Previewing The New Year’s Six


The outrage over these six great games is deserved.  With the establishment of the College Football Playoff, the two biggest college football days of the year are on New Year’s Eve and Day.  When the first proposal was announced, I thought the idea was great.  But now, I’ve found myself in the midst of traveling and missing games in the first two years of it.  This is the outrage that many others have and will experience.  Now, its happening to me too.

With my family and I traveling to Kansas City in the early morning hours of New Year’s Eve, and attending what is an unexpected funeral, I’ll be missing this year’s Peach Bowl, and possibly the first half of the Orange Bowl, which happens to be the more intriguing playoff matchup.

So yeah, after the defending the New Year’s idea for the past year, I’ve now, for the 2nd year in a row, found myself missing games.  People are busy on New Year’s Eve and Day!  It’s a holiday!  Why are these games happening now?!

We know though, that it will never change.  The committee will never move the games to different dates, or expand the playoff.  We know how they work.  Its gonna be something we’re all gonna have to deal with.

Peach Bowl: No.18 Houston vs. No.9 Florida State, New Year’s Eve, Noon EST

Just because I’m gonna miss this game in-full doesn’t mean I’m not gonna write about it.

The Everett Golson news throws an interesting wrinkle in this game, but is more disappointing as his college career is suddenly over.  I’ve always liked Sean Maguire.  He’s backed up for Jamies Winston and Everett Golson, and has performed every time he’s stepped in.  In the five games he started this year, his passer rating was below 100 once.  Granted, he didn’t throw the ball around a ton, only throwing for more than 300 yards once in his five starts.  Oh, and we haven’t gotten to all the other weapons the Seminoles have on offense yet.  But there’s no reason to, because Florida State should be able to score on the Cougars.  Its more about whether the Cougars can score on the Seminoles.  That’s the challenge.

Greg Ward Jr. is the heart and soul of the Houston offense.  He’s their passing and running game.  Everything they do runs through him.  He’s quite a weapon, but that’s a pro and a con.  Ward’s an incredible athlete; we know that.  This guy ran 1,041 yards this season, in addition to throwing for 2,590 yards this season.  That’s an element that Florida State will have to deal with, but what else is there to worry about?

There isn’t much.  If the Seminoles can figure out Greg Ward Jr., which with the talented defense they have might not be much of an issue, then the Seminoles should roll.

Prediction: Florida State-38 Houston-17

Orange Bowl (Semifinal #1): No.4 Oklahoma vs. No.1 Clemson, New Year’s Eve, 4PM EST

I’m planning on and hoping to see most of this game, because I think this is the better, or at least more entertaining playoff matchup.

These teams are so evenly matched.  Its really incredible.  Explosive offenses, great defenses.  So what gives?

I’m gonna spill out my thoughts first, then elaborate on them later.

I think this is gonna be a shootout.  It could come down to the last possession.  Baker Mayfield and DeShaun Watson are great quarterbacks, and are playmakers.  Watson has the extra element though with the running ability, or at least, the more effective running game.  You don’t want Baker Mayfield running if he doesn’t have to.  Watson can do that.  Oklahoma can attack via the ground and air; Samaje Perine has that game-to-game breakout potential.

Both front sevens on the defensive side are fantastic.  They’re run-stuffers.  But Clemson is a high-flying offense.  They love to pass.  The Sooner secondary is the weakest part of the defense.  If Clemson can expose that, then this game favors Clemson.

I said that this could come down to the last possession, but what I really mean is that this will be a one-score game.  That one score that Clemson will win by, will have to do with the vulnerability of the Sooner secondary.  Clemson’s smart enough and has good enough receivers to expose them. They’re the best team in the country.  Its still too hard to go against them.

That’s nothing against the Sooners.  They’ve been the hottest team in the country, and honestly, I do think Clemson’s nervous.  Oklahoma’s been a great story and they’re super fun to watch.  But its too hard to go against No.1 Clemson.  The upset will have to wait, at least until the next game.

Prediction: Clemson-45 Oklahoma-38

Cotton Bowl (Semifinal #2): No.3 Michigan State vs. No.2 Alabama, New Year’s Eve, 8 PM EST

This game sets up oppositely of the other playoff matchup.  I expect the Spartans and Crimson Tide to participate in an old school, grudge-match style game.  The Michigan State defense is quite underrated, and that’s not good news for Alabama, who have an overrated offense.

Yes, they have Derrick Henry, the Heisman winner.  But without him, Alabama’s another mediocre SEC team with a good defense.  He is Alabama’s offense, and facing a tough Michigan State front seven is gonna cause problems.  I’ve never believed Jake Coker was a great, or really even a good quarterback.  He had a very good year, but he’s not mobile, and has trouble with awareness in the pocket.  The Spartans have to get pressure.  Distracting him leads to bad decisions.  Michigan State has to score off turnovers to win.

The Crimson Tide have 3rd best defense in the country.  We all know that; its something everyone’s aware of.  Michigan State’s offense isn’t as ground-and-pound as Alabama’s is, mostly due to the fact that they have a much better quarterback.  Connor Cook is phenomenal, and will probably go in the 1st round in the 2016 NFL Draft.  The Spartans use the running game in the short yardage, and go to the air in long yardage situations.  Traditional, but not ground-and-pound.  But Michigan State’s passing game is a juggernaut, at least compared to Alabama’s.  The Crimson Tide have to cover well, because Cook will make them pay if not.

I’m taking the underdog.  Not because I hate Alabama.  Not because I felt like I needed to take an underdog.  But because I do think the Spartans are the better team.  I think this game will prove that.

Prediction: Michigan State-24 Alabama-17

Fiesta Bowl: No.8 Notre Dame vs. No.7 Ohio State, New Years Day, 1 PM EST

What a great matchup.  These are two media darlings, who’re never out of the spotlight.  Everyone loves them, or feels sorry for them, no matter what’s going on.  Its perfect!

I doubted Notre Dame heading into the season, and the only reason that prediction came through was due to the incredible amount of injuries the Fighting Irish sustained.  And still, through all of that, they’re here:  In the New Year’s Six.

Ohio State’s had an interesting season themselves.  Turmoil, success, and a bunch of other wacky stuff.  And still, they’re here.  Just like the Irish.

Football wise, this game could go a lot of ways.  But the biggest matchup is whether Notre Dame can defend Ohio State.  The Buckeyes have so many ways to attack offensively.  Ezekiel Elliot is one of the best running backs in the country, but this Irish front seven, which has had its fair share of injuries, is still quite good.

The best way for Ohio State to score is gonna be through the air, against the Irish secondary.  The Buckeyes have a great offense, with many ways to attack.  Throwing the ball is what works in this game, but that doesn’t apply vice-versaly.

I believe Notre Dame will have serious issues scoring.  The Buckeyes give up the 2nd least amount of points in the country.  I like DeShone Kizer.  He’s proved me wrong this year.  But is he good enough to get his offense down the field against a defense this tough?  Probably not.  I’m taking the Buckeyes.

Prediction: Ohio State-27 Notre Dame-10

Rose Bowl: No.6 Stanford vs. No.5 Iowa, New Years Day, 5 PM EST

I struggled with analyzing this game and how it’d play out.

Honestly, I’m not sure how good of a game this will be.

I root for Stanford.  I want them to win.  And I haven’t given Iowa the credit it deserves this season.  So it should be pretty clear who I’m gonna take, right?

Its never that simple.  Stanford’s opening week loss to Northwestern somehow still sticks around in your brain.  And it shouldn’t, given what Stanford has accomplished since.  There’s also the pessimism that sticks around in your head.  That shouldn’t be there, either.  Fans know what I’m talking about though…

I’m trying to avoid using the word “choke” here with Stanford.  But Iowa’s super good and I know I’ve underrated them.  That’s scary.  The Hawkeyes have a very good defense, and an okay offense.  Stanford’s the opposite (That’s a change that occurred this year, as the Cardinals have been a team more like Iowa in past years).

When I said this may not be that good of a game, I mean entertainment wise.  The easiest way to predict this game would be an old-school, grudge-match prediction.  A lackluster offensive game that features a lot of field goals.  And since I’m still stumped on it, thats what I’m gonna go with.

Prediction: Iowa-17 Stanford-10

Sugar Bowl: No.16 Oklahoma State vs. No.12 Ole Miss, New Years Day, 8:30 PM EST

This is gonna be really fun.  I loved watching both of these teams this season.  They always put on a show.  So how great is it that they get to meet?

There’s gonna be a ton of points put up between these teams; we’re looking at a complete shootout here.  The Rebels have a good defense, tied for 36th in the country.  However, the secondary is the weak spot, and by weak spot, they’re ranked 100th in the country.  Not great!

But it won’t be a huge problem.  Because Ole Miss is gonna score too.  A lot.

I’m not sure there’s a ton of strategy to this game.  There’s a hot take for you.  Just chuck it and score.  That’s how this game will play out.  And no, I don’t feel good about this.

Prediction: Oklahoma State-48 Ole Miss-43

Happy New Year!

A Gift For All 30 NBA Teams

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 25: The game ball on the court with a Santa hat before a game between the New York Knicks and the Washington Wizards at Madison Square Garden on December 25, 2014 in New York, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

Since we’re two days away from Christmas, I decided to hand out a gift to each and every NBA team.  And just this morning, Bill Barnwell of did the same for NFL teams (That was a pleasant surprise when I got up… Good piece though.  You guys should read it).  The gift could be some common sense, a trade, some advice, or really whatever!  When you’re reading, think about a problem with that team.  Then decide what you could give them to help them with it.

I’m gonna go in alphabetical order…

Atlanta Hawks: Rebounding

The Hawks are only grabbing 47% of possible rebounds so far this season.  Not great!  It really seems like they miss DeMarre Carroll in the way we didn’t expect them too.  While Carroll only averaged 5.3 rebounds a game with the Hawks last year, he’s doing the same for the Raptors.  With Tiago Splitter coming back, I believe it will get better.

Boston Celtics: Boogie!

I think this is the perfect trade for Boston and DeMarcus Cousins himself.  First of all, the Celtics have been struggling, hanging at 10th in the Eastern Conference as of today.  They’ve battled injuries to their bigs, with Amir Johnson and Jared Sullinger constantly out of the lineup.  This has been a very fun team to watch though, but there’s been a missing element.

A consistent big is what Boston needs.  A guy who can rebound, and make up for the ones the small guards can’t get.  Boogie is the answer.  The Celtics have plenty of assets to make a deal, including the three incoming Brooklyn picks.  However, this is the Sacramento Kings we’re talking about.  Are we sure they’re not dumb enough to make a deal that doesn’t include one of those picks?  If so, here’s what it’d look like.

Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 9.15.04 PM

Celtics’ fans don’t like Avery Bradley anyways (have never figured out why).  Evan Turner is a scrub that Boston would force Sacramento to take, James Young is a young project guy, and Tyler Zeller is a good bench guy.  So, are the Kings dumb enough to do it?  God, I’d hope not.  But the Celtics are smart enough to make the right move.  That, I know.

Brooklyn Nets: A Joe Johnson Buyout

The person who doesn’t need this to happen is Joe Johnson himself, because I’m not sure how many teams would sign him (New Orleans?  Chicago?  Cleveland?).  Anyways, with the way the Nets spend money, I’m sure they’d love to cut him a $24.8 million check to send him out ASAP.

Charlotte Hornets: More TV time!

I’ll be honest: I haven’t watched much of the Hornets this year.  They’re never on TV.  Anyways, what I do know: Jeremy Lin’s hair is incredible, Marvin Williams can’t shoot threes, but is shooting 50% inside the arc and man, who would have thought?  Who would have thought this team would be this good?  Granted, they’ve slid lately, and are now out of the playoffs.  I haven’t totally understood the Kemba Walker trade rumors, besides the fact that they’ve struggled with ball movement and assists.  Anyways, show the Hornets more, NBATV!

Chicago Bulls: An unloading of Derrick Rose

Its time.  We’ve been preparing for this conversation and now its happening.  And its so unfortunate.  I really don’t think we’re gonna see the Derrick Rose we hoped to see ever again.  There has been flashes, but its over for him.  Its the same situation Kobe Bryant’s in (more on that later): Whenever he does stuff, we’re gonna here about it, because it truly is a big deal now.  The injuries have been too much, including the recent and odd orbital bone fracture.  You watch him out there… The explosiveness, the driving to the rim.  It’s not there.  And it sucks.  It really does.

More on driving to the rim… Per the SportVU player tracking information on, he’s shooting 42.1% on drives to the rim this season.  Think of a drive as a layup.  Players should be shooting 70% on layups.  I really think he’s too scared to finish.

So, will anyone be desperate enough to trade for him?  The Pelicans are desperate for guards, as they’ve dealt with an insane injury season thats already dropped from the playoff race (more on that later).  Why not take a flyer on him?

As for the Bulls, they’d be fine.  First, they’re 7th in the East (this recent slide has been ugly) even with him playing this way.  Trading him wouldn’t affect the offense; Aaron Brooks has been mighty fine running the new fast-paced offense, and even though he’s not making much of an impact stats wise, he’s not worse than Rose.  Trading Rose doesn’t only hand the offense off to a more-qualified guard in Brooks, but eliminates Rose’s contract from the Bulls, in which he is owed $41.4 million from it still.  This would be a move I can guarantee Bulls fans would be happy with.

Cleveland Cavaliers: Healthy players

Cleveland is finally getting healthy, with Kyrie Irving recently returning and Iman Shumpert slowing easing back in.  Surprisingly, the guard combinations of JR Smith, Matthew Dellavedova, Mo Williams, and even splashes of Jared Cunningham and Joe Harris have played well enough to keep the Cavaliers in front of the East, but we can’t praise them too much.  It helps when you have LeBron James on your team.  The Cavaliers’ assist numbers have been the same thus far.  You’d think Kyrie Irving coming back would only help that.  Cleveland staying healthy isn’t only good for them come playoff time, and them staying in front of the East, but is good for the fans, and makes Cleveland even more fun to watch.

Dallas Mavericks: More TV time from me

Another team that’s shockingly good and hasn’t got the credit from me or anyone else.  The Mavericks have been on TV quite a bit, I’ve just never accepted till now that this team is truly good.  But don’t ask me how they’ve been good, because I haven’t watched enough of them to tell you.  But from what I have watched, I have no idea.  This team has Raymond Felton playing backup point guard and can’t score.  I guess this is just proof how fantastic Rick Carlisle is.

Denver Nuggets: Health and Nikola Jokic playing time

Denver has been so banged up this season, and yet, they’re somehow 9th in the Western Conference with a crappy roster and three of their best players constantly in and out of the lineup.  I’ve loved watching Emmanuel Muiday this year.  There’s nothing fancy (stats wise) to him.  He looks like he knows what he’s doing, commanding the game, making passes.  The shooting definitely needs work, though Denver’s team itself needs shooting work (they rank near the bottom of the league in eFG%).  Also, can we get Nikola Jokic some more playing time?  He’s been awesome this year.

Detroit Pistons: Shooting

There’s a lot going right for the Pistons this season.  Andre Drummond is averaging 18 points and 16 rebounds (Yes, that leads the league) a game.  I own him in fantasy basketball and has put up 60 points in one game twice this season.  UM, insane.  Reggie Jackson is playing well, surprisingly.  Props to him for getting his 3P% up to 35%!  The supporting cast for Drummond and Jackson hasn’t been great this season.  Kentavious Caldwell-Pope started out rough, but has steadily improved his offense throughout this year.  Still, he’s only shooting 41% on the year, but it’s not like he’s alone.  Detroit is near the bottom of the league in shooting overall this season.  Could this be a possible Kevin Martin landing spot?  More on that later.

Golden State Warriors: Losses (Seriously)

What could this team possibly need?  I’m lost…

After thinking about this for awhile, I figured out what this team needs: Losses.

Look, the start was incredible.  It’s been covered and covered.  They broke the record for the best start in NBA history, but by an insane nine games.  Its history.  We’ve never seen anything like it before.  Its the best basketball I’ve seen since I’ve been alive (and yes, that tops those mid-2000 Suns).  I’ve been told to respect what I’m watching and I’ve told others that too.  There isn’t much else to it.

I think the Warriors need to lose more if they want to break the 1995-1996 Bulls 72-10 record.  Why?  Well, we’re already at one loss.  That’s good.  They needed it.  It came on a back-to-back, where they went to double overtime with Boston the night before.  There it was: 24 AND 1.

If Golden State started something crazy like 50-0, then there’s a good chance that in those final 32 games, they would have dropped games like flies, from fatigue and various other things.  It could have gotten ugly.

That’s why gradual losses are better.  Win a bunch in a row, lose one, win another bunch in a row.

The record is definitely in play.  I downplayed earlier in the year, but slowly realized that what we were watching was not like anything before.  Lets put it this way: Golden State, through 27 games last season, was 23-4.  So, the Warriors are three wins ahead of last year.  Now, lets put it this way:  Golden State won 67 games last year.  Are they five wins better than last year, being already three wins ahead?  Yeah, hard not to argue with that.

Houston Rockets: Like, everything

I thought firing Kevin McHale was the right move, or at least the first thing to try.  Many disagreed, and thought that the Rockets quit on him.  Its safe to say it hasn’t done much.  The Rockets are now 7th in the West, so I guess they’ve improved.  But now: Dwight Howard’s unhappy and there’s no trade market for Ty Lawson (Wait, why is this surprising?).

The Dwight thing makes sense and is odd at the same time.  Of course he’s gonna be unhappy.  Why would anyone want to be a 2nd fiddle on a team?  The Thunder have it figured out with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.  Those guys compliment each other tremendously.  The problem is: James Harden is so much better than Howard, and Howard can’t do anything about it because he’s wearing down.  Watching Houston this year, its clear Howard’s taken a step back.  Really, its just a matter of Howard not realizing whats happening to himself.  Kobe Bryant’s going through the same thing (though there’s clearly different circumstances).

They will be takers on Howard, if this is the direction the Rockets go.  Boston and Miami have been rumored to be interested.  Both teams have plenty of assets to do a deal.  But chances are, Houston keeps this together, and hopes it steadily improves.  Its not like the back of the Western Conference is loaded the season, unlike other times in the past.

Indiana Pacers: More Glenn Robinson lll playing time

I like Glenn Robinson lll, and I think he deserves more playing time.  But the biggest story of this team isn’t something they don’t have.

The year before he broke his leg, I thought Paul George was the 3rd best player in the league.  This was before the massive ascension of Anthony Davis, or before Stephen Curry was as big of a star as he is now.  Paul George was 3rd on my MVP ballot that year.

The MVP is already locked up, but George has been outstanding this season.  Averaging 25.5 points per game and calculating to a 22.7 PER, he’s gotten this team to the 4th seed in the Eastern Conference.  The Pacers have shot well this season, ranking closer to the top rather than the bottom in eFG%.

I think we underrated this team a bit, but Paul George’s true comeback is whats fueling this season.

LA Clippers: A starting SF who’s good in crunch-time

I believe the Clippers have started Wesley Johnson, Paul Pierce, Luc Mbah a Moute, and even Lance Stephenson at small forward this year.  So yeah, there’s an issue here.  Neither have really worked.  Paul Pierce is getting too old for this (Love you Truth), and couldn’t handle the minutes load of starting.  Wesley Johnson has been below average per PER, and hasn’t been able to shoot threes this season.  Lance Stephenson, well, we know the pros and cons with that.

After watching Monday’s Thunder-Clippers game, its pretty clear that there’s no answer on the roster for the 3-spot.  Luc Mbah a Moute is an interesting skill set, but is simply too big to play at small forward, especially in today’s NBA.  He just never made an impact Monday, and the Clippers need an impact guy.

I don’t know where the answer is.  Kevin Martin is kinda interesting, but the Clippers lack assets.  I thought I had an answer to the problem, but while on the Trade Machine, I realized DeAndre Jordan has a no-trade clause in his contract (why exactly?).  Hint hint at what I was getting at: These guys wanted to play with each other this year, and met multiple times about it over the Summer.

LA Lakers: A “Kobe Bryant retires, effective immediately” statement

I’m sorry Kobe for being mean to you in the line above.  Its for your own good.

Look, I’ve hated Kobe Bryant for as long as I can remember.  Not because I wanted him on my team, or because he’s sometimes a jerk.  Because of how many times he made me cry growing up, beating my Suns every-other year in the playoffs (I say every-other year because the year in between we were beat by the Spurs).   I hated him because he was so good against my team.

And watching him now, a top eight player of all-time, sucks.  It probably makes Lakers’ fans want to cry.  And I don’t blame them.

Memphis Grizzlies: A whole new offense

The Grizzlies are 6th in the West, which is fine.  But its been a pretty lucky 16-14 so far.

There have been warning signs of this forever, but the offense that Memphis plays just doesn’t work anymore.  With where the league is going, small-ball and such, Memphis thought “No one will be able to stop us with this.”  The two big men, the defense-based system, the not-so-great shooting.  Memphis missed a simple, super simple, concept that the rest of the league is finally becoming aware of the importance.

That concept is 3 is greater than 2.

Memphis doesn’t shoot threes.  They’re 29th in the league in 3P%, collectively as a team this season.  Memphis doesn’t take enough threes as a team, and when they do, the guys who shoot them can’t make them.  For all the guys who have taken enough threes to even qualify as a three-point shooter, none of them are shooting above 34% from deep.

Its now become “We can’t score enough to beat teams.” rather than “No one can stop us.”  Times change pretty fast, aye?

Miami Heat: An increase in pace for poor Goran Dragic

As a Suns’ fan, I do want to see Goran Dragic succeed even though he left us out of the blew and without warning.  Miami’s played very well so far.  They’re fun to watch.  I enjoyed seeing them in-person earlier this season.  But the slow pace is killing Dragic (they’re 28th in the league in pace).  He’s an up-tempo guard.  That’s all he played in Phoenix.  Fast.  Flying up and down the court.  Guys moving more.  The slow pace has affected his shooting, as he’s down almost eight percentage points from last season in eFG%.  Miami’s doing fine, and they have a good guard rotation, but this is something they need to figure out.

Milwaukee Bucks: Shooting

Milwaukee’s shooting stats aren’t terrible, but its a combination of bad shooting and too many players that bring their Offensive Efficiency Rating down to 99.7, closer to the bottom of the league.  Having a point guard who can’t shoot doesn’t help, in Michael Carter-Williams.  He hasn’t exactly been lighting it up (I still can’t believe they swapped Brandon Knight (Thanks Milwaukee!  Seriously!) for MCW.  Nutty) with the Bucks.  Milwaukee has a lot of talent, but most of it is still very raw.  Perhaps we overrated this team, and the strengthening East hasn’t helped.

Minnesota Timberwolves: An unloading of Kevin Martin

As I said earlier, it seems like Kevin Martin is one of the top three trade rumor-guys in the league right now.  There’s no room for him in Minnesota. It doesn’t help that he’s only shooting 37% on field goals.  He’s struggled much, but changes of scenery help.  A bigger role in a new place could swing this season for Martin.

New Orleans Pelicans: Healthy players

New Orleans’ second playoff run and Anthony Davis’ MVP season went down the drain fast.  The Pelicans were down so many players early in the season, and since, they’ve never been able to recover.  Sitting 14th in the West, the Pelicans have no competent guards due to injuries.  Alonzo Gee is starting at small forward and is averaging barely four points a game.  Its not pretty, and with the West the way it is, its probably smart of New Orleans to throw this season away.  They could salvage it, by making some sort of big time trade (Derrick Rose?).
New York Knicks: A new coach for what is actually a good roster 

This Knicks roster has been very fun, though they aren’t currently in the playoff race and shouldn’t expect to be.  Kristaps Porzingis (Or Porzingod as me and some other Twitter people refer to him as), has been a phenom, and incredible to watch.  I’m still figuring out who and what he is.  The Dirk Nowitzki comparisons are fair, but Porzingis seems to have a different effect, especially on opposing defenders.

The Carmelo Anthony trade rumors will continue to fly, and they still make sense if they’re true.  Melo could be finding himself in Dwight Howard’s situation, not wanting to play 2nd fiddle (in this case to Porzingis).  The difference with Melo: Melo is still good enough to be a 1st fiddle for someone.  He wants to be that, and we’ve known coming into the season that there was a chance he wouldn’t be.

The biggest problem with the Knicks is Derek Fisher’s continuing failures as head coach.  It sucks watching this roster being coached by someone who has no idea what they’re doing.  But they won’t fire him because they’re doing fine this season, and Fisher and GM Phil Jackson are too tight.  It sucks, but hey, Knicks fans, you’ve got a team that’s better than you expected and have a young phenom who’s taken the league by storm.  I think you’re okay.

Oklahoma City Thunder: This type of Kevin Durant all year

I was skeptical of how Kevin Durant would return this season.  After rushing back last year, and re-injuring it, I was too worried that we’d have the same issue.  Not at all.

KD started out a little rough, and missed some games early on, but in the past month, he’s finally turned it on.  In December, KD has averaged close to 25 points a game, and is shooting 51% on field goals.  Eight rebounds and five assists go along with that.

But its more than stats.  Again going back to Monday’s Thunder-Clippers game, KD just looked like he did in his MVP year.  The tandem of him and Russell Westbrook looks just as good as it did two years ago.  And when those guys are playing like this, it makes Oklahoma City an immediate threat.  As if they weren’t are already…

Orlando Magic: Mario Hezonja playing time

OK, its gotten better as of late.  Mario Hezonja on the season has only been averaging 12 minutes a game, which isn’t good for the Croatian JR Smith.  Hezonja’s had a good shooting season, putting up 55% eFG.  He’s a spark off the bench for a deep team.

But prior to his playing time boost, I floated the Clippers possibly reaching out to the Magic on his availability.  At the time, Hezonja wasn’t playing at all.  Scott Skiles seemed to hate him.  It almost looked like a wasted draft pick.

Orlando is on the playoff cusp, surprising for such a young and raw team.  But they do have talent.  They’ll hang around, but a sudden downfall wouldn’t shock me.

Philadelphia Sixers: Definitely not Jerry Colangelo

The 76ers really suck and no one is surprised.  But this is part of what’s supposed to be happen, right?

It really seems like the NBA got tired of the 76ers “process”, ran by Sam Hinkie.  So they hired Jerry Colangelo to fix it.

But there’s two problems: 1) The Process has been in effect for awhile now and might be almost complete.  The Sixers have a lot of assets.  Some have worked out and some haven’t.  But they’re gonna be better (right?), unless Hinkie tells them no, I guess.  If the NBA was gonna put Colangelo in this spot, they should have done it years ago.  2) Are we Colangelo is gonna do stuff that makes an impact?  I don’t know what his new title exactly is, but if he is taking Hinkie’s role as PBO, then Hinkie should just be let go.  There’s no point in having around anymore.  Colangelo and Hinkie’s management habits are completely different.  You have to imagine they’ll be butting heads.

The hire made no sense to me, but its clear the league’s footprints are all over it.

Phoenix Suns: Consistency

Hey, do you guys, like, wanna figure out whether A) You’re good or B) Want to be good ?  That would be nice.  Thanks.

The chemistry issues have plagued Phoenix ever since breaking up the backcourt last year.  Its clear that the squad that featured Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic that barely missed the playoffs was the best one they’ve had since Steve Nash left.  The Suns have a lot possible lineups to play, due to their versatile guards and bigs.  Its not like the back of the West is loaded, and the Suns sit in 9th as of today.  They’re still in it, but the chemistry has to improve.  Phoenix has been the team where you have to watch them to figure whats going on, not just look at stats and such (like some people do).  There’s always a human element to the game, and that element isn’t going in the Suns favor.

Portland Trail Blazers: Some consistence at power forward

Portland started really well, had a rough stretch in the past two weeks, and now find themselves 13th in the West after being in the playoffs for the first quarter of the season.

Power forward is a spot for them where it seems like they should be fine.  They traded for Noah Vonleh during the Draft, and already had Meyers Leonard to help replace LaMarcus Aldridge.  Well, Vonleh, even though he’s still young and developing, has had a subpar year, and Meyers Leonard has been hurt and is struggling to find his shot.  Portland has plenty of big-man depth, but its a problem when no one is playing that well at the 4.  Its probably be something they’ll deal with, since this year wasn’t supposed to be much of a success anyways.

Sacramento Kings: A higher shooting% for DeMarcus Cousins

The Kings are hitting my expectations this season.  They’re not great and not bad.  There’s been a lot of rumors and bad storylines (as usual) out of Sacramento this season.  But on the court, there’s been one issue that’s not being talked about.

Boogie is shooting 42% this season.  He plays center.  The majority of his shots are within five feet of the basket.  He’s shooting 55% on those.

You be shooting 60-70% on layups and shots that close to the bucket.  That’s not great!

We know Boogie also has a mid-range game.  On those mid-rangers (between 15-24 feet), he’s only shooting 31%.  Again, not great!

Boogie’s presence is definitely more defensive, and he’s known for grabbing rebounds.  He was an offensively better DeAndre Jordan, but this season, so far, and unfortunately, he’s becoming more like DJ rather than not.

San Antonio Spurs: More attention from the media

The Warriors’ start was incredible.  We all know that.  I covered it above.

But the most underrated story of the year is that Spurs are only three games behind them.  These Spurs have put together one of the best starts ever.  The problem is that Warriors put together the best one.

San Antonio has limited issues, and they’re not even worth covering because you know they’re gonna figure it out.

Toronto Raptors: More attention from me and other teams

We’re underrating Toronto too.  They’re only 2.5 games behind Cleveland for the No.1 seed.

Everything has gone right for Toronto (injuries haven’t brought them down), and it starts with a healthy and not-fat Kyle Lowry.  The guy’s in shape, and when he’s in shape, he does stuff.  Good stuff.  And man, its fun to watch.

Toronto needs to stay heathy, though they do have very good depth, especially in the front-court.

Utah Jazz: Consistency

Utah is sitting at No.8 in the West right now.  That’s about where they belong.

Look, this is a talented team.  We knew they were going to improve this season, and would make a playoff push.  Every time I watch them, I marvel at their length and size.  They’re a more developed Milwaukee.

But the inconsistency is still there, because they’re still young and still have a couple raw guys.  The guard play has been subpar, which was expected after Dante Exum got hurt.

The Jazz are doing enough, and while not everything is great, they’re in the playoffs.  And its not like there’s anyone too daunting behind, as least yet.

Washington Wizards: Health

The Wizards have slid father than any of us expected.  Injuries to Bradley Beal and Nene have killed them, and an increase pace hasn’t adjusted well.

Washington seems like the team that is trying to copy Golden State when A) They don’t have the guys to and B) They can’t play fast.  Randy Wittman instituted the new offense this past Summer, and its pretty obvious that they panicked about where the league was headed, and decided to change the way they played due to it.  Washington made the scheme move one year too early, and they’re paying the price now.

Standings are current as of today.  Stats are current as of Monday.  Merry Christmas!

Non New Years Six Bowl Picks

I will have a New Years Six Preview column before it comes around.  For now, these are my picks, with little-to-a lot of analysis on the matchups.

Air Force Bowl: Alcorn State vs. North Carolina AT&T

Pick: North Carolina AT&T

Uh, nice way to start off the column.  I know nothing about either of these teams (What does AT&T stand for anyways?).  But I will definitely watch this game.

Gildan New Mexico Bowl: Arizona vs. New Mexico

Pick: Arizona

OK, I’m being a total homer.  But we have to win this game.  I don’t buy into the whole “You should be lucky that you even made a bowl game.”  No.  We better win this.

Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl: No.22 Utah vs. BYU

Pick: BYU

BYU is gonna be emotional and fired up, giving this is the last game for Bronco Mendenhall as coach (I love the hire of Mendenhall for Virginia.).  With all the passion going into this rivalry, BYU will get it done.  Oh, and I hate Utah.  So go Cougars!

Raycom Media Camellia Bowl: Appalachian State vs. Ohio

Pick: Appalachian State

See, this is what’s great about bowl season.  I get to pick and watch teams I know nothing about!

Cure Bowl: Georgia State vs. San Jose State

Pick: Georgia State

I’m someone who loves all the bowl games, and doesn’t complain about how many there are, but letting in San Jose State at 5-7 is pretty cheap.  There has to be a better alternative right?

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl: Arkansas State vs. Louisiana Tech

Pick: Louisiana Tech

I swear it’s these two teams every year in this bowl…

Miami Beach Bowl: USF vs. Western Kentucky

Pick: Western Kentucky

Put on a show for me, WKU!

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Akron vs. Utah State

Pick: Akron

Hey, the bowl games that are the best, feature the teams no one knows anything about.  Akron’s defense is super good though!

Boca Raton Bowl: #24 Temple vs. Toledo

Pick: Temple

Underrated game.  Both of these teams were at some point ranked this season.  I’m gonna pick Temple, even though I’m not a fan of their offense, and quarterback P.J. Walker seems very rattled while in the pocket sometimes.

Poinsettia Bowl: Boise State vs. Northern Illinois

Pick: Boise State

I thought the Broncos were one of the biggest non-Power 5 Playoff threats this year.  Also, can you imagine what kind of game this would have been three years ago?  These two teams were so fun 2-3 years ago.  The final score would have been like 75-70.

GoDaddy Bowl: Bowling Green vs. Georgia Southern

Pick: Bowling Green

Hey look!  I know stuff about these teams!  There’s no way Georgia Southern is gonna score enough points to keep up in this game.  This will probably get ugly.

Popeyes Bahamas Bowl: Middle Tennessee vs. Western Michigan

Pick: Middle Tennessee

This game was insane last year between Western Kentucky and Central Michigan.  I’m gonna go with Middle Tennessee in this because of their bowl history and the teams they beat this season.  Also, they hung somewhat close with Alabama!

Hawaii Bowl: Cincinnati vs. San Diego State

Pick: San Diego State

It concerns me too much that Gunner Kiel won’t be playing for the Bearcats.  This may be considered an upset pick, but San Diego State won their last nine games consecutively.

St. Petersburg Bowl: Marshall vs. UConn

Pick: Marshall

It’s no surprise Marshall is back in a bowl game, even after all the talent they have lost over the past couple seasons.  And UConn, why are you here?

Sun Bowl: Miami vs. Washington State

Pick: Washington State

The Cougars have been one of the best stories and most surprising teams of the year.  A win in this game would be quite the finish.  It makes sense,  obviously, for Mark Richt not to be coaching.  I love the hire though.  It’s basically the dream scenario Miami never thought about happening.

Heart of Dallas Bowl: Southern Miss vs. Washington

Pick: Southern Miss

Again, why are you here, Huskies?

New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Duke vs. Indiana

Pick: Duke

This is a college football bowl game being played between two basketball schools in a baseball stadium.  Your guess is as good as mine…  Just kidding.  Duke proved they weren’t a one-year fluke, and Indiana overcame an ugly six game losing streak to make it back to eligibility.  The reason why they got into a bowl game:  That was a very hard six game schedule where the losses came: Ohio State, Penn State, Rutgers, Michigan State, Iowa, and Michigan.  Fine, let them in.  But they aren’t winning.

Camping World Independence Bowl: Tulsa vs. Virginia Tech

Pick: Virginia Tech

The Hokies are going to be playing this game with more emotion than ever.  That, in itself, will be enough.

Foster Farms Bowl: Nebraska vs. UCLA

Pick: UCLA

The expectations were too high for the Bruins this year.  It got the best of them.  This should be an easy way to salvage what will be looked at as a failure.

Military Bowl: #21 Navy vs. Pittsburgh

Pick: Navy

I do think the Panthers can challenge Navy a bit, but Keenan Reynolds is just too hard to defend.  He’s one of the best athletes we’ve had in college football.  It’s still incredible he wasn’t even on the Heisman ballot, but you could say that about a lot of guys too.

Quick Lane Bowl: Central Michigan vs. Minnesota

Pick: Central Michigan

The Gophers have been way too sketchy this year for me to pick them.  Again, why are you here?

Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl: Air Force vs. California

Pick: Air Force

I think this could be a great game.  California hasn’t lived up to expectations, like a lot of Pac-12 teams this year.  I’m not 100% sold on Jared Goff yet.  I don’t like the awareness he shows.  Maybe he’ll grow on me before the Draft.  Air Force will run all over the Bears and give them the win.

Russell Athletic Bowl: #10 North Carolina vs. #17 Baylor

Pick: North Carolina

What a fantastic game.  Two top 11 scoring offenses match up in this game.  The QB situation is concerning, especially so if Chris Johnson is gonna be starting at quarterback for Baylor, but it’s been made clear they can score in any way.  No one seems to know who’s gonna start as this point, as rumors have Jarrett Stidham possibly being available.  If Baylor’s offense can’t get going, there’s gonna be serious trouble.  North Carolina has annihilated teams as of late, and came very close to upsetting the No.1 team in the country.  If Baylor can score, than this comes down to the last possession.

Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl: Colorado State vs. Nevada

Pick: Nevada

Kinda a crapshoot, right?  I’m gonna go with Nevada in this one.  Hey look, I picked a .500 team to win a bowl game!

AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl: #20 LSU vs. Texas Tech

Pick: LSU

This has the potential to be a shootout too.  Texas Tech was the 2nd highest scoring team in the country this season, yet will have no luck defending Leonard Fournette.  LSU’s offense doesn’t have much else, so Fournette is going to have a big game to keep the Tigers in it.

Birmingham Bowl: Auburn vs. Memphis

Pick: Memphis

How in the world is Auburn favored?  These biased SEC people are ridiculous.  What is there to like about Auburn’s offense?  Memphis is gonna score all over them, as this will get ugly fast.

Belk Bowl: Mississippi State vs. NC State

Pick: Mississippi State

I think this game another crapshoot, but I like the Bulldogs defense, and that will be a difference.

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Louisville vs. Texas A&M

Pick: Louisville

What is going on with the Aggies?  Kyle Allen transferring is no surprise, but Kyler Murray too?  I really liked Murray.  He killed Arizona State earlier this year.  He’s fast and mobile, and is accurate enough to take over games.  This has left the Aggies in a tough spot, especially for this bowl game.   Jake Hubenak (who?) is gonna start.  Louisville isn’t that great of a team, but I just don’t trust the Aggies in this one.

National University Holiday Bowl: #25 USC vs. Wisconsin

Pick: Wisconsin

Sneaky good game here.  Wisconsin’s defense is incredible, and will stifle the Trojans, who are gonna have to make big plays to win.  Wisconsin’s offense shouldn’t face a ton of problems against USC, but if the Badgers do fault, USC will be right there, keeping it close.

Outback Bowl: #13 Northwestern vs. #23 Tennessee

Pick: Northwestern

Northwestern has been so underrated all year, possessing one of the country’s best defenses.  Tennessee was lucky to make the rankings.  I can’t stand watching them.  They’re just (hot take incoming) boring to watch.  Look, this was a successful season, but the Wildcats are gonna be too strong for Tennessee to overcome.

Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl: #14 Michigan vs. #19 Florida

Pick: Michigan

This is gonna be an old-school, grudge-match type game.  Both teams have very good defenses, but after watching the Gators in the SEC Championship game, Michigan better win this game.  We’ve seen flashes from the Wolverines offense, and that might just be enough to win.

TaxSlayer Bowl: Georgia vs. Penn State

Pick: Georgia

This could be a pretty crappy game, since none of these teams seem to be that interested in scoring points, like ever.  I think Georgia’s defense is what will it for them, but that’s if the Nittany Lions offense even poses a threat.

AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Arkansas vs. Kansas State

Pick: Arkansas

The Razorbacks have been that fun and frisky team that makes almost every game interesting this season.  And yes, that was enough to pick them over my Wildcats.

Valero Alamo Bowl: #11 TCU vs. #15 Oregon

Pick: Oregon

Another great game that could be a complete shootout.  I don’t see any defense in this game, and the Alamo Bowl has a history of that.  Oregon has the rushing attack that could be a dagger to a TCU defense that’s had it’s ups and downs this year.  However, Gary Patterson is a fantastic schemer, and has modeled his offense after Oregon.  I really don’t feel good about this pick.

Motel 6 Cactus Bowl: Arizona State vs. West Virginia

Pick: West Virginia

Last one is a rotten egg!  Seriously…  I have strong bias here for the Sun Devils, but this really could be a crapfest.  Neither offense is that exciting.  I think the Mountaineers defense is a tad underrated though.  Arizona State needs big plays, and I’m worried that they’re not gonna get them.

Complaining About And Praising The Committee+It’s Bowl Season Baby

After taking 11 weeks off to focus on school and other things, I’ll be back writing a column a week throughout December.  I’ll, for now, be mostly geared towards college football.  The weekly column will touch on one subject, and one subject only.  I hope everyone begins to read me again, as I work to gain back what I had.  I will let everyone know on any future ventures that are possibilities.  Until then, enjoy what I’ve got for you.  Thanks. -Hunter (contact links will be at the bottom of the column.).

How nice is it to be back, aye?  With all the bowl selections complete, and the final set of Playoff rankings out (for now), it’s time to go bowling.  But let’s back-track for a bit, and complain about, and praise (I guess you have to do a little bit of that, too) the committee.

So let’s go through the latest rankings, and see how long it takes before I get mad.

The Top Four:

  1. Clemson
  2. Alabama
  3. Michigan State
  4. Oklahoma

I loved all the people who thought Alabama deserved to be No.1 overall.  It’s the biased SEC people who, for some reason, thought the Crimson Tide were better than the only undefeated team left.  Oh, and the team that beat a super-sneaky-good North Carolina squad (who’s much better than Florida) to win their conference.  Florida never had any shot in the SEC Championship with the way their offense was playing.

Really, I had no problems with the top four, probably because there wasn’t any controversy about who should be in.  I also had no strong opinion on who should have been given the No.3 ranking, though I did guess on Twitter Sunday morning it’d be Oklahoma.

We really need eight spots:

5. Iowa

6. Stanford

7. Ohio State

8. Notre Dame

Stanford won their conference, Iowa lost a heartbreaker, Ohio State is a media darling (so is this next team), and everyone loves to put Notre Dame in the spotlight.  See, committee, two of these four teams are your favorites!  Why aren’t they in the playoff? (I’m making fun of people now…).  Anyways, this is basically the part of the rankings where the committee has no real explanation.  Hey, at least they got the order right.

Best two-loss teams:

9. Florida State

10. TCU

11. North Carolina

I thought the committee got the order here right too.  However, TCU probably got the nod over the Tar Heels due to A) History and B) The tougher conference.  TCU’s and North Carolina’s bowl matchups are awesome.


12. Ole Miss

13. Northwestern

14. Michigan

15. Oregon

16. Oklahoma State

17. Baylor

18. Houston

These were teams that dreamed, literally, about being in the Playoff.  They’re the teams everyone thought had that outside chance halfway through the season, Oklahoma State especially.  It just never truly worked out.  Houston was killed by the non-Power 5 factor (I’m surprised they were this low.)  Oregon and Michigan had serious lows and highs throughout the season, while Oklahoma State and Baylor were caught in the cluttered, and very competitive Big-12.

Weekly opinion changing



Florida and LSU have always had the high expectations, and since that’s the case, they’re media darlings and devils.  It seemed every week through this regular season, opinions changed on these two.  That’s not surprising for the Tigers, who’ve been sketchy for awhile, and have under-performed for the 2nd straight year.  And Florida, I don’t even wanna talk about them after the crap-fest that was the SEC Championship Game.

Wait, why aren’t you higher?

21. Navy

22. Utah

I really feel like these two should have Florida’s and LSU’s spots.  Navy and Utah didn’t quite have the record or resume, but these are two talented teams who never quite seem to hit the expectations.  Maybe that hurt them?

Bottom feeders


24. Temple

25. USC

Don’t go back and look at where I had USC this year.  Seriously…


I’m gonna do a bowl picks and New Years Six preview column eventually, but for now, I just want to gloat about some of these bowl games.  Here’s my favorites:

Favorites: BYU-Utah (Las Vegas Bowl), Toledo-Temple (Boca Raton Bowl), North Carolina-Baylor (Russel Athletic Bowl)

As you noticed, none of these are New Years’ Six bowls.  They’re all the lower ones that typically no one cares about, but these matchups are dandies.  UNC-Baylor could be a 77-70 final, BYU-Utah is a rare rivalry matchup in a bowl game, Toledo and Temple were two of the best mid-major conference teams in the country, and both had appearances in the top 25.

Final Heisman ballot: 

This is just unfair.  Look at these candidates:

  • Deshaun Watson
  • Derrick Henry
  • Christian McCaffrey

I’ve struggled mightily with this.  The Heisman typically means the best, or the most outstanding player in the country.  In my opinion, that’s been Christian McCaffrey.  There have been only three games this year where he has rushed for less than 100 yards, and has an insane average of 5.8 yards per carry this season.  He broke the record for most all-purpose yards ever in a season, and he still has a game left.  He has done everything for Stanford this season, and it’s why they’re playing in the Rose Bowl.

However, there’s gonna be people who treat the Heisman like a MVP award, and in that case, it’ll be Derrick Henry.  Yes, Deshaun Watson is the quarterback, the most important position, for the best team in the country, but take away Derrick Henry from the Crimson Tide, and you’ve got just another mediocre SEC team with a good defense.  That guy has been this team.

The case for Deshaun Watson is there and is simple.  I already pointed that out.  It won’t surprise me if he’s picked, but I do think it’ll be one of the running backs.

If I had a vote…

  1. Christian McCaffrey
  2. Derrick Henry
  3. Deshaun Watson

We’ll see Saturday.


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