The Return of the Johnnies!
Cub scouts the daily hoops scene.
by Cub Buenning
–After three straight wins by more than 15 points the Denver Nuggets hosted the Houston Rockets and had to settle for just a 113-106 win. Carmelo Anthony wasn’t super accurate from the floor, but was aggressive enough to get hoops and trips to the charity stripe on his way to a 33/11/5 night. It wasn’t just a one-man show; however, as the now 20-13 Nugs got contributions from several players (all starters in double-figures), predominately Nene. The Brazilian has had a career of inconsistent play (one night beastin’; the next basically missing) but last night was one of the former, getting 16 points and 11 rebounds. On a team with backcourt and small forward scoring and leadership, a consistent big man could make the difference. Remember, that just two years ago, this team was one of West’s best and was a couple plays away from a trip to the Finals. If only Nene was a consistent 20-10 guy, the Nuggets would be a top-3 lock every year, which might be enough to keep a certain player from wanting to go ply his trade elsewhere, like say, New York. The four straight Denver victories have also been aided by the recent return of forward Kenyon Martin. An albatross of a contract signing some six years ago, Martin has evolved into the guts and soul of this team and his presence has been the key for any kind of defensive attitude.
–While some of the nation’s top college teams still “cupcake it up,” others are already knee-deep in their conference schedule. My “unofficial” teams of Missouri and Illinois have had strong weeks, with the Fightin’ Illini starting off the Big Ten campaign with two strong wins (at Iowa, home against Wisconsin). The No. 8-ranked Mizzou Tigers are yet to begin Big 12 play, but they get crackin’ this Saturday in Boulder when they face the Colorado Buffaloes. There is a very good chance that the Cub Scouts family will be in the hizzie.
–Speaking of CU, let’s break down the Buffs’ 10-4 start, in relation to a similar record for another one of “my teams,” the 10-5 Gonzaga Bulldogs. They are different teams that have very similar records, but have very different ways of coming about those records. One is a front-court heavy team (Gonzaga) and the other (CU) is dependent on their experienced guard play. Colorado’s record includes wins against Oregon State, Indiana and Colorado State and losses to Georgia, New Mexico and San Francisco. Not that impressive. The Zags, on the other hand, have defeats at the hands of Illinois, San Diego State, Notre Dame, Washington State and Kansas State, but also have nice wins over Wake Forest, Xavier, Marquette and Oklahoma State (probably their best game of the season).
Suffice to say, that these are two differently tested teams and with the inferior of the two playing in the far more competitive conference, these records will look nothing alike in a month or two. Let’s just hope the Buffs can hold court at home this year and make a strong case for an at-large bid come March, because Alec Burks might not be in Boulder much longer.
–I have always been a fan of Coach Steve Lavin (both on the bench and television) and his recent work with the downtrodden St. John’s program is nothing short of phenomenal. Backing up an impressive win in South Bend over Notre Dame with a last-second win over Georgetown at MSG is all that needs to be said. This Johnnies team is a fast-paced, “grab the rebound and go” kind of squad, just my style.
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.