Some of my more loyal readers may recall back when I originally “sold out” and started doing product reviews in exchange for free stuff. While I felt a bit under qualified to write that blog, I’m happy to announce I’m back in the review game and this time with the reward of free Wolves tickets. Allow me to explain. Continue Reading
Once upon a time, there was an intense rivalry between the “Twin Cities” of Minneapolis and St. Paul. It seems to me that the hard feelings have given way to an all-around attitude of “Minnesota Nice” (a phrase that makes me cringe every time I hear it) rather than intense competition between neighboring towns. So, being the instigator that I am, I’m trying to bring back those hard feelings and stir the pot a bit. Because, let’s be honest here, who doesn’t love a good rivalry? Let’s break this down and determine once and for all which city is the “ugly sister”. Continue Reading
Yesterday, my beloved Golden Gophers stooped to yet another low by dropping their home opener to the Division I FCS South Dakota Cougars. While I wouldn’t qualify this as a heartbreak, since my expectations are so pathetically low for this particular team, it was still a big disappointment due to the embarrassment of it. So out of this shame, I was brought to the place where I pondered all of my past experiences as a sports fan, and I came up with my worst heartbreaks as a sports fan. I’ve had far worse heartbreaks as an athlete myself, but those are a completely different part of my life, so I’m not going to include any of those stories.
June 26th, 2010 – World Cup Round of 16 – Ghana 2, USA 1
I had all out World Cup fever after the exciting group stage that the USA actually won. It set up perfectly for us to be favored all the way to the final four of the World Cup, but the US stayed true to their colors by giving up an early goal in both regulation and extra time, and didn’t have enough fire power to overcome the deficit twice. My Saturday was a sad one after that.
April 7th, 2008 – NCAA Championship Game – Kansas 75, Memphis 68 OT
This is the only heartbreak that doesn’t involve any of “my teams”, but I was/am such a Derrick Rose fan, that I desperately wanted Memphis to win this game, and somehow I just could not shake the sick feeling I got when they blew that game. All they had to do was foul Mario Chalmers before he could get that shot off. Derrick should have just made both of his free throws.
October 7th, 2006 – Penn State Nittany Lions 28, Minnesota Golden Gophers 27 OT
You’ll find that this won’t be the last time that the Gopher football team will show up in this post, but this one just might be the most ironic. Justin Gianini routinely liked to miss extra points for our team when they usually didn’t matter. So of course the one time he missed an extra point in a tight game, it had to come back and bite us Gopher fans in the collective butt. Our team was trash that year, but we wanted that Liberty Bell. When we went up by a touchdown, we knew the missed extra point would come back to haunt us, but we just hoped it wouldn’t. On Penn State’s ensuing possession, we got a 4th down stop and seemingly won the game, but a phantom PI call gave them the 1st down they needed to go on and score, and you’ll never guess what happened: they made their extra point.
January 17th, 2008 – Indiana Hoosiers 65, Minnesota Golden Gophers 60
If it weren’t for the loss, this would have went down as my favorite night ever in the Barn. I’ve heard that place loud and rowdy, but that night in particular stood out for just how crazy it was even before tip-off. We were a quality team in desperate need of some signature wins over ranked opponents to make the tournament that year, and unfortunately we couldn’t hold on that night.
January 23rd, 2010 – Michigan State Spartans 65, Minnesota Golden Gophers 64
Just this last winter, the Gophers again needed to start getting some quality wins if they had post-season aspirations. Despite leading the entire game, we let Kalin Lucas break our hearts with a deep 3 from straight on to take a 1 point lead, and then couldn’t come up with a quality look at the basket afterward. All I wanted to do was forget that game, and I attempted to sleep it off. It didn’t work.
The Top Ten
10. “He’s Human After All” – May 7th-18th, 1995 – Orlando Magic Defeat the Chicago Bulls 4-2 in the Eastern Conference Semifinals
This is the only playoff series that I can recall Michael Jordan losing. I was too young to remember the days before the Bulls were winning titles, and in ’94 Jordan was off playing baseball, so if it weren’t for this series, I would think that Michael Jordan was incapable of losing a postseason series. Clearly, Jordan wasn’t fully back in his best basketball shape, as he had groomed his body to be a baseball player, but when I was 8 years old, I wasn’t smart enough to realize that. I didn’t care that we were the #5 seed and Orlando was #1. I just knew that Michael Jordan was the best basketball player of all time, and my beloved Chicago Bulls weren’t supposed to lose. I think I was more in shock than anything else. I wish I could have that kind of confidence about my teams nowadays, but I’ve seen too much. Let’s move on.
9. “The Un-Retirement” – August 18th, 2009 – Brett Favre Signs With Minnesota Vikings
From May to August, I nervously waited for some sort of definitive announcement about whether Favre would stay retired for the 2nd time, or sign with the Minnesota Vikings. I was against it from day 1 since I’m a big T-Jack guy, and I saw how Favre drove the Jets into the ground, but most of all, I could not accept my least favorite athlete of all time joining my favorite football team. I remember that when I was on a mission trip, I checked ESPN.com and saw what I had been waiting and hoping for: Favre announced that he would stay retired. My level of relief was comparable to this guy. This, of course, only made it that much harder to take when Favre “changed his mind” and signed with the Vikings 3 weeks later. The season saw us go on to win 12 games and get 1 game away from the Super Bowl, but it was tainted by the stench of old beer brats, cheese curds, and Miller High Life that Favre had on him from playing in Green Bay for 16 years. It’s also the reason why you won’t find Saints 31, Vikings 28 on this list, because quite frankly, I saw it coming. And of course, this nightmare isn’t over for me yet.
8. “The Collapse” – December 29th, 2006 – Insight Bowl – Texas Tech Red Raiders 44, Minnesota Golden Gophers 41
It’s funny how expectations can change so many times within a season, and even within a game. Those shifting expectations then, can also reflect the instability of someone’s job security. Glen Mason signed a contract extension before the 2006 season, and since Laurence Maroney had just left the program, his job would be safe as long as he had an average season with 5-7 wins. Check out the Gopher’s season schedule and results from that year. We took care of the easy non-conference opponents and lost a game on the road against a preseason #9 Cal team, so typical Mason team so far. We then lost 4 straight conference games, and when the up and coming North Dakota State Bison came to town, the entire student section was shouting “Fi-re Ma-son”. After we squeaked out a 10-9 win, we had to go to Columbus to get embarrassed 44-0 and be 3-6 on the season, and at this point, Mason’s job had to be in serious jeopardy. Somehow, Mason rallied the troops for 3 straight victories, including a 34-24 win over rival Iowa and a trip to Tempe, Arizona for the Insight Bowl. Surely, he had saved his job at this point. And now, Mason had zero expectations, as nobody thought our traditionally terrible pass defense could hope to contain the high octane Red Raider passing attack. But when the Gophers led 38-7 with 7:47 remaining in the 3rd quarter, it was assumed we would win. When our team went on to allow the biggest comeback in college football bowl game history, I was a mixture of angry, sad, shocked, and just empty. The next day, Mason was fired, and a new chapter of Golden Gopher football was weeks away from starting: The Tim Brewster Era.
7. May 21st-31st, 2004 – Los Angeles Lakers Defeat the Minnesota Timberwolves 4-2 in the Western Conference Finals
Despite growing up a Bulls fan, after Jordan and Pippen left the Bulls and were no longer on national TV, I couldn’t really follow my favorite team anymore. So I adopted the Timberwolves as my second team, and since they’re in the Western Conference, I figured this wouldn’t really ever cause any Sophie’s Choice type scenarios. So by 2004, I was all in on the Wolves. Kevin Garnett was by far my favorite active player, and I was convinced that he was the best player in the world. I watched every single game that I could, and truly believed that our team was good enough to finally beat the hated LA Lakers. Despite the mismatch of Shaq against any one of our lousy centers, what hurt the most was that when we lost game 6 and were eliminated, reserve shooting guard Kareem Rush hit every big shot down the stretch, including 6 3-pointers, and was the guy that beat us. Kobe, Shaq, Malone, and Payton all were effective against us, but we let one guy who never seemed to be relevant before or after that series decide the outcome in the elimination game. It was devastating, and the Wolves never seemed to recover, as they haven’t returned to the postseason since.
6. “The Pick-6” – November 1st, 2008 – Northwestern Wildcats 24, Minnesota Golden Gophers 17
Tim Brewster fell flat on his face in his first season by going 1-11, including a loss against Div. I FCS North Dakota State, after promising so much that some fans actually thought he could take us to the Rose Bowl in year one. But in year 2, Brewster had seemingly turned things around. We beat the cupcake non-conference opponents, and besides losing by a couple scores to the powerhouse Buckeyes early in Big Ten Play, we were taking care of business. We were 7-1 on the year, including 3-1 in conference, and we brought a #20 ranking into what seemed to be a loser-proof game against the Northwestern Wildcats. Things didn’t go quite as planned, as backup quarterback Mike Kafka ran for some 200 some yards on us, and just made our defense look like fools. But by the end of the game, we were finally stifling the Wildcat attack, and had all the momentum to take into overtime. We got the ball deep in our own territory with under a minute left, but Brewster wasn’t content to play for OT, he wanted the win. Our quarterback threw a deep pass down the middle of the field to his go-to receiver, Eric Decker, and the normally reliable Decker let the ball bounce off his hands, and into the grasp of the Northwestern defender, who took it back all the way to end zone, with 12 seconds remaining. You have got to be kidding me. Much like many other years, the Gophers couldn’t come back from this type of loss, and they went on to lose the next four games after to finish the year 7-6. So much for Brewster turning the program around. By the way, that was my senior homecoming game, and I brought my parents, brother, sister, and another friend to the game that day. I simply said to my family after the game, “Welcome to the life of a Golden Gopher football fan.”
5. “The Trade” – March 2nd, 2005 – Minnesota Vikings trade Randy Moss to the Oakland Raiders for Napoleon Harris and #7 Overall Pick
I remember being in our family’s living room and I turned on Sportscenter. The news was announced that we had just traded our franchise player, and my favorite Viking of all time, to the Oakland Raiders. Never mind that it was a horrible trade since we ended up getting a pick that was wasted on Troy Williamson and linebacker Napoleon Harris, who never amounted to anything, but the fact that our organization would trade away a fan favorite, once-in-a-lifetime talent like Randy Moss is beyond any amount of certifiable insanity. I will never forgive our franchise for that. I felt so betrayed that day, but the feelings of betrayal truly came to fruition when the next season came and our offense no longer could move the ball at all. That trade killed Mike Tice’s coaching career, and Daunte Culpepper’s career as a quarterback. You can preach Herschel Walker, Pau Gasol, Babe Ruth, or whoever you want, but giving up Moss like we did, over a couple of stupid, blown out of proportion stunts, is the worst trade in the history of sports in my book.
Sure, the 2003 Vikings weren’t going to win the Super Bowl, and you could say we got what we deserved for not wrapping up the division weeks before, but when the Vikings choked this game away, it was absolutely surreal. It looked like it was out of a movie. You couldn’t make it up. I distinctly remember not being able to sleep that night, and neither could my brother, and so we decided the only way we could possibly attempt to forget about the loss was to watch Dumb & Dumber. It didn’t work.
3. “41-Donut” – January 14th, 2001 – NFC Championship Game – New York Giants 41, Minnesota Vikings 0
Only 2 years removed from the best Vikings team I’d ever seen, this team stumbled to the finish and held on to the 1st round bye by finishing 11-5. They looked sharp for the first time in over a month by dominating the Saints in the divisional round, and so all of sudden I, along with all the other Viking fans, were supremely confident that we could go into the Meadowlands and push the Giants around. Things didn’t go quite as planned. We didn’t even need to make the trip to New York. To not even manage a single score was just embarrassing, and I just want to forget it. Why did I decide to write this post again?
2. “The Muffed Snap” – October 15th, 2005 – Wisconsin Badgers 38, Minnesota Golden Gophers 34
Once upon a time, I was a wide-eyed freshman who knew nothing about the heartbreak that would come hand in hand with being a Gopher football fan. I already knew that I didn’t like the Wisconsin Badgers because they are our biggest rivals, and I already hated the Packers, so I figured they had a lot of the same fans. I was going to learn what it meant to truly be a Gopher fan that day, and it would only fuel the fires of disdain for the University of Wisconsin. Our team built a 10 point lead with about 2 minutes to go despite missing our starting quarterback that day, and then went on to purely choke it like only the maroon and gold could. It was all capped off by a perfect snap being muffed by our punter Justin Kucek, and then his attempt at a punt was blocked and just barely stayed in the end zone for the Badgers to recover for the game winning touchdown with under 30 seconds to go. Just like the Northwestern loss in 2008, my team never recovered, and finished the year 7-5, when before that late game collapse, we were 5-1 and ranked in the top 25. As I left the stadium that day, I felt so miserable that I just went home and took a nap. The hundreds if not thousands of Badger fans all around our campus were constantly flashing choke signs at us, and just couldn’t contain themselves. I was scarred that day, and have said many foolish things about Wisconsin since that I’ve learned were wrong and have come to regret. Okay, just one more to get through.
1. January 17th, 1999 – NFC Championship Game – Atlanta Falcons 30, Minnesota Vikings 27
There’s no cute little nickname I could give this game. It really doesn’t need one. I am far too young to have seen any of the Vikings’ 4 Super Bowl losses, so this game is the standard all other heartbreaks are measured against for me. I always thought of this team as the greatest team to not win the Super Bowl, but perhaps you could say the 2007 Patriots have taken that title now, so we’ll easily give the Vikings the greatest team to not even make the Super Bowl. When I think of that team, I just smile because of the joy they gave me. I remember even in the preseason, that I was certain it was “our year”, and that nobody could stand up to us. Randy Moss was that final, essential piece of the puzzle that would transform our offense from a good one, to a top 3 offense of all time. I can play the “ifs and buts” game all day for that game, but that just hurts even more. Gary Anderson gets an unfair share of the blame, but that being said, there’s no excuse for missing a 38 yard field goal, and keep in mind the guy didn’t miss a kick all year! We won the toss and had the ball twice in OT. I guess we just tightened up under the pressure or something like that. If you’re a Vikings fan, and you want to remember the good old days of ’98, check this out. But I’m warning you, it might make you cry. (I’m not a crier, but I get really emotional when I watch it.)
Well, there you have it. Those are my heartbreaks. But don’t feel too bad for me. I have seen my favorite basketball team win 6 NBA Championships (4 of which I can actually remember). Even if I don’t have any other titles to my name as a fan, I’m so blessed to have seen the number of great games that I have. Some day, I’ll write about my greatest sports memories, but that will have to come after a team of mine takes me to that place. We could be waiting a while.
So I, just like every other NBA fan, was waiting ever so anxiously to find out where LeBron was going to end up for the next 5-6 seasons, and now we have our answer. Perhaps I was blinded by loyalty to the Bulls, or even too much faith in LeBron, that he wouldn’t do what he did and go to Miami. Clearly I was wrong. As it turns out, LeBron wasn’t “The Chosen One”, and he certainly shouldn’t be allowed to refer to himself as “King James” any longer. In my opinion, LeBron just conceded that Dwyane Wade is a greater player than him, and thus, he might as well join forces with him and Bosh on D-Wade’s team to just try and get as many titles as possible. What is LeBron’s greatest motivator? Does this decision tell us that it’s winning, because he thinks with these two guys the 3 of them will be unstoppable? Or is it living a beautiful life in Miami and hanging out with two of his best friends in the league and just having as much fun as possible? We know one thing, whether he thinks this is the best for his legacy or not, history will forever look at him as lesser than Jordan, Kobe, Russell and now even Wade because of this one decision. When Jordan struggled to beat Detroit, he didn’t join his friend Barkley in Philly to beat them. He knew he was the best and in time he would figure it out to be the greatest champion of them all. If the three of them had all teamed up in New York or any other “neutral” franchise, we could still say that this is LeBron’s team, but him going to Miami clearly puts Wade ahead of him. He just put a self-imposed limit on his own career’s ceiling, and I think that is the most disappointing thing for NBA fans, especially when we’ve seen how close he’s gotten to breaking through these past few seasons. I feel robbed. Cheated. LeBron dropped the ball on this one, and either he doesn’t realize this, or deep down he’s too scared to realize his own potential for greatness.
Now, before you start accusing me of contradicting myself because you may have read my post before free agency began, allow me to defend myself and my position. I really wanted LeBron in a Bulls uniform, because I thought the team around him would have been so perfect and my favorite team would have flourished. And even though I hate admitting this, LeBron would have been the clear cut #1 guy in Chicago, and my boy Derrick Rose would have been the #2. I also defended LeBron’s possible choice of Miami, as well, because I said that he probably wouldn’t win any titles if he stayed in Cleveland, and so who wouldn’t want to play with your buddies and run the league? So what I’m trying to say is, even though I feel cheated as a basketball fan, and disappointed as a Bulls fan, I defend LeBron’s decision. He really thinks that this will give him the most titles, and so I didn’t understand why people could be so angry with him for wanting to win? (Hold on for a sec, I’m about to go back and forth on this one a couple of times) I understand why Cleveland fans would be upset about him leaving. I’m a Minnesota sports fan, and so I’ve seen Moss, Garnett, Ortiz, Santana, Hunter, and Culpepper all leave my teams (not all the same scenario as this, I realize). It stinks to lose your favorite players. That being said, I think it’s ridiculous for their fans to hate him so much. The worst was Cavs’ owner Dan Gilbert’s letter to Cavs’ fans. I don’t think he understands the concept of free-agency and that it was the rules of the NBA that gave LeBron the right to choose his team. Dan Gilbert just made a ton of money off of LeBron, and that’s how he repays him? Unbelievable that he could have that reaction. It was the logic of a pre-schooler. Now again, Cleveland fans and fans everywhere are now turned off to him for a better reason, and that is that LeBron had to have a one hour special on ESPN to make his announcement just as a way to let everyone know just how big we’ve allowed his ego to balloon over the years, and worse yet, he tries to make it okay by hiding behind his attempt at charity work by giving the money that came from it to the Boys & Girls Club. For this act, there is no defense. My best guess is that this guy is completely without any self-awareness. He’s clueless. And the funniest evidence of this is how he continuously refers to himself in the 3rd person.
So let me in conclusion say that even though we can all be appalled at LeBron’s ego and that everyone outside of Miami is disappointed that LeBron is giving up on greatness, people that think like Dan Gilbert need to grow up and realize that LeBron is a man that has every right to sign with whichever team he chooses. If you wanted to move to a certain city, should you have to gain the approval of millions of other people to do so? That is his choice and his choice only. No one has the right to say where he goes other than himself.
Now that it is all over, I’m somewhat glad that LeBron did go to Miami. This move makes me realize he’s not a true champion, and so why would I want him on my team? Plus, there is a big villain in the East now, and Chicago quietly is using all of their unused cap to get a lot better. I think my team is in good shape, and since chemistry and having a pecking order are such important things in the game of basketball, perhaps the Bulls will be the better “team” and the big 3 in Miami will blow up in their faces. At least, this is what I tell myself as a Bulls fan. As a Timberwolves fan, well, we’re just happy that we got Michael Beasley for nothing thanks to this LeBron signing. We still need a good shooting guard and Ricky Rubio to show up, though.
I do know one thing, it’s going to be fun to root against this team the next few seasons. However, I might find myself rooting for the Lakers in the Finals again, and that would stink.
These last 7 1/2 weeks or so have seemed to blow by so quickly, because my favorite tournament in the world (the NCAA tournament is more exciting, but don’t kid yourself, the brand of basketball is so much worse that the NBA has this one hands down) has been playing out, and even though I don’t always like the outcomes, I love everything about the NBA Playoffs. It’s usually more fun in the first two rounds, because there is so much more basketball to watch, and you’ll get the occasional triple- or even quadruple-header on a Saturday or Sunday and just soak in all the great basketball. However, as we get into the conference finals the cream has definitely risen to the top, and the quality of basketball is unbelievably good. My only complaint about the playoffs these past few years is that my teams don’t seem to do as well as I’ve hoped. The Timberwolves have been no-shows since going to the Western Conference Finals in 2004, and the Bulls have only won one series since the Jordan era, and still haven’t been a true contender. At least the series they played with Boston last year was one of the best playoff series of all time, and showed me so much about what the future of the team looks like with Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah being playoff warriors. (It also helped me realize that Derrick Rose was my favorite current NBA player by a long shot.)
Not only have my favorite teams failed to deliver come playoff time, but rather some of my least favorite teams and players have been successful. In the past 10 years, the Lakers won 4 titles, the Spurs won 3 titles, and the Pistons and Celtics each won a title. Those teams are probably all in my top 5 of most despised teams in the league. On top of that, players that I don’t like too much got to win titles, and in some cases, earned multiple rings, most notably two of my least favorite players: Shaq and Kobe. They each have won 4 rings in the past decade, and it was a big disappointment for me each time they hoisted the Larry O’Brien Trophy. Of course, the two redeeming things to come from those Laker titles in the early 00’s were this, and this, thanks to the Carlton Banks of the NBA.
So since Shaq and Kobe were so successful together, and now the Lakers are stacked again, Kobe Bryant’s career accomplishment’s are now beginning to pile up to put him up there with the greatest players of all time, and almost undoubtedly make him the greatest player of his era. I’m not a Kobe fan, and I never have been, but I did always favor him over Shaq almost infinitely. I like everything about his game and how hard of a worker he is, but I’ve always thought he was a bit overrated, was a jerk, possibly a rapist, and just the beneficiary of two really good situations (Shaq-era Lakers, and now Gasol-era Lakers). Obviously Shaq isn’t the easiest guy to work with, because he’s constantly throwing former teammates or coaches under the bus, but if Kobe was truly as motivated by winning, and not by being the best player on his own team, than he could have and should have won about 6 or 7 titles with the Shaq-era Lakers. Instead, he was a big reason why the Lakers broke up and caused them to become irrelevant until Gasol showed up. Actually, I think everyone has forgotten that Kobe was practically demanding a trade earlier in the same season that they ended up getting Gasol on the cheap and ended up going to the finals. I’ve always relished rooting against him and seeing him fail, but unfortunately, he finally broke through and won a title without Shaq last season, and that started bringing up all the silly comparisons to Michael Jordan. You’d hear things like, “he’s now been to just as many NBA Finals, and he’s only 2 rings away from Michael” and “with that team, he could pass up Jordan, and then the argument is over”. People, please settle down. We’ll get back to this “argument” in a moment.
Now these playoffs are the first time where Kobe has finally caused me to actually admire him somewhat. Don’t get me wrong, I was still rooting against the Lakers every step of the way, but the way he played in the Utah and Phoenix series’s made me, for the first time, think that he could be a top 3 guard of all time. He’s never once made me think that before. But after he hit that shot in game 6 against Phoenix and tapped Alvin Gentry on the butt, he gave me a little bit of that feeling that, “this guy can’t lose”. In the past, I always assumed Kobe would fail, even if that was an unfounded assumption, it was there. But after that shot, that notion was gone, at least temporarily.
So that’s why I was probably just as dumbfounded as the Laker fans on Sunday evening when Kobe didn’t will his team to victory. It looked like he had done what he needed to do when he made that great steal and deep three before the half, and then his team grabbed the lead not too far into the third, and the see-saw battle waged on from there. But down the stretch, Boston made all the big plays, and Kobe was just not great. Gasol and Bynum both had better games. I know Kobe was the victim of a couple questionable calls, but a great player that wants to be mentioned with Jordan should play smarter than he did. So don’t give me that. He just wasn’t good enough.
So now, back to the Jordan comparisons. Win or lose this series, people will probably start the comparisons again. If he wins, even more so. Good. Let everyone make comparisons. I hope they all take a long hard look at the facts, and if you do, you’ll find that Kobe is still no match to Jordan. I don’t care if 11 year olds in LA think that Kobe is better than Jordan ever was. Everyone who actually knows something about basketball and is capable of being objective, knows that Jordan still has him beat by a long-shot. And if you want to go the route of championships, then the number for Kobe is 1, because that’s how many rings he has where he was the best player on his team. Jordan has 6 Finals MVP awards, and he was definitely the best player on his team for all 6 titles. And if you actually look at statistics, Jordan is in another stratosphere than Kobe. If Kobe wants any shot at giving Jordan a run for his money, he HAS to win this series. If he loses his third NBA finals, he could win 8 titles and he still wouldn’t be as good as Jordan, because Jordan never lost an NBA Finals, and he left two on the table by playing baseball instead. It’s like John Elway and Joe Montana. Sure, Elway had an unreal career and eventually got his two rings, and he even went to more Super Bowls than Montana, but Joe was 4 for 4 in the big game. When it was time to get the job done, Joe did it, and that’s why he’s the greatest quarterback of all time (in my opinion) and Elway isn’t.
As for a Finals prediction, I think I’ll get it wrong no matter what I say, but I think it’s a good series, and I’ll say Lakers in 7. I’m also hoping for that, because the only team I dislike more than the Lakers is the Celtics, and I want as much good basketball as I can get.
My favorite time of year is upon us! March Madness began last weekend!
First things first, I have to give some props to my squad, the Golden Gophers, for showing up for 3 straight games at the Big Ten Tournament. I’m not sure the Gophers played well in 3 conference games in a row all season. It’s a bit frustrating to know that they could have played that well all season and been in contention for a 6 seed or above, and also that they thought that the Big Ten Championship is only played for one 20 minute period rather than two, but at least they were able to go on a run when it counted and salvaged the season by earning that NCAA berth and a Big Ten Tournament 2nd Place Finish. It gives me much more hope for next season, especially since Devoe Joseph and Colton Iverson were the ones that stepped up more than anyone, and they’re only sophomores. The showing in their first round game against Xavier was disappointing as well, but as evidenced by their second round defeat of Pittsuburgh, that Xavier squad is one good team.
As for the rest of the tournament, I, like most people out there, am the owner of a bracket that is full of crossed off picks. I’m in 14th place out of 16 in my pool. And yet, I feel as though I have the pool right where I want it. I’m the only person in the entire pool who didn’t have Kansas to the Final Four, and one of only 5 people who didn’t take Kansas to win it all. Only one other person was wise enough to choose Kentucky to win it all, and since he has Kansas in the championship game, and I have Ohio State, I’ll have plenty of points to overcome his lead on me when Evan Turner leads the Buckeyes to the National Championship game. Syracuse looked really tough against Gonzaga, and the only other two people in our pool that are alive took the Orange to win it all. I think that Ohio State is too good of an outside shooting team to lose to Syracuse’s 2-3 zone, and so I like the Buckeyes, but they still have to get there, and I’m also going to be rooting for Butler, K-State, or Xavier to knock off the Orange just so the Buckeyes don’t have to face them. I wouldn’t mind, however, if Syracuse and Baylor both made it to the Final Four, because I don’t think I’ve ever had then entire Final Four correct before, and I’d like to have that accomplishment.
So, why did I take Ohio State to beat Kansas (I’m not smart or lucky enough to predict a Northern Iowa over Kansas upset) and go to the Final Four when everyone else knew that Kansas was the best team in America? For one, I just wanted my bracket to be different from everyone else’s in my pool, but also, I just don’t want to believe Evan Turner can be stopped right now. I also dream to see a Turner versus Wall national championship game, where the winner could potentially lock up the #1 draft pick status by wowing the NBA scouts that would undoubtedly be in attendance. I don’t know the Kentucky team well enough to know how the matchups would work, but I do know that John Wall is a good defender, and even though Turner is 6’7″, he’s not exactly small at 6’4″, so we could even see them guard each other as they bring the ball up the court!
Since both of these guys are up for national player of the year in college basketball, and both are possible #1 overall picks in this year’s NBA draft, I thought I’d break down both arguments for you, with my opinions, of course.
National Player of the Year: Evan Turner
This award is not meant to gauge how anyone will do at the next level, nor is it meant to honor achievements over an entire career. It’s just to honor the best college basketball player in the country for that season. Turner is that player. Let’s compare Turner and Wall’s numbers from this season:
Wall: 16.8 ppg (4th in SEC), 6.5 apg (1st in SEC), 46.5% fg%, 34% 3pfg%, 76.3% ft%, 4.2 rpg(28th in SEC), 0.5 bpg, 1.8 spg (3rd in SEC), 4.0 TOpg
Turner: 20.3 ppg (1st in Big Ten), 5.9 apg (2nd in Big Ten), 52.3% fg%, 35.3% 3pfg%, 74.6% ft%, 9.2 rpg (1st in Big Ten), 0.9 bpg, 1.8 spg (3rd in Big Ten), 4.3 TOpg
Turner is better in almost every category. Wall clearly looks like the better true point guard with his better assist and turnover numbers, but Turner is so much more than a point guard for his team. An argument for Wall is that he is the best player on a superior team, and thus, more deserving. I do think Kentucky is a better team than Ohio State, but I don’t think that the margin is that great. Also, you have to look at Ohio State’s record when Turner was out versus when he came back from a BROKEN BACK! The Buckeye’s are 19-3 since Turner has returned from injury, and whenever they’ve been in close games, Turner has been the one to bail them out. John Wall has only lost twice all season, which is very impressive and a great argument for him, but like I said earlier, the team around him is superior to that of Turner’s, and I think that is actually a strike against Wall. Demarcus Cousins, Patrick Patterson, and Eric Bledsoe all have made big plays this year in crunch time. Wall still leads that team in big time plays, but Turner seems like the only guy the Buckeyes would ever look to with the game on the line. Okay, so I’ve ranted with a Big Ten bias about Turner for long enough, time to change it up.
1st Overall Pick in the 2010 NBA Draft: John Wall
All of those stats I mentioned above are far from meaningless for this debate, but pure numbers aren’t going to determine who will be the better pro. Wall is 2 years younger than Turner, which is already a plus because whoever is picking 1st is building for the future, and you want a guy that will most likely play a couple more years in the league. The NBA has shown in recent years that really good point guard play can be dominant. Young point guards like Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Rajon Rondo, Derrick Rose, and now Tyreke Evans (kind of a point guard) are taking the league by storm. John Wall has the Derrick Rose size and athleticism (I still can’t decide who’s more athletic) but with possibly a better outside shot, and maybe even better point guard instincts. Also, look at the last two one and done point guards to play for John Calipari: Rose and Evans, and you have to think that Wall is another can’t miss prospect. I love Turner’s versatility, and since he plays point guard in college, who knows, maybe that’s how a team would use him at the next level, but he’s not going to be able to back down 6’2″, 195 pound college sophomores for easy buckets at the next level. Teams will put bigger, quicker perimeter players on him and give him trouble, so I don’t think his future in the NBA really is point guard. The only way I see Turner going #1 is if the team picking there is dumb enough to draft for need rather than best player available, or is convinced that Wall couldn’t play in their offensive system. (Timberwolves, I’m looking at you.)
So, now that I’ve put it out there that my bracket needs this matchup to happen, and since it’s what everyone else probably wants to see since the Jayhawks got knocked out, we know it’s probably destined not to happen. (I’ve never won an NCAA pool.)
So long for now.