The Everyday Man's Sports Blog

Follow Mike Patton aka The General as he puts his thoughts in on sports.

Archive for the month “March, 2011”

After Watching The High-School All-American Game, One Thing Is Evident: Elite Programs Still Exist

As I watched the McDonald’s All-American game, the players change but some things stay the same. Kentucky, North Carolina and Duke have gone back to the old days where they got at least two all-americans every year. These three teams alone have 9 combined all-americans. This pattern shows you that these three programs are above the rest. When you look at the legacies of the three schools, you can see why these schools are where they are.

Kentucky has had a recent surge the past few years because of the arrival of Jon Calipari to take over the reins and when he stepped in, the talent followed. Calipari has brought in 10 high school all-americans since he first got there including the 4 he’s bringing in next year in PF Anthony Davis, PF Michael Wiltjer, SF Michael Gilchrist and PG Marquis Teague. Because of this surge of talent, now Kentucky has returned to elite status in college basketball. These new pieces along with whoever stays next year will have Kentucky in the mix again.

North Carolina has had a more steady approach of talent over the years. From Michael Jordan, Sam Perkins and James Worthy to Harrison Barnes, Reggie Bullocks and Kendall Marshall, the cupboard never seems to be bare. And because of their pedigree for recruiting the top talents despite who the coach has been, the Tar Heels have got two more elite talents to come into the university, PF James McAdoo and SF PJ Hairston. These pieces along with what North Carolina has coming back should propel them to even new heights next year.

Duke has the biggest advantage of any of these teams. I’m not the biggest fan of Coach K, but the thing you have to respect is that he continually gets the best talent to come play for him. And this year isn’t any different because he has the number 1 player in the nation, SG Austin Rivers, along with PF Marshall Plumblee and PG Quinn Cook coming into Durham. These players will ease the transition of what the Blue Devils will lose coming into next year.

The ever-changing scene of college basketball can be frustrating to a fan. You can never get used to the players there because of the one-and-done style and the early exits of college basketball increases. But for the true fans, just look at the legacies of winning with these programs and you can firmly say that elite programs still exist in this day and age of parity in college basketball. And as long as their around, talented people will be drawn to these colleges and universities because of their status.

My Thoughts On LeBron’s Return To Cleveland, Part 2

LeBron returned to Cleveland again. This time there wasn’t as much buzz nationally. And maybe in this game, the lack of national buzz helped the Cavs. The Cleveland Cavaliers came out with the effort that they should have brought the first time they played against the Heat and they owned them, if not only for one night.

The game wasn’t even started yet and the drama was there already. LeBron didn’t report to the floor for the starting lineup announcements, which I thought was strange. And if you looked at the expressions of his teammates, they looked like they already knew he wasn’t going to be out there. The Heat came out playing pretty well, but something was different about this game.

Cleveland must have realized that they looked like they got clowned last game against the Heat, so this game, they came out with intensity and didn’t back down not one inch. No one embodied that more than Cavs C Ryan Hollins. He was physical inside with F Chris Bosh all night. He blocked plenty of his shots and he also stood up to the Heat a few times in the game, most notably when he got in the face of Dwayne Wade.

This win was a huge game for Cleveland, but in the big picture of things, it was a bigger game for the Miami Heat. The Heat needed this game to surpass the Celtics for 2nd place in the Eastern Conference and close the gap on the Bulls. Instead of them coming out with a sense of urgency, they faltered yet again and let a team that had faltered all season rise up and beat them. At this point in the season, this should not be happening. But the good thing for the Heat is they have more games left to try and get their issues resolved. But for one night I have to give Cleveland their props. They showed up and got the job done.

The Missing Matchup: My Thoughts On The UCONN/ Tennessee Women’s Game That Didnt Happen.

Going into Monday night, I was the most pumped for women’s basketball I had ever been in my life. Could it be that everyone’s favorite matchup could happen again? The University of Tennessee Lady Vols were 60 minutes away from a possible matchup with their arch-nemesis,Connecticut, in the Final Four. Many thought the Lady Vols would come out and handle business against the Irish of Notre Dame and bring an early Christmas for all women’s college basketball fans. Well, I guess we have to wait until next year.

The Lady Vols lost to Notre Dame in the Elite Eight, extinguishing any chance that we will see Geno vs. Pat again. The Lady Vols didn’t play very well in the Elite 8 in two areas. They had an advantage inside with F Glory Johnson and C Kelly Cain, but they took too many outside shots instead of punishing the smaller Irish team inside. The Vols also did not win the lose ball battle. Usually the team that gets the hustle points and makes the hustle plays wins the game.

The Connecticut Lady Huskies handled their business and blew out the Duke Lady Blue Devils. The reigning women’s Player of the Year Maya Moore did her usual and owned the court along with her teammates. I must admit, this UConn team isn’t as talented as teams in year’s past, but what they don’t have in talent, they do have in hard work, grit and shooting. I may not be a fan of Geno Auriemma the person, but he has done a good coaching job with his team this year.

UConn and the Lady Vols used to play all the time until the series was abruptly ended. Speaking for all fans of the game, we miss the matchup every year. I personally wish it would come back. I think women’s basketball needs it. Even though teams like Baylor, Oklahoma and Duke have come more into the national spotlight of women’s college basketball, they fail in comparison to the buzz that’s created when Pat’s on one sideline coaching the Lady Vols and Geno’s on the other side coaching the Huskies. I know I’m hoping against hope, but I’m really wanting to see these two women’s basketball juggernauts play every year like they used too. Pat, Geno, you’re both on the clock. Get this issue resolved as soon as possible! Your sport needs your rivalry back.

The Everyday Mailbag- 3/29/11

NCAA Tournament action was great this weekend. And just like the NCAA Tournament, the Everyday Mailbag is a non-stop thriller. Without further adieu, here what America and Canada wants to know!

Q: What’s up with the Knicks?
-Herman P., LaVergne, TN

A: I think the Knicks can’t close games. This all stems back to the two issues that were created with the trade: less defense and too many ball-stoppers on the floor. Until they get those two issues taken care of, they won’t get off the snide. In crunch time these issues are exposed.

Q: When is Tiger Woods going to get his game back ?
-James R., Nashville, TN

A: That’s a good question. I think by the end of the year he will start to figure it out again. The thing that’s been so disconcerting is that he plays in too much of a spurt now and the bad spurts are outweighing the good ones.

Q: Without looking any NBA stats, who do you think was the best PG for coach Cal……Derrick Rose, John Wall, or Brandon Knight?
-Kareem H, Nashville, TN

A: As far as athleticism, Derrick Rose is the better athlete by a hair over John Wall. I would have to say Derrick Rose because he came into a veteran team, took over that team, made it his own and led them to the National Title game. Knight and Wall are good PGs, but not near the leader that Rose is.

Q: With the recent events that have happened in the NCAA Tournament and with the teams that are left, who’s your pick to win the National Championship?
-Jeremy W., Winnepeg, Canada
A: With who all is left in the Tournament, I will say that UConn is the prohibited favorite. However, when it comes down to team play, shooting and defense, I think Butler will win the National Championship.

Q: What do the Celtics need to do to get it together?
-Herman P., LaVergne, TN

A: The Celtics lost their physical identity when Perkins was traded. As a result, down the stretch, they can’t get the rebounds they need to get or stop the opposing team’s low-post scorer in crunch time. I don’t know if that issue gets solved this year.

Q: How far can Derrick Rose take the Bulls in the playoffs after they have now become the hunted team in the Eastern Conference?
-Dallah S., Manhattan, NY

A: I think that Derrick Rose by himself won’t take them far, but the Chicago Bulls as a team have great success in the playoffs. What I mean by that is that Derrick Rose can’t take him anywhere by himself because basketball is a team sport and their team is the most solid team in the Eastern Conference. I can see them winning the Eastern Conference.

Q: Who do u think the Cavs should select if their Top 3 lottery pick?
-Dallah S., Manhattan, NY

A: I couldn’t really give you a clear answer on that one because their aren’t any clear decisions on who is coming out, but what I can tell you is that Cleveland needs a big guard who can be a franchise style player and can create his own shot. I’m not sure if that player will be available in this draft.

Q: Do you agree that if your point guard is your leading scorer your team will not win a championship?
-Lyorant T., Nashville, TN

A: I don’t agree with that statement. I will say that its not the conventional way to win a championship, but Earl Monroe and Walt Frazier were basically co-PGs and they won a championship. The thing that’s most important is that you have a balanced team. And I think that is most important. And if you’re insinuating about a certain team, they are balanced. Take a look at the inside and outside production.

Q: Your thoughts on Ohio State Coach Jim Tressel? Is he going to stay or should they fire him?
-Corey C., Ashland, KY

A: I think it all depends on the sanctions that are put on UT’s program. If UT get heavy sanctions, Ohio State may be forced to fire him.

Q: What happened to the Lady Vols? They seemed to have been picked apart against Notre Dame ?
-James R., Nashville,TN
A: Pat Summitt said it best at halftime when she said it just seemed like Notre Dame wanted it more. Some bad shot selection hurt them and they just got out-worked all game.

Thanks to all the participants in this week’s mailbag! And remember, if you have any sports questions, feel free to send them to me at dangerous_316@yahoo.com.

My Thoughts On The New University Of Tennessee Coach, Cuonzo Martin

Who was Tennessee going to get to coach their basketball team? Was it going to be Jay Wright of Villanova? Jamie Dixon of Pittsburgh? Shaka Smart of Virginia Commonwealth? Well, none of these guys are the new coach. The new coach is Cuonzo Martin. I know a lot of fans are asking who he is, but trust me, he was a good hire.

Here’s a history lesson on the new coach. Martin is a East St. Louis, Illinois native who made his way to Purdue to play basketball for Gene Keady. Martin was known as a good all-around player who was tough and led by example. He led the Boilermakers to back-to-back Big 10 championships and led them to the Elite 8 as well. He later got drafted to play in the NBA and he played a couple seasons. He heard the call to coach in 2000 when he became an assistant on Keady’s staff. Martin stayed at Purdue until 2008 when he became the head coach of Missouri State. Missouri State was a bad program at the time he took over, but this year he improved them so much that they won the regular season championship in the Missouri Valley Conference and he was named Coach of The Year.

A bunch of Tennessee fans aren’t giving Martin a chance because he isn’t one of those big names. But in my estimation, what big name would really want to come to a program that’s about to be hit with sanctions? Besides, the last time Tennessee hired a head coach, they hired a coach out of the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee that was spirited and had little exposure. He just needed a chance. That coach’s name was Bruce Pearl.

Before you judge Martin, you have to realize that just because he isn’t a big name coach, doesn’t mean he isn’t worthy of the position. I think he will be more than ready to take on the challenge that awaits him at Tennessee. After all, he learned under Gene Keady who also was the mentor for successful coaches like Matt Painter of Purdue and Steve Lavin of St. John’s.

Butler Returns To The Final Four

Butler has done it again. The Bulldogs are returning to the Final Four after their thrilling 74-71 overtime win against the Florida Gators in the Elite 8. Just when you thought their success had run out, somehow this group has done it again and all of America is loving them for what they are doing.

The reason behind their success could definitely be coach Brad Stevens. But in my opinion, the main reasons for their success are their veterans, G Shelvin Mack and PF Matt Howard. These guys are examples of talents who were overlooked by big-time programs and made their way at a smaller school. And these two have help turn Butler into a powerful presence in college basketball.

Through their struggles and in their successes, Mack has been the constant with them. He was overlooked by the big-time in the state of Kentucky coming out of high school and he obviously had a point to prove when he went to Butler. One thing you have to have is great guard play to be a good team and Mack stood up all year to competition from bigger schools. You could make an argument that he has been their best player all year.

PF Matt Howard has gotten it done in crunch time. It seems like he’s been at Butler forever. I can say that at times I thought he was just a foul-prone big guy who couldn’t really produce on the prime-time level, but he has changed my mind. He is a big guy with three-point range that can finish inside. And with him and Mack, Butler has the inside/outside combination that teams have to respect.

With Butler in the Final Four, they must be respected and accounted for. At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if they end up in the Title game again or if they win the National Title. This team has proved that at any level, an elite program can be made. Butler has proved that it isn’t just the players, but its the program that breeds their success.

Kentucky And VCU: Two Unlikely Elite 8 Teams

Who thought that Kentucky and Virginia Commonwealth would be in the Elite 8? Not a lot of people did but as we look up now, both will be playing for a Final Four birth on Sunday. For both of these teams, this was highly unexpected. But for both, they have proved themselves worthy.

Kentucky was thought to have a down year after the great year they had last year. PG John Wall, PG Eric Bledsoe, PF/C Demarcus Cousins, PF Patrick Patterson and backup C Daniel Orton all left school early to enter the draft last year. That alone was thought to devastate this team. But instead of Kentucky going into rebuilding mode, they reloaded. Kentucky brought in PG Brandon Knight, SG Doron Lamb, and PF Terrance Jones. They struggled to win on the road all year as their freshmen along with their veteran players struggled to come together as a team. But, as the season went on, they began to get their rhythm and ended up winning the SEC Tournament. It was to be expected that they would not do as well in the post-season. But with the play of veterans SF Darius Miller,C Josh Harrelson and SF DeAndre Ligglns along with the clutch play of PG Brandon Knight, this Kentucky team has succeeded and surpassed any expectations anyone had for them.

VCU had an up-and-down year this year. At first, plenty of people were ready to crown them the champions of the Colonial Athletic Association. Then, the Rams hit a tough stretch where they were losing to rivals like Old Dominion and were starting to lose it. Plenty doubted that this team would even make the tournament because they failed to win their conference tournament this year. But, luckily for VCU, the tournament committee put them in the tournament. Plenty of people, including me, criticized the committee for even selecting them because they took them over Colorado. Well, apparently the Rams have used that as motivation. F Bradford Burgess and PG Joey Rodriguez have carried the team and have led them to the Elite 8 and shut up plenty of their critics, including me. I owe the Rams an apology. They have definitely proved themselves worthy.

Two teams. Two different scenarios. But two teams with the unquenchable thirst for success despite what many so-called “experts” thought they would be able to accomplish.

The Chicago Bulls And The Atlanta Hawks: Two Teams Going In Different Directions

The Bulls came to Atlanta after beating the Sacramento Kings by 40 in Chicago. Well, apparently the momentum carried over into Atlanta has the Bulls thrashed the Hawks last night. In this game, some glaring points were obvious. And one of those points isn’t the pro-Bulls crowd in Atlanta.

The Bulls have been a team all season that most haven’t even considered as coming out of the Eastern Conference. Most of the fans have been screaming about the Heat and the Celtics coming out of the East. Well, D Rose and the Bulls have something to say about all of that. They are the best defensive team in the East and they are better in the key areas that count in the playoffs: rebounding margin and field goal percentage defense.

Its also very obvious that Bulls PG Derrick Rose is the MVP and that SF Luol Deng is the MIP(Most Important Player). Deng is playing the best basketball of his career and has answered critics in regards to his durability and his overall play. He will be a key factor in guarding Paul Pierce or LeBron James in the playoffs. He will also make Pierce or James guard him on the offensive end because of his improved three-point range and ability to slash to the hoop.

The Hawks are a team on the downslide. Plenty of players aren’t happy in their roles on their team. One move that needs to be made is that PF Josh Smith needs to be traded. He is their best commodity to try and get a center or draft picks to help rebuild the Hawks team. By trading Smith, the Hawks would then be able to move C Al Horford to his natural position (PF).

Another big move that needs to be made is that the Hawks need to add a number one scorer. And this statement isn’t a swipe at SG Joe Johnson, but he just isn’t a consistent go-to guy that can carry a team like Rose, SG Kobe Bryant or SF Kevin Durant can. He would be the perfect Robin to someone else’s Batman. Maybe that person will come if they trade Josh Smith.

The most obvious change the Hawks need to make happen quickly is the Hawks need to find an owner and give this team a new direction. It seems like the ownership has been hesitant to make any moves because of the fear of scaring off potential buyers with high-priced players. And this is why the Hawks are who they are this year and why I don’t think this team will be a factor in the playoffs. They will do their usual unimpressive exit in the playoffs.

If the Bulls are able to get the top spot in the East, they will be dangerous because they are the best home team in the NBA. In the case of the Hawks, after the thorough annihilation they just took, there has to be some soul-searching done. This Hawks team will more than likely face the Orlando Magic and that means Dwight Howard will be on full display. That doesn’t sound too good for the Hawks.

The Everyday Mailbag- 3/22/11

This weekend was an exciting week in basketball as March Madness fell upon us. But just like the clock ticks back and forth, the mailbag is back for this week like clockwork. Let’s see what America and Canada want to know!

Q: Which player would you rather have, Kevin Durant or Lebron James ?
-James R., Nashville, TN

A: Right now, I would take LeBron James, but if you’re talking about to start a franchise with, I would take Kevin Durant because he’s younger, has less holes in his game on the offensive end and he has the most room to grow.

Q: How does your bracket match up with the tournament so far and do you think the tournament committee made the right choices?
-Kareem H., Nashville, TN

A: My bracket is like every bracket in America. I have some things right, but I’ve taken some serious blows. As far as the job the committee did, I questioned the selections of UAB and VCU over Colorado and Virginia Tech. I think they did an ok job. UAB proved the committee was not smart when they got beat down in the First Four, but VCU has proved that they belong. I guess they knew what they were doing with VCU’s selection. As far as the seeding, some of the seeding was off. For example, how does Kentucky beat Florida in the SEC tournament championship and get a 4 seed and Florida loses and gets a 2 seed? Doesn’t make sense. I would have understood a 3 seed for Kentucky, but not a 4 seed.

Q: Do you feel there’s parity in college basketball?
-Michael C., Las Vegas, NV

A: I feel there is parity in college basketball. Its evident this year because we have teams from like Richmond and VCU that have handled teams from power conferences and we also have traditional powers like Kansas and North Carolina. Transfers and the mass exodus of players to the NBA have made college basketball become more competitive.

Q: Do you think the Tennessee Lady Vols can beat Connecticut Lady Huskies ?
-James R, Nashville, TN

A: I think they could beat the Lady Huskies this year because the Huskies aren’t as stacked as they usually are. Glory Johnson Shekinna Stricklen would have to play great though.

Q: After this weekend’s bracket-busting games, which underdog do you think has the best chance to win the tournament?
-Chris Ross, Vancouver, Canada

A: I think that VCU has the best chance to make it to the Final Four and win the championship out of all the Cinderellas that made it this far. I didn’t really think they belonged in the tournament and they have proved me wrong. They’ve been dominating teams and peaking at the right time.

Q: What’s your opinion on Bruce Pearl?
-John M., Bristol, TN

A: I think Bruce was the face of UT basketball and took UT to heights that they’ve never seen. Great coach.

Q: What do you think of Jimmer Fredette on the next level ?
-James R., Nashville, TN

A: I think Fredette will be a good player in the NBA, but not a star. I think he will be like Tony Douglas that currently plays for the Knicks. Instant offense.

Q: What are your thoughts on the NFL lockout?
-Doreen S., Nashville, TN

A: I feel that the owners wanted this more than the players did. The proof of that was when the owners opted out of the deal that was in place a couple years ago. With that being said, I just want them to work it out so we can all have NFL football next year. Compromise has to be made on both sides.

Q: Do you feel that the college basketball refs are slacking this year?
-Kareem H., Nashville, TN

A: I think the refs are slacking some, but on the flip side, players have to win games. If the players and teams don’t want the games in the referees’ hands, then make the plays that don’t put the game in their hands.

Q: Who is the freshman coming in next year that Pat Summit has already made the starting point guard ?
-James R., Nashville, TN

A: Her name is Ariel Massengale she is considered as the best PG in the nation. She can shoot, play defense and is a jitter bug on the court. Massengale, Meghan Simmons and Lauren Avant all bring speed to the PG position next year. Size will be an issue with her though. She is only 5’6″.

If you have any sports questions, feel free to send them to me at dangerous_316@yahoo.com.

My Thoughts On The End Of The Bruce Pearl Era At The University Of Tennessee

The news that had been speculated all last week is now come to fruition. Tennessee fired head coach Bruce Pearl. Sure, he was beloved by the fans and his players, but the fact still remains that he did lie to the NCAA. I personally loved his enthusiasm and the excitement he brought not only to Tennessee, but to college basketball.

The move of firing Pearl will have serious repercussions on Tennessee basketball. There will definitely be some kids leaving the program either by going to the NBA or transferring out. Also, this move will affect the recruits that were headed to Knoxville to play under Pearl as well. This program had reached new heights with Pearl and will undoubtedly fall into an abyss of bad basketball for a few years.

Now that Pearl is out at Tennessee, why stop there? I think Mike Hamilton should follow him out the door. He has made plenty of errors whiles he’s been at Tennessee. From the Lane Kiffin era which encompassed one year and a ton of NCAA violations, to the announcing of Bruce Pearl being evaluated after the tournament right before their tournament game, he hasn’t exactly been the best athletic director. If a coach can get ran out of town by the school when he has taken a seemingly dormant basketball program to 6 straight NCAA tournaments, then why can’t a guy who has seemed to have brought a lot of sanctions and lost control of the athletic department at times be subject to getting fired too? I’ve never met Hamilton. I’ve heard he’s a good guy, but Pearl was reportedly a good guy too and he just got let go.

Now as far as who the next coach should be, I think Tennessee should consider making a run at two coaches: Butler’s Brad Stevens and VCU’s Shaka Smart. I want to reiterate that these coaches are merely my suggestions, but whomever Tennessee hires, they have to give them a long-term contract like what Indiana’s Tom Crean got because they are about to get hit with serious sanctions from the NCAA.

Only time will tell what happens in Knoxville, but I know one thing is for sure, Tennessee is losing a good coach that made some mistakes. He will be sorely missed in Knoxville for what he brought to Tennessee. I think he could possibly be coaching on some school’s sideline in the future, but that’s up in the air because of the pending NCAA ruling. Only time will tell.

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