2015 NBA Draft Diary

Karl-Anthony Townsdraft logo
Do I like him as a player, absolutely? Do like him in Minnesota? Uuuuuh. Not really. He’ll have to post up against the best right away in the Western Conference.
This team belongs to Andrew Wiggins. Will Towns create enough space for him in the paint? Will the No. 1 pick like being a guy who is a second banana on the team?

D’Angelo Russell
The Lakers draft who they must feel is a replacement for Kobe Bryant. Why else would they make this move? How much better is he than other guards in the draft though, like Cameron Payne or R.J. Hunter. Seems high for the No. 2 pick and higher still for a guy ahead of Okafor.

Jahlil Okafor
The Sixers take Okafor and this has to be a trade. The Sixers have spent three straight lottery picks on big men now. And this is what Philadelphia has been tanking for? Yet none of the ESPN guys are ripping the Sixers.
Okafor does not look happy in his interview. Did not mention Philadelphia only a standard happy to be in the league quote. Get him on a better team ASAP.

Kristaps Porzingis
The Knicks take a big from Lativa. That’s all I know about him. That and Knicks fans hate the pick. Shocker.

Jay Bilas says he is a light rebounder and needs to put on weight. Not good.

Mario Hexonja
Magic take a shooter from Spain. Will take some shuffling in the Magic backcourt but could be a big help.

Willie Cauley-Stein
The Kings take a Kentucky buddy of DeMarcus Cousins as an attempt to make him happy I suppose. He is the best defender in the draft and that will give him minutes. Also give him a chance to make up for his offense. The Kings need help in other places but if this is what they need to do keep Boogie happy then it’s hard to trash the pick despite it being a reach.

Emmanuel Mudiay
Love the pick here for the Nuggets. Could end up being the best player in the draft and that’s awesome with the seventh pick. Fantasy owners will love him as he will get minutes right away. Especially if the Nuggets trade Ty Lawson. Mudiay was the top guard a year ago and fell because he played in China. When a player goes overseas to play ball there is no way he will take the NBA for granted and that means a lot for a player’s development.

Stanley Johnson
Over Justise Winslow? Really Detroit? The Pistons struggled to space the floor the past few years so they bring in a 3 who can’t shoot. Nice. He can defend, but where is the scoring going to come from the Pistons?

Frank Kaminsky III
Frank the Tank goes to Charlotte where they have bigs. Maybe this is a pick to replace Al Jefferson? Needs to improve his defense if he is going to see big minutes. Looking for this pick to get traded. Maybe to Boston.

Justise Winslow
Leave it to the Heat to grab a player at No. 10 everyone wanted. He can defend multiple positions and get to the rim. Shooting is a skill that can improve overtime but his defense and ability to draw fouls will make him a force. Darn you Pat Riley.

Myles Turner
As a Pacer fan I don’t like the pick. This seems like a move in case David West doesn’t come back. Turner has to prove he can defend and get big minutes. He only started seven games for Texas. Wish Indiana went Cameron Payne here.

Trey Lyles Utah takes Trey Lyles out of Kentucky. Yep. Utah has good players in the front court so this doesn’t make sense.

Devin Booker
Phoenix takes Booker, maybe the best shooter in the draft. This is a steal for Phoenix. Shooting is always easy to implement into a team and boy can he shoot.

Cameron Payne
I love mid major players and Payne is a great pick. A steal at 14. Could replace Reggie Jackson immediately for the Thunder. Murray State is here to save the day in OKC.

Kelly Oubre Jr.
Atlanta takes a wing in Oubre from Kansas. The Hawks needed some defense in that spot with Kyle Korver being a matador.
Whoops, he just got traded to the Wizards.

Terry Rozier
A team loaded with guards took Terry Rozier, a point guard. Trade bait.

Rashad Vaughn
Jalen Rose compared Vaughn to Dion Waiters. Not exciting. But any Mountain West player selected in the first round is a good pick in my book. Yea mid-majors. Wish Vaughn the best at Milwaukee.

Sam Dekker
Houston takes Dekker, a team that shoots 3s took a quality 3-point shooter. Reasonable.

Jerian Grant
Supposedly this pick is going to New York meaning Grant will be operating in a talent wasteland. Very few players could survive there but Grant is a fighter and we saw that in the tournament.

Delon Wright
The Raptors take a point guard to make up for how badly Kyle Lowery played in the playoffs. The odds of him starting there are small but that is what happens in this stage of the first round. Though other guys might have been more appealing here.

Justin Anderson
A guy who can defend most positions will give Dallas immediate help athletically. Love this pick for the Mavericks.

Bobby Portis
This a high value pick for the Bulls as Portis can help the team soon with his rebounding and effort. Wish he took Arkansas a little further in the tournament, but it is hard to complain about him right here.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
Portland grabs a defensive stalwart in Hollis-Jefferson. So what if he struggles from 3. That can improve. This is a good pick for Portland who already have the scoring punch from Damian Lillard.

Tyus Jones
Cavaliers take Tyus Jones but ship him to Minnesota for two second round picks. Going from playing with LeBron to playing in Minnesota has to be depressing.

Jarell Martin
Memphis needs offense and selected a guy who averaged 17 and 9. I’ll take that at pick No. 25.

Nikola Milutinov
Don’t know him but he was drafted by the Spurs so…

Larry Nance Jr.
Wyoming! Can’t remember a guy from that school going in the first round but it’s nice to see. He’ll have his work cut out for him in LA though. Turns out Theo Ratliff was drafted in the first round in 1995. Been awhile.

R.J. Hunter
A big steal in the draft. Boston continues to draft guards so I see some moves coming.

Chris McCullough
The Nets are happy to take anyone as Boston and Atlanta has all of their picks.

Kevon Looney
Going to the Warriors has to be a great feeling. Golden State needs some size and Looney can help in that regard.

2015 Women’s Basketball All-Superheroine Team

Heroine_hoopsThere are awards for All-American athletes and awards for All-Academic, but what about for both? That’s what the NC2A Nerd All-Superhero or in this case all Superheroine team is about. Here are the criteria.

1: Make the conference all-academic team.
2: Make the all-conference team.
3: Play on a team with at least a winning record with preference for conference champions and deep tourney runs.
4: No freshmen allowed with preference for seniors.
5: Only one player per team. This means UConn can’t have five on this list.
Here are my top 12 Superheorines of the 2014-15 women’s basketball season.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA1. UConn: Breanna Stewart
Easier to say what she has not accomplished at UConn. Stewart has won two straight Naismith Trophies and the same with AP Player of the Year. Making the American Athletic Conference’s Academic team is pretty easy as anyone with a 3.0 GPA gets in but she did it. Oh, I almost forgot, she has won three national titles in three years.

Elizabeth Williams2. Duke: Elizabeth Williams
Made the ACC Academic team with and earned a remarkable four straight selections to All-ACC team. Williams also won the Kay Vow Scholar Athlete of the year award and helped the Blue Devils to a Sweet 16 appearance.

Ruth Hamblin3. Oregon State: Ruth Hamblin
Making the PAC-12 Academic team is hard as the conference only recognizes 10. Enter Hamblin, who earned a 3.86 GPA in medical engineering while leading the Beavers. On the court, Hamblin earned PAC-12 player of the year with 13 points and 9 rebounds a game. She made it while also being on the All-PAC-12 squad.

4. Princeton: Blake Dietrick Princeton Blake Dietrick
Best player on an undefeated Ivy League team. What more can you say? Dietrick was the engine to the offense as she led the Tigers in points and assists.

SamanthaLogicIowa5. Iowa: Samantha Logic
Fought it out with teammate Ally Disterhoft for this spot but she got it with her first team All-Big Ten selection. Helped propel the Hawkeyes to the Sweet 16 and earned a spot on the Women’s Basketball coaches Association All-American team. Logic also made the Capital One Academic All-American team.

Now to the reserves…

6. Maryland: Lexie Brown Lexie Brown
Have Lexie Brown just edging out her teammate Brionna Jones. Brown led the Terps to a Final Four and made the All-Big 10 team with academic accolades to go on with it.

7. Pittsburgh: Brianna KieselBrianna Kiesel
Kiesel has made multiple ACC-Academic teams while at Pittsburgh and the senior guard made the All-ACC team thanks to 18.5 points per game.

Hoover, Andrea 2014-15 cropped8. Dayton: Andrea Hoover
Made the A-10 honor roll while helping her team to the Elite Eight. Hoover also competed well in the national 3-point contest as she shot a ridiculous 45 percent from beyond the arc.

Sunny Greinacher9. Gonzaga: Sunny Greinacher
Greinacher is a graduate student who earned a 3.52 GPA while pursuing her masters in counseling. She also led to the Zags on a Cinderella run to the Sweet 16 with 14 points per game. Greinacher just beat out teammate Elle Tinkle for this spot.

stafford_imani_201410. Texas: Imani McGee-Stafford
McGee-Stafford made the Big-12 Academic team majoring in accounting and made the All-Big 12 team despite missing games due to injury. She helped Texas to the Sweet 16 with a surprise upset of California in the round of 32 thanks to her double-double in that game.

An open letter to Coach John Calipari

Dear Coach John Calipari,DSC_1224

I know you don’t need another guy in the media (or loser blogger) telling you what to do. You’re tired of it I’m sure, or have developed the ability to not give a bleeping Saul Smith about what others think of you. Probably a bit of both.
You’ve done everything reasonable Kentucky fans (I’m one of the 15 percent) could have hoped for since your hire and so much more.

There’s nothing more for you to prove at Kentucky.

Please, go to the NBA.

It’s not just the best choice for yourself; it’s the best choice for Kentucky fans. Other friends I have in Big Blue Nation were not enjoying Kentucky games this year. Despite all the winning, any tight contest for the Cats turned into agony for the Commonwealth. Making it worse, all the winning made 49 states angry at our Cats and our fans.

Losing to Wisconsin was disappointing. Perhaps even worth shedding a tear or starting small fires. Wish I was joking about that last part. The Wisconsin loss though provided Kentucky faithful something else.

Relief.

Relief that we no longer have to sit through a game as if all the furniture in our homes are made of eggshells. Relief that fans will no longer have to defend their favorite team to other fan bases who just want to see them fail. Relief that we no longer have to listen to commentators make a big deal about Kentucky struggling during the course of a game as if it were a supernatural miracle. Relief that we no longer have to hear talking heads rant about how “insert school name here” can beat the Cats. Relief from those saying “the SEC is weak” when winning on the road in any league is challenging.

Kentucky was the only team networks promoted because they knew it was the only team they knew would drum up interest. Kentucky or the field was a serious question because no one cared who the field was. Sure, there were candidates but the “who” never mattered. It was only the “when,” and the “if.”

Coach Cal, your team wasn’t a part of the college basketball season. Your team WAS the college basketball season.
It’s hard to think back to when that wasn’t the case. So I looked back at your introductory press conference you had in 2009. It was six years ago but you look over a decade younger then.

Everything you hoped to do back then you completed.

You got talent to come to Lexington.
You achieved No. 1 rankings and 1 seeds.
You took Kentucky to multiple Final Fours.
You added to the championship banners.
And of course, you proved everyone wrong. This includes skeptics like myself.

Skeptics that thought all of the tournament banners you won at Kentucky would eventually be vacated.
Skeptics that thought you would fail to coach toe-to-toe with the best in clutch situations.
Skeptics that thought you could not win a championship with the bulk of the roster being freshmen.
Skeptics that thought you could not develop players in a year.
Skeptics that thought you would fall on your face.

You proved them wrong but now there’s nothing left to do here.

This entire season was your team fighting to hang on to a title it hadn’t won yet. Everyone knew you had the best team but the best team doesn’t always win the tournament. You knew that too well with how your squad as an eight seed nearly won it all a year ago.

Losing is part of basketball, it’s part of sports. Your team though didn’t react too well to it Saturday. Players walked off the court without shaking hands and one was caught on the microphone whispering obscenities in the postgame presser.

The fact is Coach, even if Kentucky had survived Wisconsin Saturday night, most of the country would have been yelling for Duke Monday night. People would rather see Duke win if it meant our team lost. I never thought that would be possible.

Kentucky is now the black hat. It will be as long as other fan bases have Coach Cal to target. You really want another six years of that?DSC_1253

I don’t think you do. At the open practice Friday you had your team walk off the court waving to fans with 15 minutes left in the hour long session. It was bold, to say you didn’t need the 15 minutes of court time. Jim Nantz was waiting to interview you after the practice like he did with the other three Final Four coaches and I can tell he was not happy you left without saying a word. Then again, I’m assuming you don’t care and probably needed a break from the media. I’m betting you are over this crap.

You’re over with the media analyzing everything you do and with presenting yourself as an image to appeal to the media and the fans. Let’s face it, your interviews sound more like campaign ads than basketball sound bites. How long can you do that before it takes a toll?

In the NBA you’ll still have media obligations but you will not have to worry about representing an entire state. You can be yourself. Plus, people won’t accuse you of paying players. Everyone of them is supposed to be paid.

You’ve done everything you can at Kentucky, now you need to move on.

Just make sure you give us a chance to say goodbye and most importantly…

Say thank you.

Photos from Final Four Friday

DSC_1180I was in the building for four hours of team practices of the Final Four and got off some good pictures. It’s a great time here in Indianapolis, seeing all these fan bases come together.

Michigan State had the most fun with its practice time, with a dunk show at the end. The Spartans also took some half-court shots in the final seconds. It kind of gave the impression that Michigan State was just happy to be there. Then again it may have shown just how loose the team is.DSC_1156DSC_1153DSC_1165Duke was the most business like in its practice. No fooling around under Coach K.DSC_1171DSC_1172DSC_1177Wisconsin ended its practice with a half-court contest of its own, but also shot free throws to get a feel for shooting them in a football venue. DSC_1182DSC_1194DSC_1209Kentucky also shot free-throws but ended its practice 15 minutes early. Coach John Calipari didn’t stick around to talk to Jim Nantz as the team walked off the court to wave to the fans. DSC_1214DSC_1224DSC_1236DSC_1254I’m still picking Kentucky to win it all but it’s a little shaky right now. Should be a great Final Four Saturday.

What is the most important stat in NCAA tournament games?

If there was one mistake I made this year with my bracket it was picking the wrong statistic to be my leading indicator for predictions. That was defense.
The result was picking Kentucky to beat Virginia in the title game. Whoops.
As you can see in the top 50 defenses, Virginia and Kentucky are at the top. While Kentucky and Wisconsin made the Final Four with elite defensesFinal Four Indy, Duke was outside the top 100 and Michigan State was outside the top 80.

Think offense is the key stat? Think again. The top 50 is a mixed bag of teams who did well in the tournament and teams who flopped like Davidson and Iowa State.

Three-point shooting? Only two teams in the top 20 of 3-point field-goal percentage even made it to the Sweet 16 in Gonzaga and Utah.

This leaves the stat coaches talk about all the time. Turnovers.

While it’s not overwhelming, the quality of teams in the top 50 is significant. Turnover margin was the key to getting West Virginia to the Sweet 16 and Georgia State’s big upset of Baylor.
Georgia State was plus 15 in turnovers in its upset of Baylor, turning over the Bears 21 times. Baylor’s rebounding and defense was not good enough to make up for it.

West Virginia was plus 5 in turnover margin against Buffalo and was plus 13 vs. Maryland. The problem for WVU is it met Kentucky in the Sweet 16; a team that also forces miscues because of its length and size. The Mountaineers were minus 3 against the Wildcats and that contributed to a 78-39 drumming.

Virginia Commonwealth is known for its pressure and forcing mistakes, but Ohio State was strong in the turnover game too. The result was the Buckeyes winning in overtime as the two squads ended with 11 turnovers each. Having the same number of turnovers as VCU is quite the accomplishment.

Wichita State shot a dreadful 15.4 % from 3 against Indiana but edged out a win thanks to plus six in turnover margin.

The Louisville Cardinals are always good in the turnover game as that’s Rick Pitino’s forte. An upset from UC-Irvine appeared likely but Louisville survived courtesy of a plus five in turnover margin. It was the only team stat the Cardinals clearly controlled. The turnover edge nearly propelled the Cardinals to the Final Four as lost to the Spartans in overtime in the East Regional Final. Louisville was just plus three in that game.

Remember the First Four? BYU came in as an offensive powerhouse and shot an insanely 15 of 29 from 3. Problem though was Ole Miss turning BYU over 15 times to its 7.

It’s also interesting that among the teams with the fewest turnovers per game you’ll find Wisconsin at No. 2. It’s an advantage that might neutralize the defense of Kentucky a tiny bit.

It’s not unanimous, but turnover margin has been a key stat throughout the tournament. Six of the Elite Eight are in the top 75 of the stat with Michigan State being the only true anomaly at No. 215.

Now I wish I could have just reworked the bracket with that in mind.

Conferences that need a strong NCAA Tournament

Those players walk over the logo the same way the NCAA walks over the conference.

Those players walk over the logo the same way the NCAA walks over the conference.

For some leagues, the NCAA Tournament is the only chance it has to build a reputation. That means the pressure is on these mid-major conferences.

5. Missouri Valley
Northern Iowa is a Final Four sleeper and Wichita State is also getting plenty of love in bracket pools. But what if they falter? Wyoming has potential to beat Northern Iowa in a classic 12/5 upset. Wichita State has traditional powers in Indiana and Kansas in the first weekend. Indiana is a top 10 3-point shooting team and can beat anyone because of that. Playing Kansas in the round of 32 is a dream for Shockers fans but with that dream comes pressure. This is a huge week for the Missouri Valley.

4. West Coast Conference
With BYU going out to Ole Miss in the first four it’s down to Gonzaga to carry the league, but the Bulldogs are use to that. The program has been criticized for not having the deep tourney runs to mirror its regular season success. The road is not easy with Davidson and Iowa State lurking, but this might be the best team Mark Few has had. It’s put up or shut up time for Gonzaga and the WCC.

3. Atlantic 10

Next from Atlantic 10 on Vimeo.

Dayton was a lightning rod for criticism for hosting a First Four game against Boise State. The fact that the committee felt the Flyers were the last team in the field screams disrespect. Especially with Davidson and VCU listed as 10 and 7 seeds.
The Atlantic 10’s “Who Wants Next Campaign” is in its second year and hopes to improve the perception of the league. The public relations firm in charge, 160over90, created the video above.

“Telling the story of the grittiness and uncompromising work ethic of the A-10, we’ve taken the ‘Next’ brand narrative to another level,” said Brendan Quinn, Creative Director at 160over90. “Highlighting the conference’s relentless commitment to advancing, this spot puts the spotlight directly on the hard work of the players. The hard work that starts in driveways, playgrounds, and gyms, and pays off in late March. The A-10 teams in the tournament are ready to make some noise. They know Next is now.”

Next may also be next year instead. VCU and Davidson will have a tough time getting to the Sweet 16 with Arizona and Gonzaga in the way. Dayton, the team who carried the A-10 in the tourney last year, may be the league’s best bet for a deep run yet again.

2. Mountain West

The Mountain West was trashed in an article on Grantland as a league to avoid in making picks.

“Until they can prove there’s any substance behind the hype, avoid MWC teams. This year, that means San Diego State (again), Boise State (somehow playing on the road against Dayton in the First Four), and Wyoming (playing a superior version of itself in Northern Iowa).”

That’s harsh, and it’s also all the ammunition the MWC needs to know this is a big tournament for its reputation. With Boise State losing to Dayton, the pressure is even higher on the remaining teams.

1. American Athletic Conference
The AAC had two bubble teams miss the field in Temple and Tulsa with the conference champion listed at a 6 seed. This is after the year UConn won the title. Damage control falls to Cincinnati and SMU in the tournament. Both teams are in tough positions for a round of 32 matchup in Kentucky and Iowa State. While proving the committee wrong is important, I doubt the AAC will be able to make much noise this time around.

Listening to Larry Brown and his disappointment about Temple and Tulsa shows just how real the situation is for the AAC.