Daily Cup of City 6 (3/2/13)

City 6 Cup 2

Yesterday’s Action

Another week, another bad loss in Ivy League play for Pennsylvania, as the Quakers couldn’t close down the stretch in a 69-64 defeat.  After falling behind 61-59 with two minutes left, Dartmouth went on a 9-0 run to seal the game.  Two Miles Cartwright turnovers during that run were indicative of the largest problem throughout the contest as the Quakers did a poor job holding on to the rock, committing 18 turnovers to just 12 by Dartmouth.  The lone bright spot for Penn was the continued strong play of Freshman Tony Hicks, who scored a game-high 23 points on 7-14 shooting.  As they approach the end of a lost season, the Quakers can take solace in knowing they have a real player with which to move forward.

Today’s Action

2:00 PM: La Salle (19-7, 9-4 A-10) vs. Duquesne (8-19, 1-12 A-10)

Duquesne may call themselves the Dukes but folks won’t confuse them with the squad from Durham, as Duquesne comes to Tom Gola Arena last place in the Atlantic 10 and 2-12 on the road overall.  Freshman guard Derrick Colter accounts for over one-third of the Dukes’ offense, leading the team at 13.0 points and 5.1 assists per game.  The Dukes do not have any significant scoring threats on the interior which should bode well for a guard-oriented La Salle team.  The Explorers currently sit tied for third in conference play and can’t afford to slip up in against a beatable opponent if it wants to hold on to a top-4 seed and the corresponding first-round bye in the A-10 tournament.  No team can be taken too lightly, even Duquesne, as Temple found out in their one-point loss to the Dukes two weeks ago.

2:00 PM: Temple (20-8, 8-5 A-10) vs. Rhode Island (8-18, 3-10 A-10)

Speaking of Temple, the Owls bring their four-game winning streak into a home match against another lower-tier conference foe, the Rhode Island Rams.  The Rams are a dreadful offensive team, ranking among the bottom tier of D-1 teams in FG% (40.1%) and assists per game (10.8).  As a result, Rhode Island likes to play at a slow pace, to limit the total number of possessions and keep games close.  With Wyatt, Randall, and company, the Owls simply have to much offensive firepower for the Rams to hang around at a faster pace.  If Temple can get off to a hot start and force Rhode Island into playing catch-up and out of their comfort zone, I like the Owls’ chances to cruise to an easy victory.

6:00 PM: Pennsylvania (7-20, 4-6 Ivy) vs. Harvard (17-8, 9-2 Ivy) – NBC Sports Network

Coming off consecutive losses to bottom-dwellers Columbia and Dartmouth, the Quakers will see how the other half lives as they face first-place Harvard.  Penn was easily dispensed of in the teams’ first meeting this season, 73-54, as Harvard’s Kenyatta Smith barely missed a triple-double with 20 points, 9 rebounds, and 10 blocks.  Swingman Wesley Saunders leads the team at 16.7 ppg and the entire team scores efficiently as a whole, as the Crimson are 9th in the country in FG% at 48.8%.  Fresh off a loss to Princeton last night, Harvard holds just a half-game lead in the Ivy League.  With just three games left in the regular season and an NCAA tournament bid on the line, there’s no chance of Harvard not coming ready for this game.  Given the way Pennsylvania has played of late, it’s hard to imagine them coming out on top in this match-up.

7:00 PM: Drexel (12-17, 8-9 CAA) vs. UNC-Wilmington (10-19, 5-12)

Following a too-close-for comfort win against Old Dominion Thursday night, Drexel ends its regular season slate at home against the Seahawks of UNC-Wilmington.  A victory for the Dragons will lock in a 5th seed in the conference tournament and a road match-up against either George Mason, James Madison, or an American patriot yet to be determined.  For UNCW, Senior Keith Rendleman is a monster on both ends, averaging team-highs 16.8 ppg (on 53.5% shooting), 10.5 rpg, 1.8 spg, and 1.5 blocks per game.  This contest will be the Seahawks’ last game of the season as the program is ineligible for postseason play due to low Academic Progress Rates; look for UNCW to come out aggressive and leave it all out on the court in their seniors’ final collegiate game.  However, UNCW doesn’t have much talent to throw at Drexel other than Rendleman and if the Dragons stay focused, they should finish the regular season .500 in conference play.

7:00 PM: Saint Joseph’s (15-11, 6-7 A-10) vs. Fordham (6-22, 2-11 A-10)

Today’s trend of Philadelphia Atlantic 10 teams hosting the dregs of the conference continues as the Hawks take on the Fordham Rams.  The Rams come in having lost 8 straight and 11 of 12.  Fordham excels on the glass, with a top-50 mark nationally at 37.6 rebounds per game (including 13.5 on the offensive end).  However, part of the reason the Rams are able to secure so many rebounds is they miss so many shots, ranking among the nation’s worst at 40.2% shooting, and they play at a pace among the fastest 70 teams in the country, affording more opportunities.  The Rams are led by the inside-outside tandem of Branden Frazier (14.3 ppg and 5.1 apg) and Chris Gaston (14.0 ppg and 7.7 rpg).  Gaston was out injured in these teams’ first meeting, a 66-62 St. Joe’s victory at Fordham.  The Hawks were led in that contest by Carl Jones’ 19 points and a double-double (10 points and 10 rebounds) from Ronald Roberts, Jr.  St. Joseph’s is only one game away in the standings from missing the conference tournament altogether; look for them to take care of business against a Fordham team with nothing to play for but pride.

 

Sixers vs. Warriors Game Preview (3/2/13)

The Sixers look to avoid dropping their eighth in a row.

After Joakim Noah abused them on his way to a career-defining performance, the Sixers return home trying to break a 7-game losing streak against the struggling Golden State Warriors.  Despite still holding the 6th seed in the Western Conference, Golden State has been on a downslide of late, going 3-9 in their last 12 games.  Grantland’s Zach Lowe wrote an excellent piece this week on the recent struggles of the Warriors stemming from their return to poor defensive habits, sporting a 108.0 defensive rating over their past 17 games.  At the moment, Andrew Bogut is out indefinitely with back spasms, forcing the Warriors to rely even more heavily on a David Lee-Carl Landry front court.  Carl Landry is undersized for the power forward and the team improves measurably defensively with him on the bench (101.6 defensive rating off the court, 105.5 on).  This line-up also forces David Lee to play center, who by one measure, is the second worst interior defender in the NBA, with opponents shooting 61% near the basket against him.  Fortunately for Golden State, Philadelphia has looked like anything but a squad ready to pick apart a defense over the last few weeks.  If the Sixers are going to have a chance to win this contest, they will need a vintage Thad Young performance to exploit this terrible defense inside.

However, on the other end of the court, the Warriors can score as well as anyone (9th in the NBA with a 103.9 offensive rating on the season), even during these past few weeks.  Steph Curry’s 54-point performance (Including an unconscious 11-13 from behind the arc) at the Garden this week has been all the talk among NBA circles.  His relatively good health this season has been the biggest reason for the Warriors’ turnaround, averaging 22.0 ppg while ranking 2nd in the league behind Kyle Korver with a 45.5 3PT%.  Additionally, despite his atrocious defense, David Lee made his first all-star team this season because he has been incredibly effective on the offensive end with 18.9 ppg on 51.3 FG%.  After facing a Chicago team struggling to score almost as much as themselves, Philadelphia might find the highly-skilled and efficient Warriors’ offense to be a rude awakening.

Finally, with the announcement that Andrew Bynum may have season-ending surgery, fans can finally put any hope of a miraculous return out of their minds.  Honestly, I’m glad the ‘will he, won’t he’ saga with Bynum seems like it can be put to rest.  I’ve given up any hopes on the season for a little while now; at this point, I’ll settle for one victory.

Keys to the Game:

  • As mentioned, the Sixers must receive a big game from Thad Young.  Lee and Landry log the majority of the frontcourt minutes for the Warriors and can be torn apart.  Young has shown flashes of his old self following his return from a hamstring injury but has also been rusty at times.  Philadelphia needs a 20 and 10, high-energy game from Thaddeus if they’re to pull this game out.
  • Limit the open looks from downtown for the Warriors, who lead the league at 39.4 3PT%.  Jrue Holiday needs to be a shadow following Steph Curry through screens around the court.  Klay Thompson and Jarrett Jack are also above-average three-points shooters; the other Sixers backcourt members can not lose them on the outside.
  • Get a strong effort from each unit.  Bench players like Wilkins, Pargo, and Wright were the only ones to show any heart against Orlando.  Then against Chicago, the starters played fairly well but the bench was a no-show.  The Warriors will be on the back-end of a back-to-back after playing Boston the night before; run hard throughout and use your depth against their tired legs.  It will take a full team effort against a quality opponent like Golden State.

Prediction:

Golden State’s biggest weakness (frontcourt defense) is not something Philadelphia is built to exploit.  Without a post threat and relying too much on long jumpers, the Sixers cannot muster enough offense to hang with the high-scoring Warriors in dropping their 8th in a row.

Daily Cup of City 6 (3/1/13)

City 6 Cup 2

Yesterday’s Action

In its penultimate regular season game, Drexel started off strong before holding off a late Old Dominion charge and securing an 81-77 victory.  The Dragons let a 15-point lead completely evaporate as the Monarchs came back to tie the game in the second half before a late Drexel run put the game away.  Letting a last-place Old Dominion squad back into the game was a discouraging sign for a Drexel bunch looking to get its act together with the CAA conference tournament just a little over a week away.  Still, unlike its previous couple games, the Dragons were able to execute down the stretch and obtain the win, ugly as it may have been.

Damion Lee was the star of the show, tallying a career-high 34 points on 11-14 shooting, including 7-8 from downtown, while also securing a game-high 10 rebounds.  Old Dominion’s DeShawn Painter had a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds in the losing effort.  Drexel currently holds the 6-seed in the conference tournament and can only move down with a loss and a William & Mary win in the teams’ final games of the regular season.

With Temple down 5 to Detroit with 2 minutes left and its NCAA tournament hopes about to take a serious blow, Khalif Wyatt did what great leaders do, going on a 10-0 run himself for a Temple 84-78 victory.  It was an off-shooting night for Wyatt until that moment, as he recorded a team-high 20 points but on only 4-14 shooting from the field; but he was there when his team needed him most, just as he has been throughout the season.  Temple would not have been in position for Wyatt’s heroics without strong play throughout the game from Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson (13 points, game-high 12 rebounds), and Jake O’Brien (16 points off the bench on 6-6 shooting).

Detroit’s Ray McCallum looked every bit the NBA prospect he is purported to be, finishing with 21 points (on 8-17 shooting), 7 rebounds, and 6 assists (against only 1 turnover).  In the end though, it was Wyatt and the Owls’ night as they continue to play their best ball of the season entering March.  Temple now sits tied for 5th in the Atlantic 10, one game back of Butler and La Salle for 3rd place and one of the byes awarded to the top 4 seeds in the conference tournament.

Today’s Action

7:00 PM: Pennsylvania (7-19, 4-5 Ivy) vs. Dartmouth (6-18, 2-8 Ivy)

Following a disappointing loss at Columbia Saturday, the Quakers travel home to take on a last-place Dartmouth squad.  The Big Green are known for their success in youth soccer but seem to be struggling with men’s college basketball.  Maybe they’re not bringing the goat to the games?  These two teams actually met less than two weeks ago with Pennsylvania defeating Dartmouth on the road, 67-57.  The Quakers actually trailed by 12 at halftime before storming back in the second half buoyed by outstanding shooting both from the field (56.1% on the game) and the free throw line (19-23, 82.6%).  Gabas Maldunas had an excellent game for Dartmouth, with 19 points and 10 rebounds; the Quakers will need to do a better job containing the Lithunian big man on the inside in this rematch.  By keeping him off the offensive glass and restricting the poor-shooting Dartmouth offense (39.6% FG shooting on the season) to the outside, the Quakers should cruise to an easy season sweep.

Joakim Noah Does His Best Shawn Bradley Impression as Sixers Lose

Joakim Noah took the Sixers to school with a career-high 11 blocks.

First-year all-star Joakim Noah was a man possessed in this game, putting the team on his back and refusing to allow his Bulls to drop a game to the struggling Sixers as Chicago pulled out a 93-82 victory.  Since 1985, there have been five games with a recorded line of 20 points, 20 rebounds, and 10 blocks: two by Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon, one each by rapping genie Shaquille O’Neal and former Sixers legend Shawn Bradley, and now one by Joakim Noah.  The Florida alumnus finished with 23 points, 21 rebounds (including 8 offensive), and 11 blocks, and led both teams with screams into the United Center rafters.  All of his yelling and histrionics may be extremely annoying to a fan of the opposing team, but you have to admire his energy and passion for the game.  If Sixers’ players showed half of his intensity, we as fans would be talking possible playoff matchups.

However, I’ll say this for the Sixers, the effort was there in this one.  Philadelphia did a good job shutting down Luol Deng, who had killed the Sixers in their previous meetings, holding him to 12 points on 5-14 shooting.  Then, after falling behind by as many as 16 in the second half, Philadelphia fought back to make a close game of it before a Chicago run midway through the fourth put the game away.  After the Sixers cut the deficit to four at 75-71, there was a three-minute stretch where Noah tallied 3 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 blocks and the Chicago lead was back to twelve at 83-71.  Ultimately, Noah was too much for the Sixers in their quest to earn a tough road victory.

For Philadelphia, Jrue Holiday got back to his scoring ways with 22 points on 10-19 shooting, though he only dished out 3 assists against 4 turnovers.  Holiday needs to get back to playing a complete floor game, both setting up teammates and converting at the rim, if the Sixers are going to return to the W column.  Hawes also played with energy on the offensive end with 20 points and 15 rebounds (5 offensive).  But again, Hawes was guarding Noah, who put up a stat line that only 3 other players have compiled over the last 28 years, so how well could Spencer have really played? Besides Noah, Carlos Boozer had a double-double for Chicago with 21 points and 12 rebounds, handily winning his match-up with Thad Young and completing the Chicago front court domination.

The loss is the seventh straight for the Sixers who will next take on Golden State at home Saturday night.  The Warriors will be on the back-end of a road back-to-back following their game against the Celtics; hopefully, tired legs will benefit Philadelphia.  After the incredible Steph Curry performance at the Garden Wednesday night, it will be interesting to see what he does the rest of the week.

2013 Kronum Season Preview: Nimble Jacks

The Nimble Jacks enter the 2013 season looking to win its 4th straight championship.

This is part one in an 8-part series leading up to the 2013 Kronum regular season.  We’ll cover each of the seven teams as well as offer playoff predictions.

2011 Results: 9-1 Regular Season, 2-0 Playoffs, League Champion

2011 Leaders:

NJ Stats

 

 

Key Losses: Joe Petrino (to Evergreens), Matt Kump (to Work Horses)

Key Additions: Ryan Tressler (from Throwbacks), Tyler Blood, Jesse Barone, Rich Schafer

As the old saying goes, “Success breeds enemies”.  In regard to the Nimble Jacks, the Yankees of Kronum, if you aren’t one of their die-hard supporters, chances are you openly root against them at every turn.  The loudest cheer of the 2011-12 season was heard throughout the league when the Throwbacks upset the Nimble Jacks in Week 6; that loss ended the Jacks’ 24-game winning streak stretching across three seasons.  Unfortunately for the rest of the Kronum league, the Jacks shook off that misstep and went undefeated the rest of the way in claiming their third consecutive Kronum championship.

Looking back, it’s extremely difficult to point to one thing as the key to the Nimble Jacks’ success over the years.  The Jacks certainly buy into a team concept; they shared the ball better than any other team, leading the league in both assists per game (30.3) and assist % (57.1%), which denotes what percentage of made shots came via an assist.  They also scored in a variety of ways, ranking first in flex shots made and second in dunks per game (3.7), trailing only the above-the-rim Jet Sets.  Combined with enough cross and wedge zone shots to keep defenses honest, the Jacks truly attacked from all angles and made defensive gameplanning a near-impossibility.  After moving defenses around and out of position, the Jacks also shot the ball extremely efficiently, with a 2nd-ranked team shooting percentage (45.8%, just behind the Jet Sets’ 45.9% mark).  The Jacks were particularly deadly in the flex (47.8%) and wedge (51.9%) zones, leading the league in marksmanship from both areas, while having the lowest off-goal shooting percentage in the league (17.9%).

Like most championship teams, the Jacks were no slouch on defense either.  3 of the 10 all-star wedgebacks last season wore the rabbit on their jerseys.  Sean Kennedy and Pete Weiss ranked first and second in saves per game, at 12.9 and 10.7, respectively, while Ben Hutchison would probably perenially lead the league if opposing shooters weren’t so afraid to enter his quadrant.  Additionally, crosser Jay Shegda is widely regarded as a top-three field defender in Kronum.

Going forward, continuity will be key for the Nimble Jacks as they return 11 players from last season’s championship roster, and 12 returning professional league players overall; both marks are tied for most among Kronum league teams.  Of course, the 165-pound elephant in the room is the loss of Rookie-of-the-Year ranger Joe Petrino (editor’s note: While Rookie of the Year honors actually went to Stephen Vandenberg, Petrino is still ROY in my heart. Must have been that anti-Jacks bias).  We’ll discuss what Petrino brings to the table more in detail during our Evergreens preview; suffice it to say, it’s very difficult to replace the 7th leading scorer in the league (22.7 ppg), who also had the 7th best shooting percentage in the league at 51.4% (min. 20 total shot attempts).  That sort of efficient production doesn’t grow on trees (although the Evergreens may try).

Nevertheless, the Jacks will have to replace the nearly 20% of their points that went out the door with Petrino and will look to a variety of sources to do so.  Veteran ranger Ryan Tressler and rookie ranger Rich Schafer will enter the rotation and have the ability to put the ball in the chamber.  It will also mean increased roles within the offense for returning players such as Shaun Stevens and Sean Kennedy.  For all that, two main factors will determine whether the Nimble Jacks can overcome the loss of Petrino and ultimately continue their reign atop the league.

First, can Dan Geiger assume the Petrino-role within the offense?  Geiger’s rookie season got off to an inauspicious start with a 5-game suspension for his role in a physical altercation during the preseason.  The layoff hurt as he struggled to carve a place in the rotation and a role in a Jacks’ offense that was then firing on all cylinders.  Nonetheless, Geiger picked his moments, showing a strong arm and coming up with some big shots during the team’s playoff run.  Since then, the offseason has been a revelation in terms of Geiger’s progression within the game.  He has become an automatic weapon from the flex zone in preseason play; one sorely needed for a Jacks’ team that has struggled at times during the offseason.  If Geiger can carry his strong level of play into regular season and put together an elite-scorer profile, it will answer one huge question mark for the Nimble Jacks.

The other big question entering the season is whether Jared O’Donnell will fulfill his enormous potential.  O’Donnell combines a level of athleticism, creativity, and skill that only Kevin Clark and a couple others in Kronum possess.  Now, I know what you’re thinking.  O’Donnell was already 4th in the league in scoring per game (23.6), the most efficient shooter in the league at 62.1% (min. 4.0 shot per game) and 12th in the league in assists per game (4.1).  What more could the man do?  However, shockingly, O’Donnell was also the league’s most underutilized player.  O’Donnell had the largest gap in Kronum between the percentage of his team’s points and his usage rate, or percentage of his team’s shots.

Utilization

As much as he did for the team already, he was still scoring more efficiently than anyone else in the league, so have him do more.  Part of this sub-utilization falls on the team’s gameplan and need to get the ball in his hands more often and part falls on O’Donnell’s tendency to go through games a little too passively at times.  But if the Nimble Jacks figure out how to best utilize their most dangerous weapon, the rest of the Kronum league better watch out.

With all that in mind, it will be up to captain Scott Kennedy to fit the pieces together both from a managerial standpoint and out on the field where he acts as the floor general for the Jacks offense (2nd in the league at 6.7 assists per game).  It may be a difficult task, but he has done it before and I wouldn’t bet against Scotty Kronum.

Regular Season Prediction: 8-2 (1st place)

The loss of Petrino and the growing pains associated with integrating some new blood (both metaphorically and literally with Tyler) will cause a couple hiccups along the road.  In spite of those obstacles, the Jacks ultimately have too much talent and experience to give up their spot atop the standings quite yet.

 

Sixers @ Bulls Game Preview (2/28/13)

The Sixers need to take the bull by the horns and play with some heart.

Normally, this contest would be one where I would say Philadelphia could steal a game and earn a win.  The Bulls are still without Derrick Rose; the Sixers proved in the first round of last year’s playoffs that they’re capable of taking down a Rose-less Chicago squad, especially one who’s gone 3-7 in its last 10 games.  Additionally, Taj Gibson is out for two weeks with a sprained left MCL, further depleting a front court hurt by the departure of Omer Asik to free agency.  Unfortunately for Philadelphia fans, the Sixers came into the Orlando game Tuesday with every possible chance to earn a win and decided to defecate all over those chances with an abysmal 48 minutes of play, so any level of trust has evaporated.

Chicago won both of the teams’ earlier meetings this season.  Luol Deng has given Philadelphia all it can handle in those match-ups, recording 25 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists in the first game and 19 points and 12 rebounds in the second contest.  The departure of Andre Iguodala from the Sixers has been evident in this area as he generally shut down Deng in the past and Evan Turner has not proven up to the task.  Carlos Boozer has also performed very well on the season.  Once only discussed for his amnesty possibilities, Boozer actually has the highest PER of Chicago’s starters at 17.44, having accrued averages of 15.5 points and 9.3 rebounds per game.  He has a refined mid-range and post game so Thad Young will need to be up to the task on the defensive end.

Keys to the game:

  • Jrue Holiday has to return to all-star form.  He’ll likely be guarded by Kirk Hinrich or Nate Robinson for the majority of the game; lock-down defenders they are not.  Be aggressive and go after them early and often.
  • Keep Chicago off the offensive glass.  The Bulls’ offensive rebounding rate ranks third in the league at 30.4%.  Joakim Noah is third in the NBA at 3.9 offensive rebounds per game while Boozer and Deng both also grab more than two offensive rpg.  Limiting second chance opportunities will be key for Hawes, Young, and Turner.

Prediction:

Every fiber of my being wants to say that the Sixers pull this game out.  If the Orlando game and subsequent Doug Collins epic press conference didn’t serve as a wake-up call, nothing will.  However, based on recent play I just can’t predict Philadelphia comes out on top.  Chicago corrals too many o-boards, the Sixers’ offense continues to struggle, and the Bulls win a close one.

Daily Cup of City 6 (2/28/13)

City 6 Cup 2

Yesterday’s Action

For 20 minutes last night, St. Joseph’s hung with the best in the Atlantic 10 and it looked like an upset might be brewing.  Then, with Saint Louis leading by 2 at halftime, the cellophane wrap was stretched over the Hawks’ rim in the 2nd half as the Billikens pulled away for an easy 70-53 victory.  Ryan Roberts, Jr. had an outstanding game for the Hawks, recording a season-high 25 points on 8-10 shooting and 9-11 from the charity stripe.  However, the rest of his teammates combined to shoot just 7-36 (19.4%) in what was easily the team’s coldest outing from the field this season.  For Saint Louis, leading man Dwayne Evans stuffed the stat sheet with 21 points, 12 rebounds, 3 steals, and 3 blocks, truly doing it all for the Billikens.  In the end, losing on the road to a first-place conference foe is not something for the Hawks to hang their heads about.  Look for them to rebound from this defeat Saturday night against Fordham.

Today’ Action

7:00 PM: Drexel (11-17, 7-9 CAA) @ Old Dominion (4-24, 2-14 CAA) – NBC Sports Network

Coming off two consecutive heartbreaking losses, a double overtime defeat to Delaware and a one-point loss at the hands of Towson, the Dragons look to bounce back against the last-place Monarchs.  Old Dominion is one of the worst shooting teams nationally, shooting only 40.1% as a team.  Center DeShawn Painter does the bulk of the work inside for Old Dominion leading the team in scoring (12.9 ppg) and rebounding (8.4 rpg).  Painter also has some range for a 6’9″ player, shooting 12-34 (35.3%) from behind the arc on the season.

The Monarchs upset Drexel in Philadelphia earlier this month, 78-66.  Painter and reserve guard Dimitri Batten each had 15 points and made 3 of 4 three-pointers in that contest, while Derrick Thomas led Drexel with 18 points on 7-10 shooting.  Old Dominion shot well above its average in that one (47.3% from the field, 50.0% from downtown); Drexel needs to do a better job closing out shooting and take care of business against the CAA’s worst.

7:00 PM: Temple (19-8, 8-5 A-10) vs. Detroit (19-10, 11-4 Horizon) – ESPN3

In the midst of their best stretch of conference play this season, Temple takes a break from the Atlantic 10 to take on non-conference foe Detroit in a rescheduled Gotham Classic game.  The Titans are led by future NBA point guard Ray McCallum, playing under his head coach father.  McCallum is 24th in the nation at 19.1 ppg on 50.1% shooting (incredible for a point guard) and also leads Detroit at 4.7 apg.  Detroit as a whole is a high-scoring bunch, 7th in the nation at 78.9 ppg.  Not only do they score efficiently, with the 18th-most efficient offense in Division 1, the Titans push the pace playing at the 17th-fastest tempo nationally.  As a team not currently projected to make the tournament, there’s no doubt Detroit will get up for this game in its last chance to secure a quality win before the Horizon league tournament.  With the Owls on the bubble themselves, they should adopt a similar mindset and come out looking to further secure their tournament resume.

Daily Cup of City 6 (2/27/13)

City 6 Cup 2

Today’s Action

8:00 PM: Saint Joseph’s (15-10, 6-6 A-10) @ Saint Louis (21-5, 10-2 A-10) – CBS Sports Network

Though the Hawks’ win over George Washington Saturday returned them to .500 in conference play, they’ll have to play perhaps their finest game of the season to remain there as they travel to Saint Louis.  The Billikens (whose nickname stems from a charm doll), sit in first place in the Atlantic 10 and are at least one writer’s pick for a sleeper Final Four team.  Saint Louis has played exceptionally well of late, coming off consecutive wins against ranked opponents VCU and Butler as part of a current nine-game winning streak.  Junior Dwayne Evans leads the team in scoring (12.0 ppg) and rebounding (6.8 rpg) as part of a balanced Billikens attack.  Like St. Joe’s, Saint Louis plays at a very slow tempo, working to get efficient shots (65th in the country on 45.6% shooting), and sporting a top-30 defense in terms of points per possession.  If the Hawks play a smart, efficient game to pull out an unlikely victory in this one, it would serve as the marquee win of the season alongside the Notre Dame overtime win.

Sixers Playoff Aspirations Vanish Into Thin Air

Stick a fork in the Sixers season; they’re done.

Facing an Orlando Magic team that had lost 17 of its past 18 games, and 10 straight games on the road, the Sixers decided to put forth their worst effort of the 2012-13 season in a 98-84 loss.  The team exhibited zero ball movement on the offensive end, constantly settling for long jumpers after one or two passes.  An Orlando 11-0 run to start the 2nd half infuriated Doug Collins as he benched 4 of his 5 starters at once.  A couple minutes later, consecutive turnovers by the Sixers brought a chorus of boos from the Wells Fargo crowd.  Following a Sixers’ spurt to bring the deficit to a manageable seven points to end the third, the Magic started the 4th quarter on a 13-3 run, eliciting a Collins timeout and more boos from a fed-up crowd.

The game, and really the Sixers season, was summed up by a sequence with 9 minutes left in the 4th quarter.  Evan Turner was called for an illegal screen out of bounds, charged with a foul and turning the ball over.  Following the whistle, Turner had a dumbfounded look on his face and Malik Rose remarked that Turner didn’t understand the rule.  He didn’t get it, and neither do the Sixers.

What was Jrue Holiday doing in this game?  Although he had 10 assists, Holiday finished with only 9 points on 4-11 shooting.  The Sixers’ all-star rarely asserted himself offensively, either playing passively or settling for a long jumper.  Only two Sixers played with any sort of energy on the evening.  Thad Young accrued 3 steals and 10 rebounds, including 5 offensive boards, and looked to be back to his old self following the hamstring injury.  The other bright spot was Damien Wilkins with a team-high 14 points; Wilkins had two powerful dunks early in the second quarter during the Sixers’ lone run of positive play on the night.

For Orlando, Nikola Vucevic showed the Sixers what they were missing in trading him away this offseason, compiling 12 points and 19 rebounds (19 more than Andrew Bynum had on the night).  E’Twaun Moore (forced into point guard duty with the injury to Jameer Nelson) finished the game with 12 points and a career-high 10 assists, proving how little tenacity Philadelphia showed on the defensive end.  Aaron Afflalo also his customary solid performance, tying a game-high with 16 points, and adding 6 rebounds and 7 assists.

As the final seconds ticked down, Philadelphia fans booed unceasingly for the final 30 seconds of gametime.  Vucevic went over to the Sixers bench and gave all the coaches and players the handshake bro-hug after the game.  The imagery was clear; the Magic may still have the worse record but at least they’re still playing with pride.  I’m not sure I could say that about the Sixers.

Sixers vs. Magic Game Preview (2/26/13)

The Sixers will need some magic to reach the playoffs after poor play of late.

The Sixers, mired in a five-game losing streak that has seen their stock plummet within the Eastern Conference standings, take on an Orlando team playing through a five-game losing streak of its own.  Sadly, the Sixers would be in great playoff position with any sort of decent play lately as the Bucks have also been floundering, losing 9 of their last 11 games.  Instead of taking advantage, Philadelphia has seen its playoff odds drop to single digits, much to the benefit of the Toronto Raptors.  Toronto has gone 7-3 since acquiring Rudy Gay in the biggest trade of the 2012-13 season and pulled even with Philadelphia for 9th place, 4 games back of Milwaukee for the final playoff spot.  If the Sixers drop tonight’s contest to the slumping Magic, any lingering chance of a playoff appearance will disappear.

The Sixers won the teams’ first contest earlier this month, 78-61, thanks to one of Spencer Hawes’ finest games of the season (21 points and 14 rebounds) and abysmal shooting by Orlando (27-80, 33.8% from the field, and 1-12, 8.3% from behind the arc).  That game was part of a stretch for the Magic that has seen them lose 17 of its last 18 games as the team has already turned its eye to next season.  Last week, the team traded away J.J. Redick, its second most productive player in terms of win shares, in exchange for a couple young pieces in Tobias Harris and Doron Lamb as well as the expiring contract of backup PG Beno Udrih.  Injuries have mounted for Orlando as Glen Davis is likely out for the season after surgery to repair a broken left foot and Jameer Nelson will not play tonight as he continues to sit with a strained left patella tendon.  Of the current starters, Arron Afflalo is the old man at 27 years of age, with the other 4 players all 24 or younger.

Philadelphia will get another look at their last two first-round picks, sent to Orlando as part of the deal to have Andrew Bynum wear a suit on the end of the Sixers’ bench.  Nikola Vucevic has shined in his second season, ranking 22nd in PER among NBA centers, while being only 1 of 10 players in the league currently averaging a double double in points and rebounds (12.3 and 11.4).  Moe Harkless has played well lately seeing more of an expanded role in the wake of roster changes and injuries, putting up the following numbers over the last 10 games:

SPLITS GP MPG FG% RPG APG BLKPG STPG PFPG PPG
Last 10 Games 10 35.7 .431 6.8 1.0 1.1 1.4 1.9 11.9

His shot is still a work in progress, as he’s sunk only 22.2% of his three-points attempts and 53.7% of his free throws on the season.  However, Harkless is still only 19 and has shown plenty of promise as an athletic wing and active defender.

Keys to the Game:

  • Jrue Holiday needs to have his way on the offensive end and take control of the game.  The Magic are splitting PG duties between E’Twuan Moore (really more of an inefficient shooting guard than a point guard) and Udrih, who’s a solid professional but not the same class of talent as Holiday.  Neither of these players should be able to slow down Jrue if he decides to be assertive.
  • Hawes needs to at least play his match-up with Vucevic to a draw.  Spencer played very well in the first game between these teams so I actually have some hopes for this one.  Maybe he’s in Nikola’s head from going up against him in practice last season?  Anyway, Vucevic will get his share of defensive rebounds but Hawes must keep him off the offensive glass and limit easy buckets in the paint.
  • Contain leading scorer Arron Afflalo (16.8 ppg).  Afflalo is more of a spot-up shooter and strong perimeter defender than a true creator on offense.  Whether the Sixers opt to go with Nick Young or Evan Turner guarding Afflalo, they cannot provide Afflalo open looks.  Make Orlando settle for shots from less-efficient shooters like Moore and Harkless.

Prediction: Sixers take on their frustration on an undermanned and outgunned Magic squad as Sixers fans remember what he feels like to celebrate a win.