Category Archives: Basketball

Reaction: Michigan State’s woes continue as the Spartans fall 58-57 at Michigan

Sunday’s afternoon showdown between Michigan and Michigan State was everything you would expect from a rivalry game featuring two top-10 teams.

No matter who you were rooting for, there was frustration. At times, the quality of play was below average. More often than not, the officiating was horrendous – on both sides.

Yet, at the end, both teams had a chance to win, but Trey Burke proved to be the difference in Michigan’s 58-57 victory.

With 4:36 remaining in the second half, Michigan led 52-42, and Michigan State’s offense was nowhere to be found. Behind Adreian Payne’s freakish athletic ability, Gary Harris’ clutch 3-point shooting, and some incomprehensible calls against Michigan, the Spartans went on a 14-4 run and tied the game at 56 with 54 seconds remaining.

Trey Burke was the difference for Michigan in Sunday's showdown. (Photo: Rick Osentoski, USA TODAY Sports)

Trey Burke was the difference for Michigan in Sunday’s showdown. (Photo: Rick Osentoski, USA TODAY Sports)

Still tied at 56 with under 30 seconds remaining, Appling brought the ball across half court, and seemed to be looking for Izzo to call a timeout when Burke poked the ball away and raced down the court to give Michigan a 58-56 lead.

After Nix split a pair of free throws, MSU fouled Mitch McGary with eight seconds left. McGary missed the front end of a 1-and-1, Payne grabbed the rebound and Izzo called a timeout with 4.9 seconds left.

Coming out of the timeout, Harris received the inbound pass from Appling and was doubled. Harris tried to pass to Appling in the corner, but it was stolen by Burke, sealing the Spartans’ fate.

Burke’s play at the end, and really the whole game, was the reason Michigan was able to revenge it’s blowout loss in East Lansing a few weeks ago. Burke finished with 21 points, eight assists, five steals, and four rebounds vaulting his name back into the National Player of the Year race.

Here’s what to take away:

Negatives:

–       The most glaring negative was MSU’s numerous turnovers. In total, the Spartans committed 18 turnovers compared to Michigan’s seven. The worst turnover of them all was probably Appling’s with 26 seconds left, but there numerous others. Multiple times in the first half, MSU threw the ball away inexcusably. MSU’s starters committed 17 turnovers, led by Nix with six. Even when MSU wasn’t turning the ball over, its offense could be described as chaotic at best, especially when Harris wasn’t on the floor.

–       Appling’s woes continued again, as he went 3-for-9 from the field and 0-for-3 from behind the arc. In his last five games, the point guard has connected on only 12 of his 48 shots, including two treys in 22 attempts. In that same amount of time, Appling has also committed 14 turnovers compared to 13 assists. There were times this afternoon against Michigan when he looked out of control and a fraction of what he could be. The talent is there, but it seems like something is going on inside Appling’s head.

If MSU wants to make a deep tournament run, it starts and ends with Keith Appling. (Photo:  Melanie Maxwell I AnnArbor.com)

If MSU wants to make a deep tournament run, it starts and ends with Keith Appling. (Photo: Melanie Maxwell I AnnArbor.com)

–       Because of Appling’s struggles over the past few weeks, Branden Dawson’s lackluster performances will go overlooked by many. Dawson scored two points and committed three turnovers in 24 minutes of playing time. Since scoring in double figures in 5-of-6 games starting with the Wisconsin game, Dawson has scored four, eight, eight, and two points respectively in his next four games. His aggressive nature seems to have disappeared for some reason, and it should be a big concern for the Spartans.

Positives:

–       Gary Harris and Adreian Payne continued to show why some NBA scouts have raved about their potential. Harris is MSU’s most consistent scorer and he continues to show up big when MSU needs a bucket most. In Payne’s last four games, he is averaging 15 points and 12 rebounds. Also, he’s demonstrated the ability to stretch the defense with his outside shooting, which should only help create space for others down the stretch. The duo were the only Spartans in double figures against Michigan, with Payne scoring 17 and Harris 16.

–       Despite the fact that MSU played awful, they were still in a position to win the game. The Spartans looked to be clearly the better team in the first half, and led 31-28 at halftime, but they struggled offensively in the second half. MSU ultimately came up one point short, but the Spartans battled back from down 10 in a hostile environment. If the Spartans can play that bad and almost win, it has to mean something, right?

With a Big Ten regular season title seemingly out of reach (Indiana clinched a share of the title and will clinch it outright with one more win), MSU must now focus on playing its best basketball come tournament time. The Spartans have two home games remaining (Wisconsin 3/7, Northwestern 3/10) and then the Big Ten tournament.

MSU has all the pieces to make a national championship run, but the Spartans need Appling and Dawson to return to form. While Payne and Harris are providing consistent offense, missing Dawson’s aggressive play has been hurtful. Dawson’s overall offensive skill set is raw, but his athletic ability is off the charts. Even without Dawson’s normal play, Appling could still lead this team to a national championship. Appling doesn’t need to score in double figures, he just has to run the offense without committing turnovers and make enough shots to force defenses to respect him. While this is MSU’s first three-game losing streak since late January 2011, it isn’t time to panic. There’s no shame in losing to Indiana, Ohio State, or Michigan, but those are all games MSU should’ve won.

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NBA Draft Reflection

 

It has been said, and I believe, that every person you interact with throughout your life has an impact on you one way or another. Some will impact you and who you become in multiple ways and others may only impact you in the slightest of ways that you don’t even realize it.

One of the things I’ve learned through my multiple coaches growing up was to not make knee-jerk reactions or statements. After a heart-breaking loss or a nail-biting win, your emotions run high and you may not look at things through a non-biased perspective.

Generally, the 24-hour rule is a good way to take a step back and analyze everything clearly. Obviously, some events — like the Red Wings climbing back from a 3-0 hole only to lose to the San Jose Sharks in Game 7 — may take more than 24 hours for you to recover from.

For draft night, a couple friends and I went to Buffalo Wild Wings to experience to draft in an exciting atmosphere – not to mention I wanted some boneless wings. Four hours, 60 picks and one swollen tongue later, the 24-hour rule was in full affect.

Now, approximately 37 hours later, here are my 2011 NBA Draft thoughts:

Kyrie Irving holds up his Cavaliers jersey after being introduced on Friday. Irving was selected first overall by the Cavaliers. in the NBA Draft.(Image via espn.com/ Tony Dejak/ AP Photo

  1. The Cavaliers played it safe with the selection of Kyrie Irving first overall, but then rolled the dice with the fourth pick by selecting Tristan Thompson. Thompson has a ton of upside — just as most of the lottery picks do — but many people. including myself think the Cavs reach for Thompson.
  2. ESPN absolutely blew it at staying current with draft trades. I understand that there were numerous trades happening but the fact that I had to stalk twitter to find out who was going where was a bit frustrating.
  3. The Utah Jazz made the right move in trading Deron Williams. The Jazz selected Enes Kanter third overall and then selected Alec Burks 12th overall. They also received Derrick Favors from New Jersey and seem to have built a nice young core for the future. With Sloan, Williams and Boozer all gone, the Jazz seem to have started their new era off with a bang.
  4. The Detroit Pistons draft left me with mixed emotions as I exited Buffalo Wild Wings. Thirty-seven hours later, I’m still not sure what to think. I love the fact that Joe Dumars didn’t get cute and instead drafted the best player available. Nobody expected Knight to be there and he has the skills and work ethic to be great if he figures it out. I love that he comes from a Jon Calipari program which has a history of producing excellent point guards. I hate that he is another combo guard in an already crowded Pistons’ backcourt.

    On the other hand, I like the Singler pick more than most. First off, he played, won, and then won some more at Duke under Coach K. Also, the kid is long, lanky and tough — something that can’t be taught. In a hard-working city like Detroit, Singler should fit right in.

  5. The Pistons now have players with the last name of Knight and Daye. I wonder how many times that will be mentioned in broadcasts. Lets set the over/under at 5 million.
  6. I don’t understand what the Sacramento Kings were thinking during this draft and I’m not quite sure they knew what they were doing either. Forget the fact that I like the Tyler Honeycutt pick at 35 and the Isaiah Thomas pick at 60, the trade they made was bizarre. Jimmer was a special talent to watch in college but I’m not so sure he will translate to the NBA. I hope he proves me wrong because everyone loves some JIMMER!
  7. The amount of players taken from outside the United States seemed to be much more than in years’ past. After 37 hours, I’m fairly confident I couldn’t pronounce 5 of their names correctly.
  8. The fact that Ron Artest now wants to change his name to Metta World Peace is beyond puzzling to me. Someone who was known for the brawl at the Palace and his physical, tough, shutdown defense is now putting World Peace in his name. Can anyone explain this to me?
  9. Things for Michael Jordan and the Charlotte Bobcats may be turning around. The Bobcats were able to steal Kemba Walker at 9 after getting Bismack Biyombo at 7 via Sacramento. Biyombo could be one of the best interior defenders next year. Walker is a winner and is a tough as nails, something the Bobcats lacked.
  10. I feel bad for Darius Morris. Morris left the University of Michigan early and most mock drafts had him as a middle-to-late first round draft pick. Instead, Morris fell all the way to the Los Angeles Lakers at 41 in the middle of the second round. Morris left a chance to play on a very good Michigan team and possibly improve his draft stock to a lottery pick if he performed well. Even as a Spartan, I hope things work out for Morris and that he becomes on of the steals of the draft.

Whether your favorite team had a good draft, bad draft, or was in the middle of the road it will all become second fiddle in a few days. The NBA is inevitably set to go into a lockout in the middle of next week. Instead of hoping that your young prospect takes the next step, let’s all just hope there is basketball for the 2011-12 season.

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Loyalty Pays Off for Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks

Chalk one up for the good guys.

It was a battle of good versus evil and loyalty versus betrayal, the final score reads 4-2 in the favor of the good and loyal.

The 2011 NBA Final ended just as you would expect every fairy tale or super hero movie to end — with the good guys on top.

Sunday night, with a 105-95 victory in Game 6, Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks finished off the Miami Heat and sent LeBron James back to South Beach to rediscover his talents.

Sweet, sweet victory! Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd and Jason Terry celebrate beating the Miami Heat 105-95 in Game 6 of the NBA Finals and becoming the 2011 NBA Champions. (Image via nydailynews.com/ AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

The journey traveled by these two teams is as different as day and night and winning and losing.

This past summer, while LeBron James was betraying the city of Cleveland and teaming up with Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade to create the most hated team in the NBA, Dirk Nowitzki remained loyal and returned to Mark Cuban and the Mavericks.

LeBron James was possibly the most courted superstar free agent in NBA history. Dirk Nowitzki was possibly the least courted superstar in NBA history. According to Marc Stein of ESPN, the one and only team to reach out to Nowitzki was Dallas.

Heading into the season, everyone expected the Heat to contend and possibly win the NBA title, the Dallas Mavericks on the other hand, were an afterthought.

 

Heading into the 2011 NBA Finals, everyone expected the Heat to dominate the Mavericks and deprive Nowitzki of his one final goal: an NBA championship.

Heading into the offseason, everyone should be scratching their head and wondering what in the world just happened while the other 29 NBA teams ponder why they didn’t even put in a call to Nowitzki.

Was it his ‘soft’ reputation? Or maybe teams felt he was too old to build around? Could it have been his record of underachieving in the playoffs and his inability to win it all?

Whatever it was, Nowitzki proved everyone wrong, including me. I didn’t expect the Mavericks to make it out of the first round. When they did, I thought there was no way they were taking down the two-time defending NBA Champion Lakers. In the conference finals, I believed this was the Thunder’s year and Kevin Durant would shine.

My pick for the NBA Finals was the Heat in five. The Heat were playing too well. Wade, James and Bosh were on a mission and an old Jason Kidd, a soft Dirk Nowitzki and a streaky Jason Terry weren’t going to stand in their way.

Not only did they stand in their way, the Mavericks stopped the Heat dead in their tracks and then decided to trample over them as they raced ahead to hoist the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy.

The Heat needed the arrogant and self-centered James that starred in “The Decision,” not the insecure and unconfident James that shows up on the big stage. Maybe the series would have ended differently had James performed the way we expected him to, but he didn’t.

Sunday night, Dirk Nowitzki finally won his first NBA championship and was awarded the Most Valuable Player award.

One day, LeBron James may achieve both of those feats, but Nowitzki also accomplished something LeBron James will never be able to do: Nowitzki promised the city of Dallas a championship, and he delivered; James promised the city of Cleveland a championship, but ended up ripping their hearts out on national television.

The summer of 2010 for LeBron James was definitely a rough one. After choking in the finals and acting ignorant, childish and senseless during the post-series press conferences, the summer of 2011 could be even worse. And, to top it all off, James gets to return to the broken-hearted state of Ohio for the offseason. Oh how sweet it is.

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Has Time Run Out on the Lakers?

Dirk Nowitzki pressured by Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol in the second quarter of Game 3. The Mavericks went on to win Game 3 98-92 and took a 3-0 series lead on the defending NBA Champions. (Image via John F. Rhodes SportsDayDFW)

After falling to the Dallas Mavericks 98-92 on Friday night, many Los Angeles Lakers fans must be thinking to themselves “Ahh! There are two red buttons! Which one should I press?”

The answer to that question all depends on who you are.

If you’re a diehard Lakers fan that considers themselves a part of the team, that goes through the ups and downs just as the players do, that loses sleep over every missed buzzer-beater and celebrates in jubilation with every made buzzer-beater then press the left button. If you’re a diehard Lakers fan that eats, sleeps and breathes Laker basketball then it’s about time you press the left “Panic” button.

If you’re the classic bandwagon fan that jumps on whichever team is doing the best, that acts like you’re a part of the fan base but runs whenever the teams starts heading downhill then press the right button. If you’re a bandwagon Lakers fan that isn’t emotionally attached the the team, you should definitely press the right “Eject” button to eject yourself off the bandwagon.

The Lakers headed into the season as the favorite in the Western Conference to make it back to the NBA Finals. After all, they were the two-time-defending NBA Champions with Kobe Bryant and a boatload of interior size.

As the Lakers’ season unfolded, some doubts squeezed their way into the heads of the fans, media and possibly even the players. Then, the Lakers went on a ridiculous stretch after the All Star break and squashed the doubts anyone once had. With the end of the season nearing, the Lakers tried to snatch away the #1 seed in the Western Conference from the San Antonio Spurs but failed and tumbled to the finish line.

Heading into the playoffs, the Lakers were still everyone’s favorite despite their inconsistent play. Everyone assumed the Lakers would flip the switch. Even if the switch stalled for a few games, they had Kobe Bryant, arguably the best player in the NBA. The Thunder were a year away, the Spurs were too old, the Nuggets had their “Melo-drama,” and the Dirk Nowitzki led Mavericks were your classic choke artists who were too soft to hang with the Lakers.

With the Game 3 loss in Dallas and the Lakers face a daunting task — to become the first team in NBA history to come back from being down 3-0 in a series — it’s safe to say we were wrong.

  1. The Oklahoma City Thunder are ready to contend this year. The maturation of Russel Westbrook and Kevin Durant has happened right before our eyes. The trade deadline acquisition of Kendrick Perkins makes the long, big and physical on the interior and a true force to reckon with in the NBA.
  2. There was more to the Lakers than just flipping a switch. After Game 2, Andrew Bynum noted “trust issues” in the Lakers’ locker room. It’s quite possible that a few of the Lakers flipped the switch, but the rest of the team didn’t.
  3. Most importantly, the Dallas Mavericks haven’t been choke artists and have proven they aren’t too soft to hang with the Lakers. In fact, the Mavericks have been clutch in the series against the Lakers. Twice this series, the Mavericks have come from behind in the 4th quarter to beat the Lakers. In the 4th quarter alone, the Mavericks have outscored the Lakers 82-55.

If you pressed the “Panic” button, you should be worried about the future of the Lakers. If you pressed the “Eject” button, don’t expect to be back on the Lakers bandwagon anytime soon. With a core group of players over the age of 30, the Lakers aren’t getting younger, and the West is only going to be getting better. The window of the Lakers’ dominance is rapidly closing and being swept by the Mavericks may only kick it into high speed.

Tonight, the Boston Celtics look to avoid falling into a 3-0 hole just as the Lakers did. With the series heading back to Boston and Shaq returning, the spirits of Boston fans must be higher than those of the Lakers. Talk about adding insult to injury.

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NFL Draft Rounds 2-7 and NBA Playoffs Round 2

The NFL Draft is officially over and there were multiple winners and losers in the draft.

The ultimate winner was us, the fans. The constant back-and-forth bickering between the NFL and the players is obnoxious. The state of the lockout changing what seems like every other day is frustrating. The fact that the NFL and the players can’t find a way to split 9 billion dollars is ridiculous.

With the state of the NFL season up in the air, the draft was a chance for fans to attempt to forget about the lockout. Whether your team drafted someone you loved or hated, it was nice to think about your team’s issues on the field football, rather than off the field. Here are some of my thoughts from Rounds 2-7:

  1. Detroit Lions: The Lions made a risky, but great pick in Nick Fairley. Fairley could be a bust or he could be terrifying for opposing offenses. In the second round, the Lions drafted WR Titus Young from Boise State and then traded up to select RB Mikel LeShoure from Illinois. Last year, the Lions struggled on defense, not so much offense. I  like the picks, just not where they were selected. If the Lions wanted to reach or take a chance on a player, it should have been on defense. Either Suh and Fairley along with the rest of the D-Line will have to get immediate pressure on the QB, or the secondary will struggle again.
  2. New England Patriots: Another team that made some interesting picks that surprised many people. They selected one cornerback and two running backs in the middle round. One of the many needs experts felt the Patriots needed to address was their inconsistent pass rush. Apparently, there wasn’t a player on the board the Patriots liked.  Once again, they compiled draft picks for the future and now have two picks in Round 1 and Round 2 in 2012.
  3. Ryan Mallet: If I was a QB, who had off-the-field issues, and wanted to make a smooth transition to the NFL, the one team I would want to be drafted by was the New England Patriots. Well, Ryan Mallet got Christmas in April. Mallet gets to go the Patriots, learn from Brady and Belichick. Whether Mallet is the successor the Brady is questionable, but whether he will learn and become a better QB is almost certain.
  4. Da’Quan Bowers: Bowers, who was once considered to be the #1 pick in the draft, fell all the way to the 51st overall pick to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Buccaneers win with the pick but the fall for Bowers must’ve been disappointing. With health concerns surrounding Bowers, teams must have been scared to take a chance on his risky knees. Bowers will have a chance to succeed in Tampa, and it would not surprise me if he is beyond motivated in his rookie season. The rest of the NFC South better look out.

Today marks the start of the second round of the NBA Playoffs and there are some interesting match-ups. After going 6-2 in the first round, I was feeling pretty good about myself, but these series could go either way. Here are my picks:

Eastern Conference:

1 Bulls vs 5 Hawks

The Bulls beat the Pacers in 5 but did not look impressive while doing it. The Hawks were impressive in taking down the Orlando Magic and Dwight Howard but Kirk Hinrich sustained a knee injury at the end of the series. Hinrich-Rose was going to be a huge key for the series but now Rose will dominate. The Bulls got some needed postseason experience and will dominate the Hawks.

Bulls in 5

2 Miami Heat vs 3 Boston Celtics

Do I need to say more about these two teams? If you followed basketball this year, you know that these two teams hate each other. The Heat’s Big Three looked good in the first round against Philadelphia and will take on Boston’s Big Three + One that was just as impressive in the first round. The Celtics won the regular season series but lost the last time these two teams met. The Celtics aren’t as big as they were last year after the Perkins trade, but the Heat aren’t the team that will exploit their weakness.

Celtics in 7

Western Conference

2 Los Angeles Lakers vs 3 Dallas Mavericks

The Lakers gave everyone a scare when the Hornets tied the series up 2-2 heading back to L.A. The Lakers then turned the switch and dominated the Hornets to take the series in 6. The Mavericks beat the Blazers in 6 which came as a surprise to me. The Mavericks were a dangerous team throughout the year but tailed off heading into the playoffs. Kobe looks healthy after his foot injury and Bynum looks healthy after his knee injury. The Lakers won’t bow out this early and have the experience to come back if they happen to fall behind.

Lakers in 6

4 Oklahoma City Thunder vs 8 Memphis Grizzlies

The Thunder took down the Denver Nuggets, who many pegged as a dangerous team in the Western Conference. Kevin Durant looked mature and calm while leading his team to multiple close fourth-quarter wins. The Grizzlies knocked off the Spurs who were the #1 seed in the Western Conference. They were physical inside on defense and offense and got consistent play out of Zach Randolph. Shane Battier gives them another shutdown defender and a veteran presence in the locker room. The Thunder may be young, but they are big and talented. The Perkins trade was pure genius by the Thunder and it will pay dividends immediately.

Thunder in 6

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Hockey, Basketball and Football, Oh My!

What. A. Week.

We just crossed over the “hump” and I’m already physically and emotionally exhausted. I’m like a defensive lineman returning a fumble 60 yards for a touchdown. Find me the oxygen tanks! ASAP! I’m not saying I’m as big as a defensive lineman, but you get the analogy.

This week has been beyond intense: My blood pressure has definitely gone up. My ability to focus on anything other than sports has been disabled. There have been multiple occasions of cheering in jubilation or screaming in disbelief, which leaves me surprised my neighbors haven’t complained yet.

Speaking of cheering/screaming, I was almost 100 percent sure the police where going to show up at my house when Landon Donovan scored the game-winning goal against Algeria in the 91st minute. Absolutely incredible. The World Cup has  to be one of the most exciting things in the world of sports. Another dramatic and electrifying event in sports? Game 7.

In the first round of the 2011 NHL Playoffs, 4 out of the 8 series were decided by a Game 7. Two of the 4 series that went to a Game 7 also needed overtime to see who would be heading on to the next round.

The effort, heart, will, passion and never-give-up attitude on display during the first round of the NHL Playoffs was extraordinary. The teams not fortunate to make it out of the first round should keep their heads held high, their efforts were commendable.

Note to the Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins: Better luck next year. Enjoy the golf courses, you will not be missed.

In an effort to have this blog post remain a blog post and not a 5-page essay, I will do my best to be clear, concise and correct.

After going 6-2 in the first round of the NHL Playoffs we move on to the second round:

(Remember, I’ll try to keep these short)

Western Conference

1 Vancouver Canucks vs 5 Nashville Predators

Vancouver needed 7 games plus OT to knock of the Blackhawks. They have to be feeling the effects of the long series physically and mentally. The Predators are underrated and play great defense, They may surprise some people.

Canucks in 7

2 San Jose Sharks vs 3 Detroit Red Wings

Yes, the Detroit Red Wings are still in the playoffs in case you forgot about them, everyone else seemed to. The Sharks needed 3 OT wins to beat the Kings and Niemi didn’t look too solid. The Wings get healthy and are well rested for a tough match-up with the Sharks. Jimmy Howard’s play will be crucial this series.

Wings in 6

Eastern Conference

1 Washington Capitals vs 5 Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning, meet the Pittsburgh Penguins 2.0. The Capitals can defend and rough you up, while having the ability to finesse their way to some truly beautiful goals. Ovechkin is healthy and Stamkos was largely absent in the Pittsburgh series.

Capitals in 6

2 Philadelphia Flyers vs 3 Boston Bruins

They meet again. Last year, the Flyers came back from down 3-0 to win a Game 7 against the Bruins. The Flyers looked like their old self in Game 7 against Buffalo. The Bruins special teams was pathetic the whole series against the Canadiens and they were undisciplined. The Flyers seem to be regaining their confidence again.

Flyers in 6

Now that I’ve covered the main source of my exhaustion, let’s move on to basically everything else happening excluding baseball because it’s a 162-game season and there is a lot of time left to discuss baseball.

The NBA Playoffs have been somewhat entertaining this year. The Thunder look dangerous. The Lakers look lackadaisical . The Heat look like they may have figured it out. The Magic look lost. The Celtics dismantled the Knicks and the Grizzlies look to become the second 8 seed to knock off a 1 seed while Derrick Rose continues to prove he’s the MVP  The first round of the playoffs hasn’t been close to matching the intensity of the NHL Playoffs but the second round should provide the match-ups we’ve been hoping for.

When news broke about Jim Tressel and the trouble he was in I could not hold back my smile. My smile then turned to laughter and then I was struck with a fearful thought: Urban Meyer. Now, thanks to Urban’s daughter Nicki Meyer, I don’t have to worry about that. Nicki said on twitter, “Stop txting me abt my dad. HE IS NOT repeat NOT, GOING TO OHIO STATE. thanks.” The more trouble Tressel gets himself into, the more I am not surprised. It was bound to happen. Now I just hope the NCAA doesn’t shy away from a harsh punishment.

Finally, today marks Day 1 of the NFL Draft. I debated making a mock draft but decided it was silly. I’m a 20-year-old college student who loves sports. I don’t have connections to people in the NFL or NCAA. I don’t know what teams are thinking and who they are leaning towards. Instead of playing “eni meeni mini mo” with 4 different mock drafts to compile my own, I decided you could do that yourself. Instead, I am going to give my winners and losers after the first round. Granted, I’m not sure how accurate that will be, but it should be entertaining.

Kick back, relax, and take pleasure in an action-packed Thursday with the NHL Playoffs, NBA Playoffs and NFL Draft all set to make my brain explode by 10PM.

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2011 NBA Playoffs Preview

The NBA playoff teams were set a long time ago, but it came down to the last game of the season to finalize the first round match-ups.

In the West. the Lakers did just enough down the stretch to secure the 2-seed in the West and face a New Orleans team without David West. In the East, Chicago cruised after the All Star break and locked up the 1-seed in the NBA. Miami edged out Boston in a crucial head-to-head match-up to hold the 2-seed in the East.

The 2011 NBA playoffs should be one the most entertaining in recent years and could be as competitive as ever. This should sound familiar but, here are my first round picks:

Eastern Conference

1 Chicago Bulls vs 8 Indiana Pacers

Do you really think Derrick Rose will let his team go out in the first round? With home-court advantage? Didn’t think so. Rose and the Bulls take care of business and get some needed playoff experience.

Pick: Chicago in 5

2 Miami Heat vs 7 Philadelphia 76ers

Once again, do you think LeBron James AND Dwyane Wade will let their team bow out in the first round? As much as I hate “LePrince,” I think he gets the job done. James and Wade have taken worse teams deeper in the playoffs than the 2010-11 Miami Heat.

Pick: Miami in 5

3 Boston Celtics vs 6 New York Knicks

The “Big 3 Plus 1” vs the “Big 2 Plus 1.” This is the most star-studded series featuring Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rando, Ray Allen, Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billips and Amare Stoudemire. There is no doubt the Celtics haven’t been the same since the perplexing Kendrick Perkins trade but luckily for Boston, the Knicks don’t know how to play defense. Rondo should expose the Knicks and the Celtics should move on to the next round leaving the Knicks saying a far too familiar motto, “wait ‘til next year!”

Pick: Boston in 5

4 Orlando Magic vs 5 Atlanta Hawks

These two teams met in the second round last year and it wasn’t even a series. The Magic swept the Hawks and completely dominated them in every aspect of the game. The Magic are a dark horse in the Eastern Conference because of their ability to hit the three pointer. Dwight Howard needs to have a large impact on the series for the Magic to win.

Pick: Orlando in 6

Western Conference

1 San Antonio Spurs vs 8 Memphis Grizzlies

San Antonio jumped out to a historic start and many believed they would never look back. Well, they didn’t look back, they ran back. The Spurs are deadly when healthy but head into the playoffs with Manu Ginobili being banged up. The Grizzlies provide many match-ups problems and possess two shutdown defenders in Shane Battier and Tony Allen. Although the Spurs have the better coach, better team and more experience, I’m calling an upset. The Grizzlies shock the 1-seed in the West and move on to the next round. Knowing my luck, the Spurs will sweep the Grizzlies and I will look idiotic. Consider yourself warned.

Pick: Memphis in 7

2 Los Angeles Lakers vs 7 New Orleans Hornets

Who thinks Chris Paul can beat the Lakers all by himself? Anyone? For the Hornets to beat the Lakers, that’s what needs to happen. Losing David West to a torn ACL put the Hornets playoff hopes in the incinerator. The Lakers should win this series with ease, but their long-term playoff hopes rely on the health of Andrew Bynum and his unstable knees.

Pick: Lakers in 5

3 Dallas Mavericks vs 6 Portland Trail Blazers

Here is Upset #2. The Mavericks have gone on tears this season but come into the playoffs playing less than stellar basketball. The Trail Blazers cause many match-up problems and the evolution of LaMarcus Aldrige make the Trail Blazers a team many should look out for. The mid-season acquisition of Gerald Wallace pays dividends and the Trail Blazers send home the Mavericks early.

Pick: Trail Blazers in 6

4 Oklahoma City Thunder vs 5 Denver Nuggets

If I could choose one series to watch, it would be this one. The Nuggets have transformed into a legitimate threat to the Western Conference with the departure of Carmelo Anthony. Ty Lawson and Raymond Felton are quick and dangerous around the rim while Danilo Gallinari has the ability to create his own shot. The Thunder are just as lethal as the Nuggets. Between Russel Westbrook and Kevin Durant, they have two players who can beat you by themselves. The addition of Kendrick Perkins gives the Thunder ridiculous amounts of length and makes them tough around the rim. The Nuggest will give the Thunder a run for their money, but will ultimately miss the absence of a superstar.

Pick: Thunder in 6

Get ready for some intense, competitive basketball. As Dickie V would say, “IT’S GONNA BE AWESOME BABY!”

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