Friday, November 30, 2012

Latest Conference Realignment: Two Points We've Learned And When It Will Stop

You won't see this image much longer, as Louisville is off to the ACC. (

It all seemed so clear three years ago.

The Big East was the powerhouse of college basketball conferences, with the ACC and Big 12 not far behind. Now the thought of who will be a member of the Big East in two years seems like a question fitting for Jeopardy! or a Magic 8-Ball.

As of this post's publishing, Louisville was the latest large athletic department to jump ship and head to the ACC. (I said "at the post's publishing" because it seems like a move happens every 12 minutes; I said "large athletic department" because Tulane's not shaking up people's lives like Syracuse; and I said "athletic department" because we all know this isn't about academics. It's about money generating from football and basketball.)

Fans want to know when it will stop, and most likely, the answer isn't any time soon, and not until one of the six major conferences no longer exists. The Big East is trying to stay above water after losing West Virginia and the eventual loss of Syracuse, Pitt and Louisville, but its emergency plan has turned it into Conference USA 2.0.

Instead of predicting the future, which is nearly impossible when involving conference realignment, let's talk about two points that we do know.

1.  ACC basketball is the new Big East
Think about where the Big East was a couple of years ago. The eighth and ninth best teams in the conference could still get into the NCAA Tournament (or win the National Title, if you're Big East Tournament ninth-seeded UCONN circa 2011) and the Big East Tournament was amazing to watch because great teams like Georgetown and Notre Dame could square off in a quarter-final game.

The ACC isn't quite as stacked from top to bottom, but this is not a league that will have a clear favorite every year. It already had arguably the greatest rivalry in the game with Duke and North Carolina, and now throws in Syracuse, Louisville and Pitt, who have all been near the top in the country in the past five years. Maybe even more impressive is the list of coaches now in the conference. Krzyzewski, Boeheim, Williams and Pitino all coaching against each other? If you're looking for a better group of Hall of Fame coaches, good luck finding it.

2. The old conference lineups are not coming back
We all get nostalgic thinking about the conference and the teams in it we grew up watching. While I wish the Big East wasn't crumbling and the Big 12 could have remained with 12 schools like it was when I was a kid, it will never be the same again. But 10 years after all this settles down, what we now view as new and weird will seem familiar. Until then, try not to get too attached. It really doesn't feel like many teams are safe from a move, and we've definitely learned that geography doesn't matter anymore (San Diego State in the Big East?). It doesn't seem right for Maryland to be in the Big Ten or Pitt to be in the ACC, but new opportunities and benefits will arise and new rivalries will form.

To expect the unexpected is the easiest mindset to be in as we wait and see what else shakes up, and until then, enjoy the conference your favorite team is in and try to find a silver lining in a possible move.

Follow @BeatsDimesDrive on Twitter

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

BYU Fans Make Viral Video To Bring Jabari Parker To Provo

No. 2-ranked high school recruit Jabari Parker cut his list of possible college choices to five in October. BYU did not make the cut. But that didn't stop some passionate fans to create a video playing off of Psy's "Gangnam Style" called "Parker Style" with the hopes of luring the highly touted recruit to Provo.

The video is pretty good (for a parody song video about a high school athlete) and isn't as cheesy as some we've seen in the past, so the guys deserve credit there.

The biggest question I had was why the main singer wore a BYU football jersey for a video that is recruiting a basketball player. Do they not sell BYU basketball jerseys in Provo?

Parker will probably not wind up in Provo, but at least these fans did their part in the recruiting process.

Follow @BeatsDimesDrive on Twitter

Sasha McHale -- Daughter of Rockets Coach Kevin McHale -- Passes Away at 23

Kevin McHale has taken a leave of absence after his daughter Sasha passed away Saturday. (

The NBA season tipped off on Nov. 1. Houston Rockets head coach Kevin McHale officially took leave from his position on Nov. 10. His daughter, Alexandra "Sasha" McHale, passed away exactly two weeks later. She was 23 years old.

Between releases from owners of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Houston Rockets -- Kevin McHale has coached and filled other positions for both franchises -- no official cause of death has been announced by any source. The Houston Chronicle's Rockets beat writer, Jonathan Feigen, reports that Sasha McHale was originally hospitalized with complications stemming from a long-running battle with lupus, an autoimmune disorder.

Current Rockets James Harden and Chandler Parsons both tweeted their regards ("Praying for coach McHale and his family." and "R.I.P. Sasha," respectively) for their coach's loss.

No timetable is set for McHale's return to the bench, and none likely will be until he feels it is the right decision for himself and his family.

I can't pretend to know the feeling of losing a child and will not do it here. This is not a forum for feigning or for preaching. But do take a moment to think about the family of Sasha McHale, a young woman who, by all accounts, was exuberant.

The BDD staff sends condolences to the McHale family in this time of grief.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Jack Taylor's 138-point Feat - Grinnell's System Deserves The Credit

Grinnell College's Jack Taylor set an amazing scoring record last week, which he can credit to the program's system. (

Grinnell College's Jack Taylor was one of the biggest stories last week in an already big sports week. That's what happens when you score 138 points in a basketball game.

I've waited until nearly a week later to write this not because I am lazy or slow to the party, but because I wanted to wait and see what he did next and research what he had done before that breakout game that got him headlines all over the country.

First off, the feat is impressive, regardless of your stance. Sure he had to take 108 shots in order to reach that number, but it's impressive his arm didn't fall off or, in seriousness, that he didn't strain a muscle shooting that much.

Taylor got his 15 minutes of fame, but let's not believe we've found the next pure shooter who will make the large leap to the NBA. He had a night where half of his shots were going in, and he just happened to play for a system that allowed him an unprecedented amount of chances to shoot.

Grinnell's game plan is to score, and to score a lot. That's how it is averaging 134 points per game in its first four games of the season. The plan is to shoot early on in the possession, and to shoot often. The Pioneers defense is to score more on offense.

Taylor just happened to be the beneficiary of the extreme success the system can provide. Just look at how he followed up the record-breaking performance in a game against William Penn on Sunday. Taylor had 21 points on 6-21 shooting (28 percent) and was 3-13 (23 percent) from 3-point range.

So there was a bit of pressure on him to follow up on a great performance. That's understandable. But the story was the same in the first game of the season, where Taylor scored 19 points on 5-18 shooting from the field (27 percent) and 3-15 from behind the arc (a mere 20 percent). The next day, he had a better 28 points on 6-23 shooting (still a very average 26 percent) and 3-19 from 3 (15.7 percent).

Take away the game of his career and he has shot 27 percent from the field this season and 19 percent from 3-point range. Those aren't great numbers from a "shooting" guard.

This is not meant to bash on Taylor. He accomplished a feat no one else has done, and should be congratulated for it. But he should also be congratulating a system that allows him to score by taking 20 or 108 shots a game and to keep shooting 3's when none are falling. Not many other programs give players that freedom.

Only at Grinnell could Jack Taylor score 138 points in a game.

Follow @BeatsDimesDrive on Twitter

Jamal Crawford Is Using Street Ball-Style Play to Succeed in NBA

Jamal Crawford is playing his best basketball right now for the Clippers. (

Jamal Crawford is having a coming out party for the Clippers in LA.

His numbers are up across the board. His field goal percentage is the highest it’s ever been in his 13-year career. He’s been lethal from behind the arc and at the charity stripe. The only time he averaged more points per game, he also averaged 12 more minutes per game. And he only averaged one measly point more per contest.

Crawford has had six games where he’s scored 20 or more points off the bench this year for the Clippers. However, the most impressive aspect of Crawford’s exploits this season is how he’s achieved these numbers; playing a street ball-style of basketball that has left some of the NBA’s elite icing sore ankles and egos.

On November 7, The Clippers were taking on a then-undefeated San Antonio Spurs team. Crawford had been quiet throughout the night, shooting just 3-7 from the floor and finishing with 10 points for the game. However, while the match did feature impressive highlight reel dunks from Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, Crawford would have the most memorable moment in the contest.

With 30 seconds left in the game and LA looking to run out the clock, Crawford took the ball out to the right wing, guarded closely by Spurs rookie guard Nando de Colo. Colo acted aggressively towards Crawford, seemingly wanting to prove himself as a good defender who plays till the final horn.

Bad idea. Admirable, but still a bad idea.

Crawford took a few steps back, drawing Colo to him. Then, in a “watch what I can do” moment, Crawford bounced the ball between Colo’s legs, drove to the hoop, took the foul and headed to the free throw line. Colo stumbled, backpedaled, threw his arms back, searching for an imaginary support, and fell to the court.

Ankles twisted? Check. Tailbone sore? Check. Ego bruised? Absolutely. Lesson learned? Without question.

Crawford has always had a street ball-style of play and broken many more accomplished ankles in the NBA than Colo’s. Proficient defenders such as Kirk Hinrich, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Metta World Peace, Rudy Gay and many more have fallen to Crawford’s handles. However, because of his increased efficiency shooting the ball (practice, anyone?) and his overall numbers at career highs, Crawford’s been more effective and exciting than ever before. 

However, Crawford is not the first street baller to excel at the professional level. For years, fans of basketball have been enthralled with the exaggerated crossovers, the no-look passes, and general showmanship that comes from a street-ball style. The NBA has been fortunate enough to have a few players translate their game from the playground to the court and there are a few notable names that have come through the league.

Let’s go down the list:

First up, Jason “White Chocolate” Williams. His numbers, while not overwhelming, are those of a solid point guard in the NBA. Williams finished up his career with 10 points and six assists per game and a knack for finding himself on the highlight reel for either a crazy crossover or a no-look pass. Williams consistently gave crowds and opponents exhibitions on ball handling. Even famed defender Gary “The Glove” Payton fell to the handles of Williams. While he was healthy, Williams was certainly an above average player in the league.

Next, Stephon “Starbury” Marbury. At the peak of his career, Marbury was one of the better point guards in the NBA, putting up 20 points and eight assists per game. Marbury was known for a devastating crossover and array of moves that left many opponents scratching their heads, wondering if what they’d seen had actually occurred or was simply a figment of their imaginations. There’s no denying that during his time in the league, Marbury was a true spectacle of street-style basketball.

Who could forget Rafer “Skip to my Lou” Alston? While his time on the court was inconsistent, Alston still managed to have solid career, putting up decent numbers and spectacular highlights. Unfortunately, Alston is probably best known for taking a shot at sharpshooter Eddie House. However, Alston also had the ability to break a defender down and leave them in the dust on his way to the hoop.  Don’t believe me? Ask Dwayne Wade.

Then there’s always J.R. Smith. While his defense leaves something to be desired, Smith has shown to be a very good offensive threat off the bench. He has incredible athleticism, as displayed through his participation in the 2005 dunk contest. While he's been criticized at times for shooting too much, when he’s on, Smith has the ability to really pour it on from downtown. His crossover is nothing to sneer at either.

I couldn’t overlook Nate Robinson, could I? (It’s a height joke.) A 5’9" sparkplug of energy off the bench, Robinson has stunned audiences over the years with his athletic ability, primarily in the dunk contest. No one will ever forget Robinson’s aerial assaults on the hoop over fellow little man Spud Webb and big man Dwight Howard en route to two dunk contest championships. He can also give defenses headaches with his jump shot and ball handling ability.

Who’s number one, you ask? Well here’s “The Answer.” Despite being an undersized guard, Allen “The Answer” Iverson was one of the most prolific scorers the NBA has ever had, putting up 27 points per game. He also affected the game in a big way on defense; collecting two steals a game for his career. While no one will accuse Iverson of being unselfish, he did manage to put up good assist numbers (six per game) along with his scoring. While, unlike Crawford, Iverson never learned the importance of practice, he did make the greatest player to ever walk on an NBA court look like Chevy Chase opening for SNL with his devastating crossover.

Follow @BeatsDimesDrive on Twitter

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Mourning and Mapping the Washington Wizards' Apatow Era

No more, Knuckleheads. (Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images)

Gilbert Arenas signed with the Washington Wizards before the 2003-04 season. The only holdover from Arenas' stay with the capital city's roundball club, Andray Blatche, was ejected from the premises and ushered beyond city limits by the amnesty clause on a Tuesday this summer; July 17, to be exact.

These two events unofficially bracket the Knucklehead Era — a distinction that will forever be inseparable from a certain few players and their actions during their times under the Wizards flag. For better or worse, it will also stick with the franchise and stay in the not-so-deep reaches of its fans' minds until John Wall and Bradley Beal become a yearly threat to make playoff runs.

Or if Wall turns his summer hoops hangover injuries into an annual ordeal until the Wizards find the right combination of draft picks, role players, free agents and trade acquisitions to contend in the Eastern Conference.

But the legacies of Arenas, Blatche, JaVale McGee and Nick Young in Washington may as well be imprinted on the Verizon Center's court like a sponsor's name, or banging about in the rafters like specters waiting for a final "yes or no" on absolution.

Their actions played out much more like a low-brow comedy on the big screen rather than a force on the basketball court. Like it or not, that statement would probably have drawn smirks or guffaws from the Knuckleheads at a certain point.

When he was hired in the summer of 2003 and Arenas' signing was one of his first official acts as Wizards general manager, Ernie Grunfeld couldn't have known that he was crafting one of the modern era's greatest metaphors of sports and pop culture — that, silently, he had asserted himself as the NBA's version of Judd Apatow and would soon accrue his cast of Jason Segels, Paul Rudds and Seth Rogens.

Grunfeld's personnel moves and behind the scenes work makes him the de facto producer. His cohorts directing the action, obviously, are the four coaches the Wizards have employed from 2003 to 2012: Eddie Jordan, Ed Tapscott, Flip Saunders and Randy Wittman. They're the Era's Adam McKay, Greg Mottola, and whoever elicited the *ahem* fantastic performances in Drillbit Taylor and Year One. (Steven Brill and Harold Ramis, for what it's worth.)

Arenas wasn't so much a member of the Knuckleheads as he was a swaying influence whose presence mattered more than erstwhile Wizards like Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler. For all intents and purposes, the Artist Formerly Known as Agent Zero is Will Ferrell. His franchise introduction in 2003 even coincides with the production of Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. If Arenas makes his way back to the NBA from playing ball overseas and Washington finds itself in need of a veteran guard, Gil could even reprise his role a la Ferrell in the upcoming Anchorman sequel.

(By the way, this will never, ever happen. The cleansing process is effectively finished and even one of those ceremonial retirement contracts would be poison for the Wizards.)

Blatche and McGee made rebounding a science. (Getty Images)
Andray Blatche — the longest tenured Knucklehead, having been drafted in 2005 and remaining a Wizard until his amnesty expulsion — was the crew's Jonah Hill. Blatche developed as a prospect and played his last non-professional ball at Henninger High School then went straight to the NBA, you say? Hill was a bit actor who got weird for less than a minute in The 40 Year Old Virgin the same year Blatche started getting boneheaded in Washington.

In 2007-08, Blatche played his first full 82-game season, becoming a notable part of Washington's cadre of big men. Likewise, Superbad provided Hill his first starring role as the meatier member of a bumbling youthful duo in '07. The character was on a single-minded mission to bring to fruition his dream of a physical relationship with the girl of his dreams, and although it happened three years after Hill fell short of that goal in his portrayal, Big 'Dray's one-night dedication to getting a triple-double is one of the more selfish acts ever to happen on a basketball court, no matter how hilarious it is (except, probably, to Wizards fans).

The same kind of physical relations Hill sought in Superbad are the focal point of what may be Blatche's greatest hit as a Wizard. The forward was allegedly just that when he supposedly solicited an undercover police officer for sex, but the charges were dropped when Blatche attended a seminar for men who hire prostitutes. He was charged on August 2, 2007 — a mere 15 days before Superbad's release.

It doesn't stop there, though. In 2010, the NBA implicated Blatche in Arenas' firearms-in-locker-room incidents with then-teammate Javaris Crittenton and fined Blatche $10,000 for his participation. He was an ancillary player to Arenas' actions the same way Hill's Aaron Green had a supporting role in a major musician's antics in Get Him to the Greek, Apatow's flagship release of 2010.

For their parts, McGee and Young weren't any of Apatow's imagined people. Sure, JaVale cuts a slender silhouette for his 7-foot frame like Hill's Supderbad buddy Michael Cera, and if the film had been released after Young had been in the league for a couple years it would be mind-blowing if one of the more basketball-astute rappers didn't refer to him as McLovin'. It sounds like something Wale could work into a rhyme, but maybe that's because he actually did use "McLovin'" in a rhyme.

Mostly, though, they were there own characters. Sometimes it was on purpose (ex. the numerous Nick and JaVale Show clips on YouTube, including one where they attempt to eat spoonfuls of cinnamon with predictably disastrous results) and many, many other times McGee and Young were characters in the sense that their actions were outrageous enough to leave viewers in disbelief (see: the plentiful "Top Dumb Plays" compilations that exist for McGee).

It's the kind of stuff that the supporting characters from Knocked Up would revel in. Boxing above a pool, playing ping pong in a driveway, finding new ways to spread pink eye — name any number of attempts at sophomoric humor, and it's not a stretch of the imagination to think that Young and McGee — a man who only tweets by retweeting himself and has an alter ego named Pierre — could have been doing these things in their free time in Washington.

That's in the past for now. McGee is slowly finding his way as a Denver Nugget, posting triple-doubles and earning a contract extension with his playoff showing against the Lakers in the spring. Blatche pulled off a feat arguably more impressive than a triple-double by scoring 22 points on 11-12 shooting — good for a 91.7 field goal percentage — as his Brooklyn Nets team beat the Sacramento Kings on Sunday night. Young, although his statistics are slightly down across the board when compared to 2011-12, has .063 win shares per 48 minutes. That's not good at all, considering the league average is .100, but it will be the second best WS/48 of Young's career if he manages to sustain for the whole season.

Little by little, they could all be maturing. The same may be true for Arenas, who was served humble pie by missing out on a contract stateside despite working out in Staples Center for the majority of the summer. He'll be spending the foreseeable future in China after signing with the Shanghai Sharks this week.

Arenas' placement of firearms and the ensuing fallout is well documented, but the lasting touch of the Knucklehead Era that he inspired is encapsulated in a recent epilogue. Alongside two legs of the Knucklehead tripod, he spent a day on a paintball course. It's all in the video: him chiding McGee and Young; JaVale seeming completely serious at times and flaunting unnecessary flair (in this case, a paint grenade) in other scenes; and Young, being a sidekick to it all.

They may no longer be Wizards, but — in their hearts and, if we're being truthful with ourselves, in our hearts, too — they will always be real life versions of caricatures from Apatow's mind. As frustrating as it was, and as comical as it could be, maybe that's exactly what we need: something to laugh at when a game such as basketball seems perpetually serious.

Or maybe it's just what we want, regardless of what George Karl's strict coaching does to McGee in Denver, or the number of times Blatche records a ridiculous shooting percentage that no one ever expected from him, or even when Young facilitates enough through 10 games to account for nearly 20 percent of all his assists in '11-'12, as he has so far this season.

It could be as simple as us just wanting them to fit the same mold forever. But our wants don't matter. Blatche, McGee and Young will always be the tenants of the Knucklehead Era, and that's all we really need to remember.

Follow @BeatsDimesDrive on Twitter

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Focus On Chaminade's Win, Not Texas' Loss

Div. II Chaminade upset Texas 86-73 in the Maui Invitational Monday night. (

The numbers on the scoreboard at the end of the game showed Chaminade 86, Texas 73, and most people will focus first on the Texas side of the board.

Texas looked awful. What does this mean for Rick Barnes? How do you lose to a Div. II school?

The criticism is just; Texas wasn't supposed to lose that game. Chaminade is in the Maui Invitational because it is the host school, but it's not supposed to win.

Instead, focus on what Chaminade was able to achieve, and you'll see the beauty of sports. Texas didn't have a once-in-a-lifetime horrible shooting night, gift-wrapping the game to the Silverswords. The Longhorns shot 46 percent from the field, which was much better than Chaminade's 36.8 percent.

Clearly Texas didn't play it's best game, but don't use that as an excuse to take away what the underdog accomplished. Chaminade won because it played exceptional, not because Texas looked like a third-grade rec team. The Silverswords out-rebounded the Longhorns by nine, got to the free-throw line more (and made more of their attempts) and had a player step up with the game of his life. DeAndre Haskins scored 32 points and nine rebounds in 25 minutes of play, with a lot of his success coming from the charity stripe.

It was amazing to watch it all come together for the team that had no chance leading up to the tip. That is, unless you're a Longhorns fan, because then you were in a personal hell.

Fans love underdogs. We love watching them do the impossible and break brackets and pride. We throw them rare airtime on SportsCenter and make movies about them. Which is why instead of looking at what Texas did wrong, appreciate what Chaminade did well. It's fitting this win came 30 years after one of the greatest upsets of all time, when the Silverswords defeated No. 1 Virginia in the same tournament.

Chaminade enters the Maui Invitational every year with everyone expecting an easy win for the opponent. Most of the time that's what happens. The Silverswords are a small school of about 1,200 students going against the toughest competition they will face all year, so you can't fault them for their record.

But every once in a while everything clicks and comes together for the little guys from Hawaii. And the outcomes like the one we saw last night are why they play the game, and why we love sports.

Follow @BeatsDimesDrive on Twitter

Monday, November 19, 2012

Battle 4 Atlantis, Maui Invitational, Legends Classic Headline Tournaments To Watch Thanksgiving Week

UNC and Texas included in field battling for the Maui Invitational title. (

Thanksgiving week is synonymous with football, but if you're looking for a feast, look no further than the slate of college basketball tournaments taking place all around the continent. Here's a quick look at the tournaments you will want to keep an eye on this week.

Maui Invitational - Nov. 19-21, Maui, Hawaii

The favorite: UNC

The field: Marquette vs. Butler; Mississippi St. vs. UNC; Texas vs. Chaminade; USC vs. Illinois

Breakdown: Texas was an early favorite to give UNC a run for its money, but the status of guard Myck Kabongo is still uncertain. Without Kabongo, Texas will struggle to find enough scoring to keep up with the fast-pace scoring of UNC (through two games the Longhorns are only averaging 62 ppg). UNC is young, but has lots of talent and should be able to leave Hawaii with the trophy.

Legends Classic - Nov. 19-20, Brooklyn, NY

The favorite: Indiana

The field: Indiana vs. Georgia; UCLA vs. Georgetown

Breakdown: Indiana should have no trouble taking care of Georgia and advancing to the title game. But the UCLA/Georgetown game became much more interesting after the news that Bruins freshman Shabazz Muhammad is now eligible to play. Georgetown's only early test - against Florida on an aircraft carrier - was canceled, and it feels like this Hoyas team is still searching for its identity. Indiana vs. UCLA would make an entertaining final, where UCLA should stay competitive, but the Hoosiers may prove to have too much firepower offensively.

Battle 4 Atlantis - Nov. 22-24, Atlantis Resorts, Bahamas

The favorite: Louisville/Duke

The field: Duke, Louisville, Missouri, Memphis, Stanford, VCU, Minnesota, Northern Iowa

Breakdown: This has to be the most talent-heavy preseason tournament this year, with a good mix of blue bloods and mid-major darlings. There are no easy roads to the finals in this bracket, so the trophy is up for grabs. Duke and Louisville should both be in the running for the championship game, but don't overlook Memphis or Missouri as an upset pick. Missouri's transfers are starting to get a feel for playing together and Memphis has tons of young talent. Duke came out of the gate hot with a win over Kentucky in the Champions Classic, while Louisville has yet to be tested. The title game could be any number of matchup combinations, which makes this a must-see tournament to watch.

Others To Keep An Eye On

CBE Classic - Nov. 19-20, Kansas City, Mo.
The field: Kansas, St. Louis, Texas A&M and Washington State

Preseason NIT - Nov. 21-23, New York City
The field: Michigan, Pitt, Kansas State, Virginia, Bowling Green, Delware, Fordham, Fairfield, Cleveland St., North Texas, Lamar and Robert Morris

Old Spice Classic - Nov. 22-25, Orlando, Fl.
The field: Gonzaga, Vanderbilt, Davidson, Oklahoma, Clemson, West Virginia, UTEP, Marist

Follow @BeatsDimesDrive on Twitter

Friday, November 16, 2012

Knicks' Undefeated Start Good for the NBA

The Knicks have cause to celebrate, as does the NBA. (D. Clarke Evans/Getty Images)

The New York Knicks let Jeremy Lin walk in favor of bringing Raymond Felton back into the fold at Madison Square Garden. The team got older by trading away Landry Fields while signing Jason Kidd and Rasheed Wallace. Mike Woodson got the assignment of being the 'Bockers' head coach for an entire season, completing the installation of a playing system entirely different than that of former HC Mike D'Antoni, and managing the minutes of two scoring forwards that have not exactly worked as a formidable tandem thus far.

Carmelo Anthony nailed his three-pointers at the Olympics and lost weight over the offseason, though, so Manhattan's finest had that going for them coming into the season, right?

No one saw a 6-0 start coming for the Knicks and if anyone says otherwise, permission granted to raise your voice. Even if they got past their bolstered-over-the-summer, new-in-town Brooklyn rivals to begin the season, the Knicks were definitely going to get crushed by the Miami Heat. That's how it was supposed to play out.

This is the Knicks' best start since 1994-95, when Patrick Ewing and Co. turned an initial 7-0 record into a trip to the Finals. Given all that has happened in the 28 years between then and now, however, everyone -- Knicks fans most of all -- should know not to jump to conclusions.

Woodson has things clicking. Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith can score as easily as any players in the league, but, all of the sudden, they are playing without the ball and committing to defense like never before in their professional careers. They could have let a game slide away one week ago, but buckled down late to beat the Dallas Mavericks last Friday.

Reinserting Amar'e Stoudemire into the rotation when he comes back from knee surgery in 4-6 weeks could be tricky, but for now, the Knicks are good. Unexpectedly so, but good nonetheless.

And that benefits the NBA as a whole.

Big market teams have name recognition. Even if they can't name any of the team's individual players, it is safe to say people who don't make following the NBA a priority can name MSG's marquee sports team more readily than they can tell you which city in Tennessee is home to a pro basketball team. Hearing that the Knicks are doing well means more to these people than saying the Milwaukee Bucks are on top of the Central Division standings. The news could elicit a slight head nod or mutter -- or it could make a person stop on TNT or ABC whenever they see 'NYK' on an on-screen scoreboard. Depending on the opponent, this could shed more light on lesser-known players and franchises, or -- if bad luck is in the cards -- expose casual viewers to Reggie Miller's commentary.

Yes, that's a positive spin on the slippery slope fallacy, but it's reason to be happy (except the Reggie thing).

If you're not a Knicks fan, relish the fact that they may roll until your team of choice puts a stop to their unbeaten streak. If you are a Knicks fan, reeling of wins in the first six games of the season must feel good and foster hope, tempered though it may be. And if you're not a fan of basketball at all -- which is unlikely, since you're reading a hoops-centric blog that is a map-dot on the Internet -- take the time to watch the Knicks play the Grizzlies on ESPN tonight.

Then find a way to watch the Grizzlies' next game.

Follow @BeatsDimesDrive on Twitter

The NCAA Tournament Returns To The Garden After A Too-Long Hiatus

After a 53-year break, Madison Square Garden will host a NCAA Tournament game in 2014. (

A mecca of basketball and the most popular postseason in sports (and I mean entire postseason, not one game like the Super Bowl) are going to be reunited in 2014, and it's been way too long.

The NCAA announced the sites for the 2014 and 2015 NCAA Tournaments this week and one name jumped off the list of venues who are getting the privilege to host. It's not one of the two Final Four sites, but the attention and atmosphere will rival anything Houston or Indy, respectfully, can do. It's Madison Square Garden, and it will be the home of the 2014 East Regional.

Why is this such a big deal? Well for one, the Garden is the most tradition-rich basketball venue with the capacity to hold an event like this, and it also happens to reside in New York City. What team would complain about traveling to NYC to play basketball in front of Spike Lee?

But part of what makes this reunion so special is that we've been waiting for this since 1961, which was the last time MSG hosted an NCAA Tournament game. How did the NCAA go 53 years without finding a way to host a tournament game in the Garden? It used to be a main-stay for the tournament, as Dan Gavitt, NCAA vice president for men's basketball, said in the announcement.

"And we are excited about the tournament returning to the world's most famous arena," Gavitt said. "Only three arenas have hosted more tournament games than Madison Square Garden, despite it being more than five decades since the last time it hosted. That gives you a great sense of the historical significance of bringing the tournament back there."

It's not like MSG hasn't played a role in college basketball for half a century. The Garden has been home to the Big East Tournament and the NIT for many years, as well as serving as the home court for several St. John's games. 

But it's a shame it's taken this long for the "world's most famous arena" to pair up with the NCAA Tournament again, especially given the two's history.

A lot has changed since the last NCAA Tournament game held at MSG. The shorts will be longer and the game broadcasted in color, while the popularity of the game has skyrocketed since the 60s. Maybe 2014 will usher in a new era of NCAA Tournament games in the Garden, because another 50-year break is way too long.

Follow @BeatsDimesDrive on Twitter

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Put-Back Dunks Steal The Show Across College Hoops Tuesday

KU's Jamari Traylor throws down a dunk off a miss against Michigan State Tuesday. (

Tuesday must have been National Put-back Dunk Day in college basketball, because in games across the country, players were turning their teammates misfortune into huge gains while making fans frantically hit the rewind button on their DVR to get another look.

The put-back dunk is one of the most exciting plays in basketball, mainly because for it to take place, there must be a miss first. This gets the crowd down, wondering what player X was thinking and why he didn't swing the ball around to the corner, instead of wasting a possession. Then comes the star of the play, a hero to the possession, flying through the air and changing the momentum and excitement level as he finished off the dunk.

OK, so that was a little dramatic. But the play takes awareness and persistence to attack the basket instead of running back on defense, which coaches love, plus the athletic talent to bounce off the floor and jump higher than everyone else before throwing down the dunk with authority. What about that is not fun to watch?

Here are three guys who executed the put-back dunk best on Tuesday.

We start with Kentucky freshman Alex Poythress, who took advantage of no one blocking out for Duke and sprinted to the paint to throw down a two-handed dunk.

Next we have Kansas' red-shirt freshman Jamari Traylor, who only needed one hand to finish a miss. Traylor was several feet behind initial shooter Elijah Johnson the entire play, but kept running down the lane and made the effort pay off.

We're ending with the most impressive dunk of the night. Detroit's Doug Anderson finished with only eight points, but these two were most impressive of the game. No one was going to stop that dunk from going in.

Follow @BeatsDimesDrive on Twitter

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Lakers Hire D'Antoni, But Not in a Panic

Pau Gasol and Steve Nash practice Mike D'Antoni's "Synchronized Swimming" defense. (AP photo)

The Los Angeles Lakers fired Mike Brown on Friday and by Saturday afternoon it was a foregone conclusion that Phil Jackson would be returning to the head coaching job from which he had retired twice before. The word circulating was that the organization already had a handshake agreement with the 11-ringed Zen Master and pen would be put to paper yesterday afternoon.

Until Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak called Jackson and told him otherwise on Sunday evening.

Instead, the only NBA franchise with a $100 million payroll opted to hire Mike D'Antoni, a run-and-gun master and pick-and-roll enthusiast who guided new Laker Steve Nash to two Most Valuable Player awards when the point guard played under him in Phoenix.

For all the rampant scoring done and individual honors gathered those Suns runs, though, the teams' postseason appearances never breached Finals competition. More recently, D'Antoni was ousted as the head coach of the New York Knicks in favor of Mike Woodson, a man who values defense more than putting triple-digit numbers on the scoreboard.

But just because D'Antoni's never helmed a title-winning campaign doesn't mean he never will. Remember: at one point in each of their respective careers Michael Jordan, Dirk Nowitzki and LeBron James were players who could never win a ring. Then they did.

The Lakers' current lineup boasts more latent talent than any NBA team D'Antoni's ever coached. Nash, Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol are all in their 30s, but are still capable of playing at an All-Star level. Dwight Howard protects the rim better than most basketball players in the world and the best of his Los Angeles stint is probably ahead of him, when he is fully recovered from back surgery.

The bench is still an issue. The age and durability of Bryant and Nash are issues. The possibility of D'Anonti's favored PNR offense could also be problematic, positioning Gasol and Howard away from the points where they play some of their best ball.

There will not be instant success for the yellow-and-purple clad lads in Staples Center just because there's a different man in a suit sitting on the sidelines. These are all men willing to adapt, though. D'Antoni has history with two of the major cogs in the Lakers' system through his work with USA Basketball. His success with Nash is being retread time and again for stories about their reunion, and he has at least a slight familiarity with Gasol after coaching the Lakers' division rival.

Bryant is still the heart, the vocal leader of this team. A Facebook post may not mean much in the days of new media, but Bryant seems to be buying in early, no matter how much he may have wanted his old coach back.

A title isn't guaranteed, but if Jackson was asking for too much for his return, the Lakers got the second-best available option. As long as the front office doesn't trade for Carmelo Anthony, everything should be fine.

Follow @BeatsDimesDrive on Twitter

Monday, November 12, 2012

What We Learned From The First Weekend Of College Basketball

Playing on an aircraft carrier is great, if the weather cooperates. It didn't for Florida/Georgetown and Ohio State/Marquette. (

Nearly every team now has a game under its belt after the opening weekend of college basketball, but the important thing to remember is we've got a long way to go before March. Now is not the time to make brash assumptions about a team after 40 minutes of play, like that Kentucky's freshman system is a failure since they nearly lost to Maryland and now they're not longer title contenders and might not make the tournament even and it's that's probably the reason for the Mayan Apocalypse. OK, that's a bit of an over exaggeration, but you get the point. Instead, we're going to be rational and patient - two approaches many in the sports industry refuse to try - while explaining this opening weekend.

Playing outdoors doesn't always go smoothly:
The near perfection that was the first Carrier Classic last year in San Diego between UNC and Michigan State sent the expectations through the roof. Then reality settled in and we realized there's a reason basketball is played in a gym. 
Syracuse and San Diego State were able to play outside Sunday, but that's only because the game, originally scheduled for Friday night, was postponed due to rain. In the two other games set on aircraft carriers Friday, One game wasn't able to finish (Florida lead Georgetown 27-23 at the half) and the other (Ohio State vs. Marquette) wasn't even allowed to start due to weather and condensation on the courts. The experience is remarkable if the conditions allow it to be, but Mother Nature doesn't always let that happen.

Freshmen are still freshmen
ESPN college basketball writer Jason King tweeted Monday morning that eight of the top-10-ranked freshmen according to ESPN played over the weekend and collectively averaged 7.6 points. Probably the freshman performance most surprising to people in a negative way was Kentucky's Nerlens Noel, who scored just four points in 26 minutes. The No. 1 player in the 2012 class did grab nine rebounds, but expectations are high for the freshman, who is assumed to be a star from his first minute on the court. But let's not forget, this was his first taste of college basketball, against a good opponent, where the play is quicker and more physical. It's going to take time. Some adjusted quickly, like Baylor's Isaiah Austin, who scored 22 points in 17 minutes against Lehigh, but there's still going to be a learning period for freshmen to get adjusted. It doesn't mean that Noel or others are suddenly a wash; they just needs time to adapt and get comfortable in a new system.

Most Impressive Win: Kevin Ollie and UCONN
Kevin Ollie didn't have the easiest first game to prepare for as a collegiate head coach. Replacing Jim Calhoun with only a seven-month contract and having basically a new team from last year, Ollie's first test was No. 14 Michigan State and a future hall-of-famer in Tom Izzo while traveling to Ramstein Air Base in Germany. Ollie had been Calhoun's pick for his replacement since his retirement, and Calhoun's judgement looks to be correct so far.
Ollie's Huskies left Germany with a 66-62 victory over the Spartans after shooting 46 percent from the field and from 3-point range. Guard Shabazz Napier is the biggest piece leftover from the Calhoun era, and he stepped up with a huge 25 points on 8-16 shooting.
UCONN was not expected to do much this season, being picked to finish ninth in the Big East, but this early win over a ranked opponent could be the kind of confidence this team needs to "overachieve" this season. Ollie just proved in his preparation that he deserves the faith his team needs to have in him, and that is a great way to spark a team starting a season.

Follow @BeatsDimesDrive on Twitter

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Five Games To Watch In College Hoops' Opening Weekend

Maryland is the first test on the schedule for Kentucky as the Wildcats look to repeat their title. (

It's finally here. College basketball season is at our fingertips, with just four more months before March Madness. There's no easing into it either. Tough matchups are awaiting ranked teams from the start, and with a multitude of games to watch and only so many TVs in your house, here are five games (and two who nearly missed the cut) to watch this opening weekend. All times are eastern.

Maryland vs. No. 3 Kentucky - 8:30 p.m. Friday ESPN
Kentucky is the defending national champion, although most of that team isn't around to defend the title. New faces are running the show, and this is the country's first look at a Calipari team without a "can they win a title this way" question surrounding it. The Wildcats might not breeze through the season as easily as last year - that was a special team - but they will still be very talented and win a lot of games. The Cats' first test is against a Maryland squad that is on the way up. Coach Mark Turgeon's squad got some great news this week regarding transfer Dez Wells, which is a huge lift for the Terps. Maryland will give Kentucky their best shot to see what the Cats have so early in the season.

Marquette vs. No. 4 Ohio State - 7 p.m. Friday NBC Sports Network
The big names are gone for both teams as they try to find new identities. It might be easier for Ohio State, as even though the Jared Sullinger and William Buford era is over in Columbus, the Buckeyes still have plenty of firepower. Deshaun Thomas will pick up some of the scoring and the defense will always be strong as long as Aaron Craft is on the court. The Golden Eagles are looking for people to step up after losing their top two leading scorers, Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder. It will be interesting to see which team's role players step up early, as it could be a good sign for growth throughout the season.

No. 10 Florida vs. Georgetown - 9 p.m. Friday NBC Sports Network
Florida - along with Missouri - has been many people's best bet to compete with Kentucky for the SEC crown without star guard Bradley Beal. Kenny Boyton should have an excellent year, starting with this game against a young Georgetown team without any seniors and with little experience. But both the Hoyas and Gators will be wearing camo jerseys and playing on an aircraft carrier in honor of Veteran's Day, so that's worth checking out in itself. The Gators should walk away victorious, but a program like Georgetown is never truly down and will put up a fight.

Bryant University at No. 1 Indiana - 8 p.m. Friday Big Ten Network
The state of Indiana has been waiting for this game for months. The hype is as strong as the expectations are for the No. 1 team in the country. This should be an easy win for the Hoosiers, but it will still be fun to see everyone's preseason pick for Player of the Year in Cody Zeller and the rest of the team in action. Let's not forget how low the program was after the Kelvin Sampson sanctions a few years ago. Tom Crean has done a great job revitalizing the program, and now is the time to see how far the team can climb. 

No. 9 Syracuse vs. No. 20 San Diego State - 4 p.m. Sunday
This is probably the most evenly matched game of the weekend. The game was pushed back to Sunday afternoon due to rain on Friday on the aircraft carrier in San Diego, so now more of the country will be able to watch with fewer games to chose from on Sunday. The Orange were a National Championship contender last season, blowing through the Big East. That's the goal again this season (as it always is in Syracuse), although the talent might not be as strong as last season. And don't sleep on what Steve Fisher is doing at SDSU. They may not play in a power conference, but they have the skill and discipline to compete with Jim Boeheim's squad. We'll be seeing both of these teams in the NCAA Tournament in March.

Honorable mentions:
Indiana State at No. 13 UCLA - 11 p.m. Friday Fox Sports Net
Talented freshman Kyle Anderson has been cleared to play for UCLA, but the Bruins are still waiting on word of fellow frosh Shabazz Muhammad's eligibility. It's been a dark couple of years for this storied program, but this highly recruited and highly praised freshman class could give UCLA instant success. They've all come in with plenty of hype, now it's time to watch what they can do at the college level.

No. 14 Michigan State vs. UCONN - 5:30 p.m. Friday ESPN 
The Jim Calhoun tenure is over at UCONN, so now we get to see what Calhoun's protege Kevin Ollie can do. Even with Shabazz Napier, it will probably be a rough first season for the Huskies. On the other side, Michigan State is without Draymond Green, a Player of the Year candidate last season, but will always be skilled and well coached under Tom Izzo. The Spartans will turn around and face No. 7 Kansas on Tuesday, but they better not look too far ahead of the Huskies.

Follow @BeatsDimesDrive on Twitter

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Syracuse/SDSU Push Back Carrier Game Due To Rain

UNC and Michigan State play in the first Carrier Classic last season on board the USS Carl Vinson. (

The scene will be hard to recreate. North Carolina and Michigan State playing basketball for the first time ever on an aircraft carrier (the USS Carl Vinson) in front of more than 8,000 fans and military members on Veteran's Day with the background of a red and purple sunset.

The spectacle went so well that the Carrier Classic is not only coming back for a second season - where Ohio State will take on Marquette on the USS Yorktown in Charleston, SC - but two other carrier flight decks will host games this year. Syracuse and San Diego State will play on the flight deck of the USS Midway in San Diego, while Georgetown and Florida will play on the USS Bataan in Jacksonville, Fl.

Mother Nature was not as kind to San Diego this time around, as Syracuse and SDSU are pushing the game back from Friday night to 1 p.m. Sunday due to a high chance of rain and strong winds.

This is an issue college basketball has never had to deal with, but fans should be thankful the game wasn't immediately moved indoors. It would have been the easier solution, so credit those involved who took on the extra work to keep the game outside.

This is a special experience for the teams, military personnel lucky enough to attend the game and fans across the country watching on TV, and a budding tradition that is expanding and looks like it will see more years ahead. So it's smart one of the games was not given shelter as the event continues to take off.

Follow @BeatsDimesDrive on Twitter

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

For The Complete Live Basketball Experience, College Trumps The NBA

The Oklahoma City Thunder arena and fans are the closest you'll find in the NBA to a college atmosphere. (

Tip-off was at 7 p.m. for this college basketball matchup, but the students took their places in the stands behind both baskets long before then.

Hundreds of students pretended to read newspapers while the opposing team was introduced - per tradition - before tearing the paper up and throwing it into the air in celebration of their team. They stood the entire game, yelling and jumping; making life as difficult as possible for the visiting team, who was doomed before stepping on the court.

The rest of the building was alive and passionate as well. The pre-game video sent goosebumps up fans' arms as they relived great moments from last year and the success of the past. The home team's starting lineup got a hero's welcome, which only got louder with each 3-pointer and high-flying dunk.

The home team won handedly, as expected, and the fans went home smiling, knowing they did their part.

Oh, and the score of the game didn't even matter. It was an exhibition game against a Div. II opponent that would not get hours of analysis on ESPN the next day. But that's the beauty of college basketball; the atmosphere of watching a game live puts the NBA to shame.

I will note this took place in Allen Fieldhouse (one of the greatest college basketball arenas in the country) with a University of Kansas team that has had a lot to celebrate and be loud about. (Rivals of the Jayhawks, don't worry. This isn't about KU, but merely a backdrop in which to explain my point.)

Regardless of the venue or team, the fact that fans showed this level of excitement for a game that didn't matter in the overall record is something to value. College arenas have hyper students in the stands instead of quieter businessmen at NBA games, which is a trade that makes college games the basketball skill level to see live.

This is not to say NBA fans don't have passion, because they do. But the season is long and there is not that emphasis of a must-win on every game. Plus the school's decades of songs and traditions that brings the fans together and makes the atmosphere special.

The size of the arena probably plays a factor as well. College arenas are smaller, more intimate and have the history that haunts opposing teams. NBA arenas are commercialized; larger numbers of seats with a corporate sponsor's name on the outside and advertisements everywhere you look.

The fandom ties just aren't as strong in the NBA. In college, you either attended that university - spending four, five or six wonderful years there - or have been a fan for life. There are also life-long NBA fans, but the bond is just not the same.

The Oklahoma City Thunder's home arena has quickly made a reputation as one of the best home courts in the NBA. And the answer you get when asking why? Because it's the most like a college atmosphere. The fans are rowdy and passionate and let everyone within shouting distance hear their support. Maybe it's because the franchise has only been there for a few years and no one told them how they were supposed to attend an NBA game.

The NBA has the stars and story lines that make it great to watch, but if you want to have the complete live basketball experience, go to a major college near you, take it all in, and don't be afraid to make a little noise.

Follow @BeatsDimesDrive on Twitter

Friday, November 2, 2012

Kansas Jayhawks Remain Big 12 Favorites

The long wait will soon be over when the first official NCAA basketball game of the 2012-13 season will tip-off on Nov. 15. Some of our favorite players have moved on the ranks of professional athletes, new recruits have been polishing their games in gyms with recognizable logos on the court, and schools have switched conference allegiances. Through a series of conference previews, the BDD crew will do its best to prepare you for the next 4.5 months of collegiate hoops.

Jeff Withey blocks; Myck Kabongo has bad dreams. (Eric Gay/AP Photo)

Favorite: Kansas Jayhawks

Of all the information in BDD's conference previews, this should be the least surprising. If they haven't been the sole holders, the Jayhawks have won at least a share of the last eight regular season titles in the Big 12. Kansas is not a stranger to the NCAA tournament — 1989 was the last time the 'Hawks failed to participate — and tends to use conference play as a warm-up.

Questions remain about how head coach Bill Self will find adequate minutes for his current players and what scheme he has devised to deal with the losses of now-professionals like forward Thomas Robinson and point guard Tyshawn Taylor, but there are no concerns about Kansas' current roster. The No. 10 recruiting class, 2011 recruits Ben McLemore and Jamari Taylor, and the experience of Jeff Withey, Elijah Johnson and Travis Releford. These are Self's tools and he is too good of a coach not to utilize all of their abilities.

Baylor is stacked, too, but not quite as much as Kansas, and with three NBA draft picks gone, the Bears will reel a bit more than their (relatively) northern counterparts. Head coach Scott Drew's teams tend to rely on their stars enough to appear disjointed as a team, and that is a big reason they got just one first-place vote — eight fewer than than the Jayhawks —in the Big 12 preseason poll.

Dark Horse Team to Watch: Kansas State Wildcats

Since Frank Martin said goodbye to his office in the Little Apple, there has been much contention around exactly how much the Wildcats can achieve in 2012-13. Their new head coach, Bruce Weber, was fired from Illinois after nine years of mostly mediocre finishes. Compounding the issue is the loss of Jamar Samuels, a senior last year who was suspended shortly before his team was vanquished from the NCAA tourney by Syracuse.

It makes sense that Kansas State was picked to finish fifth in the Big 12. KU and Baylor are perennial powerhouses; LeBryan Nash is expected to lead a young but talented Oklahoma State team; and Texas will be solid unless the NCAA hammers sophomore shooting guard Myck Kabongo for his alleged indiscretions.

That said, it would be wrong to forget the Wildcats were a Sweet 16 team in March. They were a tough defensive draw under Martin and that shouldn't change under Weber, who has had success with players recruited by other coaches. Save Samuels, all of last year's roster is back, including the backcourt tandem of sophomore Angel Rodriguez and Will Spradling, a junior. For the second year, guard Rodney McGruder will be the Wildcats' most dynamic scorer and could earn All-American honors if his issues with inconsistency don't resurface. And if 6'7", 270-lb., sophomore Thomas Gipson is has grown his game to match his frame, he could be a problem for any opponent in the post.

The mantra "defense wins championships" is old, but it's worked for the man down the hall from Weber and could bring the basketball 'Cats to the conference's forefront if Weber and the team can produce an offense — both have sketchy histories on that end of the court — effective enough to match with the toughness of their projected defense.

Player of the Year: Pierre Jackson, Baylor

Realistically, this title could go to players from four different schools. Of the preseason All-Big 12 selections, three were unanimous selections — Jackson was not.

This is possible because of Baylor's aforementioned dependence on relatively few players. Playing point guard also allows Jackson to be the spark plug of the Bears' offense. This particular situation makes him ripe for a POY award.

His 223 assists last season were good for second-place all-time in school record books, but he is also an adept scorer, averaging 13.8 points per game and putting up 10 or more points in 27 games.

Jackson is multi-talented; an equal threat to get points or set up his teammates. Coming off a loss to eventual-champions Kentucky in the regional round of the NCAA tournament, Jackson's leadership will help Baylor in a big way come conference competition. His importance to Baylor may outweigh that of any other individual player in the Big 12 and, if he continues to build on that reputation, Jackson will run away with POY recognition.

Newcomer of the Year: Perry Ellis, Kansas

Texas center Cameron Ridley could take a role of increased importance and Newcomer of the Year if Kabongo does miss the season, but Perry Ellis has too many dimensions to be counted out even then.

The 6'8" Kansas native has post play reminiscent of Thomas Robinson, KU's standout forward from last year, but Ellis is also a legitimate threat to make baskets from the perimeter. Alone, either of those skills would be beneficial; they might be downright scary together, especially if opposing forwards are a second late to realize Ellis can shake them with his ball handling and go for either option.

As for the Jayhawks' deep bench? It should have little impact on Ellis' numbers, as he is expected to start. Any highlight tape of the forward will include several dunks, but if viewers stick around for more than the eye candy, the three-ball shows up and shows a game refined beyond that of most freshmen college basketball players.

That is why Ellis is the Big 12's best newcomer.

Coach of the Year: Bill Self, Kansas

A three-peat — Self won outright in 2010-11 and split with Iowa State's Fred Hoiberg last season is well within reach with the roster Self has in place. The Jayhawks will drop few games in conference play, as usual, but it will be more impressive as Kansas relies on eight players who have no experience playing collegiate basketball.

Going into '10-'11, the Self's team was unheralded. They lost their Morris twins frontcourt and point guard Sherron Collins.

A 16-2 record in the Big 12 followed, as did an appearance in the national championship game.

The Jawhawks are not nearly as experienced this year. However, Self is expected to get his young team to coalesce enough to warrant a unanimous first-place vote before a single game is played. Why would Self not win COY?

Follow @BeatsDimesDrive on Twitter

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Nets/Knicks Postponed: The Opener Setup Was Perfect, But The Decision Was Necessary

The Brooklyn Nets new Barclay's Center will have to wait until Saturday for it's first game. (

The long-anticipated first Brooklyn Nets game against the New York Knicks at the new Barclay's Center in Brooklyn is being put on hold a little longer due to the extreme damage caused by Hurricane Sandy.

The decision was announced by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg yesterday after the NBA said Tuesday the game would be played. A make-up date has yet to be announced.

So now the Nets first home game in a new arena under a new brand will not come against their cross-city foes, which would have been a great storyline in which the newly located team would have started its quest to win the city of New York against the beloved Knicks.

Instead, the first game at the Barclay's Center will be against the Toronto Raptors on Saturday, which isn't as interesting, but will be just as important.

While fans can be disappointed that a new era of Nets basketball couldn't begin against the Knicks, the postponement was the right decision to make.

The city and surrounding area is just beginning to recover from one of the worst tropical storms in recent history, with the damage total high and millions of people still stranded or without power. As Bloomberg said, "... police have other things to do." It's times like these that sports take a back seat in terms of priorities and importance.

From the Nets standpoint, this is also a smart move. The subway system just began again for the first time in three days, but is still far away from being at full strength. It would be difficult for many fans to make it to the game, and no team wants to play its first game in a new arena in front of half-empty seats.

As much as it pains fans, it's best to wait. The Nets ownership is wanting the team to become the new Knicks in the eyes of the city, so it's best not to usher in this new product when half the city can't get to the stadium or have power to watch it on TV.

Saturday will come quick enough for Nets fans, and hopefully by then more people in the city will have their lives returning to normal and will be able to enjoy it.

Follow @BeatsDimesDrive on Twitter