Basketball

“Flip” Your Coin

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For Kansas and Missouri basketball fans, there has been a question lingering that must be answered, “Who is better: Phil Pressey or Ben McLemore?”  Although I believe the two should not be compared because of their different position play, I will do it anyways. However, I feel the question should be, “which one is more important to their teams success?”

As the tenth ranked team in the country, Missouri’s lineup very athletic and contains talented players.  Yet when Phil Pressey is off of the court, nothing can be done. The loss of guard Michael Dixon has taken a toll on Missouri’s perimeter play, considering that there is now a lack of true ball handlers to play the point guard position.  Many considered Dixon’s loss to be the end of Missouri’s shot at a spectacular season, but Phil Pressey has had other thoughts.  Pressey has always been a pass first guard, and he has proved that with his stats, but on a big stage this season, “Flip” has also had to take on part of the scoring load as well. This season, Phil is averaging 13.6 points per game, along with 7.6 assists per game.  Phil has impressive numbers, but the abilities that make him so successful are his vision and his quickness. He has the ability to find a teammate anywhere on floor, from any distance, and completes near perfect passes. He has been very successful in finding fifth year forward Laurence Bowers numerous times in the paint.  Along with Bowers, Pressey manages to find perimeter players on the wings after he drives to the basket.  Phil has had a multitude of impressive scoring performances this season as well, but the most incredible part about him is the way he can affect a game.  In Missouri’s annual Braggin’ Rights game against Illinois, Phil had the worst shooting game of his career going just 3 for 19 from the field.  But he impacted the game by how quickly he pushed the ball and found open teammates.  Pressey finished the game with 11 assists.  In Mizzou’s loss at UCLA, Pressey had an impressive 19 points, and a career high and school record of 19 assists.  Phil Pressey may not show consistency with a field goal percentage of just .351, but he impacts the game of basketball in all aspects.  Pressey and teammate Laurence Bowers have both been named as Top 25 Finalists for the John Wooden award in 2013.  This nomination is just another example of why Phil Pressey is one of the best true point guards in the NCAA.

Phil Pressey

Kansas’ star Ben Mclemore, along with teammate Jeff Withey, have also been named as Top 25 Finalists for the John Wooden Award.  In just his first season as a college player, he has shown that he can play on the big stage. This season, the redshirt freshman guard is averaging 16.9 points per game, and puts the ball through the net more than half of the time he shoots the ball. His impressive .510 field goal percentage has made him Kansas’ number one scoring option, and it is no secret that he is a deep ball threat.  How can you argue against this guy?  He even kissed a game tying three pointer off the glass in Kansas’ recent win at home against Iowa State to force the game into overtime.  However, I feel Ben McLemore is just a one dimensional player.  Every time he has the basketball, he looks to score before anything else.  Although every team needs a scorer, I believe that in order to be a great player, McLemore needs to improve other aspects of his game.  He is only averaging 2.1 assists per game this season, and he only has 30 assists this year along with 25 turnovers.  Don’t get me wrong, McLemore is one of Kansas’ best players, and he should be great, but he is just not there yet.

So which player is the most important to their team?  In my opinion, it is Phil Pressey, hands down.  He has a God-given ability to fit passes into very tight spots, and is a true craftsman at the point guard position.  We all know both of these players can be quality NBA players, and both will need to work on the negative aspects of their game, but I still believe Pressey has the edge.  Phil Pressey is possibly the best true point guard in the NCAA, and his stats prove that he is worthy of the title.  Many may think McLemore is better and may say Pressey is inconsistent, but without Phil Pressey, Missouri would not have a 12-2 record nor would they be ranked in the top ten. On the other hand, I believe Kansas would still be very effective without McLemore. With that being said, I chose the “Flip” side of the coin, which side do you choose?

Trevor Weinrich

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Pressey or McLemore

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As conference play is starting for the Big 12 and SEC, I am asked which player is better Phil Pressey or Ben McLemore. At first thought I would say Pressey is more important because of how efficient he has made Missouri’s offense. Pressey appears to be painting a new mosaic everyday with his beautiful passes and effective layups. Without Pressey, Missouri’s offense looks like a chicken with its head cut off. There is no smooth flow to the offense. Pressey’s second best trait behind his vision and passing ability is his quickness. Everyone knows about these skills but people often forget about him as a threat from beyond the arc.

Ben McLemore

With Ben McLemore,  Bill Self and the Jayhawks are getting a true scorer. He shoots the way Bradly Beal was predicted to shoot at Florida last year. Both players were Saint Louis natives. When coming out of high school Beal was the pick by everyone but Bill Self saw something special in McLemore. After redshirting his freshman year, McLemore has been able to showcase his talents every game. If I had my choice today I (KC’s biggest Gators fan) would take Ben McLemore over Bradley Beal. McLemore shoots the three ball with such poise and consistency. His stroke is as smooth as a babies bottom. McLemore is much better on perimeter defense then most expected.

It is hard to choose between these two stars but because he is younger I would lean towards Ben McLemore. If it were for one season and I could build my team around a player, I would choose Phil Pressey. You let me know who is the best player.

Phil Pressey

Spencer Montgomery

The Race for the MVP

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Over the course of this year’s NBA season, certain players across the league have impressed the world night in and night out.  Since the start of the season back in November, four players have established themselves as the best in the league.  Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul and LeBron James have been the most consistent, dominate players this year, and here is why each athlete should be considered for the MVP award at the end of the season.

Carmelo Anthony predicted everything.  When he was traded to the New York Knicks almost three years ago, Anthony thought that the first two years would be rough, but the third would be their year.  It would be the year he led the Knicks to an NBA Championship.  As of now, Anthony is fulfilling his prophecy.  Melo is averaging 29 points per game and has New York at a 23-11 record.  More importantly, without Carmelo Anthony’s offensive production, the New York Knicks would not be where they are right now.  He is, with no doubt, a legitimate contender for the MVP award this season.

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Chris Paul has to have his name mentioned in the MVP race.  CP3 averages about 19 points a game and almost 10 assists a game.  Along with those impressive numbers comes his momentum making ability.  His beautiful lobs to Blake Griffin and company are what essentially control any crowd’s mood.  The most significant part of where Paul’s play is has put the Los Angeles Clippers is first in the Western Conference with a 27-8 record.  If Chris Paul was not in L.A., this Clippers team would be like the ones from 2010 and earlier: unbelievably awful.  When MVP voting time comes around, voters need to look at Chris Paul’s impact on the Los Angeles Clippers.

Chris_Paul_Clippers_1st_Game

The Durantula is doing it again this season.  One difference this year is the ferocity Kevin Durant is playing with.  There is just a different style to the way Durant plays with that was not seen in his previous years.  This year K.D. received his first ejection.  It is not like that is a good thing, but in some eyes, it is a sign Kevin Durant is hungry for an NBA Championship.  He has won the scoring title the last three years, and right now he puts up about 27 a game.  However, there is a concern for his MVP status because his numbers in nearly every category are now from last season.  Durant has the Oklahoma City Thunder at a 26 and 8 record.

Oklahoma City Thunder v Miami Heat
Of course, there is the Sportsman of the Year LeBron James.  Believe it or not, the Miami Heat would be more than likely fighting for a playoff spot if it was not for James.  LeBron leads Miami in points, rebounds and assists, putting up 26.4, 7.2 and 6.9 respectively.  His team sits atop the Eastern Conference with a 23 and 10 record.  Dating back to last season, LeBron has scored 20 or more points in 54 straight games.  The three time MVP is certainly playing like he is the front-runner for number four.

These four athletes were teammates over the summer at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.  Each are great friends with one another off the court and can be seen together at dinners.  On the court, all four can not stand one another.  They fight hard until the final buzzer for the win, and you should expect the four to fight hard for both the NBA Championship and the MVP.

Drew Agnello

Big XII Preview

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Conference play is right around the corner, and it is now prediction time.  Who will surprise people?  Who will be the disappointing teams?  In this preview, I hope to answer any question you may have.  The teams who I believe will be the best and worst will be ranked in order from 1-10.

1.  Kansas- This should not come as a shocker to anyone.  The Jayhawks have won eight straight conference regular season titles, and it seems like they are a lock for number nine.  They lead the Big XII in field goal percentage and blocks.  They are second in points per game, free throw percentage, three point percentage and assists.  Where the Jayhawks lack in size, they more than make up for it in their guard play.  Conference play aside, the Jayhawks could make a deep postseason run if they cut back on their hefty amount of turnovers.  Every player on the team has been in a winning atmosphere since the first day they stepped on campus.  I just do not see a team in the Big XII who could derail Kansas from their ninth straight title.  Rock Chalk will haveended what has been so far a great season.

2.  Kansas State- I think this may come as a surprise to many people, and rightfully so.  I have   K-State at number two mostly because there is no other team that could be number two, but I also like the way KSU plays.  While former coach Frank Martin gets credit for the intense defense, Coach Weber has been able to continue this trend for Kansas State.  This is a team who can play very well in conference play and especially in the second half of the season.  Size wise, K-State is pretty big with a 7 foot center, but the only person who can lead this team is Rodney McGruder.  The senior has been in the shadows his entire career behind Jacob Pullen and Wally Judge.  Now, it is his turn to step up, and so far he has held his ground.  This is his team, and I am looking forward to seeing how McGruder handles his role as the team leader.  The one thing that could come back to haunt the Wildcats is the loss of head coach Frank Martin.  An average fan would not have noticed Frank was gone except not seeing him on the sidelines screaming at players.  However, the players are responding the same way wit Coach Weber.  This K-State continues to be the same physical, athletic team as they were in the past years.  K-State is my front runner for number two.

3.  Baylor- Coming into the season, I would have told you that Baylor would win the conference title.  Since then, my views have changed because of how much better KU is playing, and how much Baylor is struggling.  The Bears have one person who is under six feet tall.  With this size and athleticism, there should be no excuses to already have three losses on the year.  The one player under six feet is Pierre Jackson, who is arguably the quickest player in the NCAA and has been a leader on this team since he was a freshman.  Baylor’s rebounding is pitiful, and they should be one of the best in college with their size.  Averaging just over 37 boards a game, Baylor’s rebounding has been the reason for their three losses.  It would be okay if they did not lose to Northwestern, Boston College and the College of Charleston if they were a small team, but with such great size, these losses are disappointing.  In the end, I think this team is stacked with talented players.  I think the Bears will turn it around and could potentially swap spots with Kansas State towards the end of the season.


4.  Oklahoma State- I have always been a fan of Pistol Pete and the Cowboys.  This program has great tradition and is known to be a team that can rattle the standings.  In past years, it has been one of the toughest schools to win at home against in the Big XII.  However, history does not win games.  I like the Cowboys this year because of their hot start to the season.  Currently ranked 24th in the country, Oklahoma State beat North Carolina State very easily, who at the time was sixth in the country.  Oklahoma State is a threat to any team because of their defense.  The team gives up just 54.5 points a game, making them one of the best defensive teams in the country.  This scrappy team could make a deep push this year to fight for the top of the conference.

5.  Iowa State- The Cyclones have surprised me with the numbers they are putting up through 12 games.  Their play has made them the seventh ranked team in the NCAA in points and rebounds per game, averaging 82.2 and 43.5.  Assists wise, the team is dishing 17.2 assists per game, making them the 14th ranked team.  Iowa State is a quiet team, but has the ability to win big games if teams overlook them.  They did it last season at home versus the Jayhawks, and I would not be surprised if they did it to another team this year.  The only issue for the Cyclones is their size.  Senior 6’7 guard Will Clyburn will have to be a strong leader in order for Iowa State to make a jump in the standings.

6.  Texas-  With the suspension to Myck Kabongo, the Longhorns season can be thrown out the window.  I cringe when I see the stats the Longhorns have put up so far.  They are 246th in the country in points per game averaging 64.5.  They are also 246th in assists with just 11.9 a game.  Their worst stat is their field goal percentage of 40.4, making them the 276th team in the country.  An embarrassing loss in Hawaii to Division II school Chaminade essentially marked doom on the Hook ‘Em season.   The only thing I can ask about this team is, “What went wrong?”

7.  West Virginia- I was confident Coach Bob Huggins could help impact the Mountaineers first season in the Big XII, but after five quick losses, I have lost all faith in West Virginia’s season.  They were absolutely spanked by the Marist Red Foxes, falling 87 to 44.    The Mountaineers also lost in an early season conference matchup to Oklahoma and fell short at Duquesne.  This is undoubtedly not the year for West Virginia.  After seeing the sizes of their shooting guards and big men, it is sickening to see this team averaging 69.5 points per game with a field goal percentage of 41.  Something has to change for the Mountaineers, and it starts down low with the big men.  With one of the winningest active coaches in Bob Huggins, you should expect West Virginia to flip the switch and show major improvement.

8.  Oklahoma- To keep it short and sweet, this is a team who can not beat elite teams.  They have not in the past, nor will they this year.  There is not a go-to-player on this team, which just hurts their already slim chances of winning.  Senior Romero Osby is the only player who is somewhat productive.  His 12.7 points per game and 6.5 rebounds per game make him the leader in both categories on this team, and those are not even close to impressive figures.  Until a leader emerges on this Sooner team, Oklahoma will have to wait for their chance to come close to a conference championship.

9.  Texas Tech- Since Bobby Knight’s retirement, Texas Tech’s basketball program has gone nowhere fast.  Forward Jaye Crockett is the only productive player on this squad averaging 15.8 points per game and 8.9 rebounds per game.  There is not much more for Texas Tech to except except losing.  The Red Raiders have back to back losing seasons coming into this year, and you should expect that to become back to back to back losing seasons.  Hopefully for the Red Raiders, interim head coach Chris Walker can surprise some people and win some games.

10.  Texas Christian- Last but not least, I believe the TCU Horned Frogs will be the worst team in the Big XII this year.  The fact that they only scored 31 points in one of their games this year pretty much sums up this team.  Sure, they have a winning record of 8 and 4, but do I need to tell you who they beat?  Teams from the Big West and Southwestern Athletic Conference are not the teams you can beat and call yourselves a winning team, especially if you are winning by an average of just over 8 points.  Luckily for the Horned Frogs, expectations were never high and they were projected to finish last in the conference by other scouts and analysts.

In order to win a conference championship in the Big XII, or any league for that matter, a team must have a true, go-to leader.  Some of these teams have such a train-wreck of a season because there is no leader.  There is nothing complex to winning the Big XII.  If the right coaching is present, anything could happen.  Hopefully this Big XII season will be yet another one packed with great games.

Drew Agnello

NBA’s Best Scorer

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As I hopped into conversation with a friend about who is the best scorer in the NBA, it is clear to me that there is not a definite answer.  In my opinion, if LeBron James wanted to average over 35 points per game, he could easily do it.  The difference between James and players like Carmelo Anthony or Kobe Bryant is LeBron doesn’t need to score 30 a night for his team to win.

Scoring title

While Kobe Bryant does lead the league in scoring, I would not have him in my top three for best scorers because of how many attempts he takes.  This makes his stats inflated, averaging 29.7 points and averages 21.5 field goals attempted per game.  When looking at all the scoring categories, one can knock Kobe out of the top spot on the list for best scorer.  He ranks 46th in the NBA for field goal percentage and 59th for three-point percentage.  The stat that really stood out to me was that he was 22nd in free throws. I was surprised because this is a major drop from being one of the top 5 free throw shooters in the league in years past.  Another aspect that has lost his credibility is his post up game.  While he is extremely savvy in the post, when he is playing small forward he is unable to shoot over the top of taller defenders.  I believe this player is a true scorer.

The real “scoring machine” is Kevin Durant.  With Durant winning the scoring title in the past three seasons, it is hard to take the belt away from his this year.  He is currently third behind Kobe and Carmelo Anthony for points per game with 27.9. The difference is Durant’s efficiency. He is currently 16th in field goal percentage. Durant is known for his shooting, but he has made huge strides in cashing in at the free throw line where he is shooting at .904 percent.  This ranks him at 5th in the NBA.  Along with free throw shooting, he is he is 16th in the league for three point percentage.  Durant has been labeled a scorer because of his shooting ability, but if you watch his game closer it is mostly because of his positioning ability.  He is able to anticipate in transition and set him self up for wide open three pointers.  Along with his vision is his height. He is an extremely difficult cover for other small forwards because he is 6’9” and can rise over defenders to utilize his stroke from anywhere on the court.  One aspect of his game I would like to see improve is his offensive rebounding.  He averages less then 1 offensive rebound per game. This is mostly because he is not asked to rebound at the small forward position, but if he were able to get cheap buckets in the paint like Carmelo Anthony, his stats across the board would sky rocket.

You can't go wrong with any of these Gold medalists.
You can’t go wrong with any of these Gold medalists.

Overall, I think LeBron James could be the league’s best scorer, but Kevin Durant still holds the belt in my mind as the best scorer in the league.  An honorable mention is Carmelo Anthony because he can score in bunches better then anyone in the league.  Another scorer would be James Harden because scoring is nearly all he is known for.  With his extended role with the Rockets he has been asked to average over 25 points per game.  The lefty still needs to work on his mid range game.  In the end, I believe Kevin Durant is the best scorer in the league, and should be for awhile.

Spencer Montgomery

Rock Chalk Success

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At the beginning of the season, the Kansas Jayhawks were a team not a lot of people thought could have as much success as they have had.  After a loss in the third game of the season to Michigan State, this season seemed like it would be a drag.  The team seems to have turned it around, though of late.  Stats are on the rise, as are the Jayhawks.  With a new poll coming out tomorrow, Kansas is expected to be the sixth best team in the country after winning in their first true away game at Ohio State.  Yesterday’s game in Columbus showed a lot about Coach Bill Self’s team, and the team played like they could go to Atlanta in April for the Final 4.

Going into Columbus, almost every scout and analyst projected an easy win for the Ohio State Buckeyes.  At home versus a young team in a revenge game?  There was no way the Buckeyes would fall once again to the Jayhawks.  Unfortunately for Ohio State, that was not the case.  Ben McLemore led the team to a solid 74 to 66 win in Ohio.  However, the score does not describe the beat down the Jayhawks put on Ohio State.  Kansas shot 51 percent from the field, and held Ohio State to just over 30 percent.  Once again, the Jayhawks shot lights out from three point range, dropping 46 percent of their threes compared to the Buckeyes 26 percent on 31 attempted three pointers.  Kansas out-rebounded Ohio State 41 to 37.  The only low point for KU yesterday was turnovers.  19 turnovers is way too many for this team.  On the bright side, giving up 19 turnovers but still winning on the road proves that Kansas does not have a hard time overcoming the negatives. The turnover ratio will have to change if they want to be a lock for the Final 4.

Bill Self

Who is to thank for the success of Kansas?  Jeff Withey is second in the country in blocks, averaging 5 a game.  His size and inside presence in the post makes him a nightmare to any team the Jayhawks face.  He is an experienced senior who knows how to play the game at a level that few people in college do.  There is also Ben McLemore.  This is a freshman whose play has made him a potential All-American.  The guy is on crash course to success.  He averages almost 17 points a game.  He grabs almost seven boards a game and dishes out over two assists per game.  Some people are probably saying, “Yeah.  So what?  Those aren’t outstanding.”  First of all, he is a redshirt freshman.  No other freshman has figures like those.  Shabazz Muhammad was hyped to be the best player in the country, but now he plays on a struggling team and he is struggling as well.  Nerlens Noel of Kentucky is not putting up stats like McLemore is, and he was the top ranked freshman coming in to this year.  Ben’s dynamic dunks and clutch threes make him both the leader and X-Factor of this Jayhawk team.  However, no credit should go to just one player.  The Kansas Jayhawks’ reason for success this year is because of Bill Self.  The man is simply a winner.  He did it last year with a Jayhawk team that was dubbed as “The Least Talented Team to Come Through Kansas in However Many Years.”  Jayhawk fans should never feel discouraged because as long as Bill Self is there, Kansas will be a winning program.

After the Ohio State game, this season could be a great year for the Jayhawks.  With an easy schedule the rest of the way, and virtually no one in the Big XII who can beat them, KU has absolutely no reason to not be a high seed in the NCAA Tournament.  This year would be a failure if they were not a three seed or better.  Between now and April, anything can happen, and only Kansas can control their own destiny.  After 11 games, Kansas has established themselves as a dynamic team who can win ball games at ease.

Drew Agnello

The Freshman B.M.O.C. Part II

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If it was unknown before, I’ll say it now- I am a big fan of the Kansas freshman sensation Ben McLemore.  I believe he is a player with special talents that no other freshman in the NCAA has.  A couple of weeks ago, I wrote an article on Ben being “The Freshman B.M.O.C.”.  I admire McLemore for what he has accomplished this season.  Despite only playing in eleven games, Ben has been raising eyebrows across the country with his play, especially after a big win at Ohio State.  As I was doing my daily routine of reading blogs about the Kansas guard, one caught my eye.  It was an article from rockchalktalk.com comparing Ben McLemore to Miami Heat star Dwayne Wade. Right now, one is an NBA All Star and the other is a redshirt freshman in college.  However, as freshmen, their stats nearly mirror one another’s.  Ben could very well be a player like Dwayne Wade was at Marquette, and here is why.

Ben McLemore...
I compared McLemore and Wade in points per game, rebounds per game, assists per game, their floor percentage, and three point field goal percentage.  In 32 games played as a freshman, Dwayne Wade scored 17.8 points per game.  Through 11 games, McLemore is averaging 16.5 points per game.  In rebounds, Wade edges out McLemore with 6.6 boards compared to Ben’s 5.7.  Dwayne is also beating Ben in assists with 3.4 compared to 2.3.  Ben has a barely better field goal percentage with 48.8 and Wade with 48.7.  However, Ben’s three point percentage is much better than Dwayne Wade’s.  McLemore has hit 40.8 percent of his threes this year, but Wade only knocked down 34.6 percent.  Currently, Ben’s floor percentage is 54.1.  Wade’s was 54.4 as a freshman.  Floor percentage is the chances of a team scoring when the ball is in a certain player’s hands.  It is a very important stat that often goes unnoticed.  In other stats, Ben McLemore is much better right now than Dwayne Wade was.  McLemore shoots 85 percent at the free throw line, but Wade only shot 69 percent.  Overall, Ben’s offensive rating is 119.1.  Wade’s was 108.3.  If none of these numbers make sense, here is a graph comparing the two.

The blog I read acknowledged the odds of Ben McLemore becoming the next Dwayne Wade— a two-time NBA Championship winner, Gold Medal winner, etc.  Those are some big accomplishments that McLemore is being called “destined to be”.  The odds of any player having this sort of status are slim to none.  But would it be unfair to say McLemore has better chances than others?  His stats would say differently.

Drew Agnello