Category Archives: NCAAB

Recapping the 2013-2014 Connecticut Basketball Season

Although the Connecticut Huskies ended the season as the national champions and the number one team in the nation, the season was not flawless. During the season, the team went through a lot of ups and downs. Throughout the season, the team was led by their guards, which was one of the best units in the country. Although the guards were the most important part of the team and led the team to the championship, the improvement of the front court players drastically improved their chances and allowed them to compete with bigger and more physical teams.

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The Huskies were unable to compete in the tournament last season because the NCAA banned them from postseason competition. Since the Huskies were unable to meet the minimum APR score, which is calculated by analyzing the grade point average of the team and the graduation percentage of the team, they were on academic probation. Although the Huskies were national champions two seasons prior to the 2012-2013 season, a few players did not want to stay on the Connecticut squad. Many players, such as Alex Oriakhi and Roscoe Smith, two important contributors to the national championship team, did not want to waste a year of eligibility and questioned Kevin Ollie as a coach. Oriakhi, if he did not enter the 2013 draft, and Smith would have been starters on the current team because of their experience and skill. The duo would have added depth to the roster, which was devoid of talented big men. Although the duo left the school, Ollie was able to convince Shabazz Napier, DeAndre Daniels, Niels Giffey, and Ryan Boatright to remain on the team because of their potential. Prior to the season, the Huskies were ranked 18th in the AP top 25 because of their experience and talented back court led by then starters Napier and Omar Calhoun. At the beginning of the season, Ollie started a small lineup with Napier, Calhoun, Boatright, Daniels, and Phillip Nolan. On the bench, the Huskies had Amida Brimah, Niels Giffey, Terrence Samuel, Lasan Kromah, and Tyler Olander.

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Shabazz Napier led the back court

Connecticut started the season with a non-conference matchup against Maryland. The game was similar to many of the other games at the start of the season for Connecticut because it went down to the wire, but Shabazz Napier was able to lead them to a win during almost every situation. Napier led the team with 18 points and the team won 77-76, the second most points allowed in a regulation game. After the win against the Terps, the Huskies were able to win their next three games comfortably against Yale, Detroit, and Boston. The Huskies headed into their contest with Boston College and Indiana ranked 18th in the country. Although both games were decided by a combined 3 points, it showed that the Huskies had a lot of heart and had the “clutch gene” to win close and pressure filled games. During the two games, the Huskies were led by Napier, who scored at least 20 points in each game.

The two wins propelled the Huskies to the 13th ranking and a 6-0 record. The Huskies defeated Loyola and brought their 12th ranked and 7-0 record to their game against the 15th ranked Florida Gators. Like the other games, the Huskies were able to win at the buzzer on a last second shot by Shabazz Napier. Napier was huge during the game and led the team with 26 points. This game was the biggest win of the regular season because it gave the Huskies confidence that they could beat any team in the nation during their tough stretches in the middle of the season. The wins against the Gators and Maine propelled Connecticut to the 10th ranking and a 9-0 record. The team took their undefeated record into a neutral court game against the Stanford Cardinals.

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However, the team would not leave undefeated and they suffered their first loss of the season, 53-51. Shabazz had a horrible game and finished with only 12 points on 5-13 shooting. Along with Napier, Calhoun went 1-8 and Boatright was 3-11. The lone bright spot was DeAndre Daniels, who finished with 15 points, 4 blocks, and shot 60% from the field. Daniels was huge for the Huskies for most of the season because he has incredible talent and size, which allows him to play guard multiple positions and score from all around the court. The loss to Stanford started a bad stretch of games for the club. Although the loss looked bad at the time, Stanford showed during the NCAA tournament that they have a lot of talent and were a quality club.

After the loss, the Huskies were able to regroup and win their next two games against Washington and Eastern Kentucky. During their non-conference schedule, the Huskies finished 11-1 and started their conference schedule with two games in Texas against Houston and SMU. The team probably wished they never headed to the Lone Star state because they were unable to win either of the games. Although SMU proved to be a good team, Houston was horrible this season. The two losses dropped Connecticut out of the top 25 and former starter, Omar Calhoun, was placed at the end of the bench and was not given much playing time toward the end of the season. The lone bright spot of the trip was that Kevin Ollie took the team to AT&T Stadium, the location of the Final Four. He told his team during that trip that they would make it back to the Cowboys Stadium in order to play for the national championship.

DeAndre Daniels catalyzed the front court
DeAndre Daniels catalyzed the front court

The team returned to Storrs and beat Harvard and Central Florida before their games against 17th ranked Memphis and 18th ranked Louisville. Although the Huskies were down at the half, Connecticut was able to upset the Tigers, which gave them confidence and their 14th win of the season. During the game, Daniels was great and posted a double-double, while Napier scored 17 points. After the win at Memphis, Connecticut returned home to play the Cardinals, but lost by double digits. This was the first of three losses to Louisville. During the game, Napier was able to score 30, but no one else was able to score more than 10 points. After the loss to Louisville, the Huskies were able to win their next three games against Temple, Rutgers, and Houston, three of the worst teams in the conference. The team improved to 17-4 after their 3 game winning streak and returned inside the rankings.

The team headed into a big game against the 7th best team in the nation, Cincinnati. Although the team played well against the great Cincy defense, the Bearcats held on and beat the Huskies by the score of 63-58. After the loss, the Huskies went on a four game winning streak by beating Central Florida, South Florida, Memphis, and Temple. The game against Memphis was fantastic as they were ranked 20th and the game went into overtime before UConn was able to pull the victory out. After the four game winning streak, the Huskies returned home to play the SMU Mustangs, but lost their second straight game to the Mustangs. Like the Louisville Cardinals, UConn was horrible against SMU as 5 of their 8 losses were against these two teams. Both games were not very close as the Mustangs, led by Larry Brown, beat the Huskies by 9 points. The Mustangs were able to play great defense against the Huskies, especially against Shabazz. Connecticut shot only 33% from the field and Shabazz combined for only 27 points.

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After the loss to the Mustangs, the Huskies went on a three game winning streak against South Florida, Cincinnati, and Rutgers. The win against the Bearcats was huge for the Huskies because it gave them another great win as they were ranked 11th before the loss. UConn headed into their regular season finale against the Cardinals with the number 19 ranking and a 24-6 record. However, the Huskies wished they never had to play the Cardinals. The game was an absolute disaster for Connecticut as the game was never very close. If the Cardinals only showed up for the second half, they still would have beat UConn. The loss to Louisville put a serious dent in the Huskies momentum and many believed that they would falter early in the AAC Championship and NCAA tournament.

However, the Huskies were able to respond and made the finals of the AAC tournament. During the quarters and semifinals, the Huskies defeated the Memphis Tigers for the third time this season and barely eked out a win against the Bearcats by 2 points. During the tournament, the comparisons between Napier and Kemba Walker started to grow as they both are small scoring point guards that had the leadership to will teams to victories. Unlike Walker, Napier was unable to lead the Huskies to their conference title as they lost to Louisville for the third time this season. However, it was the best game they played against the Cardinals, which gave the team confidence heading into the NCAA tournament. The Huskies were able to finish the regular season with a 26-8 record and were ranked 21st before the tournament. The team MVP was Napier, who averaged 18 points, 6 assists, 6 rebounds, 2 steals, and won the AAC Player of the Year award. Along with Napier, Daniels and Boatright had good seasons as they both averaged more than 10 points per game.

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Although Connecticut was confident that they would receive a bid to the tournament, they were worried about their seed as they did not have a strong non-conference schedule and did not record many top 25 wins. When the committee released the bracket on Selection Sunday, they pitted St. Joesph’s against Connecticut in the second round of the tournament. Although the Huskies were a seven seed, many experts were picking against UConn because St. Joes were hot and many questioned the Huskies ability to win. Although the Huskies were not great during the regular season, they had the components to win a national title. Like many other teams that succeeded during the tournament, the Huskies were led by a their guards, played great defense, and had talented, athletic rim protectors in the front court.

The game against St. Joes would be a precursor to the rest of the tournament. Although the Huskies were down by as many as 9 during the first half, they were able to lower the deficit to 5 by the end of the first half. Over the next 20 minutes of play, the game was extremely close and neither team was able to create a big lead. Although most of the game went through the center Halil Kanaevic because he is a talented passer, Langston Galloway was the main scorer for the team and posted 25 points during the game. Although Shabazz was the star of the game and scored 24 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists, and 3 steals, Amida Brimah had the play of the game. Down by three with 43 seconds, Shabazz Napier missed a runner, but Brimah was able to collect the offensive rebound and score, while obtaining the foul.  Although Brimah is a bad foul shooter, he was able to convert free throw to tie the game. Also, the foul on Kanacevic was his fifth and final foul. St. Joes missed the shot at the buzzer and the game went into overtime. In overtime, the Huskies took over from the free throw line, especially Shabazz Napier. 14 of Connecticut’s 19 points were by free throws and Napier scored 9 points. During the game, Connecticut shot 90% from the line, which allowed them to separate from the Eagles. During the second half, the Huskies were able to lock down on defense and stop the Eagles, which allowed them to return in the game.

After the game, the Huskies were set to play the Villanova Wildcats. Many believed that the Huskies could beat the Wildcats because they had more talent than Villanova and they were not playing well. Although the Huskies were hot after the overtime win, they started the game very slowly. During the first 9 and half minutes of play, the Huskies found themselves in a 19-9 deficit and their leader, Shabazz, was in foul trouble and forced to sit. However, the Huskies were able to shut down the Nova offense and they held them to only 5 points during the rest of the half. Along with their great defense, the Kromah, Samuel, Boatright, and Daniels stepped up and led UConn to a 25-24 lead at the half. During the second half of the game, Napier took over the game and scored 21 of his 25 points in the second half. Each time the Wildcats were attempting a comeback, Napier, Daniels, and Boatright were able to stop the effort and held onto a 12 point win, which gave them a bid to the sweet sixteen and a trip to Madison Square Garden. Besides Napier, four other players, Samuel, Kromah, Daniels, and Boatright scored in double figures and Giffey added 11 rebounds in the winning effort. After the win over Nova, the Huskies returned back to the Garden. Since the Big East played their conference tournament at the Garden, Connecticut had many great games and great wins.

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Although the Iowa State Cyclones were many experts’ pick to reach the Elite Eight and possibly the Final Four, they lost their starting center Georges Niang in the second round due to a broken foot. Niang was a huge loss for the Cyclones because he is a good defensive player and has the ability to score from all over the court. The game had many interesting match-ups like the point guard battle between Kane and Napier and the small forward battle between Ejim and Daniels. Fortunately for the Huskies, they were able to win both match-ups and eventually the game. Daniels had the game of his life, while recording 27 points, 10 rebounds, and 2 blocks. Daniels was able to hold the Big 12 player of the year, Ejim, to only 7 points on 3-13 shooting. Napier put up 19 points, 5 assists, and 5 rebounds while Kane put up 16 points on 6-18 shooting. Although Dustin Hogue drastically outplayed Ryan Boatright and scored 34 points, Connecticut outperformed Iowa State on the free throw line, like many other teams. UConn shot 20-22 (91%) from the line while the Cyclones shot only 6-15 (40%). Unlike the other games, Connecticut was able to jump out to an early lead and extended their lead throughout the game. Although the Cyclones made a run late to tighten the score, the Huskies ultimately won 81-76.

Like many times before, UConn used the Garden crowd to lead them to a huge win to the Elite Eight against the Michigan State Spartans. Although many believed that the Huskies had a great chance of winning the previous three games, they received very little support before their game against the Spartans. Many believed that the Spartans were the best team in the tourney because they had every aspect of a championship team. Although the Huskies were able to reach out to a quick 12-2 lead, the Spartans did not give up and took a 25-21 game at the half. The Spartans were hitting threes and forced the Huskies to take bad shots at the end of the shot clock. After the half, the Spartans got off to a quick start and pushed the lead to 9 (32-23) points before the Huskies turned around their game. The Huskies started playing the type of basketball that would lead them to the National title. The Huskies started playing suffocating defense by stopping drives, forcing the Spartans to shoot jumpers, and using their interior length to alter shots inside the paint. On offense, the team starting shooting the three effectively, driving into the lane, and shooting free throws at a record pace. Over the next ten minute stretch, the Huskies were able to outscore the Spartans by 19 points and put together a 10 point lead. Although the Spartans cut the lead to 2 with 2 minutes, the Huskies were able to make every clutch play, stop the Spartans on offense, and make their free throws to solidify their trip to the Final Four. Although the Huskies shot only 35% from the field, they shot 21-22 from the line (95%), held the Spartans 39% from the field, and the Spartans scored only 7 field goals inside the arc. While Shabazz played great on offense, 25 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists, Boatright was fantastic on defense by limiting Appling from scoring many points or setting up opposing teammates. Also, he recorded 4 steals and converted on numerous fast break opportunities.

For the first time since Kemba, the Huskies were in the Final Four. The comparisons between Walker and Napier grew because they both led their teams to the Final Four with their will and talent. Like Ollie told his team after their loss to Houston, the Huskies made it to the Dallas and the Final Four. In the Final Four, the Huskies were set to play the number one overall seed and the team with a 30 game winning streak, Florida Gators. However, the Huskies were the last team to beat the Gators. Many believed that the Huskies would be exposed on the glass and the interior because they did not have the size, strength, or experience like the Gators. Many felt the game in December was a fluke and the Huskies should not have won. After the first 11 minutes of the game,  the experts looked correct as the Gators took an early 16-4 lead. However, like many times before during the previous four games, the Huskies turned to their defense and three point shooting to get them back in the game. Daniels hit 2 threes, Boatright hit a three, Samuel made a layup and the lead was diminished to only one point. By the end of the half, the Huskies took a 25-22 lead and held the Gators to only 6 points over the final 9 minutes while they scored 21. Although Napier did not have a great half offensively, his ability to  stop Scottie Wilbekin’s ball pressure, along with Boatright, forced the offense to crumple. During the first 8 minutes of the second half, the Huskies built a ten point lead because the Gators were unable to stop UConn’s dribble penetration. Although the Gators were able to cut the lead to 3 because of Patric Young’s strength and skill against the inexperience front line, the UConn guards and Daniels were always able to maintain their lead with their feisty on the ball defense, free throw shooting, and alley oops. Although it was a bold maneuver, Ollie went with a small lineup because it allowed them to spread the floor and play pressure defense. Luckily, they were hitting their threes, which forced Billy Donovan to match the small lineup. Also, Wilbekin suffered a nagging injury to his leg, which stopped his explosiveness. Although many feel that it is difficult to shoot in an arena like Cowboys’ Stadium, the Huskies shot 56% against the vaunted Gators’ defense and 77% from the foul line. Although Napier scored only 12 points, he recorded 4 steals and 6 assists. The Huskies were the first 7 seed to ever advance to the final.

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In the final, UConn was set to play the Kentucky Wildcats, which were led by 6 McDonalds All Americans. Like the other games, the experts believed that the huge and athletic Wildcats would greatly out rebound the Huskies. However, if Napier wanted to cement his legacy and complete the comparisons with Kemba Walker, he needed to win this game and will the lesser Huskies to a National Championship. Like the other games, the Huskies wanted to play small and fast in order to minimize the size of the Cats. Although the Huskies were able to jump out to a 30-15 with 5 minutes to go in the first half, Calipari switched his defense to a zone in order to stop the speed of Connecticut and use his size. The move was a great move by Calipari and the Cats cut Connecticut’s lead to only 4 at the half. Many believed that the Wildcats would win the game because many of their other games play out similar to this game. However, they never played a team with the same amount of heart and tenacity as UConn. In the second half, Kentucky frequently cut the lead to a one possession game, but were never able to tie or overtake UConn. Ryan Boatright was consistently in the face of the taller Harrison twins. Although Daniels played his worst game of the tournament, Napier made almost every big play on offense and occasionally Boatright or Giffey made a bucket late to seal the win for the team. Napier had a great game, 22 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals. Boatright was very effective, 14 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals. Like the other games, the Huskies were money from the free throw line, 10-10 while the Wildcats shot only 13-24. Although the Wildcats had a lot more size than the”hungry” huskies, UConn out rebounded the Cats 34-33. Although many thought that Connecticut winning the National Championship would be a pipe dream, they played with more heart, tenacity, and will than any other team in their way. Also, Ollie was great and frequently made bold decisions that paid off in the end. Lastly, they ability to not beat themselves, play great defense, force the opposing teams to shoot from the outside, and make free throws enabled them to win.

Pics and stats from ESPN.com

NBA Mock Draft 1.0

By: Evan

As March Madness approaches and the NBA playoff picture becomes clear, prospects are trying their best to impress scouts so they can hear their name called by commissioner Adam Silver. This draft class has been hyped since the summer,  and now we are starting to appreciate why franchises may be willing to “tank” for high draft picks.  It is rare to have 4-5 franchise players in the top 10, as well as other talented players projected to fall to the mid teens.  GMs have their work to do.  Here is my mock draft, which is subject to change based on draft position (#1-#21 from position standing on 3-3-14 and #22 to end from 3-13-14) and whether players will declare for the NBA draft.

1.) Milwaukee Bucks- Joel Embiid (Center- Kansas)

Joel Embiid has too much potential to pass up Courtesy of Bleacherreport.com
Joel Embiid has too much potential to pass up
Courtesy of Bleacherreport.com

Why the Pick:  Joel Embiid came into his freshmen season as the mystery of the Kansas Jayhawks’ recruiting class, overshadowed by the talent of Wayne Selden and Andrew Wiggins.  Now, Embiid has emerged as one of the best players in the country. Scouts  compare him to a young Hakeem Olajuwon, one of the best centers of all-time with a litany of vicious post moves that would stun defenders. Embiid has earned this comparison(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Irvvb7Y4-w) and might be a better defender than Olajuwon was when he was at Houston. Embiid’s numbers don’t shout superstar as he only averages 11.4 ppg and 8 rpg but what drives the interest is his upside — he can become the best center in the NBA.  And savvy evaluators know Embiid  has to compete currently for shots with Wiggins and Selden, two prolific wing players with NBA futures themselves.

How does he fit the Bucks: Embiid may have a tough rookie season as he would need to adjust to playing more physical centers and the attention he would attract as the main scoring option. The Bucks also have Larry Sanders, a defensive player who takes up most of the paint and would leave Embiid fighting for position. The Bucks could try to trade Sanders but his poor performance this season combined with his hefty contract makes him an unattractive option. If the Bucks can deal Sanders, then Embiid would likely flourish and  reach his Olajuwon-like potential.

2.) Philadelphia 76ers- Andrew Wiggins (Forward- Kansas)

Andrew Wiggins isn't the next Lebron but that doesn't mean he can't be a star.  Courtesy of Ballislife.com
Andrew Wiggins isn’t the next Lebron but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a star.
Courtesy of Ballislife.com

Why the Pick: If the 76ers land at number 2 and Wiggins is still available, expect them to sprint to the podium to make this pick. Now Wiggins came to college with unfair expectations, drawing comparisons to LeBron James and Kevin Durant, the two best players in the NBA.  As the season has progressed, we are starting to see why these comparisons were made.  Watching Wiggins drop 41 on West Virginia, (where he played high school ball), he showed a full array of offensive moves and defensive tenacity.  His athleticism is off the charts, and at the absolute worst, Wiggins will be able to guard  premier wing players in the NBA.  Some question his motor but Andrew has shown that when the lights get bright, he won’t disappoint.   He tends to have his best games in the biggest games.  Everyone will be watching Kansas during the tournament,  and it won’t surprise me if Wiggins takes over and proves why he is the best player in America.

How he fits: With Michael Carter-Williams as the front runner for ROY (Look at Jon’s article for his predictions on the major NBA awards) and Nerlens Noel recovering from a torn ACL, the 76ers would have one the youngest cores in the NBA.  And given the pitiful 76er season, Wiggins would undoubtedly create excitement in the city of brotherly love.  Wiggins would immediately become the primary scorer and expected to average between 18-22 ppg. If Brett Brown can tap into Wiggins’ potential, the Sixers could be for real very soon.

3.) Orlando Magic- Jabari Parker (Forward-Duke)

Parker will bring a offensive  repertoire that is unparalleled.  Courtesy of CBSPORTS.com
Parker will bring a offensive repertoire that is unparalleled.
Courtesy of CBSPORTS.com

Why the Pick: The Magic need a franchise player who can score and Parker would help solve this problem as he can score in bunches. He can face up and bring players to the outside and  body smaller players down low with his 6’8 235 lbs frame. Averaging 19 and 9, Parker can take over a game with his ability to knock down shots and take pressure off bigs on the defensive glass. Parker also brings leadership and a high basketball IQ  that has impressed scouts. Future potential is a great asset, but being able to contribute immediately is Parker’s calling card.  Parker is a game changer and the Magic need immediate help.

How he fits: Parker would step into the 3 spot and establish himself as the main scoring threat. With Victor Oladipo and Arron Afflalo at the wings, things could get crowded but Afflalo only has 1 year left on his contract so he can be moved on draft day. With the defensive threat of Oladipo and the offensive prowess of Parker, the Magic would improve and have a solid nucleus of talent.

4.) Boston Celtics- Julius Randle (Forward-Kentucky)

Julius Randle is strong and should be a force down low. Courtesy of Bleacherreport.com
Julius Randle is strong and should be a force down low.
Courtesy of Bleacherreport.com

Why the pick: Julius Randle is probably the best equipped to deal with the NBA’s physical punishment of the top like picks as he stands 6’9 250 lbs. Randle is  extremely athletic (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zt8pMZ7Gg-M) and shoots well from about 15-20 ft. He doesn’t shoot as much at Kentucky because of the perimeter-oriented players like the Harrison twins and James Young. There is no doubt that Randle could be a double-double machine in the NBA and may develop into a primary scorer.

How he fits: With the coaching ability of Brad Stevens and the return of Rajon Rondo, Randle should be just fine in terms of having success in his rookie year.  Imagine a Rajon Rondo/Julius Randle pick and roll, with Rondo’s ability to get into the lane if the big comes out and switches, combined with Randle’s size against a smaller guard.  This duo could be potent.  Boston would still be in rebuilding mode though as they have numerous holes to fill.

5.) Utah Jazz- Gary Harris (Guard-Michigan State)

Gary Harris is exactly who the Jazz need to make the next step. Courtesy of Sports Illustrated
Gary Harris is exactly who the Jazz need to make the next step.
Courtesy of Sports Illustrated

Why the Pick: The Jazz have a nice young nucleus with Trey Burke, Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors, but they lack a defensive stopper. Gary Harris is a tremendous two-player who could guard the elite playmakers in the West. He averages 17.7 ppg and 2 spg for the Spartans but his numbers don’t encompass his true value as Harris is asked to take all the big shots for Coach Izzo and he  creates shots by himself. This is an important quality for any two-guard as scoring in the NBA won’t always be generated from a drawn-up set.

How he fits: Alec Burks is a good offensive player but he is nowhere near the overall player that Harris is, hence why Harris would start on the currently constructed Jazz team. Come crunch time, Tyrone Corbin should feel comfortable throwing Harris on the opposing teams’ best player.

6.) Los Angeles Lakers- Dante Exum (Guard-Australia)

Dante Exum is an unknown to many basketball fans, but he could become the star of this draft. Courtesy of Bleacherreport.com
Dante Exum is an unknown to many basketball fans, but he could become the star of this draft.
Courtesy of Bleacherreport.com

Why the Pick: Sorry Lakers fans, the Kobe days are dwindling and they will need an heir to the franchise. Enter Dante Exum, the slim guard from down under. Exum is a super-quick combo guard who, standing at 6’6 is a nightmare for smaller guards. He can also pass, making him an even more intriguing prospect. He needs to work on his shot and his time training with the renowned Tim Grover (trainer of MJ, Kobe and D-Wade) should be beneficial. If Exum falls this far, there is no doubt the Lakers should take him.

How he fits: This draft process could be interesting as Exum is represented by Rob Pelinka, Kobe’s agent and rumors are swirling that Exum wants to end up in LA. All that hoopla aside, Exum will be a secondary type of scorer but learning from one of the most prolific scorers in history of the NBA shouldn’t hurt. After Kobe’s days are done, look for Exum to assert himself as the Lakers’ superstar.

7.) Denver Nuggets (Pick from Knicks)- Marcus Smart (Guard Oklahoma State)

Marcus Smart would fill the 2 spot for the Nuggets Courtesy of Draftexpress.com
Marcus Smart give the Nuggets a legitimate 2 guard.
Courtesy of Draftexpress.com

Why the Pick: Even though Smart has had a down sophomore season, make no mistake his talent is off the charts. He can penetrate and finish at the rim and is a tenacious defender. He is also a vocal leader, evident by his invitation to last years’ Team USA summer camp. Frankly, the overreaction to Smart’s incident in Texas Tech is disappointing and I don’t think his stock will be impacted by the incident. He desperately needs to work on his outside shooting and even if he becomes a 45% percent shooter, his game will improve.

How he fits: Smart is deadly on the fast break and Denver currently averages 100 offensive possessions, best for 3rd in the NBA, making Smart a perfect fit for Brian Shaw’s up-tempo style. Smart won’t have the pressure of being the main scorer as Ty Lawson has that covered. Smart should start though, as the Nuggets don’t have a real threat at the two-guard position.

8.) Sacramento Kings- Aaron Gordon (Forward-Arizona)

Could Gordon be the missing piece to the Kings' puzzle? Courtesy of Bleacherreport.com
Could Gordon be the missing piece to the Kings’ puzzle?
Courtesy of Bleacherreport.com

Why the Pick: Gordon, like Wiggins was given an unfair comparison, this time comparing Gordon to Blake Griffin. While the two are both supremely athletic, Blake was much more refined in college and now has become a top 10 player in the NBA. Gordon can rebound, play defense on the perimeter and is a terrific passer in the post. His shot needs work, but his outside game will never be the focal point of Gordon’s success. Gordon also has a hot motor, a value overlooked by many fans.

How he fits: The Kings have a boatload of individual talent in Isaiah Thomas, Ben McLemore, Rudy Gay, Derrick Williams and DeMarcus Cousins but the wins are coming. Gordon won’t put up gaudy stats in  his rookie year but he will definitely provide the necessary intangibles to win games. He reminds me of another Wildcat, Andre Iguodala, who never put up ridiculous stats, but has been a team leader and can defend the other team’s best player.

9.) Cleveland Cavaliers- Rodney Hood (Forward-Duke)

Rodney Hood could be the perfect fit with fellow Dukie, Kyrie Irivng. Courtesy of ESPN
Rodney Hood could be the perfect fit with fellow Dukie, Kyrie Irivng.
Courtesy of ESPN

Why the Pick: With Luol Deng going to test free agency and LeBron not thinking about going back home, the Cavs are going to need a scoring wing player. Hood has a strong offensive array, combing individual moves with the ability to come off of Duke’s typical sreen-action. He is shooting 48 percent from the field and 42.5 percent from the three and has played a tremendous secondary role for Duke. He needs to work on his defense, which is strange for a Duke player  from the Coach K system, but with more time and good NBA coaching, he should improve.

How he fits: Hood probably will be a third option on a good team, but for the Cavs he could be the second option behind Kyrie. The Cavaliers could use a knock-down shooter to reap the kick-outs of Kyrie’s driving prowess and Hood fits. Hood doesn’t have the potential as some of the previous prospects, but he should be good for 15-18ppg for his career, making him a safe pick for the troubled Cavaliers.

10.) Philadelphia 76ers (Pick from New Orleans)- Zach LaVine (Guard UCLA)

Zach LaVine could vault up draft boards if UCLA has a good tournament. Courtesy of UCLABRUINS.com
Zach LaVine could vault up draft boards if UCLA has a good tournament.
Courtesy of UCLAbruins.com

Why the Pick: The 76ers could change their franchise if New Orleans falls out the top 5 (part of the protection of this pick) and LaVine would provide an even more athletic piece to this team, already loaded with young talent. LaVine can shoot although he is a bit streaky evident by his 14 games with less than 10 points yet he has 8 games with over 15 points. These numbers don’t scream lottery pick, but his potential is worth the risk for the Sixers. He shoots 40 percent from behind the arc, and averaging a steal per game, LaVine does play both ends of the courts.

How he fits: LaVine can handle the ball, which would enable Michael Carter to play off the ball more and since LaVine can shoot he would open up driving lanes. Just imagine a Michael Carter Williams, Zach LaVine, Andrew Wiggins, Thaddeus Young and Nerlens Noel lineup, not bad at all. The 76ers like to push the tempo, which would allow  the super-athletic LaVine to get out on the break and finish at the rim.

11.) Charlotte Bobcats- James Young (Guard- Kentucky)

James Young has the potential to be a all-star shooting guard. Courtesy of Yahoo Sports
James Young has the potential to be an all-star shooting guard.
Courtesy of Yahoo Sports

Why the Pick: James Young can flat out get buckets, and if he didn’t play for the Kentucky Wildcats, he would surely be averaging over 14.4 ppg. He has elite size for a two guard, standing at 6’6 with a 6’11 wingspan, meaning he will be able to get up shots on the NBA level. He needs to work on his defense but the size and instincts to become a solid perimeter defender are there, evident by his five steals in his last five games.

How he fits: Every team needs at least two scorers who can create for themselves and there is no doubt that Young would be able to fit this role in Charlotte. If he learns from the best player in the history of the game in MJ, James Young could have an advantage over the other prospects listed above him. It wouldn’t surprise me if Young became a 20+ scorer in due time.

12.) Orlando Magic (Pick from Nuggets)- Noah Vonleh (Forward- Indiana)

Noah Vonleh could flourish in Orlando bringing terrific rebounding and a developing post game Courtesy of Insidethehall.com
Noah Vonleh could flourish in Orlando bringing terrific rebounding and a developing post game
Courtesy of Insidethehall.com

Why the Pick: Noah Vonleh came into Indiana as the next must-see player in Hoosier basketball and he has lived up to the hype. He averages 11.4 ppg and 9.1 all while shooting over 50% from the field. He has a nice inside-out type game and can shoot from 3, despite his hesitancy to do so. Vonleh also has a solid power forward sized body, standing 6’10 240 lbs, which means he should be able to play against the elite power forwards in NBA.

How he fits: Now that “Big Baby Davis” is gone, the Magic could use help at the power forward position. Vonleh would be given time to develop as a scorer as he could leave the scoring to Jabari (see above). There is no doubt that Vonleh can rebound and with his evolving offensive game, he could develop into a solid starter and maybe make an all-star team or two.

13.) Minnesota Timberwolves- Doug McDermott (Forward-Creighton)

Doug McDermott could be the perfect fit if Kevin Love should leave the Wolves. Courtesy of CBSSports.com
Doug McDermott could be the perfect fit if Kevin Love should leave the Wolves.
Courtesy of CBSSports.com

Why the Pick: Doug “McBuckets” McDermott is probably the safest NBA prospect as he will always be able to score the basketball. With over 3,000 points in his Creighton career, Doug is currently 7th on the list of all time college scorers. He has a bevy of offensive moves as he can use his big body in the post and can shoot from outside, with a 3pt shooting percentage of 45%. The NBA has a propensity to draft players with potential, and there is no doubt that McDermott deserves a lottery selection.

How he fits: In the caption I said that McDermott could be the perfect fit should Kevin Love leave the Wolves. This is not saying that McDermott will be the next Kevin Love, rather McDermott has a similar playing style as a stretch 4 that can shoot the three. McDermott could learn the game sitting behind Love and should Love leave during free-agency, McDermott could step in and contribute.

14.) Memphis Grizzlies- Jerami Grant (Forward-Syracuse)

Jerami Grant could be a nice pick for the Grizz, providing an immediate defensive presence and an evolving offensive game. Courtesy of NCAA.com

Why the Pick: Jerami Grant is a NBA-ready athlete that uses his athleticism to beat opposing wings at the college level. Grant can shoot from the midrange but needs to work on his 3-point shot, which is essential for a small forward. He can defend using his 7’2 wingspan and knows defensive rotations as he leads from the back line of Syracuse’s famed 2-3 zone.

How he fits: Sure the Grizz could use some more perimeter oriented offense to combine with Z-Bo and Marc Gasol, but Grant has too much potential to pass up. As his offensive game evolves, Grant could become a 15 ppg player who provides tough defense to guard the opposing team’s best wing player. As Tony Allen primarily defends smaller and quicker point guards, Grant could lock down forwards, making for a dynamic defensive duo.

15.) Atlanta Hawks- Tyler Ennis (Guard-Syracuse)

Tyler Ennis is #15 now, but that could change in the coming weeks. Courtesy of Bleacherreport.com

Why the Pick: Tyler Ennis is a killer, he is calm under pressure (this has been said a billion times) and has led Syracuse to a 27-4 record this year and possibly a number one seed should the Orange win the ACC title. Ennis serves as a pass first point guard, looking for others to score then taking his own shots. Averaging 5.5 assists per game along with only 1.7 turnovers a game, he is showing why he is a lead candidate for the Bob Cousy award. He is not an elite athlete and with so many explosive players at the point guard position, the questions remains whether Ennis can handle the faster guards.

How he fits: The Hawks don’t need a point guard seeing as they drafted Dennis Schroder last year and just signed Jeff Teague to an extension, there is always room for improvement and I believe Ennis is a significant upgrade. Teague’s contract is relatively friendly with only $24 million owed for the next three years, making it a movable piece for the Hawks. If Ennis could be paired with Paul Milsap and a healthy Al Horford, the Hawks could be in business. The problem is if Ennis has a spectacular tournament, his stock will rise and will probably be off the board before the Hawks have a chance to get him. Ennis is a good bet to be the player picked later in the draft that turns out to be a top-5 player in the class.

16.) Chicago Bulls- (Pick from Charlotte) TJ Warren (Forward-North Carolina State)

TJ Warren is exactly who the Bulls need to help them take the next step. Courtesy of ESPN.com

Why the Pick: TJ Warren is a “bucket getter” averaging 24.7 points per game while shooting 53 percent from the field. He took a tremendous leap from his freshmen year where he only averaged 12 ppg and now he is the ACC Player of the Year. Warren does have his pitfalls as he doesn’t have the athleticism of an ideal NBA wing player and is really more a scorer.

How he fits: Warren fits perfectly, the Bulls need instant offense and a shot creator to come off the bench. Under Tom Thibodeau’s defensive system, Warren’s defensive weaknesses can be covered, allowing him to flourish on the offensive side of the ball. Warren would also work well with Derrick Rose as he can come off screens and spot up and shoot. The Bulls should be drooling if Warren falls to them at this spot.

17.) Boston Celtics (Trade from Brooklyn Nets)- Kyle Anderson (Guard-Forward UCLA)

Kyle Anderson would be a tremendous addition to Celtics, serving as the heir to the Rajon Rondo era. Courtesy of Bleacherreport.com

Why the Pick: Kyle Anderson aka “Slow-mo” is as advertised, slow yet patient, never allowing an opponent to change his pace. Anderson improved from his freshmen year, his scoring went from 9.7 ppg to 15ppg, his assist from 3.5 to 6.6 and his field goal percentage from 41 percent up to 48 percent. He does have some turnover issues at 3.5 per game but UCLA runs a fast pace offense under Steve Alford averaging 72.7 possessions per game, making the turnover numbers greater. Anderson also possesses terrific size, standing at 6’9 he is bigger than all NBA point guards, making for a better view of the court, a plus for teams looking for point guards.

How he fits: Rajon Rondo looks to be on the outs as Danny Ainge tried to trade him at the trade deadline and there have been reports that Rondo is not happy with Boston’s plan to rebuild. Kyle Anderson would fit well, probably earning the starting point guard spot should Rondo leave. With the recent success of Michael Carter-Williams, Anderson might be a prime target for teams looking for a bigger guard. Anderson, like Ennis, could rise if he impresses during tournament time.

18.) Phoenix Suns- Montrezl Harrell  (Forward- Louisville)

Montrezl Harrell is exactly who the Suns need to defend the premier 4s in the Western conference. Courtesy of NBCcollegebasketballtalk.com
Why the Pick: As the NBA draft gets down towards the late-teens, teams look for situational-role players. Harrell fits the mold of a solid big defender who can guard in the post. A bit small at 6’8, Harrell has a massive 7’4 wingspan that should serve him well going up against the likes of Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, Blake Griffin,  and all the other potent bigs in the Western conference. Harrell has a limited post-up game that needs significant improvement, but that is not his calling card as Harrell uses his athleticism to create easy layups and dunks. 

How he fits: With a guard oriented team like the Suns, Harrell won’t have to worry about scoring a prolific rate in order to be effective. The Suns are in desperate need of a lock-down post defender and in time, I believe Harrell could become just that. Combined with Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic, Harrell could feast off of lobs from the two-point guard system. Harrell should be a quality NBA player for the Suns and could be an elite defender.

19.) Chicago Bulls- Nik Stauskas- (Guard-Michigan)

Nik Stauskas would be another viable offensive weapon for the Bulls. Courtesy of ESPN.com

Why the Pick: Nik Stauskas is a shooting machine who can light it up from 3-point land, averaging 2.4 3pt baskets per game while shooting a tremendous 45 percent. He also can shoot off the dribble, making him even more of an outside threat. Stauskas has good shooting guard size at 6’6 but he needs to improve his defense given his size. Stauskas reminds me of Klay Thompson without the defensive instincts.

How he fits: Kyle Korver. Mike Dunleavy Jr. Both have had success in Tom Thibodeau’s system and I believe Stauskas could play the younger and more athletic role of both of these aforementioned players. Combined with TJ Warren, the Bulls could have a lethal scoring duo from the bench. There is a possibility that the Bulls maybe trade the two picks for a higher selection so the Bulls might not be able to get both players.

20.) Toronto Raptors- CJ Fair (Forward-Syracuse)

CJ Fair could be the stretch 4 that the Raptors need to give more room to Jonas Valanciunas in the post. Courtesy of USAToday

Why the Pick: CJ Fair is a talented senior who has improved every year he has been at Syracuse going from a 6 point scorer freshmen year to a 17 point scorer this season. He has a tremendous midrange game and can even shoot the occasional 3 point shot. He is also a solid defender who has good lateral quickness but lacks power forward size. Although Fair doesn’t have size, the league is changing and stretch fours are becoming more and more popular, making Fair an attractive candidate to teams who need more shooting.

How he fits: Massai Ujiri came to Toronto because he saw the promise of DeMar DeRozan and Jonas Valanciunas and viewed them both as franchise players. DeMar has clearly taken that step with the departure of Rudy Gay and now Jonas needs to take the same step. The problem is Amir Johnson primarily plays in the post, clogging up room for Jonas to operate. With CJ Fair, the Raptors could give Jonas more room in the post and have CJ as a potential 15 foot jump shooter. 

21.) Oklahoma City Thunder- Adreian Payne (Forward-Michigan State)

Adreian Payne is exactly who the Thunder need to provide scoring and toughness off the bench. Courtesy of Huffington Post

Why the Pick: Adreian Payne is the cornerstone of the Michigan State program and is obviously the leader on the court and in the locker room.  Add Payne to an already very positive and vocal locker room, and the chemistry is enhanced. On the court, Payne can stretch the floor and can play some defense against bigs but he needs to be more focused on both sides of the floor.

How he fits: Payne could be the heir apparent to the wily veteran Nick Collison and would likely serve a limited reserve roll for the Thunder. The Thunder have a nature of rotating rookies in and out of the D-League and then give them a bigger role in their sophomore campaign. If Payne fits the system he will probably ride the pine for his first year, yet emerge as a talented back-up later on.

22.) Phoenix Suns- PJ Hairston (Guard-Texas Legends)

PJ Hairston is a good fit in Phoenix and could be a key contributor off the bench. Courtesy of Bleacherreport.com

Why the Pick: PJ Hairston minus his recent off the court trouble could have been a lottery pick, and maybe a possible POY candidate in the ACC. Make no mistake Hairston is talented, equipped with an effective outside game and NBA-type size, he is in perfect position to play the two-guard. In the D-league, defense is poor and some of Hairston’s stats are inflated but he is still showing why he was the best player on North Carolina last year.

How he fits: Gerald Green has found himself a nice niche in Phoenix, but his contract expires after next year and he could look to take a more lucrative offer elsewhere, leaving room for Hairston. Hairston most likely will rotate between the D-League and the NBA during his rookie year, but he could be a significant piece in his sophomore year.

23.) Utah Jazz- Chris Walker (Forward- Florida)

Chris Walker hasn’t played much at Florida but he has enormous potential. Courtesy of Fansided.com

Why the Pick: Chris Walker was one of the best high school players in the nation last year, but he sat out the beginning of this year with academic issues. Walker is extremely athletic on both sides of court and can change the course of the game with his mere presence. Though talented, Walker is raw and his mid-range game needs significant work and development.

How he fits:  Utah has one of the youngest teams in the NBA and they are clearly in rebuilding mode, so Walker would probably have the opportunity to make an impact his first year. Walker would probably back-up Derrick Favors but given playing time he could force himself into the starting lineup. Walker has tremendous talent and even reminds me of a rawer version of Amar’e Stoudemire.

24.) Charlotte Bobcats- Willie Cauley-Stein (Center-Kentucky)

Willie Cauley-Stein could be the perfect compliment for Al Jefferson. Courtesy of Bleacherreport.com

Why the Pick: Willie Cauley-Stein is a prolific defender, who might just be a better shot-blocker than Anthony Davis but his offense is a work in progress. He is also extremely athletic, which helps him dominate in the paint. If Cauley-Stein can improve the post-game he could be a quality NBA center.

How he fits: Charlotte would be a tremendous fit for Cauley-Stein, as he could play next to Al Jefferson and primarily focus on the defensive side of the floor. The Bobcats are a nice, young team and Cauley-Stein would be another good addition.

25.) Los Angeles Clippers- Wayne Selden (Guard-Kansas)

Wayne Selden would challenge J.J Redick for the Clippers’ starting 2 guard spot. Courtesy of CBSSports.com

Why the Pick: Wayne Selden has one of the most NBA-ready bodies, standing at 6’5 230lbs with a knack for getting to the rim, he could vault up draft boards with a strong NCAA tournament. Selden is also improving his outside game, a necessity if a player wants to survive as a two-guard in the NBA. His defense could improve as well as his shot selection but Selden is a solid prospect with nice upside.

How he fits: The Clippers tried to bring in two shooters in JJ Redick and Jared Dudley in the offseason and both have disappointed. Jamal Crawford is getting older and the Clippers could use another young, talented player like Selden to bolster their bench and possibly start alongside CP3.

26.) Houston Rockets- Glenn Robinson III (Forward-Michigan)

Glenn Robinson III is a big-time talent but his inconsistent play has dropped him on most draft boards. Courtesy of Bleacherreport.com

Why the Pick: Glenn Robinson III (son of “Big Dog” Robinson) has all the talent to be an NBA player, he has great size and tremendous athleticism and can shoot, but it doesn’t seem like he can put it together all at the same time. He is consistently inconsistent, which is infuriating to watch because he is such a talent. GR3 could be another player who could help his draft stock with a big NCAA tournament.

How he fits: Chandler Parsons is going to be a free agent after next summer and being a second round-pick he is probably going to cash in big time. There are rumors that the Rockets could target Carmelo Anthony during the offseason, leaving the Rockets with little to no cap room for Parsons, so this makes GR3 an ideal fit, seeing as he has the potential to be another Chandler Parsons as he can shoot it and can play defense.

27.) San Antonio Spurs- Clint Capela (Forward-Switzerland)

Clint Capela needs to develop and San Antonio could be the perfect place for him. Courtesy of DraftExpress.com

Why the Pick: Many have compared him to a young Serge Ibaka, a prolific defender with great size who needs to learn how to play the game in an NBA system. Granted, my access to Capela is limited but from the scouting tape he looks like an NBA player who could contribute as a back-up defender on a contending team.

How he fits: The Spurs are nearing the end of their run, yet Coach Pop always has a tendency to develop the unknown player and turn them into a contributor. With Capela, Pop would have a nice interior defender who can run the floor and provide solid minutes when Duncan or Splitter is out.

28.) Miami Heat- Mario Hezonja (Guard-Croatia)

Mario Hezonja is regarded as one of the top international prospects and should the big three break up, he would become the next two guard. Courtesy of ESPN.com

Why the Pick: Hezonja is another prospect who I have to use film to watch, when I did watch his tapes I saw a player who has tremendous range and good size at 6’7 to play either the 2 or the 3. He needs to improve on the defensive end if he wants to be a solid player in the NBA,  but the talent is there.

How he fits: Hezonja will most likely be a Euro-stash pick who would stay in Spain and play more and then receive a buy-out in a couple of years. With the Heat wanting to re-sign the big 3, Hezonja will likely be coaxed into staying the Spain for a couple of years until the Heat figure out their cap situation.

29.) Oklahoma City Thunder- Jahii Carson (Guard-Arizona State)

Jahii Carson could mean the end of the Derek Fisher era in OKC. Courtesy of ESPN.com

Why the Pick: Jahii Carson is small, but he has a bulldog mentality, constantly attacking the rim, regardless of the size of his defender. He also is a willing passer, evident by his 4.5 assists per game. Defending bigger point guards is going to be a problem but his elite quickness should help some.

How he fits: I have no idea why Derek Fisher is still getting minutes in an NBA game, but Carson could put an end to this foolishness if he were drafted by the Thunder. Frankly, the Thunder need another ball when Reggie Jackson is on the floor and Carson would be serviceable.

30.) Phoenix Suns- Semaj Christon (Guard-Xavier)

Semaj Christon is just who the Suns need to backup Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic. Courtesy of Yahoo Sports

Why the Pick: Semaj Christon is one of the most underrated players in college basketball, as he can play the 1 and the 2 for the Musketeers. He is a terrific ball-handler and is capable of scoring for himself while also working inside the flow of the offense. His size is a question mark as he only weighs 190 lbs. He can shoot from deep, but he is still a work in progress.

How he fits: Jeff Hornacek has done a tremendous job with the Phoenix guards, Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic and rookie Archie Goodwin has shown promise and Christon could be the same way. The fast pace at which Phoenix plays fits right in with Christon and he could be a nice back-up for Bledose and Dragic.

Conclusion: This draft is a pivotal piece for the growth of teams and with so many teams trying to “tank”, the emphasis on this draft is highlighted even more. The hype has been a bit overstated as it was compared to the legendary ’84 and 03′ drafts, but make no mistake, this draft has extraordinary potential.

10 Most Memorable Sports Moments of 2013

By: Prad

What a year it’s been for the sports community. 2013 has included a myriad of emotions surrounding various events from terrorist attacks to retirements. Unfortunately, I have compiled solely the top 10 moments of the year, so many deserving moments did not make the cut.

10) Superdome Lighting Failure

Half of the Superdome in darkness Courtesy of NY Times
Half of the Superdome in darkness
Courtesy of NY Times

Normally this should not be classified under “most memorable”, but the magnitude of the lighting failure is of note. New Orleans spent an estimated $471 million on this year’s Super Bowl. With almost half a billion dollars, you’d expect for at least all the lights to work, something that should have been a top priority for the Superdome maintenance staff. With 13:22 minutes left in the third quarter, half of the stadium plunged into darkness leaving TV viewers, players, and especially the audience confused. The partial blackout remained for a whopping 34 minutes. Apparently, Beyonce’s extravagant halftime show is somewhat responsible for the outage because of the amount of lighting used during her performance, forcing the device that detects electrical load to open a breaker and cut the lights.

9) Dunk City, USA

FGCU had a lot of fun during their ride to the Sweet Sixteen Courtesy of Naples News
FGCU had a lot of fun during its ride to the Sweet Sixteen
Courtesy of Naples News

Florida Gulf Coast University had quite the emergence on the national stage in 2013 by taking down #2 Georgetown in March. And then #7 San Diego St. went down for an encore performance. FGCU became the first #15 seed in NCAA history to reach the Sweet Sixteen. The wins were definitely impressive, but what made it even better was the excitement that the players on that team brought to the court in those two games. Dunk after dunk brought the city of Fort Meyers the fitting name of “Dunk City, USA.” The alley-oops were great, but the Cinderella story was even better. FGCU, a college that was founded in 1991, defeated the mighty Georgetown Hoyas, a team that has been playing for over a century. Plus, the 2012 – 2013 season was their first Division 1 season and first appearance in the NCAA tournament.

8) Mile High Miracle

Joe Flacco's pass lands perfectly past CB Rahim Moore's outstretched arm Courtesy of Bleacher Report
Joe Flacco’s pass lands perfectly past CB Rahim Moore’s outstretched arm
Courtesy of Bleacher Report

This AFC divisional – round game between the Ravens and Broncos came down to a final Baltimore drive with under a minute remaining. A true playoff classic was sent into overtime after a 70 yard heave from QB Joe Flacco to WR Jacoby Jones resulted in a touchdown with 31 seconds remaining in the 4th quarter. This TD brought the score to 35-35, a score that remained for the next 15 minutes resulting in a second overtime period. It ended up being the fourth longest game in NFL playoff history. Sadly for Denver fans, the game ended with a Manning interception and a Justin Tucker 47 yard field goal. Final score: 38-35. The Ravens were thankful for a birth in the AFC Championship game en route to a Super Bowl win. And undoubtedly,  the 70 yard TD grab was the highlight of an unforgettable season for Baltimore.

7) Louisville’s Inspiration

Kevin Ware wanted nothing but a championship Courtesy of Examiner.com
Kevin Ware wanted nothing but a championship
Courtesy of Examiner.com

Essentially every single sports fan in the nation has seen Kevin Ware’s gruesome injury suffered in the win against Duke in the Elite Eight. Everyone on the court was able to see the actual white of Ware’s tibia sticking out of his skin. People who witnessed it agree that it was definitely the most graphic injury they have ever seen and that’s saying something in an internet age where every injury is seen by everybody. More importantly, the words uttered from Kevin Ware’s mouth immediately following his horrific injury stayed with Louisville for the rest of the tourney. “Just win the game. I’m OK. Just win the game.” The boys on that team did every thing they did for Ware. That inspiration and team bond led them to victory over Wichita St. in the Final Four and Michigan in the National Championship game.

6) A British Savior

Andy Murray ended the 77 year Wimbledon drought for England Courtesy of USA Today
Andy Murray ended the 77 year Wimbledon drought for England
Courtesy of USA Today

It appeared that Andy Murray had wasted his best chance of winning Wimbledon when he succumbed to Roger Federer in 2012’s Wimbledon Final. But, the best was yet to come. On July 7, 2013 Murray defeated #1 Novak Djokovic, a former Wimbledon champion, to make Wimbledon history. A player from Great Britain had not won Wimbledon since Fred Perry in 1936, which was 77 years ago. He was deemed a “choker” on the biggest of stages before his 2012 US Open title, his first Grand Slam. Prior to winning that US Open, he had lost in four Grand Slam finals and six Grand Slam semi-finals. The entire United Kingdom had placed the burden of winning a Grand Slam for years on Andy Murray and he answered the call by capturing Wimbledon this year. This was a truly momentous occasion for a country that dominated the sport decades ago.

5) The First Openly Gay Athlete in North American Professional Sports

Jason Collins is still vying for an NBA contract Courtesy of Sports Illustrated
Jason Collins is still vying for an NBA contract
Courtesy of Sports Illustrated

In SI’s May 6 issue this year, Jason Collins became the first openly gay athlete in the four major North American Professional sports. The support he received the following days and months was unexpected. The social media circus immediately following the announcement was shocking as he received more complimentary remarks than derogatory.  He started, in his words, a “conversation” that will lead to more athletes coming out openly with their sexual preference. The Stanford product has played 12 seasons in the NBA as a center, but is not currently under contract with any team. Despite his announcement, he is still attempting to sign another contract with an NBA franchise. This barrier needed to be broken at some point and it did in 2013.

4) The Greatest Closer Says Goodbye

Longtime teammates Andy Pettitte and Derek Jeter gave Rivera the ball for one last time in Yankees Stadium Courtesy of NY Daily News
Longtime teammates Andy Pettitte and Derek Jeter took the ball from Rivera one last time
Courtesy of NY Daily News

On September 16, Mariano Rivera pitched his final game in front of the home crowd at Yankee Stadium. After almost two decades, all with the New York Yankees, Rivera tallied 652 saves and 42 postseason saves, both of which are records. Fans and analysts identify Rivera as arguably the greatest closer in baseball history. He is also the last player in MLB history to wear #42, because on the 50th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s debut, MLB commissioner Bud Selig retired #42 for all teams. However, there were 13 players in the league who already wore the #42 uniform, so Selig allowed them to wear it until they retired. And Rivera was the last of the 13 still playing.  He certainly did #42 justice by pitching his best when it mattered most and doing so with grace and dignity. It will be very difficult to find another player who carries himself with such respect for his peers and the game. Sandman will be eternally missed by baseball fans.

3) Auburn’s Magical Iron Bowl

Chris Davis crushed Alabama's hopes Courtesy of The Washington Post
Chris Davis crushed Alabama’s hopes
Courtesy of The Washington Post

Many consider the ending to the Iron Bowl on November 30 the greatest finish in football history. The ending was not only immensely exciting, but the implications involved made for a moment that will be difficult to ever replicate. The moment Chris Davis ran past the last diving Alabama player at the 45 yard line, every single viewer was in disbelief of what they had just witnessed. Davis returned a missed field goal 109 yards for a touchdown as time expired, giving Auburn the victory and signaling an end to Alabama’s dream of winning a third consecutive BCS National Championship and a fourth in a five year span. The win gave Auburn the chance to play in the SEC Championship game against Missouri too. The victory against Missouri gives them the #2 ranking and a trip to Pasadena for the BCS Championship game on January 6, 2014. This was quite the turnaround from a season ago when Auburn football went 3-9 and 0-8 against SEC opponents. Currently, the Tigers stand at 12-1 and have had one of the best improvements in terms of record in NCAA football history. Even if Auburn loses to #1 Florida St. in the final BCS National Championship game, their season will still be considered a remarkable one that will not be forgotten for a long time.

2) Ray Allen and Miami’s Miraculous Comeback

The Larry O'brein trophy was being reeled in with 5.2 seconds left and an all but sure Spurs victory Courtesy of The Boston Globe
The Spurs had an almost guaranteed victory with 5.2 second left in Game 6
Courtesy of The Boston Globe

The staff at American Airlines Arena was reeling in the Larry O’Brien Trophy with around 20 seconds remaining in regulation. The score was 95-92 and the Heat didn’t have any timeouts left, an inevitable Spurs victory. On the following Heat possession, LeBron James missed a three but Chris Bosh was able to secure the rebound and pass it back to a backpedaling Ray Allen in the corner, yes the corner three, it’s where Allen has made his living for the last 17 seasons. And Allen drills it with 5.2 seconds left in the game. Score: 95-95. Miami then outscored San Antonio in the ensuing overtime period for a final score of 103-100. Allen made some big shots in overtime as well accounting for four of the eight points in an NBA Finals thriller that will remain a classic for decades to come. With this much momentum heading into Game 7, Miami couldn’t lose and they didn’t disappoint. A stellar 37-point performance from LeBron gave the Heat a 95-88 Game 7 victory and a second consecutive Larry O’Brien Trophy. LeBron’s triple-double in Game 6 and aforementioned 37-point outburst in Game 7 of the Finals were certainly great spectacles, but Ray Allen’s shot with 5.2 seconds left in Game 6 is one of the greatest moments in NBA Finals history. Period.

1) Boston Strong

 Courtesy of ESPN
Boston’s resiliency captured the hearts of many
Courtesy of ESPN

On April 15, Boston witnessed a horrific terrorist attack at the Boston Marathon resulting in 3 deaths and hundreds of injuries. The 117th running of the race was marred by two bombs near the finish line on the famous Boylston St. Five days after the bombings, David Ortiz gave a pre-game speech at Fenway and said that “this is our (expletive) city.” Boston has always been known for its uncompromising dedication to its sports teams, but support was at an all time high throughout 2013 after the bombings. Its teams played with greater determination and will than ever before as a result and it was evident in the successful seasons for the Bruins and Red Sox. The Boston Bruins made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals eventually losing to the Chicago Blackhawks. And four months later, the Red Sox had an opportunity to accomplish something great in the wake of the disaster and they delivered. The Red Sox defeated the St. Louis Cardinals in six games in the World Series. The unwavering support from Boston fans definitely helped them clinch a third title in nine seasons. Although, the success of the Sox can’t completely eradicate the painful memories of the bombings, the Boston Red Sox certainly lifted the spirits of many who were affected by the tragedy.