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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Must See Sports – First Weekend of February 2013

Last week's advantage/disadvantage record: 0-2
2013 Advantage/Disadvantage Record: 3-3 

It’s Super Bowl Weekend and there is a super week of sports ahead!

Thursday, January 31


Memphis Grizzlies at Oklahoma City Thunder

As I expected, the Grizzlies cooled off since their blazing hot start to the season. Still, they are in fourth place in the Western Conference and have the best record among all non-division leaders. Memphis continues to excel on defense, but with the trade of leading scorer Rudy Gay (17 PPG, 6 RPG) to the Toronto Raptors in exchange for three role players (Teyshaun Prince – 12 PPG, 5 RPG – being the headliner of the three), one has to question if the Grizzlies will have enough offense to make a run in the postseason.

The Thunder have kept on rolling all year long. While having lost three of their last five, they still have the best offense in the league. They’re at home and facing a big opponent. I expect Kevin Durant (30 PPG, 7 RPG)and company to be ready.

Advantage: Thunder

With the departure of Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph is, without dispute, the man in Memphis. 1
Friday, February 1


Miami Heat at Indiana Pacers

Behind the play of center Roy Hibbert (10 PPG, 8 RPG, 3 BlkPG), the Indiana Pacers have the best defense in the Eastern Conference. They are very physical and extremely hard to beat at home. This is why I think that, in spite of having the best record in the East, the Miami Heat, whose Achilles heel in physical play in the paint, may struggle. Chris Bosh (17 PPG, 7 RPG) is their only significant physical presence under the glass and in the post area and he is just coming off of a toe injury. This game is ripe for a minor upset.

Advantage: Pacers

The last time I picked against LeBron, I had to eat my words. I suppose I am a glutton for punishment. 2
Saturday, February 2

NCAA Men’s Basketball

#1 Michigan Wolverines at #3 Indiana Hosiers

Four words: game of the year (so far)! Michigan is the #1 team du jour and will visit their Big 10 rival, the preseason #1 Indiana Hosiers. I criticized Indiana for not having a signature win last week, and they showed me with a big win over Michigan State. Indiana junior guard Victor Oladipo (14 PPG, 6 RPG) stepped his game up against the Spartans with 21 points. To beat Michigan, the Hosiers will need a similar performance from him.

Indiana beats opponents by scoring and scoring and scoring some more. The problem is that when they cross a team like Michigan, with guys like Tim Hardaway, Jr. (16 PPG, 5 RPG) who can score from anywhere on the court and a point guard like Trey Burke (18 PPG, 7 APG) who can find an open man from anywhere, the Hosiers will have little room for error. Indiana is a very good defensive team, but I am not sold on how well they can hold the best of the best.

Advantage: Michigan

The Hosiers could use another big performance from Oladipo if they expect to possibly wrestle the #1 spot back from Michigan. 3
#16 Ole Miss Rebels at #4 Florida Gators

Big matchup in the SEC…. Ole Miss is one of the hottest teams in the country, winners of nine straight before dropping a game against Kentucky earlier this week. Senior forward Murphy Holloway (15 PPG, 10 RPG) has emerged at the on-court leader of this high scoring, fast shooting, bang-under-the-boards team.

Florida, like every year, is very good. But they can never reach the summit. They have had the most acute case of Bridesmaid Syndrome of any program I have followed the last three years. This is senior guard Kenny Boynton’s last dance (14 PPG, 4 RPG, 3 APG) and it shows in his play. His rebounds and assist to turnover ratio are as good as they have ever been in his college career. I expect the hustle to continue at home on Saturday.

Advantage: Florida

Boynton knows that his window to win an NCAA title is closing quickly. 4
Sunday, February 3


Super Bowl XLVII

Baltimore Ravens (13-6) vs San Francisco 49ers (13-4-1)

On paper the 49ers appear to have the advantage in this game. They are the total package: elite running game, elite defense, arguably the best linebacker in the league in Patrick Willis (120 tak., 2 INT), and a passing game that has been suddenly elevated with the emergence of second year quarterback Colin Kaepernick (1,840 yds., 10 TD, 3 INT, 62% comp.). This team has no glaring weaknesses.

The Ravens have no glaring weaknesses either, but there are some aspects of their team that could make you go, “Hmm….” Their defense is solid and smart, but they are not the impenetrable force that they have been for more than a decade. Their defensive leaders are aging. Linebackers Terrell Suggs (8 GP, 22 tak., 2 sacks) and Ray Lewis (6 GP, 57 tak., 1 sack) have missed games and battled injuries all season long. Safety Ed Reed (58 tak., 4 INT, 1 TD) continues to play at a high level, but without the bulletproof linebacking play available all season, he has had to shoulder more of the load than in years past. How this affects the 34 year old, playing in his 20th game of the season, is cause for some concern.

I think Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (3,817 yds., 22 TD, 10 INT, 64%) is the X factor in this game. If he can get comfortable early against a fierce 49ers front seven and the Ravens offensive line can contain Niners all-everything defensive lineman Justin Smith (66 tak., 3 sacks, 8 tak. for loss), this game could be decided on the final possession. As is, I think the Niners have a bit more firepower coming into the game.

Advantage: 49ers 

Opposing defenses haven't solved Kaepernick yet. 5
Wednesday, February 6

#23 Minnesota Golden Gophers at #13 Michigan State Spartans

This game is pivotal for both teams. After being ranked as high as #8 just three weeks ago, the Gophers have retreated to their burrow holes, dropping four consecutive Big Ten games before snapping the streak with a win against Nebraska on Tuesday. Part of the problem was the disappearance of senior forward Rodney Williams (12 PPG, 6 RPG), who shot abysmally and scored below his season average during the four game losing streak.

Michigan State has to go “back to the old drawing board”. Presented with a second realistic opportunity to break into the top 10, the Spartans fell short at Indiana. Junior point guard Keith Appling, the team’s best player, completely vanished in that game, scoring only three points with four turnovers and no assists last Saturday. MSU Head Coach Tom Izzo limited Appling to less than 20 minutes of play because he was so ineffective.

Something has to give and both teams need the win. But Michigan State is at home and the Gophers appear to have awakened from a prolonged coma. I like the Spartans.

Advantage: Michigan State

Keith Appling needs to step his game up from last Saturday. 6

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