April 10, 2014

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Sizing up Kevin Durant’s MVP Season

By: Matt Bowen

Kevin Durant is the best basketball player on the planet. Right now this statement can’t be argued. This is fact. What he’s doing this season is nothing short of genius. On a nightly basis his pure dominance emulates the greatest players in history.

Kevin Durant

Will Kevin Durant be holding the NBA MVP trophy at the end of this season?

No, Durant hasn’t led the Oklahoma City Thunder to an NBA title yet but that will happen this season. His game can’t be contained. He’s a masterful puppeteer and his opponents are simply on strings. His recent streak of 41 straight games with 25-plus points is the third longest streak in NBA history.

Before we move on sit back and let that stat sink in for a second.

Only Wilt Chamberlin and Oscar Robertson have had longer streaks. 41 games! That’s half a season straight with that kind of production. To be considered a star scorer in the NBA, a player must average 25 points/game for the season. This season Durant is averaging a whopping 32 points/game. Not since Kobe Bryant in 2005-06 has a player averaged more. To put his year in perspective, Carmelo Anthony led the league with 28.66 points/game last season. In the game where he scored less than 25, he scored 23 and only shot the ball 13 times. He also didn’t play in the fourth quarter. That fact shows how selfless Durant is—individual accolades mean nothing to the man; resting up for a title run is everything.

Durant is only 25 years old—to think that he’s still 2-3 years way from his true prime is silly. We haven’t seen the best of KD yet and that is ridiculous. This season he has shot 50.8 percent from the field. For a shooter such as himself to make half of his shots over an entire season is impressive.

His numbers in his age-25 season are comparable to the great Michael Jordan in regards to scoring. Keep in mind that the game has changed a bit from Jordan’s day—the 3-pointer is the preferred currency of the NBA these days. Through 76 games in 2013-14 Durant has taken 1,564 shots, 457 of which are of the 3-point variety. In 81 games in his 25-year-old season Jordan took 1,795 shots, 98 of which were threes. Durant’s shooting percentage beyond the arc is 40.5 percent compared to MJ’s 27.6. Yes, Jordan shot 53.8 percent from the field in 1988-89, but only 5.4 percent of his shots were threes. A staggering 29.2 percent of Durant’s shots are from the long line. Jordan averaged 32.5 points/game compared to Durant’s 32. Keep in mind we’re taking about Jordan—arguably the greatest to ever play the game.

To think that Durant’s career isn’t following the path of Jordan’s is preposterous. Now, six rings may be out of reach but it’s not impossible. Durant’s shot is silky smooth, true poetry in motion. He’s averaging 34.6 points/game since the start of January.

This being said, there’s no denying he’s the best. He has no ceiling. Expect nothing less than a ring at season’s end.

April 7, 2014

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

NCAA Men’s Title Game Set: The Final Four got underway on Saturday with UConn knocking off overall No. 1 seed Florida while Kentucky topped Wisconsin. Both games were considered upsets and those outcomes ensured that a low seed will win the NCAA Title game on Monday. The Huskies were a No. 7 seed while the Wildcats were a No. 8. Heading into the tournament, UConn was ranked near the bottom of the Top 25 rankings while Kentucky was unranked. Monday’s title game is just another example of the unpredictability of the NCAAs.

NCAA Women’s Title Features Two Unbeatens: While the men’s basketball final features two unexpected teams, the women’s finale consists of the two teams many expected to be there. 39-0 UConn takes on 37-0 Notre Dame on Tuesday, meaning the champion will finish the season with a spotless record.

DeSean Jackson

DeSean Jackson is changing teams within the NFC East.

Desean Jackson Signs with Washington Redskins: The Philadelphia Eagles cut ties with star wide receiver, Desean Jackson. Last week, the Washington Redskins quickly signed him, sending the talented playmaker to one of the Eagles’ fiercest rivals. The idea that Jackson was let go due to his playing ability would seem to be ridiculous. Not missing a game last year, he set new career-highs in receptions (82), targets (126), and yardage (1,332), while tying his career best of nine touchdowns. The fact that Jackson now joins a division rival makes the move even more difficult to swallow for many Eagles’ fans.

Charity Hockey Brawl: A charity hockey game between New York’s firefighters and policemen included a bench-clearing brawl. Of course it did.

Toews Out: The Chicago Blackhawks are sitting their star Jonathan Toews for the remainder of the regular season. The captain is expected to return for Game 1 of the team’s first playoff series, but head coach Joel Quenneville said he has sustained an upper body injury. Rather than play him now, the team is hoping to get him to 100% for the postseason. Toews has been incredibly reliable and hasn’t missed any games since 2012. While he could probably play, at this point in the year the playoffs are the important thing.

Tennessee Titans Cut Chris Johnson: A few short years ago, Chris Johnson was regarded as the best running back in the NFL. On Friday, though, the Tennessee Titans released him, making him a free agent. Johnson has never rushed for fewer than 1,000 yard in the league and after his 2009 season when he racked up 2,006 yards and 14 touchdowns, he was setting the NFL on fire. Johnson hasn’t returned to that dominant form, but has still been a very good rusher, averaging nearly 1,200 yards per season. Johnson is finding the end zone less these days, but at only 28, should find plenty of suitors interested in adding him to their roster.

Masahiro Tanaka Shines in Debut: It’s only been one game, but so far the Yankees’ new starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka looks like a keeper. Tanaka scattered six hits over seven innings, allowing only two earned runs in his debut against the Toronto Blue Jays. He also recorded eight strikeouts and after earning the win, the Japanese pitcher is off to a solid start to his career in Major League Baseball.

Arian Foster Fail: A woman met a man that she thought was Arian Foster and after having her picture taken with him, tweeted it to Foster, saying she was happy to meet him. Only one problem – it wasn’t actually him, as Foster himself had to point out in replying to her. Oops.

Kevin Durant Tops MJ: Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant passed Michael Jordan on the NBA’s all-time list of most consecutive 25-point performances. Durant dropped 38 points in a loss to the Phoenix Suns on Sunday to pass Jordan with his 41st consecutive game scoring at least 25 points. The forward now sits in third place on the all-time list and while he can catch Oscar Robertson, who accomplished the feat in 46 straight contests, he’s unlikely to pass the record holder. Wilt Chamberlain stands atop the list after scoring at least 25 points in a whopping 80 games.

January 21, 2014

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Super Bowl set: The Super Bowl matchup has been decided with the Denver Broncos topping the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks defeating the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. Both teams were the best ones in their conferences all season and home field advantage paid off handsomely for each. The matchup in the NFL’s championship game is an intriguing one. On one hand, you’ve got the record-setting offense of the Broncos. On the other – an incredible defense in the Seattle Seahawks. And when you factor in that the Super Bowl will be played in a cold-weather climate with even a potential for some snow, it could be anybody’s game. You can really make a strong case for either team and that equals an attractive matchup for fans. For now, though, I’ll take the Broncos to win the big game.

Daytona 500

NASCAR is considering expanding their Chase field.

Clayton Kershaw lands monster deal: The Los Angeles Dodgers made a huge splash in the offseason by signing star pitcher Clayton Kershaw to a $215 million, seven-year contract – the largest such deal for a pitcher in Major League Baseball history. Unlike the monster contracts given to players such as Albert Pujols and Robinson Cano, the Kershaw deal actually makes a little more sense. Those players will be significantly older when their contracts end, but at 25 now, Kershaw will only be 30 or 32 when he reaches his first year of free agency. I’ll never be convinced that giving a pitcher that kind of money is a great thing to do since he can only impact the team every five days. But if a team is going to do it, it’s wise to make the move when the player is still young as the Dodgers did. There’s a good chance that by the end of the contract, Kershaw is still among the league’s best pitchers if he remains healthy.

OMAHA!: Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning likes the word Omaha for some reason. It even landed a charity $24,000 this past weekend.

Serena Williams bounced in Australian Open: Top-seeded Serena Williams got her 2014 off to a dubious start by falling to Ana Ivanovic in the fourth round of the Australian Tennis Open, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3. Williams had never even dropped a set to Ivanovic before, let alone lost an entire match to her. The loss opens up the door for other players to claim the title – one that Williams had won five times before. Second-seeded Victoria Azarenka now becomes the clear favorite as she is still alive in the event and has won the last two Aussie Open titles.

Kevin Durant is good at basketball: In case you’ve not been following the NBA, the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Kevin Durant has been on an incredible scoring streak. He put up 54 against the Golden State Warriors last week, and has now scored at least 30 points in seven straight games. The streak has upped Durant’s lead for the scoring title over Carmelo Anthony and he’s now averaging 30.6 points per game on the season.

Dick Vitale likes Billy Joel: College basketball guru Dickie V went to a Billy Joel concert and apparently felt the need to live tweet the entire event. I’m just confused.

NASCAR expansion: NASCAR is reportedly considering changes that could expand its championship to even more drivers. Currently at 12, there’s talk that the sport’s Chase for the Championship could be opened up to include 16 drivers. According to ESPN, there would then be a series of cuts in the 10-race Chase postseason. Expanding the field may water down things a bit, but it also gives more drivers a chance at the ultimate goal of a title, keeping a larger contingent of fans interested for a longer period of time. This may be oversimplifying it a little, but more fans involved equals better TV ratings equals more money.

Metrodome ‘deflated’: The Metrodome in Minneapolis was deflated for the final time this weekend. The historic stadium hosted two World Series for the Minnesota Twins and many other major sporting events including a Super Bowl, two Final Fours, and a Major League Baseball All-Star Game. The Vikings played their final game there this season and will play two seasons on the campus of the Minnesota Golden Gophers before moving into their new stadium in 2016.

January 9, 2014

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Bold Predictions for 2014

By: Joe Williams

In the NFL, 2013-2014 will be the season of redemption for Peyton Manning. He’s already set the NFL record for touchdown passes and passing yards (barely) in a single season. He’s going to win another MVP award and over the next month he will exercise the demons from his career. The first demon to hit the bricks will be the San Diego Chargers. The Chargers have quietly been a thorn in Manning’s side for years now. In 2005, San Diego knocked off Manning’s 13-0 team. In 2007, San Diego beat Manning’s Colts in the Divisional round of the playoffs and in 2008, San Diego bounced the Colts in overtime of the Wild Card round. But in 2014 Manning will get revenge and send the Chargers packing from the Divisional playoffs. Next up will be Tom Brady and the Patriots. We all know the history here. They’ll get it on one more time with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line and Peyton’s Broncos will get payback for the loss they suffered in New England earlier this season. Then it will be Manning vs Drew Brees. A rematch of the Super Bowl four years ago when the New Orleans Saints beat Peyton Manning and the Colts. Manning will lead Denver to its first Super Bowl win since the 1998 season and will surprise everyone by pulling a John Elway and announcing his retirement. After all, what could he do for an encore?

Kevin Durant

Will Kevin Durant and the Thunder win the NBA Championship in 2014?

In the NBA, just Indiana and Miami will try to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. Six other teams will be forced to play despite their best efforts to get into the draft lottery. In the Western Conference, two teams will finish over .500 but be left home watching the playoffs. Kevin Durant will carry the Thunder to more than 50 wins without his running mate Russell Westbrook for most of the season. He’ll win the MVP award, but lose in the playoffs to the L.A. Clippers. Chris Paul and company will reach the finals and knock-off the Indiana Pacers who finally get over the hump against Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals.

In college football, the BCS will be gone and a 4-team playoff will make its debut. But that’s about all that will change. The teams battling for those four spots will look an awful lot like the teams that fought for the top two spots this year. The final four will end up being Florida State, Oregon or Stanford, Alabama or Auburn and Ohio State or Michigan State. Some team from a smaller conference will make a run at going undefeated but won’t even sniff the playoff field. Fans will complain that its the same old thing.

In MLB, as usual some teams will disappoint and others will make a surprising run. The Angels, Yankees, Mariners, and Cardinals will miss out on the postseason. Tampa Bay, Texas, Pittsburgh and the Dodgers will be among the teams in the playoff field. It will be Detroit and Pittsburgh in the World Series with the Pirates celebrating a championship for the first time since 1979.

In college basketball, Syracuse, Iowa State, Wisconsin, Witchita State, Arizona are all currently perfect. One of them will reach the championship game (but it won’t be Witchita State who will be the last team to lose its first game). But that team will lose to a teat that gets hot at the right time. And that team will be Oklahoma State. On the women’s side, five teams (Connecticut, Notre Dame, Iowa State and Indiana) have all yet to lose a game. Two of them will meet in the national championship game and once again, Connecticut will be cutting down the nets.

In golf, Tiger Woods will break Sam Snead’s record for most wins in a career. But he won’t get that 15th major championship that he has been looking for for the last few years. Phil Mickelson will get one, but not the coveted U.S. Open that he wants so badly. Team USA will get the job done on foreign soil and bring back the Ryder Cup. And the playoffs will be very entertaining once again, but it won’t be a big name player that wins it all.

May 28, 2013

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The Week In Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Tony Kanaan wins Indy 500: After years of frustration, veteran racer Tony Kanaan finally won the prize of his life with a win in this weekend’s Indianapolis 500. For Kanaan it was his first victory at the historic race. With only three laps to go after a green flag, Kanaan quickly took the lead. It was a good thing, too, because defending champion Dario Franchitti crashed further back from the front and the race finished under caution with Kanaan in the lead. Rookie Carlos Munoz finished in second place.

Brian Urlacher retired from the NFL after 13 years with the Chicago Bears.

Brian Urlacher retires: After not re-signing with the Chicago Bears and becoming a free agent, Brian Urlacher figured he’d be playing again in 2014. But Urlacher surprised a few folks last week when he announced his retirement. Having played 13 seasons, it’s not as if his career is being cut short but he likely still has something left in the tank. Urlacher is believed to have reached out to every team in the league, but in the end, decided he’d had enough. There’s little doubt that he’ll be on his way to the Hall of Fame at some point.

San Francisco and Houston awarded 2016 and 2017 Super Bowls: NFL owners approved the cities of San Francisco and Houston as hosts of the 2016 and 2017 Super Bowls respectively. Both edged out Miami, which was also vying for the games. San Francisco will host the historic 50th Super Bowl, which will be played in Levi’s Stadium, expected to be complete in 2014. For Miami, the biggest negative was the franchise not securing funding for improvements to their stadium. That likely cost them a bid and they may not see another one until either the team or the city forks over some money for upgrades to Sun Life Stadium.

Lebron James and Kobe Bryant headline All NBA First Team: The All NBA teams were named last week and among first-teamers were Kobe Bryant and Lebron James. Others included Kevin Durant, Tim Duncan, and Chris Paul. Left off was the scoring champion, Carmelo Anthony. Duncan had a great season, but I’m not sure I would have given him the nod over Anthony.

Cleveland wins NBA Draft lottery: Cleveland had a miserable season, but wound up with a pretty good consolation prize when they won the top spot in the NBA’s Draft lottery selection on Tuesday. It’s the second time in three seasons they’ll have had the No. 1 selection and, should they keep it, could pair a big man such as Nerlens Noel along with Kyrie Irving. In a year where there isn’t considered a dominant player at the top, trading the pick could be an option. But when you consider that they have four selections in the top 33 picks, they may need to get a proven player or two in return instead of more picks. And for what it’s worth, Cleveland’s general manager Chris Grant has said he’s willing to consider dealing the selection.

NFL Draft moving to May: Commissioner Roger Goodell confirmed in the NFL’s spring meetings last week that the league’s draft will move to May in 2014. The main reason for the switch? Radio City Music Hall will be booked during the regularly scheduled time in April.

Mike Trout becomes youngest AL player to hit for cycle: Anaheim Angels phenom Mike Trout already has an amazing track record in his short time in the big leagues. But he added another honor on Tuesday when he became the youngest AL player to hit for the cycle. Trout picked up five RBI in a 12-0 win over Seattle to accomplish the feat.

Michael Crabtree tears Achilles: The 49ers received some great news when it was announced San Francisco would host the 2016 Super Bowl. But things evened out a bit with the news that star wide receiver, Michael Crabtree, tore his Achilles and is expected to miss six months. Crabtree, who had gotten off to a modest start with the 49ers, had a breakout season last year with 85 catches, more than 1,100 yards, and nine touchdowns. The good news for San Francisco is that the team has some depth in the passing game with newly-signed Anquan Boldin, draft pick Quinton Patton, tight end Vernon Davis, and Mario Manningham.

Mike Krzyzewski will remain coach of Team USA: It was widely believed that Coach K would step down from his role as head of the U.S. men’s Olympic basketball team, but he’s apparently had a change of heart and will return. In a nutshell, that’s nothing but great news for the program. Since taking over in 2005, Team USA has had nothing but success, winning gold medals in 2008 and 2012. The players have responded well to him and there’s also something to be said for consistency in the program.

St. Louis Rams sign 400-pounder: The St. Louis Rams made a big splash, literally and figuratively, last week. The team signed Ole Miss’ Terrell Brown as a free agent. If you’re not familiar with Brown, that probably doesn’t sound like a big deal … at least until you get to the part that he’s 403 pounds. And oh yeah, he’s 6’10”, too. Brown didn’t play much during his time at Ole Miss and is considered at best to be a project. He was mostly on the defensive line in college, but will shift to the offensive line in the NFL. It may sound like an interesting story, but if coaches couldn’t find a way to use him against smaller, slower players in college, the chances that he’ll be able to compete against the best players in the world are slim.