in the country behind Florida State. If Prescott can continue to lead his team—and most importantly bring home a huge win in a couple of weeks against Alabama—then I think he will definitely be sitting in prime position to bring home the trophy.

For the season, Prescott is 132 of 216 for 2,025 yards, 16 TDs and 7 INTs. He also has 137 carries for 725 yards and 10 TDs.

2) Marcus Mariota – QB Oregon

In true Mariota fashion, Oregon finally earned an impressive 45-16 win over Stanford to snap a two-series losing streak to the Cardinals. Finally getting the “monkey off of his back,” Mariota not only earned the plaguing victory, but also boosted the rankings for the Ducks and himself in the Heisman race.

This win was a huge confidence booster for the junior who threw for 258 yards and two touchdowns. He also had nine rushes for 85 yards. Another interesting stat after Saturday’s win: Mariota now has a passing TD in 35 straight games, which is tied for the fourth longest streak in FBS history.

So far this season, Mariota is 169 of 248 for 2,541 yards, 26 TDs and 2 INTs. He has 71 carries for 410 yards and 7 TDs.

3) Amari Cooper – WR Alabama

Although the Tide had a bye this week, Cooper stays at No. 3 in my opinion, simply for his position as the true leader of this offense. With several key games coming up against LSU, Mississippi State and Auburn, his performance in those games will factor heavily into whether he stays in my top three.

Cooper’s stats for the year stand at 71 catches for 1,132 yards total and 9 TDs. In his last performance against Tennessee, Cooper had a career and school single-game best of 224 yards in the Tide’s 34-20 victory. Cooper only needs one more yard to match Alabama’s single-season record set by Julio Jones in 2010.

4) Melvin Gordon – RB Wisconsin

Even though the Heisman race is quarterback-heavy, do not count out Melvin Gordon, who is quickly making a name for himself behind his consistency week after week. Although their schedule may not carry the weight that most find important, his numbers are still just too good to keep him out of contention. After routing Rutgers 37-0, Gordon ended his night with 19 carries for 128 yards and two touchdowns.

Although he left the game with a knee injury, Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen said he would be fine going forward. So far this season, the junior has 173 total carries for 1,296 yards and 18 TDs. Saturday also marked his sixth game in which he has rushed for at least 100 yards total. His performance against Nebraska in a couple of weeks will definitely be a determining factor in if he stays in this race or not.

5) Everett Golson – QB Notre Dame

Although their 49-39 win over Navy did not impress overall, it was not about the win as much as it was about what Golson did individually on the field. On Saturday, the senior QB became the first player in Notre Dame school history to throw for three touchdowns and also run for three scores. With the lack of defense for the Fighting Irish, they relied heavily on Golson’s performance to take home the win. Accounting for six TDs total, Golson was 18 of 25 for 315 yards. He also rushed nine times for 33 yards.

This season, Golson is currently 184 of 293 for 2,311 yards, 22 TDs and 7 INTs. He also has 78 carries for 275 yards and 7 TDs.


Ashley Gulick is a staff writer for Scouts Alley. You can follow her on Twitter.

4 Questions for the Upcoming NBA Season

By Omar Rodriguez


The NBA is back.  The basketball gods are alive again.

Since the San Antonio Spurs defeated the Miami Heat to claim their fourth ring, a lot of things have changed. The biggest news of course is the return of the “King,” LeBron James, to the Cleveland Cavaliers.  The return comes after his rocky departure and the debacle that was The Decision, where he announced on national television that he will be taking his talents to South Beach.

Along with James, Kevin Love was added to the Cavs roster.  So now with Love, James, and young gun Kyrie Irving, the Cavaliers are now the favorites to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy come June.

And there are more new faces in new places.  For example, Paul Pierce to the Washington Wizards, Pau Gasol to the Chicago Bulls, and Chandler Parsons leaving the Houston Rockets to join their Texas neighbor, the Dallas Mavericks.

Andrew Wiggins, the first overall pick of the Cavs, had not even played one minute on the team before he was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves in the Kevin Love trade.  It’s a good time to be a fan of basketball. With that said, here are some of the questions for the new NBA season.

 

Will the Cavs Take it All?

Before LeBron James’ announcement, the Cavs were among the bottom 10 teams in terms of winning the NBA championship.  After the announcement, they jumped up to the top five.

And after Kevin Love—aka “the Double-Double Machine”—was traded from the Minnesota Timberwolves to the Cavs, Cleveland is now the favorite to win it all.  James, arguably the best player in the league, can make any team a contender.

Now, with an impressive supporting cast including Love and Irving, they are clearly the best team on paper.  The Cavaliers will still have some kinks to work out.  They will still need to decide on a starting lineup, and with James and Love getting plugged into the offense, the players will have to adjust to one another.

Throughout the preseason, the Cavs showed glimpses of what they can be—or are going to be—this season.  The team should only improve as its plethora of superstars mesh with one another.  Kevin Love is coming off a double-double average season with 26 points and 12 rebounds. In Minnesota, he was the lead scorer and the go-to guy for the Wolves.  Can he still be a force now that he will not be the go to guy anymore?  The claims that his defensive skills are lackluster will certainly be under the microscope this season.

Kyrie Irving, the star player before the arrival of James and Love, will have to adjust to being the third option instead of the primary option.  He will still get his touches and his points this season, but will he be what we know he can be this season?  LeBron James will now take those last-second shots for the win, and Kevin Love will be down low attacking the paint.  Will Irving be playing the clean up crew and still be able to be one of the best point guards in the game, or will he be overshadowed?  Only time will tell.

With all that being said, the Cavs are still the ones to topple in the East.  But with the Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers, and hot young teams like the Washington Wizards and the Toronto Raptors on their tails, it should be an exciting Eastern conference shootout.

 

Can the Spurs Repeat?

The reigning NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs took care of business and beat the Miami Heat in five games.  The previous season, with the Heat and Spurs playing in the Finals again, the Spurs fell apart in the final two games.

It all started with the debacle that was Game 6 where they were up by five points with less than 30 seconds left. They would eventually tie the game and send it to overtime after Ray Allen and his three-pointer. The Heat pulled away in overtime and eventually won game 7 to claim their second straight NBA title.  This stuck with the Spurs, who would soon get their chance to take on the Heat again for the championship.

Of course things would be different.

The Spurs outplayed the Heat and the rest of the Western Conference in the playoffs in 2013.  They finished with the best record in the league.  They were hot.

Along with Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli, and Tony Parker the Spurs still had most of their core.  In the background, Kawhi Leonard was slowly developing and improving with the best team in the NBA.  Leonard had a great playoff run last year, nabbing the NBA Finals MVP.

He is one of the best all-around players in the league.  He is one of the young stars on the aging Spurs.  He is the future of the team.  The core of the team Duncan, Ginobli, and Parker all returned for the Spurs this season.  The most notable free agent for San Antonio this season was not a player this season, but a coach.

The Spurs were happy to announce that head coach Gregg Popovich would return for a few more seasons.  Along with Duncan and Boris Diaw, who decided to return to the team after signing contract extensions, it was obvious that Popovich would stay as well.  The core of the team is still there so they will always be a threat.  Yet nobody talks about the Spurs during the regular season, even though they always finish either first or second in the tougher of the two conference.

Teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder, Portland Trailblazers, Golden State Warriors, and the Los Angeles Clippers are always in the mix as well. San Antonio is not a glamorous team that always catches headlines, and they are ok with that.  They let their play do the talking.

With a great coach, seasoned veterans, and a young star, the Spurs will always be in the mix to be in the playoffs, and most notably the NBA Finals to claim their fifth title.  They now have to deal with a new revamped Cavaliers team that has LeBron and Love.

 

Should Games Be Shortened?

After the NBA announced that it would experiment with shorter game times, the league was unsure what to expect.  The new game would be played in 44 minutes instead of the usual 48.  The first game played with the new time was between the Brooklyn Nets and the Boston Celtics.

The average time for a regular game is two hours and 15 minutes.  The new game was played in one hour and 58 minutes. The quarters were now only 11 minutes, and the second and fourth quarters only used two timeouts instead of the usual three.  The time could benefit some players to take some ease off of them for the long season.

Another suggestion around the league would be to shorten the season instead of shortening the games. The season consists of 82 games for each team.  Now the possibility of the season getting shortened is unlikely.  There are clear financial issues that would stop both the owners and the players.

It would not benefit either financially, but will benefit the players giving them more time to rest and play harder with fewer games on the schedule.  It would ultimately benefit the fans of the NBA since the players would be better rested and not as fatigued.

The last time the season was shortened was the 2011 NBA season, and that was cut by means of a lockout that lasted from mid-July to Christmas Day.  The season was now 66 games instead of the regular 82.  The loss of the 16 games cost the owners, league, and its players over 400 million dollars.  So the likelihood of the season being cut down is pretty low.

The time shortage will be more of a possibility but not much of a difference in the eyes of the players and the fans.  The difference of only 17 minutes is not that drastic, so the likelihood of the four-minute shortage is not likely.  The league should try to look at things that can be cut down during the game.

Some of the things that can be worked on is enforcing when timeouts are done, times of free throws, analysis of replays, and delay of games.  Stricter rules should be implemented on these things before moving on to cutting the actual game and season.

 

Which New Face in a New Place (Besides James and Love) Will Have the Biggest Impact on Their Team?

The reason that James and Love are not included in this section is that we all know that they will succeed.

As stated earlier, the Cavs are the new favorites to win the trophy.  But who else has a shot to have the biggest impact on their team? Pau Gasol with the Bulls?  Gasol was one of the most sought after free agents this past season.  After rejecting the Los Angeles Lakers’ contract extension, Gasol decided to take his talents to the Windy City to join Derrick Rose and the fan favorite Joakim Noah.

The Bulls, now looking healthier than ever, sit behind the Cavs to win the East after adding Gasol and with a healthy Rose.

Then there is “The Truth”—Paul Pierce—joining the high-flying John Wall in Washington.  The Wizards are a little short-handed, so Pierce will most likely be starting this season, unlike like last season where he came off the bench with the Brooklyn Nets.

Another aging veteran who has been moved around is Vince Carter joining the Memphis Grizzlies.  Carter will likely still be coming off the bench, but his services will help the Grizzlies be an even bigger contender in the West.

One of the biggest stories was the previous Houston Rockets’ team being imploded. Chandler Parsons left for one of the other teams in the Lone Star State.  Then there was Jeremy Lin partaking in the Hollywood lifestyle by joining the Los Angeles Lakers, and most likely being the starter after Steve Nash announced that he will be out for the rest of the season due to lingering back injuries.

Then there is Omer Asik flew east to join the New Orleans Pelicans and their young star, Anthony Davis.  Parsons is one of the best small forwards in the league right now and should have an instant impact on the aging Mavericks squad. It’s interesting to see players with new teams, with some leaving entire conferences.  So they will then have to adjust to a new conference and a new team.

Finally, there is Andrew Wiggins, who technically is not a new face in a new place since he has not played one NBA minute yet, having been was traded from the Cavs to the Wolves in the Love trade.

So he changed teams within a few months, and before officially playing one regular-season minute this year, he is still considered the front-runner for rookie of the year.  His Minnesota Timberwolves seem to be taking shape with the Spainiard Ricky Rubio and the former UNLV star Anthony Bennett backing him up.

Wiggins was the first overall pick for a reason.  He now knows where he will play this year, after he was unsure whether he would be a Cav or not.  He now has some additional fire after the Cavs traded him to show them what they missed out on with their first overall pick.

This year’s NBA season should be a good one, with the new big three formed in Cleveland, other teams stacking up their rosters to combat the Cavs, and of course the reigning NBA Champs in San Antonio.  As the season plays out, some of these questions might be answered, some might not.

Can they come out swinging or will they stumble out the gate?  Or will the stumbling happen at the end of the season come playoff time?  The Spurs, no longer the favorite to win, even though they won it all last year, want teams to underestimate them.

They know who they are, and with their mixture of veteran and young talent, it looks like they have the formula to do it again.  The league can also continue to try out the 44-minute game to see if it can actually work.  Now that the crazy free agency has come to an end and we see familiar faces in unfamiliar places, we get to see what they can offer to their new clubs.  Let the threes fly, the dunks slam, the trash talking begin, and the nasty crossovers commence.

The NBA is back.


Omar Rodriguez is a writer for Scouts Alley.

Baseball, A Love Story

By Murphy Powell


First, go to this link. Go to the comment section. I’ve added this in a little late, but it’s really excellent, and it will be mentioned again. I can’t get over how great this is. Ok, now you can read the rest of this stuff.


 

I think baseball is pretty great. It’s why I started this website, after all. And I’m supremely excited about tonight’s Game 7. I’m also pretty bummed out that there won’t be any baseball until March, and there won’t be any baseball that matters until the end of March.

For that reason, this is probably the most exciting possible baseball day of the year, and it’s also maybe the saddest baseball day of the year.

Free agency is nice and interesting, and I’m sure we’ll talk more about that on this site when moves are made and marquee players sign between November and February. So I guess that’s better than no baseball at all, but it’s not that much better. Sure, we can watch live streams of the Arizona Fall League for a little while longer, or we could watch different international leagues on a live internet stream as well.

Or, if you’re really crazy about it, you could watch some kids play in a fall league around your town.

But you should not do that unless you have a kid. Let the record show that I am not suggesting that anyone go to a children’s fall-league baseball game, unless they have a kid.

So, we’ll be without baseball for a while. It stinks, but it happens every year.

The game will start in a couple of hours, and it will probably be great because Game 7s are always great. Plus, there’s the Royals. It seems like they’ve been really close to losing and also unbeatable at the same time for the last month.

If you haven’t picked a side for tonight’s game—and you don’t have to—I’d like to send this link your direction again and tell you to go to the comment section. It’s very heartwarming and a little bit sad. And it’s one of the few comment sections on the internet that you can go without feeling horrible.

So I’ll miss you, Baseball. I’ll miss seeing Old Hoss Radbourn spell the sport out as “base ball,” which is one of my favorite things to see. I’ll miss position player pitching—ahem, Adam Dunn. But baseball—or, base ball, if you prefer—will be back soon-ish after tonight.

And here’s a prediction. The Royals will win. It’s insane to guess what will happen in one game, but the Royals are the home team, and the home team always wins Game 7. Home teams already have their home field advantage, and a home team’s winning percentage goes way, way up in a Game 7. Per Jayson Stark, “No team has lost a Game 7 at home since the 1979 Orioles, and no team has won Game 6 at home and then lost a Game 7 since the 1975 Red Sox.”

So that’s pretty good.

Ideally, we’ll all get to see some Terrance Gore action. We’ll probably see Madison Bumgarner, too, which is nice since he’s been the best World Series pitcher ever. And he’s ready to throw 200 pitches tonight, which is shocking.

Enjoy baseball tonight, everyone. Or enjoy basketball, because that’s on, too. And I think 300 starts around the same time on one channel.

I’d recommend baseball though. It’s ending tonight…unless the game goes long, in which case it would end Thursday. Or if it went really long, it might end Friday.

But it’ll probably be over tonight, so enjoy it.


Murphy Powell is a creator of Scouts Alley. You can follow him on Twitter if you would like to.

2014-15 New York Knicks Preview

By Joe Nocco


A season after finishing ninth in the Eastern Conference and missing the playoffs, the New York Knicks have revamped their team by re-signing Carmelo Anthony and hiring rookie head coach Derek Fisher. Finishing with a 37-45 record in 2013-2014, team president and general manager Phil Jackson hopes that he can lead the Knicks back to the postseason in his first full season in the front office.

After joining the Knicks front office in March, Jackson has attempted to change the attitude and culture of a struggling New York team through free agency, the trade market and a new offensive scheme.

It seems as if everyone in the Knicks organization is on board with the 11-time NBA Champion’s plan. In previous years, the Knicks’ complications stemmed from their lack of defense and focus solely on outscoring opponents. However, last season provided problems in all aspects of the game.

The Knicks finished in the bottom half of the league in most major offensive and defensive categories a season ago. New York ranked 20th in points per game—with 98.6—and 16th in field-goal percentage, coming in at 44.9. Despite ranking eighth in the league in fewest points allowed, the Knicks allowed the fifth highest field-goal percentage for opponents. Though the Knicks held their opponents to under 100 points per game, they allowed nearly 40 points in the paint per game as well.

It is difficult to win games when nearly half of the points allowed are inside the paint especially in close games. The Knicks went 3-8 in games decided by three points or fewer last season, while going 2-3 in overtime. Had New York closed out one of these games, they could have qualified for the postseason.

The Knicks also finished with a 15-29 record against teams with a win percentage over .500. With the second highest payroll in the NBA behind cross-town rival Brooklyn Nets, the problems begin and end at the top.

Derek Fisher, a longtime player under Jackson, was hired as the 26th head coach in Knicks history. Fisher was set to retire following the 2013-2014 after 18 seasons as a player and was signed to a five-year contract with New York on June 10. Fisher and Jackson won five NBA titles as a part of the Los Angeles Lakers and hope to implement a similar system that they used in LA in New York.

The system that will be used in New York is commonly known as the triangle offense. The sole purpose of this offense is to take the ball out of the hands of, in this case, Carmelo Anthony and spread the ball around. This would allow Anthony to get open without having the ball while letting other role players become involved with the offensive game plan. In the long run, the triangle offense relieves Anthony of the pressure of constantly handling the ball and always relying on him to carry the offense.

Carmelo Anthony finished second in the league in scoring, averaging 27.4 points per game. However, Anthony finished 72nd in field-goal percentage after sinking less than half of his shots. At 45.2 percent, the Knicks’ leading scorer made 9.6 out of every 21.3 shot attempts.

The triangle offense also translates to an effective defensive scheme. Instead of Anthony running down the court and chucking up a 25-foot shot, the ball will be worked around the perimeter until an efficient shot can be taken. This will increase the Knicks’ time of possession and keep fresh legs on defense, slowing down the tempo of the game. However, once the triangle is fully learned and executed correctly the tempo can speed up resulting in a high-scoring offensive attack.

Re-signing Carmelo Anthony was the key for the success of this offense. Though Anthony was a major part of this offense and team, the triangle offense cannot be executed properly with just one player. In lieu of re-signing the face of the franchise, Phil Jackson made his presence known in New York by making a six-player trade with the Dallas Mavericks.

Just 16 days after signing Derek Fisher to a contract, Jackson dealt center Tyson Chandler and point guard Raymond Felton to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for guards Shane Larkin, Jose Calderon and Wayne Ellington along with veteran center Samuel Dalembert. The Knicks also received the 34th and 51th picks in the 2014 NBA draft, a draft in which the Knicks previously had no picks.

The move not only bolstered the Knicks bench but made salary cap space for the possibility of Carmelo Anthony re-signing. Jackson’s thought processes proved effective after Antony returned to his hometown on a five-year, $124 million deal.

Jackson wasn’t finished after using the received picks to draft Cleanthony Early from Wichita State and Thanasis Antetokounmpo from Greece. The front office couldn’t believe that Early was still available in the second round and are expecting a strong rookie season. Antetokounmpo, on the other hand, will be stashed overseas to continue to develop for New York. His brother, Giannis, currently plays for the Milwaukee Bucks.

Still, Jackson wasn’t satisfied. The Knicks traded away Wayne Ellington two months after acquiring him from Dallas along with Jeremy Tyler in exchange for Travis Outlaw and Quincy Acy from the Sacramento Kings.

It seems as though Carmelo Anthony has bought into the Jackson and Fisher philosophy as the Knicks eye a playoff berth. Although the Knicks are set to win now, both Jackson and Anthony know that this may take time. However, along with the new acquisitions and the return of Anthony, the Knicks have other pieces in place that will allow New York to compete in a weak Eastern Conference.

Amare Stoudemire is in the last year of his contract and will be playing for his future—not just in New York but in the NBA. Stoudemire is set to make $23.4 million this season after signing a contract with the team in the summer of 2010. Former No. 1 overall draft choice Andrea Bargnani also returns to the Knicks’ lineup after suffering a season ending elbow injury. Both Stoudemire and Bargnani opted into the final year of their contracts to stay with the Knicks this season.

The Knicks backcourt comprised of Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith and Tim Hardway Jr. also remained intact, which will provide a three-point threat and solid defense at the top.

With his near $100 million payroll in place, Phil Jackson is ready to begin what appears to be an eventful 2014-2015 season.

“I flashed back to 1989 when I took over as head coach and had talked to Michael (Jordan) about how I wanted him to share the spotlight with his teammates so the team could grow and flourish,” said Jackson. “In those days he was a gifted young athlete with enormous confidence in his own abilities who had to be cajoled into making sacrifices for the team.

“Now he was an older, wiser player who understood that it wasn’t brilliant individual performances that made great teams, but the energy that’s unleashed when players put their egos aside and work toward a common goal. Good teams become great ones when the members trust each other enough to surrender the ‘me’ for the ‘we.’”


Joe Nocco is a writer for Scouts Alley and covers the New York sports beat on JoeNoccoSports.com. You can follow him on Twitter @JoeNoccoSports.

2014-15 Brooklyn Nets Preview

By Joe Nocco


Finishing sixth in the Eastern Conference a season ago, a new-look Brooklyn Nets team eyes a fresh start under new head coach Lionel Hollins. After defeating the Toronto Raptors in seven games in the first round of the 2013-14 NBA Playoffs, the Nets were bounced back to Brooklyn by LeBron James and the Miami Heat in the conference semi-finals.

Advancing to the postseason with a rookie head coach is no easy task, but after recording just 44 wins last season, expect a stronger year from the Nets in 2014-15.

Hollins, the former head coach of the Memphis Grizzlies, was signed to a four-year deal worth $20 million if the sides agree to a fourth-year option. The July 7th deal came just after head coach Jason Kidd was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks for second-round picks in 2015 and 2019. Kidd was the fourth head coach to leave a team following his rookie season and the first since 1979-1980.

While in Memphis, Hollins led the Grizzlies to four straight playoff appearances from 2010-2013 winning 50 or more games in his final two seasons with the franchise. The defensive-minded coach helped the Grizzlies regain a presence in the Western Conference through rebounding and a defensive authority. During the time Hollins spent in Memphis, his team ranked second in defensive efficiency, third in opponents field-goal percentage and tied for second in rebounding percentage.

The Nets ranked in the bottom half of the league in each of those categories.

“Practice, practice, practice,” Hollins said. “Repetition. We’re going to put them in stressful situations at practice. We’re going to push them and just try to get them to go beyond what you would normally do in a game. Can everybody be tougher? I think they can. How tough can they be? I have no idea and maybe one or two guys can’t make any change but that remains to be seen.”

Aside from a new head coach, the Nets have also added depth to the bench through the trade market and draft in hopes of reviving a struggling Nets offense that ranked 21st in points per game last season.

Brooklyn traded for guard Jarrett Jack to replace the void left by Shaun Livingston, who opted to join the Golden State Warriors. The Cleveland Cavaliers were eager to part ways with the veteran guard in order to make cap space for the return of LeBron James. Jack averaged 9.5 points per game in 80 games with the Cavs.

In addition to the departure of Livingston, the Nets also lost center Andray Blatche who joined the Xinjiang Flying Tigers in the Chinese Basketball Association and forward Paul Pierce who signed with the Washington Wizards.

The Nets used the draft to acquire younger talent to replace Blatche and Pierce, adding Oklahoma State guard Markel Brown and Bojan Bogdanovic from Yugoslavia, who was originally drafted by the Miami Heat in 2011. Brown, who was typically overshadowed by his backcourt mate in Marcus Smart, averaged 15.3 points per game in his junior season and 17.2 points per game in his senior season. The rookie also averaged 34.7 minutes per game in his final two seasons at Oklahoma State.

With depth in the backcourt accounted for, center Brook Lopez must play a larger role in the Nets’ attack both on offense and defense. Lopez was cleared to play in August after suffering a Jones’ fracture in his foot in a December game but reinjured tissue in his foot and could miss 10-14 days. This is the same fracture that reigning MVP Kevin Durant recently suffered. Before his season was ended due to the foot injury, Lopez was averaging a career-high 20.7 points a game on 56.3 percent shooting.

The new-look Nets seem to have successfully paired youth and talent but must receive more production from veteran guards Deron Williams and Joe Johnson in order to truly improve. Johnson averaged 15.7 points per game and 2.7 assists per game last season while Williams averaged 14.3 points per game and 6.1 assists per game.

Key role players Andrei Kirilenko, Kevin Garnett, Mason Plumlee and Mirza Teletovic will all be returning to aid Hollins in his first year in Brooklyn.


Joe Nocco is a writer for Scouts Alley and covers the New York sports beat on JoeNoccoSports.com. You can follow him on Twitter @JoeNoccoSports.