How the preseason rankings in college basketball look today.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010, 23:39 | Category : Basketball
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The funny thing about the Miami Heat situation is that if the same thing had happened at the college level, people would love the story. Imagine if D-Wade, LeBron James, and Chris Bosh knew each other through the AAU circuit and had become friends in high school. Let’s say they were all deciding what college to go to at the same time and decided to go to the same school because they wanted to play together. The public would love that story, especially if they decided to go to a school that hasn’t been very good in a while. Also, they would probably make their decision on TV or in front of a large audience by pulling a hat out of a bag or something lame. People love it when high school athletes do it, and hate it when professional athletes do anything of the sort.

Don't college kids often have their own "decision" moment?

This is why college basketball can be refreshing, it’s different from the pros. College basketball is more about the team and less about the individual. The majority play defense on every possession like their lives depend on it. Coaches can coach and instruct more rather than tiptoe around trying to keep their superstar millionaires happy. Sure the college game has plenty of head cases, but they have to put in the effort or they are toast. These kids (especially the ones with next level potential) have to show up every day with energy to impress the potential scouts. There aren’t many Baron Davis scenarios of guys coming into the season fat and out of shape in college.

Anyway, that was either an intro or a tangent. I am going to list the underrated and overrated teams from the preseason ESPN rankings for each of the BCS conferences, and then the non-AQs as a whole. I love going back in time and looking at the “experts’” picks. For the most part they do a good job, but there are always a couple of teams included or left off that make them look silly. The overrated teams have their preseason ranking in parenthesis, and the underrated teams have their current ranking in parenthesis.

ACC

Overrated: UNC (9), Virginia Tech (23)

Underrated: uh…thinking…Boston College (2 receiving votes in the AP poll)

Outlook: Duke looked unbeatable until Kyrie Irving went down with an injury. Even without them they are still the best team in the country. No one

Turns out you need a point card to win this year too.

else in this basketball “power” conference is ranked. My how the mighty have fallen. The ACC will still somehow get as many teams into the tournament as anyone else. UNC has played some tough games and they may end up having a good year in the ACC (someone other than Duke has to) but how were they a

preseason top 10 team? That is as dumb as voting someone who just graduated high school to be on the All-American first team…wait that happened too.

Big East:

Overrated: no one really

Underrated: Uconn (4), Georgetown (9), Notre Dame

Outlook: As always, the Big East is a very solid conference this year. I’m not sold on any of them being a national title contender but there is a lot of depth. Uconn was way underrated (picked to finish 10th in the Big East) but I would be shocked if they finished in the top 5 in the conference. I see these teams beating each other up a lot throughout the season. Pitt would have to be the favorite to win this conference right now.

Big X:

Overrated: Michigan State (2), Illinois (16)

Underrated: Ohio St (2), Minnesota (16)

Outlook: Michigan State has lost to four good teams, but their best win is against a South Carolina team that just got beat badly by Furman. They have talent and Bob Izzo, but they aren’t playing well right now. Ohio St. was ranked 5th to start the season but they have even exceeded those expectations. They look like one of only two teams (the other being Kansas) that can hang with Duke. The Big Ten is a good conference right now at the top with Purdue, Wisconsin, and Illinois also showing the potential to have a deep run in March.

Big XII:

Overrated: Kansas St. (3)

Underrated: Kansas (3), Texas A&M (24)

Outlook: The poll people did well with this conference. Kansas, Baylor, Texas, and Missouri have been in the same neighborhood all year long. Kansas (I didn’t think they would be very good this year, they started at #7) looks like a national title contender despite have some very close calls. They are a prime example of reloading every year. Kansas St. looks like it really misses Denis Clemente, but the top of this conference is as good as any in the country. Kansas will once again be the team to beat.

PAC whatever:

Overratted: Washington (17), California

Underrated: USC in the month of December

Outlook: The conference just isn’t very good, but they should be able to get more than 2 teams in the tournament this year. Washington St. may be the team to beat in the conference this year, but Washington has had its moments too. It’s just not a relevant conference right now. On the bright side, Utah beat Bradley earlier in the year and Colorado beat Indiana. Enjoy those additions.

SEC:

Overrated: Florida (11), Tennessee (20)

Underrated: Vanderbilt

Outlook: I fully expect Florida and Tennessee to be out of the top 25 when the rankings come out on Monday (12/26). Tennessee has some good wins, and ugly losses. Even Kentucky has looked a little erratic at times. They played like freshmen against UNC and they haven’t played much on the road. I’m surprised that this conference doesn’t get more publicity for being mediocre. Florida, Kentucky, and Tennessee have a lot of talent, but they play to the level of their competition too often.

This team would have been awesome had Gordon Hayward stayed, but they are only a good mid-major without him

Non-AQ

Overrated: Gonzaga (12), Butler (18)

Underrated: San Diego St. (7), BYU (16), UCF (21)

Outlook: I always root for the smaller conferences. I don’t think any of these teams can make a Butler like run, but there could be a couple in the sweet sixteen. I thought it was obvious that Butler wouldn’t be able to sustain much success after losing an NBA talent and replacing with no one. Memphis is probably still overrated. SDSU is very athletic, but they can’t shoot and have had to squeak by some mediocre teams. BYU will always get beat by big, athletic teams. UCF has some quality wins, but I don’t know much about them. My sleeper is Wichita St. Their only two losses are to Uconn and SDSU. They have a very balanced attack, which means someone can have an off game and they can still win.

Do You Believe in Magic?

Sunday, 19 December 2010, 17:49 | Category : NBA
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Gilbert Arenas, Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic, Washington Wizards

Saturday the Orlando Magic were the center of two blockbuster trades.  (Details here.)  The Magic have seen a slip in the last couple of plays and a change was needed, but did they benefit from the trades?  Who are the winners and losers?

Magic-Wizards Trade

Gilbert Arenas: It’s no secret that John Wall has stolen the show in DC, which has left Agent Zero in an awkward position.  He now gets the fresh start in sunny Orlando.  He went from one of the worst teams in the league to a playoff team and championship contender.  He still faces the same problem of a log jam at the guard positions and he won’t be starting over Jameer Nelson.  If he uses this opportunity as a rebirth Arenas will be happy.  Winner

Wizards: With Arenas, three of Washington’s best players were point guards and Arenas has been viewed as untradeable.  They managed to swap Arenas’ contract for a slightly better contract.  Washington has successfully dismantled all of its core pieces.  Lewis may or may not be in the Wiz’s long term plans, but they’ll have better luck tossing his contract into a trade if needed.  Rebuilding and moving forward.  Winner

Rashard Lewis: He gets shipped out to a horrible team in rebuilding mode from a team that is consistently at the top in the East.  He doesn’t even know if he’ll finish the season in Washington.  With his numbers down, he’s not even in demand from other teams.  Loser

Magic: It’s no secret that Orlando has had its eyes on Agent Zero.  Rashard Lewis’s numbers have been down and his contract really isn’t that much better than Arenas’s.  Winner?

Magic-Suns Trade

Hedo Turkoglu: Things weren’t working out in Phoenix and now he gets to return to Orlando where he was a fan favorite.  The experts seem to think Van Gundy’s system works out best for Hedo.  This may be what it takes to get him back to form.  Winner

Jason Richardson: While he more than fits into the Magic’s 3-pointer happy system, he’ll miss his old team.  You could tell he loved playing with the Suns and that they loved him.  The Magic is another team that seems to gel and have fun as a team.  If he can move on and embrace his new team he’ll excel.  Competition in the East is a lot thinner than beck West.  Winner (if he wants it)

Earl Clark: He gets to move from Arizona to Florida.  Winner

Suns: They lose a team and fan favorite in J-Rich, but shed Hedo’s horrible contract.  They also picked up a legit center

Vince Carter, Josh Childress, Orlando Magic, Phoenix Suns, Marcin Gortat, Jared Dudley

Will Vince be able to make it rain in the desert?

who can run.  Pietrus will fit in perfectly and even bring some defense.  If anyone can get Carter back up to at least 1/4 amazing it’s Nash and co.  Even if Carter doesn’t work out it’s not like they have a shortage of wings.  They improved in size and defense, plus they don’t have Turkoglu.  Winner

Vince Carter: He get’s to play alongside Nash and won’t have the responsibility to create plays he has with the Magic.  If history is to repeat itself, then Carter is in luck.  Grant Hill rejuvenated his career after he moved to the desert from Orlando.  Shaq also looked like his young self again when he was traded from Miami.  Winner

Marcin Gortat: He’ll finally get the minutes he deserves as starting center for the Suns until Lopez returns (even then he should see a fair amount of action).  This also puts more responsibility on him, but I think he’s up to the challenge.  Winner

Mickael Pietrus: His style of play will help him feel right at home in Phoenix.  He does have the beloved Richardson’s shoes to fill though.  Even though the Suns are pretty heavy with wing players, his defense should keep his minutes up.  If he wasn’t getting along with Van Gundy (not exactly the easiest guy to get along with, then he’s glad for a change.  Winner

Magic: This move means that they’re committed to Brandon Bass, but they do lose a legit backup for the fowl-prone Howard.  Fans will be happy to have Hedo back, but we’ll see if they stay happy.  J-Rich will bring shooting and energy to the team.  He’ll be able to do a lot of what Carter was supposed to.  Apparently Pietrus had fallen out of favor with Van Gundy, so I guess he was expendable.  They also gave up a first-round draft pick and cash.  The more I look at it, the more I like the trade for Orlando, but I just can’t get over having no depth at center. Maybe there’ll be more trades to come.  Loser

Where Really, Really Ridiculously Good Looking Happens

Thursday, 16 December 2010, 12:02 | Category : NBA
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My wife is pretty indifferent when it comes to sports, but she studied advertising and graphic design in school.  She loves logos, fonts, and color.  She loves it so much that she watched a documentary on the creation of Helvetica.  This is the one aspect of sports that we can come together on.

She has a graphic design book, The Complete Graphic Designer. At the beginning of the chapter on branding there is a blurb above a picture of the Sonics’ logo and players, which states, “Sports team brands help identify players on the field of competition, but to be truly effective, they must be marketable as both memorabilia and merchandise.  They evoke spirit and unity among the teams, fans, and community” (p. 146).  I couldn’t agree more.

I can't believe the Jazz spent their best years dressed like this.

Being a fan of the Pistons and the Jazz, growing up I witnessed my teams go through severe makeovers for the worst.  So I know what it’s like to have a team with a bad brand.

I know there’s more to life than being really, really ridiculously good looking, but I’ve categorized NBA teams by quality of their brand based on characters from the movie Zoolander.  I’ll do my best to judge as fairly as David Bowie would a walk-off.

(A special thanks to sportslogos.net, which I reference liberally in this post.  Click any team and you can see its logos and uniforms from over the years.)

1. Derek Zoolander: He doesn’t appreciate it when people say that “Blue Steel,” “La Tigre” and “Ferrari” are all the same look, but I say it doesn’t matter.  If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  Franchises that have stayed constant over the decades with only minor changes include only 3 teams: the Celtics, Bulls, and Trailblazers.  Nothing fancy, but these teams have established their identities and have developed strong fan bases in return.  Just ask Billy Zane, he’s a cool dude.

2. Derek Zoolander (post-Magnum): While to an untrained eye

"I'm not an ambi-turner."

“Magnum” may appear the same as his other looks, it was slightly tweaked when unveiled during Derek’s first ever completed left turn.  Some teams have similarly made tweaks to their brand while ultimately staying true to it.  For example, the Lakers had the same uniform until ’99, when they added a stripe down the side and lost the hoop collar.  Nothing major.  Overlooking the fiesta logo, the Spurs have stayed pure over the years.  The Knicks and Heat have kept a familiar look, only slightly modernizing.

3. Mugatu: These teams must have been on crazy pills during the ’90s but have reached back to their retro piano necktie inventing roots.  The Sonics (before they were dissolved), Pistons (after a short stint in teal), and the 76ers (which was one of the worst offenders but has since returned to about as close to their original look as anyone) have all seen the error of their ways and returned to form.

As a caterpillar becomes a butterfly, so must teams go retro!  This summer 3 teams (the Jazz, Cavs, and Warriors) returned to classic branding and look as good as ever.  Spirit among fans for teams kickin’ it old school should strengthen as long as the teams stay away from the foamy lattes (they get farty and bloated).

4. Hansel: He’s so hot right now! Maybe none of these teams has been rappelling on Mount Vesuvius, but they’ve still got cool stories.  Just like Hansel, these teams started sporting trendy new looks in the post ’90s era.  The Nuggets and Grizzlies were inspired by the Zoolanders.  The Magic and the Hornets are consistently switching up their look trying to set new trends.  Some teams succeed (the Suns) and some are just okay (the Hawks, Pacers, and Rockets). The Hansels may have newer styles, but they’d still have to pull their underwear out of their butts to be the Zoolanders.

5. Maury Ballstein: Just like the head of Ball’s Models, the Bucks, Mavericks, Kings, Nets and Timberwolves are all stuck in the ’90s.  Maury had some success for a while and now he’s still wearing the flashy jumpsuit he wore a decade ago.  He needs to accept he’s old and dress like it.  What’s killer about these teams is that they all have the option to use much better branding from their past but refuse to utilize it.  Unlike the other teams that made uniform changes this summer, the Mavs and T-Wolves failed to follow suit (no pun intended) and go retro.  It’s like the designers have their balls in a vice!

Would you let your kids go out dressed like that?

6. Matilda: She shops at K-Mart and and by looking at them you would think these teams did too.  Ever since I was old enough to notice, new franchises (the Vancouver Grizzlies, Raptors, Wizards, Bobcats, and now the Thunder) have failed miserably at branding themselves.  Even when I was 10 I thought, “Wow, those teams look so stupid! Who would want to be their fan?”  Just like Matilda, they all have so much potential. What they need is a clean new look, like what the Griz did in Memphis.  I mean, a push-up bra and these teams could have a nice rack of lamb up there.  Earth to Matilda!

7. The hand model: A Finger jockey.  The Clippers have a long history but don’t seem to have a current identity or face anymore.  This is probably because they’ve been really bad for so long.  Sharing a city with one of the most consistent and flashy teams in the league can’t help.  They could’ve been in group 2 but tried to reinvent themselves this summer.  Their attempt at “cool” new uniforms hasn’t been enough to spark their image.  The Clips are just a different breed.

See, there’s more to life than just being really, really, really good looking. Right kids?

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