16 Remain

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After one weekends worth of play, we have our Sweet Sixteen teams. Along the way, we saw one #1 seed, one #2 seed and two #3 seeds fall. #1 seeded Villanova lost to #8 seeded North Carolina State 71-68. #2 seeded Virginia lost to #7 seed Michigan State 60-54. Both #3 seeded Iowa State and Baylor lost in their opening round games to #14 seeds UAB and Georgia State.

Of the 16 teams that remain, 5 are seeded a 6 or higher, those teams are #6 Xavier, #7 Michigan State, #7 Wichita State, #8 North Carolina State, and #11 UCLA. UCLA is an interesting case. Many analyst didn’t even have UCLA as one of the last four out, so the fact that they made the tournament left many scratching their heads. UCLA has however since taken care of business defeating #6 Southern Methodist University and #14 UAB (defeated #3 Iowa State). UCLA will take on #2 Gonzaga on Friday. Gonzaga, who normally underperforms in the tournament took care of #7 Iowa who shocked many when they man handled #10 Davidson.

In the East of the bracket we no longer have #1 Villanova or #2 Virginia left. That leaves #3 Oklahoma and #4 Louisville as the top teams left in that region. Oklahoma takes on #8 North Carolina State while Louisville face #7 Michigan State. It will be interesting to see which team of these four emerges and punches their ticket to the Final Four.

No one has yet to knock off the #1 overall seed Kentucky Wildcats. Kentucky took care of business with #16 Hampton in their opening round game and then took on #8 Cincinnati. While the Bearcats put up a fight, Kentucky in the end was still too much. The Wildcats now have #5 West Virginia on Thursday. Will Kentucky finish the season undefeated and tournament champs?

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Darvish Season Done

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The Texas Rangers have some terrible news, All Star pitcher Yu Darvish will undergo Tommy John surgery. No ball club ever wants to hear that a pitcher has to have Tommy John surgery. TJ surgery means that the player effectively is done for at least 1 season and that there’s a chance they’ll never be the same pitcher again.

Will Selva - Darvish

Darvish suffered from some arm fatigue at the end of the 2014 season but decided against surgery in the off season and felt it was best to just rest his arm. The 28 year old right hander was 10-7 in 22 starts while posting a 3.06 ERA. He struck out 182 batters in just 144.1 innings which is a great strikeout/innings pitched ratio. Behind Darvish in the rotation, the Rangers have Derek Holland, Yovani Gallardo, Colby Lewis, and Ross Detwiler. They’ll certainly need someone to step up from the bullpen or AAA level to help the rotation.

With Darvish undergoing TJ before the season starts, there is a better chance he will be back by the beginning of next season. How good he’ll be, we don’t know. Pitchers like Johan Santana, Chris Carpenter, and Brian Wilson have not faired so well when coming back from TJ surgery. Both Matt Harvey of the Mets and Ivan Nova of the Yankees look to come back this year from TJ surgery and prove they have not lost a step.

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Lost Caracter

Will Selva’s latest post about Hispanic Athletes.

imgres-6Derrick Caracter grew up in Fanwood, New Jersey and got into basketball at an early age. Born with great size, he knew he could go far with basketball. He was so talented that heading into high school he was regarded as a can’t miss prospect. Caracter could not get comfortable in high school and he was constantly transferring. His freshmen year he attended New Jersey basketball powerhouse St. Patrick High School. He then went to Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School for his sophomore year but then decided to return to St. Patrick High School for his junior year. For his senior year, he transferred to Notre Dame Prep to help get his academics in order.

Regarded as the #25 best prospect in the 2006 high school class according to Rivals.com, Caracter attended the University of Louisville. Although a freshmen, standing at 6’8 275 pounds, Caracter was ready to contribute right away. However, during his time at Louisville, Caracter had trouble controlling his weight, a bad attitude, and was constantly just going through the motions at practice. A player so gifted was beginning to waste away all the potential that once had him as a can’t miss prospect. After two years of ups and downs at Louisville, Caracter entered the NBA Draft. However, once Caracter realized his draft stock was 2nd round to undrafted, Caracter pulled his name out of the draft before the deadline. Caracter was left in a tough spot. Head coach Rick Pitino gave Caracter’s scholarship away to senior guard Will Scott. Caracter was unable to return to Louisville. He found himself in limbo again, just like in high school.

Derrick Caracter found himself at UTEP the next year. Per NCAA rules, Caracter was required to sit out his first season as a transfer. He was eligible in the second half of the 2009-2010 season for UTEP and averaged 14 points and 8 rebounds. He would re-enter his name in the NBA Draft and stay entered. Caracter was selected with the 58th pick, the third to last pick, by the Los Angeles Lakers. After going through injury, stints in the D-League, and times of not seeing the floor with the Lakers, he was waived in 2012. He averaged 5 min in 41 appearances with the Lakers and did not catch on with any other NBA team. He has been playing overseas with various teams located in Lithuania, Brazil, Israel, Puerto Rico, as well as the NBA D-League in the states.

A can’t miss prospect squandered potential and can’t find the NBA floor. It just goes to show you that while talent and size mean a lot, it’s not everything.

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Coming Home

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imgres-3Two players were traded at last weeks NBA trade deadline. One was a bit of a surprise while another was expecting a buyout or trade to a contender. I’m talking about forward/center Kevin Garnett and forward Tayshaun Prince. The Brooklyn Nets dealt Garnett and his expiring contract to the Minnesota Timberwolves, where his career began, for 26 year old forward Thaddeus Young. Tayshaun Prince, who was already traded once this year from the Memphis Grizzlies to the Boston Celtics was dealt to the Detroit Pistons, where he won a championship in 2004, for forward Jonas Jerebko and guard/forward Luigi Datome.

Kevin Garnett returns to Minnesota where he was the 5th overall pick in the 1995 NBA Draft. He spent 12 seasons in Minnesota until he was ultimately dealt to the Boston Celtics. He was the 2004 NBA’s Most Valuable Player and a perennial All-Star for much of his time there. As Garnett approaches the age of 39 in May, many expect him to ride off into the sunset for the rest of this season on an expiring contract with the franchise that gave him his start but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Rumors say Garnett is expecting to sign a two year extension with the Timberwolves. He’s obviously not the franchise player that he once was, but how much left does Garnett have left? Garnett has plans in the future to buy the Timberwolves, possibly along with current head coach and President of Basketball Operations Flip Saunders. Perhaps is Garnett sticking around due to his love of basketball and the paychecks needed to make such a purchase?

Tayshaun Prince was hoping to work out a buyout with the Boston Celtics and join a contender like the Los Angeles Clippers or Portland Trail Blazers. Instead he was dealt to the Pistons, where he was drafted in 2002 23rd overall. Prince spent just under 11 seasons with the Pistons but they’re currently in 9th place in the weak Eastern Conference playoff picture. With Chris Bosh now out of the season in Miami, there may be room for Detroit to make the playoffs but the bottom of the East playoff picture don’t really stand a legitimate title chance. Prince had really hope to land with a top 4 team in the Western Conference. The Detroit Pistons have made it clear they do not plan to buyout the final year of Prince’s contract.

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The State of The Brooklyn Nets

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It was not too long ago, that Billy King, General Manager of the Brooklyn Nets was able to pull off the unimaginable. During the their final season in New Jersey, the Nets finished an abysmal 12-70. However, during the 2012 offseason, King was able to lock up his very own “Big 3.” With Brook Lopez still on his rookie deal but playing like an All-Star, King convinced then All-Star point guard Deron Williams to stay and then traded for All-Star Joe Johnson by giving up essentially no big pieces. With Lopez, Williams, and Johnson all on the squad, it looked like Brooklyn was ready to make a run for an NBA title.

imgres-6After an unsuccessful attempt, Brooklyn moved even closer to all in sacrificing many future 1st round picks for Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Jason Terry who while all were close to the end of the line in their career, still had something to offer. During the 2013-2014 season, Terry tried rushing back from injury and ultimately his play suffered. He was shipped to Sacramento and once again the Nets had nothing significant to show for the season losing to the Miami Heat in the 2nd round of the playoffs despite taking care of Miami in the regular season.

Paul Pierce left via free agency and landed with the Washington Wizards and the Nets now find themselves in the 9th spot in the East with a record of 21-31. Even if the Nets end up in the playoff picture, it looks as though they won’t go far having been inconsistent all season long. Point guard Deron Williams has been injured and even when healthy, Williams has not played close to the All Star caliber level he once played at. Joe Johnson has been discouraged by a lack of effort from his teammates and Brook Lopez has been in head coach Lionel Hollins dog house due to his defensive efforts at times. With the trade deadline just days away, all three of these players have been made available. Former All-Star Kevin Garnett has hinted at possibly being bought out to play for a contender but he has since shot those rumors down.

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Allen Making His Announcement

Will Selva’s latest post about Hispanic Athletes.

imgres-8One of the NBA’s most prolific three point shooters may be making a comeback following the All Star break, and no I’m not talking about Reggie Miller. Ray Allen, who last played for the Miami Heat last season is ready to make a decision following the All Star break. At age 39, Allen has been working out and staying in shape to make another title run in his 19th NBA season should he choose to do so.

Allen, the 5th overall pick in the 1996 draft out of the University of Connecticut averaged 18.9 points per game during his 1,300 career games in the NBA. He has hit 2,973 three pointers at a 40% clip which is good for first all time in three pointers made. Any team would certainly benefit from adding Allen to the mix. While they won’t expect him to play 30 minutes a night. He can certainly help a team and play 15-20 minutes a night while knocking 2 threes down and creating floor spacing for others.

Many teams are interested in Allen’s services. The list includes the Washington Wizards, Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs, Miami Heat, Los Angeles Clippers, and the Atlanta Hawks. Allen proved to be effective and had something left in the tank last year with the Miami Heat. He averaged 9.6 points, 2.0 assists, and 2.6 rebounds while shooting 44% from the field and 38% from three point land in 26.5 minutes a night. Allen’s three point shooting is just the surface of his value to teams today. Not only has he already won a championship, he also provides great floor spacing for other players to get open. You can’t provide the type of help defense you’re supposed to when covering Allen. If you sag off of him too much, he’ll find the ball and knock down an open three with ease. Stay tuned for the Ray Allen sweepstakes as I’m sure it will heat up in the final hours.

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Chicago Cubs Putting It Together

Will Selva’s latest post about Hispanic Athletes.

baseball

The Chicago Cubs had a poor 2014 season. The team got off to a horrendous start and sold off assets like Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the Oakland Athletics, Emilio Bonifacio to the Atlanta Braves, and Darwin Barney to the Los Angeles Dodgers. These moves allowed the Cubs to call up some young talent they had in their farm system to the big leagues. After finishing July 45-62, 17 games under .500, the Cubs went on to finish the regular season 28-27. The Chicago Cubs were one of the more exciting teams down the stretch in September having called up a lot of young talent to put on display and they delivered. Lets take a look at some of the young talent that was on display as well as some who figure to make an impact in 2015.

SS Starlin Castro – 24 years old
Despite being just 24 years old, Castro completed his 5th season in the majors. A career .284 hitter, Castro finished 2015 hitting .292 with 14 HRs and 65 RBIs. While Castro has produced, the Cubs have a plethora of young shortstops in the farm system and he may be dealt for another starting pitcher to add to the rotation.

2B Javy Baez – 22 years old
One of the guys the Cubs have that could replace Castro is now second basemen Javy Baez. Baez, who came up the farm system converted to second base in order to find playing time. Baez was called up on August 5th and made a huge splash. In his first game, he hit his first career home run, a game winner in the 12th inning. He went onto hit 2 HRs in his third game becoming the first player in over 50 years to hit 3 HRs in his first 3 games. Although he hit just .169, he did display some pop with his bat hitting 9 HRs and driving in 20 RBIs.

RF Jorge Soler – 22 years old
Soler was called up in late August and also homered in his first game with the Cubs. Soler definitely showed he can hit posting a .292 average with 5 HRs and 20 RBIs in just 89 at-bats. He figures to be penciled in as the everyday right fielder in 2015.

1B Anthony Rizzo – 25 years old
Rizzo entered the majors in 2011 with the San Diego Padres but did not create a role for himself. He came to the Cubs in 2012 and really carved his role as the everyday first basemen in 2014. Rizzo hit .286 with 32 HRs and 78 RBIs.

The pitching rotation looks to also shine in 2015. The Cubs signed one of the top free agents this offseason in Jon Lester. They inked the 31 year old left hander to a 6 yr $155 million deal. He finished last year 16-11 with a 2.46 ERA between the Red Sox and Athletics. He also struck out 220 batters. Jake Arrieta, the 28 year old right hander played all of 2014 with the Cubs and still managed a 10-5 record. He compiled a 2.53 ERA, a WHIP of 0.99 and struck out more than a batter an inning. Kyle Hendricks, a 25 year old right hander was called up in July and was spectacular for the Cubs. He finished 7-2 with a 2.46 ERA and a WHIP of 1.08.

The Cubs have a lot of great young pieces and with the addition of Lester, they figure to be a contender in the NL Central. Another name to keep an eye on, Kris Bryant. Bryant played all of 2014 in the minor leagues despite dominating. The number 2 overall pick in 2013, hit .325 with 43 HRs and 110 RBIs between AA and AAA. At age 23, he may be the best of the bunch that the young Chicago Cubs have to offer.

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