Andrew Wiggins vs Jabari Parker: Round One

Round one goes to Wiggins, but get used to this matchup as we’ll be seeing it for years in the NBA. Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker have taken turns being crowned the inevitable top pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, but now we’ll have a year of college basketball to settle the matter, though Kentucky’s super freshman Julius Randle may have something to say about it as well.

Both Wiggins and Parker were magnificent last night. Parker dominated in the first half and finished 27 points. He’s an all-around great player who can do everything very well from rebounding to draining three-pointers. Then in the second half Wiggins and the Jayhawks took over as Wiggins showed off his incredible athleticism that has people comparing him to Jordan and Lebron. The highlight above gives just a glimpse of what he will be capable of. Wiggins ended up with 22 points.

I had the opportunity to interview both Wiggins and Parker in the past as both of them won the Gatorade High School Player of the Year Award for basketball (Wiggins won the overall award as well). Both are great kids and have a bright future ahead of them.

Jabari Parker

Jabari Parker at Gatorade awards

Andrew Wiggins

Andrew Wiggins Gatorade POY

With these two and Julius Randle, it’s hard to imagine any team in the top three of next year’s NBA Draft being disappointed. In the meantime they can fight it out for the National Championship.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

Don’t expect a high-scoring Final Four

With Kansas, Kentucky and Syracuse out of the picture, some are grumbling about the lack of big-name teams at the Final Four. By the time the final buzzer sounds on Monday night, it’s entirely possible that those same detractors will call the games “boring” or “ugly.”

Here’s why:

1. Pace
There are 347 teams in the D1 ranks and of the four teams set to play Saturday, Michigan State (#215) plays at the fastest pace. The other three teams — Duke (#232), Butler (#285) and West Virginia (#306) — are all in the bottom third in the number of possessions used per game. All four teams are in the top 50 in offensive efficiency (points per possession), so there should be some scoring, but don’t expect any high-octane, up-and-down affairs.

2. Defense
Duke (#3 in defensive efficiency), Butler (#6) and West Virginia (#10) are elite defensive teams, and Michigan State (#33) isn’t bad, either. All four teams hold their opponents to less than 41.5% from the field and 33.1% from long range. Duke and Butler play great positional defense and always seem to have a help defender in the right spot. Michigan State and West Virginia use superior athleticism to smother opponents. The Mountaineers will even utilize a tough-to-attack 1-3-1 zone.

These teams are evenly matched and low-pace, low-scoring affairs lend themselves to close games. This should result in exciting basketball, but we’re not going to see anything like 2009, when all four teams were in the top 130 in overall pace.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

Thursday Final Four Commentary

Bernie Miklasz, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: I don’t need to watch spoiled, entitled basketball brats from Kentucky go on an ego spree by crazily firing 32 3-point shots, and making only four, in an Elite Eight loss to West Virginia. I’ll take Butler, which runs an offense and (gosh) makes the extra pass. I’m good with Butler’s best player, Gordon Hayward, who told the Indianapolis Star he’s worried about missing his math classes this week. “I’ve got a heavy class load,” Hayward said. “Some guys don’t have anything, but I wasn’t as lucky with scheduling.” Wait a minute: a real student, competing for the NCAA basketball championship? Who let Hayward and Butler in here? Butler clearly needs to hire John Calipari’s academic advisers. I’m fine with Kansas coach Bill Self sitting in the stands. Nothing personal; he’s a nice fellow. But his No. 1 seed Jayhawks lost heart as soon as Northern Iowa punched them in the mouth early on in their second-round game. I’ll take Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, who dug in and willed the Spartans to the Final Four despite the loss of Kalin Lucas, their injured point guard and leading scorer. I’ll even take this version of Duke, which made it back to the Final Four with a lineup rotation that really doesn’t rate with coach Mike Krzyzewski’s previous Final Four teams. Duke’s recruiting has slumped a bit in recent years. Based on previous Duke standards, Coach K has done more with less. There isn’t a sure No. 1 NBA draft pick on this Duke roster.

Jim Riggio, Real Clear Sports: All of the transfers left Duke with just two guards in summer in senior Jon Scheyer and junior Nolan Smith. But through it all Krzyzewski has worked his magic thanks to the knowledge of his players’ academic backgrounds. Andre Dawkins, who committed to Duke as a high school junior and figured to be one of the top prep players in the nation this year, would have actually been playing his fifth year of high school basketball. After transferring high schools following his freshman year, he was allowed to reclassify as a freshman for basketball purposes in the Commonwealth of Virginia. So Krzyzewski spoke to Dawkins about coming to Durham early and with guaranteed playing time available. The youngster couldn’t say no. It sounded like all the problems were solved and Krzyzewski could relax. But then in early December, Dawkins’ mother and sister were planning to drive down to North Carolina to see him play, only to never make it. With his mother also in the car, Dawkins’ sister Lacey was killed on a highway in West Virginia. This forced Dawkins to take temporary leave from the team to grieve his loss.

Jeff Goodman, There’s Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski, who will likely retire as the all-time winningest coach in D-1 history; Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, who is making a remarkable sixth Final Four appearance in the past dozen years; and Bob Huggins, who will likely join Coach K and Izzo in the Hall of Fame soon after he calls it a career. Three larger-than-life figures who have roamed the sidelines for years. Three fiery, intimidating personalities who are often unable to control their emotions. Then there’s Stevens, the 33-year-old wunderkind who just never, ever seems to lose his cool. Except when, following the win over Kansas State that earned Butler a spot in the Final Four in the Bulldogs hometown this week, Stevens ran across the floor and exchanged chest-bumps with walk-on Emerson Kampen. Stevens had been doing it in the locker room following each of the first three NCAA tournament wins, but decided to show a side of him that few have seen.

Mitch Albom, Detroit Free Press: Izzo had gone to Tulsa only for the money. It was 1986, he’d been making less than $5,000 a year at Michigan State as a part-time assistant, and Tulsa offered a job as recruiting coordinator, which paid, he recalls, around $35,000. A fortune! Jud Heathcote, his MSU mentor, told him it probably would be a good move, so Izzo packed a suitcase and a duffel bag and went to Oklahoma to work for an intense coach named J.D. Barnett. One of the first questions Barnett had asked him was, “Do you promise you’ll stay?” And Izzo intended to. He wore a shirt and tie every day, as Barnett demanded. He worked from 6:30 a.m. until midnight, six days a week. He touted the Golden Hurricane logo and told recruits Tulsa would be a great place for them to play basketball. But seven weeks after he’d arrived — just as Izzo was about to buy a house — Heathcote called. A position had opened at MSU. Did he want to come back? … “Oh, J.D. went off!” Izzo recalls, laughing. “He was screaming, ‘Turn your car in RIGHT NOW!’ I kept trying to say I was sorry. He wouldn’t hear it. He was so mad. He hung up on me. I don’t blame him.” Izzo went down the hall and found a young staffer named Ron. He asked for a ride back from the car dealership. “I can’t do that,” Ron said, glumly. “Why not?” Izzo said. “J.D. just called and told me not to do anything for you.”

Photo from fOTOGLIF

Decade Debate: 6 Greatest Sports Rivalries

The word rivalry is defined as “competition for the same objective or superiority in the same field.” Rivalries exist in all facets of life, but they are no more apparent than in the world of sport. With the end of the decade looming, here are the six most intense rivalries of the last ten years.

6. Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson

Competition between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson may not produce the mystique that Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus once did, but their rivalry has been exciting nonetheless. Without Tiger Woods, professional golf’s popularity would be a mere morsel of what it is today. The man has won 14 majors, holds his own tournament (the AT&T National), designed two beautiful courses, is the only golfer with his own video game, and garners public intrigue on the same level as world leaders. Still, his status as figurehead of professional golf wouldn’t have any merit without some stiff competition. Enter Phil Mickelson, Tiger’s only adversary with any staying power. When Mickelson won the 2000 Buick Invitational, he also officially ended Tiger’s streak of consecutive tournament wins at six. Over the years, Mickelson would hire Butch Harmon, Tiger’s former coach, and joke about Tiger’s use of “inferior equipment.” Still, their rivalry always remained amicable, even as Phil won his first major in ’04 (The Masters), the PGA Championship in ’05 another Green Jacket in ’06. During this year’s Masters, Tiger and Mickelson were finally paired together in a major event. Trudging down the final back nine at Augusta, the two golfers put on a show that thankfully lived up to the hype. –- Christopher Glotfelty

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Paulus likely playing for Syracuse next season

Sources close to the Syracuse football program have confirmed that former Duke point guard Greg Paulus will likely be on their roster for next season. With Michigan out of the picture, Paulus is expected to meet with Orange head coach Doug Marrone early this week about playing football at the school in his final year of college eligibility.

Syracuse Post-Standard sports columnist Bud Poliquin wrote that this is a no-brainer decision for the struggling program, as the Orange have won only 26 of its last 83 games and have nothing to lose with this roster addition.

Which makes this, of course, a no-brainer. As long as Marrone likes what he hears from Paulus, and as long as Paulus is confident that SU will provide him with the opportunity he seeks on the field and in the classrooms of the Newhouse School, this is a Done Deal.

Because he never was redshirted during his four years at Duke, Paulus has one year of eligibility remaining in another sport. He has completed his college degree thus allowing Paulus to attend graduate school elsewhere and compete immediately if granted a waiver from the NCAA.

Paulus was a prolific high school passer at Christian Brothers Academy in Syracuse; his high marks include an undefeated senior season in which he completed 66 percent of his passes for 3700 yards and threw for 43 touchdown passes. The Orange coaching staff feels Paulus is a perfect fit to lead their pro-style offense next season.

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