Thursday, March 21, 2013

Players to Watch: Cashmere, Christmas, C3PO, Oladipeo, Will Cherry, Will Forte, Przemek Karnowski and all that Shabazz…

This is me, and my favorite Kansas State star, Rodney McGruder. Way back in 2006.

It’s hard to keep track of college basketball players. At the most, they’ll be around for four years, but quite realistically, many of the best players are only around for one, maybe two years. Quite honestly, if you’re a hardcore fan like myself, you really appreciate the guys that are true to their school and might not necessarily be NBA legends, or NBA players at all. That little tweener level of basketball greatness makes college basketball so special. And, well, it’s nice to see some top notch NBA high rollers trickle through the tumbleweeds from time to time.

I have listed a few of my favorites to watch…

All Zerfas 2013 NCAA Tornament Team
In no particular order or makeup…

F Victor Oladipo, 6’5 Jr., Indiana

Cody Zellar scores more points. Christian Watford hits more threes. Yogi Ferrell was more recruited. Jordan Hulls is more…white. Oladipo is literally the engine that drives this Indiana regeneration. He never stops, and very rarely has an off game. I think of him as a Red Bull. He plays, wearing red, like a bull would be if it were wearing red. Somebody twisted his testicles and he runs and bucks around the court causing mayhem—steals, blocks, dunks in a hugely mobile frame. If he is coming through the lane, you’re not a pansy if you get the “F” out of the way. Toro!

C Patric Young, 6’9 Sr., Florida

Florida has one of the most talented teams in the nation. They run a barrage of do-everything wings that slash, hit threes, play defense and dominate the backcourts. They have a true “step out 4” in Erik Murphy who can post up, but is most effective stepping behind the arc and knocking down threes. But, 10.5 ppg come from the tenacious play of Young down low. He’s the grit and guts of a pretty loaded Florida team. He plays the tough defense, rebounds and creates second opportunities for himself and the rest of the offense. I think he’s the key reason Florida ranks in the Top 5 in offense AND defensive efficiency. They are the only team that can say that. Someone has to do the dirty work, and nobody is better at it than Young. He’s so much more than a ginder, but, boy, does he grind.  

F Doug McDermott, 6’8 Jr., Creighton

McDermott is a do-it-all Power Forward, coaches son, possible Player of the Year, and a hell of a model (All) American (from what I can tell.) It just seems that way as he often leaves the court arm-in-arm with his dad. Creighton leads the league in field goal shooting, netting over 50% of their shots, and it all starts, and often ends in the hands of Dougy Fresh. He shoots almost 50% three’s and 56% overall, which is unreal, considering everybody knows who’s getting the ball. I have Creighton slated to play three games this tournament, upsetting Duke and getting a shot at Michigan State. He could very easily be the face of the tournament. A face you should know. If not for you, for your daughter.

G Gary Harris, 6’4 Fr., Michigan State

Tom Izzo rarely depends on Freshman. On the championship team in 2000, Jason Richardson was the 8th man, I kid you not. This year, Harris almost led the Spartans in scoring, but without a doubt he led the Spartans in the most undocumented, yet crucial category…consistency. With his tall frame, and superior mental toughness, he’s able to shoot over defenders in a way that reminds me of Shawn Respert. It seems no amount of defense bothers his shot, but if you make him drive, he’ll make you pay there to with an array of ways to beat you around the basket. He’s as versatile as they come, and if Spartan fans expect to keep Izzo’s legacy in March, it’ll be on the back and shoulders of Harris. Who, by the way, has had nagging back and shoulder problems all year. This isn’t a figurative testament, more of a warrior testament, the guy gives it ALL for his school, and fans should appreciate that notion. He’s done everything one could ask for and much, much more. And, the tally continues…

G Shane Larkin, 5’11 So., Miami

Son of Hall of Fame Cincinnati Red Barry Larkin, Shane finds himself, as a sophomore, leading one of the most experienced teams in the country to their first legitimate March Madness run since I can remember. Everyone around him is talented in their own role player way, but he’s the pilot, circling and swaying through the lane, knocking down huge, often long three’s, and more or less carrying the team as far as he can. He has a pretty Tony Parker style floater, but what really impresses me is the fearless nature he hits the lane with. A brick wall wouldn’t slow him down, and with the efficiency he approaches the game with, he’s not going to be building one any time soon.

G David Stockton, 5’11 Jr., Gonzaga

While we’re on the lineage thing, I have to mention my favorite one to follow. He only plays 18 minutes a game and scores less than four points per contest, but I just keep waiting for him to break out. He can shoot, but he serves as mostly a distributer and backup to Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell, Jr.. It’s just a wonderful story, with his dad, John, being what put Gonzaga on the map. It would be something if Gonzaga could make some noise again, under the new Stockton regime. I’d say this year is their best chance as they earned their first ever No. 1 seed.

 F Otto Porter Jr., 6’8 So., Georgetown

I’ve always been a sucker for the do it all, kind of physical freak. Porter is your guy, perhaps the most complete player in the country, he does it all for G’Town in a serious way, that reminds me of Jeff Green (not Curb Your Enthusiasm). He’s the main part of a suffocating Georgetown defense that has no shortage of size and length to stifle one right up.

F Rodney McGruder, 6’4 Sr., Kansas State

He probably belongs in the “All-Name” team (see below), for being close to Will Forte’s character that’s SO FUN to say over and over again at the bar. Seriously, your friends will love you if you shout this. All the time. Obnoxiously. Its bell curve of humor is directly parallel to that of the movie. Ha. Anyway, he’s also a testament to the way kids can improve in their time in college. As a freshman, he was a defensive sub, playing small chunks of the game, scoring very little. For the last two years, he’s been the face of a program, knocking down three’s, scoring 15 points a game, on the cusp of making some serious noise. His midrange game reminds you of a more fluid Richard Hamilton, perhaps he can channel that kind of late game heroics to add to his legacy. They have a new coach, and they’re right in the mix again, thankfully, for a team guy like…McGruuuuuuuuuuder!!!

G Briante Weber, 6’3 Jr., VCU

Shaka Smart is like the indie-rock Tom Izzo. He’s built a nice little program at Virginia Commonwealth University, with a niche that reaps big rewards in March. His trademark full court “reeking havoc” defense pressurizes opposing teams souls into the court, shellacs over them and then polishes the remains with a fluffy sheepskin mitt, 10 college athletes at a time. Seriously, it’s a psychotic Red Bull experiment, gone completely mad. March Mad, my friends. The intensity is contagious. Weber was in the Top 10 in the nation in steals (almost three a game!), which is MAD, considering he comes off the bench and only plays 20 minutes a game. He’s one of the main reasons I like VCU to get back to the Final Four this year, as a No. 5 seed.

Quick Hitters

G Aaron Craft, Ohio StateLike releasing a dog off a chain and he’s chasing YOU. Hounds opposing teams into flustered mistakes. Recently developed a shooting stroke, though, two of this three 20 point games this year were against Michigan State. It’s so helpful to me that he didn’t have it in the Michigan games. So, I kind of hate him and his rosy cheeks.

G Seth Curry, Duke – Another lineage play. His father was a great NBA shooter Dell Curry. His brother, Stephen, was a March Madness maven a few years ago with Davidson and now with Golden State remains one of the NBA’s premiere budding stars. Seth’s game is similar and fun to watch. He loves to shoot, and shoot it well.

G Will Cherry, Montana – Reminds me a great deal of Chris Paul. Not a great shooter, but is feisty on defense and can hurt you a number of ways. Mainly running through the lane or creating possessions with pressure D. Montana is one of the nations best three-point shooting teams as well as one of the best at getting to the foul line. That drive and dish mentality starts with Cherry.

G Mark Lyons, Arizona – Transfer from Xavier that loves to shoot. Like a kid figuring out the buttons in Double Dribble. With Mark Lyons, the “B” button is clearly broken. He’s the kind of guy that can make a name for himself under the Madness lights, for his ability sling without regard for civilization. He’s in the parking lot right now, open.

G Korie Lucious, Iowa State – He stirred up some chemistry issues at Michigan State and bolted town (well, was probably shipped away). I could hate him, but in my entire life of watching NCAA basketball as a Michigan State fan, I have one buzzer beating memory (in our favor), and it was that Maryland game. Oh, that was a great day, and for that, I will always be a Lucious fan. I’d love to see him have a wonderful tournament.

G Nate Wolters, South Dakota – Has a chance to send Michigan packing a second year in a row. What he lacks in athletic prowess, he makes up for with intelligence, spacing, charm and just a simple ability to make it happen. He gives the Jackrabbits a chance against a fairly dynamic Michigan team.

The All-Name Team

G Spencer Dinwiddie, Colorado – Sounds like suspenders, glasses and a protractor. He’ll cost you 20 points a game and a possible upset or two.

F Grandy Glaze, St. Louis – The extra bit of juice Yankee Outfielder Curtis Granderson puts on his swing.

F Jordair Jett, St. Louis – A name that needs no pontification.

G Avery Dingman, Creighton – More like dingbat. TWO POINTS, DING!

G Travis Trice, Michigan State – Real name, no gimmicks. Not from Detroit.

F Shabazz Muhummad, UCLA – My favorite boardwalk magician. He’ll make the Pacific Ocean disappear. Sometimes, that’s what it looks like he’s shooting basketballs into.

C Moses Ayegba, G’Town – Quick, what do G’Town fans shout when he turns the ball over?

F Kareem Jamar, Montana – So close.

G Will Cherry, Montana – What will he do when the other team has the ball? Tie his shoe? Fake a hammy injury? Lay low?

G Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State – Mark is…intelligent. Mark is…sharp. Mark is…quick. What is Mark again? He IS one of the premiere freshman in college basketball.

C Phillip Jurick, Oklahoma State – Sounds like your typical run of the mill bastard!

C Cheikh Mbodj, Cincinnati – Can I buy an apostrophe, Alex?

F Titus Rubles, Cincinnati – Building a house…of...ummm….BRICKS!?

G Cashmere Wright, Cincinnati – What’s the fabric of your life?

G Ge’Lawn Guyn, Cincinnati – His family moves next door in the sequel to Gran Torino.

F Arsalan Kazemi, Oregon – He takes the ball fearlessly to the rack with no intention of scoring.

C Przemek Karnowski, Gonzaga – John Stockton’s personal 7-foot butcher.

G Malcom Armstead, Wichita State – Bobby Knight’s favorite player.

G Tekele Cotton, Wichita State – Sounds like a high flyer. It’s because his clothes are so light.

C Rakeem Christmas, Syracuse – Apparently the town WAS that way…

G Vander Blue, Marquette – Sounds like a fake Wisconsin blues legend.

G Achraf Yacoubou, Villanova – Ow. Now. Brown. Yacoubou.

C Mouphtaou Yarou, Villanova – Say that name with a frown, and I’ll give you $20.

G Je’lon Hornbeak, Oklahoma – His family breeds narwhals and pelicans together.   

What (Games) to Watch: Upsets, Ballers, Criers (not Jon Cryer), and Vanilla Thunder...OH MY!!?!?

The Madness can be tough on a person. This is me two years ago,
 taking a big loss. Grrrrr.....

Opening Weekend Gems

March Madness is like a cruel joke to a little boy with ADHD. You go to the bar and, at least for the opening weekend, there are typically FOUR games going on at once. There are thousands of bars in NYC, and only a few know how to handle the mass chaos that ensues when everybody wants to do everything all at once.

If you find yourself looking at the schedule, scratching your head as to which delight is going to be the most delightful, I have picked out a few to tantalize the Madness senses…

No. 4 Michigan vs. No. 13 South Dakota St.
Thursday 715pm


If you like PG’s, the epicenter of a basketball game (unless you’re Kansas this year), this is your game. In football, you don’t get to see the quarterbacks ever face each other directly, the closest I can think of was those ESPN commercials with Eli and Peyton Manning side-kicking each other playfully. Oh, it was glorious, and a tease for what never can be, but anyway, this game was seemingly hand selected to pair the BEST POING GUARDS in the nation against each other—Michigan’s Trey Burke and South Dakota’s Nate Wolters.

On more than one occasion, the Bleacher Report editing staff accused my basketball writing as being slightly racist, but in this aspect, I can’t help but see the parallel universe of correlation between Nintendo game Jordan vs. Bird and this match between the uber-athletic, ultra-flashy Burke and the smart, stoic keep your feet-shoulders-hips square to the basket Wolters. If only someone would write a movie about this? Burke often takes shots that require protractors to properly disseminate shot trajectory, meanwhile Wolters is tough to the lane, but very textbook in the way he creates space for himself and opportunities for his teammates.

Burke: 6’0 190lb. So. 19.2ppg, 6.7asst, 3.1reb, 40% 3pt.
Wolters: 6’4 190lb. Sr. 22.7ppg, 5.8asst, 5.6reb, 39% 3pt.

As you can see, statistically they are remarkably similar. Wolters has a little height advantage, but with the way Burke creates shots with speed and dexterity, it’s pretty much a stalemate. The winners are the fans, who reap the rewards of this classic first round battle.

From a hunger standpoint, this is also pretty even. This is Wolters’ last stand in his college career at a little school, before he goes to the NBA and pounds nostalgia beers with Jimmer Fredette about being “the man” on campus. For Burke, this is a horrific déjà vu, as he was in a similar kind of matchup, and on the losing end I might add, against D.J. Cooper and the Ohio Bobcats last year.

Wolverines. Jackrabbits. I can’t help but feel this game will come down to the wire, and drunkards that have been watching basketball since noon, will sound a lot like Snatch talking about how Wolters is about to get “properphucked,” but in a glorious montage the rabbit runs away, much to the dismay of the overhyped skunkbear fanbase.

I may be biased, but the matchup doesn’t lie.

Upset Alert: Michigan may be better, but in the name of March Madness, and underskilled vanilla thunder, BETTER LUCK NEXT YEAR!  

No. 6 Butler vs. No. 11 Bucknell
Thursday 12:40pm


Michigan State and Valparaiso kick things off at 1215. This game is the compliment. And by compliment as far as entertainment is concerned, barring some kind of Weber St. setback, this is the dip to the chip. 

Butler was once an underground foe with occasional opportunities to make noise in March. That’s the life of a grassroots mid-major basketball program. Brad Stevens has created a buzz in Butler generating enough hype to come within one play of a (FREEKING) National Title (against Duke) and a slew of other upsetting wins, if you’ve been “fortunate” enough to play them. They have a way of grinding out and frustrating opponents in a way I’ve never seen before. Every Butler game is good, and they are all tenacious. Either way, they’ve become a program you can never count out this time of year.

Bucknell has had it’s share of March Magic, pulling a 14-3 upset over Kansas in 2005. Then, in a minor fashion again in 2006, with a 9-8 upset over Arkansas. Let the wild rumpus end…

Until now. This is their chance to stick it to the man. For every Death Cab for Cutie that made it out of the indie rock basement, there is a band in a garage, pissed off that they aren’t selling product and putting panties in their respective mouths. Panties aren’t just for Bulldogs. Bison like panties too! Especially if they are Zoey Deschanel’s.

Verdict: Butler has a great deal of variety on their roster, and played arguably the toughest schedule in the nation (played Gonzaga AND Indiana non-conference, winning both games), but at times looked inept and confused as to its greater destiny. Bucknell has a beast of a center in Mike Muscala, which just sounds like a big bad dude you don’t want to mess with in the paint. Butler will claw and scratch, but I don’t think they have enough muscle and grit for Muscala, yet I don’t think it’ll be enough. Bulldogs are the big dawgs now, and…until next time.

No. 7 Creighton vs. No. 10 Cincinnati
Friday 245pm


Creighton is one of the best offensive teams in the nation, with the best player in the nation. Cincinnati wouldn’t even take the ball on offense if they didn’t have to score to win. They can’t score, but they can win. Hmmmmm….

In foosball, I’m so much better on the defensive end, that in a one-on-one game, I will typically just leave my offense up, and try to make stops and just shoot from the back row. It’s a liberating strategy, and typically effective with my skill set. This is Cincinnati.

Doug McDermott is a 6’8, 225 pound, Junior, Power Forward coached by his father, Greg McDermott, who averages 23 points and eight rebounds a game on 56% field goal shooting, including an alarming 50% from beyond the arc. He’s like a refined, not crazy, textbook version of Adam Morrison. The Creighton Bluejays scored 75 points a game on a league leading 50.8 field goal percentage. With McDermott shooting threes like free throws, it’s no wonder they regularly run their vanquished foes out of the gym.

Creighton: Offensive Efficiency 7th Defensive Efficiency 77th
Cincinnati: Offensive Efficiency 177th  Defensive Efficiency 12th

I think that pretty much speaks for itself.

Cincinnati does have good athletes, however, they have even better names. Cincy is my biggest contributor to the ALL-NAME TEAM.

Cincinnati will try to stop Doug McDermott with THESE NAMES:
·       Cheikh Mbodj
·       Titus Rubles
·       Sean Kilpatrick (might as well be KILL McDermott!?!??!)
·       Cashmere Wright
·       Ge’Lawn Guyn (McDermott, GET OFF MY LAWN!!!)
·       Justin Jackson (What now?)

Verdict: I think they will frustrate the chosen one, but ultimately, Doug McDermott doesn’t cry and hit himself with the basketball. I am not on campus right now, but I don’t think he’s growing a porn stache either. If Creighton gets past Cincy, I like them to upend Duke as well. Yikes. I wrote 500 words about Cincy vs. Creighton, but one quick take about how Duke will be much easier. That’s right.

No. 4 Syracuse vs. No. 13 Montana
Thursday 957pm


Quite simply, Jim Boheim has been coaching Syracuse for 137 years with the same 2-3 Zone defense predicated on the notion that you CANNOT get to the basket for easy shots, because all his players are 6’6 with huge wingspans and massive tree trunk frames or sleek, slender and long as a telephone tower. Seriously, six of their players are 6’8 or taller, and they all have long arms, typically at the end of the tunnel is a massive Redwood ready to swat the ball. They don’t want you going inside.

Montana, coincidentally for the stronghold of this piece, is one of the BEST three point shooting teams in the nation.  Percentage wise they are 18th in the nation, as well as 32nd in the nation at getting to the free throw line. This tells you that their forte is setting screens and getting the rack, but dishing out to a barrage of shooters: Kareem Jamar (36%), Jordan Gregory (44%), Will Cherry (28%, he makes them when he has to), Mike Weisner (46%).

That folks is how you beat the 2-3 Zone. Drive and dish.

I did, however, make this same suggestion, picking Montana over Wisconsin, LAST year, and it didn’t happen. They really don’t have the size to deal with Syracuse the least bit, the main problem for most mid-majors. Syracuse started hot and finished 8-8. It doesn’t matter. They should be able to squash Montana without much effort from sheer stature. Like a little boy vs. his dad on a kiddie hoop. Syracuse has ranked pretty well at stopping the three, 12th nationally, but I attribute this mostly to playing teams in the Big East that can’t shoot the three. Certainly, there isn’t another team that specializes in the dish and drive like Montana. Even if the size of ‘Cuse is apt to bother them, I’m apt to say…

That’s why they play the games folks.

Upset alert: I’m calling it again! Montana Grizzlies!

No. 7 Notre Dame vs. No 10. Iowa State
Friday 945pm


Notre Dame is poised and ready to disappoint their fan base with another early exit, while Iowa State marches back into another game they have a “punchers chance” at. Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg was an NBA player with a penchant for launching threes and his teams are no different. The offense is your basic four hunters and a barking dog to chase down the birds. Everyone that isn’t the “center” and I use that term loosely as Georges Niang is only 6’7, is setting pick-and-roll opportunities for bombs. They all jack at will.

This is one of the few ND teams I can remember that isn’t absolutely crippled if they don’t make threes. They have a big center, by the name of Jack Cooley, 6’9, regularly puts up 13-10, and most importantly isn’t a wuss. Everyone else can shoot the three, but it seems that they try to work it in for “better looks.” Statistically, they are the 13th most efficient offense, and in a league chock full of defense oriented teams, I’d say that’s not too shabby.

What makes this game interesting is, ND will probably eat the shot clock as much as they can. I would be real surprised if they shoot early in the shot clock and use the offensive end to limit possessions, while Iowa State will do the opposite to speed things up.

We have a real tempo grab on our hands. If Niang gets in foul trouble there is only one other guy that isn’t a guard to take his place. It should be a real nice day for Jack Cooley. If for some reason it’s not, another punchers chance for ISU against No. 2 Ohio State. The beauty of the college game, friends!

Spartan fan side note: You might recognize Garrick Sherman on the ND bench (he’s actually been working into the rotation!?) and of course starting PG Korie Lucious for Iowa St.

No. 8 Pittsburg vs. No. 9 Wichita State
Thursday 140pm


Both schools have a lot of new players, and are very liberal with substituting. In fact, both teams use 9-10 man rotations, keeping everyone most games under 28 minutes, with both teams having only one player in their starting lineup as a featured double-digit scorer (Wichita State also has one off the bench).

Both teams have size in spades and are hard-nosed teams that fight for the basketball. Neither team shoots incredibly well from the perimeter, so it’s going to be a hard fought, get to the basket and get your nose punched sort of game.

It’s like that scene in Face Off when Cage and Travolta are looking in the mirror, but at themselves, but they’re not what they see in the mirror, they are actually the opposite selves. There’s going to be some of that going on, while each fan base tries to identify their own players on the court. I hope they have names on their jersey’s!?!

Verdict: Who? What? Where? I’m confuuuuuuuuuuused….

Thursday, March 7, 2013

New Music: Day Joy, Go to Sleep, Mess

I've come across a dreamy folk band from Orlando, Florida. As you can see from the cover, it's right in my wheelhouse. Perhaps it's in...YOURS!?!?