The month is March, and that means madness in the world of college basketball. Adidas has unveiled its new Made in March Uniform System, claiming these are its most advanced jerseys to date.
Made in March uniforms feature a functional perforated print pattern along the leg of the stretch woven short to enhance breathability and ventilation, keeping players cool as the clock winds down. adidas’ quick-drying jersey technology found in current NBA uniforms along with ClimaCool zones on the chest, back and side, move heat and moisture away from the body to keep the jersey light and dry as players sweat. …
… Baylor will wear army green as homage to the school’s strong military history, while UCLA dons navy blue and gold inspired by the Los Angeles night skyline. Indiana will suite-up in cream as a nod to the program’s traditional school colors and basketball team’s “crimson and cream” nickname.
As you can see from the picture above, several teams will wear the sleeved jerseys that have taken over throughout the 2013-2014 basketball season in both college and the pros, while other teams will stick to the sleeveless look.
— Notre Dame MBB (@NDmbb) March 6, 2014
So what do you think? Good look?
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WICHITA, Kan. — He made drug busts and responded to gang fights deep into the night, rarely finishing his shift with the Rockford, Ill., Police Department before 2 a.m.
Still, when Joe Danforth arrived at home, his routine was always the same.
He’d remove his gun belt, doze off for a few hours and then wake up and walk to the bottom of the staircase.
“Get uuuupppp!” Danforth bellowed, his voice a virtual alarm clock. “It’s time to gooooooo!”
Half-asleep in a second-floor bedroom, 10-year-old Fred VanVleet buried his face under a pillow and pretended not to hear.
He didn’t want to begin his day at 5:30 a.m., when it was still dark outside. He didn’t enjoy those silent drives in the backseat of Danforth’s two-door Pontiac Grand Am, which usually pulled into the YMCA parking lot around 6. And he despised those games of full-court, one-on-one with his older brother J.D., which he played while wearing a weighted, 30-pound vest.
Other times, Danforth put VanVleet through drills at a seven-story parking garage, screaming at his fourth-grade stepson as he ran up ramps and flights of stairs while the rest of the city was still waiting for the morning paper. When it was all over, he’d drop VanVleet off at school.
Danforth’s buddies at the police station often joked with him about the workouts—”they told me I was crazy,” he said—but Danforth wouldn’t relent.
“You’re not going to sit around and be a bum,” Danforth would tell VanVleet. “You’re not going to be average. Anyone can be average. You’re going to be somebody.”
Danforth didn’t want VanVleet to follow the path of his biological father, who was shot and killed in a drug deal when VanVleet was five.
He refused to let VanVleet fall prey to the Vice Lords, Wacos or any of the other gangs that infested their neighborhood. And he was determined that VanVleet wouldn’t suffer the same fate as his eighth-grade teammate, Spider.
Danforth was on duty the night Spider was shot in the neck. He watched him bleed to death in the street.
VanVleet listened to his stepdad’s message, but it didn’t make his prodding any easier to absorb.
“He could be so mean,” VanVleet said. “He cracked the whip on me and my brothers, and I didn’t always understand. I just wanted to be a kid. I probably didn’t smile a lot back then.”
These days, though, VanVleet couldn’t be happier.
One of 10 semifinalists for the Naismith National Player of the Year Award, VanVleet is the catalyst for an undefeated Wichita State squad hoping to reach its second straight Final Four.
The Shockers, 31-0, are the first team in 10 years to finish the regular season without a loss. If it wins this week’s Missouri Valley Conference Tournament, Wichita State will become the first team in 23 years to enter the NCAA tournament without a blemish.
Shockers coach Gregg Marshall said Wichita State’s success would’ve never occurred without VanVleet. In turn, VanVleet can’t help but wonder where he’d be without those 5:30 a.m. wake-up calls, without those workouts at the YMCA before school.
“He turned out to be a blessing,” VanVleet said. “If he had never come along, who knows what would’ve happened to me.”
VanVleet’s success as history-making point guard at Wichita State brought attention to a town in desperate need of positive press.
It was only a year ago when Rockford was ranked No. 3 on Forbes magazine’s list of “America’s Most Miserable Cities.” The article mentioned Rockford’s 11.2 percent unemployment rate.
VanVleet said an “air of hopelessness” hovers over Rockford like that cloud over Pigpen, creating the tension and angst that often leads to crime.
“There are no role models,” VanVleet said. “None of your friends have parents that are doctors or established businessmen. Nobody is in the NBA. Nobody is a famous rapper.
“I’ve got friends whose parents work three jobs. They don’t know where their next meal is going to come from. When you’ve got a bunch of people living in poverty like that, bad things happen.”
VanVleet was in kindergarten when that lifestyle claimed the life of his father, Fred Manning.
And there were certainly opportunities for it to engulf VanVleet.
With no metal detectors at Auburn High School, VanVleet said it was normal for classmates to tote guns in their waistbands or backpacks.
A few weeks after being shot in the leg, a student returned to school wearing a bulletproof vest. A man was stabbed to death during school hours on a vacant lot across the street, and Danforth recalled multiple times when students returning from off-campus lunch were mugged in the parking lot by a student with a .357 Magnum.
“Drugs, prostitution, friends and cousins who were shot…it was happening all around me,” VanVleet said. “It’s weird seeing how people react when I tell them the stories. To me, it was all so normal.”
VanVleet, though, never let it become a part of who he was.
His family wouldn’t let him.
Three years after his father was killed, VanVleet’s mother Susan was introduced to Danforth at an AAU tournament, where Danforth was coaching against Fred’s team. The two began dating and, within a year, Susan and her two sons moved into Danforth’s home on the west side of Rockford.
Danforth chose to live just three blocks from the public housing projects he patrolled, “because how can you serve a community that you work in unless you live there?” he said.
“I think God put us all together for a reason,” said Danforth, who also has two boys. “It just worked. We were a family from the jump because the kids got along so well. They were calling each other brothers within weeks.”
A 19-year veteran of the police force who also spent six years in the army, Danforth provided discipline that proved crucial to VanVleet during what could’ve been a vulnerable time in his life.
He was required to clean his room daily. He washed dishes after dinner, took the dog on walks and cut the grass during the summer. Talking back to Danforth or his mother was a no-no.
“I always told him, ‘I don’t want to hear your opinion,’” Danforth said. “‘If you do what you’re supposed to do, I’ll break my back to help you.’”
Danforth and Susan did exactly that.
It wasn’t uncommon for them to miss a mortgage payment to pay tournament fees for VanVleet and his brothers. If they needed money to take a trip with their AAU team, VanVleet’s parents provided it—even if it meant going into credit card debt.
Although they were better off financially than most of their sons’ teammates’ parents, Joe and Susan knew they wouldn’t be able to afford to send their kids to college. Basketball, Susan said, was “their ticket.”
Joe coached his sons on their AAU squad, Rockford Five-O, and also got a job as an assistant at Auburn.
“It became a job to them,” Susan said. “They had seen a lot of kids with so much potential get sucked right in by gangs or drugs or whatever. They didn’t know how to get past it. We told them, ‘Don’t be afraid to be different. Don’t be afraid to be your own man.’”
Two of VanVleet’s brothers earned scholarships—Darnell played at Illinois Central and J.D. is redshirting at Ashford (Iowa) University—but VanVleet was always the one with the most potential.
And the most drive.
He saw time on Auburn’s varsity squad as a freshman and earned first-team All-State honors as a senior, when he led his team to its first Illinois High School Association Final Four since 1975.
As an Auburn assistant, Danforth was able to monitor VanVleet’s progress and keep him motivated. And his job as a police officer enabled him to keep tabs of the company VanVleet was keeping off the court.
Not that it was ever a problem.
Rarely did VanVleet attend parties. If he wanted to go to a 10 p.m. movie with friends, his parents usually said “no” and suggested they go the following afternoon. Susan said Fred often grew frustrated and complained of boredom.
“Well,” Susan would tell him, “you’re going to spend four years being bored so you can enjoy the rest of your life.”
Instead of rebelling, VanVleet respected his parents’ commands.
Even if VanVleet had wanted to get into mischief, the trouble-makers and gang members at his school wouldn’t have let him. By the time he was a senior, VanVleet’s celebrity had grown to the point where nearly everyone looked out for him. They wanted to see him make something of himself and bring pride to Rockford.
“Some people joked that I was ‘The Chosen One,’” VanVleet said. “But I never acted like I was bigger than anybody. I showed love to everyone and they showed love right back.”
Other basketball stars had come through Rockford before VanVleet. But none had achieved significant success at the Division I level.
“My dad was the living testament to that kind of story,” VanVleet said of Fred Manning, who starred at Guilford High School. “He was a 6’8” guy. He could’ve been more than what he was. But at the snap of the finger, he was gone.”
“I got tired,” he said, “of hearing all the stories about ‘this guy should’ve made it, but he had 10 kids.’ Or, ‘this guy could’ve gone to the NBA, but he started selling drugs.’
“I didn’t want there to be a ‘but…’ attached to my story. I didn’t want to be another statistic.”
Fred VanVleet wasn’t heavily recruited by programs from power conferences such as the Big Ten, Big 12 and ACC. Then again, he never gave them much of a chance.
VanVleet committed to Wichita State the summer before his senior year of high school and shot down any school that showed interest after that.
“There were some bigger programs that called the next fall and winter,” said VanVleet, who declined to name names. “But I never considered backing out of my commitment. I’m not the type to go back on my word.
“Plus, I was excited to be a Shocker.”
Wichita State couldn’t be a better fit for VanVleet. Among his teammates are shooting guard Ron Baker, a walk-on-turned-NBA prospect from a one-stoplight town in rural Kansas; small forward Cleanthony Early, a former Division III Junior College Player of the Year, who leads the Shockers in scoring and rebounding; and wing Nick Wiggins, the less-ballyhooed older brother of Kansas star Andrew Wiggins, the potential No. 1 pick in this summer’s NBA draft.
It’s a blue-collar team in a blue-collar town led by a blue-collar coach in Marshall, who tells the Shockers to “play angry.”
“The people in this city are gritty and hard-working, just like us,” VanVleet said. “Our coaches are grinders. They haven’t been spoon-fed. They don’t come from a Coach K-type of lineage. They’ve coached in junior colleges and worked their way to the top.
“We’ve got a roster full of players who have all been through tragedies and adversities. We’re one big melting pot of guys like that. It helps build chemistry when you can relate to people.”
VanVleet arrived at Wichita State in 2012, knowing he’d have to earn his way onto the court. Oregon transfer Malcolm Armstead redshirted the previous season and, with only one year of eligibility remaining, he’d been all but guaranteed the starting point guard job.
Still, VanVleet made his presence felt.
He contributed 16.2 minutes off the bench and averaged 12.5 points in NCAA tournament upsets against Gonzaga and Ohio State.
In the win over No. 1 seed Gonzaga, VanVleet picked up a loose ball that he’d dribbled off his leg and then swished a three-pointer from 23 feet. The basket gave Wichita State a 70-65 lead with one minute, 28 seconds remaining.
“He took the shot, held his follow-through and then looked at me and winked after it went in,” Marshall said. “I thought, ‘he just won the game for us.’ He’s so calm, cool and collected. I sleep easy at night knowing I’ve got him as my point guard.”
This season, there’s no question the Shockers are VanVleet’s team. Marshall said the sophomore is the loudest voice in the huddle—”We need a stoooppppp!” VanVleet will scream during timeouts—and the calming force on the court.
Teammates can’t remember a time when VanVleet appeared rattled. He ranks third in the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio (4.0) and has only had three games with more than two turnovers.
For the season, VanVleet is averaging 11.9 points, 4.0 rebounds and 5.3 assists. His scoring numbers may look modest, but the main reason he’s one of 10 semifinalists for the Naismith Award is that he doesn’t force shots or try to be a star. His selflessness makes everyone around him better.
“The more you make it about individual, the less it’s going to help your team,” VanVleet said. “As long as we keep that zero in the loss column, everything is going to be fine.”
VanVleet knows that won’t be easy.
Even though they won their 18 MVC games by an average of 15.6 points, the Shockers are hardly expecting to coast through this week’s league tournament, which they haven’t won since 1987. And even if they do capture the title, things will only get tougher in the NCAA tournament.
A handful of college basketball analysts made a habit the past few weeks of questioning Wichita State’s merit, refusing to label the Shockers as an “elite team” because of a resume that’s short on victories against quality opponents. It’s as if last season’s Final Four run never occurred.
“They can talk about our strength of schedule all they want,” VanVleet said. “I don’t care. We’re still undefeated. No one can ever take that from us.
“We’ve got nothing to be nervous about. We’re chasing history right now. We’re enjoying it, embracing it. I know people with real-life problems, people who don’t know if they’re going to see tomorrow, people who don’t care if they see tomorrow.
“This is just basketball. It’s supposed to be fun.”
Even more than his success, comments such as those are what makes Susan VanVleet proud of her son. The early mornings at the YMCA, the AAU trips and nights spent at home instead of out with friends…all of it has paid off.
“It’s nice,” she said, “to see him enjoying this. It’s nice to see him smile.”
If the Shockers advance to the Final Four for the second straight year, Susan vows she’ll be in Arlington, Texas, to watch her son compete.
Financial difficulties kept both of VanVleet’s parents from attending last year’s event in Atlanta, so Susan stayed home while Joe traveled to the Georgia Dome, where Wichita State lost to Louisville 72-68 in the national semifinals.
Watching from the stands, Joe said he couldn’t help but get teary-eyed when VanVleet took the court. The phone call he received a few weeks later touched him even more.
“It all makes sense now,” VanVleet said he told his stepdad. “Now I understand why you pushed me so hard. I wouldn’t be here without you.
“I love you.”
Jason King covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JasonKingBR.
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Make fun of the Charlotte Bobcats all you want. Owner Michael Jordan and his famous sneakers are still running all the way to the bank. The NBA legend made about $90 million last year, according to Forbes — his most ever, and the highest amount since he raked in $80 million while playing for the Chicago Bulls in 1997-1998, his last year with the team and his final championship season. The huge net — which is more than any retired or current athlete earned in 2013 except Floyd Mayweather Jr. — came from his still highly lucrative partnership with Nike. Jordan’s Air Jordan 10 “Powder Blue” retro sneaker, released Saturday, pulled in $35 million on the first day of sales, according to Forbes. Last year alone, Jordan’s retail items made $2.25 billion worth in sales, compared to LeBron James’ $300 million. Adidas’ biggest seller, Derrick Rose, had $40 million worth of his signature shoes sold. Jordan has been working with Nike since his rookie year, when he famously signed the first huge…
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — ACC Commissioner John Swofford says the charge call in Saturday night’s game between Syracuse and Duke was a ”judgment call” by officials.
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Three weeks before he went into the Texas Tech stands to shove Jeff Orr, Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart had another ugly encounter with fans.
This one was actually much worse.
It involved a group of teenage girls.
Smart and teammate Phil Forte came face-to-face with the high schoolers about 20 minutes after their Jan. 18 loss to Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse. As the players walked toward the Cowboys locker room after their postgame press conference, one of the girls approached them and smiled bashfully.
“Would you two mind if we got a quick picture?” she said.
Smart kept walking.
“Not right now,” he said.
Forte stopped and tried to coax his teammate into posing with the fans, grabbing his arm and reminding him it would only take a few seconds. Smart rolled his eyes.
“If we take a picture with them, we’ve got to take pictures with everyone,” Smart said as he pulled away.
The point would’ve been valid if there was a throng of fans in the tunnel. But there wasn’t. The only people within an earshot of the group were a pair of security guards—and me. I was trailing the twosome in hopes of scoring a few extra quotes for my game column.
As Smart and Forte barked back and forth for about 30 seconds, one thought lingered in my head.
With the way he’s acting, why would anyone even want a photo with Marcus Smart?
“Just take the picture!” Forte said forcefully, and Smart relented and posed for the shot.
As rude and arrogant as Smart came across that evening, I was willing to give him a free pass. Athletes go through mood swings and have bad days just like the rest of us. Losses sting. Not everyone has the grace of Peyton Manning, who was still in uniform when he signed an autograph for a beer salesman after getting crushed in the Super Bowl earlier this month.
If a player doesn’t feeling like scribbling his name on a basketball or stopping to take a picture with a fan, he shouldn’t have to. Especially when he’s in enemy territory after a gut-wrenching defeat.
The girls’ timing couldn’t have been any worse.
Still, I always thought that Smart was different. Or at least that’s what I’d been told.
For the past year, television announcers have fawned over Smart to the point where it’s strange and uncomfortable. Florida’s Billy Donovan and Gonzaga’s Mark Few, who worked with Smart in USA Basketball, said the point guard may be the best competitor they’ve ever coached. NBA experts projected him to go as high as No. 3 in last summer’s draft—never mind that he’s a mediocre ball-handler who has shot just 28.7 percent from three-point range in his career.
Smart is a leader, they said, a guy who makes everyone around him better.
That may be the case.
But—as we now know—only sometimes.
That’s been the most baffling thing about the past few weeks. We don’t know who Marcus Smart is anymore. Is he the player who changed the entire culture of Oklahoma State’s program with his intensity and work ethic? Or is he the prima donna who snubbed those young girls at Allen Fieldhouse, the bully who punked that doofus fan at Texas Tech?
Smart was phenomenal as a freshman last season, when he led Oklahoma State to a 24-9 record overall and a 13-5 mark in the Big 12. Smart’s performance earned him Player of the Year honors in the conference and a spot on the Sporting News’ All-American team.
When faced with adversity this season, though, Smart has floundered. He’s clearly under an immense amount of pressure, and the shame of it all is that Smart brought the pressure upon himself.
Smart should’ve never returned to Oklahoma State for his sophomore season. Sure, it was a feel-good moment when Smart made the announcement last spring, but the Oklahoma State fans who clapped at his press conference had to have been wondering what Smart was thinking. Or if he was thinking at all.
Most experts guessed that Smart would’ve been a top-three pick after his freshman season, an instant millionaire who could’ve provided immediate help to his mother, who has one kidney and goes to dialysis three times a week.
But instead Smart chose to return for another year, risking injury and giving NBA scouts more chances to dissect his game, more opportunities to detect flaws that could lower his draft stock and cost him millions.
That’s exactly what’s happened.
Smart is averaging a team-high 17.5 points, but he’s shooting just 42.2 percent from the field overall and a measly 28.1 percent from three-point range. During one particularly brutal stretch last month he missed 25 of 28 shots from behind the arc and was 13-of-53 overall.
Once ranked as high as No. 5, the Cowboys had lost four straight games before Smart was suspended for three contests for shoving Orr, which was hardly the only sign Smart was beginning to crumble under the scrutiny and expectations he brought upon himself by deciding to return to school.
A week after big-timing those young fans at Allen Fieldhouse, Smart became frustrated with his play against West Virginia and kicked over a chair during a timeout. He drew a technical for doing a chin-up on the rim and slapping the backboard after a dunk at Kansas State, forcing him to the bench with foul trouble, which played a huge factor in the Cowboys’ loss.
Smart complained to ESPN’s Jeff Goodman about how “inconsistent” officials have been when it comes to enforcing the new hand-check rules.
And Monday night, while serving the final game of his three-game suspension, Smart criticized an Oklahoma State blogger on Twitter for being too negative.
In less than a month, Smart completely unraveled.
I’ve never heard anyone say Smart is a bad person. The story of Smart overcoming a tough neighborhood as a child and the death of his father speaks highly of his character and drive.
Instead, I look at Smart as a cautionary tale, an illustration of why it’s better to make the wise decision rather than the popular one when it comes to the NBA. The same people who applauded Smart’s choice a year ago now feel sorry for him because they realize it cost him a fortune.
An assistant coach at a high-level program told me last week that Smart’s confidants—his coaches and advisers—should’ve stepped in last spring and convinced him to turn pro, mapping out why it didn’t make sense to return to Oklahoma State.
“With all that’s happened now,” the coach said, “I don’t know how those people sleep at night.”
While last year’s draft class was considered weak, the 2014 class appears strong. Even if Smart would’ve had a banner season, there’s no way he would’ve gone in the top five.
The most recent mock drafts have dropped Smart from the No. 6 overall pick to the middle of the first round.
It’s obvious Smart knows it.
He’s become irritable, defensive and selfish. When Orr screamed at Smart that night in Lubbock, he was poking a caged bear.
Hopefully Smart has been able to simmer down during his three-game suspension. Hopefully he’s collected his thoughts and will revert to his old form Saturday, when he returns to a squad that has now lost seven straight.
At 16-10 overall and 4-9 in the Big 12, the Cowboys will need a miraculous finish to make the NCAA tournament. Getting them there through leadership and gutsy play would help Smart save a little face and reestablish his reputation.
Maybe then, someone will want his autograph again.
This Week’s Grades
A: Tubby Smith – The first-year Texas Tech coach has led his team to victories over Baylor, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma—all of whom have been ranked—and in the last week the Red Raiders have lost to No. 11 Iowa State and No. 8 Kansas by a combined seven points. People are excited about basketball in Lubbock, and the United Spirit Arena is becoming a difficult place to play. Texas Tech made the best hire of the offseason.
B: Terran Petteway – Nebraska’s sophomore wing has keyed the Cornhuskers’ resurgence under second-year coach Tim Miles. Petteway, who redshirted last season after beginning his career at Texas Tech, is averaging 17.7 points and 5.2 rebounds for a squad that is a surprising 6-6 in the Big Ten. Petteway scored 23 points in Sunday’s mammoth upset of then-No. 9 Michigan State in East Lansing.
C: Arizona and Syracuse – The Wildcats and Orange are proving what I’ve been saying all season. Although both are great teams, neither is significantly better than the other squads ranked in the Top 10. Syracuse’s inability to put away bad teams at home finally caught up with the Orange in Wednesday’s overtime loss to Boston College. Arizona lost in overtime to unranked Arizona State on Friday and needed overtime to put away Utah on Wednesday.
D: Washington – It may be time for the Huskies to make a coaching change. Lorenzo Romar has had some good moments, but he’s never taken Washington past the Sweet 16, and the Huskies appear destined for the NIT for the third straight season. Heck, two years ago, Washington won the Pac-12 regular-season title and didn’t even make the NCAA tournament. Washington’s program has too much going for it to accept that kind of mediocrity.
F: Court-storming snobs – I get so tired of people who try to dictate when it’s acceptable to storm a court. Do you really think the students in the stands—some of whom are probably liquored up—are thinking deeply about etiquette and tradition and sportsmanship? They’re simply having fun. At schools such as Duke, Kentucky and Kansas, students are basically told upon enrollment that it’s never OK to storm. And that’s fine. The tradition at those schools is unmatched. But as far as everywhere else? Let college students have their fun. What’s wrong with a little enthusiasm and excitement in college basketball?
Starting Five: Best first-year coaches (listed alphabetically)
Steve Alford, UCLA – The Bruins are 21-5 overall and at, at 10-3, are just one game back of Arizona (11-2) in the Pac-12 race. Great hire by the Bruins.
Chris Collins, Northwestern – Who says you can’t win in Evansville? Collins has led the Wildcats to victories over Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota and Purdue.
Bobby Hurley, Buffalo – One season after going 14-20, the Bulls are 15-8 overall and 9-4 in the MAC under Hurley, the former Duke star.
Richard Pitino, Minnesota – The Gophers head coach apparently takes after his father. Minnesota is 6-8 in the rugged Big Ten, but six of those losses have come by eight points or fewer and three have been in overtime.
Brad Underwood, Stephen F. Austin – Frank Martin’s former assistant hasn’t lost since Nov. 23. He’s 24-2 overall and 13-0 in the Southland Conference. Underwood won’t be at SFA long if he keeps this up.
A Dozen Words On My Top 12 Teams
1. Florida – Gators have won 18 straight games but nearly choked Wednesday against Auburn.
2. Wichita State – Shockers are on the cover of this week’s Sports Illustrated. Well-deserved.
3. Duke – Blue Devils play North Carolina, Syracuse in a span of 48 hours.
4. Syracuse – The Orange were playing with fire and they finally got burned Wednesday.
5. Louisville – Cardinals have won five straight games by an average of 26 points.
6. Kansas – Jayhawks will be looking for revenge Saturday against Texas in Allen Fieldhouse.
7. Kentucky – John Calipari’s squad played well at times against Florida and dominated Ole Miss.
8. Creighton – Can the Bluejays reach the Final Four? With Doug McDermott, why not?
9. Arizona – The margin for error is small, but the Wildcats are tough defensively.
10. Michigan State – Losing to Nebraska at home was a wake-up call for the Spartans.
11. San Diego State – The Aztecs are proving how much it helps to have experienced players.
12. Virginia – I’m calling it now. Tony Bennett’s Cavaliers will win the ACC title.
Heating up: UCLA and Louisville
Cooling down: Florida State and Ole Miss
Too much credit: James Michael McAdoo, North Carolina; Jahii Carson, Arizona State
Not enough credit: Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati; Juwan Staten, West Virginia
Time for someone to hire: Bruce Pearl and Ben Howland
Time for someone to fire: Jeff Bzdelik (Wake Forest) and Stan Heath (South Florida)
Saddening: Oklahoma State
What the heck has happened to: Indiana and Temple
Quietly doing a nice job: Danny Manning, Tulsa
Would someone help me choose: The Big 12 MVP
Wings in Kansas City – As the regular season begins to wind down, I figured it was time to give a shoutout to the various wing haunts in my current city of residence.
Before I begin, I want to remind everyone that I’m a Texan at heart. I was born and raised in Dallas and, when the time is right, I plan to move back to my hometown. One thing keeping me from pulling the trigger, though, is that Dallas is a terrible wing city. There simply aren’t any good spots for top-quality wings. The bird there has no character (and, please, don’t pollute my inbox with emails about how good the wings are Pluckers, BW3, Angry Dog and all of those other pretenders).
Luckily, there are plenty of options in the Kansas City area, where it’s common knowledge that The Peanut wings are the best in town. One wing at The Peanut is like two wings anywhere else–mainly because you get the full wing, with the drummie still attached to the flapper. Things can get a bit messy when you’re eating one of these bad boys, but The Peanut’s tangy, peppery sauce and its homemade blue cheese makes digging into the trenches worthwhile.
No. 2 on my Kansas City wing list is Mac’s Sports Pub. Love the spicy garlic wings and the regular buffalo wings, too. My good friend Courtney McReynolds makes the sauce in-house. The wings aren’t small and wimpy, and it’s obvious she and her staff take a little pride in their preparation, even offering to toss them on the grill for a minute or so to give them that charred flavor before serving.
A few other recommendations: Tanner’s has the basic SBW (Standard Bar Wing) that won’t exactly wow you. But the charred wings (try either buffalo or teriyaki) are a hit. The “Simmons Wings” at Johnny’s Tavern are a local favorite. Johnny’s spreads a mixture of its barbecue and buffalo sauces on the wings, flash fries them and then tosses them on the grill.
In Lawrence, I’ve always been a fan of Henry T’s, which has long been a staple on my all-time top-five list. Lately, though, I’m hearing that Six Mile Tavern has made in-roads on the Lawrence wing scene. I’ll hit that up next. As in, this Saturday after the Kansas-Texas game.
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Remember when Andrew Bynum didn’t want to play basketball?
Apparently, there was a missing section of that first sentence. Andrew Bynum didn’t want to play basketball, assuming he was stuck playing for a team destined to lose a lot of games.
That would explain why he never suited up for the Philadelphia 76ers, who were decent but not highly competitive while Jrue Holiday was leading the charge. And it would explain why he cared so little about contributing to the Cleveland Cavaliers, who are just one big hot mess, before eventually finding a home with the Indiana Pacers.
But according to Indiana general manager Kevin Pritchard during a radio interview, as relayed by Candace Buckner of IndyStar.com, Bynum actually wanted to play for the Pacers:
He made it perfectly clear. He was like, ‘Look, I want to win a championship. I think I can really help you, and I want to fit in. I’m not coming here to let everybody fit in with me. I got to fit in with everybody else.’
Well, that’s different than the Bynum we normally hear about.
As talented as the 7-footer may be, he’s caused more problems than solutions over the last few years. It’s what led the Cavs to go as far as suspending him for conduct detrimental to the team. On Dec. 28, USA Today‘s Jeff Zillgitt and Sam Amick wrote the following about the mercurial Bynum:
The situation had been building over the past month, and it reached a tipping point at practice Friday. There was no outburst or physical alternation (sic.)—just a continued insistence from Bynum to do what he wants with little regard to team goals. The person said if Bynum wasn’t committed 100 percent there is no reason for him to be with the team right now.
Forgive me for being cynical, but it’s easier to be “committed 100 percent” when you’re playing for a team with a legitimate shot at competing for the Larry O’Brien Trophy. The Pacers qualify as such, especially since they currently hold down the No. 1 spot in the weak Eastern Conference.
It must be nice to be so talented that you can only want to play for good teams and then get your way.
Maybe the Pacers will help rejuvenate Bynum’s struggling career. Maybe they’ll give him backup minutes over Ian Mahinmi, who hasn’t made too much of a positive impact for Indiana’s title hopes. Maybe they’ll showcase him to the point that he can get a bigger deal in the future.
But Bynum’s reputation still has a long upward climb, especially after blowing it with teams willing to give him a chance in back-to-back seasons.
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Over the weekend, Andrew Bynum agreed to a $1 million contract for the remainder of the season. And we had heard teams like the Pacers and Heat had interest in the big man the moment he was cut by Chicago after being part of the trade that sent Luol Deng to Cleveland, the NY Post reports that the Knicks also had interest. According to the report, the Knicks initially had little interest in Bynum. But just as Bynum was making his decision to sign with the Pacers, the Knicks suddenly wanted to meet with the big man. The Knicks made a strong late push to sign center Andrew Bynum before he chose the Pacers, his agent told The Post Saturday. Knicks personnel director Mark Warkentien tried to arrange a meeting with Bynum and the Knicks staff, but it never materialized. “The Knicks were very aggressive in the end,” his New York-based agent David Lee told The Post. “In the end, they did everything they could.” So what made Bynum spurn the Knicks for the Pacers, besides it being the Knicks? …
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San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker, who has in all likelihood played basketball since he learned to walk, made arguably the worst free throw attempt in the history of basketball during a game against the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday night. Not since James Naismith hung a peach basket on a gym wall in Springfield, […]The post Tony Parker may have made the worst free throw attempt in the history of basketball (video) appeared first on Sportress of Blogitude.
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Call him whatever you’d like. KD. Durantula. The Slim Reaper. All are fine nicknames, but their shelf lives may soon expire after the season. That’s when Kevin Durant will have a new identity, one that LeBron James has kept to himself for four of the last five years.
By May, we can simply call Durant “MVP.” If he hasn’t solidified that with his scorching 11-game 30-point stretch leading up to an epic battle against James’ Miami Heat, Wednesday’s contest is sure shaping up to be a litmus test for the three-time MVP runner-up.
Much of the NBA world is already sold on Durant, who is on the heels of leading his squad back from 14 points down to beat the Atlanta Hawks on Monday night. His 12-foot pull-up put a cap on the victory, the Oklahoma City Thunder‘s eighth straight and ninth in their last 10. The bucket gave him 41 points on 60-percent shooting to go along with four boards and a team-high five assists.
During the streak, Durant has shot 55 percent from the field, 42 percent from beyond the arc and 88 percent from the free-throw stripe. Monday’s triumph was among the most impressive performances from Durant, having led his team back from a double-digit deficit down to take the lead late in the fourth.
With Russell Westbrook sidelined for the time being, Durant has taken the brunt of the offensive load upon himself. In doing so, he’s not only proven dominant, but after Monday’s victory, he’s displayed the resiliency necessary to carry OKC through the postseason.
A New Finals Favorite?
When the Thunder fly into South Beach Wednesday, boasting a West-leading 36-10 record, it’ll be the first time the two squads have met in 11 months. The Heat took both meetings last season, sweeping the series and making it six straight victories against OKC, dating back to the 2012 Finals.
But with the Heat getting off to a relatively “slow” start, at 32-12, the conversation heading into this particular matchup will be a different one than ever before.
No longer is James the undoubted, unquestioned, unthreatened MVP, with all other candidates competing for a distant second; Durant’s extended outburst has essentially flipped the script. It’s Durant’s Thunder coming in riding an eight-game winning streak, while Miami has gone a mere 6-4 over its last 10. With the fifth-ranked offense and third-ranked defense in the league, OKC is through with the underdog role.
Westbrook’s time away, once feared as a season-threatening blow, has acted as a catalyst to the league’s most encouraging revelation in recent years—or if you’re Miami, the most terrifying. That is, the Thunder’s emergence as a bona fide LeBron stopper.
To this point, the only teams that have given James’ Heat a serious threat in the postseason have been the rugged Indiana Pacers, by using brute force, and the San Antonio Spurs, with sage experience.
What Durant has proven to the basketball world over the last month is that he’s capable of taking down Miami in a way not yet accomplished: by putting the ball through the basket. Over and over again. It’s by no means a perfect comparison, but when facing Carmelo Anthony, Durant’s most comparable scorer in the league, the Heat are 1-4 in their last five games against Anthony’s Knicks dating back to last season.
More Similarities Than You May Think
If voters have subscribed to the LeBron-style stat lines equating to MVP nods, thus eliminating KD from the conversation in years past, it’s further proof that James’ reign may be over.
With Westbrook down this season, much like during last year’s postseason, Durant proved capable of handling playmaking duties at LeBron’s level. During last year’s playoffs, while leading all players with 30.8 points per game, he also posted an assist rate of 29.2 percent. Just a shade below James’ 30.5 percent mark during last year’s postseason.
Durant has carried this trait into the regular season, sans Westbrook for much of the way. KD has upped his assist rate to a career-high 25 percent, creeping closer to the 34 percent mark that James has averaged over his career. Keep in mind, though, that all of James’ offenses have always ran through him as the essential point man.
The two players’ rebound rates are nearly identical for the year (11.7 for James and 11.4 for Durant), while KD has posted 13 double-digit rebound games this season, to James’ three. It’s also worth noting that LeBron is arguably the most skilled rebounder in Miami’s rotation.
While James has posted freakish shooting marks over recent seasons, Durant is a rare player on the wings that can remotely compete in this regard. LeBron has posted a career-high and league-leading .659 true-shooting percentage this year, which takes field-goal shooting, three-point shooting and free-throw shooting all into account. Durant’s .643 clip is the only one of similar usage that can compare.
As the two players are set to square off Wednesday, Durant and the Thunder now have more going for them than ever before. By carrying the 30-point streak into LeBron’s house, and by contributing nearly the same, broadened array of skills as the reigning MVP so far this season, the 25-year-old may unleash his first hints of overtaking James—on both individual and team levels.
For Durant—or KD, or Durantula, or the Slim Reaper—it’s all part of the mission to shed the least favorite of those countless monikers: second-best.
All stats unless otherwise noted obtained from Basketball-Reference.com
Follow me on Twitter at @JSDorn6.
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