Friday, January 28, 2011

Jimmer Rat

     While players like Kyle Singler, Jared Sullinger, and Kemba Walker are the best players on their respective teams and are having terrific seasons, there is one superstar who is going above and beyond.  This senior is running away with the title of best player in the country by a long shot...kind of like he runs the fast break and then spots up for a lethal jumper that flows off of his finger tips with the utmost ease and glides through the basket.  His name: Jimmer Fredette.
     I've been pondering some potential nicknames for Jimmer.  Here's what I've come up with.  "Nothin' but net Fredette," "Jiminy Cricket," "Slim Jim," "Jimmer the Jammer."  Pretty decent I think...but I'll let you be the judge. Whatever you want to call "Jimbolaya," it's a fact that he's spicing up college basketball with his ability to score 40+ points on any given night.
     Fredette's BYU Cougars currently sit at 20-1, coming off of an impressive victory over (then #4 in the country) MWC rival San Diego State.  It was just another day at the office for Jimmer, as he dropped 43 points in the win.  No big deal, really.  That scoring output led to his third 40+ point game in the last four, a simply staggering number.  It's not like he's hogging the ball in the process either.
     He averages over four assists per game.  His efficiency is off the charts, as he's shooting over 48% from the field and a whopping 90% from the free throw line.  John Hollinger would like that.
     After listening to Fredette speak twice on ESPN, I have developed the utmost respect for him.  Not only is he a spectacular scorer, but he's an extremely nice kid...polite, well-mannered, and humble.
     One instance where he exemplified his humility was in an interview with John Buccigross on SportsCenter. After Fredette's outburst against San Diego State, Kevin Durant tweeted that Fredette is the best scorer in the world.  Rather than agreeing and saying, "Yeah, I'm the best," Fredette returned the favor, deeming Durant the world's best scorer.  I guarantee you that if Kobe was presented with that same situation during his senior year of high school at Lower Marion he would have praised himself up the wazoo.
     From his Mormon upbringing, to his lethal trademark double crossover, to his Deron Williams-like mid-range jumper, Fredette is certainly an intriguing player and amazingly fun to watch.
     Fredette compares his game to that of D Will.  Though they are both somewhat undersized (Fredette is 6'2 and a tad under 200) they compensate for this trivial deficiency with exceptional ball handling skills and an absolutely dirty stroke.
     You can talk all you want about Fredette's NBA career when he's actually in the league.  Maybe he'll be a massive bust, or maybe he'll be the greatest player to ever play the game.  But for now, rather than analyzing his potential to be an NBA star, focus on the the way he is electrifying college basketball.
     Jimmer Fredette has already accomplished milestones galore in his 3+ years at BYU.  This winter and early spring, however, he has a chance to become one of the greatest college basketball players of all time, by leading his team to a National Championship.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

College Basketball

     From the World Series to the College Football Bowl games, the world of sports never ceases to amaze.  While every sporting event has its perks, the best playoff system in the country is March Madness, hands-down. When a team like St. Mary's stuns a team like Villanova in the second round, it's unbelievably exciting to watch.  Last year, Cinderella Butler shocked Syracuse, Kansas State, and Michigan State, before falling to heavily-favored Duke in one of the best finales the sport has ever witnessed.
     You never know which team will make an incredible run down the stretch.  It's virtually impossible to predict a perfect bracket, which is exactly what makes March Madness so exceptional.  Picking a perfect bracket is about as improbable as the Apocalypse.
     Midway through the season, here are my top 12 teams that are most likely to cut down the nets when it's all said and done.

12) Missouri- The Tigers are always in contention in the Big 12, but I feel that this is the year they will finally get over the hump and make a run in March.  Marcus Denmon is a stellar scorer for Missouri, averaging around 18 points per game.  Missouri has defeated Vanderbilt, Oregon, and Illinois so far this season and the club has a lot of young talent.

11) UConn- Kemba Walker is a sensational player, but UConn simply doesn't have enough depth to contend with powerhouses such as Duke and Kansas.  I expect them to make it to the Sweet 16 or Elite 8, but not any further.

10) Michigan State- Tom Izzo's club always makes a run come tourney time.  Despite their recent struggles, I expect the leadership of Kalin Lucas to be instrumental down the stretch in another infamous Izzo run.

9) Kansas State- Jacob Pullen is averaging 18 ppg this season.  I question whether K State has enough depth to make a run in the tourney, but Frank Martin's toughness will lead to another successful season in Wildcat basketball.

8) Brigham Young- Jimmer Fredette is the best scorer in the country.  Period.  Scoring 32 in the first half en route to 47 overall in a romping over in-state rival Utah, Fredette is exceptional from beyond the arc and has a plethora of moves.  BYU makes the tourney every year.  This year will be no different, and I expect them to make the Elite 8, led by Fredette.

7) Villanova- Seniors Corey Stokes and Corey Fisher make up arguably the best backcourt tandem in the country. Stokes is shooting a whopping 94% from the charity stripe and 47% from three-point range.  Fisher's ability to draw double-teams off the dribble often leaves Stokes wide open from downtown, where he's money.  Coach Wright should be "Stoked" that he has the Coreys on his squad.  (That's "Wright," I went there).

6) San Diego State- This team is for real.  They may be the Butler of 2011.  I expect Kawhi Leonard to lead the Aztecs to at least the Sweet 16.  Despite their poise and shooting ability, this team may lack size against physical teams such as Ohio State and Syracuse.

5) Pittsburgh- The Panthers are a top-notch program.  They recently beat down on Georgetown 72-57 in a game that wasn't even that close.  Ashton Gibbs is a terrific three-point shooter and will most likely lead this team to an appearance in the Elite Eight, and possibly even the Final Four.

4) Ohio State- There's no denying that Jared Sullinger is a monster in the paint.  However, he has a tendency to get into foul trouble, which may prove detrimental in the long run.  David Lighty and William Buford are very skillful players, each averaging around 14 per game for the Buckeyes.  Getting to the Sweet 16 is a disappointment for this team.

3) Syracuse- The Orange are led by Rick Jackson, Scoop Jardine, Kris Joseph, and Brandon Triche.  Jim Boeheim implements the 2-3 zone to perfection and utilizes his team's size against weaker opponents.  Syracuse often gets out of the gate slowly, yet their tenacious defense keeps them in games.  Foul shooting is a serious liability, as the Orange are shooting 64% as a team from the line.  Despite this obvious weakness, the determination and talent of Jackson and Joseph will lead this team to at least the Elite Eight and possibly to a National Championship.

2) Duke- After exploding to a 15-0 start, the Dukies lost to a fired up Florida State team, 66-61.  Coach K attributed the loss to the strong play of the Seminoles, rather than to a lack of execution from his squad. This loss shows some vulnerability for the Blue Devils.  Though they will likely run the table in the ACC, I expect a slip-up against a team like Florida State that will out hustle you and close out games effectively.

1) Kansas- The Jayhawks have the best team in the country.  You could make a case for Duke, 'Cuse, or Ohio State, but I feel that Kansas is hands-down the best team in college basketball right now.  The dynamic duo of brothers Marcus and Markeef Morris is unguardable.  Cumulatively averaging over 30 points and 15 rebounds per game, the "Morris Monsters" (you heard it here first) make any team quiver in fear.  Explosive Freshman Josh Selby and Junior Tyshawn Taylor give the Jayhawks a formidable backcourt.  Kansas has the highest field goal percentage in the country, currently shooting at over 52% per game.

     March Madness never disappoints.  One or two of these Top 12 teams will undoubtedly lose in the first round.  That's what's so great about it.  It's extremely difficult to pinpoint an early upset.  Maybe all of these 12 teams will make the Sweet 16 and I'll look like a genius.  Maybe only three of them will and I'll resemble a doofus.  These are my Top 12 teams as of now, but you never know which teams will shock the country.  That's the beauty of March Madness.