Due to the rigors of acclimating myself to a new job, I have been less than vigilant in keeping up with the Sixers, let alone keeping up with writing about them. Well, now that I find myself comfortable in my new position, I hope to be able to get back to my favorite hobby… writing about my favorite teams. Please, readers, accept my apology and let’s enjoy the fruit of an otherwise bitter winter season – basketball. Much like the Sixers in recent weeks, its time that I come out of a seemingly dormant state and get back to business!
In my extended absence, the hometown team has clawed its way back to respectability. While extensive posts about the Sixers resurgence are under construction, I believe its appropriate to briefly survey the overall landscape in both the NBA and NCAA. Below are what I consider to be the Top 5 teams in both the NCAA and NBA, accompanied by brief explanations for their respective positions:
1. Kansas – The Morris twins are the steam that keeps this engine churning towards the Final Four. The Philly natives anchor one of the top frontcourts in the nation, and they have a supporting cast that matches their intensity nicely. With 10 players averaging 5 ppg or more, Kansas is one of the country’s most balanced teams, and they still haven’t even fully found their stride. Josh Selby, last year’s top high school prospect joined the team only halfway through the season, which means the Jayhawks are only now beginning to gel. In my opinion, this is the team to beat headed into Feb.
2. Ohio State – Jared Sullinger is this years’ Carmelo Anthony – a freshman who has taken his team to another level. Watching Sullinger is like watching a man among boys, he is that dominant. Aside from Sullinger, OSU has 4 other players averaging double figures, led by William Buford, a highly touted prep player in his own right. OSU may be the only team in the country that can get into a shooting match with Duke and win and Sullinger is better than any low post player the Dukies have, so into #2 they go.
3. Duke – I’ll go on the record now and say I hate Duke so, am I biased? Yes. But haven’t we seen this before?? Duke always seems to dominate the regular season only to fizzle in the NCAA Tournament. I can’t shake the feeling that they are soft and losing Kyrie Irving was possibly the biggest loss of the year so far in college basketball. I’m currently watching FSU hold Duke at arms length in an incredibly sloppy game, so I do not believe this team can beat either Ohio State or Kansas and it seems we will have to wait until March to find out how good they really are. One more thing… if Duke was in the Big East, no way they are still undefeated.
4. Syracuse – Another team with an NBA-ready frontcourt in Philly native Rick Jackson and Kris Joseph. ‘Cuse is also stacked with talent in the backcourt, led by Philly native Scoop Jardine and Dion Waiters. Don’t expect ‘Cuse to be here in the coming weeks as they must run the brutal gauntlet that is the Big East, but the same goes for all Big East teams. That conference may prohibit extended stays in the Top 5, but it also ensures that these teams are battle tested come March. Expect ‘Cuse to go deep in the Tournament.
5. San Diego State – Who?? A school most famous for giving us Marshall Faulk has a sick basketball team this year. Steve Fisher’s squad is good… like 2010 Butler good. Unfortunately for SDSU, they are now in conference play, which means we probably won’t talk about them much between now and March. The only other team worth discussing in their conference is BYU, currently ranked #10, so it’s not like they won’t be tested, but something tells me College GameDay isn’t rushing to get to San Diego for SDSU v New Mexico this weekend…
Also under consideration: Pitt, Villanova, Purdue
1. Miami Heat – All I need to say about this team is 21-1. That’s their record in their last 22 games. It seems that whatever growing pains the Three Headed Monster had to go through to get used to each other are over. While question marks still exist regarding the Heat’s supporting cast, there is no question that in the last month and a half, this is the best team in the NBA. Can they keep it going for 5 more months??
2. San Antonio Spurs – Before the Heat were the hottest team in the NBA, that title belonged to the Spurs. The league’s most methodical, deliberate, technically sound team is extremely difficult to pick against when completely healthy. However, health will be the Spurs’ biggest obstacle going forward. The Spurs’, aside from maybe the Celtics, are the NBAs oldest good team and one has to wonder whether the wear and tear of a long season will take its toll on this team. If they can survive the season relatively healthy, I think you can pencil them into the Western Conference finals against the Lakers.
3. L.A. Lakers – The NBAs defending champions have been in a bit of a rut of late, but with Kobe and Phil at the helm, you just know that this downturn will not last long. The Lakers boast what I believe is the NBAs most talented, well-rounded starting lineup and anytime you have a competitor like Kobe Bryant on your team, you are most definitely in the hunt for the title. Trust me when I say, the Lakers will be at least the 2 seed in the West come April.
4. Orlando Magic – The Magic made a power move recently, acquiring Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu, and Gilbert Arenas. As this team finds its footing, I think they will emerge as the most explosive offensive team in the East, and getting rid of the league’s worst good player – Vince Carter - will only help them on both ends of the floor. I watched a Magic game in December where Jeff Van Gundy accurately predicted exactly when Vince Carter would use possessions to try and get himself hot. If Jeff Van Gundy can predict that from the announcer’s table, you can be sure that Doc Rivers, puppetmaster Pat Riley (whose decisions and power are channeled through Eric Spoelstra), and most definitely Phil Jackson and Gregg Popovich know its coming. Orlando – just be glad he’s gone.
5. Boston Celtics – Again, full disclosure, I hate the C’s. But they are good. Rajon Rondo is in my opinion one of the best distributors this game has seen in a while, and Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen are all 3 years younger as a result of him being there. The Celtics will most certainly be a contender come April, but with the balance of power in the NBA shifting from West to East, it is certainly no stone cold lock that the C’s even make the Eastern Conference finals, let alone the NBA finals.
Also under consideration: Hawks, Mavs, Thunder
Aaannnddd with that, I am back! More to come later this week.