Saturday, November 29, 2014

Orlando Classic Predictions (Day 3)

By Peyton Wesner

ORLANDO---It's always sad for an Orlando basketball fan when the Orlando Classic raps up on the Sunday after Thanksgiving but there is a positive about tomorrow: we get to watch four more great matchups.

10:30 AM EST-ESPN3
7th Place Game
2-4 Santa Clara Broncos
2-4 Rider Broncos
To watch the "Battle of the Broncos", fans will have to get up really early on Sunday. Santa Clara's second half struggles have been well documented in the tournament as in both matchups, against Tennessee and Rhode Island, they stayed with their opponent in the first half but could not score effectively and enough in the second. After being blown out by 27 points before the tournament began against Kansas and 32 points on Day 1 against Michigan State, Rider was tied with Georgia Tech at halftime. Eventually the Yellow Jackets pulled away from the Broncos (Rider) putting Rider in the 7th place game Sunday. Only one team will head home with the horrible experience of losing all three of their games during this great weekend. My key of the game for Santa Clara is to continue to direct Brandon Clark (SR) and Jared Brownridge (SO) the task of scoring the ball. So far Brandon Clark has had no trouble scoring the ball as he is averaging 17.5 points a game in "The Classic" but his friend and teammate Jared Brownridge has struggled. Although Brownridge had a solid twelve point performance Thursday, yesterday he went two for seven from the field for a total of seven points. Brownridge must become the player last year that scored 17.2 points per game if Santa Clara does not want to drop to 0-3 at Disney's Wide World of Sports. For Rider, my key of the game is to turn the 48 minutes into a low possession, "grind it out", defensive battle. Rider really opened my eyes yesterday by holding GTech to 37.9% shooting from the field and 2 of 15 from beyond the arc. If they play the great game defensively that they did yesterday, the Broncos (Rider) will be at least within striking distance for the win. The problem with Rider is not their defense though, it is there offense. The Englishman, Teddy Okereafor (JR) will have to score over his average of 11.2 points a game. I personally believe he needs to put up 17+ to provide the one man offense Rider a win
---Santa Clara 59, Rider 52

5th Place Game
4-1 Rhode Island Rams
4-1 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
I am very excited about this game, even more than the 3rd Place Game between the Tennessee Volunteers and the Marquetter Golden Eagles. The Rams were back to their normal selves yesterday as they saddled up and defeated the Santa Clara Broncos by the score of 66-44 led by NBA-talent E.C. Matthews (SO) who had 19 points yesterday afternoon. While the Rams won easily, the Yellow Jackets were involved in a single-digit margin game against the Rider Broncos. Despite a tie at halftime score, Georgia Tech put away the pesky Broncos in route to a 61-54 victory. Both teams in this game have good, solid scorers but whatever defense plays better will win the game. My key of the game for Rhode Island is to put the ball in the hoop. The Rams have one of those teams this year, that I feel could score on any team. Although the loss on Thanksgiving, they did put up 60 points on a defensively sound Kansas team. The Rams scoring is centered around 6'5" Sophomore guard E.C. Matthews. Matthews is a great all-round player that can hit threes, take opponents of the dribble, as well as rebound the basketball very well. He showed his rebounding skills by achieving a double-double in Rhode Island's upset win against number 21. ranked Nebraska this season. For Georgia Tech, the Yellow Jackets need to shut down Matthews as the Rams' offense revolves around him. Also, GTech needs to maintain their balanced scoring between, Maryland transfer, Charles Mitchell (JR, 12 PPG), Marcus Georges-Hunt (JR, 11.2 PPG), Demarco Cox (SR, 11 PPG), and Quinton Stephens (SO, 10.8 PPG). If all members of the four man scoring crew scores double-digits tomorrow, Rhode Island may need to be prepared to accept their second defeat of the season
---Rhode Island 64, Georgia Tech, 63

3rd Place Game
2-2 Tennessee Volunteers
3-3 Marquette Golden Eagles
This game could truly go either way, which is the kind of game that makes the people who make predictions mad. Both teams had to go up against ranked opponents yesterday and both lost. Tennessee had to go up against number 11. ranked Kansas in a game that Tennessee was not predicted to win. Fouls were the story of the game for the Volunteers. Tennessee was whistled 28 times for fouls causing both Freshman starters Willie Carmichael III and Jabari McGhee to play a combined 28 minutes while eventually both being disqualified in the second half. Also, star Senior Josh Richardson (17.5 PPG, 5 RPG, 1.8 APG) had four fouls as well as fellow starter Armani Moore (10.5 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 1.5 APG). Obviously stated is that foul calls really hurt Tennessee in their 82-67 defeat to the Jayhawks. The Golden Eagles had to face the number 20. ranked Michigan State Spartans yesterday. The first half was tight as the Spartans only possessed a one point lead but about halfway through the second half "Sparty" took advantage of the game by Denzel Valentine drilling two threes to increase the lead to 11 points. My key of the game for the Tennessee Volunteers is to contest shots from Carlino. Marquette's Matt Carlino had an Orlando Classic record 38 points on Thanksgiving against Georgia Tech but yesterday the Spartans held the sharp shooter to 4 of 13 shooting (2 of 6 from beyond the arc). That is what a team has to do to defeat the Golden Eagles. And if that stat line doesn't prove my theory. Carlino was 3 of 8 from the field and 2 if 7 from three point land in Marquette's home loss against the University of Nebraska-Omaha. My keys for Marquette are to shut down Tennessee's best player Josh Richardson (SR) and to go right at the Tennessee defenders and draw fouls. Even better for Marquette is if they get Richardson in foul trouble because if they do, Marquette will have a quality victory to go on their early season resumé.
---Tennessee 73, Marquette 66

Orlando Classic Championship Game
4-1 11. Kansas Jayhawks
5-1 20. Michigan State Spartans
Isn't it beautiful when a possible Sweet Sixteen matchup occurs in November giving the fans what they want rather than waiting until March. Merry Christmas College Basketball Fans! The last time the Kansas Jayhawks and Michigan State Spartans faces off it was November 13, 2012, at the Champions Classic in Atlanta, Georgi. The game was tight throughout as Michigan State had a 67-64 lead with 16 seconds left. Kansas had the ball and drew up a play for Senior Travis Releford to tie the game with a three pointer. He rose up and fired the shot, which was his first three point attempt of the game. Releford missed and the game was over, Michigan State won. That game featured four players on both sides that went to the NBA afterwards (KU's Ben McLemore and Jeff Withey, and MSU's Gary Harris and Adreian Payne). Amazingly there are still players that played in that game that will play tomorrow. Players that played included: Michigan State's Branden Dawson (SR) who started the game and scored 12 points, Michigan State's Denzel Valentine (JR), Kansas' Perry Ellis (JR) who started the game and scored 4 points, and Kansas' Jamari Taylor (JR) who filled up the stat sheet with 6 points, 4 rebounds, 2 steals, and 3 blocks. The next regular season Kansas/Michigan State game is set for November 17, 2015, at the United Center, home of the Chicago Bulls, as a part of the 2015 Champions Classic. But lets not get ahead of ourselves. Tomorrow's matchup was predicted at the beginning of the tournament by the best of analysts as well as the average basketball fan that can't name one player on either team. Kansas in my opinion had the toughest road to the Orlando Classic Championship as they had to face a good mid-major team in the Rhode Island Rams and a Sweet Sixteen team from last year in the Tennessee Volunteers. On Thursday afternoon, the Jayhawks squeezed the life out of the Rams by holding them to 36.5% from the field while keeping Rhode Island star E.C. Matthews from getting into a rhythm. Yesterday, Kansas played more of an offensive game as they defeated Tennessee 82-67. Also, it must not be forgotten that KU did an excellent job of keeping Tennessee's starters in foul trouble causing them to play timidly and non-aggressive when they were not siting on the bench. Michigan State had a different road to the Orlando Classic Championship. First the Spartans faced the MAAC team of the tournament this season the Rider Broncos. "Sparty" destroyed the Broncos 77-45. Next, the Spartans had to face the player who scored the most points in an Orlando Classic game, Matt Carlino. Carlino is a transfer senior from BYU now on the Marquette Golden Eagles. The first half was tight for the Spartans as they were only up one at the half but the second half was all "Sparty." The thing that really helped MSU secure the victory was holding Carlino to 4 of 13 shooting as he was Marquette's main scorer. So my analysis about tomorrow. It should be a great game for sure. My "1 on 1" matchup to watch is Kansas' Perry Ellis (JR) versus Michigan State's Branden Dawson (SR). These two players battled a few years ago in their team's last matchup and whoever plays the best individual game will get their team the win. Dawson has been recently coming off the bench after missing two games with the flu. In his last two games, Dawson has only scored 8 points, which is an amount he normally scores in one outing. I personally don't understand why Dawson is not being as aggressive on the offensive side of the ball than he was prior to his illness. My keys of the game for Kansas include shutting down Denzel Valentine (JR) and keep the scoring distribution even on their side of the ball. Valentine has increased his career high in points on both Day 1 and 2 with the his career high now standing at 25 points. Kansas must make sure Valentine does not have another career high performance tomorrow. Also, Kansas' "Big Four" (Cliff Alexander (FR), Perry Ellis (JR), Frank Mason III (SO), and Wayne Selden Jr. (SO)) all had over ten points in the game against Tennessee. Getting all the good players involved in the scoring is key for the Jayhawks. For Michigan State, keys of the game consist of making Kansas' young guards turnover the ball and contesting all Jayhawk shot attempts. Shown in the Kentucky/Kansas game in Indianapolis earlier in the year is the fact that pressure can get the Jayhawks youth "out of sorts" and that keeping the boys from Lawrence from scoring leads to wins. Kentucky held Kansas to 19.6% from the field. Obviously it is not realistic to think that a team will do that to a talented Kansas squad again but if Michigan State can hold Kansas to under 40%, they will have them right where they want them for a victory.
---Michigan State 75, Kansas 63

My Pick Record Coming into Today: 7-1

Orlando Classic All-Tourney Teams
All-Tourney Team
Denzel Valentine Michigan State JR
Matt Carlino Marquette SR
E.C. Matthews Rhode Island SO
Perry Ellis Kansas JR
Josh Richardson Tennessee SR

Most Outstanding Player:
Denzel Valentine Michigan State JR

It has been a fun time writing about the Orlando Classic in its ninth year over my Thanksgiving break. All of you that have enjoyed the action don't forget about next year as the teams playing in it include the Alabama Crimson Tide, the Dayton Flyers, the Iowa Hawkeyes, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, the USC Trojans, the Wichita State Shockers, the Xavier Musketeers, and the Monmouth Hawks (MAAC host school). Safe travels back from the tournament and God Bless.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Orlando Couldn't Compete in the Wild Wild West

By Peyton Wesner

INDIANAPOLIS---Tonight the 6-11 Orlando Magic struggles continued as they ventured away from the Amway Center to face the 6-9 Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

The Orlando Magic are in year 3 of a rebuilding process that was prompted by Dwight Howard's desire to leave the Entertainment Capital of the United States. The deal that sent Dwight Howard from Disney World to Disneyland (the Lakers) was a four team trade that gave the Orlando Magic future starters Aaron Affalo and Nikola Vucevic in addition to Rookie Maurice Harkless. With the change of scenery from Philadelphia to Orlando, Nikola Vucevic improved as he was given significant minutes in Florida. Since he has been in Orlando, he has averaged a double-double every season. Aaron Affalo continued his great numbers after the trade as his points per game and rebounds per game improved in Orlando. For Maurice Harkless, he was just drafted as a Freshman from St. John's by the Philadelphia 76ers prior to the big switch. The trade to Orlando benefited him immediately as he played meaningful minutes but today Harkless gets barely any playing time because of Tobias Harris' emergence as a solid starter. The core three would stay together until this past offseason when the Magic made the stupidest trade of this century. Orlando shipped sharp shooter and scorer Aaron Affalo to Denver for a young gun named Evan Fournier. Affalo averaged 18.2 points per game...18.2! And the Magic traded him for a kid that averaged only 8.4 points per game? I was devastated for the longest time after the trade as Affalo was one of my favorite players. In addition to the Affalo trade, the Magic waived Jameer Nelson, the last player that was still in Orlando from the Magic's 2009 Finals team. I was confused beyond belief as a non waivering Magic fan that the team would just get rid of 40% of their starting lineup. When the season started and the team was 1-4 with the only win coming to the 76ers, I had the feeling this could be a step back in the progression of the rebuilding process. After the Philly win, the Magic went on a run of 5 wins in their next 9 games (which is really good for the Magic) putting them in the thick of the hunt for the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference. Since their last win the Magic have been defeated by the Miami Heat, the Cavaliers in Cleveland, and the Golden State Warriors. Tonight was Orlando's next game. Despite many negatives, there are some positives in Orlando so far this season. Number one, Nikola Vucevic has continued to get better and is haviing his best season yet. Two, Tobias Harris has shown that he is a real game changing player but the injury bug has continued to lower his games played. Three, Evan Fournier has fit in perfectly for Aaron Affalo as he is averaging 16.1 points per game this season, only two less than Affalo's average last year. Of course Victor Oladipo is being Victor and has put together another solid season.

The Indiana Pacers are coming back to the Hooiser State from a Texas road trip where they upset the Dallas Mavericks 111-100, leaving Mark Cuban stupefied, and contended with the Spurs for 44 minutes but were eventually put away in the last four. Indiana was actually leading the Spurs 91-86 at one point in the fourth quarter, that was when the "Big Three with Kawhi" turned up their intensity ultimatly leading their team to victory. Both of these well-played games by Indiana was played without their All-Star Center Roy Hibbert who was out with an ankle injury. Tonight two key players return from injury for the Pacers as starter David West (ankle) and key bench player C.J. Watson (foot) make their season debuts. The addition of these two players to the mix will definatly give Indiana a boost going foward and help in their pursuit of a playoff birth.

To begin the game, the Pacers went immediately to David West as on the first possession of the game he made a layup and on the next a jump shot to move his team to an early 4-3 lead. The referees played a role tonight as the Pacers' David West picked up two fouls in the first two minutes of the game causing him to go to the bench. Later after he scored four consecutive points for his team, Orlando's Tobias Harris was called for his second foul causing him to take a seat with 5:20 left in the first quarter. After Harris' exit, Indiana's starting shooting guard Rodney Stuckey continued his hot start to the game by nailing a jumper and a layup to give him nine points for the quarter. At the end of one, the Pacers were leading 26-20.

The second quarter was a period of runs. To start the game, Orlando received a big boost from two veteran bench players, Kyle O'Quinn and Ben Gordon to keep the deficit close. The two would score the first 10 of 12 points for the Magic in making the score, Pacers 37, Magic 34. Then the Pacers went on a run of their own as they scored the next eight points unanswered increasing their lead to 45-34 while provoking Magic head coach Jacque Vaughn to call a timeout. Whatever Coach Vaughn said in his huddle worked as Orlando crawled back into the game and made it 47-45 at halftime. The Magic were led by Nikola Vucevic who scored 6 of his team high 16 in the final five minutes of the second.

The third quarter would prove to be the deciding quarter. Indiana outscored the Magic 25-14 increasing the lead to 15 points at the start of the fourth quarter. The Magic would put up a fight in the fourth led by (Ben) Gordon and O'Quinn that narrowed the deficit to eight. The run for Orlando would stop there as Indiana regained control and raised the lead to 17 points. The final score tonight from Bankers Life Fieldhouse was Pacers 98, Magic 83.

Unlikely Scorers
David West would end up with 18 points and 6 rebounds as he dominated any Magic defender that guarded him in his first game of the season. Orlando power forward Channing Frye couldn't handle the 6'9", 250 lbs power foward from Xavier. Rodney Stuckey scored a season high tonight 24 points, which added onto his 22-point performance last Wednesday in San Antonio.

No Magic in the Building
Foul trouble ended up hurting the Magic since it took Tobias Harris out of the game. It seemed like he was always on the bench during momentum swings in the Pacers favor. Sophomore guard Victor Oladipo had another good performance in a return to the state of Indiana, where he played three seasons of college basketball for the Hooisers. Oladipo scored 14 points on 5-7 shooting while also stuffing the stat sheet with five rebounds and four assists. 

What's Next
6-12 Orlando starts a West coast road trip Sunday in Phoenix where they face a good Suns team. It then heads to Golden State Tuesday, Los Angeles to face the Clippers Wednesday, Utah Friday, and wraps up after next Saturday's game in Sacramento. It will be a tough road stretch for a struggling Magic team that has lost their last four games. 

7-9 Indiana plays tonight at "The Q" to face LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers on the second night of a back-to-back. Good news for the Pacers is that Roy Hibbert has a chance of returning tonight to face the Cavs. Tonight's game starts a four game 
road trip that heads West next week. On Tuesday, the Pacers have a rematch with the Phoenix Suns team who defeated Indiana at home, 106-83 last Saturday. Then the Pacers play another back-to-back against Portland and Sacramento before returning home to play the Atlanta Hawks on the eighth of December.
Player of the Game:
Orlando: Nikola Vucevic 16 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 blocks.
Indiana: Rodney Stuckey 24 points, 2 rebounds, and 1 rebound.

Next Game:
Orlando: Sunday at 10-7 Phoenix.
Indiana: Tonight at 7-7 Cleveland.

Orlando Classic Predictions (Day 2)

By Peyton Wesner

2-1 Tennessee Volunteers
at 3-1 11. Kansas Jayhawks
The Tennessee Volunteers did not show up officially at HP Fieldhouse at Disney's Wide World of Sports until 1:00 PM EST because in the first half Santa Clara had command of the game. The Broncos were hitting threes and had a three point lead going into the half. Then the roles changed in the second half as Santa Clara had trouble putting the ball in the hole while Tennessee was scoring left and right Josh Richardson (SR) who would have 18 points on the night. The Tennessee 14-0 run would to begin the second half lasted 9 minutes and have the Vols a 41-30 lead. Tennessee's control of the game in the second half helped them march to a 64-57 victory. The Rhode Island Rams were looking for their second Top 25 win in a row against Kansas on Thanksgiving...they should have looked somewhere else. Kansas, who was absolutely destroyed in Indianapolis ten days ago against number 1. ranked Kentucky, had a chip on their should as they were determined to show the analysts that they were not going to get defeated by a small Atlantic 10 school. The Jayhawks accomplished  my key to the game by contesting E.C. Matthews shots causing him to shoot 6-18 from the field with 20 points. Also Kansas's scorers was plainly just too much for the Rams' defense as they had five players with at least nine points (Perry Ellis (JR) 17 pts, Frank Mason III (SO) 12 pts, Wayne Selden Jr. (SO) 10 pts, Devonte Graham (FR) 10 pts, and Cliff Alexander (FR) 9 pts. My key to the game for the Tennessee Volunteers is playing tough defense by contesting Kansas' shots. The Jayhawks shot 47% from the field as well as the behind the arc. If Tennessee doesn't keep their opponent's percentages down, it could be a long game for them in Orlando. My key to the game for Kansas is to shut down Josh Richardson like they did to E.C. Matthews yesterday. Although you may be thinking that Matthews wasn't contained since he had 20 points, the field goal percentage tells the whole story. Richardson is Tennesseee's best player and has been averaging 18 points per game. In my opinion he will need at least 20 points to lead his team to victory.
---Kansas 67, Tennessee 60

2-3 Santa Clara Broncos
at 3-1 Rhode Island Rams
Maybe when playing a team from the WCC, a team can show up for half a game and win but when playing a SEC school, closing a game out is essential. The Broncos came out firing threes against the Tennessee Volunteers yesterday. In fact their first twelve points were all from three pointers. Going into the half, Santa Clara had made 5 three pointers while holding a 30-27 lead. Then, the Volunteers remembered how to play defense and shut out the Broncos for the first 9 minutes and 35 seconds of the second half. After the Tennessee defensive tune-up the game was over and Santa Clara was headed to the Loser's Bracket. Rhode Island was coming into the Orlando Classic undefeated with a record of 3-0. This season was the first time in five years that Rhode Island had started off the season 3-0. College Basketball Analysts around the nation were looking foward to see how Rhode Island would play against a next tier opponent. By the 13:16 mark in the first quarter the game was already over in my opinion since Kansas had made 3 three pointers in three straight possessions giving the Jayhawks a 17-6 lead. Rhode Island just couldn't contain all the young scorers Kansas had to throw at them. Also E.C. Matthews had a horrid game from the field as he made only 6 of his 18 attempts. Today's game features three good scorers in Santa Clara's Brandon Clark (SR) who averages 18.2 points per game and Jared Brownridge (SO) who averages 12 points per game and Rhode Island's E.C. Matthews (SO) who averages 17.3 points per game. Personally I believe like yesterday that Brownridge and Clark will have to have a massive game if they want to avoid the 7th place game on Sunday. My key for Santa Clara is to play two halves of basketball. What I mean by that is to not get complecent about a three point lead, build onto it. Also make adjustments to the opposing team's changes coming out of halftime. For Rhode Island, my key is feed Matthews. Matthews will have a better game than yesterday afternoon and is not the kind of player to let one rough performance against a great team get him down. Lastly, the Rams need to play better defense. Kansas shot the lights out of the gym yesterday and going into A-10 play Rhode Island will not be able to out score every opponent. If they can improve their defense and better contest shots, the Rams will be able to contend with VCU and SLU.
---Rhode Island 74, Santa Clara 60

2-3 Rider Broncos 
at 3-1 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Rider gave up 77 points to number 20. ranked Michigan State yesterday in game  three of the Orlando Classic. The Broncos' opponents average about 72 points a game and I figure Georgia Tech will score AT LEAST that many tonight. The Yellow Jackets played a good game last night but were single-handedly defeated by the 22 year-old Matt Carlino. Anyone who has watched college basketball for the last four years surely has heard of Carlino as he has played the last three seasons for good BYU Cougar teams. At BYU, Carlino averaged double figures every season with at least four assists a game. Last night, Carlino wasn't passing...he was shooting and swishing. The Graduate Student hit 8 three pointers and 14 free throws to total 38 points, an Orlando Classic Record previously held by Butler Junior Kellen Dunham. With this being said, I see Georgia Tech as a victim of circumstances since Carlino had the best game of his career to lead Marquette to victory. Tonight I see a GTech blowout win. My key for Rider is to just make the game simple and don't get overwhelmed with the margin down. If I were Coach Baggett, I would tell my team to just break the game into segments and worry about outscoring Georgia Tech for each little 4 minute portion. My key for Georgia Tech is to not lose their indenty just because of last night's loss. If the Yellow Jackets stay consistent, they will come up with the win tonight leading to a great game between Rhode Island and Georgia Tech on Sunday.
---Georgia Tech 77, Rider 57

4-1 20. Michigan State Spartans
3-2 Marquette Golden Eagles
Michigan State sure proved that no mid-major or low-major teams will beat them this year with the debacle they caused the Rider Broncos to have last night. The Spartans won by 32 points and had the game in control from the tip. "Sparty" had a great overall game yesterday. They showed their dominance on the defensive side of the court by holding Rider to 11 points in the first half and on the offensive side of the court by scoring 77 points total. Michigan State was led by Denzel Valentine (JR) who had a career high in points with 19. Star Branden Dawson played only 16 minutes and had three points because of flu like symptoms. Tonight he will not start but may be available coming off the bench for Michigan State. Marquette was involved in the best game of Day 1 against the ACC-school, Georgia Tech. The game was back and forth although the Golden Eagles controlled the tempo for most of it. The largest lead of the game for either squad came when Marquette's Duane Wilson (FR) hit a layup with 3:46 left in the second half to give the boys from Milwaukee a 63-52. It is over right? No way, not against Georgia Tech. Tech would go on a 16-6 run to put them within one with 13 seconds left in the game. Would Marquette really blow it? Matt Carlino was the man fouled by Georgia Tech with the chance to extend Marquette's lead to 3. He sank both free throws easily putting the pressure on the Yellow Jackets to tie up the game. The Yellow Jackets would put in a layup with 1 second left to draw their deficit to one. Forced to foul, Georgia Tech fouled Jajuan Johnson with a little under a second left. The first shot from Johnson was good but the second was intentionally missed, which allowed the remaining second to run off the clock. Marquette survived thanks to Matt Carlino and his Orlando Classic record, 38 points. So what about tonight? In order to win, Marquette will have to play a defensively solid game and pray that Carlino is still hot from last night's game. Michigan State's key for the game is shut down Carlino. I highly doubt Carlino will have 20+ points but if he does, Marquette will be in a position to win in the final minutes.
---Michigan State 70, Marquette 63

Prediction Record of Tournament going into today: 3-1

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Orlando Classic Predictions (Day 1)

By Peyton Wesner

ORLANDO---Nothing better than watching arguably the best college basketball tournament on Thanksgiving weekend with Mickey and the gang at HP Field House at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.

Formally known as the Old Spice Classic, the Orlando Classic has been around since 2006 when in the inaugural tournament the Arkansas Razorbacks beat the West Virginia Montaineers for the championship crown, 71-64. Last season, one of the best Orlando Classic championship games transpired when number 5. ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys played the number 21. ranked Memphis Tigers in a rematch of a game that occurred a little over a week before in Stillwater, Oklahoma. The first game Oklahoma State hosted, they demolished Memphis 101-80 giving the feel that the championship game would have the same result. It didn't as Memphis upset Marcus Smart (Boston Celtics Rookie) and the Cowboys, 73-68.

This year's tournament features three teams that made long runs in the NCAA Tournament and two of those teams are currently ranked in Top 25. The two in the AP Poll's Rankings are the number 11. ranked Kansas Jayhawks and the number 20. ranked Michigan State Spartans who are on a crash course to play in the championship game on Sunday, November 30.

Game 1-12:00 PM EST-ESPN2
2-2 Santa Clara Broncos
1-1 Tennessee Volunteers
The Santa Clara Broncos had a less than ideal season last year as they finished the season with a record of 14-19 and a second to last finish in the West Coast Conference. But times are beginning to look up for the Broncs this year as the team is more experienced and has their top two scorers from last season retuning in Jared Brownridge (SO) and Brandon Clark (SR). The Tennessee Volunteers had a very great season last year led by seniors Jordan McRae, Jarnell Stokes (Memphis Grizzliez Rookie), and Jeronne Maymon. The Volunteers fought there way out of the SEC and was one of the last four teams into the NCAA Tournament. First they had to head to Dayton to play in the First Four against the Iowa Hawkeyes. The game went back and forth as it took 45 minutes for a winner. Eventually the Vols pulled away and won 78-65 in Overtime. After the win to get them in the round of 64, the Volunteers were not done as they upset the number 6. seed in the Midwest region, the Massachusetts Minutemen and later defeated the number 14. seed, Mercer Bears who had the upset of the tournament by beating Jabari Parker (#2 Pick of NBA Draft to Milwaukee) and the Duke Blue Devils. With a three game winning streak, Tennessee was in the Sweet Sixteen with a legitimate shot to get to the Final Four. Their new obstacle though was the number 2. seed Michigan Wolverines. The battle was very similar to the game against Iowa as with ten seconds left Michigan found themselves up 72-71 with an inbound pass under Tennessee's basket. The pass was thrown to Caris LeVert (JR) but he stepped out of bounds when catching it giving the ball back to Tennessee. Tennessee's had a chance to win the game! The ball was thrown to the Volunteers' best player, Jarnell Stokes. Stokes. He faced up to the rim, started his move with the dribble and was called for the charge on a questionable call. Tennessee would then be forced to foul Nik Stauskis (Sacramento Kings Rookie), the best free throw shooter on Michigan (82%) with 2.1 seconds left in the game. The first free throw from Stauskis was made but the second was MISSED. Tennessee had no timeouts so they rushed the ball upcourt and heaved a prayer that went over the backboard. The journey was over. This year the star of Tennessee has to be the contributor from the 2013-2014 Tennessee Volunteers team, Josh Richardson (SR). This season, the Vols lost the first game of the season against number 15. ranked VCU but going into today's tournament they are looking like a team that could cause some "bracket busting." I feel like Tennessee is too big of a school to lose to Santa Clara. My matchup of the game is Santa Clara's Brownridge and Clark versus Tennessee's defense. If the Santa Clara duo scores over 40+ combined, Tennesse will lose. If the Volunteers contain the Broncos' scorers, they will march into the second round.
---Tennessee 68, Santa Clara 58
Game 2-2:00 PM EST-ESPN2
2-1 11. Kansas Jayhawks
3-0 Rhode Island Rams
Two top three NBA Draft picks and another undrafted player to make it to NBA rosters but no Sweet Sixteen appearance? That was the story of the 2013-2014 Kansas Jayhawks Men's Basketball season. Kansas dominated a good Big 12 conference last year but the loss of Joel Embiid for the Big 12 and NCAA Tournament due to a stress fracture in his back was a huge blow. In the Big 12 Tournament, Kansas was solidly defeated by, number 16. ranked Iowa State in the semi-finals. Despite the loss in the conference tournament, the Jayhawks were still expect to get a good seed in the NCAA Tournament. They received a number 2. seed in the South region and were matched up with the Ohio Valley Conference Champions, the number 15. seed Eastern Kentucky Colonials. In the first half, Eastern Kentucky hung around with Andrew Wiggins (#1 Pick in NBA Draft) and the Jayhawks, making the crowd feel as if maybe, just maybe they were about to see a number 15. seed beat a number 2. seed. Coach Bill Self must have gave his team a very motivational speech or a loud butt chewing because Kansas came out, took over the game, and won by the score of 80-69. Upset Avoided. In the next round, Kansas would face the number 10. seed, Stanford Cardinal. In the first half, Stanford gave Kansas all they could handle and despite Kansas being up 24-22 at halftime, there was that feel that Kansas could be upset on the Sunday afternoon. In the second half, Stanford would take the lead and have a 58-51 advantage with 33 seconds left in the game. Kansas was now officially looking like they were in trouble. Then the freshman came into the game and started hitting threes. No, it wasn't Joel Embiid, he is hurt remember. No, it wasn't Andrew Wiggins, he only scored four points in the game, the same amount his brother did against Kentucky for Wichita State. Conner Frankamp, who averaged just 8 minutes of playing time that season, started drilling threes. Next thing you know because of Frankamp's threes, Stanford was up only two points with Junior Anthony Brown at the charity stripe. The first one was good but the next shot was missed allowing Kansas to have an opportunity for the tie. The ball was passed to Frankamp with 6 seconds left, he dribbled towards the top of the key and picked up his dribble. Then he shot faked, and rose up with the game hanging in the balance. The ball was wide left. Upset Not Avoided. The Wiggins-Embiid Era was over in one year as Andrew Wiggins was drafted #1 to the Cleveland Cavaliers (then traded to Minnesota for Kevin Love) and Joel Embiid was drafted #3 to the Philadelphia 76ers in the 2014 NBA Draft. If the Rhode Island Rams would have made it to the Round of 32, their fans would have been overjoyed. The Rams went 14-18 last season under 2nd year Head Coach Dan Hurley. If the name Hurley rings a bell it is because Dan is the younger brother of Bob Hurley, Duke Point Guard on the 1991 and 1992 Championship teams. A bright spot last year for the Rams was E.C. Matthews. Matthews is now a Sophomore but last year as a Freshman he averaged 14.3 PPG and has the talent to play at the next level. So far this season both teams have played ranked opponents. Kansas played in the Championship Classic last week in Indianapolis and was steam rolled by the number 1. ranked Kentucky Wildcats, 72-40. The Rams had a different result as they pulled off the upset against the number 21. ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers by the score of 66-62 in overtime. Can the Rams win today and pull off back to back upsets? Personally, I do not think Rhode Island can pull off the upset on a neutral court. Matthews (SO) had 26 points and 10 rebounds for the Rams against Nebraska. He will not be able to put up those stats when going up against the big Kansas bodies like Wayne Seldon Jr. (SO), Frank Mason III (SO), and Perry Ellis (JR). Lastly, Kansas has so many scoring weapons...too many to guard from a Rhode Island standpoint.
---Kansas 70, Rhode Island 65

Game 3-6:30 PM EST-ESPN2
3-1 20. Michigan State Spartans
2-2 Rider Broncos
Michigan State had a typical "Spartan Season" last year." "Sparty" won the brutal Big Ten Tournament as they had to go through TWO future 2. seeds in the NCAA Tournament in the Wisconsin Badgers and Michigan Wolverines. Then, they received the 4. seed in the East Region that featured the teams of Virginia, Villanova, and Iowa State. After waltzing through the Colonial Athletic Association Champion, Delaware, in the Round of 64, Michigan State faced the annual Cinderella of the NCAA Tournament, the number 12. seed Harvard Crimson. The first half was all "Sparty" as they jumped out to a 45-33 lead. The second half would be a different story. Led by the scoring power of then Juniors Steve Moundou-Missi and Wesley Saunders, the Crimson would tie the game at 55 with 9 minutes left in the 2nd half. Michigan State would then trial 62-60 with 7:11 left after a made jump shot by Harvard. Would Adreian Payne (SR) and Keith Appling's (SR) career end in the Round of 32? No it would not! Michigan State went on an 8-0 run to retake the lead at 68-62 and win by the score of 80-73. In the Sweet Sixteen, Michigan State had to face the number 1. seed in their region, the Virginia Cavaliers.  This would be the Spartans biggest test yet as Virginia was a team orinated on defense. If the Cavs would turn the game into a low scoring affair, Michigan State would be susceptible to being defeated causing their Final Four hopes to be crushed. The Spartans started off quick as Adreian Payne scored seven points in the first four minutes to give MSU a 10-7 lead. Michigan State would sustain the lead and be up 31-27 going into halftime. The game would be close down the stretch as with 1.4 the Spartans had future NBA First Round Pick, Gary Harris at the free throw line with a one point lead. He made the first free throw to increase the lead to two with 1.4 seconds left in the game. The next free throw was missed intentionally by Harris because Virginia had no timeouts. Since Virginja was out of timeouts they only had time to rebound the ball and throw it at the rim. The shot missed and Michigan State was one step away from the Final Four. Because of an upset, Michigan State had to face the number 7. seed Connecticut Huskies. Should be an easy win right? It would be close until the end. At halftime, Michigan State looked as if they were on the road to victory with a 25-21 lead. Then UCONN came and stole the lead with 11:49 left with a DeAndre Daniels jump shot. In the last minute Connecticut had the ball up two and Keith Appling did the unimaginable as he fouled Shabazz Napier (Miami Heat Rookie) on a three point field goal giving Napier three shots at the line. He would nail all three increasing the Huskies lead to 56-51. In the next possession Michigan State threw up a three but it was off the mark and UConn was headed to the Final Four. To this day, it still shocks me that UConn won against Michigan State who had Gary Harris (Denver Nuggets Rookie) and Adreian Payne (Detroit Pistons Rookie). Although Michigan State lost Appling, Harris, and Payne they still have two starters from last year's team (Branden Dawson (SR) and Denzel Valentine (JR)). Also they have a key bench player from last year'a team in Senior Travis Trice. Sure, Michigan State won't be as good as last year but they will still be a dominant force in the NCAA Tournament. Rider didn't have a bad team last year but not exactly a good one either. They finished the season with a record of 14-17 good enough for a middle of the pack spot in the MAAC standings. They would not win the conference tournament therefore meaning they did not make the NCAA Tournament. Rider is not predicted to be a contenter in the MAAC this year as they lost their two top leading scorers from last year. The Broncos problem is that at times they cannot score the basketball, which contributes to another problem of them not having enough scorers to begin with. Even though Michigan State's Dawson is sitting out tonight's game with flu like syndoms, there is no doubt in my mine that Michigan State wins...convincingly.
---Michigan State 72, Rider 54

Game 4-8:30 PM EST-ESPN 2
2-2 Marquette Golden Eagles
3-0 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
After co-winning the Big East in 2012-2013, the Marquette Golden Eagles struggled in the "new Big East." They finished with a record of 17-15 (9-9 in Big East) while losing their last four games of the season. Despite the record being over .500, Marquette's season could be classified as a failure and was not invited to play in any post season tournaments. Basically the same exact thing happened to Georgia Tech last season. The Yellow Jackets finished the year with a record of 16-17 (13 losses came from ACC teams). Going into the conference tournament in Greensboro, North Carolina, GTech had a two game winning streak. They would win in the opening round of the ACC Tournament in a close battle against Boston College but they could not escape K.J. McDaniels and Clemson. Winning streak over, season over. Both teams playing in this game hope to continue their early season success in Orlando with the thought that it could propel them to wins in conference play. Marquette lost their top four leading scorers last season while Georgia Tech has lost three of their top four leading scorers. Both teams are basically starting with fresh teams as much of last year's starting five is gone. With that being said, I think Georgia Tech prevails in a close game because they have four double-digit scorers on their team (Quinton Stephens (SO), Charles Mitchell (JR), Demarco Cox (SR), Marcus Georges-Hunt (JR)). I believe the four man scoring crew will be too much for Marquette. Lastly, how am I suppose to trust the Golden Eagles, they lost to the University of Nebraska-Omaha. Last time I checked that should be a win for any power conference team.
---Georgia Tech 57, Marquette 55

PW's NCAA Football Predictions Week 14

By Peyton Wesner

Thanksgiving College Football
9-1 5. TCU
at 6-5 Texas
Normally when a person watches football on Thanksgiving it is NFL action but tonight do not forget to watch TCU at Texas. TCU was knocked out of the top four after Alabama's win over Mississippi State so basically, they need either 1. Alabama, 2. Oregon, 3. Florida State, or 4. Mississippi State to lose so they can jump into the forth spot. Two weeks ago in TCU's last game, the Horned Frogs survived a close call against Kansas on the road. At one point they were down 27-17 in the third quarter. Then, TCU's scoring came out as Aaron Green (JR) had a run of 24 yards for his second touchdown of the day and to cut the deficit to 27-24 Kansas. Then, Cameron Echols-Luper (SO) returned a punt 69 yards for a touchdown and a 31-27 lead. Texas has to be the hottest team not ranked in the top 25 in college football right now as they come into Austin on a three game winning streak. Their last game on November 15 against Oklahoma State, gave Texas bowl eligibility as they went into Stillwater, Oklahoma, and beat the Cowboys 28-7. In the game, Sophomore Quarterback Tyrone Swoopes, threw for 305 yards and two touchdowns. Texas has nothing to loose tonight as they are the underdog while TCU can loose everything. I am really looking forward in seeing how Swoops plays in a game of this magnitude because if he plays like he has been playing the Horned Frogs will be in some serious trouble. Since the Texas Tech massacre, TCU's Trevone Boykin (JR) has not really been lighting up the statsheet. Yes, I know the only thing that matters is getting the win but tonight I look for Boykin to have a really good game. In his two career games against Texas he is 10/13 with 106 yards, no touchdowns, and 1 interception. I am almost certain Boykin knows this stat and will either overcome the pressure or cave under it.
---TCU 38, Texas 24

6-5 Stanford
at 9-2 8. UCLA
PAC-12 Game of the Week
This is a trap game for my Bruins. UCLA destroyed there rival USC last week at the Rose Bowl but today they host a Stanford team that was not predicted to have five losses coming into Week 14. Stanford won the only game that matters in the eyes of alumni which was the "Big Game" against California. The Cardinal jumped on Cal last week behind Senior running back, Remound Wright. Quarterback Kevin Hogan (SR) was feeding the ball all game to Wright who would have 4 touchdowns on the day to lead Stanford to a 38-17 win. Last week was a must win game for UCLA, if they wanted to make it to the PAC-12 Championship Game at the San Francisco 49ers' new stadium (Levi Stadium) in Santa Clara, California. In the first half, UCLA came out determined to defeat their hated rival as they went into halftime with a 24-14 lead. The lead would only get bigger in a game that Brett Hundley (JR) threw 3 touchdowns on 326 yards with 1 interception and a rushing touchdown. Also in last Saturday's game, Hundley passed 1998 Johnny Unitas Award winner Cade McNown for the most total yards by a UCLA player. It is very likely that Hundley will declare for the NFL after this season so if it is the last home game of his career, Hundley will have his career 3-0 against the Bruins' hated rival ensuring that UCLA does own L.A. With both teams coming off blowoff wins, the game will be a good one on this Friday afternoon. UCLA must not look ahead to Oregon in the PAC-12 Championship game, they have to focus on a very tough Stanford team. My key for Stanford is to contain Hundley in the pocket and make him one dimensional. Also, Stanford needs to put pressure on the UCLA offensive line, which has been very poor this year. For UCLA, "score baby, score." Duly noted is the fact that the Bruins are not known for their defense as their opponents average 27.2 points a game. Hundley will have a great game tonight as he is a Heisman Candiate that doesn't get enough credit for his contributions to his team. GO BRUINS! 
---UCLA 38, Stanford 30

9-2 13. Arizona State
at 9-2 11. Arizona
If UCLA was to lose against Stanford this afternoon, the winner of this game will claim the PAC-12 South Division crown. With that being said both teams want to win regardless because it is the Territorial Cup...enough said. Arizona State really "shot themselves in the foot" with the loss @ Oregon State two weekends ago. If they would have won the game against the Beavers, Arizona State would be in UCLA's situation with a win getting them into the PAC-12 Championship Game. With the previously mentioned loss to Oregon State and to UCLA in Tempe when Taylor Kelly (SR) was hurt, the Bruins own the tie-breaker not ASU. Last week Arizona State was back to playing as advertised as they blew out a Connor Halliday-less Washington State Cougars team 52-31. Last weekend, the Arizona Wildcats went to Utah and made Utah's defense look terrible as they put up 42 points on the Utes to knock Utah officially out of playoff contention. Most likely these two teams would need a miracle to make the College Football Playoffs but a win today would help. Frankly if I were not a die-hard UCLA Bruin and Brett Hundley fan, this would be the game I would be watching to see who has a better game ASU's Kelly or Arizona's Solomon. It will truly be a battle of youth versus experience as Kelly (SR) plays in his last Territorial Cup while Solomon (FR) plays in his first. But there is a possibility that Arizona fans will not see their Freshman Quarterback because Solomon hurt his foot last week in Utah and was seen in a walking boot earlier this week. If Anu Solomon does not play today, it will not take anything away from how great he has played this season. Going into tonight's game Solomon has thrown 25 touchdowns on 3,216 yards with only 7 interceptions. If Solomon was not the quarterback in Tucson, Arizona would definately not have a chance to win their tenth game of the season today. My key of the game for the Sun Devils is to put pressure on Solomon (if he plays). If Solomon can go, who is currently a game-time decision, Arizona State must make him scramble on his hurt ankle. If they can put Solomon in pain throughout the game by hitting him, forcing him from the pocket, and rushing him, Arizona State will win. My key for Arizona is to force Arizona State to kick field goals in the red-zone. The Sun Devils only kicked one field goal in their eight scoring drives last week. If the Wildcats can keep them from getting those four extra points on multiple drives it will help Arizona not have to score as many points on the offensive side of the ball
---Arizona State 30, Arizona 24

PW's NFL Week 13 Predictions

By Peyton Wesner

Happy Thanksgiving my friends, I hope God Blesses everyone and their families. Besides being thankful for all that we have what do you think about when that last Thursday of November happens. Food, Family, and FOOTBALL. Last week was a very predictable week of football besides the one surprising upset of the week, which was the Cleveland Browns going to the Georgia Dome and winning against the Atlanta Falcons. Who needs Johnny Manzell?! Brian Hoyer has done a great job in his first full year as starting quarterback and last week he ignored the pressure and moved the football down the field for an eventual Phil Dawson field goal to win the game for Cleveland. Who knows maybe Cleveland will win the AFC North division?

Thursday Football Games
12:30 PM EST-CBS
5-6 Chicago Bears 
at 7-4 Detroit Lions
Around Thanksgiving it always seems like the Lions fall into a streak of losses. Last year they lost their remaining four games after Thanksgiving while the year before they lost their last eight games of season. So it is highly noted that Detroit struggles when the stretch run starts. The last two weeks the high scoring offense was held to six points against the Arizona Cardinals and nine points against the New England Patroits. Could this be the beginning of a slump that takes their chances to make the playoffs away? The Chicago Bears have had another let down season in 2014. They started off Week 1 with a loss to the Buffalo Bills at Soldier Field but then showed some promise as they beat the 49ers in San Francisco to even their record at 1-1. Since then the Bears really haven't impressed anyone as they have a very slim to none chance that they will make the playoffs. A stat to pay attention to has to be that although the Bears played very weak opponents they have won their last two games creating momentum for the struggling club. The keys for the Lions today has to be putting the ball in the endzone, which they have not done since Week 10 and Matthew Stafford must be able to not turn the ball over against the Bears. For Chicago, Cutler must be protected by his offensive line as the Lions have one of the best defenses in the league led by Ndamukong Suh and DeAndre Levy. Also the fate of the game rests on Jay Cutler shoulders as he must equally distribute the ball around to Bennett, Forte, Jeffery, and Marshall to keep the Lions defense off guard. This should be a very close and competitive game to start off a great slate of NFL Thanksgiving action.
---Detroit 34, Chicago 27

8-3 Philadelphia Eagles
at 8-3 Dallas Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys have a few similarities like the Lions in my opinion. Number one they both play every year on Thanksgiving and number two they both are notorious for not being able to close out seasons with wins. After the Cowboys beat the Seahawks in Seattle, analysts started thinking that they could be the best team in the NFL. Obviously since they have lost to the Washington Redskins on Monday Night Football, and the Arizona Cardinals with Brandon Weeden as their quarterback. Last week, they just barley survived at Met Life Stadium against the New York Giants. Last season after Thanksgiving, they dropped three of their last four including the NFC East Championship game in Week 17 at "Jerry's World." Will the Cowboys fall into their perennial tail spin or will they fight through their tough schedule to take the NFC East crown for the first time since 2009. The Philadelphia Eagles were predicted by many to have a chance to win the NFC and get to the Super Bowl. A problem for the Eagles occurred in Week 9 when a collarbone injury struck 2013 Pro Bowl Quarterback Nick Foles. Now Mark Sanchez is in and has led the Eagles to a 2-1 record in his three starts. This is the first matchup of the season between the Eagles and Cowboys with their next matchup slated for Week 15 in Philadelphia. Both teams have challenging schedules going down the stretch. Dallas has to travel to Chicago, Philadelphia, and Washington while hosting Indianapolis while Philadelphia hosts Seattle and Dallas while traveling to Washington and New York (Giants). This afternoon's game will give the winner a one game lead in the division over the loser. The team that causes the most turnovers will win this game as both quarterbacks are liable to turnover the ball. My matchup of the game is the Cowboys offense versus the Eagles defense. The Eagles defense is very good at causing turnovers and if they shut down DeMarco Murray, causing Romo to have to throw many passes the Eagles could give Mark Sanchez some extra possessions with the offense leading to points.
---Dallas 34, Philadelphia 27
7-4 Seattle Seahawks
at 7-4 San Francisco 49ers
"I'm the best corner in the game. When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree that's the result you going to get." If anyone that doesn't know who said this statement, they need to google it. Richard Sherman, Seattle Seahawks Cornerback, said this after making the game winning play on San Francisco Wide Receiver Michael Crabtree in the NFC Championship Game. With a little over a half a minute left in the fourth quarter and the 49ers down 23-17, San Francisco Quarterback Colin Kaepernick threw a deep pass intended to Crabtree that Sherman tipped away from the 49ers' receiver and was eventually picked off by a teammate. By making the play Sherman sent the Seattle Seahawks to the Super Bowl which they would win 43-8 against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. Today the rivalry continues. Crabtree as well as Sherman have not had great seasons to say the least this year. Sherman is still talking trash but not in Seahawks losses. Going into tonight, Seattle has lost four games, one more than last season already while the Niners have lost the same amount as last year. I guarantee no one would have thought that the Arizona Cardinals would be leading the NFC West division yet alone have a two game lead this far in the season. The good thing is that both teams will face Arizona again before the season is over giving them one more chance to lessen the Cardinals lead in the division. Now for the Sherman and Crabtree drama, I believe Richard Sherman is a smart enough man to know that he will get booed tonight...LOUDLY! If Sherman and the Seahawks defense don't show up, Kaepernick and the 49ers will throw all over them. Obviously, San Francisco has the advantage since they are at home. Also, the way Russell Wilson has played this season is kind of shaky. Some games he will throw for two touchdowns and no interceptions while others he will throw two interceptions with no touchdowns. I think if the Seahawks can get the running game going they will win this game no doubt. Last week against Arizona, Marshawn Lynch struggled to break free from Arizona's defense as he was only able to run for 39 yards on 15 carries. Personally as a fan of quarterbacks, I can't wait to see who has a better game Wilson or Kaepernick. And for those fans that have prior engagements and cannot catch the game tonight don't worry in two weeks they rematch in Seattle. My key to the game, which I have already stated is the Seahawks' rushing game versus the 49ers' defense.
---San Francisco 23, Seattle 16

Suns Scorch Pacers

By Peyton Wesner

INDIANAPOLIS---There's something special going on in Phoneix this season as the 8-5 Phoenix Suns entered Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana, to face the 5-7 Indiana Pacers. Which team would win from the 2013 Pacers/Suns trade that shipped Luis Scola from Phoenix to Indiana for Gerald Green and Miles Plumlee?

The Phoenix Suns were only one game back of the Dallas Mavericks for the eighth seed last year in the Western Conference as they won 48 games, almost doubling their total the previous year (25). The scary thing for Western conference teams is that Phoenix is suppose to be even better than last year since they made a sign and trade deal with the Sacramento Kings for point guard Isaiah Thomas who averaged 20 points per games last season. This season Thomas has fited in perfectly off the bench as he is their leading scorer with 15.5 PPG. The key for the Suns success through my eyes has to be their scoring power and bench strength. They have six double digit scorers...SIX! And two are coming of their bench in Isaiah Thomas and Gerald Green. They go with a very small lineup at time which can hurt them on the defensive end but the offensive side of the ball for Phoenix is one of the best in the NBA. Going into tonight Phoenix has two quality wins against the San Antonio Spurs and the Golden State Warriors, both contenders in the West. Anyone that underestimates the potential of this team will end up regretting it as they look for their first playoff birth since the 2009-2010 season when the starting lineup was Steve Nash (hurt, LAL), Jason Richardson (hurt, PHI), Grant Hill (Retired and on NBA TV's Inside Stuff), Amar'e Stodemire (NYK), and Robin Lopez (PORT). Isn't that a blast from the past? That year the Phoenix Suns would make it to the Conference Finals and lose to the eventual NBA Finals champions the Los Angeles Lakers. The funny part about this season's team is that it only has one player from the conference finals team (Goran Dragić), meaning this team will be around for a while as they are filled with young guns early in their careers.

Things have been looking up on the court for the Pacers as they entered Saturday night's game winning four of their last five, three of which coming against teams that will be competing for playoff spots this season (Miami, Chicago, and Charlotte). Off the court the Pacers have yet to receive any great news from the trainers as George Hill, Paul George, and David West remain on the shelf for at least another week. Luckily the big man down low who lives in "AREA 55", Roy Hibbert is still playing and putting up huge numbers for Indiana. To win on this evening he would have to play BIG.

On July 27, 2013, the Pacers made a big trade with the Phoenix Suns in their hope to unseat the Miami Heat as Eastern Conference Champions. One year and months later, we have learned that the Pacers could not "Beat the Heat" even when they possessed home court advantage in the Eastern Conference Finals. Also, the public learned that the Suns have a really good team with a bright future. Who would have thought that the Pacers would be the team struggling and the Suns the team thriving in the second year since the trade? I personally think the Pacers gave way too much up for Scola and will ultimately regret it as Phoenix's future is set for awhile with the additions of Plumlee and Green to Bledsoe, Dragić, and the Morris twins.

When the ball was tipped to start the game neither team wasted anytime scoring as it became a one on one battle for the first two minutes of the game, Chris Copeland (Indiana) vs. Markieff Morris (Phoenix). Copeland was working his game from the perimeter as he nailed two threes while Morris took his game to the post as he backed down his defender and hit back to back jumpers. Indiana was up 6-4 in what had the looks to be a high scoring game. Then disaster struck for the Pacers when Roy Hibbert sprained his ankle at the 6:39 mark in the first quarter with the score: Suns 11, Pacers 10. Hibbert would later try to return in the second quarter but would have to be taken out a minute and a half later ending his night with two points. With the loss of Hibbert, all of the Pacers starting lineup from last year is either injured or on a different team.

At the four minute mark with the score Pacers 17-15, Phoenix's Coach Jeff Hornacek put in a familiar face to Frank Vogel and the Indiana Pacers. Gerald Green had always been known as the man who can jump out of the gym and excite the crowd but now in Phoenix he is known as a high-flying scorer. Last season, Green averaged a career high 15.8 PPG while this year he is averaging 14.1 PPG while coming off the bench. One difference could be noted in Green's attitude during tonight's game, he was playing to prove a point and get revenge on the team that traded him. Lastly when Gerald Green entered the game, Coach Hornacek gave the veteran the "Green Light" to take shots from the very start. 

First shot by Green a three from the wing, SWISH! And that was just the beginning. Green would score the final twelve points of the quarter for the Suns including a pull up three pointer right before the buzzer sounded, turning their deficit into a 30-27 Phoenix lead going into the second quarter. From there, the Suns started to outshine the depleted Pacers. The three headed monster showed up as Isaiah Thomas, Eric Bledsoe, with Gerald Green took over the game and helped the Suns lead increase to 55-48 despite Indy's Solomon Hill scoring eight points in a span of six minutes keeping the Pacers in the game. The third quarter would decide the result of the game.

The only player from the 2009-2010 Phoenix Suns team that is still playing for Phoenix came to play in the second half as Goran Dragić scored his team's first eight of ten points to begin the quarter advancing the lead to 66-53 Phoenix. Indiana would not recover as the game was unofficially over in the third quarter. The Suns would finish off the game with their reserves for most of he fourth quarter in a twenty-three point victory. Phoenix 106, Indiana 83.

What's Next

On Monday night the Phoenix Suns will be tested against a very good 11-2 Toronto Raptors team in Canada who tonight came back to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers in Cleveland. What was impressive about the Raptors win tonight was that originally they were down 12-0 to start the game but persevered and got the job done tonight at "The Q". If anyone has the chance I highly recommend everyone to watch this game as the matchup features two young teams that are both good now and will be good going foward. Later this week, Phoenix plays a home and home against the Denver Nuggets and finishes the month hosting the Orlando Magic on Sunday, November 30.

The Pacers schedule doesn't get any easier as they play two more Western Conference contenders in the Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs both on the road. Then they play home against Orlando on Friday (Postgame Recap will be on Blog) before starting a road trip Saturday that begins in Cleveland against LeBron James, Kevin Love, and Kyrie Irving.

Players of the Game
Phoenix: Gerald Green 23 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists.
Indiana: Ian Mahinmi 12 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 steals.

Next Game:
Phoenix: Monday at 11-2 Toronto.
Indiana: Monday at 10-4 Dallas.


Sunday, November 23, 2014

PW's NFL Week 12 Predictions

By Peyton Wesner

Compared to last week there are not many marque matchups but I must say there are the possibility for some upsets in today's games. I mean who would have thought the Raiders would have beat the Chiefs Thursday night? Papí from "Highly Questionable" that's who!

6-4 Cleveland Browns 
at 4-6 Atlanta Falcons
The NFC South Division leader hosts the last place team in the AFC North today at the Georgia Dome. Isn't it kinda weird that the team with two more wins will most likely not make the playoffs when the team who is under .500 has a legitimate chance? I would say yes. Cleveland's Josh Gordon has been reinstated from his ten game suspension and provides an additional target for Brian Hoyer to go downfield to. Last week the Browns were dominated at home by J.J. Watt and the Houston Texans while their opponent the Atlanta Falcons won a close one to jump on top in their division against the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte. No one really knows what Browns' team will show up this afternoon nor what Falcons' team as both are very inconsistent in performances this season. Cleveland didn't have many targets to throw to before Gordon's reinstatement and Coach Pettine has stated that the Pro Bowl wide receiver will only get 20-30 snaps today. With Jordan Cameron out again with a concussion, I feel that the Falcons' defense will key on Gordon when he is in, ultimately shutting him down. For Atlanta, playing at the Dome is a significant advantage but Matt Ryan has a bad habit of throwing interceptions at the wrong time.  If Cleveland's defense plays a good game, this one could be a barn-burner.
---Atlanta 24, Cleveland 13

2-8 Tennessee Titans
at 7-3 Philadelphia Eagles
It's the battle of the backups at Lincoln Financial Field today as both week one quarterbacks for Tennessee (Jake Locker) and Philadelphia (Nick Foles) are hurt. Although Tennessee's Rookie quarterback Zach Mettenburger has lost all three of his starts so far in his young career he has done a pretty good job overall. In his three starts he has averaged a solid 247 yards per game while throwing 5 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. Someone who will give Mettenburger an extra target for the rest of the season is Delanie Walker as he is set to return from a concusion suffered in Baltimore on November 9. For Philadelphia, Mark Sanchez has thrown two touchdowns in each of his three game he has played. But with those touchdowns has come interceptions as last week against Green Bay and the week Foles was initially hurt against Houston he threw two INTs to go with the touchdowns. With a balanced offense that features the running duo of McCoy and Sproles, the Eagles will destroy the Titans and put pressure on the Cowboys in the NFC East.
---Philadelphia 38, Tennessee 13

7-3 Detroit Lions 
at 8-2 New England Patroits
The best game of the 1:00 PM Eastern starts is being played in Foxborough as Matthew Stafford and Megatron lead the Detroit Lions into Gillette Stadium, where the Patroits have not lost a game since Week 15 of the 2012 NFL Season. Detroit lost a close defensive game last week in Arizona as the offense never really got it going. To win today, Detroit's offense needs to score a lot of points. Now New England went into Lucas Oil Stadium last week and totally destroyed the AFC South Division Leader, Indianapolis Colts, 42-20. Brady had two touchdowns and two interceptions but the player that really stole the show was Jonas Gray. Gray ran for 201 yards on 37 carries with 4 touchdowns as Brady got him involved early and often. These day one can't really pick against New England without looking stupid, so I believe that Brady will destroy the Lions defense and make Suh look like a fool.
---New England 27, Detroit 17

7-3 Green Bay Packers
at 4-6 Minnesota Vikings
R-E-L-A-X..."RELAX" is the best sound bite of the year in the NFL. Since the Packers 1-2 start this season, Green Bay has gone 6-1 with their only lose coming to the New Orleans Saints at the Superdome. Aaron Rodgers is having another phenomenal season as he has 28 touchdowns and only 3 interceptions. Another impressive number for Rodgers is that he has yet to throw an interception in the month of November while he has thrown 9 touchdowns. I think the Vikings having four wins in their first ten games is a surprise to most. Another surprise is to see Teddy Bridgewater get the amount of playing time he has received so far in his rookie season. Bridgewater has struggled to say the least but has shown some signs of being the long term option for the Vikings going forward. The Packers offense is too good not to blow out the Vikings today at TCF Bank Stadium with the threats of Cobb, Nelson, Lacy, and "that baaaaadddd man" as Stephen A. Smith would say in Aaron Rodgers.
---Green Bay 41, Minnesota 10

1-9 Jacksonville Jaguars 
at 6-4 Indianapolis Colts
The Indianapolis Colts had a lot of wind taken out of their sail last week when Tom Brady and the Brady Bunch came into Indy and beat the Colts badly. Today's game starts the easy part in the Colts schedule as after today they face Washington at home, Cleveland on the road, Houston at home, Dallas on the road, and Tennessee on the road to end the season. All are very winnable games, but Dallas on the road will be a challenge as the Cowboys are rolling this season but one man is an advantage for Indianapolis...Andrew Luck. Luck has had another great season as he has already more touchdowns this season than his total in each of the last two seasons (28 this season, 23 in 2012 & 2013). The Blake Bortles era started this season in DuVal and the home grown product has been good to start his career. Despite the interception problem, Bortles has been good throwing the ball since he has almost no options to throw to. With Allen Robinson out for the season, the Colts will blitz and put much pressure on Bortles, which will ultimatley  cause interceptions. Also Luck will rebound from a tough game last week to tear up the Jags' defense. 
---Indianapolis 34, Jacksonville 20

6-3-1 Cincinnati Bengals
at 5-5 Houston Texans
This game has the potential to be a very low scoring affair because of the quality of both teams defense. The Bengals pulled off a very good win in the Superdome last week as their defense held the Saints to 10 points not in one half but the WHOLE GAME. Also, Andy Dalton had his best game of the season in one of the most hostile environments in the National Football League. Dalton was 16/22 for 220 yards and 3 touchdowns. Dalton is hated by many Cincinnatians because of his lack of success in the playoffs but he is the long term option in the Queen City. I don't think anyone predicted the Houston Texans to play this well this season. The Texans started off 3-1 but soon the loses started coming as they lost three straight to the Cowboys, Colts, and Steelers but each were single score defeats. The defense has been the star of the Houston Texans this season led by MVP Canidate J.J. Watt. Watt has been making a difference on both sides of the ball as he has caught touchdowns as a tight end in the red zone while forcing fumbles on the defensive side of the ball. Watt has truly been the leader on a great Texans defense that could pull off the upset today against the AFC North leading Cincinnati Bengals. Also with Ryan Mallet taking the starting quarterback job from Ryan Fitzpatrick, maybe fresh blood is exactly what Houston needs to take the AFC South from Indianapolis.
---Cincinnati 24, Houston 21

2-8 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
at 4-6 Chicago Bears
The Josh McCown bowl as it should be called is this afternoon as McCown returns to Chicago, a team that he led to wins when Jay Cutler was hurt last season. Tampa Bay is coming in on a one game winning streak as they went into Washington and beat RG3's Redskins. The Bears also were back in the win column as they beat Minnesota in a close 21-13 victory. Although there is small chance of the Bears making the playoffs, this game is very important in my eyes for Jay Cutler individually. If the Bears get beat by former quarterback Josh McCown, the fans will be mad that management kept Cutler over McCown. Since it is at Soldier Field, Chicago should win but Tampa Bay will fight hard.
---Chicago 24, Tampa Bay 20

9-1 Arizona Cardinals 
at 6-4 Seattle Seahawks
Arizona has one of the toughest schedules going down the stretch as they must play Seattle twice, @ San Francisco, and at home against Kansas City. The loss of Carson Palmer is significant as no one really knows if Drew Stanton can put enough points on the board. Arizona's defense is really good but defense can only take a team so far. Last week in Stanton's first game after Carson Palmer's season ending injury the Cardinals only scored 14 points but their defense held Stafford and the Lions to 6 points getting the win. Seattle has yet to show the dominance they had last season as the Seahawks have lost @ St. Louis, @ San Diego, and @ Kansas City. They even lost to the Dallas Cowboys at home!  To add onto the losses, there has been much speculation of locker room turmoil. First Percy Havin was said to be the problem, then Russell Wilson, and now Marshawn Lynch. What is really going on in Seattle? Only the players know. On top of the drama, Russell Wilson has struggled in multiple games this season and the defense is getting torn to shreads by the opposition's passing game. Today in Seattle I figure the Seahawks will win as without Palmer, Arizona's offense will struggle. The defense that causes the most turnovers will win the game. If Arizona loses today they must win in a few weeks against Seattle in Phoenix if they want any chance to win the NFC West for the first time since 2009.  
---Seattle 31, Arizona 14

4-6 St. Louis Rams at 6-4 San Diego Chargers
After Week 6, the Chargers looked like a lock to make the playoffs then three straight losses occurred including a 37-0 shutout against the Miami Dolphins. Last week, the Chargers won 13-6 against the Oakland Raiders who going in had not won a game. In the game last Sunday, San Diego's offense struggled to put points on the board. Now facing the Rams who have nothing but defense, San Diego will be challenged to put points on the board. On top of going against the Rams' D, Quarterback Phillip Rivers is dealing with a chest injury. If he is limited in mobility the Rams will feast on Rivers like they did against Peyton Manning last week in the upset of the season. For St. Louis, Austin Davis is no longer the quarterback as Jeff Fisher has given the starting job back to veteran Shaun Hill. The matchup of the game has got to be the Chargers offense versus the Rams defense. If the Rams keep the San Diego from advancing the ball downfield like Denver last week, it could be a long afternoon in Southern California for the Chargers.
---San Diego 17, St. Louis 14

3-7 Washington Redskins
at 6-4 San Francisco 49ers
At this point I don't think there is any doubt that San Francisco will win but will RG3 get benched? Robert Griffin III is back from his ankle injury but has continued his struggles from last season. Griffin III has played two games since he recovered and has played terrible in winnable games against Minnesota and Tampa Bay. Rumor is that if Griffin III plays bad this afternoon he will be benched for Colt McCoy, the hero of the Monday Night Football game in Dallas. While Washington's season is headed to the tank, things are beginning to look up for San Francisco as last week Aldon Smith was reinstated from his nine-game suspension. The 49ers are in a tough NFC West Division and need to continue winning to have a chance to make it into the playoffs. San Francisco's defense will rough up Griffin III in a total rout at Levi's Stadium.
---San Francisco 27, Washington 10

6-4 Miami Dolphins
at 7-3 Denver Broncos
Miami is definatly not the team the Denver Broncos want to play with their current offensive line trouble. The Miami Dolphins are having a good season and are in the chase for a AFC Wildcard spot. With a few extra days of rest and preparation since they played on Thursday Night Football on Week 11 against the Buffalo Bills, the Miami Dolphins have a real shot to give Denver their second straight loss. Tannehill has had a very good season for Miami as he is on pace to have career highs in touchdowns and passing yards. Also, that one guy who is the quarterback on Denver is also having another good season. Peyton Manning already has 30 touchdowns this season on 3,301 passing yards. But we must remember for Manning to be great, his offensive line must stop the defense's inside pressure and give him time in the pocket to throw. My two key matchups of the game is Denver's offensive line against the front four of the Miami Dolphins and the Dolphins offense versus Denver's defense.
---Denver 31, Miami 27

7-3 Dallas Cowboys
at 3-7 New York Giants
Is anyone still waiting for the Cowboys to start losing and end up missing the playoffs again this year? Well for all you Cowboy haters out there it could happen.  After the Cowboys last meeting with the Giants, Dallas was 6-1 and claimed by many to be the best team in the NFL, then disaster struck. Tony Romo hurt his back and then tried to enter back into the Monday Night Football game against Washington just for the Cowboys to end up getting beaten anyway. Then he missed a crucial matchup in a battle of six win teams against the Arizona Cardinals in Dallas. Brandon Weeden made the start for Romo as the Cowboys would lose the game 28-17. The next week Dallas played in London against the Jacksonville Jaguars and won 31-17. So are the Cowboys a real contender or not? We could find out tonight as they travel to East Rutherford, New Jersey to take on the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. It is pretty clear cut that the Giants will not make the playoffs but a win tonight against their hated rival would give the Giants and their fans something to celebrate as a win would help them stave of getting swept this season by Dallas. The way the Giants schedule sets up, a win tonight could possibly help them achieve .500 for the season as their schedule has winnable games coming up. The key of the game is to stop DeMarco Murray if you are a Giants fan. If the Giants defense can hold him under one hundred yards, they will have a legitimate chance to win. The key for the Cowboys is put pressure on the Giants' defense by feeding the ball to Murray and then use play action fakes to advance to ball down field via the pass. It should be a great game tonight unless Eli Manning starts turning the ball over, which brings me to my last key of the game: Eli Manning cannot turn over the ball two times if the Giants want to win. If he does, that is two more extra possessions for the Cowboys offense to punch the ball in for points.
---Dallas 30, New York 24

2-8 New York Jets
at 5-5 Buffalo Bills
The weather in Buffalo is frightful right now as the city is covered by 7 feet of snow causing the game to be moved from the winter wonderland of Buffalo, New York to Ford Field home of the Detroit Lions. Currently the Bills are 5-5 and fighting for a .500 season for the first time since 2004. Buffalo started off hot this season with two big wins against the Chicago Bears and Miami Dolphins. Then all of a sudden with a record of 5-3, Buffalo lost a close game at home against Kansas City and another game at Miami dropping them back to .500 for the season. Last season the New York Jets, somehow, under rookie quarterback Geno Smith, achieved a record of 8-8 and this year was expected to be better as the players and Rex Ryan talked up the chances of them being a playoff team. That didn't happen and won't as going into Week 12, the Jets have won only two games, one against the Raiders in Week 1, and another in their last game against the Steelers. Both teams have had quarterbacks issues. For Buffalo, E.J. Manuel struggled after the first two games and ended up getting benched for Kyle Orton, who in his first start beat the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. For the Jets, Geno Smith is playing worse than last year, something no one even thought was possible. Smith has 7 touchdowns to his 10 interceptions and 6 fumbles, a terrible statline to say the least. Now Michael Vick is in who has been great at times in his career. In Week 10, the Jets last game, Vick led New York to an upset win over the Pittsburgh Steelers who was coming in hot. Can Vick do it again tonight in Detroit against a Bills team with a good defense or will he turn over the ball like he has done in the past? I guess we will have to wait and see.
---Buffalo 24, New York 16

6-4 Baltimore Ravens 
at 4-6 New Orleans Saints
The second AFC North vs. NFC South matchup of the week occurs on Monday Night Football between the Baltimore Ravens and the New Orleans Saints. The Ravens have been very good this season despite missing three time Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice for the whole season. Now with a 6-4 record you would think Baltimore is close to the top of the AFC, right...WRONG! Baltimore needs a win tomorrow night to ensure not being down at least a game in their division. New Orleans is in the opposite situation as even with a 4-6 record they have a chance to win their division and receive a playoff birth as well as a home playoff game. The problem is that this New Orleans team is not as good as the team from the 2009 Super Bowl run or last year's team who winded up winning 11 games. Yes, New Orleans still has Drew Brees but the Saints' defense is costing the team wins this season under Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan. New Orleans' opponents average 25.2 points per game, which is 22nd worst in the NFL. Also, there is a bit of history for the Baltimore tomorrow evening as Joe Flacco and some other Ravens return to the site that the Baltimore Ravens won the Super Bowl against Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers, 21 months ago. My key matchup of the game is Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense versus Rob Ryan's defense. We all know that with Drew Brees at the helm, New Orleans can score points but can Flacco match Brees and his offense. To close, last week when the Bengals beat the Saints that was the first time since 2012 that New Orleans had lost back-to-back games at the Superdome. I don't imagine they will lose a third in a row.
---New Orleans 34, Baltimore 30