Monday, February 18, 2013

Studs and Duds: A Good Week to be A Terp

Kadeem Batts and Providence have been surging of late.

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?


Raucous Student Sections

I would just like to take this time to remind you that Wisconsin doesn't lose at home under Bo Ryan. This season, the Badgers are 15-2 at the Kohl Center, and anybody in Big Ten country will tell you, playing at Wisconsin is one of the toughest tests in a conference full of amazing home venues and student sections. Wisconsin's most recent home conquest is Sunday's 71-49 thrashing of Ohio State, a team that has much more "raw talent" than the Badgers, but Bo Ryan always has his teams playing high-energy defense and creating open looks through a well run motion offense.

The other student section you have to love is Maryland's. They cheered their Terps to a tournament-clinching win over No. 2 Duke this weekend, but here is what really set them apart.


Alex Len

Speaking of Maryland, it wasn't just their student section garnering national praise in their win over the Blue Devils. Alex Len, a 7-foot-1 sophomore from Urkaine shot up everyone's draft boards with his dominant 19-point, 9-rebound, 3 block performance against Duke's Mason Plumlee. While Len has been inconsistent on the offensive end, he showed that when the Terps really need an inside scoring presence, he can provide one. Now, if they can just remember to keep getting him the ball...


Chris Paul In No-Defense Exhibition Games

With his 15 assists in Sunday Night's All-Star game, Point God Chris Paul upped his career All-Star Assists Per Game average to 12.4, the highest in NBA history among players with at least five All-Star appearances.

There are certain players who translate incredibly well to No-Defense Exhibition games, like Blake Griffin: Professional Dunker. There are other players who are probably more fun to watch in normal games, like Luol Deng, where their defensive skills actually translate (side note: I'd argue that LeBron is actually more entertaining in normal games than the All-Star game - half the fun with LeBron is the incredulity of what he's doing against defenses that are selling out to stop him). Then there are guys like Chris Paul, whose offensive wizardry translates no matter what the context. Chris Paul is an offensive savant. I'm fairly certain he could play basketball blindfolded.


Providence Basketball

The Friars are one of the more interesting programs in college basketball, as coach Ed Cooley has strung together some really nice recruiting efforts in Providence. But, while Cooley's recruiting has everyone excited about a freshman class that includes point guard Kris Dunn (and shooting guard Ricky Ledo who is sitting out this year due to not fully qualifying academically), it has been the juniors and seniors leading the way during Providence's recent run.

The Friars have won four in a row, including victories over ranked Notre Dame and Cincinnati, and they've done it with defense and timely half-court scoring. Providence has held three of its last four opponents in the 50s, while junior Kadeem Batts has dominated inside, scoring at least 20 points and shooting over 50 percent the last three times out.

While Providence probably won't make the NCAA tournament this year, they are sneaky good, and if they return the majority of this team (and Ledo doesn't go straight to the NBA) they will be a major factor next season.



The Noel-less Wildcats

Other than the Providence and Maryland games, I was very interested in the Kentucky-Tennessee game, since it marked the beginning of a new season for the Wildcats. Tennessee is not a good team this year, and Kentucky could ill-afford a bad loss right after freshman phenom Nerlens Noel was lost for the year with a torn ACL.

Well, they got blasted by 30 at an "ok" Volunteer squad, and looked absolutely lost without Noel. This reminds me of a few years back when my alma mater, Purdue, had a No. 1 seed resume, but lost All American Robbie Hummel to a torn ACL. The selection committee was not kind to the Boilers, who lost badly against Minnesota in the Big Ten tournament, and I expect them to give this Noel-less Kentucky team the same treatment if they continue to play this way.


The Slam Dunk Contest

The NBA All Star Game's Slam Dunk Contest, once a showcase for the athleticism, style and creativity of the NBA's brightest stars, is now an afterthought occupied by players you've never heard of missing dunks you've seen converted before. This year was no different, and I would direct you to this video by Deadspin which captured all 36 missed dunks in the contest. As is pointed out in the notes below the video, this year's dunkers converted only 15 successful dunks, meaning they shot under 30 percent from the field in an uncontested dunk exhibition.


The Slam Dunk Contest

I really don't have much to add, I just wanted to agree that it sucked.


Veteran NFL Defenders

The Green Bay Packers just parted ways with Charles Woodson, Ray Lewis and Ed Reed may both be done in Baltimore, and the Steelers are on the verge of cap-ageddon (or apoCAlyPse, if that works better for you) due to the high salaries of several defensive mainstays.

While Lewis is walking out on his own terms, and his teammate Reed may follow, Woodson and the Steelers defenders he faced in the Super Bowl a few short years ago don't have that luxury.

Basically, due to the new collective bargaining agreement, the salary cap has not gone up as much as many NFL teams previously thought, and will not go up dramatically until after the 2014 NFL season when TV revenue for the players finally kicks in. So, defensive players signed more than two years ago are becoming heavy cap burdens on their teams.

This led to the cutting of Woodson, the 2009 Defensive Player of the Year, as he would have counted an astounding $10 million against the cap for the Packers, who still have decisions to make regarding younger defenders A.J. Hawk and Clay Matthews. It may also lead to the cutting of Steelers linebacker James Harrison, the 2008 Defensive Player of the Year, who would count nearly $7 million against the cap for Pittsburgh in 2013.

With the possible cutting of Harrison, and fellow Steelers Super Bowl defenders Brett Keisel, Casey Hampton and Ryan Clark, this could truly be the end of an era for NFL defenses. The Steelers, Ravens and Packers, teams that have combined to win three of the past five Super Bowls and produce four of the past five Defensive Players of the Year, will all look radically different on that side of the ball.