Sunday, January 30, 2011

Upset Saturday Recap : The Point After's 100th Post

I would like to thank everybody for their support in the past two months.  This marks our 100th post and we hope that the blog will continue on to do bigger and better things in the future.  Once again, we appreciate your help and if you do enjoy reading the blog, to help spread the word.  Thank You!

I spent most of my day yesterday at the Villanova vs. Georgetown game to cheer on my Wildcats, except Austin Freeman and the Hoyas dealt some punishment.  Georgetown controlled most of the game, despite letting Villanova back into it in the last few minutes.  Antonio Pena of the Wildcats missed a potential game tying three with 4 seconds left and Villanova was handed its' second loss of the week, after losing to Providence on Wednesday.  Freeman had 30 points and made a ridiculous fadeaway with a hand in his face to stretch the Hoyas lead to three in the final moments.  This was a great win for Georgetown, as they improved to a mediocre 5-4 in the conference.  Villanova drops to 5-3, and has lost 3 of 4 games.

The #1 Ohio State Buckeyes will remain the #1 team in the poll this week, despite a legitimate scare vs. Northwestern.  Ohio State should have lost this game, but if it wasn't for a boneheaded Northwestern play to an open Wildcat under the hoop, Northwestern would've pulled off the upset.  Jared Sullinger then was fouled with 3 seconds left, breaking a tie, making his second free throw.  Northwestern's half court heave was left of the rim, and Ohio State improved to 22-0 on the season.

#2 Pittsburgh, trying to avenge a loss to Notre Dame on Monday, almost lost to Rutgers last night as well.  Rutgers and Pitt were battling all game, in a physical Big East matchup, with the largest lead being 7 points.  The RAC was bumping last night, as the Scarlet Knights almost pulled up a huge upset.  This game clearly shows the depth of the Big East, as any home team in the Big East has an opportunity to win on any given night.

#4 San Diego State and #6 Kansas both demolished their opponents, as SDSU beat Wyoming by 39 points, and Kansas crushed rival Kansas State, 90-66.  Kansas State is really in danger of going from preseason favorite to NIT.

Louisville defeated #5 UConn in a double overtime thriller, as Kemba Walker missed a 37 foot-three pointer to win the game.  This was just a typical Big East game, as the teams were close all throughout, but Peyton Siva and the Cardinals did just enough for the win.  Kemba Walker scored 20 points, but was an inefficient 7-23 from the field.

#8 Texas continued its tremendous hot streak, defeating #13 Missouri by 13 points.  Texas will jump into the top 5 at least, and could even be as high as #2 in the rankings next week.  The Longhorns are one of those rare college basketball teams that rely on their inside game to score points, and with their talent, they are so efficient that its difficult to stop them on offense.

After an emotional victory over San Diego State on Wednesday, BYU came out and laid an egg vs. New Mexico.  Jimmer Fredette still scored 32 points, but the New Mexico Lobos shot lights out all night, capping a roller coaster week for BYU.

Nebraska and Marquette, both unranked, won tough conference matchups on Saturday.  Nebraska beat Texas A&M, while Marquette gave the reeling Syracuse Orangemen their fourth straight loss.  #10 Syracuse will see yet another huge drop in the rankings, possibly into the high teens, and as low as 20 this week. Marquette is playing competitive basketball, with two big wins vs. Notre Dame and Syracuse.  They lost close games to Pitt, UConn, and Notre Dame, but they face a Villanova team that Marquette has handled in the past few years.  A few more good wins for Marquette, and they will surely make the tournament in March.  Nebraska on the hand, improved to 3-3 in the Big 12 and has true tests in the next few weeks, with games vs. Kansas State, Kansas, Oklahoma State and Baylor.  This run of games will be very important for Nebraska.

Other Notable games on Saturday:

#12 Purdue beat #18 Minnesota - 73-61

Penn State clips #15 Wisconsin 56-52

#16 Kentucky holds on vs. Georgia - 66-60

#22 Vanderbilt, #23 Florida, and #24 St. Mary's all fall

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Mountain West Showdown

Who would've thought the game of the week would be be played in Utah?  In a game that is being called the biggest battle in Mountain West history, the San Diego State Aztecs visit the Brigham Young Cougars.  San Diego State currently is ranked #4 in the country and is one of two undefeated teams left, while BYU is ranked #9 and is led by Jimmer Fredette, the leading scorer in the nation.  This marks the first time two top ten MWC teams will face off in the history of the conference and it provides the toughest test for SDSU in their run at a clean slate.  This game features two premiere guards, but as always this game will be won inside.

Jimmer Fredette, averaging just under 27 points per game, and D.J. Gay for the Aztecs, will be battling it out in the perimeter, but BYU must contain Kawhi Leonard in order to win.  Leonard is 6-7, but plays a lot taller, as he is averaging a double-double (15 points, 10 rebounds) a game.  His play in the paint will be extremely important, as the Cougars must limit his offensive boards.  Brandon Davies and Noah Hartsock lead BYU in rebounding, each with around 6 per game.  They will have to feed off of each other and make sure to have a body on Leonard in order to secure rebounds, to allow Fredette to take over the game.

There is no doubt that Jimmer is the most talented player on the Cougars, but SDSU needs to remember to not get caught up on his shooting abilities.  Allowing Jimmer Fredette to pull up from 28-30 feet from the hoop for three pointers is perfectly fine, even though he is the ability to make it.  Fredette is very skilled going to the hoop as well, so the big men for the Aztecs need to rotate to step up on him.  Many of the perimeter defenders against Jimmer play up in his face in order to take away the outside jumper, but he simply blows by them and floats a tear drop before the big men can confront him.  They must force him to take tough shots or he can drop 40 points.

San Diego State offensive attack is a lot slower than most teams, in fact according to KenPom rankings, their pace is 306th in the country.  They rely a lot on their half-court offense, using the pick and roll effectively, and being smart with the ball.  They will not have many turnovers, which will allow them to dictate the pace of the game.  The one flaw in the Aztec offense is the terrible free throw shooting, as the team shoots 67% from the line.  If this game is close late, as we all expect it to be, the game could be won at the free throw line and the Aztecs better step up and make them or they could be going back to San Diego with their first loss.

Through all this, I think San Diego State is in fact a better team than the BYU Cougars; however, I still think BYU will win this game because they are playing at home.  Jimmer Fredette is coming off a great stretch of games and I believe he will have more than 30 points against the Aztecs.  Unless Kawhi Leonards dominates the paint, I don't think they can win in Provo, Utah.  

Prediction: 73-71 Cougars

Monday, January 24, 2011

1/24 ESPN/USA Today College Basketball Rankings

Last night I posted my projected rankings and we can now compare them with their actual counterpart.

1. Ohio State
2. Pittsburgh
3. Duke
4. San Diego State
5. Connecticut
6. Kansas
7. Villanova
8. Texas
9. Brigham Young
10. Syracuse

Above are the actual rankings for this week, for the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll.  Ohio State garnered all 31 of the first place votes this week, after remaining unbeaten at 20-0.

My projected poll showed the same top ten teams, but with 5-8 in a different order.  I put Kansas ahead of Connecticut, simply because their only loss came to a team currently ranked in the top 10.  The coaches disagreed and put a hot UConn team ahead of the Jayhawks.  After UConn at 5 and Kansas at 6, the poll has Villanova in the 7th position.  Even as a student at Villanova, I disagree with this placement, as the Wildcats should not be in front of the Texas Longhorns.  Texas comes off a week beating Texas A&M and Kansas, who were both top ten teams last week.  I believe that is enough to jump at least Villanova, if not even more.  The top ten is rounded out by BYU and Syracuse, which is how I finished my top ten as well.

Overall the rankings are not too shocking, and no team really made a huge jump, except for Syracuse who fell 7 spots after a two-loss week.

Projected Top Ten Rankings for January 24th

College Basketball rankings are very subjective and mean little to the strength of a team, but fans and teams all around love to see how others think of them.  I am no exception, as I am fascinated by the system.  Below I am listing my projected top ten for the upcoming week, as the rankings come out tomorrow.

1. Ohio State
2. Pittsburgh
3. Duke
4. San Diego State
5. Kansas
6. Connecticut
7. Texas
8. Villanova
9. Brigham Young
10. Syracuse

This past week saw crazy upsets, that created a huge problem for the rankings.  It seems as if the top ten teams are all obvious, but putting them in an order is almost impossible.  

Ohio State and Pittsburgh represent the two easiest selections, as Ohio State survived a scare vs. Illinois, to maintain the top position.  Pitt, who was ranked 4th last week, defeated Syracuse to move into the #2 spot in my rankings.  Both Syracuse and Kansas lost this week, moving them back out of the top 3.  Duke gets the call at 3, since the Blue Devils took care of business vs. the ACC this week.  San Diego State gets the benefit of the doubt in this case, as they are preparing for the Mountain West showdown vs. BYU this week.  Kansas slides behind the Aztecs, due to the fact they lost a home conference game to Texas.  Connecticut, with wins vs. Villanova and Tennessee, moves up two spots to 6 with a strong week.  

The bottom four teams are very confusing, as Texas, who was previously ranked 11, moves up to 7.  The Longhorns had a great week, defeating #10 Texas A&M and #2 Kansas.  Texas can make a case for an even higher ranking, but the teams in front of them have the edge right now, but they are poised to move into the top 5 in the coming weeks.  #8 is where I finally place Villanova, which is a one place drop from last week for the Wildcats.  Villanova lost to Kemba Walker and the Huskies earlier in the week and defeated Syracuse in the Carrier Dome, which is actually a positive week for the Wildcats, but due to Texas' great play, Villanova still drops a spot in my rankings.  The top ten is rounded out with BYU and Syracuse.  BYU had a strong week led by Jimmer Fredette, who is lighting up the scoreboard.  #10 belongs to Syracuse, who have the worst fall, coming from #3; however, after two conference losses to top ten teams (Pittsburgh and Villanova), the Orange had to fall in the rankings.  

We will see what the rankings come out to be tomorrow, tune in to The Point After for analysis of them.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

"Can We Pretend That Airplanes"...:New York Jets

Hard knocks. Soft knocks. Call it what you want but the Jets are here to play. After all the doubt placed on New York throughout the season, after a few unconvincing games such at Detroit and Cleveland, the Jets have shown that can compete with the best teams in the league. Here are two quick points that are key to a Jets victory:
1) The running game must there all game. Although the Steelers have statistically the best defense in the league, New York's defense is a close behind them. LT and Greene must have solid performances each in order to keep Big Ben off the field.

2) Along with the running game being there, this will help Mark Sanchez tremendously because he will be in 3rd and 5 scenarios which sets up a quick slant pass to Santonio Holmes. Sanchez has been doubted all postseason but his ability to keep Peyton Manning and Tom Brady off the field for two straight weeks has led to huge wins. Can he do it again? I believe that Mark will silence the media, whether it's a win or not(fingers crossed), and play a great game with the help of the mastermind himself, Rex Ryan.

Jets. Steelers. Heinz Field, Gametime. Now.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The View from Chicago: Bear Down

Analysts, pundits, and supposed football experts all seem to agree on one thing: the Packers will beat the Bears. They are allmesmerized by Aaron Rodgers' playoff performances and their sexy 3-4 scheme on defense. But, I have news for you, football America: The Bears and Packers split the season series in two close games. The Bears have as good of a chance of winning as the Packers do. Here are three keys that will tilt the game in the Bears' favor.

1) The Bears' offensive line:
The Chicago Bears' offensive line has been arguably the worst unit in the league over the course of the season. They gave up the most sacks by any unit over the course of the season, and have been racked by injuries. But, due to recent stability on the line and the coaching of Mike Tice, the Bears have been opening up more holes for Matt Forte and less for opposing pass rushers. The line put on a clinic for most of the Seattle game, giving Cutler time to carve up the defense while Matt Forte went off for another huge game. If the line is able to play well enough against a great green Bay pass rush, look for Cutler and Forte to light it up.

2) Special Teams:
The Bears' Devin Hester had a renaissance this year in the return game, returning three kicks for scores and averaging an astounding 17.1 yards per punt return. Add in all of the hidden yardage due to teams kicking the ball out of bounds and playing keep-away, and Devin Hester has a huge impact on the game. Look no further than week three against the Pack, when Hester returned a punt for a touchdown, which turned out to be the difference. In week 17, the Packers did a good job of limiting what Devin Hester could do. Hester always shows up in the biggest games though. Also, the Pack has had trouble covering kicks and punts all year, as evidenced by the 102 yard return in their last game by the Falcons. Look for Hester to have a big impact on the game, and possibly be the deciding factor.

3) The Bears' Pass Rush
The Bears' Cover 2 scheme can stop Aaron Rodgers, as it has held the Packer's offense to a combined 27 points in their two regular season meetings. The scheme only works, though, if the front 4 get pressure. That way, the back seven can drop back into coverage and limit big plays. But, if the defensive line cannot get pressure, and the Bears have to use more guys to get pressure, then Aaron Rodgers will pick them apart. The Bears can stop the Packers when the run the ball. But, if they do not get any pressure on Rodgers from their line, the Bears are in trouble. Due to the condition of Soldier Field, the Bears must get inspired play from their defensive tackles, namely Tommie Harris, as the conditions may partly neutralize stud rusher Julius Peppers.

If the Bears are able to follow these keys, they will surely win, and all of Chicago will be singing, "Bear down, Chicago Bears." The Packers will be a tough task, but I think the Bears will carry through in an upset.
Final prediction: Bears-30, Packers-24

-David Straple

The Pack Is Back

The Packers were a pre-season favorite to be the NFC representative in the Super Bowl, but after the worst string of injuries in NFL history, how did they reach the NFC Championship Game and why will they win tomorrow?

It looked like the end of the end during the first game of the season when their starting RB Ryan Grant (back-to-back 1200 yard rusher) sustained a season ending injury. Then soon after, Pro Bowl caliber TE JerMichael Finley was put on IR. They lost 3 starting LBs, their two starting safties, a starting OL, their #2 CB, and Aaron Rodgers for two games. In total, the Packers lost almost a total of 100 games from opening day starters due to injuries. So how in the world have they been so competitive. Their are two main reasons that they have been able to withstand these devastating injuries and get as far as they have.

1. The first is the outstanding job on the GM Ted Thompson in the NFL draft.

Let's take a look at his draft picks since he started as GM of the Packers: Aaron Rodgers, Nick Collins, and Greg Jennings, Mason Crosby, B.J. Raji, Clay Matthews, Tramon Williams. He also acquired some guy named Charles Woodson. I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea that Ted Thompson has an eye for not just talent, but for superstar level talent.

2. Mike McCarthy should be the Coach of the Year.

No other team has ever had to deal with a string of injuries like this all year, and coach Mike McCarthy has been able to utilize everything that Ted Thompson has given him. Think about it, even without a running game, McCarthy has been able to use Kuhn, Starks, and Jackson in different situations. Kuhn, the short yardage back converted 9 one yard to go situations in a row at one time. Jackson is used mostly on screens, and has the second best yards per catch of all running backs in the league. Starks is all purpose guy who has been getting more and more carries as the year has gone along. After losing Al Harris to injury, Tramon Williams has stepped up and was one of the worst snubs for the Pro Bowl this year. Troy Aikman said it last week against Atlanta that there is no other coach that he would cast his vote for Coach of the Year than Mike McCarthy. The Packers are also the 3rd least penalized team in the NFL with only 5 flags per game.

Keys to the NFC Championship:

1. Contain Matt Forte and Chester Taylor.

The Pack did a great job bottling up Michael Turner and Jason Snelling last week in Atlanta, forcing Matt Ryan to beat them with his arm. The Packers must do the same this week and force Cutler to beat them under pressure against one of the best secondaries in the game. I feel if the Bears run for less that 100 yards, the Packers have a great chance to win.

2. Do not, DO NOT punt to Devin Hester.

Hester returned one in the first meeting when the Packers lost in Chicago, but had only two returns for a total of 17 yards in their second meeting in December. Tim Masthay has done a phenomenal job of not letting Hester and Desean Jackson beat them in their two most recent games against the Bears and Eagles, he must do the same again.

3. Keep the penalties down.

The Packers committed 18 penalties in the game they lost to the Bears, and that same officiating crew will be doing this game; the Pack need to be that 3rd least penalized team to win.

If the Packers do these things, they have a great chance of winning, and will have beaten the Giants, Bears, Eagle, Falcons and Bears in consecutive weeks and will be one of the hottest teams to ever roll into the Super Bowl.

Key Matchup: Aaron Rodgers vs. the Chicago Pass Rush

Aaron Rodgers looked like Houdini last weekend avoiding the Atlanta defenders. Rodgers is the second best rushing QB behind Michael Vick. If he stays upright, look for him to pick apart the Bear's secondary.

This is looking to be one of the Classic Games in NFL history with the Biggest Rivalry in all of sports with the greatest stakes this rivalry has seen. This is a game you don't want to miss.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Steeling the Show

In preparation for the NFC and AFC championship games this weekend, The Point After will be taking a look at each team and pointing out the keys to each team winning.  We will start the previews of the games with the reasons why the Pittsburgh Steelers will represent the AFC in the Superbowl.

Point #1: The Steelers have traditionally had the best defense in the league, and it's no secret that they are this season. Pittsburgh puts forth the most talented defense in the country; however, the Jets beat the Steelers last month.  This game will come down to the ability of the Jets to run the ball.  The Jets were the most successful rushing team this year versus the Steelers, but the playoffs represent a totally different scenario.  The Steelers are the most experienced team remaining in the playoffs and by eliminating the Jets running game, the Steelers will be able to control the pace of the game.

Point #2: Ben Roethlisberger has the clear edge over Mark Sanchez in the quarterback matchup. Year in and year out, Big Ben has proven that he is one of the best signal callers in the NFL. He has 2 Super Bowl rings, and a 9-2 record in the playoffs, not to mention a 15-1 record in his rookie season. Mark Sanchez has taken the more scenic route on his way to stardom, and has yet to make a name for himself in the Meadowlands.  Sanchez has played well enough in the playoffs both this year and last year, but has relied a lot on his defense and running game.  Roethlisberger is definitely the better quarterback through his experience, ability to escape the pass rush, and overall quarterback IQ.

Point #3: The Pittsburgh Steelers have one major offensive advantage over the New York Jets: speed.  Antonio Cromartie struggles with speedy receivers, so his play is crucial to the Jets defense.  Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders, and Antonio Brown are all much faster than their counterparts and need to use their speed to their advantage.  Their ability to convert on long third downs vs. the Ravens helped the Steelers advance in the playoffs.  As long as the Steelers offensive line can protect Big Ben, the Steelers wide receivers can cause major problems for the Jets.

X-Factor: None other than Troy Polamalu himself. This man is the heart and the leader of this great defensive unit. his relentless play and game changing ability will be the difference in this game. He always seems to be in the right spot at the right time, and with a young Sanchez running the Jets offense, look for Polamalu to be in his face more than once.  If the running game is stopped by the Steelers front seven, Polamalu could have an interception or two.

It will definitely be interesting to see two of the best defenses battle against each other, but this game will come down to a few factors that we mentioned above.  We believe the Steelers will win and our score prediction is: Steelers 27 - Jets 14.

Sagar Parikh and Joe Balcom

Note: Big Ten is Crazy

The Big East conference is clearly the class of college basketball so far this season; however, the Big Ten is very talented and competitive as well. Currently, six teams are ranked in the Big Ten, and of the unranked teams, Penn State and Northwestern are great teams.  Penn State had a streak of five straight games vs. ranked Big Ten teams, in which they went 2-3.  2 of their losses were by a total of four points, so they are no pushover.  The Big Ten still has one undefeated team, the Ohio State Buckeyes, but they could lose two or three times in the Big Ten alone. 

The Big Ten is very deep in talent, with Purdue, Illinois, and Michigan State all poised to make a run at a Big Ten title.  Wisconsin and Minnesota also have an opportunity to make a run in the tournament and are talented enough to go far into the NCAA tourney.  The top 8 Big Ten teams can compete directly with the class of the Big East, but they still have ways to go to be as deep as the Big East.  The Big Ten could have 7 teams in the tournament this year, but the Big East has an outside chance at 11 teams gaining admission into the tourney.  Watch out for a crazy Big Ten and Big East tournament this year, with so many teams having the ability to win the conference tournaments.  

The view from Chicago: Bear Down!

Analysts, pundits, and supposed football experts all seem to agree on one thing: the Packers will beat the Bears. They are all mesmerized by Aaron Rodgers' playoff performances and their sexy 3-4 scheme on defense. But, I have news for you, football America: The Bears and Packers split the season series in two close games. The Bears have as good of a chance of winning as the Packers do. Here are three keys that will tilt the game in the Bears' favor.

1) The Bears' offensive line:
The Chicago Bears' offensive line has been arguably the worst unit in the league over the course of the season. They gave up the most sacks by any unit over the course of the season, and have been racked by injuries. But, due to recent stability on the line and the coaching of Mike Tice, the Bears have been opening up more holes for Matt Forte and less for opposing pass rushers. The line put on a clinic for most of the Seattle game, giving Cutler time to carve up the defense while Matt Forte went off for another huge game. If the line is able to play well enough against a great green Bay pass rush, look for Cutler and Forte to light it up.

2) Special Teams:
The Bears' Devin Hester had a renaissance this year in the return game, returning three kicks for scores and averaging an astounding 17.1 yards per punt return. Add in all of the hidden yardage due to teams kicking the ball out of bounds and playing keep-away, and Devin Hester has a huge impact on the game. Look no further than week three against the Pack, when Hester returned a punt for a touchdown, which turned out to be the difference. In week 17, the Packers did a good job of limiting what Devin Hester could do. Hester always shows up in the biggest games though. Also, the Pack has had trouble covering kicks and punts all year, as evidenced by the 102 yard return in their last game by the Falcons. Look for Hester to have a big impact on the game, and possibly be the deciding factor.

3) The Bears' Pass Rush
The Bears' Cover 2 scheme can stop Aaron Rodgers, as it has held the Packer's offense to a combined 27 points in their two regular season meetings. The scheme only works, though, if the front 4 get pressure. That way, the back seven can drop back into coverage and limit big plays. But, if the defensive line cannot get pressure, and the Bears have to use more guys to get pressure, then Aaron Rodgers will pick them apart. The Bears can stop the Packers when the run the ball. But, if they do not get any pressure on Rodgers from their line, the Bears are in trouble. Due to the condition of Soldier Field, the Bears must get inspired play from their defensive tackles, namely Tommie Harris, as the conditions may partly neutralize stud rusher Julius Peppers.

If the Bears are able to follow these keys, they will surely win, and all of Chicago will be singing, "Bear down, Chicago Bears." The Packers will be a tough task, but I think the Bears will carry through in an upset.
Final prediction: Bears-30, Packers-24

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Breaking the Zone Defense

The one major difference in College Basketball and the NBA is the defensive methods.  The zone defense is very popular in college, but the jump to the pros also includes a change in rules, not allowing that defender inside the paint without an offensive player there.  The best zone defense in college has been the Syracuse Orangemen, who happened to lose to Pittsburgh last night.  The Panthers did something no other team could do this year, and that is break the Syracuse zone.  Many qualities are necessary for a team to score on the zone efficiently, including smart passing, good outside shooting, and solid ball handling.  

Syracuse's defense forces teams to settle for shots they do not want to take.  For instance, on Saturday, Syracuse played Cincinnati and held them to 52 points.  Cincinnati took 28 three pointers, making them at a 39% rate, which results in 33 points.  33 points on 28 shots is a very efficient result for Cincinnati, but the Bearcats shot 7 of 31 from inside the arc.  That is absolutely awful.  Many of the shots taken were tough opportunities with either a hand in the face or two defenders close by.  In another instance, against St. John's last week, Syracuse held them to 19 of 45 from inside the arc.  That is a lot better than what Cincinnati shot, but St. John's was only 2-12 from three point range.  These stats are both coming from teams that average over 70 points a game and are mid tier Big East programs.

So here's the question, how is Syracuse so good on defense?  A good zone defense starts with players that know their role. The Orangemen have bought into Jim Boeheim and his defensive scheme.  Intelligence is another  important factor, as they all are aware of what to do in every scenario.  This comes after a ton of practice and great coaching.  Syracuse's speed allows them to rotate effectively, eliminating driving lanes.  The combination of speed and strength, allows the defense to get to perimeter shooters and contest the shots.  Additionally, this skill is also shown through their ability to swarm the ball in the paint, forcing tough shots and difficult passing lanes.  Their length is one of their biggest attributes, as many teams claim that the Syracuse zone runs from sideline to sideline, because of their height and quickness.

Putting all this together, makes it one of the most efficient defenses in the country.  Last night however, Pittsburgh defeated the zone and finally handed the Orangemen their first loss.  First and foremost, Pittsburgh presents the most complete offense that Syracuse has played all season, but they outsmarted Syracuse in a huge Big East battle.  Pitt started the game on a 19-0 run, putting Syracuse in a hole early in the game.  Coach Jamie Dixon knew exactly how to defeat the zone and it all started by him informing his team of the statistics against Syracuse.  Opponents shoot 28% from three point range, so he told his team to be smart about shot selection.  Furthermore, he emphasized the necessity to get the ball inside. 

“The key thing in zones is getting inside touches,” said Pitt’s Nasir Robinson, who scored the game’s first nine points, all of them inside. “It opened up a lot because you suck the defenders in and then the outside opens up.”  As a Syracuse Basketball blog pointed out, Pitt was simply tougher than Syracuse last night.  They rebounded well, despite their lack of height down low.  

So the key to beating the Syracuse is to feed the ball inside the paint and to make sure that these passes are delivered with precision.  Once a Syracuse player gets his hand on the ball, that's when turnovers are created.  By getting the inside touches, stressed by Jamie Dixon, opponents are able to infiltrate the zone, making it harder for the zone to rotate to open shooters.  Most importantly, by being patient, the zone can be broken with intelligent deciphering.  The moment opponents start settling for deep three pointers and contested jump shots, is the time when Syracuse can use its skills to its' advantage..

We will be able to see this functional zone on Saturday night vs. Villanova, as both teams look to bounce back after losses to top ten, Big East foes.  

Monday, January 17, 2011

Kemba Walker's Late Floater Knocks Off Villanova

The top candidate for National Player of the Year struggled throughout the game, fighting through double teams and tough perimeter defense from Villanova guards.  Kemba Walker finally found some space in the final minute of the game, giving UConn a huge Big East win.  Corey Fisher had his best scoring game of the year with 28 points, but his half court prayer shot at the final buzzer was long, sending Nova back home with their second loss of the year.

Walker broke a tie in the final minute with a long three pointer, but then missed two free throws with a chance to ice the game.  After Corey Fisher tied the game at the free throw line, Walker was handed the opportunity to win the game.  As he did last week vs. Texas, Walker fought off a defender and converted for a late basket.  Walker finished the game with 24 points, but was just 6-18 from the field.  Walker drained his first two shots of the game, both three pointers, but after the hot start he had trouble finding a good rhythm.  Villanova's freshman guard, James Bell, probably played the best defense on Walker in the game, constantly keeping up with him.  Corey Stokes was covering UConn's star, when Walker blew past him for the game winner with 2.5 seconds left.

This game started ugly, but ended in the typical Big East fashion.  The Huskies started the game on a 10-0 run, as Villanova missed its first 10 field goal attempts.  Despite the poor start, the Wildcats took a 22-21 lead into the locker room at halftime.  In the first half, the teams combined to shoot 15-62 from the floor.  Corey Fisher had the hot hand for Villanova the entire game, scoring 18 of his 28 points in the second half.  After the Huskies took a 52-48 lead with 4 minutes to play, Fisher scored the Cats final 11 points of the game, tying it at two separate occasions.

Villanova played without sixth man, Dominic Cheek, who stayed in Philadelphia for an MRI on his sprained knee.  Cheek is Villanova's best perimeter defender and probably would have been given the task to guard Kemba Walker.

Maalik Wayns and Corey Stokes had games to forget, scoring 9 and 3 points respectively.  Wayns looked a lot like he did last year, struggling to maintain control of himself.  Stokes was completely shut down by UConn's Jeremy Lamb, only making three free throws all day.

UConn plays Tennessee on Saturday, while Villanova travels to the Carrier Dome in Syracuse to take on the Orangemen.

Take Your Pick!

After a wild weekend in sports, primarily the NFL, the streak continues with an incredible lineup of college basketball games. Our hometown favorite the #7 Villanova Wildcats face a tough test against the #8 Uconn Huskies. With three experienced seniors for Nova on the floor plus the number two scorer in the country, Kemba Walker, and a hostile environment, this game will be a very physical battle for both Big East teams to prove who really is a "Big East Beast". Here are some other games on today:

#24 Kansas State vs. #14 Missouri
#3 Syracuse vs. #4 Pittsburgh
#2 Kansas vs. Baylor***

***Watch out for Baylor at home. Wild crowd, Baylor looking to get back in the top 25, and the #2 team coming in to play the Bears, this one could go down to the wire.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Villanova Uses 19-0 Run to Beat Maryland

"I had no idea at the number.  I didn't even realize it was 19-0."  Maalik Wayns and the Villanova Wildcats overcame a late 12 point deficit, coming back to stun the Maryland Terrapins.  Sitting in the stands, most of the stats in the game go unnoticed, and the big run was no exception.  It wasn't until I was notified by a friend, that I realized how long and critical of a scoring streak the Wildcats had.  19 straight unanswered points in the second half, to transform a 12 point deficit into a 7 point lead.  Corey Fisher had 8 of those 19 points, with a couple of huge jump shots.  As much as people point out the 19 points scored in the streak, the most impressive and more important aspect was the 0 points allowed.  To shut a team out of that caliber for a long period of time, shows how Villanova's defense has improved.  The press worked very effectively, as it created turnovers, by forcing Maryland to make difficult passes.  

Maalik Wayns scored 22 points in the victory on just 10 shots from the field.  The biggest surprise of the game was the play of the Wildcat big men.  Given a tough task in guarding Jordan Williams, Mouphtaou Yarou played a physical game down low.  His numbers look awful, as he didn't make a basket in his six attempts, but his 12 rebounds cannot be stressed enough.  He kept Jordan Williams from easy baskets, constantly contesting post moves and forcing Williams to earn it from the line.  Williams had an outstanding game still and really kept the Terrapins in position to win the ball game if it weren't for the Villanova run.  Williams finished with 25 points and 14 rebounds, but 16 of those points came in the first half.  

Isaiah Armwood had his best career game at Villanova.  He did in fact hit a game winning three pointer early  last year, but for the first time, Armwood displayed his toughness as a big man.  Isaiah finished with 6 points and 13 rebounds, with 5 offensive boards.  For the first time all season, Villanova had three players with 10 or more boards, as Antonio Pena also added 10 rebounds.  With the play of the big men on defense and the offensive prowess of the guards, this team has a legitimate Big East chance.  The next test is against UConn on Monday and will be played in Connecticut.  

Tune in to the Point After for analysis and after the game vs. UConn, join in on Coach Bill's radio show at   The Point After will have some of its bloggers calling in to offer our insight on the game, and feel free to call in as well!

Saturday College Basketball

It was a slow Friday of College Basketball, since no ranked teams were in action.  This all changes on Saturday, as most of the top teams in the country will be playing.  The top 7 teams are all playing, with four of them being undefeated.  I will actually be in attendance for the Villanova vs. Maryland game tomorrow at the Wells Fargo Center at 1:00 PM on CBS.  There will be post game analysis for that game, as I will be cheering my Wildcats on. The most competitive game tomorrow could be Missouri vs. Texas A&M, which is a battle between #12 and #13.  There is a ton of basketball on tomorrow and despite the two NFL playoff games, tune in to the Point After for your college basketball needs!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Florida State Upsets #1 Duke

All that talk about Duke going undefeated can now be put to rest.  Just yesterday I wrote about the possibility of Duke going unbeaten, but it all ended tonight with a loss to Florida State.  Duke couldn't find a rhythm offensively all game, as they couldn't shoot well from three point range.  In the first half they were 4-17 from deep, but they were still only down four at halftime.  Kyle Singler had a red hot second half, scoring 17 of his 20 points after halftime, but this was a day for the Seminoles.  Florida State played tough interior defense and forced Duke to take contested three pointers all night.

On offense for Florida State, Derwin Kitchen had a night to remember, scoring a season high 22 points against the top team in the country.  Kitchen made 9 of his 13 shots, which helped Florida State do something nobody thought they could, upset the Duke Blue Devils.  Duke shot 31% from the floor, which ultimately killed them in the end.  Anytime you shoot 35 three pointers in a game, it is not a good sign.  More than half of Duke's field goal attempts were three pointers, which doesn't bode well for an offense.

We will have a new number 1 next week (probably Ohio State), but Duke will be just fine and will figure things out after two straight rough games.

Let the Games Begin! Bold Prediction

It's a Wednesday night. For some, school just started, for others they are bored home desperately wanting to head back to campus to kick off the new year. Well, what better to feel 'back at home' then by watching college basketball tonight. Every game can change a season, well in this case the rankings could possibly be shaken up when the poll is released next Monday.
Here is a list of tonights games:
#1 Duke vs. Florida State
#2 Ohio State vs. Michigan
#5 Pittsburgh vs. #19 Georgetown
Nebraska vs. #12 Missouri
#17 Louisville vs. #7 Villanova
#4 Syracuse vs. St. Johns
UNLV vs. #6 San Diego State

As you can see, the college basketball lineup tonight is insane. My fellow co-founder of the Point After, Sagar Parikh, chose UNLV to upset the San Diego State Aztecs. I've believed in the Aztecs since day one this season and don't see this happening. This may be the Aztecs toughest game yet, or maybe of the season, but on their home floor they continue to shine and make a case that they are a deservable top ten team.
Duke will have some trouble against Florida State, however the Seminoles can keep chopping and singing until their blue in the face, because their offense is nowhere to be found. The Pitt vs. G'town game is bound to come down to the wire. Georgetown has the opportunity to upset the fifth ranked team who is traveling to their arena. But wait, thats not my upset of the night.
Though a very bold prediction, but I believe St. Johns will UPSET the Syracuse Orange. Why? Although the Orange are currently undefeated, the Red Storm has been striking opponents hard, primarily Big East rivals. With a record of 10-4 and some close losses, St. Johns has proven that they are back to make a statement in the East. They currently are 3-1 in the Big East Conference and under the management of Steve Lavin, are 5-1 at home. Oh yes, a storm is brewing for tonight! Madison Square Garden will be electric with fans from both teams, as this is a New York in-state game. St. Johns will play extremely hard tonight in order to move up in the standings and possibly earn a top 25 ranking.
Prediction: St. Johns 78, Syracuse 73

What's The Point?

A 7-9 record in the National Football League is hardly something to be proud of. But, at 7-9, the Seattle Seahawks made the playoffs, amid a chorus of boos and groans. Everyone assumed that they would easily be knocked out by the defending super bowl champions, besides some Seahawks fans and a man named Brendan Garrity. But then, something strange happened. Seattle won! By winning, the Seahawks ought to quiet the critics of the current NFL playoff format.

Every team's goal at the beginning of the season is to win their division. It is a point of pride for a team to say that, yes, we rose above our peers and want to represent our division in the big dance. This is a tough task, no matter the competition in one's division. This year, the entire NFC West was in transition. The Seahawks have a new coach, the Rams are rebuilding, the 49ers just never figured it out, and the Cardinals lost Kurt Warner. Regardless of how good or bad NFL teams are, they can beat you on any given Sunday. Look, for example, at how the Browns beat the Patriots this season. NFL teams come to play, and play hard to win every game.

You have to play six games against your division over the course of a season. That means 6 rivalry games, as all of the teams in the four team divisions are well acquainted by now. To be able to emerge from the pressure cooker that is one's division is a feat in itself. The Seahawks knew that they had to fight it out to get out of the NFC West. When everyone picked the Saints to win, it was evident how they played with that extra chip on their shoulder.

It means something to win your division in the NFL. It means that you bested your bitter rivals and fulfilled your goal made at the beginning of the season. When a team meets this goal, they deserve not only a spot in the playoffs but a home game for their first game. To all of the critics who said Seattle did not deserve to be in that game, I have one word for you: Scoreboard.

What's the Point is a weekly column written by David Straple. Feel free to comment.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

FIFA Awards for 2010

And this year's FIFA Ballon d'Or goes to... Wesley Sneijd... Oh wait, he's not even on the shortlist!

This year's Ballon d'Or (also known as the FIFA Player of the Year award) went to Lionel Messi for the second consecutive year.

Almost everything that I have read, heard, seen, anything relating to this have all disagreed with the selection of Lionel Messi, and I cannot agree more fully with these experts.

Certainly Messi is a deserved candidate, as were Xavi and Iniesta, but let us look at Messi (the Winner) and Wesley Sneijder, the player who won the media and experts vote by a landslide even though he was not a finalist.

Messi played for the best team in the world, FC Barcelona.
Sneijder played for the best team in Italy, Inter Milan.

Barcelona with Messi won La Liga and the domestic cup, and Inter won the Serie A as well as their domestic cup.So far, it's a draw.

Inter Milan BEAT Barcelona 3-1 and advanced 3-2 on aggregate. Sorry Messi, but Wesley gets the head to head edge here.

How about International play?

Messi, the so-called best player in the world, and his Argentina team could not even make it past the second round of the knock out stage of the 2010 World Cup. Oh by the way, he didn't even score a goal during the entire world cup!

Sneijder, tied for the highest-scorer in the World Cup with 5 goals and he was one game away from being a World Cup Champion.

Now I am by no means saying that Messi is not deserving of the award... But look at what Sneijder has done, on teams that weren't nearly as good as any of the teams Messi was on. I would think that if Messi was truly the best player of 2010, that he would have scored at least ONE goal in the 2010 World Cup.

This entire thing stinks of FIFA's ongoing problems that have come up recently with the 2018/2022 World Cup Locations, the tainted voting process, etc.

Personally, of the three finalists (Messi, Xavi, and Iniesta), I probably would have voted for Xavi. Overall, my vote, and a lot of the expert's votes, is for Wesley Sneijder.

The FIFA coach of the Year was Jose Mourinho, who coached the Inter Milan team to a fantastic season including the perfect Triple for club play including the Champions League Victory (2-0) over F.C. Bayern Munich.

The FIFA Puskas Award for the Most Beautiful Goal of the Year went to F.C. Bayern Munich's Hamit Altintop on a volley off of a corner for his Turkish international side against Kazakhstan. Seriously, if you have not seen this goal, go watch it, it is UNREAL. Just search for "Hamit Altintop goal Kazakhstan", trust me, you wont be disappointed.

That is all for soccer right now... more to follow once the Champion's League knock out round starts up

Sparty vs. Bucky

Michigan State had been struggling as of late, and had fallen out of the AP Poll's Top 25 for the first time in over four years and were barely ranked in the ESPN/USA Today poll at #24. They were taking on a Bo Ryan led Badgers team who has been inconsistent thus far, but beat then-ranked #13 Minnesota at home and had a solid win against their highway I-94 rivals, Marquette.

I figured this would be a game in the 50's that might reach the 60's, but I did not know that we would need overtime to reach that plateau.

Wisconsin started out strong on the road and led by 10 early in the game at 19-9. However, Tom Izzo had other plans in the second half.

Jordan Taylor; a player I personally got to see play at Benilde-St. Margaret's High School in the Minnesota basketball state championship in which he led his team I played for, St. Thomas Academy, had a great game and was the team leader against Michigan State in points (21), rebounds (7), and assists (3).

The badgers imploded at the end of the game committing turnovers left and right as Kalin Lucas had a chance at the end of the game to win it on a breakaway layup that was blocked at the rim by Keaton Nankivil (17 pts, 3 blks).

This forced the game into overtime where Michigan State did just enough, with good free throw shooting, to earn a three point victory. Leading the Spartans in scoring was Draymond Green who had a MONSTER game with 26 points, 9 rebounds and shot 7-9 from the free throw line. The aforementioned Kalin Lucas chipped in with 17 points and 6 assists as well.

This might just be the game that Michigan State needed to get the train back on track, and there is no one in the country that wants to play Tom Izzo and Co. in March anytime soon. After what should be a gimme at home against Northwestern, they will travel on the road to Illinois and Purdue who are ranked #16 and #8 respectively. We should know more about this team after those games to talk about yet another late run in the Tourney for Sparty.

Wisconsin plays Illinois next and has three unranked opponents in a row after that. If they go 3-1 or 4-0 during that stretch, they may have figured things out enough to be a contender for a top 4 finish and even top 3 finish in the Big Ten.

New Member

The Point After has added another member to the team. Tim Wolfgram will be covering most of the Big Ten and games out West. Check out his posts later tonight on Michigan States thrilling victory and the FIFA Awards of the Year.
"The Point After is Good"

New Member

Hey everyone!

As Brendan mentioned I have been brought on board to do some regional writing as well as provide some soccer expertise. Quick notes about myself: I am from Minneapolis, Minnesota. I am a big Green Bay Packer fan and have grown up watching Big Ten Sports my whole life. Soccer is my main sport, and I will be covering this as well, especially during the UEFA Champions League.

Look for my posts later about the Michigan State vs. Wisconsin game as well as the FIFA awards...

Will Duke Go Undefeated?

Coming off a seven point victory versus rival Maryland, the Duke Blue Devils travel to face Florida State tomorrow night.  The ACC is particularly weak this year, with only one team currently ranked (Duke), who is thought of as the favorite to win their second consecutive National Championship.  Other than Duke, no team in the ACC has less than four losses.  In comparison, the Big East has seven teams with 3 or less losses.  This poses an easier path to run the table for Duke.  They do have some tough games in the future, but Duke has a legitimate shot at going undefeated.  Here I have highlighted the five toughest games of the year, because although Duke will go into every game as a favorite, it is extremely difficult to win all of these games.  

1.  January 27th vs. Boston College.  BC is currently 12-4 and is a very good shooting team.  They are an efficient offense, shooting at 49% from the floor and 40% from long range.  Additionally, the Eagles have four players who average more than 11 points a game.  They are led by Junior G Reggie Jackson, who is averaging just under 19 points per ball game.  He is one of the best three point shooters in the country, making 35 of his 72 attempts.  Look for Boston College to give Duke everything they can handle.  

Chance at upset: 30%

2. January 30th vs. St. John's University.  St. John's is part of the mid-tier of the Big East conference and are 10-4 so far this year.  They have already beat Georgetown and are a tough team at home.  This game is the next contest after BC for Duke, so if they survive the Eagles, this game could be one of those hangover games, where a team comes off a big win and loses to a team they should take care of.  St. John's is led by Dwight Hardy and Justin Brownlee, who score about 30 points a game together.  

Chance at upset: 50%

3. February 2nd vs. Maryland.  The Terrapins have already shown they can compete with Duke, as they lost 71-64 a few days ago.  Maryland is a mentally and physically tough team, but they are young, which has cost them a few games so far this year.  If they can focus on their go to guy Jordan Williams, who is a force down low, averaging 18 points a game, they can beat the Blue Devils.  It was when Maryland shot a lot of three pointers, that Duke pulled away.  Maryland has the ability to play defense and make some noise in the ACC this season.

Chance at upset: 60%

4.  February 23rd vs. Temple.  The Owls are the only team currently ranked in Duke's remaining schedule.  Temple has also beaten Georgetown this season and stands at 11-3.  They are the favorites to win the Atlantic-10 conference and are led by a pair of guards: Ramone Moore and Juan Fernandez.  They both can catch fire from the perimeter and drain shot after shot.  The Owls are a mid-major school, but Temple is no pushover.

Chance at upset: 30%

5. March 5th vs. UNC.  This is probably the greatest rivalry in College Basketball and will be their second matchup of the year.  This represents a tougher task, because it will be played on the road for Duke.  No matter the rankings or records of the teams, Duke and North Carolina play each other as if they were battling it out for the title.  UNC has struggled the past few years, but with Tyler Zeller and Freshman standout Harrison Barnes, the Tar Heels have the talent to knock off Duke.  The importance in this game will be momentum.  If UNC can start the game off well, the crowd will keep the team going all night long.  

Chance at upset: 45%

Duke has the opportunity to go undefeated this year, but it will not come easy.  Out of the five remaining unbeaten teams, Duke has the best chance.  The last team to go undefeated and win the National Championship was Indiana in 1975-1976, when they went 32-0.  Keep an eye on the Blue Devils as they pursue perfection!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Bold Prediction of the Week

This may be my boldest prediction yet and I am ready to put The Point After's 4-0 record on the line.  After doing some research, the University of Nevada Las Vegas is my selection to upset a top ten team this week.  They will be playing the undefeated San Diego State Aztecs on Wednesday night and I believe the Rebels will hand them their first loss.  The #6 Aztecs have had a great run so far this year, but it will toughen up this week as they take on New Mexico on Saturday as well.

The reason I selected UNLV as my bold prediction this week is their defense and efficient offense.  UNLV is coached by Lon Kruger, who is in his seventh season with the Rebels, and he has them playing tough defense.  UNLV is the seventh most efficient defense in the country according to KenPom defensive stat analysis.  27.1% of all defensive series result in turnovers, which is the fifth best rate in the country.  This team is playing tough defense, pressuring the ball and forcing a lot of turnovers.  Last week, TCU turned the ball over 23 times versus the strong Rebel defense.

On offense, UNLV has a balanced scoring attack, with four players averaging double-figures.  This is the most reliable type of offense, because if one of these players has an off night, there are others who can pick up the slack.  Chace Stanback has struggled the past few weeks after starting the season very strong.  Look for him to have a bounce back game, with over 20 points.  He's a tall wing player standing at 6-8, but he has a solid perimeter shot and has shot 40% from long range this season.

Yes this could put our record in jeopardy, but I'm confident UNLV can go into San Diego and beat the Aztecs by playing strong defense and systematic offense.  Prediction: UNLV 74 - San Diego State 68.

ESPN/USA Today Rankings 1/10

The latest rankings have been released for ESPN/USA Today without any changes to the top seven teams.  Duke received all 31 first place votes once again, after defeating Maryland last night in a close ACC battle.  Ohio State survived a scare to Minnesota, while Kansas defeated Michigan yesterday in an overtime thriller.  A pair of Big East teams: Syracuse and Pittsburgh round out the rest of the top 5 this week.  The 17-0 San Diego State Aztecs still remain at the 6th position, and they are followed by the Villanova Wildcats after they handed Cincinnati its' first loss of the season.

The Purdue Boilermakers move up two spots to #8 after two comfortable wins against Penn State and Iowa.  Purdue has a huge Big Ten game on Thursday against the #25 Minnesota Golden Gophers.  Minnesota lost to Ohio State by three points over the weekend and will continue to be a competitive team throughout the Big Ten season.

Following Purdue in the rankings, are the Huskies of Connecticut.  UConn had an interesting week to say the least.  They started by losing to Notre Dame, who has moved up to #11 this week.  Over the weekend, the Huskies took on Texas and won in overtime.  After a loss to #15 and a win vs. #12, UConn stays put at #9.  Texas on the other hand dropped two spots to #14.

New to the top ten this week is BYU, who has an easy week coming up as they take on the 7-9 Utah Utes.  They continue to rack up win after win and are now 16-1, with their sole loss to UCLA on December 18.

For complete rankings, click here.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Upset Saturday Recap

Upset Saturday was relevant all throughout sports today, with the 7-9 Seahawks and the #6 seed Jets emerged victorious; however, as the NFL playoffs began, college basketball just became a lot more interesting.  On Saturday alone, 8 ranked teams fell including one undefeated team.  #8, #11, #12, #13, #17, #18, #19, and #24 all lost in the most active day of the season.

We start off with the #8 Mizzou Tigers, who lost to Colorado as both teams played in their first Big 12 game of the year.  Colorado improves to 12-4 and they will go as far as their high powered offense takes them.  Averaging over 84 points a game, Colorado has a chance at a few more upsets in Big 12 play.  As for Missouri, the Tigers lost their second game this year with their only previous loss coming to Georgetown in an overtime thriller.  Missouri, considered one of the favorites to compete for the Big 12 title this year, shot just 41% from the field vs. Colorado, and were outrebounded 45-32.

#11 Kentucky lost to Georgia in a very close SEC matchup.  Kentucky struggled all game, shooting 38% from the floor, but their 11 offensive rebounds kept them close.  In the end, it came down to the free throw line, since Kentucky committed 24 fouls in the 40 minutes of play.  Georgia converted 30 of their 34 free throw attempts, which ultimately put this game away.

The best game of the day surely has to be the duel between #9 UConn and #12 Texas.  Texas started the game on fire and Kemba Walker just couldn't find the hoop.  Walker had his worst game of the year, shooting 8 of 27; however, he still scored 22 points and the small guard grabbed 9 boards.  Alex Oriakhi had 21 rebounds (10 offensive), as UConn came back to force overtime.  In overtime, Kemba Walker showed his true stardom, making a ridiculous three pointer moments before making the game winner with 5 seconds left.  The Longhorns had an attempt to win it at the end of overtime, but Freshman Cory Joseph could not convert a late three pointer, as UConn prevailed 82-81.

West Virginia knocked off #13 Georgetown, as the Hoyas have been playing close game after close game.  Casey Mitchell had 28 points for the Mountaineers and made four three pointers.  Georgetown played sloppily all game, turning the ball over 18 times.  The 65-59 final score shows that defense played a large factor and its a trend that will probably continue in the Big East all season.

Oklahoma State comfortably upset #17 Kansas State behind Jan-Paul Olukemi's double-double off the bench.  He had 22 points and 11 rebounds, as the Cowboys outscored Kansas State 48-34 in the second half.  Jacob Pullen scored 20 points, but the Wildcats shot 35% from the field and 29% from downtown.

In one of the bigger upsets of the day, the 9-6 Houston Cougars handed UCF its first loss of the season.  UCF struggled mightily on offense and could not muster much in the first half.  They were limited to 21 points in the first half and went through the tunnel down 15 points.  Their offense was great in the second half as they scored 50 points, but the early deficit was too much to overcome.  Houston had 4 players in double figures and shot 48%.

#19 Michigan State suffered its 5th loss of the season, which is the most by any ranked team.  Penn State was the beneficiary of a poor Spartan offensive effort, as they only scored 62 points.  Penn State had just 8 points off the bench, but their starters did their job by playing tough defense and scoring just enough to knock off one of the more talented teams in the country.

#24 Vanderbilt is the eighth victim of a crazy Saturday of basketball, as they lost in overtime to South Carolina 83-75.  Sam Muldrow had a night to remember for the South Carolina Gamecocks.  Not only did he score 16 points and grab 14 rebounds, but he had 10 blocks.  He set the tone in a game where John Jenkins dropped 28 points for Vanderbilt with 6 three pointers.

Tomorrow is another day with possible upset alerts, as Minnesota travels to Ohio State to take on the Buckeyes.  The undefeated Cincinnati Bearcats go to Villanova to test on the Wildcats and Maryland faces rival Duke in an ACC battle.  Tune in to The Point After for more analysis and news!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Oh the Weather Outside is Frightful, but the PLAYOFFS?! Are So Delightful

Oh yes, tis the most wonderful time of the year. College basketball gets heated, baseball is soon around the corner, the NHL and NBA are in session (their seasons are so long they pretty much play all year) and who could forget the NFL playoffs.
It seems as if only yesterday analysts were picking a Super Bowl winner in Week 1, which many chose the Vikings. In any case, today begins the postseason for four teams: The New Orleans Saints vs. Seattle Seahawks and the New York Jets vs. Indianapolis Colts.
Being a die hard Jets fan, I know the odds are stacked against me that Peyton Manning will pick apart the New York defense. However, let's not forget that last year in the semi finals, the Jets D held up for most of the game, it was the offense that couldn't get going towards the end of the game. With Revis and the new addition of Cromarte, New York's defensive backs have the ability to jump a route and intercept the ball going the other way. Mannings loss of wide receivers has hurt his offensive unit, however he still is able to place the ball perfectly everytime "between the numbers" of his teammates.As for the Jets, Rex Ryan built this team based upon defense, so you know there will be a lot of different formations, blitz packages, and schemes to confuse Coach Manning. Also, with the addition of Santonio Holmes, Mark Sanchez has had another reliable option to throw to all year. The key to this game is the pressure put on both quarterbacks. Which ever QB has to move in the pocket the most, is hit more, or sacked will end up losing this game because the defenses will be able to capitalize. This may be a little bias, but I see New York taking revenge on the Colts: Jets 31, Colts - 24
And on to the game that I've been waiting all week to write about. Oh yes, it could be called "the mismatch of the year" or David vs Goliath as the Saint travel to Seattle to take on the 6-9 Seahawks who just barely squeaked into the playoffs in a 16-6 victory against the Rams. The Saints stand at 11-5 and have played wel all year against tough oponnents, including a road win against the Atlanta Falcons. Led by the always poised Drew Brees, who is about 400 yards shy of throwing for 5000 yards this year, New Orleans believes that they can shoot down those weak Seahawks. Why bother to watch this game, right? The experts say it's going to be a blowout, the city of New Orleans may even stop watching by halftime. Forget this game, too boring for me...
Oh wait, Im here with my man Lee Corso and he's saying "NOT SO FAST MY FRIENDS!!" Keep that clicker close by because this game has the makings to be a good one. No offense to the Saints, but I'm all about upsets and the underdog when it comes to playoff or pretty much any sports event. Let me give you my top 3 reasons why I see this game being closer than anyone in the nation thinks:
1) Yes Drew Brees and the Saints offense is good, but how much do experts talk about their defense. The last time Hasselbeck played New Orleans this season he threw for 366 yards. In fact, his two best games for throwing yards in the past six seasons have come agains the Saints. You know he's looking for another career in order to try and embarass the Saints D.
2) Again, Drew Brees is a reliable QB but how about that running game? Chris Ivory and Pierre Thomas have only combined for 7 touchdowns this season. This is by far the weakest part of the Saints entire team. Now although Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett are no better for the Seahawks, only recording 8 touchdowns together on the year, they will come ready to play in their home environment. Think about, the running game is awful for both teams, but who's playing at home in front of a wild crowd and will be looking to run over their opponent. Bingo! Seattle.
3) Your jaw has probably dropped right now, you've called your neighbor to see if pigs or flying yet or maybe you've begun to dig a hole in your background to see if the place down below has frozen over yet. Whatever the instance may be, I am fully confident is predicting a Seattle victory at 4:30 this afternoon.
Who: Saints vs. Seattle
Where: Seattle (as we all know and I've mentioned, they needed one more victory to get into the postseason. The city of Seattle will be rockin' later today because what do they have to lose besides the game? They already have a losing season, so why not go all out?!)
When: 4:30
Why: Because it's it's the PLAYOFFS!!
How: Seattle will win this game based off of energy from the crowd, Hasselbeck having a strong game, and their defense shutting down the Saints running game.
So let's go!! It's cold, cloudy, snowing and icy so why not play some football?!
I wish I was in Seattle today, those Seahawks will be flying high and ready to soar to a new level.
I'll leave you with this, here would be my pregame speech my Seahawk team:

"They are a good team, they play and beat even better teams. They go on the road and handle opponents very well. Yes, the Saints are an amazing franchise, so why bother to play this game?...(long pause)...I'LL TELL YA WHY! You may not be as fast as them, you may not be as strong as them, and we may be outmatched but heck show them how we play football on the West Coast. The moment they hopped off that plane they were confident for a victory..make sure they go home with their heads hanging down and their confidence in the gutter. You hear that noise? Thats the sound of an entire city cheering you on. So let's do it, get out there, show them what you got and FLY HIGH MEN!!"

I rest my case.

Friday, January 7, 2011

What's the Point?

Along with countless other fans and players, I just want to scream this into the faces of all the owners. From the absurdity that is the impending NFL lockout, one of demands of the owners is an 18 game season, with a shortened two game preseason. This is an awful idea, for a number of reasons.

Have you ever grimaced in pain as you watched your favorite team play out the string of a lost 5-11 season? Or, even worse, have you ever watched in agony as your team, who has a playoff bye locked up by the end of the season, loses one of its' vital players in a meaningless game? (Patriots, Wes Welker). These situations will only increase if the 18 game format is adopted. Whether by winning teams or losing teams, there will be more meaningless games being played near the end of the season, which is bad for the business of the NFL. It would increase the agony of the fans of losing teams, while making it harder for teams to make it to the playoffs with their best players intact, thereby cheapening the product of the playoffs.

People forget, but the 4 game preseason is there for a reason. In the NFL, rosters are comprised of 53 players, with numerous coaches and moving parts. Teams need a chance to simulate a real game situation, so everything goes smooth once the regular season arrives. Also, teams need a chance to judge their talent. Football rosters are constantly in flux from year to year, as rookies, castoffs, and veterans try to make the team. Clubs need a chance to see how these players, especially ones vying for reserve roles, respond to a game situation. There are so many stories of players who were discovered during the preseason, and went on to have illustrious careers. If teams were to really play an 18 game season, they would need good depth at every position, as the likelihood of injury increases. But with the two game preseason, teams are robbed of the vital simulations necessary to cement the depth of their roster!

Finally and most importantly, going to the 18-2 format would jeopardize player safety overall. Football is a violent sport, and quite simply, more real games means more of a chance of getting hurt. Coming from a league that makes a show of fining players inconsequential amounts for big hits but makes money off of big-hit highlight tapes, the disregard for player safety when money is involved does not surprise me.

The 18 game season is just a terrible idea. The idea would not only cheapen the playoffs, drag out losing seasons for lost teams, and destroy the chance for talent evaluation in the preseason, it would further jeopardize player safety. I go back to what I said at the beginning of the article: Roger Goodell, if it ain't broke....

What's the point is a weekly column written by David Straple. Feel free to comment.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Villanova Outshoots South Florida in 83-71 Victory

Corey Stokes and Dominic Cheek shot 9 of 9 from behind the three point line, to lead Villanova in its best shooting night of the season.  The Wildcats shot 58.3% from the field and made 9-12 three pointers, with Corey Fisher missing all three of his attempts.  Offensively the team was too much for USF to handle.  USF battled throughout the game and stayed close to Villanova by outrebounding them 27-21.  In the first half, USF's second chance opportunities allowed them to go into halftime just down 5, but Stokes and Cheek ended the Bulls' hopes.

Corey Stokes just flat out couldn't miss today.  He made shots all over the floor and scored 22 points on just 8 field goal attempts.  That is as efficient as a shooter can be.  Cheek scored 17 points on 6 shots, which is just as amazing.  Combined, the two players were 12 of 14 from the field and scored 39 points.  All of this was possible because of yet another great game by Maalik Wayns.  With 16 points and 9 assists, Wayns shaked and baked himself inside of the paint and dished it out to Stokes and Cheek.  Fisher had a tremendous game as well, scoring 12 points.  He also had 6 assists and 5 steals.

The Bulls struggled shooting from the field, scoring at a 41.5% clip.  They struggled behind the three point line, making only 5 of 19.  Augustus Gilchrist led the team with 16 points, but was just 5 of 14 from the field.  He added 10 rebounds, 6 of them being on the offensive glass, which kept USF in the game.  Guard Anthony Crater dished out 8 assists to go along with his 7 points, but in the end it came down to the fact that they could not stop Villanova's shooting attack.

This game showed how good Villanova could be if they limit their mistakes.  They shot amazingly well, but they seemed to let up a little on the boards, which allowed USF to hang in the game.  They played great defensively, forcing tough shots and turnovers.  With 11 steals and only 9 turnovers, Villanova played a fundamentally sound game.  The number that was most impressive was the 21 assists on 28 made field goals, which shows Villanova moved the ball really well.

Wednesday Recap and Thursday Preview

Wednesday was full of college basketball with many ranked teams taking the court.  In yesterdays preview I felt that UAB would put up a fight against Duke, but the Blue Devils were in full control.  Duke, even without freshman standout Kyrie Irving, are simply better than everybody else.  They will cruise through an unusually weaker ACC this year and could be undefeated for a little longer.  Elsewhere, undefeated UCF took care of business against Marshall, despite losing at halftime.  Marshall was in the game in the second half, but Marcus Jordan's 26 points were too much in the second half.

Only one ranked team fell yesterday and that was Memphis.  The Tigers were absolutely walloped by Tennessee 104-84.  This was a thirty-point game at some point and Tennessee finished the second half with alley oops and highlight dunks.  The Volunteers shot 54% from the field and hit 12 three pointers.  After a disappointing few weeks, Tennessee finally put it together and beat a solid team.  Not many teams can boast wins on their resume versus Villanova, Pittsburgh, and Memphis.  Then again, not many programs have lost to Oakland, Charleston, and Charlotte.

Tonight, there are three ranked teams playing:

The #7 Villanova Wildcats play their second Big East game, as they battle against South Florida.  USF has lost its first two Big East games against UConn and Seton Hall.  Villanova should not have any trouble with one of the weakest teams in the conference.  Prediction: Villanova 82 - South Florida 61

The Fighting Illini, ranked 20th, play the 9-3 Northwestern Wildcats.  Northwestern is a very good team that has lost its first two Big Ten games, but Purdue and Michigan State are two tough opponents.  They face their third straight ranked Big Ten team; however, I see them winning this one.  Illinois is an efficient offense that passes the ball very well and shoots at 48% this season.  Prediction: Northwestern 83 - Illinois 78

Ranked for the first week, the #25 Cincinnati Bearcats takes on Xavier, as they look to continue to stay undefeated.  Many have not given the Bearcats any credit because they have not played a challenging opponent all season, but Xavier gives them a good matchup.  The Musketeers are 8-4, but has been competitive all season long and I see Junior guard Tu Holloway to have a huge game.  Holloway has averaged over 21 points per game this season and is poised to give Cincinnati their first loss.  Prediction: Xavier 78 - Cincnnati 76.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Wednesday College Basketball Preview

There a few good matchups in store for tonight with the #1 team in the country taking the floor.  Duke will take on  UAB, who is playing very well this season.  I am not making this a bold prediction, but I see UAB giving Duke a fit tonight due to their ability to slow down the game and play inside.  They drive to the hoop well and are a solid defensive bunch.  UAB is one of those teams that you'll see constantly in the NCAA tournament in March and not know much about them.  This season they are 12-2, led by Jamarr Sanders and Cameron Moore. Both players average over 17 points per game and Moore is just shy of averaging a double-double.  This team is physical and is one of those teams that matches up well with Duke.  I still see Duke winning this game, because they are without a doubt the best team in the country, but this has the makings of a good game.

#3 Kansas takes on UMKC of the Summit League and there won't be problems for the Jayhawks in that game. #6 San Diego State will be playing TCU, who are not a pushover, but SDSU is much better.  Mizzou, Purdue, BYU, UCF, Memphis, and Louisville are the other ranked teams in action.  Out of those games, Purdue, UCF and Memphis have a tough test.  I see Purdue and Memphis pulling out wins, but UCF could lose its first game of the season as they take on Marshall, who have a balanced scoring attack with four players averaging double figures.

Here are my picks for tonight:

San Diego State
Marshall over UCF

There are a lot of opportunities for upsets tonight, even though I have only picked one.  Please tune in tonight for a recap of all the action!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Bold Prediction of the Week

After a perfect start for The Point After, I am putting it all on the line in the Notre Dame vs. UConn matchup on Tuesday.  After a drop to Pitt, I believe UConn will bounce back, but it won't be enough to stop a well tested Notre Dame team.  I believe the #15 Fighting Irish will knock off the #9 Huskies in a battle between Big East powerhouses.

Kemba Walker has established himself as the frontrunner for the Naismith College Basketball Player of the Year and I'm sure he will have a tremendous game and score upwards of 25 points, but Notre Dame is a fundamentally sound basketball team. With just 11 turnovers a game, the Fighting Irish are also 10th in the country in assists per game.  That combined with the fact that Connecticut relies so much on one player, will be something that will cause UConn to struggle.  With tough perimeter defense, Notre Dame has the ability to push itself into the top five in the Big East.

Ben Hansbrough will lead the team with 23 points and will also dish out 8 assists.  Senior Tim Abromaitis will record a double-double as Notre Dame defeats Connecticut 78-71.

Big East Dominates ESPN/USA Today Polls

The Big East Conference has added its 8th ranked team to the January 3rd Coaches Poll.  The undefeated Cincinatti Bearcats are ranked 25th, standing at 14-0. They join (4) Syracuse, (5) Pittsburgh, (7) Villanova, (9) Connecticut, (13) Georgetown, (15) Notre Dame, and (23) Louisville as the other Big East teams in the top 25. There are seven undefeated teams left in the country and for the first time, all are ranked.  Duke, Ohio State, Kansas, Syracuse, San Diego State, UCF and the newly ranked Bearcats are the only teams that have walked off the court victorious every night this season.

Connecticut dropped to #9 after losing to Pittsburgh, who moved up to the fifth spot.  San Diego State continued its surge up the rankings, as they are now #6 in the nation.  Villanova moves up to #7 this week after defeating Temple and Rutgers.  Purdue enters the top ten as Georgetown moves out after a loss to the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame.

As the country commences conference play, it will be interesting to see if San Diego State and UCF can move up in the rankings despite their less challenging conferences.  January 26th seems to bring forth one of the biggest games in Mountain West Conference history as current #14 BYU takes on #6 San Diego State.  Tune in to The Point After for analysis of all things college basketball!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Importance of a Post Player

As we move into conference play and the bigger conference schools take over ESPN every weeknight and weekend, I found it necessary to note the lack of quality big men around the country.  College Basketball has become a perimeter game that involves more three point shooting then ever before.  Over a third of #1 Duke's field goal attempts have been from three point range, although Duke is second in the country with a 44.2% three point percentage.  If you can make the threes, then it can be a huge weapon that can keep a team in every game; however, more and more teams are becoming reliant on threes which bodes poorly for readiness for the NBA.

Throughout the country, it is tough to find a great post presence.  Jared Sullinger is the most dominant of the bunch, averaging 17.6 points and 10.1 rebounds per game.  The ease at which he scores is absolutely beautiful to watch and he is virtually unguardable by one single player.  Just think about the options he has when he is fed in the post position.  He can go left, right, up and under, jump shot, hook shot, and passing out to open shooters.  The involvement of a good post player opens the game up in so many ways, as it creates more space for other players throughout the floor.  It is also the most reliable way to score, because it is hard to go cold from the post.

Kemba Walker averages over 26 points a game, but he may have an off night and score 18 points on 17 field goal attempts.  Walker shoots 48.6% from the floor, which is amazing for a perimeter player; however, Jared Sullinger shoots 60% and takes a lot less shots during every game.  He is more efficient scoring and Ohio State is shooting 40% from three point range, compared to 33% by the Huskies.  Yes the difference in percentage is not all the effect of Sullinger, but some of it can be attributed to the double teams that Sullinger demands from defenses.

A post player also allows for a team to control the pace of the game, forcing the other team to play at the speed that you want to.  Feeding the ball into the post can slow down the game and really put a team out of an offensive rhythm if they are forced to play tough interior defense every series.  In college, teams can survive shooting outside all of the time, but a player like Sullinger can take a team like Ohio State to a championship contender.  Sullinger has easily been the best Freshman this season and he is ready to jump into the NBA soon enough.

Villanova Wins Big East Opener 81-65

Villanova was involved in an up and down battle throughout the first half and even went into halftime trailing Rutgers 37-33.  Some adjustments and a Jay Wright speech changed the game, as Villanova outscored the Scarlet Knights 48-28 in the second half.  The Corey Brothers stole the show with Stokes scoring 23 and Fisher dropping in 19 of his own.  Villanova finally showed its shooting stroke they have been looking for so far this season.  They were 8 of 15 from long range, as Corey Stokes was 4-7.  Dominic Cheek provided some spark off the bench with 9 points and 8 rebounds.

Maalik Wayns continued a successful stretch of games with intelligent passing and attacking the hoop.  He was very close to his first career triple-double, but finished with 9 points, 9 assists, and 8 rebounds.  Despite those great numbers, the most important stat was his 2 turnovers.  A 4.5 assist to turnover ratio is incredible and as long as Maalik realizes that his value to the team is to be a facilitator for others before he is a primary scoring threat, Villanova has the ability to compete with any team.

Rutgers held their own throughout the game, but their inability to pressure the ball and force tough shots allowed Villanova to pull away.  The Scarlet Knights had a balanced scoring attack with four players in double figures.  Jonathan Mitchell had 17 points, but Rutgers finished with a 41% field goal percentage.  Rutgers lack of height and presence down low ultimately lost the game.  They were outrebounded 36-17 and Villanova had more offensive rebounds than Rutgers had defensive rebounds.  No team can win games giving an opponent second and third chances, which will be something to watch for the rest of the Big East season.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Recap of 2010

It was a year of ups, downs, cheating and more, where you needed the will to win and you needed the strength to score.
Let's begin with the World Cup in summer twenty ten, USA had little shot but fought until the end. With Donovan in the clutch and pride shown left and right, the world ignored its conflicts and watched Spain win that humid night. With vuvuzelas blown and so hot you need no fleece, this game brought us such passion, energy, and each game some world peace. But earlier we saw the NHL take such a leap, the games were always stressful but heck tickets never cheap. The Flyers though they had it, Philly fans saw the trophy in sight, but Oh No! Woops, it's gone, because the Hawks swooped down in flight. A playoff for the ages, for the old, young, those who don't care, as Boston choked and Philly fell, we sought the truth and found the dare.
Now flashback to the winter with Mark Ingram on the attack, they kept on saying "Roll Tide" and it was true that Bama was back. They 'Hooked those Horns' and ran for glory, the offense looked so neat, but hold on just one moment because Saints are marching in the street. The contest was back and forth, too intense to make you laugh, the call of the year was truly great, onside kick right after half?! Camera's flashing ever second, Saints had done it, number one, they say images last forever just like Brees holding up his son.
"At the buzzer...!" the shot went up, we all gasped and wondered who would wear the crown, Butler had quite the chance but the shot just never went down. Yes Duke came into play, but the Bulldogs were no clown, they stood up tall and took the hits to show they run the town.\
And then the Nfl, hot teams: Pats, Pack, and Bears they keep on writing history just like Tiger and his affairs. You may have met her while away, or maybe at a bar, but C'MON MAN lets not be obvious by crashing up your car. But thats OK you got the money so go ahead and stack it, but congrats to Phil, "Mr. Lefty", who emotionally stole the green jacket.
And QUACK QUACK QUACK! to the Ducks out in the West, they play real well, they play real fast, they'll hit you in the chest, so zip up your tight vest because it's cold no time for rest, because Cam Newton's out to prove that he is clearly the all time best.
Here's to celebrating New Years, dance parties maybe in foam with naked pictures, losing seasons, and even collapsing domes oh woe to the Vikings who never conquered unlike Rome, Favre started hot, then crumbled fast, now time to sit at home.

Happy New Year from the Point After!
"The Point After is Good"