Basketball thoughts and where is Maddux going?
This week proved to have its share of intrigue, exciting hoops and All-Star action which has led to a wealth of questions from my readers. So without further adieu and column inches I'll get started.
Who has the edge as the best college basketball team in the country?
Ah this is a good one. One of those questions that can be discussed with great length over frosty mugs at the local watering hole. And especially in Indiana, the more frosty mugs, the more vehement the conversation will likely get.
A look at the most current poll will point you towards usual suspect Duke, who seems to own the penthouse overlooking the rest of the poll. But also give you No. 2 Stanford and No. 3 Saint Joseph's, the only two unbeaten teams in the country along with Pittsburgh and UConn rounding out the top five.
While the Blue Devils are perennially one of the best, I think this season they are a little too young to go all the way to the top. Much of their scoring comes from sophomore J.J. Redick (16.5 ppg.), Luol Deng (14.3 ppg.) and sophomore Shelden Williams (12.0 ppg.). Junior Daniel Ewing also adds double-digit scoring at 11.3 ppg. for a team with a ridiculous amount of scoring.
However, while offense is nice (just ask IU Mike Davis if he might like to have four double-digit scorers), defense wins titles.
The Blue Devils tend to rely a great deal on getting steals to feed their fast break and they aren't particularly deep either.
Duke used just seven players against North Carolina in a wild 83-81 overtime victory last week that was won on a coast-to-coast layup with less than two seconds remaining.
A team with a great back court that doesn't turn the ball over will give Duke fits.
Speaking of backcourt combos, the best in the nation may reside in Philadelphia where little Saint Joseph's is opening eyes around the country with guards Jameer Nelson and Delonte West.
Nelson averages 20.4 ppg. and 5.2 assists and West adds 19 ppg. and 4.6 assists for the unbeaten Hawks.
While their schedule is a tad weak, you can't argue with unbeaten. With only A-10 games remaining, there is no reason they can't enter tournament play with a 'zero' in the loss column.
An experienced squad that features four juniors and a senior in the starting lineup, the Hawks have the tools to scare even the big conference heavyweights.
Stanford is one of those upper echelon conference schools who has the pedigree to sit atop the poll.
The Cardinal won a thrilling battle with Arizona on Saturday as third-stringer Nick Robinson nabbed a steal from the Wildcat's Salim Stoudamire and hit a running 35-foot 3-pointer at the buzzer for an 80-77 win. The victory over the No.12 Wildcats moved Stanford's record to 20-0 this year, 11-0 in the Pac-10.
If you have any questions on how exciting the ending was, even the usually dour Tiger Woods, who is a Stanford alum and was in attendance, joined the bevy of celebrating fans who stormed the court.
With five double-digit scorers, five upper classmen who start, plus 10 players who average more than 11 minutes per game, I'm hopping on the Cardinal bandwagon as the team to beat this season.
Stanford already owns wins over No. 20 Kansas, No. 8 Gonzaga and at No. 12 Arizona by 10 points and once more in the thriller on Saturday. The squad has been tested by some of the best and still has come out on top so watch them when tourney time gets here.
No. 4 Pittsburgh has only been beaten once this year but it was against No. 5 conference foe UConn who has spent time at No. 1 this year. The Panthers are also tough, but haven't played a terribly tough schedule either. Wins over New Hampshire, Chicago St., St. Francis, Albany and Robert Morris isn't exactly the same as playing the elite of the nation.
While a 66-45 spanking of Syracuse on the road is impressive, a streak to end the season versus UConn, Syracuse again and No. 23 Providence will see if Pitt will hold water with the nation's best.
UConn was the fashionable pick early in the season before losses to No. 15 Georgia Tech, No. 17 N. Carolina and No. 23 Providence, but don't count out the Huskies.
Led by All-American Omeka Okafor up front, the Huskies are talented enough to make a run through the tournament if their shooting gets hot.
Okafor averages 19.3 ppg. and junior Ben Gordon adds 17.5 ppg. but has been known to be streaky from the field. Sophomore Denham Brown is the third leading scorer with freshman sensation Charlie Villanueva also averaging double-figures.
UConn is talented but a bit too inclined to go through scoreless streaks that will get you blown out come NCAA Tourney time.
All five of those teams are tough and have the talent to be the best along with a number of other teams. Don't count out Pitino's Louisville Cardinals or perhaps even North Carolina in the battle for the title. However, my edge goes to the west coast Cardinal at Stanford with their experience and balance.
Will the Cubs be able to sign Greg Maddux?
Here that sound? I didn't think so. That is because it's the collective sound of millions of Cubs fans holding their breath until their faces match their Cubbie hats.
While I don't consider myself a Cubs fan, I would love to see Maddux head to Chi-town mostly because I really would like to see the Braves fall to pieces.
Maddux lends not only a Hall of Fame arm but years of guru like wisdom that would be invaluable to the Cubs' young arms and heads.
With three starters who are 26 or younger, Maddux could teach Chicago's Golden Boys Mark Prior and Kerry Wood a wealth of baseball experience like don't chew tobacco and always spit out sunflower seed shells instead of swallowing them!
Seriously, I think Maddux might be leaning in Chicago's direction if the Cubs might trade a starter to make room in the rotation. With Prior and Woods in the top two spots, newly acquired Ryan Dempster likely battling for a spot along with Zambrano and Matt Clement, someone's gotta go.
The Dodgers are also hot and heavy after Maddux after getting passed over by the marquee bat of Vladimir Guerrero. That non-sign also gives Los Angeles a lot of free cash to spend which might give them the edge if Maddux hadn't already made a gazillion dollars with the Braves.
The ball, along with all the cards, are in Maddux's hands since he already has all the money and World Series rings a player could want.
Question is, which offer to return close to his roots will call strongest.
Maddux was born in Texas, but grew up in Las Vegas. On the other hand he made his major league debut with the Cubs in September of 1986.
One thing is for sure though, Cubs fans still believe that this is FINALLY the year they'll win the World Series.
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