Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, February 9, 2013 at 11:09 AM
It's time to hunker down without Football - yes, the first weekend since last July that there hasn't been either an NFL or NCAA gridiron game on a weekend menu but who's gonna notice with the plethora of great basketball games on the docket?
The NBA's weekend menu includes the likes of the Los Angeles Clippers at the New York Knicks and the Los Angeles Lakers at the defending champion Miami Heat in a nationally televised twin-bill on Sunday (hey, if the snow storm in the northeast has you"trapped" than at least there's five rock-solid hours of great pro hoops, right?) and it really gets rollicking on this second Saturday in February with a ton of great NCAA Basketball games including ones we highlighted in yesterday's Jim Sez column including Michigan at Wisconsin, Louisville at Notre Dame and North Carolina at Miami.
And this key reminder on this very wintry weekend ...
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Now, let's tackle the real buzz that's going around and we shall begin with the ...
No doubt that the whole Los Angeles Lakers saga is far from finished with C Dwight Howard now taking his not-so-subtle verbal jabs at mega-star Kobe Bryant -"I'm not a doctor; Kobe's not a doctor" was Howard's latest volley but we believe Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak that no big trades will be coming down the pike and so without injured F Pau Gasol and with a mis-mash cast of players trying to team with Bryant to salvage this seemingly lost season it appears the Howard/Bryant drama will continue to play out.
One team that's thrilled with a move it didn't make are the Brooklyn Nets who romanced Howard for much of the 2011-12 season while he played for the Orlando Magic.
Howard constantly"teased" the Nets with talk that he would be their centerpiece player when the club made its move from Newark to Brooklyn but now here's Nets' GM Billy King saying his"thank you's" that All-Star Brook Lopez is his team's starting center and now Howard who is a major headache wherever he plays - guess former Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy was right about him! ...
Meanwhile, the NBA trade market will be kept busy later this month as word circulates that the Memphis Grizzlies are not finished after last week dealing off high scorer Rudy Gay to the Toronto Raptors. One sports web site reveals the Grizzlies are in the mix for Boston Celtics G Courtney Lee but the big splash in Memphis could come should the Grizz be able to pull off a deal that would net them Phoenix guard Goran Dragic (14.2 ppg) and possibly C/F Marcin Gortat.
Don't look now but the Grizzlies have fallen back to the fifth seed in the NBA's Western Conference and if the season ended today would draw #4 seed Denver in opening-round action - not sure that's a great matchup for the offensively-challenged Grizz as they are currently constituted.
Now that we're drawing closer and closer to March Madness, everyone's speculating as to just how many teams will get an NCAA Tournament invitation from both the ACC and the Pac-12. There are in-the-know folks who believe that both leagues will get a maximum of four teams into this year's"Big Dance" - right now that probably means no Florida State, Maryland or N.C. State in the ACC and no Stanford, Washington or Colorado in the Pac-12 - but the question we have is why should a mid-major type conference such as the Mountain West get as many as five or maybe even six teams in the tourney field when overall the MWC still isn't better than either one of those so-called power conferences.
If there's a team-to-watch in the ACC down the home stretch here it's Maryland (17-6, 5-5 ACC) as the Terrapins have stepped up their defense - they've held six of their last eight foes to 62 points or less - and winning close games such as Thursday's 60-55 win at Virginia Tech has given the College Park kids a real recent confidence boost.
Out west, one Pac-12 team to keep an eye out for is California (13-9, 5-5 Pac-12) who may not have the pre-requisite amount of wins right now to jump into talk of landing an NCAA Tourney berth but following this weekend's road game at Arizona the Golden Bears will finish out regular-season play with five home games in their final seven tilts including home games against Utah, Colorado and Stanford at the very end.
Naturally, there's some paranoia going around in regards to which"name teams" won't make the cut when it comes to this year's NCAA Tournament and among the clubs prominently mentioned here are Kentucky (16-6, 7-2 SEC) and UCLA (17-6, 7-3 Pac-12) - but you can write 'em both in with magic marker as both high-profile clubs will be part of the 68-team field and - dare we say - the Wildcats and Bruins could wind up with #5 or #6 seeds providing how they finish this campaign.
There have been some TV folks who have insisted that Kentucky, North Carolina and UCLA are all"bubble teams" right now but we ain't buying it!
The Baltimore Ravens have won the Super Bowl ... hey, that's so"last week"!
The wheels of the National Football League never do stop turning and so it's on to the next hot topic and that's the NFL Draft in late April and by now we're quite sure you've seen the draft order that includes the Kansas City Chiefs grabbing the first overall pick ... or will they?
There's early rumblings that Kansas City - in desperate need of a new quarterback in the Andy Reid Era - will swap the numero uno choice for a current NFL signal-caller and we don't believe the rumors of Arizona QB Kevin Kolb heading to KC (he's simply not worth a #1 draft pick, of course) but don't dismiss the possibility that the Chiefs will be super-aggressive in trying to net Carolina QB Cam Newton who may already have worn out his welcome with the Panthers.
Okay, so right now it doesn't seem likely that Newton will get dealt after just two years in the pros but consider that the Panthers could utilize the top pick for West Virginia QB Geno Smith and still hang onto the #14 overall pick here as the Chiefs could be happy with #1 and #2 picks from Carolina in the next two years.
Meanwhile, the Jacksonville Jaguars are slated to get the second pick in this year's draft and that's where Texas A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel could get nabbed while the Oakland Raiders will select at #3 and the hot rumor right now is the AFC West squad will collar either Florida State DE Bjoern Werner or Texas A&M DE Damontre Moore.
Hey, if the Raiders could package under-performing QB Carson Palmer and that third overall pick for a deal with Carolina for Newton, than they might step into the fray and make a big-time pre-draft move. Stay tuned.
Finally, here's two other draftee names that could well be rising up the boards in the coming weeks:
Oregon State CB Jordan Poyer may be on the smallish side at 6-foot, 182 pounds but his ball-hawking skills improved during the course of the 2012 season and even though Poyer generally is rated as the fifth- or sixth-best corner in this upcoming draft, do not be shocked if he gets tabbed somewhere in the top 15 picks - the New Orleans Saints at #15 could be really hot for Poyer.
On the offensive side of the ball, we'll be keeping a close eye on Tennessee WR Cordarelle Patterson who was lost in the shuffle in the Volunteers' dreary season but he could be top 10 material with the wide receiver-starved New York Jets considering him at pick #9.
One web site we studied had Patterson dropping all the way to #23 - that's the Minnesota Vikings - but we would bet our Brian Bosworth rookie card that the speedy Vols pass-catcher goes way higher than that. Just sayin'! ...
Finally, we touched on NFL 2013 scheduling recommendations in a recent Jim Sez article but let's now add this:
When the league sets up its Week 17 schedule - remember they will all be divisional games - here's hoping we get at least a couple of the following matchups: Atlanta versus New Orleans; Indianapolis vs. Houston; Washington vs. Dallas; and Chicago-Green Bay.
Hey, commish Roger Goodell - can you do us these favors?
NOTE: More NCAA News/Notes in the next Jim Sez.