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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Must See Sports - First Weekend of February 2014

Last week's advantage/disadvantage record, excluding series: 3-4
2014 Advantage/Disadvantage Record, excluding series: 6-7
2014 Advantage/Disadvantage Record (series only): 0-0

The big game is on Sunday, but there is plenty for consumption on this week's sports buffet.

Thursday, January 30

Yours truly has a birthday tonight and the hardwood has some matchups. I'm sure you're ready to hear about the matchups in this Midwest-dominated Must See Sports.

NCAA Men's Basketball

#13 Cincinnati Bearcats at #12 Louisville Cardinals

Some chips are going to fall in this ACC matchup. My chips are on Louisville Head Coach Rick Pitino. Louisville is physical, disciplined, and moves the ball well. Cincinnati lives by the jumper, but will probably die by it on Thursday night. While Cincinnati's star guard Sean Kilpatrick (19 PPG, 4 RPG) can shoot the lights out, their one enforcer in the paint, forward Justin Jackson (11 PPG, 7 RPG, 3 BlkPG) may miss tonight's game with an injury.

Meanwhile, Louisville has missed some muscle since forward Chane Behanan (8 PPG, 6 RPG) was dismissed from the team for a violation of team rules. Its only real test, post-Behanan was a loss to Memphis on January 9th. Still, in my view, the senior leadership of guard Russ Smith (18 PPG, 5 APG) and the job sophomore forward Montrezl Harrell (12 PPG, 9 RPG) has done, with increased minutes, essentially replacing Behanan's role in the post trumps the Bearcats' jump shooting machine.  

Advantage: Louisville

Expect to see the difference that coaching makes as Pitino's shorthanded Cardinals face the hot but one-dimensional Bearcats. 1

Los Angeles Clippers at Golden State Warriors

There is nothing like a matchup of two divisional opponents with bad blood. It makes for great television. The Clippers have held it together in spite of the loss of point guard Chris Paul (20 PPG, 11 APG, 5 RPG) with a shoulder injury. They haven't played the stiffest of competition, though.

The Warriors, on the other hand, are at home, healthy, and have to be reeling after an embarrassing loss to the Washington Wizards in their own building, in which they were owned by the Eastern Conference visitors in the second half. They will be far more focused for Blake Griffin (23 PPG, 10 RPG) and L.A. than they were for the Wizards.

Advantage: Warriors

Even the Warrior Girls don't like the Clippers. 2

Friday, January 31


Oklahoma City Thunder at Brooklyn Nets

Nets Head Coach Jason Kidd deserves a ton of credit for bringing his team back from the dead during the month of January. The Nets are 10-2 since the start of the new year after circling the drain during the 2013 portion of the 2013-2014 season. 

Cinderella should expect a taste of midnight however from the Thunder, with the best record in the Western Conference and fresh off of a beat down of LeBron James and the Miami Heat last night. The Thunder's Kevin Durant (31 PPG, 8 RPG, 5 APG) is likely the leading candidate for the MVP award. If LeBron couldn't bottle him up, I don't see an aging, albeit star-studded, group of Brooklyn defenders will have much more luck.

Advantage: Thunder 

Dear LeBron: You got served! Regards, The Durantula 3
Saturday, February 1

NCAA Basketball

#17 Duke Blue Devils at #2 Syracuse Orange

There are only a limited number of opportunities for anyone to beat Syracuse this season, let alone at their home in the Carrier Dome. This is one of those opportunities.

Syracuse is not bulletproof. Their offense distributes the ball to set up scoring plays like the rock was a man hole cover. They shoot a lot of jumpers, but relatively few off the dribble. They aren't always aggressive when crashing the boards. They turn the ball over too much in some games.
Good luck, Coach Krzyzewski. 

Advantage: Syracuse

Unless Syracuse Head Coach Jim Boeheim is inserting Otto the Orange into the lineup, I don't think Syracuse is dropping this big ACC game at home. 4
#23 Oklahoma Sooners at #16 Iowa State Cyclones

Oklahoma served up the beginning of the end of ISU's short stay in the top ten. I can't imagine that senior point guard transfer (from Marshall) DeAndre Kane (16 PPG, 6 APG, 7 RPG) and the Cyclones have forgotten. The Sooners kicked off the recent three game losing streak of the Cyclones. Meanwhile, OU senior forward Cameron Clark (17 PPG, 6 RPG) and the Sooners are riding a three game winning streak. 

Clark did not play well in Norman when they hosted the Cyclones in spite of the win. ISU has lost four of their last five, but two of those losses were to red hot Kansas and all were to teams that are currently ranked. The Cyclones are in a tailspin while the Sooners are hitting their stride. OU's combination of sharp shooting and rebounding is going to be too much for an Iowa State team trying to refind itself.

Advantage: Oklahoma

#24 Ohio State Buckeyes at #14 Wisconsin Badgers

Wisconsin has dropped four of their last five games, all to unranked Big 10 opponents. It is no coincidence that their leading scorer, forward Sam Dekker, has plummeted along with the Badgers' fortunes. I'm not sure what Wisconsin's Head Coach, Bo Ryan, is going to do to right the ship, but Dekker's point total of 11 or fewer points in three of his last five games will not be enough to life a Wisconsin team that plays small ball and hasn't stopped a runny nose defensively this season.

Ohio State is in its own tailspin, but is is from no lack of effort from their own scoring machine, forward LaQuinton Ross (14 PPG, 6 RPG). Both of these teams have had their weaknesses exposed - Ohio State needs a consistent, potent scoring threat and Wisconsin moves the ball poorly while getting bullied in the paint by comparable opponents. I'm not picking either team in March, but I think OSU has more talent and will win on Saturday.

Advantage: Ohio State

The house of cards at Wisconsin is on the verge of tumbling. 5

Sunday, February 2

I wasn't sure whether to start Sunday's previews off with the Orlando Magic at the Boston Celtics, the Big 10 men's hoops matchup between Michigan and Indiana, or the NHL match between Wild Card hopefuls Detroit and Washington.


Super Bowl XLVIII from Met Life Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey
Seattle Seahawks (15-3) vs Denver Broncos (15-3)

The Hat Trick will discuss Super Bowl Sunday in greater depth later in the week. But, for the record, I will be taking Peyton Manning, the Denver Broncos, and "OM-A-HA!!"

Advantage: Broncos

Omaha is enjoying its 15 minutes. 6
Monday, February 3

NCAA Men's Basketball

#16 Iowa State Cyclones at #8 Oklahoma State Cowboys

This game should offer a great one-on-one matchup between super-guards Marcus Smart (17 PPG, 6 RPG, 4 APG) of Oklahoma State and DeAndre Kane of Iowa State. Iowa State has been beaten by a host of Big 12 opponents after starting the season 14-0 and dominating their opponents in every statistical category. Don't worry, Cyclones Fans. the beatings will continue!

Advantage: Oklahoma State

Kane, left, and his Cyclones have been getting caned in January. Next batter up: Marcus Smart, right. 7

Tuesday, February 4

NCAA Men's Basketball

#24 Ohio State Buckeyes at #15 Iowa Hawkeyes

Forward Aaron White (14 PPG, 7 RPG) and guard Roy Devyn Marble (16 PPG) of Iowa offer plenty of good reasons to buy Iowa stock, in spite of two recent Big Ten losses to (ranked) teams from the state of Michigan. The complete tailspin of the Buckeyes, losers of five of their last six but once ranked as high as #3, is good cause to dump OSU stock...quickly.

Advantage: Iowa

Captain Cornelius has reason to smile as not one, but two Iowa universities are ranked this year. Like ethanol fuel, the Iowa Hawkeyes appear to have long-term sustainability. 8
Wednesday, February 5


Miami Heat at Los Angeles Clippers

LeBron James (26 PPG, 7 RPG, 6 APG) dueled with his Eastern Conference counterpart, Kevin Durant last night. The King outscoure K.D. with 34 points but his team was sent out of its own building with its tail tucked between its legs. The Heat blew an early 16 point lead and ended up losing by 17 in a game that was all-but-decided at the start of the 4th quarter. This was a Thunder team without All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook.

In spite of the cross-country travel, I doubt the two-time defending champs won't feel that their manhood is being tested. They face another Western Conference contender without its star point guard, Chris Paul. The Clippers, however, lack the experience and depth of OKC. I think the Heat try to redeem themselves (and their conference) in L.A..

Advantage: Heat   

Blake Griffin, left, versus LeBron James, right. This is as close to Wednesday T.V. gold as you'll find. 9
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