• Stat Guy: Shortened NBA Season has set the stage for an exciting second half

    Courtney Lee slams the ball against the Toronto Raptors. Lee and the Rockets are relying on their youth to help them navigate the second half of thus shortened season.
    Courtney Lee slams the ball against the Toronto Raptors. Lee and the Rockets are relying on their youth to help them navigate the second half of thus shortened season.

    Now that the farce that the NBA calls the All Star Game is over( 88 points in a half, seriously?), basketball teams can look forward to the games finally counting as they push for division championships and playoff positions.

    We’ll go ahead and get this one out of the way: there will be no mention of that phrase which has gone from quaint to cliché so fast, it made Tim Tebow’s head spin.

    The New York Knicks were the talk of the NBA heading into the All Star break thanks to their resurgence at the hands of Jeremy Lin. Having lost two three point games in a row to the Bulls and Celtics, the Knicks turned to Lin and the rest was history. Seven straight wins later, and the Knicks were back in the playoff hunt.

    New York Still has its flaws though. Lin can’t stop giving the ball to the other team with eight games with at least six turnovers. He was also held to eight points on one for 11 shooting against the athletic Heat. Five of the Knicks wins in the last 12 came against teams in the bottom quarter of the league, and played the Nets twice. Now the Knicks have an 11 game stretch starting on Sunday that features five roads games against teams with 20+ wins. If the Knicks really are a new team under Lin, the three weeks will prove it.

    There are three teams sharing the title of top team in the league. Miami, Chicago and Oklahoma City all sit even with each other at the summit which shouldn’t surprise anyone. The next few teams in the standings might though. San Antonio, which is frequently written off as old have quietly made their way to the top spot in the division, and second in the west. Philadelphia and Indiana have also come out of nowhere to be in the top eight in the league, with the 76ers leading Atlantic division in the East. And Orlando, amid all the talk of Howard shopping his services elsewhere, is second only to Miami in the Southeast division.

    With the exception of San Antonio, who is uncharacteristically offensive this season, each of those teams is a top ten defensive team. Philadelphia leads the NBA in defense, holding teams to 87 points per game.

    Meanwhile, traditional powerhouses like Los Angeles(Lakers), Dallas, and Boston have been unable to find the same fountain of youth that San Antonio has. Through 35 games last year, Dallas was 24-9, five games over its record this season. The Lakers were three games better last season through 24 games. Boston has suffered the biggest drop off, going from 28-7, to being a game under .500 this season. If the season ended today, the Celtics would be the eighth seed in the East, going to Miami for their first round matchup.

    More intriguing matchups exist in the west though. Houston would play host to Dallas in the 4-5 matchup right now. The Lakers would have to make the long trek to the Staples Center against the Clippers, where little brother would try to unseat big brother for supremacy in Las Angeles. And San Antonio would get the revenge series against Memphis, who bounced San Antonio from the playoffs in the first round last season.

    Only two months remain of the regular season, with the playoffs looming in May. Teams such as Philadelphia, Indiana, Houston, and Las Angeles(Clippers) are taking advantage of the shortened season, and are letting their youth carry them to the top of the standings. And having finally had a break, the older teams now have a chance to turn the seasons around and make the necessary moves that veteran teams make. This NBA season is shorter than usual, but should make up for that with an exciting, and unpredictable finish.

  • Stat Guy: Mediocre Game Defines Texas' Season

    This has been a bit of a difficult year for Texas. 11 losses, eight by single digits, with a 4-6 road record, and eight losses in conference play. Here's a fun stat: 65 days passed in between Texas' first two road wins. It just that kind of season.

    Now, as Texas flounders toward the finish, it' postseason outlook is starting to get rather bleak. All in all, its not one of Rick Barnes' best season as the head man on the 40 acres, and his history against Texas Tech when compared to Saturday's near disappointment proves it.

    Over the last decade, the Longhorns have dominated the Red Raiders. Since the 2001-02 season, Texas has averaged 77 points against the Red Raiders, who have only averaged 65 points in the contests. Texas has held Texas Tech under 60 points in seven out of the 23 meetings, with four of those holding Texas Tech under 50. Only ten of the 23 games have been played to single-digit margins, with Texas winning eight. Almost a third of the games have been lopsided in Texas' favor, beating the Red Raiders by at least 20 points seven times.

    The average 12 point margin is accurate of what the series has produced of late. Texas Tech has only beaten Texas three times in the last ten years, with one of those coming in the 2003 conference tournament after Texas had essentially sealed up a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Red Raiders have only beaten Texas one time in Lubbock since 2001.

    This series is staggeringly one-sided, considering that Texas Tech has the ability to give opponents fits, including a few upsets over Kansas over the years. Bobby Knight had one of his lowest winning percentages as a head coach against the Longhorns and was only able to register two wins against Texas as his career waned in Lubbock.

    All of this makes Saturday's struggles in Lubbock stand out even more. Texas shot poorly from beyond the arc, and also shot less than 40 percent from the field. The close game produced nearly identical statistics. Neither team shot particularly well, with Texas shooting a little better from beyond the arc, and Texas Tech having a little higher average overall from the field. Texas made two more free throws on one more shot. One rebound, three assists, one steal and two turnovers were all that separated the two teams. Overall, it's not that exciting.

    A fan of close games between a midlevel conference team and a low level conference team would have loved this game, otherwise its nothing special.The close game produced a rather vanilla box score in which nothing really stands out or commands attention, which has turned out to be one of the primary themes for the Longhorns this season. It has yet to be the kind of year that many have gotten used to seeing at Texas, and has resulted in a bland and forgettable season. With two games left before the conference championship, the odds of that changing are growing slim as Texas fights off mediocrity.

  • Lift a questionable eyebrow, but don't lay a finger on the superstar

    And with a swift and not so subtle stroke of the broom, all of Ryan Braun’s issues were swept under the rug, presumably to die and be forgotten. With one final verdict from an appeals committee, the immediate future of the slugging left fielder became infinitely clearer.

    Over the winter, it was discovered that the National League MVP had tested positive for performance enhancing drugs, registering the largest amount of testosterone seen under Major League Baseball’s new drug testing program.

    And even with the positive test coming into public light, now we’re all suppose to forget it happened. Forget the last three months of scrutiny, forget the positive test. The guy triggered the test using herpes medication, nothing to see here.

    Sorry to disappoint you Mr. Selig, but it doesn’t quite work like that. Your superstar has been cast in a negative light, and no appeals board will change that. And it’s hard to not look past the hypocrisy of this turnout compared to another famous failed drug tests since the new testing program was implemented in 2004.

    Manny Ramirez tested positive for steroids, for the first time, in 2009 while with the Dodgers due to a drug prescribed to him and didn’t receive such favorable help from baseball’s big wigs. Even though he did not fight the suspension, it didn’t appear as though he got the guidance Braun got. Ramirez, although beloved by most baseball fans everywhere, was a somewhat polarizing figure in the game, causing mild issues amongst baseball’s front office elite with his silly antics and flippant attitude. Braun is more of a baseball golden boy, seemingly never causing issues except to opposing pitchers. He plays in Commissioner Selig’s hometown of Milwaukee, and is seen as one of the good guys in the game. For a sport trying to turn the page on the steroid era of the early 2000’s, it sure seems like Major League Baseball is trying anything to keep faith in its superstars amongst the masses, something that was shattered by the likes of Mark Mcgwire, Sammy Sosa, and Roger Clemens.

    The bottom line is this: athletes, especially in today’s society that is extremely paranoid about cheaters in sports, are ultimately responsible for what goes into their bodies. Manny Ramirez took a prescribed drug and got busted, why is Ryan Braun any different?

    Fortunately for the slugger, he’s on baseball's good side, and his season will start April 6th against the Cardinals instead of May 31st against, ironically, the Los Angeles Dodgers.

  • Seals-Jones commits to Texas

    Sealy’s Rickey Seals-Jones committed to Texas today. He is one of the highest ranked recruits in the nation.

    He stands at 6-foot-five, 220 pounds and is a four-star prospect. He received an offer from Texas on junior day on February 12.

    He played a variety of positions for Sealy including quarterback, receiver and safety. He primarily played quarterback last season. He rushed 114 times for 1,245 yards and 15 touchdowns.

    He will likely start out as wide receiver when he arrives in Austin. But, he could be switched to tight end. With the commitments of quarterback Tyrone Swoopes, running back Kyle Hicks and wide receiver Jake Oliver, the class of 2013 is already making strides with offensive personnel.

    He had offers from Auburn, LSU, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Baylor and Texas Tech.

    According to 247Sports, he is the No. 5 overall prospect in Texas and the No. 32 prospect in the country. He is Texas’ sixth commitment — four of Texas’ six recruits are ranked in the top 10 in the state.

    Texas will host its second and final junior day on Saturday and spring drills begin on Thursday. Although the Longhorns ended its first junior day with only one commitment, the class of 2013 is coming together. Seals-Jones will be a very versatile and important asset to this class that is coming together, especially on offensive.

  • Spurs are poised to contend for fifth title

    The short-handed San Antonio Spurs are in the midst of a league-best 11-game winning streak. Led by veteran All-Star point-guard Tony Parker, the Spurs are positioning themselves to make another championship run.

    The Spurs are commonly perceived as an “older” squad because their core veteran players were all a part of the team’s title runs in the past decade. The Spurs are actually in the middle of a youth movement and possess one of the NBA’s youngest set of bench players.

    Playing most of the season without guard Manu Ginobili, the Spurs have needed major contribution from their young players to help them remain contenders. The hottest team in the league holds the Western Conference’s second best record at 23-9.

    Players like Gary Neal and Danny Green filled in nicely for the Spurs after their superstar went down with a broken hand.

    "When you have guys that go down, I think sometimes it helps guys refocus knowing you have less room for error, everybody has to contribute," said veteran Richard Jefferson.

    If the Spurs are to make a serious run at their fifth championship they will need Ginobili to be healthy during the playoffs. The Spurs started last year’s playoffs without Manu and had an unexpected early-exit as the Western Conference’s number one seed.

    With a wide-open Western Conference the Spurs have the pieces to make another run. They do, however, need their superstar and established closer to compliment all of those pieces. The other Western Conference contenders all have a superstar closer to rely on during the playoffs. The Lakers, Mavericks, and Thunder all have reputable leaders in Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitzki, and Kevin Durant, respectively.

    For now, the Spurs will continue to depend on their youth to remain as one of the league’s best teams. Having just returned from a 22-game absence Ginobili injured his chest, and will be out of action at least a couple of weeks.

    "He just came back, played in a couple of games and was beginning to get in shape, get a rhythm, and then he goes down again,” said Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich. “He's pretty depressed about it. Hopefully the team can be over it and realize he and Tiago are going to be gone for a while.”

    Nicknamed “El Contusione” by former teammate Brent Barry, Ginobili has garnered a reputation as a walking contusion. Just like last season, the Spurs can’t afford to have Manu sidelined when the playoffs get underway.