Cuonzo Martin Creating Excitement In Missouri

In March, Cuonzo Martin stepped down from his coaching duties at the University of California. That same day he took the vacant position at the University of Missouri. From there all Martin has done is get the Mizzou faithful excited for the upcoming basketball season. First he hired Michael Porter Sr. to his staff, which all but insured his son, Michael Porter Jr., would choose Missouri after decommitting from Washington. With Porter on board for one year, Missouri fans could dream of a Michael Beasley scenario – a seemingly bona fide star destined for the NBA dominating the college level and leading his team to the NCAA tournament.

Martin followed up by inking another Top 100 recruit in Jeremiah Tillmon, who decommitted from Illinois after head coach John Groce was fired. Now Martin had two Top 50 recruits in hand. Fans could envision a Greg Oden & Michael Conley situation. A pair of young, one-and-done players leading their team to a National Championship Game.

Now, news broke that Jontay Porter, ESPN’s #11 Player in the Class of 2018, and younger brother of Michael, will reclassify and play with his brother this year in Columbia. This gives Mizzou a three-headed monster they could not have even imagined five months ago. In a weaker SEC conference, the trio alone can keep Missouri towards the bottom of the Top 25, and have them fighting with South Carolina for third place in the conference, behind Kentucky and Florida.

The Missouri ship has done a complete 180 degree turn and is sailing full steam into the college basketball season. Expectations and excitement have no doubt risen, but only time will tell how special this group can be. They do return their top three scorers from last season. But on a team that only managed eight wins last season, there is room for change all around. Only time will tell, but Cuonzo Martin has a special concoction brewing in Columbia right now.

NBA vs. NCAA: The Debate

ncaa nba

Basketball is the best sport. This is an indisputable fact that all reasonable people can agree on. But which is better, NBA basketball or NCAA basketball? Let’s look at some of the factors that make the NBA and college hoops unique from one another.

NCAA March Madness vs NBA Playoffs

Quality vs. Quantity

The most obvious difference is the quality of play. In addition to the cream of the crop from college basketball, the NBA features the best international players. NBA players are either in their prime or their career or close to it, while college players aren’t close. Exacerbating this discrepancy is the fact that the most talented college players almost always leave after one year in school – gone are the days when a player like Patrick Ewing would stay in school and dominate college basketball for four years. There are about 4200 Division I basketball players versus about 360 NBA players. Clearly, the NBA is a better option if you’re strictly looking for great players and great basketball.

Quality of play and is far from the only thing that impacts how we enjoy the sport. There are a surprising amount of rule differences between the NBA and the college game. Most of the rule differences make the NBA a more exciting product. In the NBA, the shot clock is 24 seconds and the game lasts 48 minutes. This creates more possessions and a faster pace than in college, where the shot clock is 30 seconds and the game is 40 minutes. NBA teams can advance the ball well past half court after calling time out. This is critical in the last few seconds of a close game – instead of taking highly improbable half court heaves, NBA teams advance the ball and create better opportunities for buzzer beaters. Their counterparts in college are forced to inbound the ball from under their own basket. The college rule is more “pure”, but the NBA rule is more exciting.

Rules, Rules, Rules

A few other rule difference deserve acknowledgement. Six personal fouls get you tossed from an NBA game, compared to five in college. While the 8 extra minutes of game time and shorter shot clock in the NBA make the numbers virtually proportional (one foul per 8 minutes), it is still easier to get in ‘foul trouble’ in college. Put it this way: if basketball games were 8 minutes total and one foul got you ejected, everyone would be in foul trouble for the entire game. The game is best when the best players are playing, so the NBA gets the nod on this rule too. The rule difference that favors college most is the 1 and 1. It creates and exciting scenario where a team is punished heavily for missing the first free throw. In the NBA, teams get two shots when they are in the penalty and don’t risk losing the possession over one miss.

Atmosphere

While the rules and quality of play favor the NBA game, college basketball often has a better atmosphere. This is partially due to rivalries. With all of the player movement in the NBA, true rivalries are hard to come by and Lakers Celtics is the only true old school rivalry. But no matter who is on the court, you know that Carolina – Duke is going to be a bloodbath. Even in non rivalry games, college basketball crowds are usually more fired up than NBA crowds. It creates a more exciting atmosphere for regular season games than there is in most NBA arenas.

Crowning a Champion

The NBA and NCAA crown champions in very different ways. The NBA playoffs last two long months, and the best of seven format ensures that upsets are rare and the best team usually wins it all. It’s an extremely fair system and the amount of games ensures that the league creates significant revenue. But what is fair is not necessarily exciting, as we saw this year with Golden State going unchallenged. College basketball’s system needs no explanation – March Madness is simply the best yearly event in sports.

Style of Play

Another area where college basketball has an edge is the various styles of play. Fortunately, the NBA has gone away from the isolation basketball that made Jordan’s Bulls, Duncan’s late 90s / early 00s Spurs, and the Shaq/Kobe Lakers so successful. Offenses play a much more visually pleasing pick-and-roll and ball movement style, with the most successful offenses surrounding the pick-and-roll with accurate three point shooters. However, it is mostly one note. Winning comes down to who can execute this style better (or who can defend it). College still features many styles of play. When I turn on a UNC game, I know that they are running after every possession St that Roy Williams doesn’t know what a time out is. I know that Louisville is going to be pressing, Syracuse is going to be in their match-up zone, and that Duke players are taught to undercut opponents in an attempt to draw a charge. The fact that a myriad of styles are still used at the college level makes the game unique.

These styles of play are largely linked to coaches. Unfortunately for college basketball, coaches are the only thing that remains familiar to fans. All of the best college players are gone after one year. With NBA basketball, you can follow a player from when is is 19 years old to when he is 35, and sometimes beyond. When Dirk Nowitzki finally won his title after over a decade of playoff disappointment, the moment was bigger than when Carmelo Anthony won a title in his one year at Syracuse. The journeys and legacy factor make NBA accomplishments feel more significant than NCAA accomplishments, especially if we’ve been watching that player for years.

If you haven’t figured it out, I favor NBA basketball over NCAA ball. The quality of play, player storylines, and favorable rule differences are some of the factors that tip the scale in the NBA’s favor. Having said that, good luck prying me away from the Tournament in March.

NBA Should Find A Home In Kentucky

It’s inevitable. An expansion in the NBA is coming. We could see two new teams in the mix in the near future. It’s just a matter of when and most importantly, where. 

Seattle is high on everyone’s list. Pretty easy to understand. All the city needs is the OK from the league and the SuperSonics would be able to start all over. The city, which has been void of a pro basketball team for almost a decade, would welcome its beloved SuperSonics. 

But we’re missing out on other states that are synonymous with hoops – Kentucky.

Kentucky is Hoops Heaven

Kentucky

Kentucky is a blank slate, waiting for a big league team to start roots.

Kentucky is one of 24 states void of a major sport, being the fourth most populous state behind Virginia, Alabama and South Carolina.

The last time basketball was on the big state in Kentucky was during the era of the American Basketball Association. So, why not now?

The Blue Grass State bleeds hoops. The fandom is faithful. If you’re not a University of Kentucky fan, you sport a Louisville gear proudly, waiting to debate with a big blue fan. And you can bet that you’ll see a sea of blue or Cardinal-red fill gyms on the road. They travel. They travel obsessively.

Yes. The SuperSonics would find instant success in the franchise’s revival, but can you imagine the type of following Kentucky would have?

Even with a passionate college basketball fan base, the NBA season works on a bit of a different season schedule. After March Madness, college basketball fans itch for more. The NBA stage will do, which sees its season extend three more months than NCAA. But who should the people of Kentucky invest in?

And let’s be real. The fan base in Kentucky, whether it be UK or Louisville, puts some pro team fans to shame.

Oh yeah, and there’s a pretty big talent pool in Kentucky.

There are currently 34 former Kentucky players playing professionally.

Rival Louisville boasts 18 in the pros.

Kentucky has been tossed around, and it’s one of the prospects on a short list. Other candidates in question include Las Vegas, Mexico City, Kansas City and Vancouver.

Kentucky is already a state that draws hype over hoops. It’s where high school athletes would love to play. A possible pro team would give the state 10 times an appeal.

Why The NCAA Should Stop Expanding the Tournament

The NCAA Tournament is Fine the Way it is

March Madness is widely regarded as the best and most exciting playoff system in sports. That being said, why would anyone want to change it?

Two of the reasons I have seen are: it will help save coaches’ jobs, and allow more Division 1 athletes to get the full NCAA experience while increasing revenue for the NCAA. Frankly, both of these reasons seems to be, in my opinion, a cop-out.

Let’s start with the coaches. If you’re expected to lead your team to the NCAA tournament and fail to make the cut for several years, you are right to lose your job. Furthermore, simply expanding upon the field does not truly make you a better coach or improve your team. It simply makes you the beneficiary of a more advantageous system.

As for players getting the “full experience,” I would argue that not all players are created equal. It seems too utopian that the NCAA wants to reward more players by giving out bids. But when you start handing out more bids, what does that say about the meaningfulness of those bids? I think the quality of the tournament is already compromised by guaranteeing every team who wins their conference a bid. However, this is where all the great upsets in March come from so it is a trade-off that is well worth it. Adding more average-to-below-average competitors will do nothing but water down the competition.

What it’s really about is the money. You cannot argue that adding teams to the tournament would be more lucrative for the NCAA. More teams equals more games; more games equals more money. It’s simple math. Yet as sports fans, there is nothing we hate more than seeing teams and leagues sell out. It brings down the quality of the product 99% of the time and detracts from the entire reason we watch the sport to begin with. The NCAA is supposed to be a non-profit, so if they’re driven by the bottom line, isn’t that an indictment of the character of those in charge? We all love the NCAA Tournament, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Bigger Than Ball Vol. 5: Aidan Igiehon

Aidan Igiehon is a top ranked basketball player whose aggression and footwork around the basket have colleges from all over the country lining up to see him play.  What’s even more impressive than his ability on the court is the unique journey he has taken to play basketball in the United States.  Igiehon is an Irish citizen, living and going to school in New York.  He’s also one of the most humble kids we have gotten the chance to interview so far.  Here’s our in depth Q & A with the number 55 ranked junior, Aidan Igiehon.  

 

You don’t typically see many kids from Ireland playing ball in the States, how’d you end up coming over to play?

 

It’s funny, I didn’t actually come over here to play ball.  I came over here with my local team called Dublin Lions, they play ball, and I went to this Sixers camp – Philadelphia 76ers.  I was 13, 6’5” – yeah, I was like tall and skinny…and then I was athletic and could dunk the ball.  They were like “yo he’s 13?”, and then a lot of high schools came to see me.  No one really helped me get over here.  I just traveled with my team.  I went from Philly to New York to visit my family, and then stayed a couple months; and then I was playing in the park with my Aunt – my Aunt’s daughter’s Coach is best friends with Dana. He set up a workout, and I’ve been with them ever since.  Never thought about playing with anyone else.  

How was it playing on the EYBL circuit? You were relatively unknown before  you started playing AAU basketball, how did that help your recruiting?

 

On the circuit that’s when I really blew up.  The first session…it was the game against Bol Bol and Shareef [O’Neal] – people were like…like didn’t know who I was at the time.  They were just focused on Shareef.  “theres a kid dunking crazy”, it was me – I was just cocking it back, like ahh!  I had 18 points with like seven dunks and a couple free throws.  After that game my phone started blowing up – they started calling me.  Then I got my first ACC offer.  Syracuse.  After I got that offer, a lot of schools started contacting me.  I was too excited.  Dana was telling me to relax.  I guess he expected it, but I didn’t…Syracuse was like my fourth or fifth, and from then on I had like 20 something.  

 

Who has been the best person you’ve played against so far?

 

Marvin Bagley. Gotta be – and second that Bol Bol.  Bol Bol might be better actually, I don’t know.  He’s nice…underrated.   Only thing is, he’s 7’3” but he hates to play around the rim.  He plays from the free throw line and up.  It’s easier for me to guard big men rather than guards so that made it tough.

 

Which NBA player do you think you play like?

A mixture…I wanna say a mix with Deandre Jordan…and with Anthony Davis.  Yeah – mix that – take a little skill off AD.  My aggression and how hard I dunk the ball is like him.  I am actually very skilled, but many people don’t know that.  All they see is the dunks.  I can finish with both hands and start the break.  It’s tough to show that sometimes because showcase games usually show the guards.  Nobody really knows my name like that so that’s why I’m trying to use this July period to get known.

 

Soccer is the main sport played in Ireland,  and you seem to have great footwork for a player your age – Did you play when you were younger?

 

Yeah, I actually started off playing soccer.  I started playing ball when I was 12, but before that yeah – it was only soccer.  So, I played center midfield – I started off playing right back, and right defensive mid.  I wasn’t thinking about playing in college honestly, I didn’t even know about college athletics when I was younger.

 

Do you still play?

 

I still play soccer for fun, like with my older brother.  He’s 20.  He’s playing semi-pro right now upstate.  He plays in college, but he’s going to be a pro…It’d be cool for me to be able to play for the same school as my brother…I still work out like a soccer player.  When I’m training I do a lot of ladder stuff.  With Dana [Dingle-New York Lightning AAU coach], we start with a couple sprints then some high knees and then other footwork. As you get really tall, really quickly you get kinda slow.

What was the biggest adjustment basketball-wise when coming over from Ireland?

 

The speed of the game, the physicality of the game, and how serious everyone is about it.  In Ireland it’s just fun and games.  Like people here, they work out like one in the morning – I’m used to like, training with a team. That’s how we do it. That’s why the development has been different for me.  I was probably one of the best players in the country back then.  For my age.  There were some good players though.  Now looking back it was kinda like, eh.  There was one guard though, Matt Drummond.  He was good.  I had to wait a couple months before I could play when I came here, just the speed of everything…they threw me into the fire though.

 

Biggest non-basketball adjustment?

 

So basically, I’m in New York so I’m in the city.  In Brooklyn.  So, how there are mad trains and mad buses, and how you don’t use cars to get anywhere…and just the speed of life. It was a big change.  I lived in a very nice estate in Ireland, that you had to drive everywhere. Everywhere’s kinda far…hilly – quiet.  Ireland’s nice, the weather’s just horrendous.  Sometimes you can have all four seasons in a day.  Freezing, then warm, then it gets kinda hot and it’ll rain.

 

You’ve been living in New York for a few years now, do you ever get homesick?

 

Oh yeah.  All the time.  I’ve got a ton of friends and even now, a ton of people follow me like “yo you’re my inspiration”…I actually have to go back and run a camp – I have to give a speech and everything.  A ton of people are going to be there. [laughing] I’m looking at them like, yo I’m just a regular kid – I don’t look at it like how they look at it.  I look at it like I’m just playing ball you know…

What are you planning on saying in your speech?

 

Basically…first thing they’re gonna ask me is if I can dunk.  After that there just gonna ask me questions about my life.  “How can we get there?” They all want to come over, but unfortunately they can’t all come, but who am I to say they can’t.  So I’m going to let them know they have to work hard, and try and tell them how I much work out – and how you have to stay focused on academics. That plays a huge part.  Because I have good academics my recruitment is great.  I have a 3.7 – because of that my recruitment took off.

 

You have well over 20 Division I scholarship offers now, which gives you the opportunity to pick a school that really fits you.  What are you looking for out of the programs that are recruiting you?

 

I want to be somewhere where I can play right away.  My goal honestly is to be a pro.  I’m going to try man.  I just started playing ball..like I’m working hard, so I think I have a chance.  That’s why I work out so much – I’m just trying to work on my skills.  I’m really gonna try.

 

What do you think you need to work on to become a more complete player, and hopefully reach your goal of playing professionally?

 

I think I need to work on outside shooting. ‘Cause i’m athletic enough to play the three, I think if I could spread the floor more I could really be good.  I do a lot of ball handling in workouts, because that’s the goal.  I’m trying to make the NBA.  Obviously still think the academics, so I can play anywhere in the country – and I really have to extend my game. Do the repetition so much so that when it comes game time it just comes naturally.  I’m going to work hard, so that once I get to college, I really can cement myself as one of the best bigs in the country.