Submitted by Jim Hurley on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 12:12 PM
OUR NCAA BASKETBALL MID-WEEK UPDATE – IT’S TIME TO PREVIEW WEDNESDAY/THURSDAY ACTION IN PITTSBURGH, CHAPEL HILL AND MADISON TOO …
PLUS NBA NEWS & NOTES:NOW THAT THE PISTONS HAVE AXED MO CHEEKS,WE WONDER ALOUD ABOUT WHO’S NEXT ON THE NBA HEAD COACH FIRING LINE
By Jim Hurley
Don’t know if you noticed but if you check out this week’s Associated Press Top 25 poll then you’ll see that seven different conferences/leagues represent the top seven spots in the weekly poll:
The ACC (Syracuse), Pac-12 (Arizona), SEC (Florida), Missouri Valley (Wichita State), Mountain West (San Diego State), Big East (Villanova) and Big 12 (Kansas) snag those first seven spots and might we add that following #8 Duke there’s representation from the Big 10 (Michigan State) and the American Athletic (Cincinnati), and so that just goes to show you the modern-day state of college basketball – there’s powerhouse teams literally from coast-to-coast and gotta say nobody out there would be shocked if/when we get four different conferences/leagues represented come the Final Four in Texas … right?
Naturally, the argument rages on and on (and doesn’t it always?) about which league is the best in the land as we dig deeper and deeper into the tell-tale month of February, but how about a big-time shout out to some of the leaders in the non-power conferences such as #12 Saint Louis (9-0 in the Atlantic-10 right now), and unranked Georgia State which is a perfect 10-and-oh in the Sun Belt Conference.
In any event, the good folks at ESPN are busy labeling this as “Rivalry Week”, and so are we here at Jim Sez to pop anyone’s balloon and not highlight some of the week’s really great rivalry games?
So, check out our Wednesday/Thursday game previews featuring some of the country’s best mano-to-mano matchups:
On Wednesday, it’s …
#1 SYRACUSE (23-0, 10-0 ACC) at #25 PITTSBURGH (20-4, 8-3 ACC) – 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
Is this the night folks finally get to tell the Syracuse Orange that “nobody’s perfect”.
Heck, Jim Boeheim’s club moved from the once-mighty Big East to the Atlantic Coast Conference and – if anything – have thrived while besting the conference likes of Duke (albeit in overtime), North Carolina and Miami twice.
Still, while everyone points to Syracuse’s Feb. 22nd tilt in Durham, the fact of the matter is this game in Pittsburgh is the staunchest road test of ‘em all as the Panthers have a little revenge in mind following last month’s 59-54 win/pointspread push by the Orange at the Carrier Dome.
You might recall that the Orange trailed 52-49 in that game with just 4:31 remaining before ‘Cuse freshman point guard Tyler Ennis took things into his own hands with a couple of driving layups and two big free throws in the game’s final two-plus minutes, and you might also remember how that famed Orange zone defense really frustrated Pitt star Lamar Patterson, who needed 15 field-goal attempts (6-of-15) to finish with a game-high but rather hollow 18 points.
Now, Patterson’s geared up to prove Pittsburgh can shoot it much better in its own backyard after going just 18-of-47 from the floor in that Jan. 18th tilt, but one question we have for the Orange is will Boeheim’s bunch shoot it better from downtown after going a wobbly 4-of-15 from beyond the three-point stripe back in that first go-round?
Look for Syracuse G Trevor Cooney – who made good on just 2-of-8 treys in that first meeting against the one-time Big East Conference rivals – to set himself up beyond an array of screens here as we believe Cooney probably needs six or seven triples in this prime-time tilt to get Syracuse to the winner’s circle, plus lefty C.J. Fair must find some creases in the paint where he can do damage against this physical Pitt team.
#8 DUKE (19-5, 8-3 ACC) at NORTH CAROLINA (16-7, 6-4 ACC) – 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
It’s just like the chicken and the egg …
We’re not quite sure whether ESPN’s “Rivalry Week” was announced years ago and a Duke versus North Carolina followed … or was there a Duke-North Carolina game on the docket and then along came “Rivalry Week”?
In any event, there’s only one ranked team on board for this mid-week showdown along Tobacco Road, and it’s the guys comin’ into town as Mike Krzyzewski’s crew has banged out back-to-back ACC wins against Wake Forest and Boston College following that aforementioned 91-89 loss-but-cover at Syracuse on Super Bowl weekend.
The Blue Devils – who lead the ACC with an 82.2 points per game average – know darn well that North Carolina will be circling the wagons to concentrate on/cover freshman sensation Jabari Parker, who poured in 29 points to go along with his game-high 16 rebounds in last Saturday’s easy 89-68 win at 10-point pup Boston College, but the real hidden gem in that road win was reserve G Quinn Cook, who drained five triples en route to a 21-point performance.
Keep in mind that while Parker, Cook and the Dookies look to “light it up” in Chapel Hill here, the host UNC Tar Heels look to keep the winning beat going as Roy Williams’ crew has won five in a row, and take note that all five Carolina wins came by twin-figure margins – so you think the Heels finally have their act together following that 10-6 SU (straight-up) start that included an ugly 0-3 ACC mark?
If the Heels are gonna make it six wins in a row and a triumph in Round I this season against archrival Duke – note that Round II takes place at Cameron Indoor Stadium on March 8th – than Carolina must play its better-then-you-think defense here. Note that Notre Dame connected on just 6-of-21 triples last weekend (a 28.6 accuracy rate) and no doubt that every game this Duke team plays the success or lack thereof begins with the Blue Devils’ three-point shooting – hold ‘em to less than 10 treys here and Mr. Williams’ squad will win.
Throw in the fact that James Michael McAdoo (18 points and 8 rebounds at Notre Dame last Saturday) must stuff the stat sheet and get some big-time help off the pine from folks such as Brice Johnson (10 points in 21 minutes versus the Fightin’ Irish) and this rivalry tilt could have a real epic finish.
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On Thursday, it’s …
MINNESOTA (16-8, 5-6 Big 10) at #21 WISCONSIN (19-5, 6-5 Big 10) – 9 p.m. ET, espn2
These long-time Big 10 rivals don’t care much for one another, and now the sense of urgency to win this tilt in Madison is heightened by the fact both teams are muddling ‘round the middle of the conference pack – and this year the Big 10 might well be a five-bid league and so don’t blame either side here if referring this one as a “must-win” game.
Note that Wisconsin’s seeking revenge here after losing 81-68 at 3-point dog Minnesota back on Jan. 22nd when DeAndre Mathieu and Mo Walker scored 18 points apiece, and the Golden Gophers shot a sizzling 33-of-56 from the floor for a 59 percent accuracy rate.
If the Badgers are gonna “get even” here, then they better heat it up from downtown as Wisconsin shot a miserable 5-of-20 from trey-land and you can be sure Bo Ryan’s club will be doing everything possible to free up three-point specialist Ben Brust, who canned just 1-of-5 triples in that initial Minny-Wisky matchup.
One thing about Richard Pitino’s Gophers:
They really have not enjoyed life on the Big 10 road with four consecutive away losses since a Jan. 8th win at Penn State.
A reminder …
Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will keep on piling up the profits all this week/month with lots of NBA and NCAA Basketball winners right here online at www.vegassportsmasters.com or at our exclusive toll-free telephone # of 1-888-777-4155 – so go ahead and win with all the hardwood action today!
NBA NEWS & NOTES: CHEEKS IS GONZO IN MOTOWN, SO WHO’S NEXT?
Obviously, there was some major behind-the-scene static when it came to the 2013-14 Detroit Pistons (22-29), who are barely on the outside looking in at a playoff spot in the godawful NBA Eastern Conference, and yet first-year head coach Maurice “Mo” Cheeks was fired this past weekend after just 50 games in the books.
Well, GM Joe Dumars sure has a history of firing coaches in his tenure in Detroit City and so now stepping up to the plate is one-time assistant coach and now interim head coach John Loyer … good luck, you’re gonna need it!
Hey, the fact that Cheeks’ firing came on the heels of back-to-back blowout WINS at home – the 111-95 win against Brooklyn last Friday night was followed one evening later by a 126-109 runaway win against Denver – made more than a few in-the-know NBA folks scratch their heads but it also brought to the forefront a couple of real/live facts:
Number one, we’re heading into the annual NBA All-Star Game weekend and the trade deadline follows right behind, and that’s always a couple of times on the hoops calendar when general managers, owners and what have you tinker with changes at the head coaching spots.
Hey, we hate to “speculate” on what gentleman (or gentlemen) are gonna get fired right about now but it’s all part of the business, you know, so here’s three guys who have reason to worry about any incoming phone calls or texts:
MIKE WOODSON, New York Knicks (20-31) – Heck, even the guy they call “Woody” realizes he could be on borrowed time as he expressed to the New York tabloid media following Sunday’s 112-100 loss at 9-point favorite Oklahoma City.
The fact is superstar scorer Carmelo Anthony tuned Woodson out a while ago – he’s since back-tracked a bit and shown a bit more support but it’s likely a case of too-little, too-late if you ask us.
Odds of Woodson Getting Fired: It’s even money that he’s gone before the end of February, but we will say one little hot streak (say, four or five wins in a row) could save ‘em for the remainder of this 2013-14 season, but there’s next-to-no hope Woodson will be coaching the Knicks next year.
RICK ADELMAN, Minnesota Timberwolves (24-28) – The third-year head coach of the T-Wolves is running out of time trying to turn around the fortunes of this no-defense team that allows 102 points a game and exited Monday’s 107-89 loss versus Houston some seven full games back of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Shouldn’t a team with Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio and others be playing .550-or-better ball instead of wallowing below the break-even mark?
Odds of Adelman Getting Fired: The Timberwolves – in truth – would rather not fire the veteran sideline general, but the lousy 12-21 mark inside the West has upper-management folks steaming, and so we’ll say there’s a 60-40 chance that Adelman stays, but that could change by the aforementioned trade deadline.
TYRONE CORBIN, Utah Jazz (17-33) – Hey, if anything this would rank as a “mercy killing” here ‘cause the one-time star player for this once-proud franchise simply has been in over his head from the get-go, and this club plays without any discipline or real direction.
Note that Utah’s a dismal 6-19 on the road this year and 9-24 in conference play, and so it’s hard to justify giving Corbin any more time (note he just passed his three-year anniversary as Utah head coach on Monday).
Odds of Corbin Getting Fired: We say there’s an 80 percent chance Corbin’s gone by year’s end and we’d call it 70-to-30 that he’s gone by month’s end. Next up … did someone say John Stockton’s interested?