Cleat Geeks

NBA Playoff Greatness Jordan Or James?

He wears #23 in honor of one of the best NBA players of all time. One of LeBron James defining moments of this year’s playoffs was when he made a game winning shot in-game 5 of the first round playoff series against the Indiana Pacers. There is a bigger point to understand when the playoffs come around and the moments never get tired.

James has played over 200 playoff games and is scoring just under 30 points a game, while dishing out 7 assists a game and is shooting just shy of 49% from the floor. Michael Jordan remains the only enduring test of James’ greatness and catching Jordan will be a monumental climb that is almost impossible. James should not focus on trying to dethrone Jordan’s playoff success, instead he should focus on what has made him successful on the NBA’s biggest stage.

The two terms, greatest vs. the best, sound very similar, but are none of the same and they are not wholly exclusive. Depending on the sport, the same person can take both roles. Best is largely about the ability of playing the sport when the stakes are at its highest. Best is more of a short-term, that can change after two or three years, where greatest is a legacy statement. While Jordan had arguably the greatest NBA career, it was made possible by his supporting cast.

There have been discussions about comparing James to Jordan and one of the distinct differences between the two is that James has taken his teams on his shoulders, especially in a Cavaliers jersey. In 2007, the Cavaliers made it to the finals against the Spurs, the odds of the Spurs winning that series were extremely high, but without #23 on the court or #23 playing at 50%, the Cavaliers would probably have not made the finals that year. In short, James has cemented his legacy by playing on a different planet with not as much talent to compliment him. To no one’s surprise, James rarely takes any time off in playoff games as he has been on the court for 40 or more minutes on average in all but two playoff seasons.

No matter how much he plays up to the moment, James will never be able to withstand the criticism of leaving the Cavaliers in 2010 to join a team that needed one player to win a ring never-mind two. There have been complaints that the NBA regular season doesn’t mean much and most of this revolves around James. However, this has been a brilliant strategy because he doesn’t play too many minutes in the regular season and while he wore a Heat jersey, LeBron was the de facto general manager.

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James plays basketball on a different planet and gives his team a chance even a remote chance to win a series almost single-handedly. What is even better is that in 2016, he won the Cavaliers a ring in-game 7 of the NBA finals by blocking a shot late in a tied game that was the momentum changer.

He knows his critics and some of their criticisms are fair, but you can not take away that James has been able to make the most of what has been given to him. He has had to carry a heavy load on his back in the playoffs and that has served as a motivator behind his playoff greatness.

NBA: Is There A Solution to Tanking?

Image result for trust the process nbaTanking has been a polarizing topic in the NBA for quite some time. The most notable instance of tanking was the Philadelphia 76ers, who essentially built their roster to lose games, while acquiring high end talent in draft classes. They used the slogan “Trust the Process,” and their quick turnaround for success has caused other teams to consider tanking, as well.

There are multiple team throughout the 2017-18 season that have made moves that suggest they are taking the tanking approach in their rebuild. It seem as if the Phoenix Suns, Memphis Grizzlies, Dallas Mavericks, Atlanta Hawks, Orlando Magic, Chicago Bulls, Sacramento Kings, and New York Knicks all took steps towards tanking last season.

The NBA already has multiple rules in place to stop tanking, including a reform that will start for the 2019 NBA Draft.

 

Current Rules

The NBA Draft Lottery is not a rule that simply makes for great television during the off-season. It was put in place to try to limit teams from tanking. The draft lottery allows each of the 14 teams that missed the playoffs to have a chance at the first overall pick. This was expected to deter teams from tanking because it does not guarantee that the worst team (record-wise) will get the first overall pick.

There is another rule that was recently passed that prevents NBA teams from benching healthy players throughout the season. While this rule is great in theory, it is tough to prove that a player is not healthy. The Chicago Bulls were a team that was warned about this, as they benched Justin Holiday and Robin Lopez late in the season. The Bulls promptly gave the duo limited minutes, while also claiming at times they were injured. Ultimately, the NBA’s threat fell through, as they determined that the Bulls were not tanking.

The league has also stated that they are willing to fine owners that are found guilty of tanking. The most notable case is when the NBA fined Mark Cuban $600,000 for telling his players that losing is their best option to become relevant again. The main issue here is that Cuban likely does not care too much about that fine. He also openly talked about tanking on Julius Erving’s podcast, which resulted in the fine. Other NBA owners likely have learned from Cuban’s mistakes, and will never openly speak about their situation.

The Stepien Rule is a rule that does not necessarily focus on tanking, but rather attempts to prevent teams from mortgaging their futures in bad deals. The issue with this rule is that it inadvertently promotes tanking. The Stepien Rule generally prevents teams from trading first round picks in consecutive seasons. If they were able to do this, though, they would have no reason to tank, as a worse record would not help them in the NBA Draft. Teams would also be able to make more deals involving firsts for veteran players at the trade deadline, which ultimately could be the difference between them making or missing the playoffs.

 

2019 NBA Draft

The NBA Board of Governors passed a new draft lottery system for the 2019 NBA Draft. There will be new percentages for each of the 14 teams, in terms of the number one overall pick, a top-three pick, and a top-five pick. These percentages are listed below:

As you can see above, the team with the worst overall record is no longer the sole favorite for the first overall pick. The teams with the three worst records have the same odds (14%) to get the first overall pick, although the worse the record, the more likely they are to stay in the top-five of the draft. Furthermore, the teams with better record are all given higher odds to jump into the top-five of the NBA Draft (aside from Team 14).

Will this prevent tanking, though?

The easy answer – likely not. Simply put, teams will likely continue to see that their best chance to land an elite level player is through the worst record in the NBA. This system no longer simply rewards the team that is the best at tanking, but rather rewards a few teams that are tanking. The top-five teams are the only teams in the system that feature a 10% or higher chance to get the first pick. They also feature higher percentages for a top-three and top-five pick.

This system would likely work better if only one or two teams in the NBA were tanking. Instead, it somewhat puts the eight or so teams that are tanking on a similar playing field. For instance, if one team was significantly worse than every other team, the better teams may give up on tanking that season because they are unlikely to receive the first overall pick. That is not the case anymore, though, as there are two more opportunities to receive the same odds as the worst team in the league.

 

Possible Solution

My brother, Jason, and I have been talking for days trying to come up with a solution to tanking the in NBA. We have come up with a fairly radical system that we personally believe would help eliminate tanking altogether.

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First, the NBA needs to get rid of the draft lottery. While it is a fun night with fans hoping their team can jump to the first overall pick, it does essentially nothing to prevent teams from tanking. The new lottery system likely will not help much, rendering it useless in this situation.

This part of the draft order will no longer feature the 14 teams that did not make the NBA Playoffs. Instead, it will only feature the bottom-10 teams in the league. The top-10 picks in the NBA Draft will be determined by record from the worst 10 teams in the league. They will be given picks in reverse order. For example, the worst team in the NBA will receiver the 10th overall pick, while the best of that group of 10 teams will receive the first overall pick. While it is not generally popular to give a better team a better pick, it is one of the only certain ways to stop teams from tanking.

The bottom-10 teams in the NBA will also lock after 70 games. This is a way to prevent the 19th team from “tanking” near the end of the season to the 20th spot, which would guarantee them the first overall pick. These 10 teams will play out their final 12 games with the best overall record receiving the first overall selection. Below is an out of how this would look:

This is a complex system, but puts an emphasis on winning at the end of the season. In this scenario, the Phoenix Suns were able to win their final 12 games, which earned them the first overall pick. This would cause teams to stop benching players late in the season, as they would need their stars to win games.

I understand this is a drastic change to how the NBA handles tanking at the moment. The sad truth is that tanking will never truly go away until the NBA rewards teams for winning (outside of a championship).

NBA Draft Lottery: Is Tanking Logical?

The NBA Draft Lottery is one of the most exciting night’s for basketball fans. Fourteen teams will have a chance to land the first overall pick because of their inability to make the playoffs. There are plenty of fans that disagree with the decision for a lottery, but that does not take away from the excitement of the night.

The NBA Draft Lottery is the NBA’s way to try to limit tanking. The logic is that if the team with the worst record is not guaranteed the first overall pick, teams will stop intentionally losing. That has not been the case, though, as teams are tanking more often than not in today’s NBA. There are upwards of seven teams in the league this season that are potentially tanking. Here are the percentages for the 2018 NBA Draft Lottery.

 

*Celtics get this pick if it is between 2-5

**Pistons keep this pick if it is between 1-4

 

Why Tank?

The NBA has quickly become a league filled with “Super Teams.” There are only a few teams each season that even have a chance to realistically win the NBA Championship. At the moment, these teams include the Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, and whichever team LeBron James is on. Golden State has been the clear-cut favorite for quite some time, and that’s obvious. Excluding James’ team, what does Golden State and Houston have in common?

Stars

The Golden State Warriors hit on Stephen Curry (2009), Klay Thompson (2011), and Draymond Green (2012) to become a three-headed monster in the NBA. They were then able to convince Kevin Durant to leave the Oklahoma City with a near guarantee of winning multiple NBA Championships. This was arguably the first “Super Team” in the NBA, as they featured four stars, while other role players took less money to chase a championship.

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The Houston Rockets did not take the same route as the Warriors, but they did take a similar path. They featured a star player in James Harden, while also having a rising star in Clint Capela. They also featured higher end role players, including Trevor Ariza and Eric Gordon. In the off-season, they added another star in Chris Paul, who filled out a slightly lesser version of the Warriors “Super Team.” Once again, Houston added a few role players for reasonable contracts.

The NBA has reached a point where teams need multiple stars to be considered in the NBA Championship discussion. At the same time, stars generally refuse to go to teams without known stars. Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving were both acquired by the Boston Celtics, who had a young team with elite pieces and Al Horford. Chris Paul joined James Harden in Houston. Paul George and Carmelo Anthony joined Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City Thunder.

It is almost impossible for teams without elite players to trade for or sign other elite players at this point in time. The only way for lesser teams to acquire elite talent is through the NBA Draft. Generally, the first few picks in the draft are the players that feature elite potential. There are teams that find value later in the draft, but it simply is not nearly as likely.

From 2010-15, there have been 15 players in the lottery that have been selected to an All Star Game, including 8 players in the lottery that have made the All-NBA Team. In the same span, there has been 5 players outside of the lottery to be selected to an All Star Game and 6 players that have made the All-NBA Team.

While these numbers do not seem too far off, remember there were 84 lottery picks over that span, while there were 276 picks outside of the lottery. Based on these numbers, teams have a 9.5% chance of landing an All-NBA Team player in the lottery, as opposed to a 2.2% chance outside of the lottery. In other words, the lottery is the easiest way for a team to land the star they need to draw other stars to their organization.

 

Is Tanking Worth it?

I believe this question depends on who you ask. There are fans who do not want their team losing years in a row, but there are other fans that are willing to take years of losing for years of winning. This also depends on the organization. The Los Angeles Lakers simply would not be allowed to lose for five years in a row. They are an organization known for success, and a long-term tanking process simply would not be allowed. The Sacramento Kings, on the other hand, are a team that is somewhat known for losing, allowing them to tank without questions from their fans.Image result for philadelphia 76ers trust the process wallpaper

The Philadelphia 76ers are the most well-known tanking operation in recent memory. They went 47-199 from 2013-16, acquiring Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons with two of those picks. They were not as bad the following season, but were able to acquire the Brooklyn Nets pick, which led to Markelle Fultz. They missed picks during this span, as well, including Jahlil Okafor, but that was not enough to stop their tanking.

While the Sixers have nearly fully admitted to tanking, their intentions were clear. In 2012, they traded away Jrue Holiday for a pick that was turned into Nerlens Noel. It was known that Noel would not play during his rookie season, which continued the tank and allowed Philadelphia to select Joel Embiid. Embiid was another injured player, giving Philadelphia another top-three pick. They missed on Jahlil Okafor, and Philly was able to select Ben Simmons the next season. Once again, they rested their new star rookie, resulting in the third overall pick. This pick was swapped for the first overall pick, which was used to select Markelle Fultz.

Philadelphia finished their tanking this season, as they made the playoffs, but are likely to be eliminated in the second round by the Boston Celtics. Philadelphia has three players that have the potential to become true stars in the NBA. They have arguably the brightest future of any team in the league, and there are rumors that LeBron James is considering signing in Philadelphia this off-season.

The Sixers essentially gave up four years of their organization to become one of the highest upside franchises in the NBA. Their fans were upset while they were continuously losing, but there is nothing but compliments about Philly at this point in time. They used tanking as a way to create their own stars, while also possibly luring other stars to their team. While it may not work out this well for all teams that tank, Philadelphia was able to Trust the Process, and it worked out well for them.

 

Tanking in 2017-18

Tanking was somewhat of an easy way to continuously get a top pick for the Philadelphia 76ers because they were the only team that was truly tanking. That is not the case this season. There were multiple teams tanking throughout the season, although the Dallas Mavericks were the only team that truly admitted to it.

The Phoenix Suns, Memphis Grizzlies, Dallas Mavericks, Atlanta Hawks, Orlando Magic, Chicago Bulls, and Sacramento Kings all featured moves that could been seen as tanking. The issue at this point is that these teams are all vying for essentially one pick. At this point, it is extremely difficult to predict at the beginning of the season which teams will feature the worst records.

While these teams do not necessarily have the highest percentage chance at a top-three pick, we have seen above that the lottery is still more valuable than picks later in the round in terms of finding a star. In other words tanking is no longer as easy as it was for the Sixers, but it is still an important part of the NBA, especially with the continuous formation of “Super Teams” throughout the league.

UCLA Bruins Win 2018 NCAA Women’s Beach Volleyball Championship Tournament

Game 13 between the UCLA Bruins vs. the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors was a nail-biter

UCLA #5 Zana Muno and Hawaii #11 Carly Kan. Photo by Michael Hanich of cleatgeeks.com.

With only three teams left in the 2018 NCAA Women’s Collegiate Beach Volleyball National Championship Tournament, one more semi-final game would’ve needed be played to decide who will be playing the #4 seeded Florida State Seminoles in the National Championship game. The #1 UCLA Bruins and the #3 seeded Hawaii Rainbow Warriors came into this tournament as two of the most complete teams in the sport of collegiate Beach Volleyball. UCLA’s 1’s pair in twins Megan and Nicole McNamara and 5’s pair in Izzy Carter and Megan Muret quickly took the duels on court 1 and 5. The Rainbow Warriors’ 3’s pair in Carly Kan and Laurel Weaver and 4’s pair Amy Ozee and Ari Homayun took the duels on court 3 and 4.

UCLA #30 Izzy Carter and #15 Megan Muret & Hawaii #13 Hannah Zalopany and #12 Paige Dreeuws. Photo by; Michael Hanich of cleatgeeks.com.

It was on court #2 where the game came down to the wire but not before becoming one of the longest matches in the whole tournament. Flight #2 between Hawaii’s Morgan Martin and Lea Monkhouse and UCLA’s Lily Justine and Sarah Sponcil accounted for a total duration of 70 minutes due to the high-intensity playmaking from the players and the strategic coaching of both teams. The difference was the kill percentage between the two pairs. Even though Martin and Monkhouse of Hawaii had a higher kill percentage than UCLA’s Justine and Sponcil (29.5% to 26.7%), they also had 21 more attacking attempts (122 to 101). It was the efficiency of those shots that were important. Composure was also very important as the Bruins’ pair only accounted for 12 errors (both serving and attacking) to Hawaii’s 17 total errors. The Bruins’ Justine and Sponcil wore out the Rainbow Warriors pair as they took the final set 15-11 to claim the duel and finally giving UCLA the 3-2 victory. This put the UCLA Bruins in the National Championship game against the #4 seeded Florid State Seminoles, who got into the Title game with a victory over Hawaii the day before.

 

UCLA Bruins beats Florida State Seminoles in the title game; dethrones rivals USC

In the National Championship game set, both the team’s 4’s and 5’s pair face each other on the two main courts while the top 3 pairs wait for a final on both courts. After a hot start from the Seminoles from pairs 4 and 5, the Bruins came back out of their horrible first set loss more focused and efficient in their decision making. Despite a comeback from the Bruins’ pair 4 in Elise Zappia and Mac May, the Seminoles’ pair 4 in Molly McBain and Brooke Kuhlman took the first duel by accounting for a 6.9% better kill percentage (32.4% to 25.5%). UCLA’s pair 5 had a comeback and took duel #5 by outscoring the Seminoles 15-8 in the 3rd and final set.

UCLA #31 Megan McNamara and #13 Nicole McNarama & Florida State #25 Victoria Paranagua and #12 Victoria Freire. Photo by; Michael Hanich of cleatgeeks.com.

Once the Bruins and Seminoles sent out their 1st, 2nd, and 3rd pairs onto the court, the Bruins took control and never looked back. It only took 36 minutes and a 21-9 score in the 2nd and final set for the UCLA’s 3rd pair in Zana Muno and Savvy Simo to take duel #3 to grab a 2-1 score in the Championship match. UCLA’s pair #2 in Lily Justine and Sarah Sponcil got the duel win on court #2 in only 2 sets thus clinching the National Championship title. Court 1 with UCLA’s twins in Megan and Nicole McNamara were also able to win the duel until Lily Justine came through with the final kill shot on court 2 that won the Championship. The McNamara twins accounted for a 7.8% kill percentage (29.3% to 21.5%) than the Seminoles pair 1 in Vanessa Freire and Victoria Paranagua.

This is the first time in the NCAA Women’s Beach Volleyball Tournament history that a team from the elimination bracket has won the National Title. The UCLA Bruins are also the 2nd team ever in tournament history to claim the National title. Their rivals in the USC Trojans have claimed the first two ever NCAA title in 2016 as well as last year. The West region, specifically the PAC-12, continues to make a dominant reign in the sport of Women’s Collegiate Beach Volleyball with UCLA claiming their first title in program history.

 

Bruins become early favorites to repeat as National Champions for next year’s tournament

UCLA #4 Sarah Sponcil and #2 Lily Justine. Photo by; Michael Hanich of cleatgeeks.com.

Even though the 2018 NCAA National Championship tournament has just concluded, the UCLA Bruins are favorites to repeat next year as champions of the sport with almost all of their players coming back. Only Elise Zappia (from pair 4) has finished her career with the UCLA Bruins as she will be graduating as a senior. All other players and participants of the 2018 Championship Bruins team are expected to come back for the team next season. Megan and Nicole McNamara will be seniors next season and will be two of the biggest players in the sport of Beach Volleyball next season as they were named PAC-12 Beach Volleyball All-Tournament Team.

At the conclusion of the Championship tournament, the McNamara twins were voted as the top court 1 pair of the entire tournament. UCLA also had Izzy Carey and Megan Muret named PAC-12 Beach Volleyball All-Tournament Team as well as court 5 Championship All-Tournament Team. The UCLA Bruins were the only team in the entire that had multiple pairs named as a part of the Championship All-Tournament Team. The Florida State Seminoles’ 2’s pair in Katie Horton and Hailey Luke were named as the Tournament’s best #2 pair. The Hawaii Rainbow Warriors’ 3’s pair in Carly Kan and Laurel Weaver were named as the Tournament’s best #3 pair. Finally, the Pepperdine Waves’ 4’s pair in Skylar Caputo and Alexis Filippone was named as the Tournament’s best #4 pair.

 

Day 2 Of The 2018 NCAA Women’s Beach Volleyball Championship Tournament

Day one of the 2018 NCAA Women’s Collegiate Beach Volleyball exceeded expectations with close, exciting matches, and shocking upsets. There would’ve needed to be a lot to exceed the intensity of Friday’s opening day. Day two certainly made headlines with many matches coming down to the wire, a National Championship rematch from last year, and a rivalry to continue in the Tournament.

 

USC vs. Pepperdine rematch continues to live up to expectations

One of the biggest headliners coming into Saturday’s portion of the 2018 NCAA Women’s Collegiate Beach Volleyball Championship Tournament was the match-up between the #2 seeded Pepperdine Waves and the #5 seeded USC Trojans. Despite playing in the regular season this year, this is the first time the Trojans and the Waves have faced each in Gulf Shores, Alabama since last year’s National Title game. The defending champs in the USC Trojans are not used to having to fight to survive in this Tournament. Pepperdine was looking for answers after their tough loss to the #3 seeded Hawaii Rainbow Wahine.

USC #10 Abril Bustamante and #14 Tina Graudina. Photo by; Michael Hanich of cleatgeeks.com.

USC’s #1 pair in Abril Bustamante and Tina Graudina continued to have great chemistry and made quick work on court 1. The Trojans’ 5th pair in Jenna Belton and Maja Kaiser also quickly took out their opposing Waves opposites on court 5. Pepperdine’s 2nd pair in Madalyn Roh and Brooke Bauer and the 3rd pair in Gigi Hernandez and Heidi Dyer wore out the Trojans’ players on court 2 and 3. In a 3rd and final set on court 4, the Trojans and Waves battled out for 65 total minutes. The Waves 4th pair in Skylar Caputo and Alexis Filippone had a better kill percentage (31.8% to 29.2%) and made less total errors (10 to 12) on serving and attacking. The difference was the Trojans’ Alexandra Poletto and Haley Hallgren in their outranking of digs (17 to 14) and their ability to move throughout the court more quickly than Caputo and Filippone and spacing of where they hit the ball away from the Waves.

 

Florida State continues to embrace underdog as they move on to the National Championship

In this Tournament, the #4 Florida State Seminoles were not brought up much as one of the top teams this year. Throughout this year’s Tournament, the Seminoles have knocked off the defending two-time Champs in the #5 USC Trojans in the 1st round and the #1 UCLA Bruins in the 2nd round of the winner’s bracket. The Seminoles can now add the #3 Hawaii Rainbow Warriors on the list as FSU won a tight and exciting game that came down to the wire against Hawaii.

Florida State #12 Vanesa Freire. Photo by; Michael Hanich of cleatgeeks.com.

Despite the big start by the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors, the Florida State Seminoles took the victory in one of the longest matches in the whole Tournament. Of the games on Saturday before the matchup against Florida State and Hawaii, the first match between Pepperdine vs. USC only had 2 duels over 42 minutes. In game 10 between LSU and UCLA, every duel finished in UCLA’s favor in under 40 minutes. In the game 11 match between Florida State and Hawaii, all the duels went for over 45 minutes including 3 duels that went 60 or more minutes. Florida State won the match by outpacing the Rainbow Warriors. This sets up the #4 seeded Florida State Seminoles in the National Championship as the lowest seed ever in the Tournament to be playing in the title game from the winner’s bracket.

 

UCLA vs. Hawaii setting for an exciting semifinal game

Two complete teams outside the #4 seeded Florida State Seminoles are the #1 seeded UCLA Bruins and the #3 Hawaii Rainbow Warriors. The Rainbow Warriors are looking for a rebound in their loss to the Seminoles in match #11. The #1 seeded UCLA Bruins are looking to put themselves in the National Title game for the first time in any of the three NCAA Beach Volleyball Championship Tournaments. The Bruins took care of their rivals in the #5 seeded USC Trojans in match #12 with a 3-1 duel score. The highest that the UCLA Bruins have ever climbed in the Tournament was in 2016 when they lost in the Semi-Final in the elimination bracket to the Florida State Seminoles 3-0. The highest the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors have ever climbed in the Tournament was last year when they lost to the Pepperdine Waves 3-0.

Hawaii #44 Emily Maglio and #2 Ka’iwi Schucht and Florida State #25 Victoria Paranagua. Photo by; Michael Hanich of cleatgeeks.com.

This game will be the deciding factor of who will play in the National Championship game against the Florida State Seminoles. This will be the first time ever in the NCAA Women’s Collegiate Beach Volleyball Championship Tournament that a new team will be crowned after the Trojans’ loss to the UCLA Bruins. The Rainbow Warriors or the Bruins might be the favorites against the Seminoles considering the fact that the Seminoles have beaten both in Tournament and they will be coming off a Semi-Final game and might be tired. Expect Sunday’s Championship-crowning day to surpass expectations yet again. ESPN will be covering the National Championship game.

Day 1 Analysis Of The 2018 NCAA Women’s Collegiate Beach Volleyball Championship

One of the fastest growing sports in the NCAA just became much bigger with ESPN and their stations completely covering the 2018 NCAA Women’s Collegiate Beach Volleyball National Championship Tournament. This Friday, eight of Women’s Collegiate Beach Volleyball’s best teams came together for a double-elimination tournament to compete for the NCAA’s 3rd National Title in the sport. Day one of the 3rd annual NCAA Women’s Beach Volleyball Tournament exceeded expectations and concluded with specular performances and upsets.

 

A crazy tournament has the #3 Hawaii Rainbow Warriors the highest seed in the winner’s bracket

The #1 UCLA Bruins (35-3) were the favorites to win the National Championship Tournament, especially after quickly knocking off the #8 seeded Florida International Panthers in the 1st game. The Bruins are led by the playmaking ability of twins Megan and Nicole McNamara as the first pair. Despite excellent and consistent playmaking from the pair, the Bruins could not get past the #4 seeded Florida State Seminoles in the 2nd round in game 7. The Seminoles took court 3, 4, ad 5 as they advanced in the winner’s bracket due to their efficiency in their shots. Florida State’s Sara Putt and Macy Jerger had a 6.9% better kill percentage than UCLA’s Savvy Simo and Zana Muno on court 3. On court 4, FSU’s Molly McBain and Brooke Kuhlman had an 8.9% better kill percentage than UCLA’s Elise Zappia and Mac May. They took the dual on court 4 despite having 5 more serving errors (7 to 2). The Bruins don’t make many mistakes in their serves but their later pairs on court 3 through 5 need to play more consistently if they want to survive in the loser’s bracket of the Tournament.

Pictured are; Hawaii #42 Morgan Martin and #43 Lea Monkhouse and South Carolina #30 Ali Denney. Photo by; Michael Hanich of cleatgeeks.com.

The Seminoles are moving onto match #11 to face off against the #3 seeded Hawaii Rainbow Warriors, who are now the highest seed in the winner’s bracket. The Rainbow Warriors took the match against the #2 seeded Pepperdine Waves in a close final dual on court 5. Hawaii’s 1st pair of Emily Maglio and Ka’iwi Schucht dominated court 1 against Deahna Kraft and Corinne Quiggle by accounting for a 10.2% better kill percentage (31.2% to 21.2%). Schucht was overall impressive despite 6 attacking errors as she was all over the court and was sharp in defending with 19 digs. Hawaii’s pair #3 in Laurel Weaver had the highest amount of kills on a winning dual squad with 17 kills. Even though the #5 seeded USC Trojans and the #1 seeded UCLA Bruins have two of the most efficient pairs in all of collegiate Beach Volleyball, The Hawaii Rainbow Warriors might have the most efficient overall team of 5 pairs in the Tournament.

 

#5 USC Trojans reloading but recovering; #4 Florida State Seminoles impresses

For the past two years in the sport of women’s colligate Beach Volleyball, the USC Trojans were the ones who at the top of the helm. The Trojans have claimed the only two National Championship titles given by this Tournament. This year, the Trojans found themselves in unfamiliar territory by accounting for a 25-12 record and settling for a 5th seed in this year’s National Championship tournament. The Trojans continue to find themselves in unfamiliar territory by now competing in the loser’s bracket after a game 2 loss (3-1 match setting) to the #4 Florida State Seminoles. The #8 seeded FIU Panthers almost eliminated the USC Trojans due to the hard push by the Panthers and the many errors of the Trojans. The Panthers’ #1 pair in Federica Frasca and Margherita Bianchin accounted for 10 errors (serving and attacking) while the Trojans’ #1 pair in Tina Graudina and Abril Bustamante accounted for 14 errors. FIU’s pair #4 accounted for only 2 errors while the Trojans accounted for 16 errors, giving the Panthers the dual #4 win. Only the Trojans’ 5th pair on court 5 was only Trojan pair that did not account for more errors than the Panthers. The Trojans barely got the match win due to their 2nd pair on court 2 thanks to the higher kill percentage (28.7% to 26%) against the Panthers. The Trojans’ #1 pair in Tina Graudina and Abril Bustamante have amazing chemistry and consistency but they will need help from their teammates on the other courts. The Trojans will face the #2 seeded Pepperdine Waves in game 9 in a rematch from last year’s National Championship game. The #4 seeded Florida State Seminoles continued to impress in the Tournament by defeating the #1 seeded UCLA Bruins.

Florida State #35 Katie Horton and #34 Hailey Luke being interviewed by ESPN’s Holly Rowe. Photo by; Michael Hanich of cleatgeeks.com.

FIU and South Carolina knocked out of the Tournament as Day 2 starts Saturday

The Panthers were eliminated after just appearing in their first-ever NCAA National Championship Tournament. The #6 seeded South Carolina Gamecocks were also eliminated from the Tournament after a hard-fought match setting from SEC rival in the #7 seeded LSU Tigers. Despite solid chemistry from South Carolina’s 2nd pair in Shannon Williams and Ali Denney, the rest of the Gamecocks (excluding their 4th pair) could match up to the intensity of the LSU Tigers.

This Saturday will be the start of game 2 where the winner’s and loser’s bracket will continue towards the National Championship game the following day. Game 9 will be an elimination game between the #2 Pepperdine Waves vs. the #5 seeded USC Trojans. Game 10 will also be an elimination game between the #7 seeded LSU Tigers and the #1 seeded UCLA Bruins. The winners of game 9 and 10 will to face each other in game 12, which will be the last game of Saturday. In the winner bracket, game 11 will be between the #3 seeded Hawaii Rainbow Warriors and the #4 seeded Florida State Seminoles. The winner of the game will move on to the National Championship game while the loser will face the winner of game 12 in one last elimination game to determine who will play in the National Championship game.

#1 Seeded Bruins (35-3) Favorites to Win The 2018 NCAA Women’s Beach Volleyball National Championship Tournament

One of the biggest sporting events in the city of Gulf Shores is back with the NCAA Women’s Collegiate Beach Volleyball National Championship back and better than ever. The 3rd Women’s Beach Volleyball National Championship tournament will start this Friday, May 4th and lasting until Sunday, May 6th where the National Champions will be crowned. The sport of Collegiate Beach Volleyball was one of the fastest growing sports in the NCAA as last year, all the games were televised by TruTV and TBS. ESPNU will televise the first-day rounds on Friday and again for the first half of the day on Saturday. ESPN2 will take over the second half of the day on Saturday and on Sunday. The National Championship match will conclude with exclusive coverage by ESPN.

Photo by; Michael Hanich of Cleatgeeks.com

The USC Trojans have won the first two National Championship Tournaments in 2016 and again last year. This year, the #1 seeded UCLA Bruins (35-3) are favorites to win it all based on their experience in their players and in this Tournament. The Bruins have 7 players from last year’s Tournament that have had experience and two other players who have stepped up their impact on the team. The Bruins are led by twins Nicole and Megan McNamara, who are looking to add a National Championship to their long list of accomplishments of Beach Volleyball players. The McNamara twins only lost one match of three last year as they swept their match set against the Pepperdine Waves, who would end losing in the National Championship 3-2 against USC. The PAC-12 conference champs in the Bruins are also led by Elise Zappia, who always accounts for consistently high digs.

With the McNamara twins as the number pair the UCLA Bruins, they have accounted for a 31-7 match record in the Bruins’ 38 games. Sarah Sponcil and Lily Justine have accounted for a high number of match wins as a pair together as they have accounted for a 30-7 match record. The Bruins have won 4 of the 5 match-ups against their rivals in the USC Trojans (25-12) including the PAC-12 Conference Championship game on April 28th.

The West continues to send the best teams in the National Championship tournament in #1 UCLA Bruins (35-3), the #2 Pepperdine Waves (24-3), and the #3 Hawaii Rainbow Warriors (35-3). The only new team in this year’s National Championship Tournament are the #8 seeded FIU Panthers (22-10) as they made a late-season push. The Long Beach State 49ers are the only team not returning in the Tournament this year.

In the double-elimination tournament, the losers of the 1st round will get a chance to get back in the Tournament in the 2nd tier bracket. In the 1st round, the #1 seeded UCLA Bruins (35-3) will face off against the #8 FIU Panthers (22-10). The #5 USC Trojans (25-12), looking to continue their dominance with a rebuilt team will off against the #4 Florida State Seminoles (30-6) in a 2016 National Championship rematch. The #6 South Carolina Gamecocks (24-7) are looking to make an impact in this Tournament after not winning a single match from any of their squad in last year’s Tournament. They will face off against the #3 Hawaii Rainbow Warriors (35-3). The #2 Pepperdine Waves (24-3) also look to take the title from the USC Trojans in the first round against the #7 LSU Tigers (26-12).

Are The NBA Playoffs Quality Or Quantity?

In 2003, the NBA made the first round of the playoffs a best-of-7 series, where it had previously been a best of 5. The only plausible reason for a longer first round is more revenue for broadcast networks, but the league has taken quantity over quality, when less may actually be more.

From 1995-2010, the Harvard Sports Analysis Collective estimated that the favorite won their first round series at a 77 percent rate in the eight years before the format change. Fast forward to the eight years after the format change, the favorite won the first round series 81 percent of the time.

The NBA season starts in mid to late October and the finals end in late June, plus in many of the first round series, the outcome can easily be predicted if you watch one or two games. History says that teams who take a 2-0 lead have more than a 90 percent chance to advance and no team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit in the NBA playoffs to win a series.

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Going back to the old format would make first round series more exciting and would give incentives for more fans to tune in earlier in the playoff season. In a best of 5, a team that is down 2-0 is more likely to play desperate in-game 3 and possibly make the series somewhat competitive.

In the lead up to the playoffs, there are potential series match-ups that get attention, such as Houston and Golden State. Fans want to see the premiere match-ups and don’t want to wait another week to watch James Harden and Steph Curry battle it out at point guard.

Basketball is among the most physical sports, and even the best players are prone to having bad games. Less actually means more in that more often leads to wear and tear at a quicker pace. Imagine if in the Warriors-Spurs series, Kevin Durant suffered a serious injury in a fourth game? The outrage would come from not just Warriors fans and would be the lead segment on shows such as First Take.  

I’m not betting that the NBA will listen to the concerns of fans, players and coaches because of the revenue reason. When the first round series format changed, the only reason why this happened was because of money. The NBA thought that extending the first round would give the higher seed a competitive advantage. The game is different in many ways today than it was before 2003. The NBA was trying to fix a problem that did not exist, and 15 years later, there are more issues than the NBA ever imagined and was ready for.

Gold Rush: Running The Table.

 Let’s just get right to it!

The Recap:

Nuggets 107 – Pacers 104

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The Denver Nuggets played 3 and a half quarters of solid Basketball and were very fortunate to walk out with a win.

For the second straight game, Nikola Jokic scored 30 points. Will Barton was a close second with 26 but he also had 10 rebounds. Complete player stats can be found HERE.

Will “The Thrill” Barton got things going fast scoring most of Denver’s first points including this fast break.

Late in the first quarter, Mason Plumlee came big with this block at the

Indiana played tough near the end of 1 and closed the gap to 27-26 Denver. In the second, Indiana took  a brief 34-31 lead but Denver had a quick answer to that.  More accurately, the Joker had an answer.

In the third, the game was pretty even over all but Denver held the lead going into the fourth. With 54.2 seconds Denver held a 100-92 lead, but Indiana was able to close that gap pretty close. Some fans were a little disappointed with Denver’s lack luster finish, but hey, we won.

Nuggets 100 – Timberwolves 96

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This win was sweet. The Nuggets have found their groove. The bench played well and the starters were solid. Denver played like they have been over this last stretch and no surprise, Will Barton showed yet again why he is elite.

Both teams played hard and by the end of 1, Denver had a 27-24 lead. Minnesota found some momentum while Denver seemed cold.  The Nuggets went into halftime down 54-51. In the third quarter, Devin Harris made his presence felt with his 3-point shooting. Denver piled it on late in the 3rd going on a 8-0 run while the Joker did this:

As we headed into the 4th, Denver held a 79-72 lead but the 4th would be tricky. The Wolves early in the 4th racked up a five point lead and had a good amount of momentum. The tide turned for good when Karl-Anthony Towns fouled Jamal Murray as he was shooting a three-point shot. Murray made the shot and Towns committed his 6th foul. He left the game. Nikola Jokic was able to tip in a crucial bucket late in the game and Denver sealed VICTORY!

Complete player stats can be found HERE. 

THE ROAD AHEAD:

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The Nuggets are now tied for that sacred 8th place spot with New Orleans. We are now down to the final 3 games, with only one of those being at home. The Pelicans have a tough stretch coming up that includes games vs the Warriors and Spurs. Denver will be rooting for the Pelicans to lose those games but they need to focus on their own business. Our next game is on Saturday at the Clippers. This is very much a must win game. Tip off is at 1:30 p.m. MDT.

In the mean time, enjoy this song that plays at every Nuggets home game!

 

#MileHighBasketball

 

 

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Gold Rush: April Thrills!

The Denver Nuggets Were Dead And Down 8 Points With A Minute To Go On Easter Sunday……But It’s Hard To Stay Dead On Easter!

 

The Recap:

Nuggets 128 – Bucks 125

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Denver played below average basketball for the better part of this game. Those are the facts. They blew a 9 point lead in the 3rd quarter and were not shooting or defending well.  The Nuggets scored 41 points in the 2nd, but most of those were of free throws. The Bucks took complete control of the game early in the 3rd and never looked back. Giannis Antetokounmpo was the back-bone of the team, but got into foul trouble late in the game. With 3 minutes to go in the game, the Bucks were up 107-97, but a decisive event happens that would alter the destiny of this game. Antetokounmpo fouled out of the game with an offensive foul on Denver’s Jamal Murray. Murray got to shoot one technical throw to bring Denver within 9 with 3 minutes to go. Denver got the game within 3 points late in the game, but Paul Millsap fumbled the rock put of bounds, turning the ball over with just seconds left. The game was as sure as over. The Bucks just needed to run out 2 seconds. The score was 111-108 Bucks…..then this happened….

Murray was fouled and got to shoot 3 free throws….Making all of them would send this already crazy game into overtime. Murray calmly sank all 3 and we were headed to OT! Murray got Denver off to a good start with this quick bucket.

 

And Later Torrey Craig came up clutch with a big 3.

The Nuggets survived a close finish when the Buck’s Jabari Parker missed a game tying 3.

Complete player stats can be found HERE.

 

What This Means:

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This win was a huge one. The New Orleans Pelicans and the L.A, Clippers both lost on Sunday night putting Denver in 9th place and just 1 game behind New Orleans for 8th. With just 5 games left, the way is there for the Nuggets sneak into the playoffs. The truly inspired play we saw from Denver is why there is still reason to Believe. This team knows what is at stake and they are focused. Regardless of how this season ends, the Nuggets have made there fans and the city of Denver proud and have given hope for a bright future. As for right now though, we still have 5 games to make it happen and I promise you, it won’t boring!

 

Injury Report:

Gary Harris is still out with a knee injury. Coach Malone says he will be out “for another week or so”.

Wilson Chandler did not play due to a nasal fracture he suffered against OKC. He is questionable for Denver’s next game

 

Denver’s next game is Tuesday night vs the Pacers. Tip-off is at 7:00 p.m. MDT

#MileHighBasketball

 

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