MY TRIBUTE TO MJ
The first basketball I watched, and the first basketballer I knew the name of was the Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan way back in the early-90s. On this blessed day in 1963 MJ was born. If only I was like Mike…
Not in Dikembe’s house!
There are many basketball and casual sports fans who believe that the college hoops tournament, lovingly known as March Madness, is the best finish to a sports season that there is. It captures the imagination of the American nation for most of March and early April before attention turns to the profession games own post-season playoffs. Recently I heard a comment on a CBS pod that the NBA might do well to try to emulate the feel of the NCAA tournament, including more teams and giving more opportunity for a “Cinderella team” to advance deep into the post-season. One of the objections was that NBA fans are generally happy with the current layout as it almost always ensures a worthy NBA Champion. By using a best-of-7 format, it lessens the chance of a lower seeded team advancing into the next round, whereas the beauty of the NCAA tournament for some is that an underdog can beat a more favoured team in a one-off game on any given night, and if they gain more and more confidence they can get on a roll and become the nation’s new darling for the duration of the Madness.
The current NBA Playoffs format consists of the two separate conferences playing a best-of-7 series in quarter-finals, semi-finals, and conference finals to decide which teams from each side of the country will meet in the NBA Finals. That is a total of fifteen series scheduling somewhere between 60 games minimum and 105 games maximum. I would like to propose an amalgamation of the NBA Playoffs and the NCAA tournament in that all NBA teams appear in the post-season, in a format as follows:
All potential match-ups assume that the higher seeded team will advance
*The number one seeded team from each conference gets an automatic pass into the second round as reward for having the best record. This makes the regular NBA season that much more important, and the team that plays the hardest and earns the top spot gets a well-deserved rest.
*Round One would look a little like the NCAA first round, with the change being a best-of-3 series to potentially weed out the weaker teams. The remaining teams (excluding the #1 seed) from each conference would play as follows:
2 v 15 – 3 v 14 – 4 v 13 – 5 v 12 – 6 v 11 – 7 v 10 – 8 v 9 (2-3 games)
*Assuming the higher seeded teams advance into Round Two, it would start to look like the familiar NBA format, but with another best-of-3 series instead of the current best-of-7:
1 v 8 – 2 v 7 – 3 v 6 – 4 v 5 (2-3 games)
*For the Semi-Finals, a best-of-5 series is now played, ensuring that if any lower-seeded teams have made it this far, they will have to be very good to advance further against quality opposition. Assuming the higher seeded teams do advance the Semi-Finals would appear as follows:
1 v 4 – 2 v 3 (3-5 games)
*For the Conference-Finals, another best-of-5 is played:
1 v 2 (3-5 games)
*The winner of each conference now faces off in the NBA Finals. With the importance of the series increasing, so does the number of games to a best-of-7 format identical to the current NBA one:
1 v 1 (4-7 games)
The current NBA Playoffs allow for 60-105 games depending on all series being swept or going to a game 7. The format I have proposed allows for 66-103 games depending on the same factors. In the end, the amount of games played would probably average out to what we have now, with the added excitement of maybe rooting for a regular season #9 seed (or lower) in the later stages of the post-season, a team that ordinarily would have missed out on the playoffs due to not finishing in the top eight. And as for the sceptics who say that this new format allows for mediocrity, I say that any team that wins a series of games (with the higher-seed having home court advantage naturally) most likely deserves to win, and if they keep advancing then good luck to them, it will only get tougher. Imagine the 2012-13 Los Angeles Lakers go on a magnificent run to win their final 10 games of the regular season, only to eventually miss the playoffs due to early season chemistry issues and injuries. In my new format, as a #9 seed they could get another chance in Round One against the #8 seed (let’s say Utah Jazz), let the better win, right? So the in-form Lakers next match up against the well-rested #1 seed, good luck beating them, but occasionally upsets happen. Not very different to the current layout is it? Where ‘We believe’ teams like the 2006-07 Golden State Warriors upset the heavily-favoured Dallas Mavericks.
One consideration I did have was that the ‘week off’ given to the #1 seed may be a possible disadvantage to them. It may not be favourable for a team to be resting for a whole week and missing out on ‘match fitness’ so to speak, so the alternative could be a play-in game just like the NCAA’s First-Four. The 14th and 15th seeded teams from each conference could playoff to decide who makes the cut for the rest of the post-season. I do however prefer the original option of the number one seed receiving a ‘free pass’ into Round Two though as reward for a great season.
This is an excellent commercial because James Harden is the NBA’s coolest bro and Kris Humphries is not.
L.A. Laker Metta World Peace has been suspended for one game without pay due to an incident involving Detroit guard Brandon Knight. Apparently Knight was not satisfied with the flagrant-one foul that Metta received at the time, and stated that: “The play needs to be reviewed because he definitely threw a punch.”
The play can be reviewed right here:
Call that a punch?
I can understand the League wanting to come down on Metta World Peace for a number of reasons. He has a bit of history in the NBA, he even has history in that very building. But to suspend him for brushing an opponent with his wrist? Not really a case of the punishment fitting the crime there is it? I hope the NBA never looks too closely at the screens that get set during plays, if they do, we’ll have no one left to cheer with them all on suspension.
Even though basketball is my preferred spectator sport, I come from a background of Australian Rules Football and I think that many sports could take a leaf out of the Australian game’s book. When a player commits an infraction in ‘footy’ that warrants a league review, there is a system in place where points are accrued for things such as force of contact and point of contact. For every 100 points accrued that player is suspended one game, and if there has been previous infractions then points might get carried over from then also. In the case of Metta, the lack of force behind the ‘blow’ would not warrant a review in the first place.
More importantly, if any player of Australian football spoke out about the incident the way that Brandon Knight did, he would be an outcast with teammates, opponents, and fans. Whenever an altercation occurs on the field, it stays on the field. After the game, a player who has beenreally hit (let’s use Metta’s hit on James Harden in April 2012 as an example) generally feigns ignorance of the incident. In fact, they will likely say something such as: ”oh, there might have been contact, I’m sure it was incidental.”
So what is Brandon Knight trying to do? Does he have a personal vendetta against World Peace? Is he buying into the city of Detroit’s disdain for him? I wonder if the league would even have reviewed the incident without Brandon’s comments pusing them to take action. Maybe I don’t understand the culture of American sports as much as I’d like to, but I tend to think what Brandon Knight said was very unsportsmanlike.
So I’ve had a bit of a thing for college hoops since the previous NBA season’s lockout. I enjoy the podcasts that I download and listen to regularly (namely, the CBS one with Matt Norlander, and the ESPN one with Andy Katz and Seth Greenberg). The CBS Eye on College Basketball podcast in particular has introduced me to a few good books on the subject and many cool Twitter follows (@B2B_BBall_Blog if you want to find me, I need SOMEONE to listen to me!!!) I also read a lot of the articles by the CBS basketball writers, NCAA and NBA, and I especially enjoy when the experts get together to compile a list or take a poll.
I have always had a bit of a thing for lists and polls too, and list-making, and not just with sports but with everything and anything that can be ranked. So when one of the pod hosts mentions now and then that he does not enjoy all the polls and does not take them seriously, I usually put my hands over my ears and recite some of my favourite lists until the moment passes (I think a lot of his lack of enthusiasm might be due to picking Missouri as National Champion before the season). It sounds like I worship lists, which is not quite true, but I definitely appreciate their value as an easy-to-write, easy-to-read, easy-to-tweet choice of format. Yes, they are kind of lazy and clichéd, and you don’t need a degree in creative writing to compile a list, but you do need some imagination and sometimes some real conviction. The only lists I have a complaint with are the ones that are based on somebody’s ‘favourites’, but are portrayed as a ‘best of’ list. I wish people would recognise that their favourite something is not necessarily the best something in that category. For instance, I think my ‘favourite’ movie is probably Scarface, but it sure isn’t the ‘best’ movie ever made (that would be the Godfather). But I digress.
The real point of this post is to put up my preseason NCAA picks. Ah, yes I do know that it is now February, but I wasn’t writing this blog then so I didn’t have an outlet for the picks I made back in October of last year, after seeing the CBS expert picks. Their picks can be found here, and mine are as follows, with my updated predictions in parenthesis:
Regular Season Conference Champions:
Big 10 – Indiana Hoosiers —- (Michigan Wolverines) This is going to be close, could come down to the last conference game of the season.
Big East – Louisville Cardinals —- (Syracuse Orange) Louisville have disappointed in conference play after such a good start.
Big 12 – Kansas Jayhawks —- (Kansas Jayhawks) This prediction stands for a few seasons yet.
SEC – Kentucky Wildcats —- (Florida Gators) I guess I should have seen this coming, there won’t be as talented and cohesive team as the 2011-12 UK one for a long time.
ACC – North Carolina Tar Heels —- (Miami Hurricanes) I had UNC, Duke, NC State, Maryland, then Miami at the start of the season. Silly me.
Pac-12 – Arizona Wildcats —- (Arizona Wildcats) I picked ‘Zona’ to win it all originally based on an article I read back in 2011 about their incoming 12-13 class.
A-10 – Butler Bulldogs —- (Butler Bulldogs) Two recent National Championship appearances had me picking Butler to tear up the A-10 and they have done nothing to change my mind thus far.
Mountain West – UNLV Rebels —- (New Mexico Lobos) I thought the Runnin’ Rebels were coming back, but they have been a touch disappointing.
Missouri Valley – Creighton Bluejays —- (Creighton Bluejays) With Doug McDermott returning I thought Creighton would be strong. Wichita State has been a pleasant surprise though.
C-USA – Memphis Tigers —- (Memphis Tigers) Um, Memphis gets this by default.
West Coast Conference – Gonzaga Bulldogs —- (Gonzaga Bulldogs) The ‘Zags’ were an Elite Eight pick for me preseason and I’ll trust them to win the WCC even though St. Mary’s (CA.) is full of Aussies.
Final Four and National Champions (in bold):
(Preseason) Arizona Wildcats – Kentucky Wildcats – Louisville Cardinals – UCLA Bruins
(February 2nd) Kansas Jayhawks – Florida Gators – Michigan Wolverines – Indiana Hoosiers
I was on Arizona for a long time and feel a little ashamed of myself to be jumping off in the last few weeks. Parrish talk had me conned into picking UK, Louisville were a good pick up until recently, and UCLA were expected to have all their players from day one back when I picked them. Now not one single Final Four pick remains but I think they all have enough ‘talent’ to go on a deep tournament run anyway.
Player of the Year – (Preseason) Peyton Siva, Louisville Cardinals —- (Feb 2) Trey Burke, Michigan Wolverines
Freshman of the Year – (Preseason) Shabazz Muhammed, UCLA Bruins —- (Feb 2) Ben McLemore, Kansas Jayhawks
So there you have it, a lot of my earlier predictions have changed, as have a lot of expert predictions I would imagine (ahem, Mizzou?). But the joy of lists and polls is in the conversation that can be generated from them. If anyone comes across this list and loves it or hates it, feel free to tell me so, and feel free to add your two cents with a list of your own.
…learned that I am one part evil, one part good. Part evil because I got immense enjoyment from Russell Westbrook’s foiling of Rocky the Mountain Lion’s halfcourt shot at Denver last week. The fans booed, Rocky pointed the finger, Russ didn’t give a shit, and I loved all of it! Denver coach George Karl made the sarcastic comment that Westbrook made a lot of friends in Colorado that night, maybe not quite the case, but he won me over for sure…
Then a few days later, the good in me rejoiced at seeing LeBron James celebrating with a fan who hit a halfcourt shot to win $75,000. I’m a bit of a King James hater after the whole ‘Decision’ fiasco, but to see the biggest basketball star in the world genuinely celebrate a fan’s good fortune brought me equal joy to seeing Russ piss off the Nuggets fans…
Some gimmicky halfcourt shots are worthy, some are not…
Xmas is long gone, but watch this again..