Winner’s Outs Month of March Madness continues this week with another Battle of College Legends. We pit Duke’s Bobby Hurley versus Michigan State’s Mateen Cleaves. I call this the Battle of the MOPs (Most Outstanding Players.)
Let's settle this once and for all. Please remember, this is not a team matchup but one on one, in the ultimate legend fantasy basketball game.
Our Scouting Report on both players will address how they would matchup in a one on one game. Let's start with Hurley.
Bobby Hurley was the Point Guard on the Duke Blue Devil juggernaut at the beginning of the 1990’s. His college career, based strictly on winning, holds up against some of the best point guards to ever lace them up. Hurley was a born leader and a talent. He could drive with both hands, could hit from long range and could pass. But Hurley’s best trait was leadership. He ran the point as it should be done: he was an extension of his coach on the court. He kept the flow of the offense and ran it to perfection. Sure, he had some of the best weapons at his disposal, but Hurley knew how and when to use them. While slight and not long by NBA standards, he held up against the best college hoops had to offer. Hurley’s defense was always strong, on the ball and in his opponent’s chest. He played D like he was taught at Duke. Slap the floor and get down. Run them east and west and marry up at all time. He could always be counted on for a steal or two a game and he had a knack for a turnover at key moments, right when Duke needed the stop. In my opinion, Hurley ranks right up there with the best points guards. He is another one of these great MOPs (Most Outstanding Player- Hurley was the MOP in 1992) that had a less than stellar Pro Career. Now, in Hurley’s case, his was all injury related and after his accident after college, he never was the same player. Period. So, who knows what kind of NBA player he really could have been. But Winner’s Outs doesn’t care. We’re talking college and for that, Hurley could play.
Mateen Cleaves was like a China knock-off of a couture fashion brand, meaning Cleaves was a Magic Johnson copycat, just not quite as good as the original. But, he delivered. He had a storybook run to the title in 2000. He too ended up the MOP that year. It was like 1979 with Magic all over again for Michigan State. I’m serious when I say Cleaves brought it. It was obvious from the start of the season that they had a good team but as their run got going and the press kept writing about all the Magic Johnson parallels, the pressure mounted. But Cleaves and MSU came through.
Cleaves was built like a running back in football. He was solid, seriously solid but had moves. For those of you who know Baron Davis and his game in the NBA, Cleaves’ game was similar in college. He had flash and substance. He could take over the game when MSU needed a bucket and he really was the team’s go to guy. He lead the team and was responsible for its vibe. He even showed glimpses, at times, of Magic’s charm. Cleaves’ biggest assets were his abilities to get to the cup in traffic or go buy his defender. He ran pick and roll well and could finish. His outside shot was adequate. That’s as much as I can say. When it counted, he could hit from range and he really did posses a knack to convert a needed bucket. His D was solid, on point and in the paint. I think with his strength, against college talent, he could have done even more in the post up game, at least against the teams that played man to man against MSU. I think zone based D’s caused MSU and even Cleaves, the most trouble but obviously, they found a way to get it done. Like Hurley, Cleaves had a bummer of NBA career, where he wasn’t quite fast enough or big enough at the 1 or 2 spots. But, in college, he gave the Spartans another banner and glory year to match up to Magic’s over 20 years earlier.
Hurley is going to try to blow by Cleaves and I think he can. Once in a while, Cleaves will body up the littler player but Hurley was so adept at getting by opposing players, I don’t think he would struggle much with Cleaves. Once Hurley sets up going to the hoop, he’s got Cleaves in trouble because Bobby Hurley could shoot and shoot with consistency and range. He’ll do that against Cleaves as well. As in all of the one on one matchups, Hurley just doesn’t want to fall in love with his jumper, even when it is falling. Because, on the defensive side, he will struggle against Cleaves. I think he’ll be able to stick to Cleaves like glue, the Spartan point guard will not be able to go by or around Hurley. But, Cleaves might get off some mid-range stuff right over Hurley but I’m more certain that Cleaves works Hurley in the paint. Now, while I wouldn’t classify Cleaves as a post up stud, he could go left or right pretty much the same and he did do some damage in games in the paint. Against Hurley, Cleaves will need to rely on his post-up game entirely. He might get an open mid-range shot but he shouldn't take it. He wasn’t that great of a shooter from distance and he can’t afford to turn the ball over to Hurley.
In my opinion, neither player can start missing shots because on the defensive side, I don’t feel either player will stop the other well. So, neither guy can afford to miss. For Hurley, that means drives to the basket on every possessions, making sure to finish because Cleaves will block his shot if the ball is ever exposed or Hurley tries something weak near the rim. For Cleaves, it means not taking a single outside shot and he really needs to pound the ball inside, back the smaller Hurley down, use his weight and really take it down low.
The way I see the matchup going is that I think Hurley is quick enough to bother and frustrate Cleaves on his one too many times trying to back Hurley down. This means Cleaves will turn the ball over a time or two and I think that is all the room Hurley needs to win the battle. He’ll score in bunches and might miss or get a layup blocked and maybe miss a jumper or two. Cleaves will score at will as long as he sticks to the post but he was such a rock and roll, move and groove player, he’ll be tempted to try some razzle, dazzle dribbling on Hurley and the Duke player will probably come up with a steal.
The battle will seesaw with each player running out and scoring in bunches. I’ll say Hurley breaks out fast to a 5 to 0 start but then gets a shot blocked. Cleaves will stay disciplined to start and come all the way back to 6 to 5 but then turn the ball over when he settles for a shot from the free throw line that he misses. Hurley will go back to work and go on another run, taking the score to 8 to 6, when he misses a 17 footer, after getting Cleaves backpedaling on a fake drive. Cleaves will then go back to work in the paint, take it to even at 8’s but then try to back down Hurley one to many times and Hurley gets his timely steal. The Duke player then finishes it out with three hard drives and takes the legend’s battle.
In my opinion, Hurley takes this matchup in a seesaw, close one.
Final Score: Hurley- 11; Cleaves- 8
Let the Debate Begin!!
Please leave me your comments and thoughts.
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