Division III Playoff Football

The football playoffs are finally here!

What?

I know what you’re thinking; the first college football playoff doesn’t start until 2015 and the NFL playoffs later than that, what kind of football has playoffs starting this early?

NCAA Division III, that’s who. On Saturday at noon local time, 32 teams will battle to move onto the next round, an all-expense-paid trip to Salem, VA on their minds for the championship.

Our resident D3 braketologists took turns trying to crack the D3 code in search of the perfect playoff bracket. UW-Whitewater won big over Mount Union in the championship last year and will try to repeat, something that hasn’t been done since…….Whitewater did it. Here are our four brackets (click to enlarge):

Bryce (@bsedio):

D3 football playoff BRYCE

Addison:

D3 football playoff ADDISON

Brett (@b1ders):

D3 football playoff BRETT

Dan (@KnappyBoy):

D3 football playoff bracket

The Purples (UW-Whitewater & Mary Hardin-Baylor) are the top two teams in the top half of the bracket, but the Delaware Valley faithful hope to put an end to that reign. Meanwhile, John Carroll (OH) looks like a favorite out of our 4 experts to go far in the field.

Dan somehow has Mount Union losing to John Carroll, but also making the championship game, must have been some kind of glitch on the website to allow him to do that.

3 of our 4 experts will be in Cleveland this weekend for that first-round John Carroll (9-1) vs. Centre (10-0) matchup at noon. Stop by and see us if you’ve got your own bracket to show us. You can also make mean comments about how dumb our picks are on Twitter, @NBSportsReport.

NCAA Football Mock Committee, Nov. 18, 2014

The landscape continues to change in the FBS world. Mississippi State and Arizona State were the highest ranked schools to lose this past week and see a drop in the rankings. Mississippi State has a better probability of getting to their conference championship game than Arizona State by a fair margin. The Sun Devils can only get into their conference championship game if UCLA beats USC but then loses to Stanford (assuming ASU wins out). Let’s first start with looking at where the NBSR staff ranks their top four teams:

Now @bsedio @b1ders @dknappyboy Addison
1 Florida State Alabama Florida State Alabama
2 Oregon Oregon Alabama Oregon
3 Alabama Florida State Oregon Texas Christian
4 Ohio State Baylor Baylor Mississippi State

The fourth member of our committee remains a revolving door as Addison joins the crew this week. Nobody had a matching set with the actual playoff committee this week.

About sums up Oregon State’s opinion of the Sun Devils (photo from College Football AP)

Two members of our staff feel that FSU deserves the #1 spot as they now can be called the lone undefeated team from a power five conference. Our other two members went with the “beat the #1 and become the #1″ logic as Alabama jumped from #5 to #1 in the actual playoff rankings. The only other real disparity was with who deserves the number four spot. OSU gets the “best team now” nod with injury considerations taken into account. Baylor bumps TCU both because of how poorly TCU looked against Kansas this week as well as Baylor having that head to head win in their matchup. Addison went with an eye test approach as his reasoning for removing Florida State from the top four.

Now here’s the mock committee’s predictions for season’s end:

Later  @bsedio  @b1ders  @dknappyboy  Addison
1 Oregon Alabama Florida State Alabama
2 Baylor Oregon Alabama Oregon
3 Ohio State Florida State Oregon Mississippi State
4 Marshall Baylor Baylor Wisconsin

FSU, Alabama, Oregon, and Baylor remain as the most popular choices across the board. Addison feels a Wisconsin Big 10 title gets the two-loss squad the nod over a one-loss Big 12 school or a one or two loss Florida State.

Sure.

That logic is probably as bold as @bsedio‘s as he believes the SEC will continue to beat each other up and show the SEC is weaker overall as a conference than previous beliefs.

This paired with the idea FSU loses before season’s end opens up the top four to the

Melvin “That Addison kid crazy…but you gotta love ‘em”

other three conference winners and at large. Prediction here is OSU wins out and the Big 10, Baylor gets the Big 12 because of head to head win over TCU, and Marshall ends the season with a 65 point win in the CUSA championship game.

Finally, the collaborative effort in deciding the top 15 compared to the actual committee’s top 25:

NBSR Mock PC This week NCAA PC
Florida State 1 Alabama
Alabama 2 Oregon
Oregon 3 Florida State
Baylor 4 Mississippi State
Texas Christian 5 Texas Christian
Mississippi State 6 Ohio State
Ohio State 7 Baylor
Ole Miss 8 Ole Miss
Georgia 9 UCLA
Michigan State 10 Georgia
UCLA 11 Michigan State
Wisconsin 12 Kansas State
Arizona State 13 Arizona State
Arizona 14 Auburn
Marshall 15 Arizona
16 Wisconsin
17 Utah
18 Georgia Tech
19 USC
20 Missouri
21 Oklahoma
22 Clemson
23 Nebraska
24 Louisville
25 Minnesota

Biggest surprise here is probably Marshall at 15, and not in the actual committee’s top 25. Logic here is simple: They deserve it and each member believed them to be the favorites when compared to the remaining schools. Auburn’s loss to Texas A&M remains the big driving factor in them not making the top 15 cut this week.

Plenty of deciding games left and the mock committee can’t wait. General consensus believes that the big games left in this season will help clarify the top four instead of muddling it.

NCAA Football Mock Committee, Nov. 11, 2014

With the BCS long in the rear view mirror, the new Playoff system has been anything but predictable…definitely a change of pace from those CPU rankings. (taken from drewlitton.com)

Big week last week, some big wins and equally big losses across the board. We saw the SEC begin to beat each other up, the PAC-12 grab some respect from the Playoff Committee (PC), and that third unbeaten team to still not be taken seriously. “The Shonk” couldn’t make it this week, so “Chris” sat in for him. So let’s take a look at NBSR’s Mock PC and their picks:

(*Note: The NBSR Mock PC picks and discussion are made on Sunday evening-prior to the release of the NCAA PC on Tuesday night)

Now @bsedio @b1ders @KnappyBoy Chris
1 Mississippi St Mississippi St Mississippi St Mississippi St
2 Florida State Florida State Florida State Florida State
3 Oregon Oregon Oregon Oregon
4 TCU TCU Alabama Alabama
End of Season Prediction
1 Mississippi St Florida State Florida State Florida State
2 Arizona State Alabama Alabama Alabama
3 Baylor Oregon Oregon TCU
4 Marshall Baylor TCU Arizona State

Across the board we agreed Florida State gets the nod at #2 and Oregon at #3 because FSU remains undefeated. It appears that the NCAA PC is really mixing it up and going with the eye-test in that one. Our predictions from last week are vastly different, as each of the NBSR PC members had at least one of their predicted top 4 lose last week. Notre Dame was the killer for everyone but Dan, however he was the only one with Auburn. Bryce also had Michigan State, who lost to Ohio State on Saturday.

NBSR Mock PC 11/11/14 NCAA PC
Mississippi St 1 Mississippi St
Florida St 2 Oregon
Oregon 3 Florida St
Texas Christian 4 Texas Christian
Alabama 5 Alabama
Baylor 6 Arizona State
Arizona State 7 Baylor
Ohio State 8 Ohio State
Auburn 9 Auburn
Ole Miss 10 Ole Miss
Kansas State 11 UCLA
Michigan State 12 Michigan State
Nebraska 13 Kansas State
Notre Dame 14 Arizona
UCLA 15 Georgia
16 Nebraska
17 Louisiana State
18 Notre Dame
19 Clemson
20 Wisconsin
21 Duke
22 Georgia Tech
23 Utah
24 Texas A&M
25 Minnesota

The main idea in our big poll was that spots 1-8 each have a great fighting chance of making that four team playoff by season’s end. We feel that those teams pretty much control their own destiny. In that group our biggest debate was upon TCU and Baylor. Two members believed TCU to be equal or of lesser value than Baylor.

Coach Briles and Coach Patterson are showing the Big 12 may be down in numbers but not in talent. (photo from Star-Telegram)

This was based mostly on losses. Baylor’s only loss is to WVU and TCU’s only loss is to Baylor. It had a similar feel that the Oregon and Michigan State debates had; Oregon’s only loss is to Arizona and MSU’s then only loss was to Oregon. Each and every time Oregon was ranked higher than Michigan State. In our Big 12 version, TCU, the loser of the head to head matchup, is the school getting the nod. The two voters who believed TCU to be the better team argued that TCU looks like a better team all around, backing the eye test as their reasoning.

We almost consensusly agreed that Arizona State looked phenomenal against Notre Dame. While Notre Dame didn’t play well, we felt that Arizona State showed its prowess more than Notre Dame showed its weakness. Arizona winning more makes Oregon look even stronger, as the PAC-12 as a whole seems to be collectively rising in the rankings (see UCLA).

Overall the next couple weeks make college football more interesting than in the BCS era. Just by adding two teams to that title game mix, you are now getting games each and every week that feel like elimination games. Here’s next week’s games to watch.:

At Noon:

(ABC) 8th ranked Ohio State travels to the 25th ranked Golden Gophers of Minnesota. How about this-If Minnesota wins 2 of their next 3 (OSU, Nebraska, Wisconsin) this OSU/’Sota matchup has a 95% chance of being our Big Ten Championship game. [Vegas: OSU -12, Over/Under 58]

At 1:30:

(Mt.Union Sports Network) #3 Mount Union welcomes #6 John Carroll in Alliance as both teams will be putting their loss-less records on the line Saturday. Winner takes the OAC title and an auto-berth into the playoffs. If this game doesn’t give you goosebumps, check your pulse. The OAC is the SEC of Division 3, so expect both teams to make the dance and cross your fingers for a rematch in December.

At 2:30:

(Check Local Listings) Marshall (#21 in AP Poll) plays host to Rice in what will be a rematch of last year’s CUSA championship game. Marshall only has a few games left and may need to win by 70 in each one to start to gain any respect. After not making it into the first PC poll, they went out and beat Southern Miss by 46. Let’s see how they respond after not making it in the second week.

At 3:30:

(ABC) #20 Wisconsin and #16 Nebraska are in a three way tie atop the Big Ten West each with one loss. Wisconsin has two on the season, making a third loss the mark of a below-expectations year. [Vegas: Wisconsin -6, O/U 57]

(FOX) #14 Arizona and unranked Washington could be sneaky good. I’d use this game to determine how good that Arizona team that beat Oregon, really is. [Vegas: Arizona -9, O/U 60]

(CBS) #1 Mississippi State and #5 Alabama feels like the biggest game, but the team that loses still has a solid chance of getting into the four team playoff. Predicted Scenario: ‘Bama loses a close one here but still makes in into the top 4 at season’s end. [Vegas: Alabama -8, O/U 52]

At 7:30

(SEC Network)  Unranked Mizzou will beat #24 Texas A&M, giving the Tigers next week’s #24 spot and gets people asking are MSU and Alabama the only championship caliber teams in the conference (Answer: Yes). [Vegas: Texas A&M -5.5, O/U 59]

At 8:00

(ABC) #3 Florida State, and unranked Miami. Great rivalry game and Miami has already beaten the best team in the ACC Coastal Division, it’s about time they beat the Atlantic Division leader too. [Vegas: FSU -2, O/U 62]

Others:

A Dartmouth loss and Harvard and Yale wins this week turn next weeks Crimson and Bulldogs matchup one with Ivy League crown implications.

NCAA Football Mock Committee, Nov. 4, 2014

Two of the three unbeatens left, top our rankings.

As mentioned NBSR is rolling out our own version of the NCAA Playoff Committee. This week we had 4 attendants.Staff writers @bsedio, @b1ders, and @knappyboy were joined by “The Shonk” this week. Our other committee members werenot able to attend this week, due to health reasons (bad jab at Archie Manning). In the chart below you can see everyone’s top 4 picks for Now, if the season ended today, and for Later, our predictions for when the regular season will actually end.

Now @bsedio @b1ders @knappyboy The Shonk
1 Mississippi St Mississippi St Mississippi St Mississippi St
2 Florida St Auburn Florida St Florida State
3 Auburn Florida St Auburn Auburn
4 Notre Dame Oregon Oregon Alabama
Later
1 Mississippi St Florida St Florida St  Alabama
2 Florida St Alabama Oregon  Florida State
3 Notre Dame Oregon Alabama  Oregon
4 Michigan St Notre Dame Auburn  Notre Dame

Florida State Our Consensus #2

The biggest discussion points naturally circled around the SEC. With such a good bunch of teams at the top, you can see how it gets cluttered.The arguments made for including or not including Alabama in the top four seemed to be personal preference. Alabama’s loss to Ole Miss may be regarded as less embarassing than Oregon’s to Arizona, but The Shonk was the only one who seemed comfortable with 3 SEC teams in the top 4 of the country.

Mississippi State NBSR consensus #1

The discrepancy between choosing Oregon and Notre Dame hinged upon the theory of valuing a loss versus valuing a win. Notre Dame proponents liked them because their only loss came to the second best undefeated team left. Oregon proponents liked them because of their signature win over Michigan State. Notre Dame is yet to have that signature win; Arizona State this week could help that. Oregon’s loss came to 21 point underdog Arizona; which looks less bad the more the Wildcats win.

Tuesday evening the actual rankings from the non-mock committee came out. The NBSR went as far as the top 15 this week:

Rank NBSR Consensus NCAAFB PC
1 Mississippi St Mississippi St
2 Florida State Florida St
3 Auburn Auburn
4 Oregon Oregon
5 Notre Dame Alabama
6 Michigan State Texas Christian
7 Texas Christian Kansas State
8 Alabama Michigan State
9 Kansas State Arizona State
10 Arizona State Notre Dame
11 Baylor Ole Miss
12 Louisiana State Baylor
13 Nebraska Nebraska
14 Ole Miss Ohio State
15 Ohio State Oklahoma
16 Louisiana State
17 Utah
18 UCLA
19 Arizona
20 Georgia
21 Clemson
22 Duke
23 West Virginia
24 Georgia Tech
25 Wisconsin

NBSR collectively likes Notre Dame near the top. The actual rankings seem to favor the SEC teams throughout. NBSR likes to relate the SEC bias to the Florida State bias. The SEC shouldn’t get the benefit of the doubt from success in years past the same way Florida State could drop past the fifteenth spot if they are to find a loss before season’s end. Also, NBSR collectively seemed to lean towards one loss teams over two loss teams almost throughout.

The best part of these rankings is they will look radically different in four short weeks. Stay tuned as our committee will go toe to toe with the designated playoff committee in the coming month.

Next on the Docket

Just wanted to run a little plug for some upcoming projects NBSR has scheduled.

We’re still not up to a post every day, but things could change if the Cavs don’t start better than 9-8 through their first 17…..details to follow

QB rankings will be up and out again this year. It will be our 2nd annual in depth power ranking of all the starting quarter backs at the NCAA FBS level. This will be a multi part series with just pure gold littered throughout.

Upon completion of the QB rankings (or maybe even during) we will be breaking out the NBSR Playoff Selection Committee for the FBS four team playoff. NBSR is currently working behind the scenes to put together a mock committee to discuss and decide on the four best teams in college football.

As always, you can follow us on our mediocre Twitter account, @NBSportsReport

14-15 NBA Preview

NBA preview 1

We looked at the over/under win totals for each teams and did our own betting on them. Win totals were provided by our friends in Vegas.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Teams listed in order of 2013-14 finish

Indiana Pacers 32.5

Dan: Over, but not by much. Paul George is questionable this season, no Born Ready (Lance Stephenson), and you’ve still got Hibbert doing whatever it is he does. George Hill, Hibbert and David West will have to carry the load, and if this were 2009 David West, they might have a chance.

Bryce: Over. Too much of the nucleus is still there.

Miami Heat 43.5

Dan: Over. They lost LeBron, but not all is lost in South Beach. The sign Luol Deng, keep Chris Bosh and keep Dwyane Wade. Spoelstra will get the most out of his guys and now they’ve got a chip on his shoulder. Interesting matchup should they meet the Cavs in the playoffs.

Bryce: Over. LeBron may be able to turn playoff pretenders into championship contenders, but that doesn’t mean the Heat can no longer mean business. The core and principles are still there, as well as playoff hopes.

Toronto Raptors 49.5

D: Under. They kept maybe the most coveted PG this off-season in Kyle Lowry signed a 4-year deal to stay, while Toronto returns almost their entire roster. DeMar DeRozan took a huge step forward last season, while center Jonas Valanciunas is poised for a great year of his own, simply because not many can matchup with a 7-footer. They run into some bad luck and a bit of a regression to fall below 49.5 wins.

B: Under. I have them as the 4 seed and guess how many wins last years number 4 seed in the east had……49.

Chicago Bulls 55.5

D: Over. The Bulls are the challengers to the Cavs in the east, and challenge them they will. They’ll grab the 1-seed, not look good against the Cavs in the regular season, but take the conference in the playoffs. Pau Gasol fills a void as Chicago matches up great with Cleveland. They have the defenders on the wing, as a Thibodeau team always does, while Derrick Rose will be the man in Chicago once again, playing 70+ games. They’ll push the 60-win mark.

B: Over. I want to say under by just 2 or 3 games, but I’m thinking mathematically I can’t have them as my two seed and have them under 55.5 wins.

Washington Wizards 49.5 (pre-Beal injury)

D: Under. The Wiz kids had a magical season last year, getting a top-4 seed in the playoffs. Paul Pierce come to Washington for 15 veteran minutes off the bench per game, but may be in a starting role without Bradley Beal for about 2 months with a wrist injury. John Wall has to have a huge first two months to get the Wiz in prime position, and he just got his own signature shoe, so big things better be in store.

B: Under. Paul could add a unique boost to a younger group, but I still have them as my last team from the outside looking in.

Brooklyn Nets 41.5

D: Under. The Lionel Hollins era is underway in Brooklyn, while the front office got Jason Kidd out to Milwaukee. Hollins’ teams (see: Memphis) are always tough and well coached, with a focus on the big men. That means Brook Lopez, KG, and Mason Plumlee will be huge down low, playing inside out with foreign shooters-a-plenty on the outside. Those big guys won’t be able to keep up a full great season to get them into the mid-40’s in wins.

B:  Under. Young coach with a veteran team typically doesn’t work-go figure Jason Kidd couldn’t get the job done. Nets are close, but not close enough.

Charlotte Hornets 45.5

These things are just beautiful.

These things are just beautiful.

D: Under. Everyone is hopping on the Charlotte bandwagon, making them a cool top-5 pick in the East. Let’s take it easy on that talk because we remember that Born Ready (Lance Stephenson) is now on the team. I am definitely not on the Stephenson train and he’s a little too much for a team to handle; talented, no question, but the dude has to get outside of his own head. They lost Josh McRoberts who was a great asset for the Hornets, but Al Jefferson will pick up the slack after his most improved player season in 13-14. PJ Hairston will be a ROY sleeper playing both guard positions.

B:  Under

Atlanta Hawks 40.5

D: Under. Jeff Teague, Kent Bazemore, Kyle Korver, Paul Millsap, and Al Horford will make a small starting lineup, but should be effective and athletic, getting good matchups with most opponents this year. Bazemore is looking for a breakout season after showing flashes with the Lakers over the last month of the season last year. There isn’t a focal point necessarily on this team, but Atlanta has rarely had one of those anyways. 3-and-D guy Thabo Sefolosha will provide good minutes off the bench, but they’ll ultimately fall short of the 8-seed in the East.

B: Under

New York Knicks 40.5

D: Under. Phil Jackson will get this team into the playoffs, and not much else, beyond Carmelo. Amar’e Stoudemire is the highest paid player on the roster, which may tell you all you need to know about their bench, not very good to say the least (although they do have the Greek Freak 2). JR Smith will be a great second option but there’s very little help outside of that.. Looking at this roster…if Melo doesn’t average 75 PPG, these Knicks won’t make the playoffs. I rescind my earlier statement.

B:  Over. Were the two seed two years ago and now Phil Jackson is running the organization. Stoudemire and Bargnani kill the cap space, Derek Fisher comes in as a first year head coach and the Knicks are caught between rebuilding and playoff contender.

Cleveland Cavaliers 58.5

D: Over. LeBron made everyone outside of Cleveland sad by returning home, and the Cavs added depth around him, including Kevin Love and a bunch of old guys to fill out the bench. That being said, the Cavs will need some time to adjust to each other in regular season basketball, remember the 2010-11 Miami Heat that started 9-8 and grabbed the 2-seed? Defense and rebounding will be the key for CLE as they were for LeBron’s Heat. This team is Miami north, but Irving’s development is not where Wade’s was when LeBron came calling. Time will tell on the roster’s age, and the gelling of the team, but I can’t imagine them getting to the 1-seed past the Bulls. Same problems the Heat had with the Pacers over the last 4 years; the difference is the Bulls are better than those Indy teams.

B: Over. The point Dan is overlooking is that Kyrie is a better point guard and complement to LeBron than Dwyane Wade ever could be. Yeah, mostly because Kyrie Irving is a point guard and he’ll be driving the lane and passing to create openings, not competing for touches and points. And Kevin Love actually wants to play down low and rebound the basketball, when Chris Bosh really preferred to play around the elbows aka outside the key. Love 12.2 RPG through his 5.5 year career, while Bosh only twice has averaged over 10 RPG (8.7/game over his career). That means LeBron doesn’t have to creep inside and can stay outside, where he’s a bigger threat.

Detroit Pistons 36.5

@B1ders: Over. The Pistons had a quiet but busy off season. I say that because a lot of moves were made to improve the depth and shooting, and boy were the Pistons willing to pay for shooting. Jodie Meeks got himself $18 million dollars (!!!). Meeks was the biggest name in a group of smaller free agent moves. The Stones even missed out on one of the best lotteries in years as their only pick was (now the best mustache in basketball) Spencer Dinwiddie in the second round. I guess that is the price of getting Ben Gordon off your roster. The move to cause the most excitement in Mo-town is the hiring of the Coach/GM/Man/Boss, Stan Van Gundy. This team has two players considered “uncoachable” in Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings. If SVG can harness the magic he had in Orlando (pun absolutely intended), we won’t see 4+ three point attempts a game from Smith. Andre Drummond does provide SVG with a dominant center similar to the one he had in Orlando before that center chased him out. This team is talented enough to win a playoff series or two if Gundy can steady the ship.

Boston Celtics 26.5

D: Over. We haven’t heard from our buddy Rajon Rondo in quite a while, and he’s the key for the Celtics this year. They did good things in the draft with Marcus Smart (a Rondo replacement?), and King James Young, a kid with tons of potential. It’s not an overpowering roster in terms of star presence, but a solid young core gives the Celtics a chance to be good for the next 5+ years, with or, more likely, without Rondo. They have to find/acquire some size inside besides Tyler Zeller & Kelly Olynyk, but the backcourt is solid. This team has much more talent than a 26-win bunch, and they’ll get into the 30’s.

B: Over. I think Dan is being optimistic here, maybe overly optimistic. Rondo is proving to us he is either exiting his prime or he was a system point guard all along. A point guard may be the key for the Celtics this year, but Rondo will not be the one to get the engine to turn over. I think the Celtics win over 26 but less than 32.

Orlando Magic 28.5

D: Under. No way this team get more wins than Boston above, especially with what we saw last year. Oladipo is due for a sophomore slump, but the team definitely has a solid young core, while Tobias Harris is a budding star in this league. They get docked points for giving Ben Gordon $4.5 million per year. In fact, I think this team finishes with the worst record in the entire NBA, outside of maybe Philly. The Magic just aren’t up to a level of competition yet, even in the weaker East. Young guys like Elfrid Payton, Aaron Gordon, Devyn Marble, Tobias Harris, Mo Harkless, and Oladipo will be fine in 3 years, just not in 2014. 4 guys on the roster over 25 years of age, there’s your Orlando stat.

B:  Under. The Magic are one small step ahead of the 76ers. Oladipo is not due for a sophomore slump, rather a repeat of his ROY-contending numbers he put up. The Hoosier and Jayhawk alum, Ben Gordon, combine for an average 35 points a game between the two, but no bones with that actually contributing to wins.

Blocking out the haters like...

Blocking out the haters like…

Philadelphia 76ers 15.5

D: Over. It’s really hard to win only 15 games in the NBA, you almost have to try and be that bad. The Bucks won 19 last year for an example. Just two guys over 25 years old on the roster, and that’s Jason Richardson and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute leading the charge. The ages of the starter will be 23, 28, 21, 20, & 21, how’s that for a young lineup. All that being said, KJ McDaniels might win the rookie of the year with the playing time he’ll get this year, while the others will be thrown right into the fire to learn, no better way to do it. These guys will be the worst in the East, but they’ll push to get to that 20-win mark. Matchups favor their athletic big men, and the talent on the outside, with reigning ROY Michael Carter-Williams, can help them get to 20.

B: Under. Worst team in NBA history right here. Not a ton of talent mixed in with the youth here.

Milwaukee Bucks 24.5

D: Over. They’ll win between 26-30 games with the youngest team since………last year’s Bucks. ROY favorite Jabari Parker will do it all for this team, while Jason Kidd will provide them a nice young head coach to look to after the ownership change. An in-shape OJ Mayo will provide much-needed bench depth, while they have a ton of guys who can play the 1, 2 & 3 positions. They can play big when the Greek Freak plays the point, as we’ve seen in the preseason, and they can play small and put Parker and Giannis at the 4-5 spots. Lots of talent for a young team who are on the rise to be certain. They’ll be sellers at the trade deadline and have some guys to get pieces for. The future is bright in Milwaukee. Definitely over.

B: Over. Full of young talent, even in their head coach. Jason Kidd’s effect is still up in the air-rumors about a bad attitude in Brooklyn may be cause for concern for the near future. Until then, Kidd has failed upwards and you have to respect that.

Dan’s 8 Eastern Conference playoff teams (in seed-order):

Chicago, Cleveland, Toronto, Miami, Washington, Detroit, Charlotte, Atlanta

Bryce’s 8 Eastern Conference playoff teams (in seed-order):

Cleveland, Chicago, Miami, Toronto, Indiana, Detroit, New York, Milwaukee

NBA preview 5

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Teams listed in order of 2013-14 finish

(Only Dan this time)

San Antonio Spurs 56.5

Over. The Spurs were supposed to be over the hill as of 5 years ago now; they still aren’t there. They play solid team basketball and don’t beat themselves, which is the key to winning close games in the league. They’ll surprise everyone again and match their 62-win total from last season, grabbing that 1-seed on the way. They may not have a single All-Star if not for the fan vote, but this team just knows how to play, with each other and in this league today. Having the most creative coach, matchup-wise, in the league doesn’t hurt things either. These players love the guy and that’s obvious when you see them play.

Oklahoma City Thunder 57.5 (pre-Durant injury)

Under. The 57.5 were before Durant broke his foot to set him back and keep him out almost 2 months. He will most likely be back before then (think early December), but the first 30 games will be where we learn exactly what kind of team this OKC unit is. They survived without Russell Westbrook last season, but that was easy; surviving without Durant will be the real test. Once Durant comes back it may also take a while for Westbrook to remember how to play with him after being the guy for the first month plus of the year. They have tons of young talent on the bench to fill in, but it would take 3-4 of those guys to make up for losing Durant. I’m looking at you, Perry Jones.

Los Angeles Clippers 55.5

Over. I think this team finally will have it figured out. Year 2 of Doc Rivers will be a key for this team, getting his system in. Getting a hopefully-healthy CP3 will also be big for this team, although there were some internal talks that Paul wasn’t everything he was cracked up to be last year. Rivers is one of about 5 coaches in the NBA with a championship pedigree and he’s a great, great coach. This team is finally figuring out that Blake Griffin can do more than dunk, DeAndre Jordan is one of the best big men left, and the bench is as deep as any in the association right now. Defense was always a key for them, giving up hundreds and hundreds of points each night, especially in the GSW playoff series. It will get fixed to the tune of NBA finals front-runner, and one of about 5 teams that have the talent to win the title. Watch out for this team to challenge the Spurs for that 1-seed.

Houston Rockets 49.5

Over. The biggest losers of the off-season will have to replace a starter after Chandler Parsons took big money from Dallas and made the move there. They won 54 last season and Parsons was not worth 5 wins overall, but stepping into that role will look to be Trevor Ariza, who came over from Washington. They were the early favorites to win Chris Bosh, but missed on him as well. If we didn’t know already that Harden and Howard would be the go-to guys, you’ll know this season. PGs Patrick Beverley and Isaiah Canaan will have to be great for this team to get past a tough opponent in the first round because that’s the real wild card position on the team. We know what these other guys will do, but those running the point will be a question mark. That being said, they’ll get at least 50 wins this year.

Portland Trail Blazers 48.5

Over. Another 54-game winner last season, they beat the 4-seed Rockets in the first round of the playoffs in a great series. The Blazers rely maybe a little too much on PG Damian Lillard and give him a ton of minutes, but so far it has paid off for this team. They love, love, love to get up and down the floor, averaging the 4th most PPG in the league last year at 106.7. The problem is, they allowed the 8th most in the league as well, at 102.8, not good. No, this team’s specialty is not defense, but to win the in the playoffs you have to at least look like you know what you’re doing. LaMarcus Aldridge and Lillard combined for 50+ points every night, giving them a fantastic 1-2 punch. This team is another that just knows how to play together with their entire roster. The bench is a nice mix of young and old, athletic and specialist players. The main problem is that Portland is in the west, where they would be a top-3 seed in the east. NBA preview 6

Golden State Warriors 50.5

Under. A surprising firing of Mark Jackson after the playoffs last year will not go unnoticed, as this team will not get to the 50-win mark under first-year HC Steve Kerr. Kerr is an offensive mind, and has great weapons on the outside. Again, they get up and down the floor with great shooting, something a little different than most team because they average almost 105 PPG on fewer possessions with their 3PT percentage. It’s exciting to watch, but so far has not translated into playoff success, one reason Jackson is not there anymore. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson carry this team too much, and need to rely on other guys to knock down shots regularly. Aaron Craft is on the roster, so I can’t put them over 50.5 wins.

Memphis Grizzlies 48.5

Under. They gave OKC a good series in the first round last season, but came up short. The Grizz were a great defensive team that had tons of trouble scoring the basketball on a consistent basis. That kind of game can work in the playoffs, but the regular season is where this team has to get to work on offense. The usual suspects are all there in Memphis, playing that physical down-low game that just wears teams out. The reason I went under is because they struggle to score the ball in crucial situations. I’m excited to see a guy that knows how to score in a lot of different way coming off the bench in Jordan Adams, their first-round pick from UCLA. They’ll give whoever they play in the playoffs a great series, but that’s all I can guarantee.

Dallas Mavericks 49.5

Over. An expensive Chandler Parson pickup will hopefully pay off for this team who grabbed the 8-seed last year after fighting with a few other teams for that spot. Jameer Nelson and Raymond Felton will pick up the PG duties where Jose Calderon left off, addition by subtractions in my opinion. Surprisingly this team was 8th in PPG last season at 104, even at their advancing age. A rejuvenated Monta Ellis who finally made the playoffs last season will be hungry and have targets to get the ball to, or opportunities with a stretched floor (Thanks, Chandler) to drive the lane, a hobby of his. 51 wins will be good for the 6-seed in Dallas.

Phoenix Suns 42.5

Under. Last year may have been a bit of a ‘lucky’ season for Phoenix, maybe or maybe not because of their great new uniforms. Either way, they gave Eric Bledsoe a big contract because they had to. This Suns team was not great at anything besides scoring, averaging the 7th-most points in the NBA, but very average at passing, rebounding and on defense. Isaiah Thomas comes over from Sacramento in the off-season as their only real pick up, besides rookie TJ Warren. I just don’t know if there’s enough talent on the roster to repeat the season they had last year. Right now, they’re out of the playoffs looking in. They finish .500 on the year. NBA preview 3

Minnesota Timberwolves 25.5

Under. How much fun will this team be in 3-4 years? Right now, though, they’ll look to develop the young talent they acquired via the draft and trades in the off-season. I would be surprised if last year’s starter at SG gets any minutes anytime soon with both Wiggins and draft pick Zach LeVine playing the same spot. This year the tag team will have to be Rubio to Thaddeus Young, who they got from the 76ers in a trade. That doesn’t sound as nice as Rubio to Andrew Wiggins does it? Wait 3 years and we’ll see.

Denver Nuggets 40.5

Over. Speed, fast, up-tempo, however you want to say it, that’s what this team is and will continue to be this year. A fast and good rebounding team won’t last in a physical and high-scoring western conference, but Denver can get young guys like Kenneth Faried and Mozgov touches down low. Faried showed his worth this summer on team USA, but that looked like an effort thing, which is just the kind of player he is. This team will win 41 games and finish .500, out of the playoffs by a handful of games, sound familiar?

New Orleans Pelicans 41.5

Over. This team seems like a run of the mill, middle of the pack, NBA team. That’s what they have been, but after a disappointing year last season, they’ll look to pick it up. This team will challenge but fall short of the 8-seed in the west. Jrue Holiday was hurt for some of last season and Tyreke Evans forgot how to play after getting moved to the bench. A healthy Holiday and starting Evans will be key, along with the next big thing, Anthony Davis. This will be his breakout season, and will average 24 & 12 for this New Orleans team. Omer Asik coming over from Houston gives them a guy they can rely on down low and get Davis back to his natural PF position. This is a team I would hate to see on my schedule in the west.

Sacramento Kings 30.5

Over. Bad luck and a bad organization have plagued the on-court talent in Sacramento, but this year feels different for the Kings. Boogie Cousins had a great team USA summer, while the front office actually made some moves, signing Rudy Gay and Darren Collison to an extension and a free agent deal. They’ll have to play small some of the time to get Ben McLemore and Nik Stauskas on the floor together, but that won’t be a huge issue. They’ve been steadily improving over the last handful of years, culminating with a 35-win effort this year. Baby steps.

Los Angeles Lakers 31.5

Under. I want to say over just because Kobe is pissed at the world, but this team is so bad. Terrible/bad/awful were these guys on defense last season that they can only go up from there. The ball didn’t stick because Kobe was not on the floor for them and were a top-5 assist team last year. Don’t expect that this season. Nick Young will be a 6th man of the year again in 14-15 because not many other will be scoring for this team. The brought in Jeremy Lin and Carlos Boozer, with neither of them starting after the first month. barring injury. An old Kobe and an old Steve Nash don’t solve many problems for LA, but Julius Randle will end up starting over Boozer for the majority of the season and could be a darkhorse for ROY. They’ll push that 30-win mark hard though.

Utah Jazz 25.5

Under. Worst team in the NBA in the 2014-15 season. They were 25th or worse in everything but points allowed in the NBA last season, where they were 18th. They won 25 games last season, but will be Philly west this year, winning maybe 20 games. They keep Gordon Hayward, otherwise they’d really be in trouble after thinking long and hard about Charlotte’s offer to him. Trey Burke has some work to do at the PG position and they need to get Dante Exum on the court with the starting unit. All that makes Utah my favorites for worst team in the league this year. congratulations.

Dan’s 8 Western Conference playoff teams (in seed-order):

San Antonio, LA Clippers, OKC, Houston, Portland, Dallas, Golden State, Memphis

Bryce’s Western Conference playoff teams (in seed-order):

San Antonio, LA Clippers, OKC, Golden State, Portland, Houston, Dallas, Phoenix

DAN’S PLAYOFF PICKS

Eastern Finals: Bulls over Cavs

Western Finals: Clippers over Thunder

NBA Finals: Clippers over Bulls

Gagliardi Trophy Watch

What every DIII football player strives for.

What every DIII football player strives for.

Every year since my birth year (1993) the DIII football season has come to an end in Salem, Virginia with one team left standing as the victor of the Stagg Bowl. At this time as well, one student athlete remains as the best DIII football had to offer for the season. This outstanding player is presented with the Gagliardi Trophy. The award is named after the legendary coach from St. John’s University in Minnesota, John Gagliardi. You could consider it to be the DIII equivalent of the Heisman Trophy, but athletic accomplishments is only a third of the criteria. The Salem Rotary Club looks at academics and community service as well when considering a winner. Since there is a very rare chance we know these student athletes on a personal level, for purposes of this watch we will only be looking at on field accomplishments.

Before we get into likely 2014 candidates, let us consider past winners for a moment. To date there have been 21 recipients. Unsurprisingly the University of Mount Union has the most winners with 6, followed by St. John’s (MINN) with 2, and the rest having only one winner. Much like the sport itself the award has been dominated by the quarterback position with ten signal callers making claim to the award. Five running backs have won it, four wide receivers, one safety, and even one offensive tackle. It seems team success is important for the Gagliardi hopefuls. There has never been an athlete to win it who has been on a 0.500 or losing squad. The overall record for the winners is 223-30-1, for a winning percentage of 0.880. If you remove the Mount Union powerhouse factor the remaining players went 138-29-1, or a 0.824 win percentage. Seven of the players won the Stagg Bowl the years they won, and four went on to, albeit short, NFL careers. The Gagliardi Trophy never fails to recognize truly outstanding DIII student athletes, and without further ado here is a ranking of our top 5 award hopefuls.

#5 Nadim Raddar, DL, Bethany

Don't let the shirt fool you... he is a badass.

Don’t let the suit fool you… he is a badass.

The man grabbing our last spot on the watch list is also the only defensive player of the bunch. Quick nod to Eric Gargiulo out of Montclair St. with his seven interceptions, including five in one game, but Raddar has been perhaps the biggest defensive force in DIII. He leads all of football with 11.5 sacks. Add to that a forced fumble, 52 tackles, 20 tackles for loss and you have one disruptive force in the trenches. Bethany’s (5-1) only loss this season come to Mount Union, and outside of that game, the junior has had the defense playing great.

#4 Rasheed Bailey, WR, Delaware Valley

He gains a quarter of the field everytime he catches it... think about that.

He gains a quarter of the field everytime he catches it… think about that.

A senior receiver out of Delaware  Valley (5-0) is next on our list. Through five games Rasheed Bailey has amassed over 900 yards receiving and 10 touchdown receptions. He is only 74 yards away from surpassing the receiving yards he had last year in eleven games. He is only 27th in NCAA DIII in terms of receptions per game, but averages a ridiculous 24 yards per catch. Good luck to any secondary standing in his way.

#3 Kevin Burke, QB, Mount Union

The defending champion with his Gaglairdi pose.

The defending champion with his Gaglairdi pose.

There should be no surprise to see the field general from Mount Union (5-0) on the list. Burke should be a familiar name among Gagliardi circles as well as he is trying to become the first two time winner of the award. Last year Burke had a magical year with over 255 yards per game through the air, and almost 70 yards per game on the ground. This year Burke has focused on his throwing game, with nearly 300 passing yards a game. His rushing attack has slipped a bit, but he has more than made up for it with an NCAA leading 210 passing efficiency on the season. Due to Mount Union’s large leads and lack of PT for Burke in second halves his total statistics don’t quite stand up to other quarterbacks, but you can’t deny his accuracy (70.1 completion %) and ratios (17 TDs to 1 INT).

#2 Marquis Barrolle, RB, Texas Lutheran

5'4" of linebacker's nightmares.

5’4″ of linebacker’s nightmares.

The tiny scat back out of Texas Lutheran (5-0) has put up some gigantic numbers this year. He is second in rushing yards per game with 192, and first in all-purpose yards with 222. Barrolle has found pay dirt in each game this season amassing 12 TD’s on the ground through six games. He is also a threat catching the ball out of the backfield, with 24 receptions for 181 yards and 1 touchdown. No running back has been as good this year, and should he have a big game against Mary Hardin-Baylor this coming Saturday, he could vault himself into the top spot.

#1 Mitch Hendricks, QB, Gustavus Adolphus

He puts video game numbers to shame.

He puts video game numbers to shame.

The junior gun-slinger has something special happening in Minnesota. Gustavus Adolphus (6-0) is undefeated and has already matched their win total from last season. They can thank the right arm of Hendricks. The quarterback already has 2,249 yards and 27 touchdowns on the season. He complements these gaudy numbers with outstanding accuracy. He has just two interceptions thrown in 216 attempts and is completing his passes at an eye-popping 78.2%. He even has two touchdowns and nearly one hundred and fifty yards gained on the ground. Most importantly he has his team in position to surprise a few people in the MIAC. Time will tell though for Hendricks and Gustavus Adolphus as only tough conference opponents remain on the schedule.

You can tweet us your thoughts @NBSportsReport

How Accurate were our MLB Season Predictions?

Now that we are just hours away from the American League Wild Card playoff game, let’s take a look at how our baseball minds did this season in their division winners and playoff picks. Warning: this could get ugly. Here were our original picks: MLB season picks Brett had a total of 6 playoff teams correct and correctly predicted 5 division winners, including all three in the National League. Bryce had 5 total playoff teams correct and 3 division winners. Dan had 5 total playoff teams correct and 2 division winners. Jordan had 5 total playoff teams correct and 2 division winners.

Adding up the games back that each of our picks finished in their respective groups of choice (ex: ATL finished 9 back in the NL Wild Card, TB was 19 back in the division) painted another picture. Dan & Bryce were 67 total games back with their picks, Brett was 75 games back, and Jordan was 89 total games back.

Brett won the season predictions and is the only one with both World Series teams in the playoffs like he predicted. The interesting pick across the board was the pick of the worst team in baseball to get into the playoffs via a NL Wild Card spot. That of course is the Arizona Diamondbacks, who finished 64-98, but were a popular pick among the masses before the season began. We’re still not sure how Dan thought the Braves would win both the NL East and the NL Wild Card, but that’s what the picks said. No one else surveyed has both World Series picks left, with Bryce, Dan, and Jordan having one each. Jordan was struggling with his N/A pick to play the Dodgers, while Dan had the Dodgers and Bryce took the A’s.

We’ll see how everything plays out, but here’s some material for you readers to lock away next time we try to sound smart about baseball. We’ll revisit this after the playoffs are completed to see how everyone finished.

NCAA Football Preview

 From Manziel transitioning to the NFL or the new playoff system in the FBS, the game of football has had plenty to keep everyone busy and entertained this Summer. Now with games getting under way this weekend here’s our big preview (without week 1 games in our considerations). In our college football preview this year we will cover all the FBS conferences and our predicted winners, our Heisman winner, contender and dark horse, our Division 3 champ prediction and finally our Don’t Sleep On… list.

 

[*Denotes Returning for 2014 Season]

American Conference

Last Year’s Champ: University of Central Florida (#10, 12-1)

Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year: Blake Bortles UCF, Marcus Smith LOU

Louisville exits the conference now in the ACC, as does Rutgers with their new mark as the easternmost member of the Big 10. Replacements include East Carolina, Tulane and Tulsa, all coming over from Conference USA.

Dan: East Carolina. I like this conference, I really do. It’s not a front-runner conference, but it will be very exciting with these teams and where they’re at right now. They shopped around at the C-USA marketplace and came out big winners, with some of the conference’s top teams coming over. ECU QB Shane Carden was one of the top 25 in the country last season with 33 passing TDs (see our rankings), and is poised for breakout season 2.0. They have a loaded schedule at South Carolina, at Virginia Tech, and at home against North Carolina in a three-week stretch. Huge conference tests at Cincy and at home against UCF, but I think they’ll have the manpower to pull off the conference switch-a-roo championship in the American, and Carden will be the POY.

Bryce: Cincinnati. The American is a conference of halves. Half is good, half is bad. Potentially real bad. I really like how Cincy’s schedule lines up, and that’s why the win the conference…well that and their adequate talent pool. Toledo and Miami of Ohio are solid openers, and Ohio State then follows as a great test of how good they really are. Conference opener is a mediocre Memphis squad, then comes Miami of Florida. Another good test of talent game. Four weeks later we have our potential game of the year where the Bearcats play host to the Pirates of East Carolina on a Thursday night. No UCF on the schedule this year either. Cincy will sweep the Miami’s, finish with one loss to the Buckeyes, and take the second American crown. (Quick lesson. Miami University=Ohio; University of Miami=Florida. And Miami University was a school when Florida was still ruled by Spain…)

 

Atlantic Coast Conference

Last Year’s Champ: Florida State University (#1, 14-0)

Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year: Jameis Winston FSU*, Aaron Donald PITT

Maryland’s departure was covered by Louisville marking 2014 as their first season in the ACC.

Dan: Florida State. Far and away the most talented team in this conference. Each division looks like a two-horse race, with the coastal coming down to Miami and North Carolina, and the atlantic coming to Florida State and Clemson, with the respective winners playing for the conference crown. I’m hoping for a FSU/Miami showdown in the title game, but all bets are off at that point. Jameis might be the best QB in the country, and with a plethora of weapons around him (read: speed kills), he’ll have another great year, taking the POY crown and with FSU taking the conference, and possibly a national playoff berth with it. Be sure to keep an eye on Virginia Tech as well, as it looks like they’re poised to break out of their down streak of late.

Bryce: Florida State. The Seminoles were the most complete team last year in the ACC, and things don’t change much here. I like Dan’s point to watch the Hokies; they play OSU early on in what should be a nice measurement game. I say keep on eye on the Dukies. They avoid playing FSU and Clemson in their crossover games, so consider it an extra boost to what should be a competitive season for the Devils from Durham. The ACC as a whole was stronger than the Big 10 last year, I’m curious to see how that holds up, and who takes the crown as the second best football conference.

 

Big 12 Conference

Last Year’s Champ: Baylor University (#13, 11-2)

Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year: Bryce Petty BAY*, Jackson Jeffcoat TEX & Jason Verrett TCU

No membership changes here, but you’d have to expect some soon. With the Big 12 only having 10 members and the conference having membership in the “Super 5” league of the FBS, the Big 12 is in prime position to start accept applications for schools to get into, what should be, the most highly coveted arena in collegiate athletics.

Dan: Baylor. Call this conference a 3 ½ team race with some high-powered offenses in the running for the crown. Those 3 ½ teams would be, in order, Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and half of Texas Tech, the explosive offensive half that is (remember the first quarter of this game?). Baylor has the most talent and is the most complete team, even though Oklahoma’s defense brings them into that category as well. We’ll have to see if Trevor Knight is the QB everyone think he will be, or if last year was a fluke, unlike Bryce Petty, who will keep putting up big numbers with the Bears, as they run away with this conference, by one game.

Bryce: Baylor. Does this conference spell parity or what? There are a lot of different feelings around the conference as to who should break out this year and who was smoke and mirrors in 2013. All I know is that Baylor and Oklahoma are the only ones that stand out to me. The rest could all finish .500 and I wouldn’t be surprised a tick. Petty is the best quarterback west of the Mississippi, and he’ll turn Baylor into his team, marking over RG3’s stamp, when they make a run at the playoffs this year.

 

Big 10 Conference

Last Year’s Champ: Michigan State University (#3, 13-1)

Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year: Braxton Miller OSU*, Chris Borland WIS

No schools departed but Maryland and Rutgers come aboard in 2014. The big idea here was getting the Big 10 on the Eastern Seaboard. New Jerseyians scoffed at the idea because, “We don’t care about Rutgers football,” and Maryland’s football program has nothing to write home about in recent years. We’ll put that to bed right now because the Big 10 Network just inked a deal to get their network on New Jersey and Maryland television sets, which means money, baby.

Dan: Wisconsin. This looks like a classic homer pick, but let’s not say that so fast. No Braxton Miller means no Ohio State in the title game, or so you would think. That leaves Michigan State, who is not what they were last season, or so you would think, although they return their QB who does a little of everything for that Spartans team. I’ll take MSU coming out of the East division and Wisconsin, who has an easy schedule apart from an August 29 matchup with LSU, should be the western sponsor in Indianapolis. The Badgers toughest B1G test is a home game against Nebraska in mid-November, and they return one of the best RBs in the nation in Melvin Gordon. Watch out for Penn State to ruin some things as well in that tough east division. I guess I’m banking on the fact that anything can happen in the championship game to push Wisconsin through.

Bryce: Michigan State. As much as I do like Wisconsin, I don’t like their inconsistency, or lack of solidarity at the quarterback position. I guess the same goes for OSU. Both solid teams but they don’t have that signal caller that just shouts “Gamer” or “Winner” or “Dependable” even. Enter Connor Cook. The Stanford of the east, except they walked all over them 8 months ago. Their ability to hang with any offense they face, and force whatever offensive approach they want to use on defenses, is just rare and fun the same. Oregon September 6th will be tough test number 1…even though I’d take MSU -10. I’ll say the next big test is in the final week of the regular season when Sparty takes on Happy Valley. At Penn State, looking to close on an undefeated season, but those Nittany Lions really want their 9th win as well. Did I mention it will snow? Spartans finish undefeated but I’ll call Penn State and Oregon close calls this year.

 

Conference USA

Last Year’s Champ: Rice University (10-4)

Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year: Rakeem Cato MARSH*, Shawn Jackson TULSA

Membership changes here, but not in the right direction at all. CUSA loses Tulane, Tulsa and East Carolina while only gaining Western Kentucky from the Sun Belt and Old Dominion from the FCS.

Dan: Marshall. With no big boys on the schedule, I think this team could go undefeated overall. Non-conference games include Miami (OH), Rhode Island, Ohio, and Akron, then they get into conference play, where their toughest test looks to be Middle Tennessee at home, while they also get conference champ Rice at home. Senior QB Rakeem Cato is a Heisman hopeful, and maybe the best QB in college football. He threw for 3900 yards and 39 TDs last season, leading the Herd to the 8th highest scoring offense in all of college football at 42.1 PPG. They ranked 21st in the country in passing YPG, and 23rd in rushing yards, so it isn’t just happening through the air, although their defense is sturdy as well, ranking 32nd in the country in scoring defense last year. If Cato puts up big numbers and his team goes undefeated, you’ll see him in New York, maybe with some hardware too.

Bryce: Marshall. I hate to repeat my partner, but the Thundering Herd will be the team to beat in the Conference USA, and the state of West Virginia as well. Cato is an animal. If you haven’t seen him in live action, please find a weekend this fall to do so. He’s entertainment in and out of the pocket, plus you’ll feel silly when he comes second in Heisman voting and you never saw him play…I’ll call MTSU at home one to watch, as the Blue Raiders had one heck of a running attack last season and only beat Marshall in the last seconds of what was a thrilling weeknight battle in 2013. Rice could be one to watch too, but they seem to play just as dangerous as any of the other CUSA rivals.

 

Mid America Conference

Last Year’s Champ: Bowling Green State University (12-2)

Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year: Jordan Lynch NIU, Khalil Mack, BUFF

No conference changes.

Dan: Bowling Green. Almost every team that was in the running last year is losing their best player, besides BG. QB Matt Johnson will be back, along with a solid receiving core. Gone from the conference are Jordan Lynch, Khalil Mack, Keith Wenning, Willie Snead IV, and Dri Archer. BG had the #5 defense in the country last season, allowing just 15.9 PPG, while putting up just under 35 on the scoreboard each week. It’ll be Bowling Green over Buffalo in the conference title game in Detroit, for a visit to Detroit for a bowl game.

Bryce: Bowling Green. Unfortunately most of the MAC’s playmakers have either graduated or gotten drafted (or both). Leaving potentially to be the most exciting part of the MAC to be the new Bahamas Bowl which pits the MAC against CUSA. Out of conference matchups with Indiana and Wisconsin should help prepare them for the mediocre MAC schedule that they will face. I see double digit wins in the Falcons future, but nothing like an undefeated season and claims for the playoff berth. Look for the west to beat up on each other and leave Toledo or Northern Illinois to battle BG in the championship game.

 

Mountain West Conference

Last Year’s Champ: Fresno State University (11-2)

Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year: Derek Carr FRES, Shaquil Barrett CSU

No conference changes.

Dan: Boise State. New head coach Bryan Harsin knows the Boise State way, and will have the offense clicking on all cylinders, even when breaking in a new QB, as many of the teams in the conference are doing. Front-runner Fresno State loses Derek Carr and Davante Adams, while Boise must deal with the loss of QB Joe Southwick, but returns skill players across the field. The Broncos get Colorado State, Fresno State, and San Diego State at home on the blue turf, where they’ll once again go to work winning the Mountain West.

Bryce: Boise State. Chris Peterson’s exit to Washington came at an appropriate time. While Boise State was a force to be reckoned with in the Ian Johnson Fiesta Bowl days, the luster has lacked a bit in the last couple years. This fresh start they look to embark on comes also without a huge competitor in conference. Harsin has gone and hired 4 former Boise State players from the glory days who have since turned to coaching. 3 more either come from small schools or bring a very youthful mind. Wyoming will make a bowl game this year, as will Utah State, but neither will have the gusto to top the Broncos for the east division crown. Without Derek Carr, Fresno State no longer has a real incumbent threat, but the Dogs and the Wolfpack should finish 2 and 1 respectively in the west.

 

Pacific 12 Conference

Last Year’s Champ: Stanford University (#11, 11-3)

Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year: Ka’Deem Carey ZONA, Will Sutton ASU

No conference changes.

Dan: Oregon. They have maybe the best player in the country in QB Marcus Mariota and an offense that is showing no signs of slowing down. A young defense didn’t do them any favors last season, especially against the run, but another year should do them well. They’ve got one of the best defensive players on their hands also in CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, who should stand tall against some of the better offenses in the Pac-12. They’ll have their hands full in an early week 2 test at Michigan State in a battle of top-10 teams. On the road against UCLA should be a preview of the conference championship later in the season, but Oregon always seems to get tripped up somewhere along the way, this year’s possible trip-up could come against Oregon State in the Civil War during the final week of the season. Look for the Ducks to get into the national playoff with a solid 1-loss season.

Bryce: Oregon. Originally I thought of Stanford and UCLA first. Stanford lost too much of their talent to the NFL and their defensive coordinator to Vanderbilt. UCLA, a hot pick to win the conference and even the national title, just isn’t complete enough for me. They have an excellent quarterback but their O-line and run defense doesn’t look like they’ll get the job done. Oregon, with defensive issues of their own, still has speed and the defense is growing. Both older and also older. As Dan mentions, the offense doesn’t show signs of stopping. Ever hear of a player being too fast for the football team?

 

Southeastern Conference

Last Year’s Champ: Auburn University (#5, 12-2)

Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year: Tre Mason AUB, Michael Sam MIZZOU & CJ Mosley BAMA

No changes but the rumor mill involving North Carolina moving in is worth a check…mostly because it was never put completely to bed.

Dan: Georgia. I want to pick Ole Miss, I really do, but playing in the west, I can’t. There’s too many good teams in the west and Georgia doesn’t have to deal with nearly as many in the east. They have a relatively easy schedule, if you can say that for an SEC team, and should be much better on defense than they were last season, with the addition of former FSU defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, who will have the still-young Bulldogs ready to play each and every week. After picking them to win the national championship this year, this pick feels much better. They lose star QB Aaron Murray, who holds a ton of SEC career passing marks, but they get almost every other skill player back, whether they are returning to school or coming back from an injury. This team was riddled with bad luck and injuries and still almost won 10 games. This year should be a coming out party for the young Dawgs defense. We’ll have to see if they can get by a strong western team in the championship game, but it could be any of LSU, Auburn, Bama, or Ole Miss. I’ll go Georgia over Ole Miss in the championship game, because why not.

Bryce: Mississippi State. Dak Prescott and timing, baby. Mississippi State is not a team that can compete for SEC title’s year in and year out. But they can be scary every few years. This is one of their few years. Here’s their scheduled potential pitfalls: 9/20 LSU, 10/4 Texas A&M, 10/11 Auburn, 11/15 Alabama, and finally 11/29 the Egg Bowl with Ole Miss. I’ll call out one loss in that mix, either to LSU or Alabama, but not both. Returning 18 of 22 starters with those 4 that left signed NFL contracts (only 1 drafted). The Bulldogs will pose nice threats at defensive line and their secondary will get the job done week in and week out. Prescott will be the heart and soul of the offense, not to say they don’t have a solid core of running backs and receivers though. Watch Prescott do some athletic things, stealing the spotlight that was reserved for Braxton Miller this season.

 

Sun Belt Conference

Last Year’s Champ: University of Louisiana-Lafayette (9-4) and Arkansas State (8-5)

Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year: Antonio Andrews WKU, Xavius Boyd WKU

Additions to the conference have been a plenty, as they include FCS Southern Conference members (Appalachian State and Georgia Southern) and FBS Independents (Idaho and New Mexico State). App State and Georgia Southern won’t be in the postseason as they are in their transition year. Georgia State did that last year so they technically become full fledged members this year, too. Idaho has the proud distinction of being the only academically ineligible team in the FBS. But since you can’t suspend an entire team, they just won’t be in postseason play, as if that was truly a possibility.

Dan: Louisiana-Lafayette. I’ve got my money on this being a two-team race between ULL and Arkansas State…sound familiar? The Ragin’ Cajuns get Arkansas State at home in late October (on my birthday), and that could be the difference in this conference race. Each team faces its share of early tests, ULL against Louisiana Tech, Ole Miss, and Boise State, while Arkansas State gets Tennessee, Miami (FL), and Utah State. I think each team will enter that October 21 matchup with a 4-2 record and all the marbles riding on that game. Senior QB Terrance Broadway was the highest ranked Sun Belt QB in our ranking last season, and for good reason. He’s a dual-threat guy with a big arm, and he’ll be the key to a Cajuns title run. The only other team I could see challenging for the ship would be Troy.

Bryce: Louisiana-Lafayette. A bunch of brand new additions to this conference, as mentioned above, tells us this conference is a solid split between the core and the newbies. The core is ULL, La Tech, Troy and Arkansas State. La Tech will take the back seat and let the other three duke it out for the Sun Belt, Belt. Back to Terrance Broadway and why he’s a difference maker…he hasn’t thrown for over 3,000 yards or 20 touchdowns yet in his career, but those legs of his are the difference maker. His ability to make plays happen when his lackluster O-line breaks down is Cajun’s key to success. Fun to watch, but I’d like to see some bigger numbers this year.

 

Heisman Hopefuls

@bsedio

Winner: Bryce Petty, Baylor

Contender: Leonard Fournette, LSU

Dark Horse: Rakeem Cato, Marshall

The fan in me actually has Cato as the winner, Petty the contender and Fournette as the dark horse. This because the last couple Heisman winners have been off the radar at the beginning of the year and you’re not supposed to know who Fournette is. But instead I go conservative in picking Petty as he was in contention last year, the LSU frosh as my contender because I’d be willing to bet you know Fournette has been compared to Adrian Peterson, and Cato as my dark horse because regardless how much I tweeted about him last year, you probably still don’t care he threw 39 touchdowns and 9 interceptions while logging 3916 yards. Of the 11 guys that threw for more yards last year, only Derek Carr and Jameis Winston threw more touchdowns. You know all about Petty so I’ll finish here with Fournette, letting his highlight tape do the talking.

@DKnappyBoy

Winner:Todd Gurley, UGA

Contender: Marcus Mariota, ORE

Dark Horse: Christian Hackenberg, PSU

I had the same winner & dark horse as Mr. @bsedio at first, but changed some things up and came up with my new big three. Todd Gurley will grab the award in a loaded QB field, including names like Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, Brett Hundley, and more. Hackenberg seems like a nice candidate because he’s the prototype QB, he plays in a good conference, and he definitely has the schedule to make some noise, with games against Ohio State and Michigan State in the Big Ten, as well as a early season matchups to put up some big passing numbers. He’ll have to make better throws to a ton of different receivers now that his favorite target Allen Robinson headed off to the League. Hackenberg will have his time in New York in the coming seasons, but he won’t win the award this year. It’s close between everyone else. I think that Gurley will have to be huge for Georgia if they want to win games in the SEC with an inexperienced QB. His running ability will open up the entire field. Mariota will have a great year once again, but with so many high-profile candidates in the same conference, he could be overshadowed in some games. I’ll go with Gurley to take home the hardware in early December

Don’t Sleep On……………………

Teams, coaches, players, mascots, it doesn’t matter, here’s who you should be watching for this season. Who knows, maybe you’ve heard of ‘em.

Dan: Texas Tech & Nate Sudfeld. The Red Raiders were one of the feel-good stories of the season, until about week 8, when they hit the wall and their schedule got a little tougher. They finished 8-5 in Coach Kliff Kingsbury’s first year, but made strides in the right direction with the high-powered offense (remember that Baylor vs. Texas Tech 1st quarter I posted before?). QB Davis Webb is currently the only scholarship player at that position, but it won’t matter, because he was golden last year, throwing for nearly 3000 yards and 20 TDs. Kingsbury isn’t afraid of any of the big boys on their schedule, including games against every member of the Big 12, plus a non-conference game against Arkansas. This offense might score 45 PPG and win the Big 12 outright, I wouldn’t be surprised, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Nate Sudfeld is a different story, he’s a one-man wrecking crew, who will lead his Indiana Hoosiers through a tough Big Ten east schedule from the QB position. We had him ranked as the #25 QB in the country last season as a sophomore, and looking to only get better. After winning the starting job outright from a dual system mid-season last year, Indiana’s offense took off and ended up averaging almost 39 PPG and over 300 passing YPG. He ended up throwing for nearly 2500 yards and 21 TDs in a part-time job. Indiana has offensive fire power, which is how they’ll have to win games because their defense isn’t stopping anyone. Indiana will win 7 games this year and Sudfeld will be the man responsible for that. How’s a bowl game sound for the Hoosiers? Talk about a basketball school…

Bryce: Nike’s ability to disgust us, Rakeem Cato and The Bulldogs of Mississippi State. So I’ve already covered Rakeem Cato and MSU but I feel like people may not be taking me seriously. So I’ll say it again. Mississippi State will do way more damage than you can imagine. If Dak Prescott stays healthy, the sky is the limit. Rakeem Cato will win the Heisman if Marshall goes with 0 or 1 losses this season. Feasible too. He’s done nothing but fill stat sheets in Huntington. His draft stock will be fun to watch too, seeing as he’s a no brainer as a Heisman winner, but may not have been touched if he left early last year (remember Brett Smith of WYO?). On to Nike…My first bone to pick is with what they do in their backyard. Not only do I think the White/Green and Black/Yellow concepts are bizarre, but they don’t even go together. I can just see mom’s all over the Pacific Northwest walking by and thinking the Washington Huskies are playing the Pittsburgh Steelers. I could really go on with countless other examples of atrociousness but I’ll just finish with this: just because you can change something, doesn’t mean you should…aka change for change’s sake usually isn’t for the better.

 

Division 3 Championship:

Because they play football in the other divisions too.

Dan: Linfield over Mount Union. Linfield is #3, Mount is #2 in the pre-season poll, all chasing defending champ UW-Whitewater. The Warhawks are breaking in a new QB and lost a lot of key members of that championship team from last year, especially on defense, so we’ll rule them out of the championship conversation. Mount Union got embarrassed in the championship game by 40 points, and have a top 2 player in the country coming back to lead them to the promised land in QB Kevin Burke. Linfield plays out west and should have a relatively easy road to Salem, if they can get by a few regional home games. They should run away with the conference and show up in the playoffs with nothing but confidence. Mount had a “down” year last year and many feel that they’ll be back with a vengeance in 2014.

Bryce: Linfield over Mount Union.

 

Playoff Teams & National Champ

Dan: 1-Florida State, 2-Baylor, 3- Oregon, 4-Georgia, CHAMP-Oregon over FSU

Bryce: 1-Florida State, 2-Michigan State, 3-Oregon, 4-Mississippi State, CHAMP-Michigan State over FSU

The Forgotten Free Agents

So, LeBron and Carmelo signed, but we all knew that. Here’s to helping you pick up the pieces on some of the other things that happened; good, bad, and otherwise.

(This may get out of hand because this kind of stuff gets me excited, so bear with me).

 

GOOD MOVES:

Nick Young- Lakers (4 years, $21.5 million)- So the Lakers didn’t lure Carmelo to town, what better to do than get mini-Carmelo for a reasonable price? Young averaged 17.9 PPG on an awful Lakers team, but somebody had to take the shots, right? The reason I compare them is because of their shooting abilities and their love of the 3-point shot, maybe a little too much. We’re not sure exactly how much Kobe has left at age whatever he is (old), but I doubt he’s worth the $25 million per year they’re paying him. Young is a solid backup plan because if nothing else, you still have to score more points than the other team to win a game. Just over $5 million/year seems like a great deal for a guy who wanted to stay in LA, he gets buckets.

Darren Collison- Kings (3 years, $16 million)- Collison will be the de-facto starter in Sacramento because of a recent Isaiah Thomas trade to the Suns, but that’s not all bad for the Kings and their questionable roster plans. Collison is not one of those questionable moves, as he was a very, very, very, very, very reliable backup to Chris Paul with the Clippers/Scorpions last season. He is admittedly a pass-first PG, which they desperately need on that roster. He’ll be a guy who looks to pass versus their ex-PG Isaiah Thomas, who looked to score and held the ball too much every possession. The Kings didn’t want to pay starter money for Isaiah Thomas, so they didn’t. They may or may not have one of the worst front offices in the association, but this move looks to be a solid one for a guy who’s still only 26, and will finally get his chance to start.

Kent Bazemore- Hawks (2 years, $4 million)- Who??? *Looks him up* Why would you even pay a guy that averages 6 PPG?! Well because of this, he’s an athletic freak who has great size, and, wait for it………potential. After being traded from the Warriors to the Lakers at the tail end of last season, he went onto average 13 PPG, 3 assists, and 3 rebounds per game over the final 23 games of the year. Sure, right now he may be more known for his bench celebrations (here: LINK), but before long you’ll appreciate the raw talent of his game, both on the court, and on Twitter- he’s a funny guy. He’s 24 and in the middle of his development, which is probably good he got out of LA before Kobe ruined that too. 43/34/60 splits aren’t good at all, but like I said, this is about developing potential in a young guy, and he’ll have a great shot to in ATL, where he could even get the starting nod next season over an aging Kyle Korver, who could be just as effective off the bench. Bazemore’s 36-minute per games are pretty good looking should he ever find his role in that lineup.

Paul Pierce- Wizards (2 years, $11 million)- The Washington Wizards are a young, unproven team on the rise. If you need evidence of that, check out their playoff run this season, as many of their young guys had breakout performances, especially Bradley Beal. The best thing for a young team is veteran leadership, a guy who’s been there and done that before, and what hasn’t Paul Pierce done before? He’s been on bad team (Celtics), he’s been on great teams (Celtics), and everywhere in between, including a layover in Brooklyn last season. We talked about Kobe not having much left, but how much does the Truth have left in his legs at age old? Last year with a loaded Nets lineup, he played 28 MPG in 75 games while shooting it at 45/37/83 splits, a nice season overall coming off the bench for a playoff team; throw in 5 boards and 3 assists and you’ve got a pretty good 37 year-old dude. 28 minutes played is one thing, but can he get that number up and still be productive, especially starting as you’d think the Wizards will ask him to do. His clutch play is legen…dary, one of the best ever, and he’s still got a 15 PPG year left in him, especially with all the trailing 3’s he’ll hit next year by not being able to keep up with the younger guys.

The Miami HEAT- Let’s talk about the moves from a team who lost the biggest free agent prize of them all after LeBron went home. Not all was lost with this team after LeBron’s departure, as they still managed to make out alright with their signings, players who should help them capture the 4/5 seed in the East next season and a (fingers crossed), second-round matchup with the Cavs. I would have talked about Danny Granger, but since LeBron left, he won’t be as big of a factor, so let’s leave him out of this. Other signings included the re-signings of Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers, all important pieces of the puzzle in Miami, yes even Mario. The outside signings included Josh McRoberts and Luol Deng, who will be immediate starters for this team. I for one love what the Heat did with their offseason, not counting the part where LeBron left, of course. Chalmers was bad/terrible/awful in the playoffs last year, but a guy who knows the Spoelstra offense and can make some 3’s is definitely important to have in this lineup. Bosh was a huge signing for the Heat, who were reeling and found some stability after losing LeBron. Bosh is an all-around player on offense, who fell in love with the three last year, but can get back to his 25 PPG self from the Toronto days, which they’ll expect him to do, and I expect of him as well. He’ll have more space to play with too. Did they overpay him? Yes, but you can’t blame them while scattering for some kind of viable basketball-playing option in the wake of The Decision 2.0 (he should have done another show, but that’s not the point). Wade will retire a member of the Heat after this 2 year deal is up, but there’s no reason to think he can’t be mildly effective in the right cases. He won’t get as many open layups, but he’ll have more opportunity to create his own shot, as he’s always been one of the best at that. I’d expect him to be jump shot-heavy this year. McRoberts will join Bosh in the frontcourt and form a formidable passing duo from those spots, and for a bargain price of 4 years/$23 million. Deng was another big signing for Pat Riley and the Miami Mafia, bringing in another scoring option. He’ll directly replace LeBron, as if anyone could do that, in the starting lineup. Deng is important because he’ll be the LeBron of the offense, kicking out to open shooters. As long as Pat Riley is working his magic, the Heat are a playoff team, and a minor Cleveland upset away from the 2015 Eastern Conference Finals.

 

BAD MOVES:

Jodie Meeks- Pistons (3 years, $19 million)- Yes, that’s right, Jodie Meeks will be getting paid over the next three years while playing for the Detroit Pistons. Why? Well, that’s a little harder to explain. Apparently Detroit only looked at his 15.7 PPG with the bad/awful/terrible Los Angeles Lakers last season, because someone had to take those shots. He’s a career 43/38/88 splits aren’t exactly great for someone known as a 3 point sharpshooter, but the Pistons must have seen something with the style he plays that fits in with what Coach Stan Van Gundy wants to do with that team. Last season in LA, he was asked to do a ton more on offense, and delivered to the tune of those 16 PPGs, while his first season is LA, he was a 3-point specialist, shooting over 65% of his shots from beyond the arc. He’ll be in that same 2012-13 Meeks role in Detroit, which will remain to be seen how well overpaying him pays off for one of the more talented rosters in the East.

A usually sad Ben Gordon, looking extra sad

A usually sad Ben Gordon, looking extra sad

The Orlando Magic- Channing Frye and Ben Gordon are the two that we’ll be focusing on here with the Magic, signing them both for a combined $41 million. More than anything, these guys will help round out the bench and put them over the minimum salary requirements for the salary cap. The Magic are a young, rebuilding team with many good pieces in place, including Victor Oladipo and Tobias Harris, which oddly enough play the same positions as these two guys they signed. Frye signed for 4 years, $32 million, which is a lot for a guy who stunk up until 3 years ago in Phoenix, mostly because he was looking at open threes all over the place. He’s 6-11 and doesn’t rebound well for a guy who’s 6-11, his splits look like Jodie Meeks at 44/29/82, but is a much more reliable defender, having the size advantage on almost everyone he comes up against. His best season was a 12.7 point, 6.7 rebound season in 2010-11 with the Suns, but he’s 4 years older now and I’m not sure those old numbers could have gotten him $8 million/year. Ben Gordon signed for 2 years, $9 million, which is good for a guy who A) hasn’t been good since his Chicago days, and B) hasn’t cared much since then either. He was benched for good after 19 games with the Bobcats last season, and hasn’t started a game in the previous two seasons. He’s a career 40% three-point shooter and the Magic think that he can be that again without someof the Chicago and Detroit pressures weighing on him. Still, $4.5 million/year could be spent other places, like guys who have played an NBA basketball game since February, which was where Gordon’s last game action came. If anything, the Magic gained guys that can, and will, bomb it from downtown after losing over half of their 3-point shooting, by attempt, from last year. Some veterans on the club could help the three young draftees the Magic picked up.

 

OTHER MOVES:

Lance Stephenson- Hornets (3 years, $27 million)- This guy turned down $8.5 million/year in Indy to take $9 million in Charlotte. We’ll have to see if it pays off, but Lance apparently does not like the stable organization that Indy offered and would rather take the extra $500,000 on a maybe up-an-coming team in Charlotte. The most interesting thing about Lance is that nobody knows just how good he can be, which made these offers very interesting from each team, all culminating around the same range. In his defense, Stephenson will have a much larger impact with the Hornets than he had with the Pacers, being option 4 or 5 with Indy, and immediately turning into option 1 or 2 in Charlotte. 14 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists were his numbers in Indy last season, while he’s got a line of 9, 4, and 3 for his career. You don’t usually see guys this young come into free agency, and that’s why the Lance story is such great poetry. That and he’s a international man of mystery and bafoonery also add to the fairytale. I think Lance is a great talent with a lot to bring on the court, unfortunately he gets himself into some trouble with the media and his boneheaded plays when he tries to take over the game himself. This happens all too often, so maybe MJ can teach him something about being the 2nd best basketball player of all-time. See what I did there? Also, Lance is probably the only guy in the league with an And1 sponsorship deal, just for fun. (Fact check: Isaiah Canaan of the Houston Rockets also sports the 1).

The Lance face: both the best and the worst thing to happen to your team

The Lance face: both the best and the worst thing to happen to your team

The Houston Rockets- Biggest losers this off-season could be the Rockets, not a good sign after being the 4-seed in the tough Western Conference last year. They missed out on Carmelo after he, more or less, opted back into the Knicks. They lost out on Chris Bosh, who would have been the championship piece to the puzzle, after he re-signed with the Heat on a max deal. They lost Jeremy Lin, which is probably good for them actually, and lost Chandler Parsons after they didn’t match the Mavericks offer of 3 years, $45 million, a huge price to pay for Parsons, something the Rockets just couldn’t do. They signed Trevor Ariza to take his place, but he’s old and not as athletic as Parsons. They’re the biggest losers of the off-season, and yet are a top 5 team in the Western Conference. They have the best center in the league, and the best (???) shooting guard in James Harden and are a few bench updates from cracking the top 4. Oh, throw out Omir Asik to the Pelicans after a money-clearing deal on day 1 of free agency, and you’ve got…….one of the best teams in the West? Makes sense.

 

STILL AVAILABLE:

Eric Bledsoe- He’s a restricted free agent, but the Suns have brought in a PG to maybe replace Bledsoe in Isaiah Thomas, previously of the Sacramento Kings, who they gave a 4 year, $27 million deal earlier this month. This makes Bledsoe semi-expendable, although he’s one of the best young guards in the game and led this Suns team to a near playoff berth in the West. The Suns definitely have money to spend should a team make an offer sheet to the young guard, coming into the off-season at over $32 million to spend. He currently has zero offers on the table and the Suns reportedly ‘hope and expect’ him to return without much action this off-season. Last I heard, the Milwaukee Bucks were trying to put together an offer sheet for the young guard, but that may have fallen through with the waiver claim of Kendall Marshall. I’d expect Bledsoe to be back in Phoenix next season, and for many to come. He’s not yet a max deal guy, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a $15-18 million contract extension is in the works in Phoenix, apparently not coming this off-season though. NBA FA Monroe Smith

Greg Monroe- Young big men are rare in the league, but Greg Monroe and his restricted free agent tag wouldn’t believe it if you told them. Around the league, there has not been much interest, only the Suns have talked about bringing him in. Maybe the league knows something we don’t and would rather have a shot at him in unrestricted free agency after next season, since it’s unclear exactly what the Pistons will do with him when that time comes. He also has zero current offers on the table and looks to be back in Detroit for another season of clogging up the lane for Josh Smith. It bring up a couple interesting questions about floor spacing, teams moving away from traditional big guys, and others, but all in all, Monroe will be back with the Pistons for the next season. After that, it’s anyone’s ballgame. Stay tuned for the summer of 2015 to see where Monroe will land.

Mo Williams- Why is he on this list? Williams is a great guy off the bench with a ton, a ton of experience on playoff teams and backing up various places around the league. 44/39/87 splits are nice for a guy off the bench, a spot starter, a career backup, whatever you want to call him. He may not be Eric Bledsoe, but he’s a solid veteran presence that a team can use to their advantage. Are you listening, Golden State?

 

There you have it, an NBA article that was a few weeks overdue, but right on time, as it turns out. It will be interesting to see what happens in each situation outlined above. Sure, it got out of hand and lengthy, but hopefully you enjoyed it enough to read to the very end.

As always,

 

@DKnappyBoy