Late Tuesday night I was involved in a serious session of multi-tasking. While listening to a Bill Simmons podcast, I was also working on Bracketology, looking at NBA standings, trying to figure out what games to bet for my Cent Sports account because I had been on a serious losing streak, and attempting to figure out what to write for a column this weekend since I had been on a writing drought that had gone on just as long as my aforementioned Cent Sports losing streak. I should mention that in my defense, I have only been betting 3 or 4 game parlays in an attempt to build my money account so I could be in good position to make the big money come NCAA Tournament time. Yeah, that’s right. The best money making plan I have right now is Cent Sports.
As I was struggling, I realized that I wanted to step outside of the box for this column. I considered writing about the hypothetical scenario of if I was in total control of the sports world. It’s a great idea- an idea so great that I will soon be turning it into a podcast featuring Dr. Collin Stucko. I can only imagine what he is going to bring to the table. I thought about diving into if LeBron James would’ve decided to join the Los Angeles Clippers this summer. Although it’s a hypothetical situation that had the potential of being an absolute visual orgasm, I doubt people want to hear my babble about LeBron again and again. It’s like having to watch Ronnie and Sammi fight week after week on Jersey Shore. For those who aren’t emotionally invested (like I am with the LeBron situation), it gets redundant… and in the case of Jersey Shore, it becomes an educational video on why not to use steroids. The bottomline is I was idealess.
All of the sudden I realized its 2011 NBA All-Star Weekend, which doubles as my birthday weekend. I decided I would use my current knowledge of college basketball and keep up with the All-Star weekend theme and construct the hypothetical Eastern/Western All-Star rosters for the college basketball season.
Kemba Walker- Connecticut (23.2 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 4.7 apg)
-Walker’s first month of the season was one of the best in recent college basketball history (26.5 points per game, 10-0 start, Maui Invitation Championship). He has made the leap from being a good player to an outstanding player, and has carried a mediocre Connecticut team to 20-5 record.
Nolan Smith- Duke (21.4 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 5.4 apg)
-Smith is quietly having one of the best seasons in the country. Just compare the numbers to Kemba Walker’s and you’ll see that they are very similar. He, not Kyle Singler (http://i.ytimg.com/vi/XQ2Cg6koHPQ/0.jpg) is the best player on one of the most talented teams in the country and the favorite to win ACC Player of the Year.
Terrence Jones- Kentucky (17.8 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 1.8 apg)
-If John Calipari can make it through the rest of the season without killing Terrence Jones, Kentucky might be in good shape come March. They aren’t deep, but they have some young talent that could make a difference. Terrence Jones is an NBA player playing in college right now. He’s a terrific scorer, has a decent outside shot, and is good rebounder.
JaJuan Johnson- Purdue (20.7 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 1.0 apg)
-It was difficult to leave E’Twaun Moore off of the roster, and even more difficult to believe that Purdue is one of the best teams in the country, and perhaps their best player hasn’t played all year. If Robbie Hummel were healthy, we might be talking about Purdue as the best team in the Big Ten.
Jared Sullinger- Ohio State (17.8 ppg, 10.0 rpg, 1.4 apg)
-If it weren’t for a certain phenomenon out west, Sullinger might be the Player of the Year favorite right now. He is putting up better numbers as a freshman than Greg Oden, BJ Mullens and Kosta Koufos did (not really a surprise with the last two) and has led the Buckeyes to a 25-1 start. Cross your fingers Cavaliers fans, he could be yours in June.
Jordan Taylor- Wisconsin (18.0 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 4.8 apg)
-Ask Ohio State fans who the best player on Wisconsin is and they will tell you Jordan Taylor, not Jon Leuer. Taylor had a career defining game in Wisconsin’s win over Ohio State last week, including an unprecedented number of ballsy three pointers that brought the Badgers back from a 15 point deficit.
John Jenkins- Vanderbilt (19.8 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 1.1 apg)
-A casual fan probably hasn’t heard of John Jenkins. Just like a casual fan probably doesn’t realize Vanderbilt is 19-6 and has wins over Marquette, St. Mary’s, Georgia, Alabama, and Kentucky, which was highlighted by a 32 point performance by John Jenkins, which made me believe he is capable of carrying Vanderbilt on a legitimate tournament run.
Ashton Gibbs- Pittsburgh (16.3 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 3.1 apg)
-It’s hard to choose one player from a team that is as balanced as Pittsburgh is, but they are the best team in the deepest conference in the country and need one player on the All-Star team. The spot could’ve just as easily been given to Brad Wanamaker.
Austin Freeman- Georgetown (18.2 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 2.6 apg)
-If you listen to my podcast, you’ll know that I’m not big on Georgetown. Something about the fact that they got severely beaten by 14 seed Ohio last year in the tournament is a turn off. But I have to admit that their recent 9 game run impressed me. Wins over St. John’s, Villanova, Louisville, Syracuse and Marquette shouldn’t be overlooked. In their 9 game winning streak which brought Georgetown all the way to 3rd place in the Big East rankings, Freeman led the way averaging over 18 points per game.
Jon Leuer- Wisconsin (19.2 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 1.8 apg)
-The white guy spot on the All-Star team belongs to Jon Leuer. While everyone else is throwing alley-oops and running isolation plays, Leuer is going to be setting a number of good screens and working hard for rebounds.
Dwight Hardy- St. John's (17.1 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 2.0 apg)
-Perhaps the story that isn't being talked about enough this year is the resurgence of St. John's as a Big East contender. Alot of credit can be given to coach Steve Lavin, but the phenomenal play of Dwight Hardy is what really stands out. He has played his best in the big games, and it seems like every game St. John's has played has been big. They boast wins over Duke, Connecticut, Georgetown, Notre Dame, West Virginia and Marquette. Don't sleep on St. John's or Dwight Hardy.
Erving Walker- Florida (14.7 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 3.4 apg)
-This spot could easily go to Marshon Brooks, Providence forward who is the leading scorer in the Big East. But in my college All-Star team I put a decent amount of stock into how much you help your team. Erving Walker’s numbers might not be spectacular, but he is the most important player on what might be the most underrated team in the country. He’s the guy with the ball in his hands at the end of all of Florida’s many close games, and he’s fearless.
Jacob Pullen- Kansas State (18.8 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 3.8 apg)
-Just when I thought Kansas State was finished, Jacob Pullen decided to drop 38 on Kansas and make me remember why I picked them to go to the Final Four last year. His team isn’t as good as we expected them to be, but for the most part Pullen has been terrific.
Jimmer Fredette- BYU (27.3 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 4.3 apg)
-It’s really simple: In the player of the year race, there is Jimmer Fredette, and then there is everyone else. He’s that much better than anyone else, and he might be good enough to take BYU to the championship. And in five years when he is a relevant starting point guard I won’t be one bit surprised. Also, in the hypothetical college All-Star weekend three-point shootout, Jimmer is the odds on favorite.
Derrick Williams- Arizona (19.2 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 1.0 apg)
-In my opinion, Williams might be the best prospect in this year’s draft. 6’8, 240 lbs. with a good outside touch (shooting 69% from downtown) and shooting 63% overall, leading a wildly mediocre Arizona team to a 22-4 record.
Jordan Hamilton- Texas (18.7 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 2.3 apg)
-I’m terrified to say this, but I believe in Texas. I said the same exact thing last year in early February, and then the Longhorns had an epic collapse and ended up getting beat in the first round of the tournament. I don’t think it’s going to be the same story this year. Mainly in part to the play of Jordan Hamilton, who I think should be getting more mention for player of the year than he is. Best player on arguably the best team in the country.
Kawhi Leonard- SDSU (15.1 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 2.6 apg)
-If Jimmer Fredette isn’t going bananas then I guarantee we are talking about Kawhi Leonard as the best player on the west coast. The fact that he went for 22 points and 15 rebounds against BYU gets overshadowed by Fredette’s 43 points.
Khris Middleton- Texas A&M (14.9 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 3.1 apg)
-In a recent podcast I mentioned how I thought Khris Middleton was the Poor Man’s Kevin Durant, based on looks and style of play. Being a complete sports nerd, last weekend I found myself watching the Texas vs. Kansas Big 12 Championship game from Durant’s freshman year. I would like to change my analysis of Middleton from Poor Man’s Kevin Durant to Mentally Insane Extremely Dirty Stuck in the 1960’s Homeless Man’s Kevin Durant. I need to remember not to compare anyone to him, ever. Congrats to Khris Middleton though for becoming an All-Star!
LaceDarius Dunn- Baylor (20.8 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.3 apg)
-LaceDarius would be in his absolute glory playing in this hypothetical All-Star game. No need to play defense, or pass the ball. Shoot, shoot, shoot. Dunn is one of the favorites to win MVP of the game just because he will get up the most shots.
Perry Jones- Baylor (14.5 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 1.2 apg)
-Don’t get me wrong, Jones has been good all season. He’s undoubtedly one of the best freshmen in the country. But is he really a top 5 pick in the upcoming draft? I’m not so sure. I need a little more than 14 and 7 out of my freshman number one pick in the draft.
Klay Thompson- Washington State (20.6 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 4.2 apg)
-I’m going to be completely honest, I haven’t seen Klay Thompson play one time this year. Yet I’m putting him on my All-Star team. Why? Because no one name “Klay” has ever been an All-Star.
Marcus Morris- Kansas (16.7 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 1.4 apg)
-Kansas doesn’t exactly have the best guards in the country, so a lot of credit needs to go to the Morris twins. Leading scorers, leading rebounders, and they provide quality interior defense.
Markieff Morris- Kansas (12.8 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 1.4 apg)
-See Marcus Morris. They are twins after all.
Mickey McConnell- St. Mary’s (16.9 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 6.2 apg)
-The Non Jimmer Fredette White Guy spot on the Western All-Stars goes to Mickey McConnell. The award for name of the most likely Irish mobster in College Basketball goes to Mickey McConnell.
ALL STAR PRIMER
Quickly, here are five things to pay attention to this weekend.
1: My favorite sports writer, Bill Simmons, making his coaching debut for the “East” Celebrity Team in the Celebrity All-Star Game. He will be leading his team against the “West” and coach Jimmy Kimmel. I’m beyond giddy about this.
2: This All-Star weekend we get a heavy dose of rookie sensation Blake Griffin. I’m unsure of his status for the Rookie Challenge tonight, but he is a go for the Dunk Contest and the All-Star Game. First, I am going on record as saying he will have the greatest Dunk Contest performance since Vince Carter in 2000 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WbzBIvXwqEU&feature=related) Second, I get dizzy thinking about the fact that we could see Chris Paul throwing Blake a number of Alley Oops in the All Star game. Third, Blake is a dark horse All-Star MVP candidate.
3: The Taco Bell Skills Challenge features Chris Paul who was already given a spot, and Stephen Curry, Derrick Rose, John Wall and Russell Westbrook who were voted in by the fans. As I mentioned at the beginning of the season I mentioned how we are currently in a golden age of point guards. Here are five of the best.
4: Last year it was bad enough that I had to watch Stephen Curry lose in the finals to Paul Pierce. Now I need to watch Paul Pierce AND Ray Allen (most likely with his lookalike mother in the crowd) compete for the title. The other competitors are Kevin Durant, Daniel Gibson, James Jones and Dorell Wright. The good news is this is a pretty deep field so there is hope that the Celtics won’t win the NBA title and the 3 point contest in 2011.
5: Finally there is the main event on Sunday night. No, not my birthday, but the NBA All-Star game. I know that it’s hard to take the NBA All-Star game seriously, but it’s safe to say that this is the most talented All-Star game in quite some time. An underrated feature of the All-Star game is the 4th quarter of it. If the game is close you get an accurate snapshot of the players who matter in that particular season based on who is playing down the stretch. It will be interesting to see who Doc Rivers and Gregg Poppovich are playing late. Does Doc Rivers play all four Celtics late? Does he play any besides Garnett late? What about the Miami Heat trio? Does Popovich give late game minutes to Duncan and Ginobili? Does Blake get any late game minutes? Do I care about this way more than most people? Absolutely! Enjoy the weekend, I sure will.