Thursday, January 30, 2014

Your Guide to the Battle In the Big Apple

Two number 1 seeds, both 13-3, 7-1 at home, 6-2 on the road, two very hot kickers, and the best offense versus the best defense. Yeah, it's the super bowl, and yeah Roger Goodell has attempted to ruin it by throwing it in damn 10 degree weather. When you throw Peyton Manning's touchdown factory in freezing conditions, it's advantage to the opponent and in this case the Seahawks. Why can't we see these two teams playing in 68 degrees in Miami? It just appears to be the most fair from the beginning of the season, but now we are faced with a matchup with one team relying on the pass with an okay defense squaring off against a dominant defense and an offense based on running the ball…. Why in the biggest game of the season does the weather have to be a factor in the game where we are trying to decide who the best team in the league is? Especially with Peyton's track record in the cold…. Anyway, let's get to the action, because it's going to be one hell of a game.

What's At Stake?: I mean this question in terms of beyond the rings. For Peyton Manning, whose future is in question due to his lingering neck issues, it's a chance to make his case for the greatest of all time by capping off a record setting season by topping one of the best defenses we've seen in the last decade. For Champ Bailey, it's a future hall of famer's chance to capture his first super bowl in his first trip. On the other side of the ball, this is the chance to start a dynasty. A few guys on that team are due for big paydays in two years(Wilson Sherman etc.) and a win here might convince some guys to take less money for a couple of years in order to possibly start a dynasty. For Pete Carroll, its a chance to win a title at the college and pro level, a feat only Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer have accomplished.

Where is the most important battle in terms of scheming?: Sheriff Manning will be using Omaha in an effort to confuse the extremely talented Seattle secondary highlighted by Richard Sherman. Peyton Manning loves mind games, but Sherman earlier in the week said "I think most of it is meaningless" well, come Sunday that theory will be put to the test as Manning loves to chatter on almost every snap.

Will Percy Harvin have a big impact? He's going to need to because this Seattle receiving core is pretty bad, Doug Baldwin, Golden Tate, and Jermaine Curse aren't the most talented receiving corse out there despite the immense praise Russell Wilson gives them. The answer is yes, but let's be honest he's probably going to get knocked out on the first play of the game.

Key Matchup: No surprise here, the boisterous Richard Sherman will be tasked with covering the extremely reserved Demaryius Thomas. The two have had words exemplifying nothing but respect for each other, but Thomas made a more surprising comment saying, "everyone has a weakness" and when asked what that weakness was he smiled and said "you will have to wait until Sunday to see." Look for a physical battle between two of the best athletes at their respective permission. Whichever player gives their team an edge will most likely come out on the winning side.

Prediction Time: I don't think the first quarter is going to be to high scoring, and I expect things to pick up as the game goes along. Russell Wilson will be looking to make plays because the Seahawks offense tends to stagnate at times and Wilson has the ability to escape the pocket and make plays that few guys in this league can make. Wilson's success will dictate the success of the Hawks offense due to the fact the Broncos are most likely going to sell out on the run and leave one-on-one match ups on the outside. But, Peyton Manning knows whats on the line and they have so many weapons. I know how elite this Seattle defense is, but the Broncos offense is slightly better. Peyton Wins MVP in a (26-22) victory in the Big Apple.-Josh Neighbors

Photo credit: ESPN,, CBS sports, and

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Association Bound: A look at one of the deepest NBA drafts in history

The hype for the 2014 NBA Draft has been incredible, as there are 5 or 6 prospects that would be #1 selections in any other draft. All of these players have been under the microscope every game, and have not disappointed. Let's assess the performances of these players thus far and rank them where we think they will be selected in this years draft.
Future top pick Jabari Parker throws down nasty between the legs jam. (photo credit
Future top pick Jabari Parker throws down nasty between the legs jam. (photo credit
#1 Jabari Parker: 6-8 Forward, Duke: grade A
Jabari established himself as the most NBA ready player in early November as he scored over 20 points each of his first 7 games. With his incredible size, offensive versatility, solid defense, and leadership Parker is an NBA coaches dream. He's struggled thus far in ACC play, but you can't expect him to be lights out in every game. The ideal situation for him would be going to Utah, and yes that is partially because he is mormon. Also because Utah needs a guy like this, and building between Gordon Hayward and Jabari Parker will be very easy. That is a tandem that will be a force to be reckoned with in a few years. Parker, if he stays healthy, is going to be at worse a very productive NBA player, but his potential…. wow.

#2 Joel Embiid: 7-0 Center, Kansas: grade A-
Andrew Wiggins was all they could talk about in Lawrence Kansas heading into this season, but the real star has been the 7 foot monster from Cameroon, Joel Embiid. Thanks to Luke Richard Mbah-Moute, he came to America to play for the Jayhawks and NBA scouts cannot get enough of this guy. He's got the post moves, he's got the 2nd highest shooting percentage in the country, he hits his free throws and he is developing an outside game. He does struggle with foul issues, and always with big men injuries are a concern, but Embiid has some real potential. I was most impressed with his game recently against Iowa State, a game in which he scored 16 points, grabbed 9 boards, and had 5 blocks. His best moment was when he stepped out to defend the Cyclones best play DeAndre Cane with a minute left to go. He used great footwork, forcing Cane left, and keeping his arms straight up, ultimately causing Cane to throw a brick off the backboard. The best fit for him would be the Celtics, who are very undersized with Jared Sullinger and Brandon Bass. If the Celtics can retain Rondo, I'd love to see the pick and roll develop between those two guys. Big men are always a risk, but I feel defensive players are bust proof and Embiid can at least be a very effective rim protector and shot alterer.
#3 Andrew Wiggins: 6-8 Forward, Kansas: grade B+
Frosh sensation Andrew Wiggins has raw talent NBA coaches can;t wait to get their hands on(photo credit
Frosh sensation Andrew Wiggins has raw talent NBA coaches can;t wait to get their hands on(photo credit
By far the most hyped player coming into this season, and he's played really well. Looking at the team he is on, it's not his job to score 30 points every night. With guys like Nadier Tharpe, Joel Embiid, Perry Ellis, and Wayne Selden it doesn't have to be the Andrew Wiggins show every night as much as we'd all like to see that. He's a prolific scorer, a fantastic rebounder, and a great defender due to his athleticism. I would like to see him distribute the basketball more often, but that starts with head coach Bill Self giving Wiggins ball handling responsibilities. This is another guy with an incredible ceiling, but I think it might take him a little longer in the NBA. One thing is for sure, once he does get it, this kid will explode on the NBA scene. Definitely a player a team like Utah could use.

#4 Julius Randle 6-9 Power Forward, Kentucky: grade A-
When I see Julius Randle play, his tenacity, hustle, power, and will to win stick out to me. He isn't the most polished post player, when he gets to the NBA he's undersized, but he does a lot of little things really well. When it comes to boxing out, Randle is the best in the NCAA. He's had double digit rebounds in all but 4 of 16 games this season. His power and ability to embrace contact gives him the ability to get to the line over 10 times a game each night. A couple issues I have with Randle is that he can be reckless and guys who play his style are injury pone. Also, Randle tends to get caught with his hands down on defense which Coach John Calapari has addressed several time. Yet, I have never seen a guy with the combination of leadership and heart Randle possesses. NBA GM's are in love with the mental edge Randle has, and its abundantly clear that this freshman is the leader of the Kentucky Wildcats. Averaging 17 and 11, Randle is establishing himself as a power in the SEC and you can see the fear in defenders eyes when he comes barreling down the lane. The Orlando Magic could definitely use Randle as a compliment to Nikola Vucevic.
There is a good chance Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart will be the first point guard drafted in the 2014 NBA Draft. (photo credit
There is a good chance Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart will be the first point guard drafted in the 2014 NBA Draft. (photo credit

#5 Marcus Smart 6-4 Point Guard, Oklahoma State: grade B+
I love big point guards, and at 6-4 220 Marcus Smart is a big point guard. He does a little bit of everything, he can handle the ball, drive, shoot from deep, distribute, rebound, and he's not a bad defender. In a game against Memphis this season, Smart scored 39 points, went 5-10 from behind the arc, went to the free throw line 16 times, and managed to rack up 4 assists, 4 rebounds, and 5 steals. That's what scouts love most about Smart, his ability to have huge nights is very appealing to scouts. Also, with the recent success of bigger point guards like Michael Carter Williams, Grevious Vasquez, Saun Livingston(recently), and Steph Curry have seen scouts change the way they look at the point guard position. Smart also has the versatility to play some shooting guard and small forward. I could see Smart falling to a team like the Lakers, a team in need of fresh blood at the point guard position.

Honorable Mention:
 Aaron Gordon is the player everyone loves to compare to Blake Griffin. The 6-9 225 lb forward for the Arizona Wildcats has been incredibly solid this year for the #1 ranked team in the country. Shooting over 50% from the floor, scoring 12.4 points per game, and averaging close to 8 rebounds per contest Gordon is a smart big man who sees the talent around him and knows there is no need for him to score 2o points a night. Senior guard Nick Johnson and Gordon are by far the best 1-2 scoring punch in the Pac-12 and arguably the country. Effective, efficient, and intelligent is how I would describe those two especially Gordon. Although he only averages 1.2 assists per game, you can see that he has really worked on his ability to pass out of the post. Gordon might not make an instant impact in the association, but he will be consistent in his production and his development in the NBA.
Australian teenager Dante Exum is poised to be the next big point guard in the NBA (photo credit
Australian teenager Dante Exum is poised to be the next big point guard in the NBA (photo credit
Dante Exum is another one of those tall point guards that are becoming very coveted in the NBA. With a 6-6 188 lb build, he is much like Michael Carter Williams in stature. His father played on Michael Jordan's UNC team,so basketball is in this kids genes. Anyone who has seen this kid talk knows he is intelligent and incredibly humble. The 18 year old Australian is considering coming to the states for a year of college ball instead of jumping straight to the pros. With smarts, size, and versatility, Exum is a lock to be a top 7 guy, the only knock against him is the fact he's from a foreign country which means less exposure.

Dario Saric is the player who scares the most GMs in this draft because European big men are very hit or miss. The 6-10 225 lb Croatian teenager considers himself a small forward, which was shocking when I first heard it but after watching him play he can do things only guys like Dirk Nowitski can do. Incredibly versatile, incredibly smart, and surprisingly strong are three of the attributes I like best about Saric. He's not soft and embraces contact. He knows how to position himself against different defensive looks and plays with a high basketball IQ offensively. The big question is how will he make the switch from the Croatian league to the NBA where he will be checking the worlds most superior athletes. He would be a top 10 pick, but his defensive and character flaws are well noted by NBA scouts. He needs a team with solid veteran leadership and someone who can take him under their wing to guide this potential star. Saric has an incredibly high ceiling, and is one of the top 5 most talented guys in the draft, but like many european bigs before him he is defined by the questions which arise from his game.
Before the year is done the order in which these prospects will shift, sometimes it changes daily. One thing is for sure, this draft is going to produce multiple superstars in the NBA. Come march in this college basketball season I expect each of these stars to rise to the occasion and put their incredible talent on full display.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

NFL Divisional Round Preview(With some lines)

Coming off of the most watched, and arguably the most entertaining wildcard weekend for some time, we are left with two 6 seeds, a 5 seed(KC should have made two) and a 4. All of these squads will be on the road and, with the exception of Indianapolis, on the road for the 2nd straight week. Let's run through the game, I will give you my predictions and a little gambling advice.

#6 New Orleans Saints @ #1 Seattle Seahawks: Line SEA-8
"It's tough to beat a time twice in the NFL." I say nay to those inclined to use this cliche to describe this game. The Seahawks walloped the Saints (34-7) back in week 13, but since that game the Seahawks offense has been stagnant since that game, averaging 17.5 points per game in the last 4 games in which they have gone (2-2). A lot of it actually has been the defense making huge plays and putting the Hawks' offense in position to score. Rumors of Percy Harvin's return have been swirling, but Seattle fans should be skeptical. The Saints looked incredibly comfortable on the road in by far the most hostile environment of the four games last weekend, notching a (26-24) last second win by the foot of Shane Graham. I like the Seahawks in this game (23-17), so obviously I like the Saints to cover if your going wager. I think because of their offensive issues this game stays close, but the Seattle defense is to damn good to let them lose this one.

#4 Indianapolis Colts @ #2 New England Patriots: Line NEW -7.5

I don't care who he is throwing to, Brady, at home, in a playoff game, give me the Pats all day. I wouldn't bet this game, but I think we have another close game, I think the Colts cover in a loss.

#5 San Francisco @ #2 Carolina Panthers: Line CAR +3
In the words of Connor Jones, the 49ers are the "trendy pick" right now in the NFC. My only concern for the the 49ers is how is Kaepernick's frost bight after last weeks game in Green Bay? Will he still have arms when he walks out on to the field this week? If he does, I like the 49ers. The Carolina offense really isn't that efficient and I think this 49ers offense is in attack mode right now. Give me San Fran -3 and they will set up an all West NFC Title game next week.

#6 San Diego Charger @ #1 Denver Broncos: Line Den - 10
The San Diego Chargers have done it in Denver before, and they will do it again this week. They will not be able to get any pressure on Phillip Rivers and I think he shreds this defense. The secondary for the Chargers played great last week against the Bengals and did not receive the proper credit for their performance last week, Particularly Shareece Wright. It's Peyton in the playoffs, it's cold, the Chargers are playing with house money, why not them? I will only admit this once in my career as a journalist; this could be a total flop of a pick, Chargers -10.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2013 Under Review: A Year Worth Remembering

There are a lot of beautiful things about sports. The would of sports provide excitement and entertainment, and they are a way of life for people across the entire globe. The nonstop action a sporting event provides is riveting, yes, but there is something more that makes sports so paramount in the lives of so many. With every year, fans embark on a journey with an unknown destination, and when this journey takes place, something new commences before their eyes. Every season and every year provides new excitement and a new journey, whether its records being shattered, curses being broken, or streaks being launched, every expedition is unique in its own individual way, and I want to take some time to reflect on the journey known as 2013.

Let us first venture way back to the magnificent month of January. Unfortunately for the die hard fans world-wide, I am not talking about the World Darts Championship. Instead, I am talking about Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide taking their third National Championship in four years. Although the Tide will not be participating in the soon to be played Championship, Saban and the boys absolutely demolished an inferior Notre Dame squad headed by the one and only Manti Te’o. Seeing a college team completely dominate the entirety of its competition is something we are not accustomed to seeing, but the Crimson Tide made winning a title look just about as easy as one could make it look. In addition, although the Te’o debacle did not partake technically in 2013, it is always worthy of a shout out. Way to go Manti. Keep being you.

Next in line to write their way into the history books were the Baltimore Ravens. The man that separated this run from others is none other than Ray Lewis. Whether you like the man or not, it is an indisputable fact that he is one of the most inspirational sports figures of this modern era. The most memorable game from this magical run had to be the matchup with Denver, or the “Mile High Miracle.” It was simply your typical 70 yard touchdown pass from Joe Flacco to Jacoby Jones with 30 seconds left that would send it to overtime, only for Justin Tucker to win it in double overtime. Was it busted coverage? Maybe so. Nevertheless, it was one of the most remarkable plays in playoff history. The Ravens headed to the Super Bowl to take down the 49ers in a game delayed by the stadium lights going out. Colin Kaepernick fought back hard, but in the end, Lewis and fate was too much to overcome. We saw the true power of inspiration in Ray, and not only that, we saw fate run its path as the Ravens Super Bowl victory marked the end of Lewis’s career.
The 2013 NBA scene was fully headed by the Miami Heat and LeBron James. Not only did the Heat win their second title in a row, they also went on a memorable 27 game winning streak, second longest in the history of the game. When Miami arrived at the Playoffs they wasted no time in beating my measly Bucks team and the Rose-less Bulls. They encountered a physical and inspired Pacers team in the Eastern Conference Finals who they would battle with for seven games. However, they proved superior in Game 7. In the finals, the Spurs looked like they would be the new champions. However, shady play by Manu Ginobli and others down the stretch greatly hindered the Spurs. Regardless, it took a miraculous three by Ray Allen and a questionable no-call at the other end in Game 6 to eventually propel the Heat to the 2013 NBA Championship. Although it was not necessarily a surprising outcome, the fight put up by their opponents is what made these playoffs something memorable.

In college basketball, all of 2013 was as unpredictable as ever. However, nothing could quite top the magnificence of March Madness. The Cinderella of 2013 was the Wichita State Shockers. On their run to the Final Four, they took apart Pittsburgh, Gonzaga, La Salle, and squeaked it out over Ohio State, but they would ultimately fall to the eventual National Champions, Louisville. Although the run by the 9 seed Shockers was remarkable, it continued a trend of Cinderellas that should be deemed nothing less than disappointing. Whether George Mason, VCU, Butler(twice), or now, Wichita, upon arrival at the biggest stage, they could not deliver the Championship. However, this may be one case where it is fitting that the Cardinals ultimately pulled it out and Cinderella did not prevail. It is not often that an entire nation is utterly appalled at a leg injury; However, Louisville’s back up point guard, Kevin Ware, suffered broken leg against Duke in the Elite 8 was won of the more gruesome injuries displayed on live TV. When play resumed after Ware was rushed to the hospital, it was blatant that Louisville was no longer trying to win themselves a National Championship, they were trying to win it for Kevin. Because of this, the emotional victory the Cardinals achieved is forever engraved in my heart and the heart of basketball fans across the country.
From a record and statistical stand point, the 2013 MLB season was full of excitement. Chris Davis put on quite a spectacle with his 37 first half home runs, and 53 total. Mike Trout also wrote a new chapter in the history books as he became the youngest player to ever hit for the cycle. The incredible Miguel Cabrera became the first player to ever record 30 home runs and 90 RBIs before the All-Star Break. I could go on and on, but the last notable achievement was Big Papi setting the record for most hits ever by a Designated Hitter. Moreover, Ortiz was not done in the regular season. Much to my dismay, Ortiz led the Red Sox on an improbable run to a World Series. Whether it was Victorino, Saltalamacchia, or Ortiz, the Red Sox were able to achieve whatever task necessary whenever put before them. This fate-propelled run was never to be forgotten, as the high-intensity and “fairy tale” endings provided excitement unmatched by Playoff Series in recent memory.

Have no fear, we have saved the best for last. This football season, both college and NFL, has provided memories and history that cannot be found in another single season. We have had the pleasure of watching Josh Gordon and Calvin Johnson exemplify historical receiving performances. What made their performances so fantastic is their ability to perform at this high of a level consistently. Gordon was the first person to record 200 receiving yards in consecutive games, and Johnson recorded the second most receiving yards in a game in NFL history, 329. However, the most remarkable record is that of Peyton Manning, who broke Tom Brady’s record for passing TD’s in a season at 51. Peyton still has one game left to make the new record even more unreachable. With the regular season coming to a close, it has been action packed, record setting, and of course, memorable. However, nothing can quite equal that of the conclusion of the college football year. In most seasons, I would talk about a plethora of games and moments, but instead, all that is necessary is two games and two plays. The Auburn Tigers pulled off two of the most miraculous plays in the history of sports in back to back weeks. If you had told me that their 73 yard touchdown pass on 4th and 18 to take down Georgia would be the second best play of their season, I would have kicked you in the shin for your nonsensical opinion. However, it was in fact the second best. In the best rivalry in football, the Iron Bowl, Chris Davis of Auburn returned an Alabama 57 yard field goal attempt 109 yards for a touchdown as time expired. This return will forever go down in the history books as one of if not the most memorable play in the history of football. A story book run to the National Championship with an undetermined ending. We will leave their finale for 2014.
From January 1 to December 31, a lot of things in life are constant, but oh how the sports world conforms to something you could have never expected. Records have been broken along with hearts, lives have been made, and memories have been forever engraved into our brains. Many things may always be predictable such as the Cubs will suck and UVA will underachieve in everything except women’s rowing, but it is the unpredictability of every year that keeps us coming back and craving more. The end of the journey of 2013 is coming to a conclusion, and it is an ideal time to reflect on all of the magnificence the year has brought us. However, when the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, buckle up sports fans, a new journey is just beginning, and a brand new story is about to be written. A new year will bring new excitement, new records, and new champions. Grab your refreshments folks and get ready for the ride.

-Ben Greer