Posts Tagged ‘john wall’

Talkin’ Basketball: Kentucky vs. West Virginia

Once again, Tim was right and John was wrong in picking the early game. Well, they’re back for tonight’s game–John S to see if he can finally get one right, and Tim to tell you who will win. They are both trying to get over the fact that Dick Enberg is likely calling the last game of a great career tonight.

JOHN S: Alright, it’s time to move on to tonight’s game, the marquee matchup between Kentucky and West Virginia. The only Elite Eight game between the 1- and 2-seeds, this is probably the most anticipated game of this round; whoever wins this one will likely be the favorite going into the Final Four. It will also be by far the toughest contest either team has faced. Kentucky is coming off a 17-point win over everyone’s favorite Cinderella, and even though the score doesn’t really tell how close this one was (Cornell was within six with under six minutes left), it never really felt like the Wildcats were in danger, even when the Big Red were up 10-2. Throughout this Tournament, Kentucky has shown how much margin for error they have, and how much better they are than most other teams when they do everything well. Meanwhile, West Virginia hasn’t played a single-digit seed yet, but they are coming off a pretty dominant second half against Washington in the Sweet 16. So do you think the Mountaineers can give hang with the Wildcats? Continue reading

Tim’s Thursday Picks

I don’t mean to brag or anything, but I’m 36-12 in this NCAA Tournament; last time I checked that’s 75 percent. That means you can take three of these four picks to the bank. Which one doesn’t come through? Well, that’s the beauty of the Tournament, isn’t it?

1. Syracuse vs. 5. Butler

Original: Syracuse over Butler

What I’ve Learned: The Orange are just fine without Arinze Onuaku, and the Bulldogs continue to survive with Matt Howard in foul trouble. Howard has been in foul trouble in just about every big-time game Butler has played all season, and the Bulldogs responded on Saturday by going small and matching Murray State’s athleticism. The problem is, they can’t afford to go small against Syracuse, even if the Orange don’t have Onuaku. Howard needs to stay on the floor and be a presence inside; it wasn’t too long ago he was Horizon Player of the Year and the standard for old-fashioned, interior fundamentals—a mantle usurped last weekend by Omar Samhan. In order for Butler to win, Howard needs to demand attention on the block, Gordon Hayward needs to announce his presence on a national stage with a 20-10 kind of game, and Shelvin Mack and Co. have to shoot lights-out from the perimeter. I can see two of those things happening, but not all three.

The Pick: Syracuse Continue reading

The Double Bonus: Thin Up Top?

With losses this week by the top two teams in the country, as well as Purdue’s loss of its best player for the whole year and Villanova getting its fourth loss in seven games, a popular refrain has settled in among the college basketball punditry: There are no elite teams this year! The front line is weak! No team is unbeatable!

Well, obvs. College basketball is not like college football, where dominant teams often do seem unbeatable. College basketball teams don’t go undefeated—not anymore—and therefore, they are all beatable. No. 1 seeds are going to lose at some point during the season, but that doesn’t mean the sky is falling.

It’s popular to compare this season’s probable No. 1 seeds with UNC from last year, the preseason favorite that coasted to a National Championship. But the idea that last year’s Tar Heels were unbeatable or invulnerable is revisionist history, stemming largely from the fact that UNC did not face a significant challenge in the NCAA Tournament.

At this point last season, though, UNC was the #4 team in the country, behind Pittsburgh, Oklahoma, and UConn. They started out 0-2 in ACC play, including a loss at home to an unimpressive Boston College team, and at this point in the season had three total losses—one more than Kansas, Kentucky, and Syracuse have this year. It’s true that the ACC was a stronger conference last year, and that the Tar Heels were generally considered the favorites throughout the year, but they were by no means an unstoppable behemoth, surviving close calls at Florida State and at Miami. Continue reading

The Double Bonus: It’s a Wall World After All

We’re still playing around with the format a little and how to best differentiate what John S says from what Tim says (besides a close, personal knowledge of their writing styles, natch). In this issue of The Double Bonus, John S’s insights are in sans-serif Verdana font while Tim’s are in smaller serifed Times New Roman. Everybody on board? Good.

It’s clear at this point in the season that John Wall is the biggest the story in college basketball. The Kentucky freshman, already the frontrunner to win Player of the Year, is the latest in a line of freshman stars to thrive in the NCAA since the NBA instituted its infamous “one-and-done” rule in 2006. But unlike Greg Oden, Kevin Durant, and Michael Beasley, Wall’s presence is being felt at the point, where he has been running the entire Wildcat offense since the season began. The immediacy of his impact and the sheer impressiveness of his athleticism put him ahead of where Tyreke Evans and even Derrick Rose were at this point in their freshman seasons.

The most surprising thing about Wall’s rookie season, though,* is how quickly he was anointed by fans and the press. Highly touted freshman usually face a fair amount of scrutiny and, as a result, criticism. Oden, for example, was hampered by injuries early in 2006-07 and was facing questions about when he would “cut loose” all season long. Guys like Beasley, Rose, and O.J. Mayo had to face questions about their character and maturity throughout the season (and there is evidence against Wall in this area). Even the beloved Durant’s breakout performance (on a national stage, at least) didn’t come until January, against Oklahoma State. But Wall seems to have been beloved since his debut (although hitting a game-winner at the buzzer in your first game IS a pretty good debut). Continue reading