Sweet Aint It ?


By Stefan Anderson

Now that the first two rounds have been completed and some teams have seen their fate and some have seen their promise and steps closers as tonight’s Sweet 16 matchups begin. Since the beginning of this year tournament, there have been many storylines that we have paid attention to and will learn more about as time passes by.

Here are some to look at for the Sweet 16:

The Miller Brothers: At the beginning of the season we knew that this year’s Arizona team was going to special and most favorite for the National Championship, including myself. But no one expected the emergence of Dayton after knocking off Ohio State and then Syracuse become the nation’s Cinderella team. Dayton is on the brink of having a legendary run and with an amazing storyline of the Miller brothers, Archie and Sean.  The Miller Brother could face off their superior teams and make for the one of the best final four matchups in years.

Most Intriguing Matchup: 

Eastern Bracket: Virginia vs. Michigan State: The Cavaliers have rounded out their best seasons in the past twenty years, by playing great defense and continuing to outplay any opponent given to them. Michigan State has looked shaky at times this season due to injuries and chemistry but the Spartans turned it around and have been on track towards holding up the National Championship at the end of the tournament. Virginia intense defense and ability to turn on the “switch” versus the poised, veteran Michigan State team should be a interesting one and could determine who wins the National Championship.

The Kentucky Rivalry: In the Midwest Bracket, Calipari vs. Pitino, the young Wildcats versus the well-seasoned national champions Cardinals, should a great matchup to see. After beating the hottest team in the NCAA, Wichita State, they have to face the defending National Championship next. Kentucky after their highly publicized season are living up to the hype of their standout freshman have a chance to prove doubters wrong and make a lot of people mad if they knock off the defending champions. But the Cardinals haven’t lost the beat this season as they continue to tally up wins and play their high speed pace along with their annoying defense which can be a concern for the young Kentucky guards. If the Wildcats can deal with the non-stop full court press and the guard play of Russ Smith, they have a chance. This has the making of great matchup of who is the best in their state.

Upset Alert: After making it to the National Championship last year the Wolverines of Michigan are trying to repeat their success this year and have teams in their way and could be upset by Tennessee. Michigan led by a talented roster that features Mitch McGary, Nik Stauskas and Glen Robinson III, are poised to make a big run, but I believe they will be the next powerhouse to be upset in this year’s tournament. The Volunteers play in rough SEC divison, where they finished 3rd despite taking their bumps and bruises against the Kentucky’s and Florida’s. The Vols play some of the stingiest D in the nation only allowing 61 points a game and should give a the Michigan a problem led by Jarnell Stokes who is cleaning the glass with 3 consecutive games in double digit rebounding. Watch out for the upset.

Draft Stock: My bold prediction in which many might stone me for but I believe that Julius Randle should be selected before Andrew Wiggins, if they both declare for the draft this season. My reasons are that Randle despite his teams struggles at time has always remained a outstanding prospect averaging 15 and 10 looking the most NBA ready other Jabari Parker and Doug McDermott. Out of all the outstanding freshman and great players this season, Randle still is in the tournament and plays a play on a talented team. After entering the tournament with 19 and 15 against Kansas State then returning the following game with 13, 10 and 6 versus a great Wichita State team, Randle has proved that he is beyond NBA ready. With the skill set of already polished big man in the league and the ability to handle the ball along with knock the 15 footer, there is no doubt that he should be a top -2 pick in this year’s draft.  

Although no has a perfect bracket and cannot qualify for the 1 billion dollars, Warren Buffett has put out there, thanks to Duke, there are still many chances for you to win your bracket challenges hopefully your bracket is still intact after those heartbreaking losses. Tune into some great basketball games during the Sweet 16 games, which will be interesting to say the least. 

And Then There Were Three


Chelsea Knock Arsenal Out of Title Race with 6-0 Rout: Liverpool, City Keep Pace

By Greg Hudson
When Arsenal traveled to Stamford Bridge for Saturday’s match, they came in knowing that a win against Chelsea would put them only one point behind their bitter London rivals in the Premier League title hunt. 
But on the day that marked Arsene Wenger’s 1000th match in charge of the Gunners, it was Chelsea’s game from first whistle to last, in a match that saw 6 shots find their way into the Arsenal net but will be forever remembered as the day the wrong man was given a red card.
Referee Andre Marriner’s error came 15 minutes into the 6-0 thrashing, with Chelsea 2-0 up, when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain punched the ball off the Arsenal goal line. Marriner assessed the situation and made the correct judgement in issuing the red card, but instead of sending off Oxlade-Chamberlain, he showed the red to Kieran Gibbs, the Arsenal left back who was 20 yards from the incident.
But in the end, regardless of the misplaced red card, there was no denying Chelsea. Eden Hazard converted the resulting penalty kick to make the score 3-0 inside of 20 minutes, and Arsene Wenger’s big day ended in a nightmare 6-0 rout that all but ends Arsenal’s title ambitions.
The win put Chelsea seven points clear of Liverpool and nine points clear of Manchester City, who went into their games that evening knowing they must likewise win in order to keep up the pressure on the Blues, despite both clubs having at least one extra game to play.
City faced a seemingly easy task at home against basement club Fulham. City have lost just once at home all season, and dominated proceedings from whistle to whistle in a match which also saw a penalty and a sending off for Fulham defender Amorebieta. Yaya Toure converted that penalty en route to a hat trick and a 5-0 City win.
Liverpool, meanwhile, faced a slightly tougher obstacle in Wales against a resurgent Cardiff City side fresh off a 3-1 win against Fulham and eager to prove they deserve their Premier League status despite being mired in the relegation zone. But Liverpool came into the fixture on the back of a five-game winning streak and an unbeaten record in 2014, and few expected anything less than a Reds victory.
But Liverpool would not have it all their own way. Cardiff opened the brighter and took advantage of a Liverpool error on eight minutes: Joe Allen’s misplaced pass was cut out by Frazier Campbell who squared up for youngster Jordan Mutch, who fired past Simon Mignolet to give Cardiff a shock lead.
Liverpool awakened from their slumber almost immediately and leveled the scores on 15 minutes when Jordan Henderson’s perfectly-weighted pass sent Glen Johnson into the penalty area and the England rightback found prolific striker Luis Suarez, who made no mistake from six yards and wrested the momentum in Liverpool’s favor.
But it was Cardiff who scored next, when Campbell latched onto a loose ball at the edge of the Liverpool area and hit a shot through the crowd and past the unsighted Mignolet. It seemed the scoreline might hold until the half time interval, but Liverpool clawed their way back into the game from a corner kick. Cardiff’s clearance only found Phillipe Coutinho, who sent the ball back in for Martin Skrtel to deflect into the net to send the teams into the break with honors even.
But Liverpool weren’t finished yet. A strong start to the second period seemed to go stale, but it was Skrtel who again provided a moment of magic – again from a corner kick – sending a perfectly-weighted header into David Marshall’s net to give the Reds a 3-2 lead.
Liverpool then made it 4-2 minutes later with a goal-of-the-season candidate. Another low cross from Johnson picked out Daniel Sturridge, who deftly back-heeled the ball into the path of Suarez who netted his second of the game.
Suarez then turned provider for Sturridge on 75 minutes after a classic Liverpool counter. Suarez drew the keeper Marshall off his line before crossing to Sturridge who had the easiest of tap-ins into an empty net to make it 5-2.
A late goal for Mutch gave the home fans something to cheer, but Liverpool and Suarez had the last say when the Uruguayan ran through on Marshall deep into stoppage time. Suarez made no mistake and completed his third hat trick of the campaign.
The win keeps Liverpool very much in the title race, but only Manchester City have fate entirely in their own hands. However, both City and Chelsea must visit Liverpool in their remaining games, where the Reds have not lost in 12 games. And with City facing another road challenge against Arsenal, the road to the title may well go through Anfield.
The Table:
1. Chelsea, 69 points, 31 games
2. Liverpool, 65 points, 30 games
3. Manchester City, 63 points, 28 games
4. Arsenal, 62 points, 30 games.

The Starting Point Picks Final Four and National Champion


Now that the opening games were played and the last spots were clinched, its time for the field of 64 to begin thier quest to win 6 straight. With each team having hopes of  playing in the Final Four and ultimately winning a national championship . With up to a billion dollars with Warren Buffet to the silly bets you place with your peers. Everyone wants to know who’s in your Final Four ? who you got winning the big dance ?

Here at Starting Point Sports, we are made our picks and predict who we want to win the National Championship this year.

Greg Hudson 

East-Michigan St.
West -Creighton
Midwest -Duke
Championship: Michigan St v Duke, with advantage to the Blue Devils.
Stefan Anderson 
South- Florida
East- Virginia 
Midwest- Duke 
West- Arizona 
Championship: Arizona vs Virginia. Aaron Gordon and Arizona will be too much for Virginia to handle. 
Kelsey Miller 
East- Cincinatti 
Midwest- NC State
West- Oklahoma State
Championship: Florida over NC State, their guard play , post game and defense make them unbeatable this time around. 

Let The Madness Begin!



By Stefan Anderson

It’s that time of year of again, where many legends are born and brackets are shredded from heartbreaking defeats and unexpected challengers, The 2014 NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament. The 64 teams have been chosen and now it’s time for the big dance bay-bee (in my best Dick Vitale voice). The play in game between the Albany Great Danes and the Mount St. Mary Mountaineers will have the opening game as they play for one the final four spots, against the #1 overall seed Florida Gators. The best time of the year for die hard basketball fans, March Madness.

After all the teams were selected on Sunday, the big dance is set for a great tournament in these upcoming weeks. The 4 #1 seed’s in this year’s bracket include Florida in the south, Arizona in the west, and Wichita State in the Midwest and Virginia in the East. In most cases seeding can play a great but in this case it has nothing to do with it. For instance, Wichita State had an impressive undefeated season but play in a section that features Kentucky, Duke, last year’s runner up Michigan and the eventual champion Louisville.  But it doesn’t matter about what teams you have to face , the most important thing to do is to win. With that there is always room for underdog to sneak up and make a name for themselves and becomes this year “Cinderella team” during the tournament.

These following teams are on the Upset Alert Watch:

#5 in the Eastern Bracket: Cincinnati

The Bearcats had an impressive year, winning 27 games this season including 15 wins in the newly formed American Athletic Conference. Led by the well rounded scorer in Sean Kilpatrick, Cincy has been very efficient thus far playing great defense, ranking in the top 10 in Steals and Points Allowed. But I do believe that they will be the first big upset in the first round of the tournament when they face off against Harvard. The Crimson’s high scoring offense and great coaching by Tommy Amaker will ultimately be too much for the Bearcats to handle and will certainly be a bracket buster.

#5 in the South Bracket: VCU

After making their impact in college basketball two seasons ago, making it to the Final Four and becoming America’s Cinderella team, the Rams are bound to get a taste of their own medicine this year. Coming off a great season finishing 31-2, Stephen F. Austin can serve the VCU their first dose of upset medicine.  Averaging over 16 assist per game the Lumberjacks can share the pumpkin well. Nearly 5 players on their roster average double digits this season which can cause trouble for the Rams. The Lumberjacks will shock, Shaka Smart and send the Rams back to Shockoe Bottom.

#2 in the Midwest Bracket: Wisconsin

The Badgers led by legendary coach Bo Ryan, have had a great season this year, with wins over Michigan State, Florida, Michigan, and Iowa. But they are on the upset alert due to 5 of 7 losses this year coming from unranked opponents. They have played well against great competition but struggle with the games they are supposed to win. Which means the American and their efficient offense that is shooting nearly 50 percent from the field, 7th in the nation, along with their lockdown defense that is ranked 8th in Points Allowed, can give Wisconsin a run for their money.

With so many games to choose from and so many selections for your bracket, always beware of the upset that can help win the pool or take you completely out of it. The indecisiveness along with constant guessing is one the reasons I love the NCAA Tournament. Let the Madness Begin!


Carpe Diem: Free Agency Winners


By Stefan Anderson

The NFL Free Agency period has begun and many teams were put in unfortunate situations and some teams were in better positions also. With that we have seen many big names hit the free agent pool unexpectedly and some that were bound for their big pay day. Teams were who watched the Seattle Seahawks hoist up the Vince Lombardi trophy this winter were all dreaming of having their team witness the same nostalgia , following up with the champagne and confetti showers.

Although the Seahawks built their team through the conventional way of drafting the majority of their team, they also had to fill in the necessary spots with veteran free agents and players that could fit their schemes well. So far throughout the offseason, these few NFL teams have made their steps in route of righting the ship or tightening the loose on ends of their franchise by making the blockbuster and under the radar moves for this upcoming season.

  •  New England Patriots: After suffering the defeat their arch nemesis Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos during this year AFC Championship, the Pats are on their reign for dominance once again. The Pats went out and signed WR Brandon Lafell to give Tom Brady another target, while resigning one of his favorite targets Julian Edelman. The Patriots also boosted their defense by acquiring defensive backs Brandon Browner (formerly of the Seahawks) and former arch rival Darrell “Revis Island” Revis to withhold a secondary that just lost their star corner Aqib Talib.  The two aggressive corners in Bill Belichick’s defensive scheme will be a great one to watch as they try to take the Broncos from their AFC throne.
  • Denver Broncos: Still tasting the bitter taste of their Super Bowl defeat , for use of better words, the Broncos were very active this offseason adding talent to their already talented roster. After releasing their future hall of famer, Champ Bailey, GM John Elway went forward to sign defensive backs Aqib Talib and T.J. Ward to help the team’s secondary. Also on defensive they went to sign the recently cut pro-bowler Demarcus Ware to pass rush alongside Von Miller, scary site right? The Broncos continued their efforts after stacking up their defense by adding WR Emmanuel Sanders to replace Eric Decker who recently signed with the New York Jets. Still feeling the hangover of Super Bowl 48, Denver looks to return the same place and bring a championship this year instead.
  • New York Giants: The Giants looks to have a promising season against their competition and return the NFC playoffs. After a horrendous season where the fell from their prominence shown in years before, the Giants look to rebound after their free agent additions. They started on the Defensive by signing Dominque Rogers-Cromartie and Walter Thurmond to help their already good pass defense that ranked 10th last season. Also on the offensive side by bringing in running back Rashad Jennings and re-signing Peyton Hillis to help one the league’s worst rushing attacks last year.
  • Oakland Raiders: Yes, I know I said the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders have been one of the most active teams this offseason, under the radar but working diligently. Adding veterans with Super Bowl pedigree like Lamar Woodley and Justin Tuck to add to the defensive side of the football, the Raiders look to compete in the tough AFC West division. Also signing OT Austin Howard and resigning Khalif Barnes and also adding WR James Jones. Oakland is looking to look to acquire a QB that holster their offense this season, names like Michael Vick, Matt Schaub and Mark Sanchez are on the Raiders target list.

Carpe Diem is to urge someone to make the most of the present time and give little thought to the future and these few teams have done so by becoming the NFL’s biggest winners during Free Agency.

Cut Costs, Cut Your Losses



By Stefan Anderson

Cut costs and budget properly, an economical statement that applies to many facets of life, is now taken place in the National Football League. With free agency starting beginning yesterday, many teams are aligning themselves to stock up on their roster and compete for this year’s upcoming NFL season. Also with the collective bargaining agreement and salary cap laws team have to remain under the salary cap.

The 2014 salary cap is currently, 133 million per team, but that doesn’t mean every team’s spending power is the same. Teams can choose to carry over unused cap space from the prior year, as 29 teams did this year. That carryover from each team’s salary cap are combined with final calculations of incentives, escalators, bonuses and other factors that will give teams the option of their  own unique spending limit.

With the new spending limit teams will make big rosters as some teams already have done:

Notable signings:

  • Denver Broncos have acquired Aquib Talib and T.J. Ward
  • New Orleans Saints have signed Safety Jarius Byrd
  • Philadelphia Eagles added safety Malcolm Jenkins
  • Tampa Bay brought in Alterraun Verner along with Micheal Johnson

Along with the teams adding stars to their team, there is another aspect of free agency that is groundbreaking this year. With so many teams in fear of going over the salary cap, many teams are forced restructure their star player’s contracts or ultimately release them.  With that comes a lot of perennial pro bowlers are faced with something some have not been faced with in years, Free Agency.  The list of players that now have to face free agency to cut costs on their teams include: Demarcus Ware, Darrell Revis, Julius Peppers, Jared Allen, Champ Bailey and Michael Vick just to name a few.

Nothing wrong with the players having to face the difficult situation, I believe that this gives the league a balance.  Now with so many high profile free agents out there teams that could get a Darrell Revis or Demarcus Ware, could now go out and weigh their options into acquiring the big name talents. It is a great thing for the thing league and gives every team the opportunity to build up their rosters with not only draft picks but good free agents.

With the upcoming draft and a lot of great free agents hitting the market, the 2014 NFL season should be a great one to watch. 

Zen Master bring peace to New York


By Stefan Anderson

The last time the New York Knicks have not been to the NBA Finals since the 1998-99 season where they were defeated the San Antonio Spurs, since then Phil Jackson left his dynasty in Chicago and started another one in Los Angeles where they won 5 more rings to add his to resume as arguably, the greatest coach ever.  The Knicks since then have been searching for answers swapping many coaches and many players, seeing it darkest days in the past two decades. Hoping to restore their happiness to diehard fans and sometimes delusional (including myself), and the face of their franchise by adding Phil Jackson to their front office.

Jackson is more than likely about to accept the position the Knicks president of basketball operations after declining the head coach position. If hired, Jackson will have a tough job to do, since the Knicks have become a massacre once again due to owner James Dolan and General Manager’s illogical decisions. Phil Jackson can help the Knicks in that department because of his star power and winning efforts, ala Pat Riley to help bring the Knicks to dominance in the Eastern Conference again.  It would definitely be challenge which Jackson is not used to after coaching some of the best players in NBA history, Shaq, Kobe, Scottie Pippen and of course Michael Jordan.

The Knicks are not those Bulls team in the 90’s nor the Lakers dynasty of the 2000’s, but have some great options pending Carmelo Anthony decision. Anthony has an early termination option this year and can leave New York to test free agency or stay and collect 23 million for his final season of his contract. But if the Zen Master can keep Anthony in New York for another season, he has options to make a great roster that has not seen any life since former GM Donnie Walsh left the position. The Knicks have traded away all their future first round picks for the next 3 years and are stuck with building their team the hard way through free agency and trades. With expiring contract of Amare Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler, Andrea Bargnani  and Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks will have a lot cap space to once again dig in the free agency pool that will feature Kevin Love, Rajon Rondo just to name a few. Or use those hefty expiring contracts, to receive draft picks or gain players to build a championship roster.

Jackson biggest issues will consist of players and what happens on the court, it would be with his boss James Dolan. Dolan has been known to a dictator and makes any one who works under him look foolish. Not to mention his new rivalry with Nets billion dollar owner, Mikhail Prokhorov, who already baited Dolan into trading away the Knicks future that was a decade of painful years for franchise, just to get on Carmelo Anthony, the irony right. The Zen Master will have to use his patience and peaceful ways to help Knicks owner get off his high horse and focus on basketball matters instead of the billion dollar companies MSG and Cablevision. The relationship will be one that will include many fights and disagreements that hopefully work out for the Knicks or can go completely the wrong way and turn into a damper on Jackson’s legacy.

Phil Jackson, other than current Assistant GM Allan Houston, is the best decision for the Knicks president of basketball operations.  With Houston introducing his new D-League team in White Plains, NY, the job is open for Jackson to fill. I believe that he can bring the Knicks back despite having no experience as GM, his knowledge of the game can be used in a franchise that has been a wreck in the past years.  Jackson is hoping to help Knicks win another championship, the first since 1973, when he played for the Knicks. 



2014 Preview: NL Central



By Greg Hudson
Chicago Cubs (66-96, 5th in 2013)
The Cubs had a season to forget in 2013, failing to win 70 games and failing crack into the top 5 in any statistical category with one exception: starting pitcher Edwin Jackson led the majors with 18 losses.
Frankly, 2014 doesn’t have much brighter prospects for the Cubbies, either, with an almost entirely unchanged lineup featuring only the addition of rookie infielder Mike Olt, while Edwin Jackson will continue taking the hill for a rotation that will add Jason Hammel. The signing of journeyman closer Jose Veras could help them win close games, but only if the lineup can produce enough runs to get him out of the pen in the first place.
For the time being, if you want to find the Cubs in the NL Central standings, look towards the bottom.
Cincinnati Reds (90-72, 3rd in 2013)
A 90-win season in 2013 meant the Reds were headed to the postseason, but their October dreams were cut short after a loss to division-rival Pittsburgh in the wildcard game. 
The Cincinnati front office was clearly satisfied with the productivity of the team, however, and the 2014 roster is set to look almost exactly as it did last season, with the only change being the replacement of Shin-Soo Choo with rookie prospect Billy Hamilton. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In a sport where constant change is an accepted way of life and continuity is rare, the Reds roster has stayed together and is a few years off from experiencing the decline that has plagued the aging Yankees lineup in the past few seasons. Their entire rotation is under the age of 30, including 24-year-old who impressed with a 7-4 record and 2.92 ERA in 2013. Meanwhile the bullpen is full of experienced hurlers like Jonathon Broxton and Manny Parra, while featuring younger players like 26-year-old closer Aroldis Chapman.
The position players have a similar story. The only regular starters over 30 are Brandon Phillips at second and Ryan Ludwick in left, while the big hitters Joey Votto and Jay Bruce are only 30 and 26, respectively.
They missed out on a long postseason run last year, but look for them to be making a case to play in the NLCS this time around.
Milwaukee Brewers (74-88, 4th in 2013)
A losing record seems a fair assessment of the Brew Crew in 2013, but perhaps to finish 15 games under .500 was a little unfair. But it’s the product of playing in perhaps the most competitive division in all of baseball, with now three legitimate World Series contenders in the Central in Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis, where a middle-of-the-pack team doesn’t really have a chance to show it.
Brewers hitters ranked 16th in batting average (.252) and 14th in on base percentage (.398) last season, while the pitching staff ranked 16th in ERA (3.84) and 14th in WHIP (1.29). It was truly a middle-of-the-pack season at Miller Park.
It’s likely that those numbers, and the numbers in the wins column, should be about the same this year too, with perhaps a few improvements in the pitching department with the signing of veteran starter Matt Garza and set-up man Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez, who returns to Miller Park after spending much of last year in Baltimore. 
But the mediocrity in the lineup remains, despite the addition of Mark Reynolds and his power. The simple fact is that Ryan Braun and Carlos Gomez can’t be the only two sources of consistent production if the team wants to reach the .500 mark.
Pittsburgh Pirates (94-68, 2nd in 2013)
In 2013, all the promises the Pirates have made since the days that Jason Bay was a top rookie came to fruition as the Pirates secured October baseball for the first time since 1992. And it was no small miracle: a mix of experience and youth provided the right combination of speed, power, and consistency to get them to 94 wins despite sub-par hitting stats, thanks in no small part to the elite work of a pitching staff that ranked third in ERA (3.26) and 2nd in opponent batting average (.238).
This season looks to be another positive one, with the lineup and bullpen set to remain unchanged as young players like Jose Tabata and Starling Marte continue to develop and mature. The only major change is in the rotation, as the Pirates welcome righty hurler Edinson Volquez to a rotation that dominated opposing hitters in 2013.
Look to see them fighting to play in October again, but the Reds will be a tough team to beat if they want to make the playoffs again.
St. Louis Cardinals (97-65, 1st in 2013)
Last year’s World Series runners up are a veritable juggernaut, and have been since their loss in the 2004 World Series, also to Boston. Cardinals hitters ranked 3rd in runs scored and on base percentage, and 4th in batting average at .269. The pitching department was equally dominant, ranking 5th in ERA and 8th in WHIP, thanks in no small part to young phenom Michael Wacha.
Wacha and his friends in the rotation and the bullpen won’t be welcoming any new faces unless struck by the injury bug, but the already strong lineup has been further strengthened by shortstop Jhonny Peralta and catcher Peter Bourjos. Look to see them in the NCLS, for a start.
1st: Cardinals
2nd: Reds *wildcard
3rd: Pirates
4th: Brewers
5th: Cubs

The Forgotten Team



By Stefan Anderson

As the NBA season comes to end and the playoffs are set to begin, everybody has started to pick their favorite for the NBA Finals even their winner. The Heat are definitely the favorite win again and complete their 3 peat and the others believe it could be the Pacers or even the Thunder. What about the Spurs? Oh yeah, The Spurs, they’re good but their too old, they can’t do it again, they’re not going to win in the playoffs.  One thing the Spurs have that no other team embodies, consistency, whether it is in their criticism or their play, San Antonio is the model team in the NBA. 

The Spurs are currently 44-16 and sit 1.5 games the Western Conference leading Oklahoma City Thunder. A year removed from their first finals appearance since 2007, where they defeated Lebron James and his then Cleveland Cavaliers. The Spurs were a play or two away from locking up their 5 finals win in franchise history, all under Greg Popovich but fell short after a daggering 3 pointer by Ray Allen. But since the loss in the finals, The Spurs have not lost the pep in their step.

The San Antonio Spurs have remained the cream of the crop of the NBA for the past two decades and have not received any acknowledgment for their winning efforts. Some may chastise the Spurs “boring” fundamental style of basketball, but it remains clear that all they do is win. Their brand of basketball is not one you would not want to see on a consistent basis, for what I’m not sure, but they continue to play team basketball and make everyone around them better. Their boring brand of basketball still ranks them Top-10 in PPG, Assists and Points Allowed per game.

The Spurs currently do not have one player that averages over 20 points per game, which is impressive compared to each team that depends on one player to score all the points. Some complain and say where the star power for the San Antonio is, but they still have arguably the best PF ever in Tim Duncan still averaging a double double, one the best PG’s in the league in Tony Parker, the sometimes lackadaisical Manu Ginobli and the young budding star in Kawhi Leonard. It’s not about the star power in San Antonio, it’s the players like Patty Mills, Tiago Splitter, and Marco Belinelli that matter to the Spurs. They currently have 6 players that average double digits in scoring and are a great example of how to win as a team.

Since the 1999 season, San Antonio has not lost less than 50 games in a season. Their lowest win mark during that stretch was when they won 50 games in the 2012 season, where they ended up losing the young, hot Thunder teams that starred James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant.  The Spurs not only have won during the regular season they have also reigned supreme in the playoffs as well. San Antonio has not missed the playoffs since the 1997-1998 season, while collecting their 4 championships during that era.

If winning doesn’t impress you then I don’t know what will. The Spurs look to be the underdog again this season after winning the Western Conference last year and remaining in the same position they were a year previous. They could make a big statement this in the playoffs again if health is by their side and could end up competing for a ring one more time, the 6th time in 2 decades. Tonight’s rematch of last year’s finals should be a great measuring stick for both the Spurs and Heat as they remain in their winning ways respectively. 

2014 Preview: NL East


By Greg Hudson

Atlanta Braves (96-66, 1st in 2013)
The Braves had a spectacular season in 2013, finishing 30 games over .500 and falling just one game short of the Cardinals for top seed in the National League. But while they certainly had some powerful offensive performances – thanks to the likes of Chris Johnson, the brothers Upton, and Jason Heyward – the story of the Braves season was all about pitching. Atlanta pitchers ranked first in the majors in ERA at 3.18, and second in both quality starts (102) and WHIP (1.20), thanks is no small part to Chris Medlen’s 15 wins and 3.11 ERA, and the positively lights-out work from closer Craig Kimbrel.
The 2014 Braves Lineup should look very much like last year, seeing as no major moves happen into or out of Atlanta, with one major exception: the announcement that the Braves will be leaving the Atlanta Metro area and taking up residence at a new home some 15 miles out of the city. But for the next few years, until the stadium is ready for the 2017 season, Braves fans can expect the recent string of success to continue, provided the quality of players in the current lineup stick around and keep improving.
Miami Marlins (62-100, 5th in 2013)
For as impressive as the Braves were last season, the Marlins were just as much entirely awful in their second season in their new Miami home. While their pitching was an improved mediocre, Marlins hitters ranked dead last in the majors in runs scored, batting average, on base percentage, slugging percentage, and were rather lucky to lose only 100 games.
With such awful hitting stats it’s no surprise that the Marlins have made several lineup changes, most notably the additions of Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Rafael Furcal, and Casey McGehee, who will hopefully add some production to a lineup otherwise mostly devoid of oomph.
There have been no major moves in the pitching staff, but top prospects Andrew Heaney and Kevin Slowey will be fighting for a spot in the rotation against the likes of Tom Koehler during spring training. A successful season for either of them will be the highlight of the year for the fish.
New York Mets (74-88, 3rd in 2013)
When one looks at the Mets season last year, one has to admit they were remarkable. A team that couldn’t really hit (29th in batting average), couldn’t really field, and aside from Cy Young candidate Matt Harvey, couldn’t really pitch (20th in opponent batting average), finished less than 15 games under .500 despite having one of the worst home records in the majors. 
To say that the Mets have turned the corner in the off-season would be overselling the improvements the organization has made, but there’s no doubt the division’d third-place team last season has taking steps in the right direction, signing outfielders Chris Young and Curtis Granderson, while adding veteran hurler Bartolo Colon to the rotation and set-up man Kyle Farnsworth to the bullpen.
It isn’t likely to be a very successful season this year, but with Matt Harvey due to return next season and some very highly rated prospects coming through the system, including infielders Gavin Cecchini and L.J. Mazzilli, son of Met legend Lee Mazzilli. Don’t expect them to play October just yet though. Yet.
Philadelphia Phillies (73-89, 4th in 2013)
The Phillies were a team of contradictions in 2013. The team with the 9th most quality starts had one of the worst ERA’s and WHIP’s in the league, and while ranking 21st in batting average, Phillies hitters ranked 24th in on base percentage. So for them to finish with 73 wins, it’s tough to predict the 2014 season based on last season’s lineup.
Fortunately, we don’t have to try, they’ve added several key players in an attempt to improve their weakest elements. Marlon Bird features in the outfield while AJ Burnett, Roberto Hernandez, and rookie Miguel Gonzalez are part of a total overhaul of the rotation after the retirement of Roy Halladay.
They won’t be in the playoffs, but they could prove spoilers for teams like the Braves and the Nationals as they fight for the division title.