Friday, January 25, 2013

Studs and Duds: Katie Couric is Looking Studly

You know who the stud is in this picture.

By Jeremy Conlin and Joe Parello

Studs and Duds is a weekly feature on Suite Sports. Who had a good week? Who had a bad week?


John Wall Off The Bench

Since returning from his knee injury on January 12, Wall has been coming off the bench for the previously hapless Wizards. Before his comeback, the Wiz were dead last in the conference at 5-27. Since then they’re 4-3, including two road wins against Denver and Portland (they were 1-15 on the road without Wall).

Wall has averaged 14.5 points and 7.0 assists in just 27 minutes per game, and has a PER of 21.0 in the seven games since he’s been back, which would be a career high if sustained over a full season. He could see his first start of the season as soon as Monday against Portland.


Chris Ault and the Pistol Offense

Much has been made of Chip Kelly’s offense as the former Oregon coach moves on to coach the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles, and rightfully so. But, there is another college coach that has influenced NFL offenses and this particular season much more than Kelly.

Though it had been previously used in lower level college football, former Nevada head coach Chris Ault perfected the Pistol offense in the Wolf Pack locker room in 2003, and found the perfect man to run it when then-sophomore quarterback Colin Kaepernick took over the Nevada offense in 2008.

Perhaps not-so-coincidentally, it is Kaepernick who now has many thinking that the Pistol run with zone read concepts is a viable NFL offense. But Kaep and the NFC champion 49ers are not the only team that ran the Pistol this season. Fellow NFC playoff teams Washington, Seattle and even Green Bay put their dual-threat quarterbacks in the Pistol at times this season, as did Pittsburgh recently to allow Ben Roethlisberger to play with a foot injury.

Will it last? I can’t see why not, as running a system like this gives all those teams that don’t have a Peyton Manning or a Tom Brady another way to score points, and it gives teams with less than dominant offensive lines another way to manufacture a running game. Still, you need to find the right guy to run it, and the risk of a quarterback injury is always there.


Katie Couric

I think it’s safe to say that when we decided to do this feature every week, I never imagined that I would put Katie Couric on the “studs” list, but here we are. Couric pulled no punches when she interviewed Manti Te’o this past Thursday about his now famous fictitious relationship with a young woman named Lennay Kekua.

Couric asked Te’o why he never visited this sick girl (Kekua was said to have died of leukemia and been in a car accident), or driven just two hours to see her at one point when Te’o was in California. She hammered home the questions that made everyone think he was in on the hoax, and she went so far as to say that he “must be the most naive person in the world” to have thought some of the things he did.

Oh, and she went there.

You know what I mean. The thing everybody was talking about, she asked Te’o if he was gay. Now, some will wonder if she crossed a line, but you have to applaud her for asking the question on everybody’s mind, even if she may face some backlash for it.

For Te’o’s part, he responded, “No, far from it, far from it.”

Now, try to interpret what it means to be “far from gay.”

Really Manti?? Far from gay??

Trey Burke

It’s been a very interesting week of college hoops, and this season has the makings of a wide-open race for the national championship. But, one player I wouldn’t bet against is Trey Burke. The talented Michigan sophomore may just be the best point guard in the country, and with his commanding performance Thursday night against Purdue, he has put the Wolverines in position to claim the No. 1 spot in the polls, assuming they can win at Illinois Sunday.

Burke is currently averaging nearly 18 points a game in the defensive-minded Big Ten on over 50 percent shooting from the floor and nearly 40 percent from beyond the arc. He also leads the Big Ten, by a wide margin, with over seven assists per game and is an 80 percent free throw shooter.

But when you watch his game, it goes deeper than numbers. Burke is always in control of the Wolverine offense, picking his spots to be assertive and dropping dime passes to cutters in other critical moments. He also never seems to lose his balance and provides great energy on the defensive side, applying more pressure to the ball than his 1.3 steals per game would have you believe.

The Big Ten is loaded this year, but if I had to put money on which team will go the deepest into the tournament, I’m taking the one with the best point guard in America.



Duke Basketball

Speaking of that interesting week in college basketball, was there a bigger surprise than the total meltdown of No. 1 Duke at No. 25 Miami?

Don’t get me wrong, this is one of the better Hurricane teams in recent memory. The Canes already have quality wins over North Carolina and Michigan State, but this is also a team that struggled to escape Boston College the week before hosting Duke.

So, for the Blue Devils to get blown out by 27- and it could have been worse- in one of the weakest venues in college basketball, against a pretty good team... Let’s just say Duke is missing senior Ryan Kelly badly, and won’t make much of a run come March if he hasn’t fully recovered from his foot injury.


The All-Star Candidacy of Luol Deng

NBA coaches voted Luol Deng into the All-Star game for the 2nd straight season, and they made the wrong choice for the 2nd straight season. The argument for Deng has no leg to stand on whatsoever.

The argument can’t be that he’s an integral part of a winning team, because the Nets have a better record than Chicago but have no All-Stars. Meanwhile, Chicago has two.

And the argument can’t be that he’s putting up All-Star caliber numbers, regardless of the team he’s on, considering he scores at an efficiency level well below the league average, can’t create a shot for anyone besides himself, and has a net negative impact on his team’s ability to score points.

In fact, his entire candidacy is built around his abilities as a defensive player and a “glue” guy, only the Bulls are better both offensive and defensively when Deng isn’t on the floor. They have a net efficiency (points per 100 possessions) of +1.5 with Deng on the court, and +6.2 with him on the bench.

So where exactly is his value?

Brook Lopez, Paul Pierce, David West, Thaddeus Young, Kyle Lowry, Josh Smith, Al Horford, Kemba Walker, Greg Monroe, and Larry Sanders are all more deserving candidates for any number of reasons.


Pro Bowl Quarterbacks In The 2nd Half of Conference Championship Games

Both the Falcons and the Patriots, led by Matt Ryan and Tom Brady, respectively, were held scoreless in the 2nd halves of their conference championship games on Sunday.

Brady had the worse end of the stick, with both of his interceptions coming in the second half (although, in his defense, the first was a tipped pass and the second was forced into coverage after the game was effectively out of reach already).

After combining for 37 points in the first half of their games, these two high-powered offenses couldn’t make anything happen. The Falcons committed back-to-back turnovers in the third quarter and failed to convert a 4th-down with a minute left that would have put them in a position to take the lead. The Patriots took the reverse approach - they punted on both of their 3rd quarter possessions, fumbled near midfield in the 4th, then failed to convert a 4th down with 8:27 left before being intercepted on their last two drives.