The relevant and happening sports takes of the day, by Eric Hatfield
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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
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
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.
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
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.
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,
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.
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.
#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