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Friday, February 21, 2014

Must See Sports - Fourth Weekend of February 2014

Last week's advantage/disadvantage record, excluding series: 5-5
2014 Advantage/Disadvantage Record, excluding series: 11-12
2014 Advantage/Disadvantage Record (series only): 0-0

Slim pickings at the end of this month. Next month, Spring is in the air. So are the basketballs! And the baseballs! advantage/disadvantage record.

Saturday, February 22

NCAA Men's Basketball

#1 Syracuse Orange at #5 Duke Blue Devils

Syracuse let one slip against Boston College this week. I suspect they were looking ahead to Duke on the schedule. The Orange suffered a few near misses before the BC game.

Duke was on fire before dropping one to arch-rival North Carolina last night. They are also likely still reeling after a close overtime loss to the Orange at the Carrier Dome earlier this month. The game could tip either way, but I am going to go with home court, super freshman Jabari Parker (19 PPG, 9 RPG) and Coach Krzyzewski.

Advantage: Duke

#11 Louisville Cardinals at #7 Cincinnati Bearcats

Louisville's only loss in the last month-and-a-half was a tight game at the hands of the Bearcats on their own court. Both teams make their livings with strong defense: Cincinnati by smothering their opponents and Louisville with aggressive rebounding.

Still, the Cardinals, in big games (like their first game against Cincy) miss the big-body post presence of dismissed forward Chane Behanan (8 PPG, 6 RPG)  on both ends of the floor. This feeds right into the strength of Cincinnati everyman senior forward Justin Jackson (11 PPG, 7 RPG). Ultimately this game will be decided by the winner of the matchup of the standout senior guards Russ Smith (18 PPG, 3 RPG, 5 APG) of Louisville and Sean Kilpatrick (20 PPG, 4 RPG, 3 APG) of Cincinnati. Both are hot, playing great basketball right now.

I give the slightest nod to the home team.

Advantage: Cincinnati

#16 Wisconsin Badgers at #15 Iowa Hawkeyes

The Big Ten suffers from bipolar disorder. I'm convinced. Every team in the conference appears to have more ups and downs than a roller coaster. If lengthy forward Frank Kaminsky (13 PPG, 6 RPG, 2 BlkPG) can create havoc in the paint defensively and Sam Dekker (14 PPG, 6 RPG) plays up instead of down (which is unpredictable of late), Wisconsin can probably get the points they need to win.

If Roy Devyn Marble (16 PPG, 4 RPG) of Iowa finds his zone and gets his points, I think the Hawkeyes win. Being at home feeds into Marble's favor. With two teams playing inconsistently, that could be the difference.

Advantage: Iowa

The red hot Blue Devils will be all smiles if they can serve a cold dish of revenge to Syracuse. 1

Sunday, February 23


Los Angeles Clippers at Oklahoma City Thunder

In spite of Blake Griffin's (25 PPG, 10 RPG) evolving skill set and the recent return of Chris Paul (19 PPG, 11 APG, 5 RPG) to the Clippers' lineup, the Thunder have been as hot as lightning of late. Kevin Durant (31 PPG, 6 APG, 8 RPG) and the Thunder are also likely to be just a bit more focused after suffering a 103-81 beatdown in front of their fans at the hands of two-time MVP LeBron James and the two-time defending NBA Champion Miami Heat.

Advantage: Thunder

Chicago Bulls at Miami Heat

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau should be Coach of the Year in my opinion. He just rolls with the punches in spite of injuries to key players and a near-two-year absence of former MVP Derrick Rose. The Bulls have won five of last six and are in second place in the Central Division.

Still, if you can't score, you can't win. LeBron James (27 PPG, 7 RPG, 7 APG, 2 StlPG) appears to have flipped a switch that may not only vault the Heat past the Pacers for first place in the Eastern Conference, but snatch the 2014 MVP award away from front-runner Kevin Durant. The King is riding a string of six consecutive games scoring 30 or more points. The Heat have won 10 of their last 12 and are on national television.

Advantage: Heat

Houston Rockets at Phoenix Suns

Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey was criticized for paying (then backup) guard James Harden (24 PPG, 5 APG, 5 RPG) a king's ransom to come to Houston and start. He was warned that bringing Dwight Howard (19 PPG, 13 RPG, 2 BlkPG) to the Space City may not be worth the price.

The Rockets are in second place in the Southwest Division and within striking distance on first place in the Western Conference. Last season, they sneaked into the playoffs for the first time in four years. Where are those critics now?

The Suns had, what on paper, looked like the worst roster in the West. BOOM! Guard Goran Dragic (20 PPG, 6 APG) is having a breakout year. BOOM! Newly acquired guard Eric Bledson gets off to a blazing hot start (18 PPG, 6 APG, 4 RPG, 2 StlPG). BOOM! The Suns are in second place in the Pacific Division.

Without Eric Bledsoe (out with a knee injury) in the lineup, Phoenix doesn't have the firepower to take down the upper tier teams in the West on a consistent basis. The Rockets have won eight of their last nine and have not lost a game in regulation in nearly a month.

Advantage: Rockets

Morey (left): having the last laugh. 2
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