Wednesday, January 9, 2008

TKOT Roundtable

Well, we couldn’t resist. We’re back with another TKOT roundtable. We love these things. It’s like little vials of heroin for us bloggers. It’s a time for us to get together and talk some shop about our favorite subjects. For this particular roundtable we summoned a tall gentleman named Fitzy Fresh. It proved to be a great choice because the boy has strong words. A little FYI for you guys, if you get summoned for a roundtable you can't back out. It’s in the TKOT reader’s guidelines. You're in no matter what. Anyways, the conversation is about college basketball and I said it was going to be long and I wasn’t kidding. And we go....

Dogg: I hate Duke but I love college hoops, D- James and long walks in the park.

Fuzz: Okkkk, Dogg. Thanks for that. Put down the J and let's talk for real. Did North Carolina solidify themselves as the team to beat with that amazing comeback win against Clemson the other night? Or are they beatable? Personally, I don’t think they are the best team in the land. I know I know I’m a Duke guy but I’m not sold. They have a lot of talent but they don't impress me. Something is missing. Crazy Hansbrough scores a ton but I've never liked him. I know Kansas has trouble in the tourney but I like them the best right now. They are the best team in the land in my opinion.

Fitzy Fresh: I’ve always been a fan of Tar Heel basketball, especially when they’re ranked higher than that team a few miles down the road. As much as I like UNC, I’ve never really been sold on Hansbrough either. No question he works hard, plays strong and is a guy I’d rather play with than against, but there’s just something odd that I can’t put my finger on. Maybe it’s the constant deer-in-the-head-lights look that play-by-play announcers tout as intense concentration or the fact that he has zero basketball mechanics. Whatever it is, I’m not completely locked into him being the player of the year. In fact, I think Ty Lawson is what makes UNC go.

As far as UNC being beatable, I think they are. I think every team is. One of the great things about college hoops is that if you get a cold night of shooting, bad officiating or the fact that the players are teenagers and aren’t always focused - you’ve got the ingredients for an upset. Are they the team to beat? Until they lose, I think they are. Memphis is tough and I really think they did a nice job getting tough non-conference games, but I think they’re weak conference schedule hurts them. I’m actually a much bigger fan of Kansas this year than I have been in year’s past. Did anyone see the fatal mistake Boston College made the other day by waking the sleeping dog? KU got a big lead and then started to get lazy. BC was mounting a comeback, but started to mouth off and get in the grill of the KU players. Big mistake. KU went straight for the jugular and the game was over before BC knew what hit them. That being said, I have a hard time getting in Kansas’ corner after the countless years of early exits in the Big Dance.

Back to the original topic. The UNC / Clemson game was the reason why I love college hoops. Each team was taking each other’s best blows and sending them right back at a furious rate. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a game where the outlet pass, after a make no less, covered so much ground at such a consistent pace. I love the fast paced tempo of the ACC, SEC (and the Big East on occasion). I think we’ll see UNC at the end of the year, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they slip up along the way.

Fuzz: You definitely have words to say young man. Preach baby, Preach. I agree 100% with you Fitzy on Hansbrough. His mechanics are so stupid or non-existent as you say. Pound it inside, make contact and throw up an off balance prayer and hope it goes in. I don't like him at all. Plus, if you piss him off just a little he looks like Jack Nicholson from "The Shining." Not good times for opposing players on the floor.
I know we have like eight undefeated teams right now, but this year doesn't have a front runner yet. Kansas and UNC are top three teams but lost big time players in the draft last year. Florida was "thee team" but now the boys are all gone. I think this year is wide open right now. I think any team in the top 20 can win it all since I don’t see one dominant team yet. I couldn't put my money on one team to make the final four or even maybe the elite eight. Well, maybe Duke...

Q: Of course UNC is beatable. College basketball is a sport where even the best of the best lose a few times throughout the course of the year. That said, right now I do believe they are the best team in the country. When they actually feed Hansbrough the ball in the post (something they were not doing against Clemson) then they have some of the best inside-out game in the country. If you watched that Clemson game, or any other for that matter, then you can see what a special player Wayne Ellington is as well. The kid can flat out score at will--shoot, slash, get to the line, whatever it takes.

I'm with Fitzy though in that Ty Lawson is the most important player on the team. If he's leading the break, pushing the ball, driving and kicking, etc. they are nearly unstoppable. Watch how quickly they score off of made baskets when he's at his best--it's unreal. The problem with Lawson is two-fold. One, he get's way too out of control at times. This leads to terrible turnovers, and often stupid fouls on him. And Carolina can't afford to have him in foul trouble because the second problem is that they don't have another quality point guard when he sits. Oh sure, Quentin Thomas is a nice role player, but he can't handle the rock and is very susceptible to turnovers when there is a press on.

I'd say the only reason that UNC doesn't make the Final Four is because they A) don't give the ball to Hansbrough, and B) have an extremely poor shooting night. They're the closest thing to a lock in the country. I don't want to hear about Memphis, UCLA, Kansas, etc. None of those teams have the variety of high quality players, proven coach, and reputation that the Heels do.

Fuzz: Ok, enough about those Tar Heels. They've gotten enough love. What do you guys think about the Big Ten this year? It seems obvious to me that it's a two-team race between Indiana and Michigan State. Both are tough at home but I'd go with Indiana as the best right now. Watching highlights of that Eric Gordon kid makes a T-Wolves fan like myself salivate. I wouldn't mind him running shop next year at the Target Center.

Fitzy Fresh: I think you’re right that the Big Ten conference championship is between Michigan State and Indiana. I’m not sure I could pick one over the other right now. Eric Gordon is arguably the best freshman in the country and DJ White is tough to stop when he’s motivated. That being said, Michigan State is as well coached and hard nosed a team as there is out there. If I had to pick one, I think I might lean towards Indiana for the simple fact that they have DeAndre Thomas – 6’8” 295. Apparently he’s lost like 25 pounds. If he drops anchor in the lane, say good night. The kid moves like a fox, too.

Fuzz: I wasn’t nuts--- Mich. St. and Indiana are the only two teams in the whole Big Ten that are on the map. That’s frustrating for a Big Ten fan like myself. When I was growing up the Big Ten was held in high regard but now it seems to have taken a back seat to the ACC, Big East, SEC and Pac 10. I don’t think it beats those four conferences. Hopefully the addition of high profile coaches (Tubby, Matta, Sampson & Beilein) the last few years bring it back to a higher profile.

Besides the top dogs like M-State, Indiana, Wisconsin, & Ohio State the other programs haven’t done anything the last 5-8 years. Being a Minnesota sports homer I really hope Tubby brings this program back on the National map. I don’t think he gets to the big dance like someone here (Dogg) believes but I think we can get to the sweet 16 in two years. That would make the Gophers the toughest ticket in town. I love college basketball and I would love to have a team close by to follow die hardily.

Fitzy Fresh: You better believe it! In two years the Gophers will be a force to be reckoned with. They’ll be lead by Ralph Sampson III and Michael “The Best One Yet” Fitzgerald.

Q: Not only is it a 2 horse race, but no one else is even trailing closely behind. The Spartans and Hoosiers are twice as good as every one else in the Big 11, and at this point, I'd give the slight edge to Indiana. Eric Gordon might be the best player in the country. I watched the Indiana-Michigan game last night and E Go was unstoppable. He has an amazing arsenal at his disposal--dunks, pull up jumpers, triples from 7 feet beyond the arc, etc. It's amazing. Combine that with the force that White brings under the basket, and I think the two of them are a more dynamic and complete combo than Morgan and Neitzel at MSU.

You’re right Fuzz, Gordon definitely wouldn't look bad in the forest green and blue--if Beasley's already gone when we pick...

Fuzz: Alright, we’ve held out long enough. I think we need to talk about the other TKOT team. The Gophers get pub here and will be getting more, but I'm talking about The Marquette Eagles. We have a vested interest in them since Fitzy Fresh here has a brother on the team. They are our home team outside our home state. We travel to Milwaukee a couple times a season and watch them play in person…in really good seats. Anyways, MU is still a top team in the Big East but aren't playing that well and are squeaking by teams right now. Let's give Fitzy Fresh (the most biased opinion) the first crack at them before the TKOT fellas take a crack at them.

Fitzy Fitz: You opened a can of worms…

The Marquette Golden Eagles have given me unparalleled (sports related) joy and managed to take 6-7 years off my life in a matter of three years. Having ties to a program (DFTFC President and Founder) that sits with one leg in the dark and the other in the national spot light has proven to be the ultimate roller coaster ride. This year’s team is by far the most talented and the most tenured. Sounds like all the right pieces, but I’m afraid that MU has a handful issues they need to resolve soon if they hope to avoid a fate similar to those of recent years.

The biggest issue (at the moment) is recognizing and efficiently breaking down a half court zone defense. The problem isn’t that the Golden Eagles can’t shoot; it’s that they continually have the wrong guys taking the bulk of the long distance shots. Marquette is known for and considered by some (Bob Huggins) to be one of the premier teams at breaking down a defender and getting to the rim. However, as strong as some of those players may be at getting to the cup, they are equally as bad at hitting a shot from long range. If MU can limit the number of outside shots by their trigger-happy guards and set-up their best percentage outside shooters, they’ll force teams to play man D, which is basically throwing in the towel. If they can’t, then MU can expect to see a lot of zone and a lot of games in the loss column.

The second largest issue is rebounding. MU is not a tall, big or stereotypically physical team. They are, however, one of the most tenacious defensive teams in college. The games where they struggle are those in which they don’t rebound well. With an uneven number of guards on this roster - thanks to excellent recruiting - there is no reason they shouldn’t have five guys on the defensive boards. They have enough personnel and speed to be able to give each other spells and push the tempo. If they continue to only have the MU “big men” handle the rebounding, they’re doomed to be in constant foul trouble and over matched in the post.

The third and final issue MU needs to address (I could talk about MU forever, but will spare you all my rantings) is offensive balance. You could argue that Marquette could compete with just about anyone when they have 4-5 guys carrying the offensive load. They have star power in a few players, but they are most effective and the most dominant when they share the wealth. One upside to having quality-driving guards is that it opens up easy looks for teammates.

Nothing is better for players then to get a couple easy hoops to get their confidence up. If they can continue to share the rock and look to set one another up, I’m excited for the possibilities. I predict (and hope) the Golden Eagles of Marquette to finish in the top three spots of the Big East. I think with some focused play and maybe a little help from other teams they could even win the conference, but it won’t be easy and they could even slip to the middle of the pack if they aren’t careful. As an admittedly bias fan, I think they will get past the first round of the NCAA tourney this year. WE ARE MARQUETTE!!

Fuzz: Get some fucking fresh air Fitzy and another cocktail. That was insanely awesome and in-depth. He just did that whole rant like Will Ferrell did in the debate part from the movie “Old School.” He had no idea what just happened.

Q: There's not a lot I can say about MU that El Presidente (Fitzy) didn't already cover. I love watching the team, but the inconsistent shooting and lack of size concern me a great deal. While D James has gotten better, he tends to force during big games and often gets "injured" if said game is being televised. His shooting last year was atrocious, so it's nice to see that it has improved this year. The most frustrating thing about James and the other members of "The Big Three" (McNeal and Matthews) is that they haven't improved in either physical ability or basketball IQ in three years (something I'm sure Dogg will address as well). They have the talent to win 1 and possibly 2 games (3 if they absolutely shoot the lights out) in the Tourney, but I'm afraid they're inconsistency and lack of IQ--both in the players and in the coach--might spell yet another One and Done year.

Fuzz: Fitzy is too humble not to mention his brother and his brothers impact. I’ll take care of that. Simply, they need to play Danny Fitz and Cubillian more. They are the only two consistent outside shooters on the team. Every other guard/forward sucks balls at shooting J’s but are good slashers. Teams zone the hell out of them and force them to shoot outside shots. If those sucking balls shooters aren’t shooting well, they’re screwed. Pretty simple. Floppy-top Coach Crean needs to mix in those shooters early & often to open up the lanes for the slashers for the rest of the game. Hopefully as the season wears on here, Floppy-top will figure this out. Anyways, last topic of the night. Out of the top 25 teams right now, who do you guys like that no one is really talking about?

Q: I've said this before, I love the Washington State Cougars.

I just don't get why they are a team that falls into the category of "teams no one is talking about". They are undefeated, play the best defense in the country, and have a minimum of 3 athletic, smart guards who can get a crucial bucket when needed. They play in the best conference in the country (Pac 10) so I know that they aren't likely to run the table, but they will beat some very good teams this year, especially at home and are going to be a force. They will make the Elite 8 with an outside shot to be in the Final Four. Bank on it. (and if they don't, my brackets will be absolutely shot this March)

Fuzz: I'm into the Tennessee Volunteers right now. The best thing to say about them is that they have a great experienced backcourt. A crucial aspect to have in college basketball. Good guards open up everything for every other player on the court. Tennessee has two senior guards---Chris Lofton and JaJuan Smith. The second name isn’t a mis-spelling. That’s his real name. Whatever. Anyways, both these guys are great and are the leaders of 8th ranked Tennessee. Plus, they have coach Bruce Pearl. He’s the guy that went to the Tennessee women’s game last year with his chest painted. He’s a lunatic but he’s awesome. Keep an eye on this team.

Fitz: If you couldn’t tell, I kind of like Marquette. For obvious reasons…

Until next time,


Buddha said...

Did Dogg get up and rub one off during the roundtable or what? After the beginning when we find out how gay he is, he is no longer in the roundtable.

Fuzz said...

He was too baked to even understand what was being talked about. He sat there with his thumb up his ass the whole time. Get on him for that.

Buddha said...

Whats new - dogg being a pile of shit?? Should be used to that by now.

Mr. Cue said...

It was our own fault really. We shouldn't have had the roundtable on a Sunday. Everyone knows that Dogg is a waste of space on Sunday's.

Finn-to-win said...

It should be a very interested rest of the hoops season. There is no way UNC does not lose a game. The ACC is too good of a conference. I agree that TH does not have the best mechanics but his shots go in and he draws fouls. Plus he plays hard. I would agree with Fitz he's a guy you want on your team and you do not want to play against him.