Center Court

April 18, 2011
NBA playoffs are here!

The NBA playoffs kicked off on Saturday.  Now it’s time to watch the NBA.  Everything that happened during the regular season does not matter. 

In the Eastern Conference, as expected the top three seeds won their first playoff games.  The Chicago Bulls (#1), Miami Heat (#2) and Boston Celtics (#3) beat the Indiana Pacers (#8), Philadelphia 76ers (#7) and New York Knicks (#6).  The Atlanta Hawks (#5) took out the Orlando Magic (#4), but this is not truly an upset because they are neighboring seeds.

It was much different in the Western Conference.  The Memphis Grizzlies (#8) shocked the San Antonio Spurs (#1) and earned their franchise’s first playoff game, 101 – 98.  Zach Randolph’s 25 points and 14 rebounds were too much for the playoff experienced Tim Duncan and Tony Parker

The second upset was the New Orleans Hornets (#7) taking down the defending NBA Champs, L.A. Lakers (#2).  Chris Paul led the Hornets to victory with 33 points and 14 assists.  He was just three rebounds shy of having a triple-double.   Kobe Bryant’s 34 points was not enough for the Lakers to win.

Dallas Mavericks (#3) and Oklahoma Thunder (#4) won their games against Portland Trailblazers (#6) and Denver Nuggets (#5) respectively.

Do you think the Spurs and Lakers are in trouble?  


Heels & Helmets®

April 11, 2011
King James ready for playoff court

LeBron James has had a target on his back since he decided to take his talents to South Beach last summer.  Many basketball fans thought his arrogance led him to make “The Decision” to play for the Miami Heat with his friends Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh.  Announcing it in a one-hour special during primetime fueled their belief that he was an egotistical maniac who was a quitter.  With this one decision he went from one of the sports world most liked athletes to one of its most hated.  His manhood, leadership and loyalty were all questioned.  Personally, it was encouraging for me to “witness” a young athlete be an active participant in his free agency and not just get paid to play
The season started off shaky for James in South Beach.  The Heat won a couple games and lost some games.  They fell to Boston twice in the first month of the season.  They were not the dominant team that was supposed to control the NBA’s Eastern Conference.   They were barely above .500 at the end of November.

December came and the team began to click.  They only suffered one loss the entire month.  Throughout the rest of the season their talent was illuminated in victories with all of three of the team’s leaders scoring in double digits.  However, they had some bad stretches and an Achilles heels in the Boston Celtics.  In three meetings they were not able to stop their conference foe.

The King himself referred to the Celtics as the hump that the Heat needed to get over.  Yesterday, they did not just “get over” it; they flew over and demolished it.  It was a very physical game with both teams getting technical fouls.  At the end of the game, Miami outscored and outrebounded Boston to win 100 – 77.  The victory secured the #2 seed in Eastern Conference for the Heat.

Finally getting a win over Boston and having some confidence in Coach Spoelstra’s direction, King James is ready for the playoffs.
Do you think that the Heat will play in the 2011 NBA Finals?

Heels & Helmets®

April 4, 2011
NCAA men’s basketball title game is a dogfight

After three weeks, the inaugural First Four and six rounds of competitive basketball action, the championship game is set.  It’s a dogfight, between the Butler Bulldogs and The University of Connecticut Huskies.  The teams will play tonight at Reliant Stadium in Houston for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship trophy.

Reaching the Final Four is not new for either team.  Butler was there last year.  The Bulldogs loss in the championship game to one of college basketball’s living legends, Mike Krzyzewski, the Head Coach at Duke.  At the time Duke was fighting for their fourth championship under the famed Coach K.  This year is no different.  They will play against a program that has sent 26 players to the NBA since 1987 who has a coach that is one of college basketball’s greatest.   A victory tonight would give Butler and their young coach, Brad Stevens, its first championship. 

Connecticut most recently made it to the Final Four two years ago in 2009, but did not play in the championship game.  They won it all in 1999 and in 2004.  If UConn wins it will be their third championship under Head Coach Jim Calhoun, already a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Getting back to the championship this year shows that Butler’s success is the result of talent and preparation, not luck.  Only 16 other schools have appeared in back-to-back championship games.  Connecticut is not on the list.  I think the 34 year-old Coach Stevens is ready to lead his team to another short list and become only the second school in the Horizon League to win the National Championship.
Butler is a team.  UConn is dependent on one player - star guard Kemba Walker.  The Bulldogs need to play smart as a team, control Walker and get rebounds to win.  The Huskies need Walker to be amazing and get other players involved on offense to win.  I think Butler will play tough defense, limit Walker’s performance and join the company of North Carolina and Duke as the third school to win the championship after losing in the title game the year before.  One husky can’t get the job done, so the Bulldogs will win this dogfight.
The championship game starts at 9:15 pm on CBS.

Heels & Helmets

March 28, 2011
From First Four to Final Four, VCU dancing all the way to Houston

Two weeks ago the college basketball world was trying to figure out how the NCAA selection committee could select a team like VCU over schools like Colorado and Virginia Tech.  They were not exactly invited to the Big Dance, they were given a chance to earn a spot in the bracket.  VCU was selected to play in the NCAA’s inaugural, “First Four.”  Without seed numbers, these four teams competed the Tuesday before the real dance started.  Victories earned them seed numbers in the 64-team bracket.  So, VCU played a game to get in the Number 11 seed spot in the Southwest Region. To say that VCU’s trip to Houston is unexpected is an understatement.

The other teams joining the Rams in Houston are Butler, Connecticut and Kentucky.  Ironically, Butler, the team that surprised everyone last year by reaching the Final Four, will play VCU in the semi-finals.  So, we know one of the “improbables” will play in the championship game.  In the other semi-final game, there is Connecticut and Kentucky.  Both of these programs have a rich basketball history and well-known coaches.  They have names that fans are accustomed to writing in brackets. 

This Final Four should be an exciting one.  There are not any Number 1 seeds, not even a Number 2 seed made it.  Watching the championship game two years ago, I was bored to death witnessing UNC blow out Michigan State.  It’s much more fun to see close games with unexpected outcomes.  I am sure that is what we will see this weekend.

I can’t let the madness of March intimidate me away from making a prediction.  I am going with the Butler Bulldogs.  I know luck was on their side against Old Dominion, Pittsburgh and Florida during the tournament, but I think they are prepared.  Coaching plus the experience of being in the Final Four last year added to the feeling of still being an underdog set the Bulldogs up to cut down the nets in Houston.

Heels & Helmets®

March 21, 2011
They are so sweet
It was a crazy weekend in men’s college basketball.  Most of the games were close with the winner finalized in the last few seconds of the game.  And like every March, we had some big upsets that created the madness.

Butler is at it again.  Last year, they stunned the world and ruined millions of brackets when they upset top-ranked Kansas.  The Bulldogs continued dancing until the championship game when they lost to Duke.  On Saturday, they beat the #1 seed in the Southeast, Pittsburgh, to earn a spot in the Sweet 16.  Again, destroying some brackets, they are in the Sweet 16.

Florida State dominated in their upset over Notre Dame.   Their offense was on fire, but the defense is what killed Notre Dame.  The Fighting Irish could not get their offense going against the Seminoles.  They only shot 30% from the field.  So Florida State is headed to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1993.
The biggest shocker was VCU.  A week ago they were at the center of the debate over this year’s selection of teams that made the tournament.  With a team like Colorado not being invited to the tournament, many did not see how VCU was.  They were not expected to go very far.  With victories against Georgetown and Purdue, they silenced their critics.  The fact that they demolished Purdue by almost 20 points truly validated their selection.  The Rams are taking their first trip to the Sweet 16.

The other teams in the Sweet 16 are Arizona, BYU, Connecticut, Duke, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Marquette, North Carolina, Ohio State, Richmond, San Diego State and Wisconsin.  Review the matchups for the Sweet 16 round.  The games will be played this Thursday and Friday.  The winners will compete in the Elite 8 this weekend. 

  Heels & Helmets®

March 14, 2011 Welcome to Center Court!

We are expanding our conversation to basketball!  Just as we have done for football for over a year, we will keep you informed about what is happening on the basketball court on this page.
To tip-off things off, we are going to talk about the world’s largest basketball event, NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.  Known as the Big Dance, the tournament is featuring 68 Division I schools for the first time this year.  These schools compete for the championship over three weeks of basketball during the month of March.  (Yes, March Madness!)  The last three rounds are known as the Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight and Final Four noting the number of teams left in the tournament.  The winner of the tournament is college basketball’s national champion.

The 68 teams in the tournament are determined by the NCAA selection committee and announced on Selection Sunday.  This always provides some controversy.  Even with 68 spots, this year was no different.  The biggest shocker is UAB (University of Alabama Birmingham) and VCU (Virginia Commonwealth University) getting invited to play over Alabama, Colorado and Virginia Tech.   There is not a clear reason why, but the bottom line is that they did not get enough votes.  So we live with it and get to bracketology.

Bracketology is probably the biggest office pool in the country.  Chances are, you started a meeting late today because your colleagues were talking about their brackets.  I will not overwhelm you with a bunch of details, but here are a few suggestions on completing your bracket. 1.Don’t pick all of the No. 1 seeds to go to the Final Four. 2. Identify a couple of lower seeds that will upset. 3. Consider the region a school is playing in and the proximity to its home.

Download a bracket.  Post your completed bracket on our facebook page.  The person with the most wins we’ll get a $100 gift certificate to Nine West.  Just in time to get new heels for the spring.

Good luck!    

  Heels & Helmets®