Rate ‘Em: Playoff Rankings

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It’s late at night and I won’t publish this until the morning but you know I’m always thinking of the DBS faithful in the waning hours of the night.  And right now, as I watch Game 4 of the Spurs and Trailblazers series, I thought of a nice little article.  This is going to be tough and I’m gonna bullshit this on the spot so, without further ado, Lange’s playoff rankings between all sports that I want to consider. 

5. Major League Baseball

I don’t know what it is but my love for baseball is dying more and more with each passing year.  The 162 game schedule, with 3 to 3 and a half hour games now becoming a regular just tire me out come October.  The new 1 game wild card playoff adds a much needed excitement element to the MLB playoffs but baseball still doesn’t compare to the top 4.

4. National Basketball Association 

Damn, this is a lot harder than I thought it would be.  Honestly, the top 4 are all so damn close.  Like, I used to HATE the NBA about 2 years ago.  No defense.  No offensive sets.  Just one on one isolation crap.  But I’ve grown to enjoy the NBA game again and these NBA playoffs are insane.  Favorite game thus far? GOTTA be Vinsanity turning back the clock 47 years and hitting that buzzer beating 3 from the corner for the win.

3. National Hockey League

Before I defend the reasoning here, I really want to question my properness of listing these sports by their full name and not the shortened acronym.  I’m such a nerd.  Anyways, I don’t know anything about hockey.  Just learned about icing last week.  But that doesn’t mean I can’t love the intensity and grittiness that comes with an NHL hockey game.  LGR baby!!!! 

2. NFL

As a Giants fan, I’ve experienced some crazy, crazy stuff in the playoffs.  Wild, unexpected, and yes, maybe a little lucky, runs en route to 2 super bowl championships. What I love especially about the NFL playoffs is you play 16 grueling games and only 6 teams from each conference makes the playoffs. I hate hearing the argument that the NFL should expand to 8 team playoffs.  No, shut up America. Everyone doesn’t need a trophy.

1. NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament

You knew I was going here didn’t you but can you blame me?  This past NCAA tournament was maybe the best one that ever happened and its not like it was a one time thing.  America lives for the George Masons, the Butlers, the VCUs, the Florida Gulf Coasts. Everyone loves rooting for the underdog.  No better time of the year to root for an underdog than March Madness like the University of Connecticut Huskies. 

P.S. Kevin Ollie is going to stay and UConn is going to become a dynasty.

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Lange’s Final Four

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s finally that time of year.  Selection Sunday has passed and now men and women all around the world are filling out their brackets for their pools.  Many will turn to ESPN for bracket advice, however, that is a mistake.  For all the best coverage, sleepers, upset alerts, final four picks and championship picks come to none of than DBS as our experts will be working long hours this week to help DBS supporters win some money in their bracket pools.

So here we go…my final four picks

South – Florida

They’re the best team in the nation.  Plain and simple.  The Gators have won 26 straight since losing December 2nd at UConn.  SEC Player of the Year Scottie Wilbiken is a true PG that can lead Florida to their first National Championship since 2006-07.  Their toughest potential matchup in the bracket is a healthy Joel Embiid and Kansas Jayhawks squad.

West – Arizona

Even without Brandon Ashley the Wildcats have been playing well of late.  They’re so balanced and have four guys who can score 20+ on any given night.  Besides that, Arizona ranks number one in the nation in defensive efficiency (According to KenPom Rankings).  The Wildcats have the toughest possible matchup in the round of 32 against Marcus Smart and the Oklahoma St cowboys.

East – Michigan State

Talk about timing.  The Spartans, who have been injury plagued all season long, got fully healthy just before the Big 10 Conference Tournament in which they steamrolled teams en route to a Conference Championship.  Led by, in my opinion, the greatest college basketball coach in the nation, Michigan St seems poised to stay hot and make another run to the final four.  Don’t sleep on Virginia from this region – they can give the Spartans a lot of fits defensively. It’s March, though, and coaching means everything now. I take Izzo over Bennett. 

Midwest – Louisville 

Larry Brown and SMU getting snubbed the biggest surprise of Selection Sunday? Yea, I agree. A close second is the committee giving Louisville a 4-seed.  The Cardinals non-conference strength of schedule was a joke but considering the way they played the final month of the season I believe Rick Pitino’s squad is a top four team in the nation.  Russ Smith and Montrezl Harrell are animals and with Hancock stretching the floor out, ya gotta feel for the 34-0 Shockers who have the toughest matchup in the sweet 16 in these Cardinals.

 

March Madness: Seton Hall Buzzer Beater

This is why we love March Madness. Seton Hall, a squad that finished 17-16 in the regular season and 6-12 in the Big East, upsetting #3 Villanova in the Big East quarterfinals on a step-back “Kemba esque” jumper by Sterling Gibbs – a 6’2″ guard straight outta “New Joysie.” Of course it happened at MSG too, the mecca. And yes, this is the same Pirates team that lost to the 10-21 Fairleigh Dickinson Knights.

Pirates vs my Providence Friars in the semifinals of the Big East Tournament tomorrow at MSG. Let’s go Friars!

NBA MVP: KD or Lebron? *Poll at Bottom*

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This season could be one of the closest MVP voting’s since 1980 when Magic Johnson beat out Charles Barkley by 22 points despite Barkley receiving 11 more first place votes and there’s no question who it’s between: four-time champ Lebron James and Kevin Durant.

I am a Lebron fan, no question.  He is the best player in the NBA , no question. When it is all said and done I truly believe people will be able to say he was one of the top five players of all time, no question.  People hate on me for liking Lebron but I don’t care.  Their was always a void for me once Allen Iverson left the NBA – I couldn’t watch anymore.  No particular player excited me.  Then I really started to watch Lebron and soon thereafter I realized he epitomized everything I wanted to be in a basketball player (no shit, right).

However, with all that love put aside, Lebron James is not the MVP of the NBA right now.  Key word, RIGHT NOW. Right now the NBA’s MVP is Kevin Durant. What he is doing this season is special.  Very special.

Lets take a closer look into their respective seasons:

Kevin Durant

Since the clock struck midnight on January 1st Durant has been on a tear.  In 29 games since the new year began he is averaging 34.86 PPG, 6.4 APG, and 6.8 RPG all the while leading his Thunder to a league best 46-15 record.

For the season as a whole, Durant is averaging 31.7 PPG, 5.5 APG. 7.7 RPG while shooting 51% from the field and 40% from behind the arc.  Durant’s PER (player efficiency rating) is a league high 30.62 while he also hold the highest Win Shares in the NBA at 14.9, 2.7 higher than the second highest total (of course, it’s Lebron).

Oh but Lange, won’t the return of Westbrook slow down Durant and his production allowing Lebron to make the late comeback in the MVP race?  False.  Since Westbrook returned to the lineup on February 20th for the Thunder, Durant has averaged 34.2 PPG, 5.8 APG, and 7 RPG.

Versus Miami, OKC has split, each coming away with the road victory.  In the two games Durant as averaged 30.5 PPG, 4 APG and 7.5 RPG.

Now the other candidate…

Lebron James

Albeit is only six games since the all-star break but I think Lebron may have been asked one too many times his thoughts on Durant being the frontrunner to the MVP race because he as gone berzerk.  Since the break James has averaged 34.8 PPG, 5.2 APG, and 6.2 RPG on 65% shooting overall and 47% from 3.

While playing less minutes than he ever has before (still averaging just over 37 MPG), Lebron is still producing big time numbers for the season. Coming in to today he is averaging 27.4 PPG, 6.4 APG and 6.9 RPG (third lowest mark in his career).

As for the saber metrics, Lebron boasts a PER of 30.25, and 12.2 Win Shares.

Versus the Thunder, Lebron has put up 33.5 PPG, 3 APG, and 5 RPG.

It’s a tough call but if the season ended today and anyone gave two shits about me vote I’d give Durant the nod.  But there’s still plenty of basketball left to play and I’ve seen Lebron play a lot but I don’t know if I’ve ever seen him at this level.  If he continues this level for the remainder of the season I see no reason not believe that the King cant win his third straight MVP award and 5th in 6 years.

Crazy Stat of the Day: Career wise (regular season and post season) Lebron has a record of 14-4 versus Kevin Durant’s squads. Didn’t think it would be that lopsided.

Let’s see what the DBS faithful think.  SEASON ENDS TODAY: Who ya got? KD or Lebron?

Sleeper Teams: NCAA Tournament Addition

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For me, an avid college basketball fan and lover of the game of basketball in general, these next couple of months are my favorite of the year between March Madness and the NBA playoffs.  I’ve always felt more passion towards the game of college basketball, however.  Mainly due to the fact that it’s the last time in most players careers that they’re representing the name on the front of the jersey as opposed to the one on the back.  So, with Selection Sunday looming let’s take a look at some teams I think can make a deep run that not many are talking about now (outside the AP top 25).

P.S. Try not to freak out, its the NCAA tourney and CRAZY stuff happens.  This year is going to be an all-timer for an NCAA tournament, just watch.

P.S.S. You’ll sense a common theme of good guard play in all my sleeper teams.  To me, you can’t make a deep run unless you can make shots.  It’s that simple.

Lange’s Sleeper Teams:

1. Oklahoma St

Honestly, if you asked me in early December who I had going deep I would’ve said the Cowboys in a heartbeat.  But after Marcus Smart’s suspension and a struggle to survive through the grueling Big 12, Oklahoma St. finds themselves just in the tournament as of now.  They’re 17th in the nation in scoring while they have arguably the best backcourt in the country between Markel Brown and Smart.

2. Providence

I love me some Friars.  According to Joe Lunardi’s latest bracketology they’re in the “Last Four Out” spot right now.  To get it for sure they’re going to have to win their final game at Creighton, which will be Doug McDermott’s Senior night or make a run in the Big East Tournament.  Either way, if the Friars can get in they’re a team nobody wants to face.  Well coached, great front court and an All Big East guard in Senior Bryce Cotton.

3. BYU

Granted the Cougars have lost to 3 teams with an RPI greater than 150, this team can flat out score. They’re 3rd in the nation in scoring, 7th in rebounding, and 13th in assists.  That’s one hell of an offense.  Oh, and there’s a new Jimmer in town by the name of Tyler Haws.  Never heard of him? Kid can fricken light up the scoreboard.  After averaging better than 21 ppg last year for BYU, Haws, a guard, is up to 24 ppg this season while shooting 48% from the field and an astonishing 44% from behind the arc.  Haws could easily shoot the Cougars to the Sweet 16.

Should College Athletes Be Paid?

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In one of the most heated debates in sports these days, as to whether or not college athletes should be paid, I find myself changing sides constantly.  Currently enrolled at the University of Connecticut as an out-of-state state student, I pay around $42,000 annually.  Well, I pay half and my parents pay half.  Regardless, when I get out of college and am making close to nothing as either a sportswriter or an elementary school teacher, I will owe a crap load of money in student loans.

“Student-athletes,” and I will explain the quoting later, more often then not are recruited and offered scholarships that cover room and board when attending a university.  Meaning, Shabazz Napier, point guard of the men’s basketball team here at UConn, who is also an out-of-state student has his tuition which is the same as mine paid for in full.  All $42,000 of it.  Times that by four years and Napier is saving over $160,000.

Is receiving a free education worth nearly $160,000 not worth enough for their time and dedication both in the classroom and on the field, or court? I can’t truly give a definitive answer. On one hand I believe $160,000 is more than enough money for these athletes to be saving in order to earn a degree while playing sports but where it becomes troubling is when you bring in the NCAA rules – a subtopic to this troubling issue in which I firmly believe a change must occur.

I’m broke.  And if you know me, I am one of the cheapest kids ever.  I hate buying a two dollar soda from a vending machine.  So more often than not, I’m banking on the money I receive over the holidays or for my birthday from relatives to get me through the financial burden that comes with earning a degree.  However, if I was a college athlete would this be breaking NCAA violations? Because of this, many inner-city kids who’s parents don’t have an income are coming to schools on this scholarship but they cannot afford food and other necessities because money won’t be flowing in from home and it can’t be flowing in from anywhere else or it’s most likely considered an NCAA violation.

Seemingly everything is an NCAA violation.  The rules must be made severely less harsh and stop punishing athletes or rather, treating them differently from others who are on scholarship at a given university. While watching a documentary yesterday on this hot topic, an advocate of paying college athletes claimed a murderer has more rights in the legal system than an athlete does within the NCAA rule book.  That’s ludicrous.

On the other hand, the hand that believes NCAA athletes should be paid think about this: colleges and universities nation wide are making BILLIONS of dollars off of these student athletes.  The crazy part, and the part that makes me lean toward paying the athletes or at least lessening the NCAA rule book, is that the scholarships these athletes receive are on a yearly basis.  Therefore, a coach can decide to take any player who may not be performing to his or her standards off of scholarship.

With that said, is it really student-athlete? No, not at all.  If a player wants to keep up his or her scholarship and they have to earn it year by year do you think they’ll spend their downtime studying for a test to earn an A, but keeping their ability to perform on the field at a standstill or do you think they’ll work out one more time to make that crucial interception and take the C on the test? It’s an obvious answer considering the scholarship has to be earned every year all over again.

Student-athlete also isn’t an applicable term because they’re not really even students.  They’re employees for the universities and colleges they attend.  These athletes are spending 40-50 hours a week training all to build their respective program.  The harder and more they train, the better the program.  The better the program, the more money the school makes.  See where this is headed?

Gun to my head and this is my solution: pay the student athletes.  Pay them equally.  Schools are making so much money off the hard work and success of these kids and reward them with their yearly scholarship.  But considering the fact that they more ought to be labeled employees rather than student-athletes due to their gruesome training schedules I believe they should be paid.  Give each athlete on scholarship somewhere between $5,000-$10,000 a year to spend on food, clothing and other necessities. Every single athlete no matter what the team may be must receive the same amount. And for God sakes, why do the damn NCAA rules have to be so in depth and harsh?  If someone wants to help a poor student-athlete out because he or she is struggling to feed their stomach, then that should be okay.

Lange’s Top 10 NCAAM – 1/20

1. Arizona (18-0)

There’s not much that Sean Miller’s club can’t do well.  Led by freshman phenom Aaron Gordon and Nick Johnson the Wildcats are poised to make lots of noise come March.  But just how deep of a run can this Arizona squad make? I think that depends on the point guard play of Duquesne transfer TJ McConnell.

Best Case Scenario: National Championship

Worst Case Scenario: Sweet 16

2. Syracuse (18-0)

The Orange almost slipped up on the road at BC last week but they pulled away with the ten point victory.  Tyler Ennis is a top 3-5 point guard in the nation and is deserving of the attention Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid are receiving.

Best Case Scenario: National Championship

Worst Case Scenario: Elite 8

3. Michigan State (17-1)

The Spartans win at Illinois saturday night pushed their winning streak to double digits.  Tom Izzo has yet another title contender and as long as they can stay healthy they have a damn good chance.  Payne, Harris and Appling are arguably the best trio in the nation.

Best Case Scenario: National Championship

Worst Case Scenario: Sweet 16

4. Wichita St. (19-0)

Not many respect the Shockers but hey, they’re 19-0 and are one of three remaining undefeated squads in all of college basketball. I like the Shockers to run the table and finish 31-0.  In that case, are they deserving of a #1 seed in the tourney with such a weak SOS. I don’t believe so.

Best Case Scenario: Elite 8

Worst Case Scenario: Round of 32

5. Villanova (16-1)

When my passion for college basketball originated in my childhood it always felt like Villanova was in the thick of things come March which came to a stand still a few years back.  And it felt like Scottie Reynolds was a ten year NCAA vet.  Seriously, the guy seemingly never graduated.  In all seriousness, Jay Wright hasn’t had a team with this talent since the 2009 season when the Wildcats reached the Final Four.  Villanova has four guys who are averaging double digits and they can rebound with anyone in the country. Watch out.

Best Case Scenario: Final Four

Worst Case Scenario: Round of 32

6. Florida (15-2)

Can the Gators stay healthy? They continue to gut out wins seemingly with a new injury coming every day.  Freshman Chris Walker who has yet to been cleared to play by the NCAA could provide the extra man to put this Billy Donovan team over the top.  After UConn’s fluke win over Florida I told my roommate that if they stay healthy I believe they’ll win it all.  Health is never guaranteed but I stand by my words.

Best Case Scenario: National Championship

Worst Case Scenario: First round… who knows who will be healthy come March Madness

7. Kansas (13-4)

13-4 and in the top ten? Look at their schedule.  Bill Self is testing his squad and they’re performing. They picked up two huge wins this week at Iowa St and at home versus Oklahoma St. Freshman Joel Embiid should be the number one pick of the NBA draft. He doesn’t block shots – he goes up and takes the ball from you and comes down with it.

Best Case Scenario: National Championship

Worst Case Scenario: Round of 32

8. Oklahoma St. (15-3)

I love watching Oklahoma St. play.  Fast and up-tempo.  Marcus Smart, to me, is the second best COLLEGE point guard.  Yes, he clearly has more NBA potential than Shabazz, but purely based off college credentials I place him at number 2 on my list. If Phil Forte can get hot before the tourney I like the Cowboys to make a deep run.

Best Case Scenario: National Championship

Worst Case Scenario: Round of 32

9. San Diego St. (16-1)

Underrated is an understatement when describing this Aztec squad.  Currently on a 15 game winning streak San Diego St. has beaten the likes of Creighton, Marquette (before they shit the bed), Kansas and UNLV.  They’re one of the best rebounding teams in the nation and are led by guard Xavier Thames who’s averaging 17 per contest.

Best Case Scenario: Final Four

Worst Case Scenario: Round of 32

10. Louisiville (16-3)

NCAA analysts were saying the Cardinals didn’t really have the best tournament resume prior to their win at UConn Saturday night.  Well, that may be true but Louisville is just not a fringe tourney team.  That’s idiotic.  Russ Smith does whatever he wants with the ball while Harrell is just an animal on the glass.  I predict a top 5 finish for the Cardinals.

Best Case Scenario: National Championship

Worst Case Scenario: Sweet 16

Next 5: Wisconsin, Iowa, Cincinnati, Kentucky, UMASS