The Thunderblog’s basketball corner gives three quick hits about both the Association and the Road to March, aka NBA & NCAAB. Just enough to get you through your next basketball-related conversation this week.
National Collegiate Athletic Association Basketball
Ah, its almost that time again. College basketball league tournaments are about to start as Big Dance tickets will be punched and bubbles will be burst (look it up if you don’t get it). In big news, the Lehigh Mountain Hawks will be the #2 seed in the Patriot League Tournament. And they will bring along Tim Kempton (as seen above) who just repeated as Patriot League Player of the Year. The Junior forward will be joined by Lehigh’s other First-Team All Patriot League member, sophomore point guard Kahron Ross as the Mountain Hawks look to gain an automatic berth to March Madness. Stay tuned as they play again on March 3rd against either Navy or hated rival Lafayette.
Obviously a lot can and will change as conference tournaments get underway this coming week but just who does the Thunderblog have as #1 seeds come tournament time? First I believe Kansas will hang on late against the Oklahoma Sooners to take the Big-12 title and ultimately be the #1 overall seed. The Jayhawks are certainly flawed but they have a great backcourt lead by Frank Mason and an anchor in the frontcourt with Perry Ellis. Look for Bill Self’s squad to prove their might.
The second #1 seed will go to Villanova. The Wildcats had a tough loss on the road to #5 Xavier but still look like the team to beat in the Big East. They are a strong team with veteran leadership and can beat anyone with their great 3-point shooting. Look for them to slip by Providence and avenge their loss to Xavier in Madison Square Garden to sow up their #1 seed.
The third #1 seed will go to one of the most dangerous teams every year, the Michigan State Spartans. Led by the do-everything Denzel Valentine, the Spartans are peaking at the right time winning 8 of their last 9. They are a strong team led by one of the best coaches in the land in Tom Izzo.
The fourth #1 seed is the hardest to predict as Virginia, Xavier, Oklahoma, and North Carolina will all be making a strong case. But I am going with a team that has flown under the radar a bit, the Miami Hurricanes. Jim Larranage has done a tremendous job with the squad as they are deep and hyper-athletic. They recently took down Virginia and Louisville in back to back games and looked poised to shock some people in a tough ACC Tournament. Their backcourt is dynamic with Angel Rodriguez and Sheldon McClellan manning both spots.
National Basketball Association
Quick note on the NBA tonight. Great to see the Portland Trailblazers having success. They lost a ton this past year in Free Agency as LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesly Matthews, and Nicholas Batum all left for different pastures. What did Portland’s brain trust do? Trusted their young. Damian Lillard has become a superstar. C.J. McCollum is the most improved player in the NBA, and Meyers Leonard is starting to step up. They have won 11 of their last 12 including victories against Cleveland, Oklahoma City, and most impressively the Golden State Warriors. So watch out for Portland not just this year but into the next decade.