Duke or Ohio State?
Cub scouts the daily hoops scene.
by Cub Buenning
–One month remains until the NBA’s trade deadline and to most surprise, Carmelo Anthony is still a Denver Nugget. The rumor mill seems to have quieted down with the Nets apparently out of the game and the Knicks patiently waiting for free agency to begin. Without the quantity or quality pieces to make an attractive enough deal, New York must wait to spend its money this summer. But if a trade is not made before February 24, it does not necessarily mean that the League can start printing No. 15 Knicks’ jerseys quite yet. The trade deadline does not “kill” all possibility for the Nuggets to salvage some value for the seven-year vet. For this to work, Melo would have to be a big part of “the decision” (pun intended) to pick up the existing option year (not the much debated extension on the table) on his contract and remain a Nugget commodity for another year. Then Melo can be packaged as part of a summertime deal (I.e. on Draft Day). It’s a long shot, but still a possibility. I have also heard recently that with the impending labor strike, passing up a long-term deal this spring could result in a net financial loss for Melo of up to $40 million. (Yes, the opposition claims that he could make a large portion of that back up in New York City-area endorsements.)
Call me crazy, but I am not giving up hope that Melo remains a Nugget for at least the remainder of the year. A much criticized season that finds the Nuggets not only competitive but at times dominant, such as in last night’s 120-109 win in DC over the Wizards. The win was the starter of a five-game road stretch which may tell us a lot about this 26-18 team that is just two games out of first place in the Northwest Division. All of the five impending opponents fall into the “beatable” category, and for a team that won just five on the road coming into last night, a 4-1 trip might put this team close to the top of the League’s most competitive division.
As Melo’s coach, George Karl put it, “I’ve always believed there was a chance we’d have Melo for the whole year, and that was a bigger chance than most people were saying, and that’s what we’ve got to work through.”
–For the first two months of the college basketball season, I was certain that the Duke Blue Devils were the top team in the nation. No questions; no debates. They were deep, had experienced guard play, some new young blood and basically the entirety of its national championship team of a year ago.
Now I am not so sure.
My doubts are not because Duke suffered a road loss in conference (at Florida State), lost their young stud, Kyrie Irving for the season or their subsequent fallout of the (meaningless) top spot in both national polls. No, the main reason I now question has more to do with the recent exploits of a possibly superior team: the Ohio State Buckeyes. Opposite of my views on Duke, I was not sold on the Evan Turner-less Bucks until just this past week. Wins at Illinois (one of the toughest places in the country to play) and an absolute boat-race at home last night over a strong Purdue team happened.
I’m now buying.
Throw in the far superior competition that OSU will face in the Big Ten (compared to the sudden mediocrity in the ACC), and I think that a healthy Ohio State squad should enter March Madness as the odds-on favorite. But I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a Duke team waiting in Houston (site of Final Four) for them.
–A big game went down in Boulder, CO last night, as the CU Buffaloes suffered their third-straight conference loss at the hands of Big 12 top-dog Kansas. A quality loss if ever there was one, the Buffs played tough, fought back from several large deficits and had a chance to win in the game’s final minute, ultimately losing 82-78. As usual, the Buffs’ guards were stellar (Alec Burks — 25, Cory Higgins — 19), but again the undersized home team was simply outmatched in the paint. Guard play is supposed to dominate play in March, but on this night in late January, size and second-chance points (largely attributed to KU’s Morris twins) were the difference. I don’t expect to see Colorado lose at home again all season.
–HUGE MOUNTAIN WEST GAME TONIGHT IN PROVO! The undefeated San Diego State Aztecs travel to Utah to face Jimmer Fredette and the top-10 ranked BYU Cougars. It’s an 8 p.m. (MST) start on CBS College Sports, so some of you may need to take a nap to stay up for this one. SDSU has an awesome three-headed monster frontline, but the point guard match-up between national player of the year candidate Fredette and SDSU’s DJ Gay might prove the difference.
This post was a segment of Cub’s blog at milehighsportsview.blogspot.com. The Mile High Five is a daily portion of his blog that covers several aspects in the world of Denver and national sports and pop culture.