This is the perfect time for basketball fans. The holidays are past, the college football season is over, and the NFL playoffs have begun and will be winding down shortly. This is the time when many people begin to turn their attention to college and professional basketball. So it’s time to catch up on some of the storylines in the world of basketball . . .
1. Making a run at 70 wins—NBA.
The Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Los Angeles Lakers stormed out of the gates and looked to threaten the ’95-96 Chicago Bulls 70-win season.
The Boston Celtics began the season 27-2 including a 19-game winning streak. However, since Dec. 25th, the Celtics have lost seven of their last 12 games.
The Lakers and the Cavaliers started off hot as well. However, looking at their current records of 31-7 (for the Lakers) and 30-6 (for the Cavaliers) compared to the Bulls records of 33-3 (through 36 games) and 35-3 (through 38 games), these two teams have a way to go before accomplishing that goal of 70 wins.
1. Making a case to go undefeated—NCAA.
The last undefeated team to finish a college basketball season was the 1975-76 Indiana team coached by current ESPN analyst, Bobby Knight.
Approaching this year, many believed that the UNC TarHeels has a chance to match that record. Early on, they seemed unstoppable in beating ranked Notre Dame and Michigan State teams.
However, the TarHeels began the ACC season and promptly lost their first two games to Boston College and Wake Forest. There are currently three undefeated teams remaining in college basketball—Pittsburgh (15-0), Wake Forest (14-0), and Clemson (16-0).
Can an undefeated season be accomplished this year?
Pittsburgh’s chances seem slim playing in a tough Big East conference where they have seven ranked teams remaining on their schedule.
Clemson’s chances seem slim because to this point, they have not been tested (having not played any ranked teams) and have Wake Forest, Duke, and North Carolina remaining on their schedule.
Wake Forest—who may have the best chance to finish the regular season undefeated—has two games against an undefeated, untested Clemson team and two games against a highly ranked Duke team. Right now, we can only speculate, but time will tell.
1. The NBA MVP Award race.
Early on this season, three candidates have stepped up above the rest as MVP contenders—LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Kobe Bryant.
In my opinion, the race is actually between LeBron and DWade. The reason that I would leave Kobe out of the conversation is that he has a better supporting cast than both LeBron and DWade and his numbers, though comparable, are not as good as either one of those players.
As of now, I would give the edge to LeBron James because of his numbers and the excitement that he generates on a nightly basis. I will commend DWade for the job that he is doing in Miami because he has to do everything—and I mean, everything.
And just to clarify, I am torn in my decision, but I think that LeBron will win out simply because his team will end up with a better record than the Heat.
1. The National Player of the Year race.
This year’s National Player of the Year race comes down to two names in my opinion—Blake Griffin and Stephen Curry.
I can already hear people asking. “What about Tyler Hansbrough?” and to that I would say look at UNC’s first two ACC games. Was Hansbrough the best player on the court against Boston College and Wake Forest?
Hansbrough’s performance in both of those games was dwarfed by Tyrese Rice of Boston College and Jeff Teague of Wake Forest. So when looking at Blake Griffin vs. Stephen Curry—again, I feel torn in my decision, but I think ultimately Blake Griffin will win out.
Although Curry has the “David against Goliath” quality going for him in putting up big numbers against bigger schools, his struggles against teams have also been seen as well.
In looking at Blake Griffin, he is sixth in the nation in scoring (22.4 PPG) and first in the nation in rebounding (13.8 RPG). He leads the nation with 14 double-doubles and is among the nation’s leader in field goal percentage.
With his numbers of 22.4 points and 13.8 rebounds per game, he is on the verge of becoming the first player since Tim Duncan to average 20 points and 14 rebounds per game. But as much as I am spitting out numbers to support Blake Griffin, there will still be support out there for Hansbrough simply because as Jay Bilas said “he delivers”.
1. The best conference in college basketball is . . .
The Big East hands down. The Big East has eight teams ranked in the top 25 of the AP Top 25 and the ESPN/USA Today polls.
They would have actually had nine teams ranked if West Virginia had not fallen out of the recent ranking. I know many people out there will make an argument for the ACC which has four teams ranked in the top 10 of both polls, which is impressive. But top to bottom, the Big East is the best conference in college basketball, period.