College basketball is heating up and NBA teams are making their playoff runs. It’s a good time to be a hoops fan. Last but not least, NASCAR’s big race is this Sunday, with one sexy lady on the pole!
Saturday, February 23
NCAA Men’s Basketball
#11 Georgetown Hoyas at #8 Syracuse Orange
One of the biggest losses to the college basketball world by the breakup of the traditional Big East powerhouses will be the end of the Georgetown-Syracuse rivalry. These two teams have been consistently ranked among the best in college basketball and have put on some shows for the fans over the years.
This year should be no exception and both teams have a realistic shot at a top three regional seed in the NCAA Tournament in March. A win on Saturday should put the winner into the top 10 and in sole possession of first place in the Big East. Going into the Carrier Dome with a lot at stake, Gerogetown sophomore forward Otto Porter, Jr. (15 PPG, 7 RPG) will need to be on his “A” game to solve the Syracuse 2-3 and come away with the road win.
Syracuse is a team that never rebuilds, just reloads. Its biggest challenges have usually come in March. However, to be best positioned for March, the in conference battles in February are what make or break them. Junior power forward C.J. Fair (14 PPG, 7 RPG) is having the best year of his career. He is an absolute menace in the paint on both sides of the court. I think the Orange’s key player, Fair, brings more to the table than Georgetown’s Porter and I think the Orange are more solid from top to bottom, not to mention at home, where they are unbeaten in conference play this season.
|C.J. Fair 1|
Sunday, February 24
NCAA Men’s Basketball
#4 Michigan State Spartans at #18 Ohio State Buckeyes
Ohio State came very close to pulling off a huge upset in overtime at Michigan earlier this month. Since then, the Buckeyes have hit some major speed bumps, losing three of their last five and the two wins coming over teams with losing conference records. Ohio State junior forward Deshaun Thomas (20 PPG, 6 RPG) has brought it during the funk and has to continue to grind it out if the Buckeyes are to defend their home court against Michigan and not risk falling out of the top 25.
I’ve suggested, all season, that MSU has come close to turning a corner all season, but have gotten flat tires just before reaching the intersection. Sandwiched in between close losses to #1 Indiana on January 27th and again Wednesday night, the Spartans have knocked off ranked conference rivals Minnesota and Michigan. Michigan State was riding a five game winning streak, including 11 of their last 12, before losing to the #1 team in the country on Wednesday evening. MSU will go as far as junior guard Keith Appling (14 PPG, 4 APG, 4 RPG) can take them. Appling has to continue to show up big in big games. Six point and three point outputs in the games against Indiana two nights ago and in January, respectively, won’t cut it for a team leader in the Big Ten.
Advantage: Michigan State
Advantage: Michigan State
|The only think worse than having Deshaun Thomas score on you is him doing so with his nuts in your face. 2|
Memphis Grizzlies at Brooklyn Nets
Memphis got off to a blazing hot start and is still fourth in the Western Conference. They’ve consistently been one of the better teams in the West during the last three seasons, thought they have a low profile. The Nets have gone from cellar dweller to contender over the course of two seasons with shrewd acquisitions by owner Mikhail Prokhorov. The Nets are also in fourth place in the East.
Point guard Deron Williams (17 PPG, 8 APG) and center Brook Lopez(19 PPG, 7 RPG, 2 BlkPG) have been the key cogs in the Nets machine, though their role players make them one of the toughest teams in the league to score against and one of the better teams on second chance points and points in the paint. Memphis is also a very tough, physical team with a stingy defense. I’ve yet to come to a conclusion on this team’s long term viability following the trade of Rudy Gay to the Toronto Raptors, however.
The Grizzlies are power forward Zach Randolph’s (16 PPG, 12 RPG) team, in my opinion. But going to Brooklyn against a hot team currently riding a four game winning streak may be more than the Grizzlies can handle. Expect a good, tough, matchup.
|Brook Lopez in "beast mode". 3|
Chicago Bulls at Oklahoma City Thunder
A return of guard Derrick Rose to the Bulls this season could make this a Finals preview. If there was ever a question as to how well coached Tom Thibodeau’s Bulls are, those questions were answered in the first half of this season.
Former league MVP Derrick Rose has not played a minute of basketball since injuring his knee in the 2012 NBA Playoffs, yet the Bulls are just a game and a half back of the Indiana Pacers in the Central division and fifth in the Eastern Conference. The Bulls strength is their defense, and center Joakim Noah (12 PPG, 12 RPG, 2 BlkPG) has held the D and the team on his shoulders in Rose’s absence. If Rose comes back this season, watch out!
I think that the Thunder are the best team in the Western Conference, in spite of being four games back of the first place San Antonio Spurs in the West. Led on the floor by small forward Kevin Durant (29 PPG, 8 RPG, 5 APG) and point guard Russell Westbrook (23 PPG, 8 APG, 5 RPG), the Thunder have no glaring weaknesses in any aspect of their game and are capable of outscoring any opponent they face. Durant is having an MVP caliber season, though he is likely to fall short of LeBron James (27 PPG, 8 RPG, 7 APG, 2 StlPG) in MVP voting if present trends continue. I think the Bulls will make the Thunder work for the win, but in OKC, the Thunder are too much for the Rose-less Bulls.
|Kevin Durant is becoming the MVP bridesmaid of the league. 4|
Danica Patrick won the pole in Daytona 500 qualifying. Now if only she can win a NASCAR race. While I will decline to engage in the limitless sophomoric jokes I could make about “Danica Patrick getting the ‘pole’ at Daytona,” I cannot ignore the tremendous amount of attention that NASCAR’s signature event is receiving this year because one of its most marketable (and hottest) racers has the top pole position.
NASCAR wins whether Danica wins or not. Behind Patrick in order of starting position are Jeff Gordon, and NASCAR bad boys Kyle Busch & Kevin Harvick. This is a win-win because auto racing enthusiasts have big name stars in the top positions and casual fans will get a racing-related heavy dose of, arguable, the most recognizable face in the sport.
Tune in to Fox at noon central time!
|"Hey, Beavis! Danica Patrick got the 'pole'! Uhh huh huh!" 5|
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1) Image from www.bouncemag.com
2) Image from www.the-ozone.net
3) Image from http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com
4) Image from www.cosbysweaters.com
5) Image from www.exposay.com