Tuesday, May 5, 2009
MASSIVE post, Part 2
Admittedly the first part of the massive post was not entirely enormous and was limited in scope to only the NBA. However given the epic Bulls-Celtics series (which ended with a good game that did not quite live up to what the series had built up), I felt that topic deserved a full post by itself. Anyways here is the rest of the massive post I promised
With regards to the NHL playoffs, the Canes-Bruins, Wings-Ducks, and Canucks-Blackhawks series are all even at a game a piece. For the record I think the Canes, Wings, and Hawks will emerge as victors. While I guess I "support" the Hurricanes and appriciate the fact they chose a meaningful nickname (again, I'm looking at you Bobcats), i have always kind of found it funny that the only top level professional team from North Carolina to win a championship is a hockey team. I'm really not sure if even 10% of NC citizens have ever played ice hockey. It is good that the Canes get people here more interested in hockey, but I would not at all be opposed to banning the NHL from establishing franchises below the Mason-Dixon line. It may not be a bad idea to rearrange the NHL so that instead of a western and eastern conference you have a American and Canadian conference (I'm yanking a bit of this idea from Bill Simmons). Canada may not excell at too many sports (think CFL or the Toronto Blue Jays), but they have hockey down. So I say keep the american teams in cities that actually get snow and play hockey (Buffalo, Chicago, Boston, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Colorado, etc...) and move the rest to Canadian cities. That way the Stanley Cup would have a USA vs. Canada subplot every year and get more fans interested.
With regards to the much-hyped Crosby-Ovechkin showdown, it is absolutely living up to the billing. The Caps won the first two games in Washington putting the pressure on Crosby and co. to pull out victories in Pittsburgh. As far as the two players, they have both been superb. The first game saw each net a goal, however it moved to another level last night as both players completed hat tricks. To put that into perspective that would be like if LeBron and Kobe ended up meeting (as seems inevitable) in the NBA finals and both put up 40 points and a triple double. Notably absent in the series has been Evgeni Malkin who will need to really step up if the Pens hope to advance. Regardless this matchup has just added to an already great sports year which has seen one of the top 5 super bowls ever, a 6OT game in college, and the greatest first round series in NBA history.
Shifting focus to the NFL, I think evaluating a draft class before any of them ever hit the field is ridiculous, so I won't attempt to grade any teams on how they drafted. I did, however, have a coulple of impressions after draft day was said and done. First and foremost, if I was a Raiders fan I would really be contemplating trying to knock off Al Davis at this point. Who knows how his picks will turn out, but putting it very kindly choosing a wideout with poor route-running skills and only moderate production in college over Michael Crabtree with the 7th pick was debatable. Then, in order to make sure the attention was still on him, the animated corpse of what used to be Al Davis, selected a safety Mel Kiper Jr., a man who spends his life evaluating college prospects, knew next to nothing about in the 2nd round. So to everyone who told me I was insane for having Davis reach for Michael Johnson in my mock draft, I admit the pick was wrong but I feel validated in the Davis did something even more ridiculous in his first couple picks. The Bengals were entertaining as well, picking a players with character issues (Andre Smith, Michael Johnson) early on. I think their owner may have just watched the Longest Yard (and probably the crappy Adam Sandler version) one too many times.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, I felt the Ravens, Giants, Steelers and Patriots all did well once again in making their selections. The steelers tend to pick players who won't contibute much in their first year, but end up becoming stars after a few years of learining the game (LaMarr Woodley, Troy Polamalu). For the Giants, Nicks should be able to step in quickly and give Eli a big target with reliable hands (unlike Domenic Hixon). I think Tate will end up being a steal for the Pats a year or two down the road once he is fully healthy. Bellicek and Co. just seem to know how to take advantage of a player's skills and Tate has plenty. One of my favorite selections was the Dolphins pick of Pat White. White will be the next evolution of the Wildcat and may be even better in the "slash" role than Kordell Stewart (who was ruined by being turned into a full-time QB) or Randle El.
In college basketball, the deadline for the NBA draft has passed and we will have to wave goodbye to talented underclassmen such as Lawson, Curry, Griffin, and B.J. Mullens? (honestly what is that kid doing in the draft). While some important decisions have yet to be made (where will John Wall go, will talented players such as Meeks and Teague return after "testing the water", and how will John Wall attempt to emulate the career of Maurice Clarett next). Assuming that all the players without agents decide to return, here is my preseason VFSS elite eight right now.
1) Kansas- The addition of Xavier Henry along with the return of Aldrich and Collins should make the Jayhawks preseason favorites to cut down the nets in Indianapolis next year.
2) Kentucky- Given how the John Wall saga has progressed, I think he ultimately ends up in Lexington playing for Calipari. Since these rankings assume that Patterson and Meeks will be back, Kentucky could potentially be loaded. Conversely, if those two stay in the draft and Wall goes elseware, the wildcats could be Not Invited Tournament bound again.
3) Michigan State- Michigan State brings back a talented group of fresheman along with a couple other upperclassmen like talented guard Kalin Lucas after losing Suton. The Spartans should have a great chance to make another final four run next year.
4) North Carolina- UNC brings in the number 1 recruiting class in the nation (for now at least) and returns Ed Davis and Marcus Ginyard making their potential starting lineup very respectable after losing their top four scorers. Even though I have them pegged at four I feel like they will not make it past the elite eight due to inexperiance in the backcourt that the monster froncourt (Davis, Thompson, Zeller, Henson, and Wear Twins) may not be able to compensate for. Then again if Larry Drew steps up this team could be a threat to repeat.
5)Texas- Texas has a stellar recruiting class highlighted by Avery Bradley and other freshmen stars. Some have them ranked in the top three but I think their inexperience and the strength of the Big 12 will hold them back for the first portion of the year. Expect the Longhorns to emerge as a Final Four threat in March.
6) Villanova- The Big East should be set for a down year after last year's dominance. The wildcats will look to return to the final four with the help of a couple talented freshmen in the frontcourt. I originally had them at 8 but since this projection has Reynolds coming back and Duke got smashed by Nova in the sweet sixteen I gave them a bump.
7)Duke- Given this projection has Gerald Henderson returning for the Blue Devils, I at first had them above carolina in the rankings. I think the Dookies split with carolina this year, winning the first matchup. That said, even with Plumlee coming in the Devils can't match the Tar Heels frontcourt, which may end up better than last year's. If Henderson comes back or if Wall commits to Duke, then the Devils may finally break back into the Final Four.
8) Purdue- The Boilermakers reutrn most of a talented team that includes Jajuan (which translates into JaJohn in English) Johnson and should push the Spartans for the top spot in the big 10.
To conclude here are my NBA second round picks:
Magic over Celtics (in 6)- the celtics are injured and drained
LeBrons over Hawks (in 5)- the LeBrons are playing too good to struggle with an inconsistent Hawks team
Nuggets over Mavs (in 6)- As i mentioned before, watch out for the Nuggets
Rockets over Lakers (in 7)- I dunno, just a hunch