A team on the Rise

The University of Akron Zips Men’s basketball team is currently 21-7 and Second in the Mid-American Conference East standings. The Zips are projected to be a top seed in the MAC tournament and could make some noise heading into the National Collegiate Athletic Association Men’s Basketball tournament. Akron is a projected 13th seed. So how did we get here? , well that all starts with Head Coach John Groce. Coach Groce has a long track record of turning around programs and has done it in the Mac before. At Ohio University where he led the Bobcats to two NCAA Tournament Appearances. In his last season with the Bobcats coach Groce led them to a 29-8 record and a trip to the sweet 16. In John Groce’s 1st season as the Zips Head Coach the team finished 14-18 and in his 2nd season the team finished 17-16. In the 2017-2018 season which was the first season under coach Groce the team was 4th in the conference in 3-Point percentage at 34%, 9th in the conference in Points at 71.1, 3rd in Free Throw percentage at 73.9%, and 10th in the conference in field goal percentage at 42.6%.  This season the team is 2nd in the conference in 3-point percentage at 36.4%, 1st in the conference at free throw percentage at 76.9%, 5th in Field Goal percentage at 43.8%, 5th in scoring at 75.3 points per game. Hopefully, the team can continue its stellar play heading into the MAC Tournament and get their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2013. The Zips are 0-4 all-time in the big dance but maybe this is the year that Cinderella will find her slipper in Akron Ohio.

The Cavaliers get retribution against the Miami Heat

The Cleveland Cavaliers are a streaky team and have been all year, but tonight’s game really showed how streaky they could be. After being down 19 at the end of the 3rd quarter, they made an amazing comeback to get the game to overtime and eventually won the game. How did this happen?

The first 3 quarters were tough to watch, as the Cavs did not lead for a single second throughout.  Sexton and Garland both had fairly rough games tonight, neither one could get into a rhythm. Kevin Love got to the line a few times but he had a bad night shooting too, going 4-13 overall and 2-9 from three. Andre Drummond was borderline terrible, and was benched towards the end of the game. Tristan Thompson had a couple of bright spots throughout the game but did nothing noteworthy in the first 3 quarters.

The team gave up a lot of open 3 pointers, too. Duncan Robinson hit five of his first 5 3’s in the game. They did not have a real answer for Goran Dragic, who came off the bench to score a (tied for) team high 22 points.

Kevin Porter Jr. was fantastic all night, scoring 30, a career high. He looked like a real quality starter tonight and it was fun to watch. At this point, he may be the most exciting young guy on this team, and the Cavs traded 2nds from other trades and cash for him. Despite being phenomenal all game, the Cavs were down 19 going into the 4th.

But In the 4th quarter, they exploded. They forced key turnovers on defense after a game littered with turnovers on offense, so much so that both teams ended up with 12 turnovers. Larry Nance Jr. and KPJ kept making shots while the Heat ran cold for the first time all game. Duncan Robinson, who was at one point 5-5, missed his next 6 threes, which was absolutely crucial to the win. Then, after a Kendrick Nunn layup and a failed buzzer beater from KPJ, we went to overtime, tied at 111!

Nance Jr. was great in OT, scoring some important layups early when the Cavs were beginning to falter on defense. Garland, after missing his first two shots, hit a crucial up and under layup to put the Cavs up 3. After being cold all game, Kevin Love got the rebound and sealed the game with a hard-fought layup. After some free throws, the Cavs won 125-119.

After the game, JB praised KPJ, talking about how talented he is, saying “once he [gets] comfortable, there are not many plays he can’t make.” He also emphasized versatility as a key to their success due to the choice to put Larry Nance at the 3 with Love and TT at the end of the game.

Big Ten Tournament Favorites

The regular season for college basketball is winding down, and conference tournaments are coming up soon. And no conference this year has been as competitive as the Big Ten. With so many talented teams in the mix, this year’s Big Ten Tournament should be the best among conferences. With that being said, lets take a look at what teams have the best chances of winning in Indianapolis next month.

Throughout conference play thus far, Maryland has been the best team as they currently sit on top of the conference at 12-4 in league play, and are ranked #9 in the country. Despite losing on the road to #23 Ohio State last night, The Terrapins have looked like a well-oiled machine for most of the season. Senior guard Anthony Cowan Jr’s. decision to stay another year at Maryland has definitely paid off, as he has lead this team to an impressive resume for the season, as well as made himself a contender to win Big Ten player of the year. The Terps also have stud sophomore big man Jalen Smith, who has been a nightmare for opposing big men all season long. Coached by Mark Turgeon, the Terps have the best chance to win the Big Ten tournament, as they have good coach, a tremendous veteran star, and solid role players which have helped them win all season.

Penn State has also had a good season led by senior forward Lamar Stevens. Currently the Nittany Lions are ranked #16, since they lost back to back games against Illinois and Indiana. But still Penn State has had an impressive season as they sit in second place in the Big Ten at 10-6. With a higher seed in the tournament, Penn State will have a good chance to go far and pick up some momentum against the better teams. With that being said, it isn’t unrealistic to say Penn State can win the tournament, despite losing their last two games.

Sitting third in the conference also at 10-6 is Iowa, who are ranked #18 and have had a stellar season as well. Led by national player of the year candidate and favored to be the Big Ten player of the year, Luka Garza, who has been dominant in the paint and can also knock down shots from outside. With the impressive play of their junior center, averaging nearly 24 points and 10 rebounds a game, the Hawkeyes should also be in the conversation to win the tournament next month.

Even though it has been a disappointing season for them, as they started this season ranked #1 and are currently ranked #24, don’t count out Michigan State. The Spartans also have a conference record of 10-6 and have a lot of veteran players on their team, such as senior point guard Cassius Winston and junior forward/center Xavier Tillman. Michigan State also has some talented young players as well, freshman guard Rocket Watts, and sophomore forward Gabe Brown and Marcus Bingham. They are also coached by the best coach in the Big Ten, Tom Izzo, so the Spartans have everything they need to win in Indianapolis next month.

The Big Ten has an abundance of other teams that could walk out of Indianapolis victorious. Teams like #23 Ohio State and #19 Michigan who started off strong, then cooled off, but are now hot again. Teams like Illinois and Rutgers who also had strong mid-season outings who have struggled recently, but still have the ability to come out on top.

The Big Ten has been exciting to watch all season, and the tournament should not disappoint. With so many teams who are NCAA tournament bound, this should be the most competitive tournament in the country, and should give the winner a huge boost for when they enter the big dance.

XFL Impresses in League Debut

Football fans were gifted everything they could have wanted in the XFL’s opening weekend. From kickers being sideline interviewed shortly after missing a field goal to wild trick plays, the XFL brought their game. With a fan first mentality, the XFL’s fanbase will seemingly skyrocket over time. Common sense rules and a quicker pace, the XFL should be around for a long time.
8-teams divided into two divisions, East and West, will play a 10-week regular season and a two-week postseason consisting of two semifinal playoff games and a championship game on April 26. The teams and cities representing the East are the New York Guardians, St. Louis Battlehawks, DC Defenders, and the Tampa Bay Vipers. Out West the XFL presents the Los Angeles Wildcats, Seattle Dragons, Dallas Renegades, and Houston Roughnecks. If the inaugural season keeps its success, we might just see the league expand if not double in size.
There truly isn’t much to dislike about the XFL so far. Fox and ABC have broadcasted a great product with top tier broadcasting, including ESPN’s Steve Levy for the first official XFL game, and countless camera angles and their professional crews. There wasn’t a lack of talent on the field either, no feeling of a ‘minor league’ product. Players with NFL and Division I history and talent scattered the field and on every sideline. The XFL has created so many jobs and second chance opportunities for players, coaches, and staff looking to revitalize their careers. Ultimately, it’s more of what we as Americans want to see, more football.
The XFL claims to be built on three core principles, fan-first, ultra-accessible, and true to the game. With revamped and fresh rules to football, so far they are staying true to these principles. As the XFL’s motto goes ‘For the Love of Football’, they’ll have myself and many other football fanatics coming back every weekend for more and more of this short 79-day season.

NBA Trade Deadline Roundup

This year we had a really fun NBA trade deadline day! There was some talk before the deadline about how it could fizzle out and ultimately be another boring one, but we had a couple of huge trades and even one involving the Cavs, so let’s get into it. (Note: These are in no particular order, and I will only be covering the notable trades for the sake of brevity.)

Marcus Morris goes to the Clippers:

LA Clippers get:

F Marcus Morris Sr.

G Isaiah Thomas

New York Knicks get:

F Maurice Harkless

2020 first-round pick

Second-round pick (via Detroit)

Washington Wizards get:

G Jerome Robinson

This was a very good trade for all of the teams involved. The Wizards got a point guard replacement in Shabazz Napier in another trade with Denver, so they do not lose out on depth by being included in this deal. The Knicks, without anyone to lead the front office because they just fired Steve Mills two days before the deadline, actually got great value for Morris. With a lottery protected pick this year that will surely be theirs unless the Clippers lose every game for the rest of the season, they have another nice piece that they can use to rebuild. The Clippers are the biggest winners here, getting a veteran who can shoot and stretch the floor, and also adds to their depth. It may not be important now, but come playoff time, especially if guys get hurt, having more guys like Morris could be crucial, and with a rumored Reggie Jackson buyout also coming their way, they could be the title favorites if they were not already.

This is something I never thought I would say: the Golden State Warriors have traded for Andrew Wiggins

Minnesota Timberwolves get:

G D’Angelo Russell

G Jacob Evans

F Omari Spellman

Golden State Warriors get:

F Andrew Wiggins

2021 top-3 protected first-round pick

2021 second-round pick

There were some people who thought this was a steal from the Timberwolves and some that thought this was a good move for the Warriors, I am somewhere in the middle. Andrew Wiggins has been bad, but if the Warriors could somehow salvage his career, maybe he can show some of that talent he was projected to have when he was picked first overall. The main part of the deal is that 2021 top-3 protected pick. The 2021 and 2022 drafts are projected to be very good, and that 2021 pick becomes unprotected in 2022 if the Wolves get a top 3 pick in 2021. Unless you are really high on the Wolves making the playoffs for the next two years, they will probably be a lottery team and this pick should be valuable for the Warriors, whether they keep it or trade it later on.

The Wolves get D’Lo for what they hope to be a mid to late first, if this works out. It is no secret that Russell and Karl Anthony Towns are close friends, so this trade was one that was made to make their star player happy, which also happens to get them off of a terrible player on a bad contract for a better player that’s on a similar contract. I am not sure this was a steal as there are still questions about KAT as a star and D’Lo is a complimentary guy on a good team (not to mention this team may give up 200 points a game) but I like this deal for them.

Next: Iggy finally gets out of Memphis

Miami Heat get:

F Andre Iguodala

F Jae Crowder

F Solomon Hill

Memphis Grizzlies get:

F Justise Winslow

G Dion Waiters

C Gorgui Dieng

Minnesota Timberwolves get:

F James Johnson

I do not really have a lot to say about this one. I think there is a solid chance that Iguodala will show his age in Miami, and I am not a fan of Crowder (if you remember the 2018 season you will know why) and Solomon Hill is serviceable at best. I will say that what they gave up to get Iggy is not a lot, and if I am wrong about Iggy being washed up then that would change my take on this trade a lot.

The Grizzlies came out fairly well in my opinion. I am not a fan of them taking on Dion and Dieng, but I really like Justise Winslow, even if his fit on this team is hard to see right now. The Wolves getting James Johnson is fine, he is definitely better than Dieng.

This is a big one:

Houston Rockets get:

F Robert Covington

C Jordan Bell

2024 second-round pick (via Golden State Warriors)

Atlanta Hawks get:

C Clint Capela

C Nene

Minnesota Timberwolves get:

G Malik Beasley

F Juan Hernangomez

G Evan Turner

F Jarred Vanderbilt

2020 first-rounder (via Brooklyn Nets, lottery protected)

Denver Nuggets get:

G Gerald Green

F Keita Bates-Diop

G Shabazz Napier

F Noah Vonleh

2020 first-round pick (via Houston Rockets)

This one is a lot to take in. This is the first 12 player trade since the Patrick Ewing trade in 2000, and the largest trade since the 13 player, 5 team trade that occurred in 2005. This trade was a shock to me purely because of the scale. This was the first big trade of the day, and what a great way to start the day it was.

That being said, the trade itself is not a great one. The Rockets got someone who was, in my opinion, overvalued in Robert Covington. He is a good player, but they gave up their only big man to get him, and even later traded the big man they got back in this trade for Brun Caboclo, a man who was once dubbed the Brazilian KD (spoilers: he was no the Brazilian KD). They seem to be taking their small ball experiment to the limit, so we will see how that works out.

The Hawks get a couple of nice big men without giving much of anything up. They already got Dedmon in a deal but they continue to get players and assets for value. They made a lot of solid moves this year and I like where they are going.

The Wolves got a couple of solid players in Malik Beasley and Hernangomez, I really liked what they got back. The Nuggets were even able to get a first rounder out of this, which was a solid catch.

Now onto the main event:

Cleveland Cavaliers get:

C Andre Drummond

Detroit Pistons get:

F John Henson

G Brandon Knight

2023 second-round pick (lesser of Cleveland’s or Golden State’s)

I have zero idea what Detroit were doing here. I know Drummond was possibly leaving in free agency this year, and if he did not he could have opted into his player option. Maybe they just wanted to rip the band-aid off and end the relationship. But they basically gave us a free trial of Drummond with an option to keep him. I was never a huge Drummond guy, but after watching the Cavs be the Cavs at various points this year, it will be nice to have another guy who is good at basketball on the team. No shade to Henson or Knight, but Drummond is an all star. He’s just better. Best case scenario is Drummond opts in to his player option and we can free up the cap next year instead of this year, as this year’s free agent class is absolutely horrid. I am incredibly unsure of giving him any sort of long term deal, but I am not even worrying about that right now. We just got an all star center for a couple of expiring contracts and a 2nd round pick. How can you beat that? Nice job Koby Altman, great job to the front office, thank you to the Pistons for continuing to be the Pistons we have known and loved ever since you traded Chauncey Billups for a past his prime Allen Iverson.

And that is it for the 2020 NBA trade deadline! A lot of fun moves throughout the day that had me glued to my phone, I wish it was like this every year.