Don't Call It A Bromance

Three amigos, one blog.

DCIAPC 2.13: Our Thoughts Are With FSU

After last week’s incredibly close loss for Miami against FSU, I had a lot of material and jokes about Florida State’s football squad. In light of last night’s campus shooting in Tallahassee, I’m going to abstain from something as trivial as football talk in the face of this horrific situation. Everyone here at DCIAB is incredibly encouraged to hear that all of the shooter’s victims will survive and saddened that the tragedy occurred at all. Our thoughts are with FSU.

Getting into the weekly festivities, in games we picked last week:

    • Iowa (-3.5) flattened a crumbling Illinois football team
    • Mississippi State (+8.5) picked up an extremely frustrating backdoor cover in its loss at Alabama
    • Melvin Gordon (-6.5) nearly single-handedly slaughtered the entire state of Nebraska
    • Florida State (-3.5) pulled off another Houdini act, escaping Miami with a tight win
    • Northwestern (+17.5) went on the road and beat Notre Dame (!!!) allowing me to throw this up one more time:

The standings are getting incredibly tight, though they’re still pretty embarrassing. Bob has pulled into a tie with me and Matt sits just two games ahead:

Season Last Week
Matt 27-33 1-4
Harry 25-35 2-3
Bob 25-35 3-2

Here are the splits:

We All Agree  12-20
Matt Alone  4-2
Bob Alone  6-6
Harry Alone  5-5

This week, we have a new leader in the peanut gallery:

Winning Percentage Season Record Last Week
Creed Tucker .533 32-28 3-2
Andrew Hunt .525 21-19 2-3
Andrew Kelley .475 19-21 0-5
Mike .444 20-25 4-1
Bobby .400 20-30 3-2
Drew .350 14-26 3-2

Here are this week’s games. As usual, all lines come from Pinnacle and game times are eastern. The rankings come from the College Football Playoff Rankings.

Penn State (-6.5) at Illinois, Noon, ESPN2

Can the Illini pull off the upset on senior day or will Penn State seal Tim Beckman’s fate?

Northwestern at Purdue (-1.5), Noon, ESPNU

Coming into the season, who would’ve thought that Purdue would’ve been a favorite against a Power 5 opponent?

#8 Ole Miss (-3.5) at Arkansas, 3:30, CBS

Arkansas looks to make it two in a row after its first SEC victory under Bret Beilema.

Miami (-5.5) at Virginia, 7, ESPN2

After a loss to FSU and with nothing to really play for with the ACC Coastal out of reach, will the ‘Canes come out and play their best?

#19 USC at #9 UCLA (-3), 8, ABC

This year’s battle for Los Angeles is also a huge game in the deep Pac-12 South as four teams sit with two losses. All have a reasonable chance to face Oregon in the championship. Let’s get to the picks.

Penn State-Illinois:

Bob: After sitting in last place all season, I finally have tied Harry and sit just two behind Matt for the least bad of the three of us, so these last three Saturdays are crucial. As for this game, both these teams suck and can’t score. Penn State appears to suck less, but I could easily see this one ending in a close, low-scoring game. I’m tempted to take the points, but I just can’t see the Illini getting anything on this stout Nittany Lion defense. I like Penn State to cover, but not confidently. Penn State -6.5

Matt: This line started at around three or four points, and I would have been happy to take Penn State with that spread. Just a couple weeks ago, PSU barely scraped by Indiana (without a real quarterback) by six points on the road. Illinois poses a different set of challenges than the Hoosiers (a decent passing game as opposed to a fantastic running back with little help), and the question is whether that offense can sustain enough success to hang in this game. Similar to Bob, I’ll nervously take the Nittany Lions to cover this spread. I feel horrible about it in my gut, but it’s too difficult to trust Tim Beckman at this point. Penn State -6.5

Harry: I mostly agree with Matt and Bob’s analysis of this game. I simply can’t pick Illinois while getting less than a touchdown considering how the season has gone for Tim Beckman’s team. Penn State -6.5 

Northwestern-Purdue:

Bob: Purdue is favored? Obviously, Northwestern would get the slight edge if this game were in Evanston, but this still surprises me. I have been saying for a couple weeks that I wouldn’t be shocked if Northwestern beats Notre Dame and then loses to Purdue. I’m riding that feeling, especially after Purdue comes off a bye week following two respectable performances against top teams. Let’s hope I’m wrong about this one, just like I am with every Northwestern game. The narrative is going to be “Northwestern builds on its confidence with another win” if they leave victorious, and it would be “Northwestern too confident in loss” if they lose. Sigh. Purdue -1.5

Matt: I like the improvements Purdue has made this year under Darell Hazell. Unlike Illinois, they seem to be headed down the right path and have been competitive for most of this year. Central Michigan loss aside, this has been a nice bounce-back season for them. Unfortunately for Purdue, I’m buying the improvements Northwestern is showing just a bit more. It may be just one game against an overconfident opponent, but the ‘Cats are poised to become eligible for a bowl this Saturday. I think they make it happen. Northwestern +1.5

Harry: Northwestern is such a weird team. They have a couple great results this season (the win at Notre Dame last week and a victory over Wisconsin at home earlier this year) and some brutal ones (losing to Michigan at home, losing to NIU at home, a 31-point loss to Iowa that could’ve been even worse). Because of that, it’s really impossible to know which NU team will show up. Simply because I can’t trust the good ‘Cats to show up, I’ll take the home team. Purdue -1.5

Ole Miss-Arkansas:

Bob: Arkansas has played close game after close game against top SEC foes, including a 17-0 win against LSU last week. However, they still sit a good 26 spots below Ole Miss in the latest F/+ rankings. Ole Miss comes off a bye week and a win over Presbyterian, and their only losses are in Baton Rouge to LSU and (not really a loss) to Auburn at home. I’ll happily only give up 3.5 points here. Ole Miss -3.5

Matt: Arkansas kind of feels like the Purdue of the SEC right now, relatively speaking. They’re losing on a consistent basis, but you can definitely see pieces coming together that could make a solid team in the near future. That said, I’m about to do the same flip-flop I did on the last pick. The loss of Laquon Treadwell is big for the Ole Miss offense, but they should have enough to get by Arkansas. That defense is just too ferocious to let the Hogs cover this spread. Ole Miss -3.5

Harry: I’ve gone back and forth on this one for a while now. Arkansas has improved each week and that culminated in an impressive 17-0 win over LSU last week. However, that LSU team was coming off a grueling battle with Alabama. As Bob mentioned, Ole Miss hasn’t played a decent opponent in three weeks. I’ll take the Rebs. Ole Miss -3.5

Miami-Virginia:

Bob: Miami is 11th in F/+, and Virginia sucks despite wins against Louisville and Pittsburgh. This spread is weirdly low. Miami -5.5

Matt: This is the type of spread that makes dumb people say, “I think Vegas knows something we don’t.” Hint: Vegas knows just as much as observers do. That doesn’t mean Miami is definitely going to cover this spread, but they seem like the better bet because they are the better bet. Miami -5.5

Harry: Miami is playing its best football in years. Three blowouts of decent teams and playing a Top 5 team even leaves me pretty confused why this line is so low. Miami -5.5

USC-UCLA:

Bob: UCLA only has two losses, and they were both relatively close and to two top-20 teams. Meanwhile, USC has been pretty shaky all year. These two are about even according to F/+ (UCLA ranks 17th, USC ranks 21st), but I’m more confident in UCLA this week given both teams’ bodies of work over the course of the season. All favorites this week for me. UCLA -3

Matt:

UCLA -3

Harry: That is a very disrespectful song, Matthew. UCLA -3

 

DCIAPC 2.12: One Man’s Harrowing Journey to Live in a World Without “We Are ND”

*record scratch* "V-v-v-v-victory march"

*record scratch* “V-v-v-v-victory march!”

DCIAPC fans, I have discovered something horrific. It seems Notre Dame has finally made the obvious but horrific decision to remove “We Are ND” from YouTube. I frantically searched the vast abyss of that site for a harrowing 45 seconds to confirm that my worst fears have become reality. It’s hard to describe how empty I feel. Sad isn’t the right word; I just feel nothing. It feels as if one of my closest friends has been taken away from me, just when I needed him most.

After discovering this tragedy, I couldn’t help but feel that Drake was completely correct, though a little early, when he said that Nothing Was the Same. I retired to my room, wanting to sob but realizing that crying requires emotion, something that the loss of “We Are ND” had left me completely devoid of. I didn’t even mind that I ended the previous sentence in a preposition, which is normally a major pet peeve of mine. I slowly embraced the cold, black arms of death wrapping themselves around me, carrying me into the void. Seriously, this shit was like straight out of a Dostoyevsky novel.

Then, suddenly, just before my crushed soul slipped from my unfeeling, expiring body and into the deafening silence of nothingness, a stroke of light peaked through the darkness. It was only there for a second, but it shocked just enough life into me to chase it. Could it be? For the first time since like 15 seconds ago when I discovered “We Are ND” was no more, I pushed myself to have hope, to solve this mystery.

The light flashed again, longer and more powerful this time. I ran to it. The light was no longer flashing now. It was steadily beaming at me, glowing brighter and stronger by the second. I reached it and let it bathe over me, feeling its warmth and strong smell of delicious schadenfreude rushing over every inch of my skin. It was unlike anything I had ever experienced. Honestly, I had a halfer going. I wasn’t proud, but I let it happen.

As the sexually powerful warmth gushed over me, I heard the echoes of a familiar refrain calling out from the distance.

“Woah, woah, woah…”

Surely this was some powerful drug of my mind, a dream that couldn’t possibly be true. The light. The sound. Was I dying? Was I already dead? Was I in some blissful heaven? If I was, did they have Five Guys there?

“Woah, woah, woah…”

The noise steadily crescendoed into a roar and the light intensified to a piercing flare, beaming straight into my soul.

“Woah, woah, woah…”

Finally, I made my rapturous realization. This was no dream. This was no mirage. I had once again found the power, the glory, the holiness of none other than—”WOAH, WOAH, WOAH…”

WE ARE ND. WE ARE NOTRE DAME.

WE ARE ND. STRONG IN EVERY GAME.

WE ARE ND. WE ARE NOTRE DAME.

WE ARE THE FANS OF NOTRE DAME.

Seriously, those are the words of the chorus. I tried to select an incredibly stupid lyric from the versus, but I could only narrow it down to two lyrics that tied:

1. “Sing the volley cheer on high/Shake down the thunder from the sky/Before each game we always say, play like a champion today”

This one is ghastly if for nothing else than the “shake down the thunder from the sky.” What does that even mean? And to follow it up with jamming the iconic and hilariously ironic “Play Like a Champion Today” considering Notre Dame hasn’t played like a champion since…quick Google search…1988 (Not a typo!!) is just too good.

2. “Cheering strong in every game/We are the fans of Notre Dame/Across the nation hand-in-hand/Sing it throughout throughout the land”

First off, they essentially just repeated the chorus for the first half of this line. That’s hilariously lazy. But the best part of this line has to be when they want us to belt out this glorious tune “throughout throughout the land.” Could they not think of another word with two syllables in the entire English language to fill that gap? I can see the writing session now:

The Writing of “We Are ND”, A Dramatic Play in One Act

Scene opens with two of the finest songwriters of their generation sitting at a conspicuously low table.

Song Writer 1: Hey, maybe we should stop watching this Bob the Builder marathon and finish writing that ‘We Are ND’ song, even though watching the trials and tribulations of Scoop, Muck and Dizzy is vaguely educational and wholly emotionally satisfying. We have to find one more word to add to that ‘throughout the land’ line.

Song Writer 2: And Rolly too! Hold on, what were you saying? I wasn’t really paying attention because I was finishing using Lincoln Logs to build a crude depiction of a log cabin with doors that are waaaaaay too big proportionally to the rest of the building.

SW1: It seems odd that Notre Dame thought it prescient to have two six-year-olds write a song for their school that their athletic department is going to actively promote.

SW2: Oh, look! Phineas and Ferb is on! Fuck it, let’s just repeat the word ‘throughout’ two times in a row. No one will notice.

SW1: But what if some annoying college kid with no life and a tiny blog platform decides to take us to task for the relatively inoffensive act of writing this son—oh look an extremely manipulative advertisement of questionable morality that is designed to get me to annoy the living shit out of my mom until she buys me this stupid piece of crap that I don’t need! Wait, what was I saying?

SW2: Speaking of your mom, does she still keep Capri Sun in the fridge?

SW1: Notre Dame’s last national title came literally two decades before we were born.

SW2: Goddammit I just got a bead stuck up my nose again. 

/scene

By the way, in order to get “We Are ND” into this post, I had to track it down in some weird format on an obscure website, download it because I couldn’t figure out how to embed the odd format into the post and then upload it to YouTube as an unlisted video so the ND copyright/modesty preservation police wouldn’t take it down. I also wrote this 1,000+ word (!!!) scribe about my bullshit journey to find the video and myself. You’re damn welcome. Now excuse me while I watch this video on a loop 5,826 times in a row.


 

In games we picked last week:

  • Arizona State’s (-2.5) defense took the Notre Dame leprechaun out into the woods, sho—just kidding, but seriously, the Sun Devil defense impressed last weekend and helped fully launch ASU into the playoff discussion.
  • Northwestern (+1.5) somehow covered this spread AND LOST to Michigan 10-9, an appropriately stupid result to what was easily the stupidest college football game I have ever seen. That is not at all an exaggeration.
  • TCU (-6) impressively laid a beatdown on a very good Kansas State team (at least we think so based on other evidence) and climbed into the playoff committee’s coveted Top 4 that everyone is going nuts about with FOUR WEEKS OF MEANINGFUL GAMES REMAINING. Seriously, calm down everyone. The fact that Alabama is ranked fifth right now could not be more meaningless. Quit drinking and go to bed.
  • Speaking of Alabama (-6.5), the Crimson Tide also somehow covered in overtime despite attempting to blow this one and lose late in the fourth quarter.
  • Ohio State (+3.5) put together the most impressive performance we’ve seen in the Big Ten this year and firmly established itself as the conference’s only hope to get a team into the playoff.

After the first over-.500 week from any of us in a while, Matt picked up a game in the standings on Bob and me.

Season Last Week
Matt 26-29 3-2
Harry 23-32 2-3
Bob 22-33 2-3

Here are the splits. As you can see, Matt’s record is slightly boosted by an unsustainably good run of picks alone. I started 4-1 when picking alone and quickly regressed to .500. We’ll see what happens with Matt.

We All Agree  11-18
Matt Alone  4-1
Bob Alone  5-6
Harry Alone  5-5

After a rough week for our previous leader, we have a new leader in the peanut gallery! You’ll need 40 picks to remain next week.

Winning Percentage Season Record Last Week
Andrew Hunt .543 19-16
Creed Tucker .527 29-26 3-2
Andrew Kelley .475 19-21 0-5
Mike .400 16-24 1-4
Bobby .378 17-28
Drew .350 14-26 3-2

Here are this week’s games. As usual, all lines come from Pinnacle and game times are eastern. The rankings come from the College Football Playoff Rankings.

Iowa (-3.5) at Illinois, Noon, BTN

I have about as much to say about this game as I have interest in watching it. Enjoy your Saturday, Matt.

#1 Mississippi State at #5 Alabama (-8.5), 3:30, CBS

Speaking of so-bad-it’s-too-good-to-not-watch songs about college football teams, here’s the latest embarrassing entry into the pantheon from a random Mississippi State student who clearly has way more time on his hands than musical ability:

#16 Nebraska at #20 Wisconsin (-6.5), 3:30, ABC

Big Ten fans better enjoy this one, because after this game, the conference slate for the rest of the regular season is about as watchable as “All About That State”.

Northwestern at #18 Notre Dame (-17.5), 3:30, NBC

The actual lyrics of the “We Are ND” rap (and I use the word “rap” in the most liberal sense of the word:

“So if you want to test your luck, it’s the Fighting Irish getting tough

If it’s too hot, gonna turn it up on the field so the heat gon’ burn it up

Whether the odds be great or small, ole Notre Dame, we will win over all

While the sons go marching on to victory”

I tragically died of my IQ plummeting so quickly that it actually defied the laws of physics and exceeded terminal velocity while listening to and transcribing that rap. RIP me.

#3 Florida State (-2.5) at Miami, 8, ABC

Just win the damn game, Miami. Do it for all of us. Win the damn game. Meanwhile, this is for sale at All Canes just down the street from my house and will definitely be my next clothing purchase:

Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 5.15.52 AM

Let’s get to the picks.

Iowa-Illinois:

Harry: I did a double take when I first saw this line, even though Iowa just got absolutely destroyed by a Minnesota team that Illinois beat. (Side note: how the hell did that happen?!?!) Iowa has still shown that they’re better than completely pathetic aside from last week and Illinois is yet to be competitive for a full game against anyone who isn’t completely pathetic aside from that Minnesota game. Iowa -3.5

Bob: Before I begin my picks this week, I would like to briefly explain why I don’t bet on football. Last week, Northwestern scored its first touchdown in the game in the final ten seconds before missing the two-point conversion, losing by one, yet still covering the spread. Not scoring the touchdown (very plausible) or losing at all in overtime by more than 1.5 points (extremely plausible) would have allowed Michigan to cover, as they deserved. [ED Harry: Hard to say either team deserved anything from in that game aside from a swift kick to the ‘nads.] Instead, Northwestern went for the two-point conversion and missed it, pulling the rare cover of a 1.5-point spread despite losing. Later that night, LSU (6.5-point underdogs to Alabama) gave up a field goal as time expired to send the game into overtime. Essentially, not kicking the ball out of bounds OR playing any defense (which had been good all game) would have given LSU a win an easy cover. Instead, the game goes into overtime, which means the game was basically a tie. Alabama got the first possession in overtime and scored a touchdown before stopping LSU. In short, LSU was penalized for extending the game into overtime, whereas if they had lost in regulation by six points or fewer, they would have covered, or if they had had the first possession in overtime, kicked a field goal, then given up a touchdown, they would have covered. Tough to follow, but basically I got screwed out of two wins. Anyway, with this game, I agree with what Harry said completely. Iowa -3.5

Matt: As much as I’d like to put my faith in Illinois here, I don’t feel confident in them winning the game. Iowa has been highly inconsistent this season, but they should be able to move the ball against Illinois much better than against Minnesota’s stout defense. Wes Lunt’s return should give the Illini offense a much-needed boost, yet it still won’t be enough to beat the Hawkeyes nor cover this spread. Iowa -3.5

Mississippi State-Alabama:

Harry: I confidently think Alabama will take care of this game, even enough to put it as my top confidence game this week in ESPN’s College Pick ‘Em. 8.5 points is a lot to give up to the undefeated Bulldogs, but Mississippi State hasn’t seen an opponent of Alabama’s quality this year. You can point to MSU’s blowout win in Baton Rouge and Alabama’s escape from there last week, but LSU was much-improved by the time they played the Crimson Tide. Give me ‘Bama. Alabama -8.5

Bob: I’ve been looking forward to this game as a crashing to earth for the Bulldogs, but now that I see the spread, I am a little reluctant to pick against them. My justification for this is identical to my picking LSU last week – I still LOVE Alabama as a top team and find them better than Mississippi State, but I can’t give up this many points when MSU could easily win this game or keep it close. Mississippi State +8.5

Matt: This is an insane line. Think about how ridiculous it is for a team to be favored by 8.5 points over the number one team in the nation. I’d be curious to know if that has ever happened before in the history of college football. I have bet against Mississippi State consistently this year, mostly because I don’t find their wins to be all that impressive. Harry mentioned the win over LSU, which occurred when LSU was a mediocre football team (especially their defense), but they also have a home win over Auburn that was one of the flukier games I’ve seen this year (there were boatloads of turnovers on both sides). I just can’t shake this feeling that Alabama is going to obliterate the Bulldogs on Saturday. Alabama -8.5

Nebraska-Wisconsin:

Harry: Wait, Nebraska’s an underdog in this game?!?!?! Nebraska +6.5

Bob: ^. I saw both these teams play in person, and I know Wisconsin had an off game in Evanston, but Nebraska just looked way stronger to me. Hard to pick against them and all these points. Nebraska +6.5

Matt: Wisconsin has found their stride the last couple of weeks, with blowout wins over multiple Big Ten teams. If this line were four points lower, I would be tempted to take the Badgers. At this point in the season though, I’d take Nebraska and 6.5 points against any team in the Big Ten not named Ohio State. Nebraska +6.5

Northwestern-Notre Dame:

Harry: This is line is far too low. I highly doubt the Northwestern defense will be able to produce five turnovers like Arizona State’s did last week against the Domers and after the Mildcats’ offensive performance against Michigan, I’m not sure how they plan on breaking 10 points in South Bend. Notre Dame -17.5

Bob: Northwestern played one of the worst offensive games of football I’ve ever witnessed last week. Meanwhile, much to the dismay of everyone who loves to shit on Everett Golson, he is going to destroy the Wildcats secondary on Saturday. Notre Dame -17.5

Matt: Upset Special of the Week: at the time of my writing, Harry has yet to insert “We Are ND” into this piece. Truly unbelievable. Notre Dame -17.5 

[ED Harry: This was true at the time Matt made his picks. I kind of hung him out to dry by writing the column on “We Are ND” and I apologize for that. On second thought, I don’t really care.]

Florida State-Miami:

Harry: The fact that this line is still so low is crazy to me. I thought for sure people would bet this line up to four or five points, but in some books the line has actually moved towards Miami. While I agree there are reasons to be confident about Miami’s chances, I simply can’t take the ‘Canes getting anything less than a touchdown. Plus, even if Miami pulls the upset, the Tallahassee Police Department will just cover it up before any evidence can see the light of day. FSU -2.5 (Yuck) 

Bob: I always get really scared picking the “obvious” pick, but it’s so hard to justify the Seminoles’ giving up less than a field goal to a three-loss team. FSU -2.5

Matt:

Sebastian +2.5

DCIAPC 2.11: Peak Florida State Twitter

Miami doesn’t play Florida State until a week from Saturday, but because the ‘Canes have a bye this weekend, it’s already Florida State week here in Coral Gables. I’ll have much more on this next week, but for now, I’ll leave you with what has to be peak FSU twitter. Keep in mind, achieving peak FSU twitter is damn hard to do considering the vast amounts of toxic stupidity in that area.

Matt Porter is a (very good) beat writer from Massachusetts with no fandom towards the Hurricanes.


 

In games that we picked last week:

  • Iowa (-4) took Willie the Wildcat out into the woods, shot him in the face with a shotgun, ate him, vomited his remains, consumed his remains again, dug a shallow grave, defecated his now digested remains into that grave and buried the evidence. He then proceeded to call Willie’s mother, take her out for a nice dinner consisting of a delicious surf ‘n’ turf medley and then never call her again. Next, he drove over to Evanston, Illinois and just burned the entire town down, purposefully leaving the decrepit dumpster of a building that is Evanston Township High School as the only structure standing. And that was all before halftime!
  • Miami (-14.5) took whoever UNC’s mascot is (I’m too lazy to look it up) out into the woods, shot him in the face with a shotgun, ate him, vomited his remains, consumed his remains again, dug a shallow grave, defecated his now digested remains into that grave and buried the evidence. He then proceeded to call [insert mascot’s name]’s mother, take her out for a nice dinner consisting of a delicious surf ‘n’ turf medley and then never call her again. Next, he drove over to Chapel Hill, North Carolina and just burned the entire town down, purposefully leaving the decrepit dumpster of a building that is [insert generic shitty North Carolina high school here] as the only structure standing. And that was all before halftime!
  • West Virginia (+3.5) got really conservative (MUCH LIKE THE UNITED STATES SENATE LET’S GO SORRY I HAD TO) at the end of the game and blew a season-defining victory against TCU but still covered.
  • Auburn (+2.5) technically won the game, covering in the process and giving Matt a key win over me in the race for first (which is really a race to the bottom as you’ll see in a second), but like comethefuckon Ole Miss won that game.
  • Ohio State (-28.5) dug up the remains of Chief Illiniwek, shot him in the face with a shotgun, ate him, vomited his remains, consumed his remains again, dug a shallow grave, defecated his now digested remains into that grave and buried the evidence. He then proceeded to dig up the remains of Chief Illiniwek’s mother, take her out for a nice dinner consisting of a delicious surf ‘n’ turf medley and then never call her again. Next, he drove over to Champaign, Illinois and just burned the entire town down, purposefully leaving the pretty solid place of a building that is the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity house as the only structure standing because Ohio State’s not a freaking savage; come on, you actually thought Ohio State would actually burn Matt’s fraternity house to the ground???? (This just in: As it turns out, Ohio State is even worse than a savage and just burned down Matt’s fraternity house; it just wanted to fill Matt with false hope before the incineration.) And that was all before halftime!

Standings:

Season Last Week
Matt 23-27 1-4
Harry 21-29 0-5 (Ouch)
Bob 20-30 1-4

And the splits:

We All Agree  10-17 (Ouch again)
Matt Alone  3-1
Bob Alone  4-5
Harry Alone  5-5

Peanut gallery:

Winning Percentage Season Record Last Week
Andrew Kelley .543 19-16 2-3
Andrew Hunt .543 19-16 3-2
Creed Tucker .520 26-24 2-3
Mike .429 15-20 2-3
Bobby .378 17-28 3-2
Drew .314 11-24

This week, Miami and Illinois both have bye weeks, so we’re back to four national games. As usual, all lines come from Pinnacle and game times are eastern.

#10 Notre Dame at #9 Arizona State (-2.5), 3:30, ABC

Here’s one of the 2.5 de facto playoff elimination games taking place this Saturday. (We’ll pick all of them.) Don’t look now, but Arizona State is ironically becoming the 2012 Notre Dame of 2014. Yes, they have a loss, but look at a couple of ASU’s victories: a Hail Mary against a decidedly meh USC outfit and an overtime home win over Utah. IT’S THE LUCK OF THE IRISH PARTY ANIMAL DESERT DOUCHES!

Michigan (-1.5) at Northwestern, 3:30, ESPN2

It’s a battle of the teams who like to get taken out into the woods, shot him in the face with a—OKAY, OKAY I’LL CUT IT OUT. JEEZ.

#7 Kansas State at #6 TCU (-6), 7:30, FOX

Playoff Elimination Game #2. I can’t wait to see the contrast in styles between the blue-collar, power-running, defensive-stalwarting (I’m going to say “stalwarting” is a word because I can) Wildcats and the go-go spread, score points now, think about defense later Horny Horned Frogs.

#5 Alabama (-6.5) at #16 LSU, 8, CBS

Bust out the moonshine, because it’s the annual SEC rivalry that I am so over at this point. Maybe if I drink a lot of moonshine, one of these offenses will look remotely entertaining! Did I mention Lane Kiffin and Cam Cameron are the offensive coordinators squaring off in this one? Seriously, who knows how to make moonshine?

#14 Ohio State at #8 Michigan State (-3.5), 8, ABC

Playoff Elimination Game #2.5. Whoever loses is certainly done, the winner is still alive for the playoff but will need chaos at the top. This goes here:

On that note, let’s get to the picks.

Notre Dame-Arizona State:

Bob: Arizona State keeps getting W’s in a dense Pac-12 schedule, with its only loss coming in September against UCLA. Both teams come into the matchup with one loss, and it’s hardly at all discernible which team is better. I’m going to take the Sun Devils because I trust the consistency of their performances against quality teams, and they’re giving less than a field goal at home. Arizona State -2.5

Harry: Notre Dame’s letdowns against bad teams (needed a miracle 4th-down conversion to beat Stanford, a 50-43 win over a hot-and-cold UNC team, both at home) that Arizona State has yet to really show this year concern me. I agree with Bob on the consistency aspect and I think the Sun Devils’ blowout loss to UCLA was flukey in a lot of ways. I could easily see Notre Dame winning this game, but ASU is the safer pick. Arizona State -2.5

Matt: Notre Dame has established themselves firmly in the “Can beat anybody and lose to anybody” tier of teams this year. As Harry mentioned, they struggled to get by North Carolina because of turnovers and even let Navy hang around for three quarters. On the other hand, they would have defeated Florida State on the road if their leprechaun mascot hadn’t accidentally shoved his horseshoe 8 inches up Jameis Winston’s ass at the start of the season. I think the weird season of the Irish essentially concludes this week as this one ends poorly for the Domers. Arizona State -2.5

Michigan-Northwestern:

Bob: As much as everyone loves to laugh at Michigan this year, they truly are a more talented team than Northwestern, and Northwestern has not really proven that we can trust them against… anyone. After last week’s rout in Iowa and Michigan’s comfortable win over Indiana, all signs point to Michigan being the easy pick here. That probably means Northwestern will win, but there’s no way I’m taking them to beat anyone at this point. Michigan -1.5

Harry: Let me get one thing straight: in this game, nobody wins. Okay yeah, technically Michigan is going to win (by my prognostication), but this “football”—I use that term as liberally as possible in this case—game is actually going to air on national television and be watched by at least nine people. Both of these teams lose. Michigan -1.5

Matt:  I don’t see this quite as clearcut as the other two seem to, perhaps because I’m hesitant to crown Michigan as the winners just because they beat an Indiana team 34-10 last week. Indiana is not playing their first string quarterback, Nate Sudfeld, nor their crappy second string quarterback, Chris Covington. No, Indiana is playing third-string freshman Zander Diamont in the backfield alongside Tevin Coleman. After two full weeks of starting against Michigan State and Michigan, Diamont has thrown for 35 yards on 1.52 yards per pass attempt. I haven’t seen a statistic that ugly since I last looked at literally any of Illinois’ defensive numbers this season. All that said, Michigan has been better than their record all year (they’ve had terrible turnover luck combined with a turnover-prone quarterback, not a good combination) and is probably a better team overall than Northwestern. I think this one is of a similar hideous quality to last year’s game, but ultimately ends in a Michigan win. Michigan -1.5

Kansas State-TCU:

Bob: Kansas State still sits at just one loss to #3-ranked Auburn, but they have yet to have a truly impressive win. I’m riding the Horned Frogs. TCU -6

Harry: I think Kansas State is a really good football team and the best team in the Big 12. Like Bob mentioned, their only loss is entirely understandable (and they were in that game until the end, by the way) and beating Oklahoma on the road qualifies as a truly impressive win. If you want to talk about teams that don’t have a truly impressive win, what’s TCU’s again? Oklahoma at home is the Horned Frogs’ signature win and that’s not nearly as lustrous as knocking off the Sooners in Norman. Meanwhile, the Wildcats have an awesome power-rushing spread offense and killer defense. I’ll happily take the points here and I think K-State wins this game outright. Kansas State +6

Matt: I don’t know who the best team in the Big 12 is, but I think these two are the leading candidates and fairly equal (Baylor is lurking tho). Given the way TCU struggled to both finish drives and move the ball against a good-not-great West Virginia defense, I’m expecting Kansas State’s fantastic side to give them trouble. Kansas State is one of the best teams in the nation at taking care of the ball and avoiding stupid penalties, and I expect that to be a key to their covering on Saturday. Kansas State +6

Alabama-LSU:

Bob: I’ve said it a few times here: I think Alabama is a playoff-caliber team. As we have seen, it’s always tough to go into Baton Rouge at night, but I think the Tide are decisively the better team. However, this line is too high in what could easily be 1) a really close game or 2) won by the Tigers. Louisiana State +6.5

Harry: Like Bob, I think Alabama is a playoff-caliber team. Where I likely veer from Bob is that I think they are most definitely the best team in the country. Their close loss on the road at Ole Miss is entirely understandable now and even playing Arkansas close isn’t particularly concerning anymore. Their offense is still figuring it out under a new offensive coordinator who knows what he is doing and will have the Crimson Tide rolling when it counts. (Heh.) Furthermore, Bama still has to play Mississippi State and Auburn, but they get both of those teams at Bryant-Denny Stadium. In a chaotic season with no clear top dog, it’s hard to not ride with Nick Saban. Alabama -6.5

Matt: Both of these teams are beginning to hit their stride, with Alabama’s recent destruction of Teas A&M and LSU’s lucky win over Ole Miss. Weird things happen in Death Valley, but I think the Tide’s peak is much higher than the Tigers’. Alabama -6.5

Ohio State-Michigan State:

Bob: Michigan State is far far more trustworthy than Ohio State, and they’re at home and only giving 3.5. Easy pick. Michigan State -3.5

Harry: What Bob said. Please note that I wouldn’t be surprised if Ohio State won this game, but I am saying that you’d be nuts to pick the Buckeyes on the road with this line. Michigan State -3.5

Matt:

Nuts

Ohio State +3.5

DCIAPC 2.10: Harry Sucks

Harry is literally the worst person on the face of the Earth, so DCIAB is a bit late this week and I was forced into writing it up under threat of firing squad execution. Worse still, it’s Halloween week and Halloween is the worst holiday in existence, including Valentine’s Day. That’s right, I said it. Halloween sucks. Even at college. Fight me. Now, let’s get down to the serious footballz.


Last week:

  • Illinois (+6.5) somehow survived a second half beat-down by the Gophers and won outright
  • Georgia Tech (+3) forced Pitt to fumble on their first five possessions and carried the early lead to a win.
  • Michigan State (-17) committed a minimum of three felonies as they tore Michigan apart limb from limb.
  • LSU (+3.5) basically just head-butted Ole Miss for three hours and walked away with a win.
  • UTAH (PK) won on a last-minute pick play in the end zone, not too unlike the one for which Notre Dame was penalized.

This week’s standings, in which I have ~*~*~*TAKEN_THE_LEAD*~*~*~:

Season Last Week
Matt 22-23 2-3
Harry 21-24 1-4
Bob 19-26 2-3

And the splits:

We All Agree  10-13
Matt Alone  3-1
Bob Alone  4-5
Harry Alone  5-4

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Don’t Call It a 2014-15 NBA Season Preview

These two are good at basketball and should be good this year.

These two are good at basketball and should be good this year.

As much as we love our football-heavy coverage each fall, Matt and I decided to change it up and bring back the official DCIAB NBA preview. Just like every year in the bright lights league that is the modern NBA, the story lines don’t seem to end heading into tonight’s opening tip. Now that the annual Heat-in-the-Finals has been extinguished simply by the greatest player alive taking his talents back to Cleveland along with former MVP Derrick Rose making his second comeback, the reshuffled East should be a fantastic watch this year. Out West, the immortal Spurs try to hold off the surging Clippers and Durant-less (for a couple months) Thunder. A promising slate of rookies led by Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, and Nerlens Noel provides some excitement among the non-contenders.

In this preview, Matt and I will each lay out our playoff teams followed by awards predictions and, finally, our NBA playoff bracket.

Eastern Conference

Bob:

1. Cleveland Cavaliers

Unoriginal pick here, but these guys are going to be really fucking good. A roster that already teemed with young talent was joined by LeBron James and Kevin Love. I don’t expect there to be quite the same growing pains and microscopic media pressure that we saw in Miami, and even then Miami won the East every single year. The Cavs are undoubtedly the most talented team in the East, and the only x-factor is how new head coach David Blatt will adjust to NBA ball, though the early reports on him have been overwhelmingly positive.

2. Chicago Bulls

We Bulls fans have waited seemingly forever for our city’s most beloved athlete to finally reach full health. Unfortunately, we found ourselves saying the very same thing last year, so I have to enter this season with cautious optimism. I continue to say that people forget just how freaking good Derrick Rose was (and hopefully is). Although he had an up and down campaign with Team USA in August and September, Coach K and Thibs have repeatedly asserted their confidence in him. In preseason, Rose has shown that he still has his quickness and hops. Since Rose was last healthy, Luol Deng has essentially been replaced by Jimmy Butler (better defender, worse scorer), Carlos Boozer by Pau Gasol (ditto, but more importantly is much cheaper), rookie sharpshooter Doug McDermott, and lauded prospect Nikola Mirotic. And oh yeah, Joakim Noah, who finished fourth in MVP voting last season, is still in town.

3. Atlanta Hawks

It looks to me like the Cavaliers and Bulls will most definitely be the top two teams in the East, and the next four could all finish anywhere from 3rd to 8th. This team proved to be pretty threatening in last year’s playoffs even without Al Horford, who is arguably their top player. Horford teamed up with Paul Millsap should be pretty killer offensively, and I am a big Jeff Teague fan.

4. Washington Wizards

Most people think these guys will finish third, but Bradley Beal’s broken hand and the loss of Trevor Ariza could give this poorly coached team some early trouble. Obviously, finishing fourth is not really a problem for a still-improving team with an attainable goal of reaching the Eastern Conference Finals.

5. Toronto Raptors

Breakout seasons from DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, and Drake propelled the Raptors to the three-spot in the East last season. This drop is less of a bet on regression than the rest of the East improving more than Toronto.

6. Charlotte Hornets

I’m a big fan of the newly rebranded Hornets and would not be surprised if they launch all the way up to the three spot. Although their playoff series against the Heat looked ugly results-wise, the games were surprisingly competitive for the most part. These guys are competitors. The additions of my boy Lance Stephenson and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s alleged jump shot could do wonders for this rallying city.

7. Miami Heat

So much of the Heat’s success this year depends on what they get from the ailing and aging Dwyane Wade and Danny Granger. Unfortunately, I don’t think they will get too much. Chris Bosh’s experience will be much more like his Toronto years than his recent Miami ones, as he will have to carry a significant amount of the offensive load for Miami, which I believe he can do pretty well. It should be interesting to see how rookie Shabazz Napier fairs at the next level after his championship senior year at Connecticut.

8. Brooklyn Nets

This team has gotten boring, but they’re still pretty talented. Maybe they will get a healthy season from Brook Lopez, though I doubt it. If Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker can tear it up and Brandon Knight and Larry Sanders don’t play terribly, Milwaukee could be a fun team and fight for a playoff spot. Stan van Gundy could also propel a talented yet messy Detroit Pistons squad to the playoffs, but that will be difficult.

Matt:

1. Cleveland Cavaliers

This team has a shot, in the next 2-3 years, to have the best offense the NBA has ever seen. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love were offensive powerhouses at their respective destinations before they had one of the three best playmakers in the league as their teammate (that’d be LeBron James). The only thing that could stop this team from rolling straight through the playoffs is their defense. David Blatt will need to do some work on that end to create a top-level unit.

2. Chicago Bulls

There’s no way around this team’s offensive struggles last year– Chicago was one of the worst three offenses in 2013-14. That said, a Tom Thibodeau defense could carry even that team to a nice seed in the playoffs. Now, they return Derrick Rose and add Pau Gasol, Nikola Mirotic, and Doug McDermott. If Thibs is willing to give ample minutes to those last two, there are enough parts here to cobble together a top-ten offense, which is basically a necessity to be a title contender. If that happens, the Bulls will have as good a shot as the Cavaliers to come out of the East.

3. Toronto Raptors

The Raps came out of nowhere and were possibly the best team in the East in the second half of the 2014 season. This year they’ve added another nice bench piece in Louis Williams, who moved to Canada after an injury-riddled tenure with the Hawks. Kyle Lowry might regress a bit after last year, but this team has other parts that should improve, like young center Jonas Valanciunas and guard/forward Terrence Ross. Even DeMar DeRozan could take another small leap up from last season. This team has both the offensive and defensive talent to be a contender in the East.

4. Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks were third in the East last year when Al Horford went down with his second random torn pectoral injury. If Horford sticks around this year, and he should, this team will get an interior defensive boost that was sorely needed last season. Pair that with a creative offensive coach like Mike Budenholzer and this team should be right in the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff race.

5. Washington Wizards

Last year, I awarded the five spot in my playoff race to the a team that I dreaded had a chance of falling out of the playoffs– the New York Knicks, who ended up doing just that. This year, I’ve already dropped the Wizards two spots down from my original projection for them (the three seed). Perhaps it’s merely over-analysis driven by my close following of the team, but I’m worried about this team. Trevor Ariza was the only elite perimeter defender on the squad last year and he’s gone– now defending wings could be a serious issue unless Brad Beal or Otto Porter step up their game. Paul Pierce will be a nice offensive addition, but he’s certainly not without his faults and is almost too slow at this point to guard the three. Combine those wing issues with injuries to Beal and inevitably Nene, and it’s tough for me to put the Wiz above the five-spot. Come playoff time though, I believe they can compete with almost any team from the East. If John Wall takes another leap, this team could rise as high as 2-3 in the standings.

6. Charlotte Hornets

There’s no real reason to think this team’s defense should regress from last year’s top-ten unit, but the offense could struggle a bit this season. The spacing and passing prowess brought on by Josh McRoberts is gone, replaced by Cody Zeller and Noah Vonleh which… yikes. Lance Stephenson is a big addition, but this team already has Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson to create their own shots in a pinch. Stephenson will be good, but what this team really needed was a couple more three-and-D guys. MKG is the x-factor for this team; an offensive improvement on his end could be enough to earn a South-East division title for the Bobcats Hornets.

7. Miami Heat

LeBron is gone, Luol is in. This team’s starting five is good enough to contend with almost anyone, but the bench is a massive potential problem. There’s next-to-no scoring firepower on this second unit and it’ll take some creative lineup staggering by Eric Spoelstra to sort out viable combinations. He’s capable of that and this team should be good enough to make the playoffs, but I fear for their ability to hang with the other improved East teams. The glory days of the Heat are over, plain and simple.

8. Detroit Pistons

This is a tough choice between the Nets and Knicks and Pistons, so I went with the best coach available. Stan Van Gundy has an excellent history of putting together an elite offense centered around an emerging young big. Oh hey, Andre Drummond. With their newly added three-point shooting, this team may have been my seventh seed if not for Jodie Meeks’ injury for the first few months of the season. Trusting Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith to play more unselfish basketball is a tough decision to make, but this is a meaningless prediction anyway so who cares what you think, man.

Western Conference

Bob:

1. San Antonio Spurs

I picked these guys to win the championship last year, and I’m not picking against them until Gregg Popovich retires or they prove otherwise.

2. Los Angeles Clippers

My evaluation on this team last year was pretty spot-on: “This current team will never make it to a Finals in my opinion. Too much going on with Lob City and all that, and Jordan and Griffin cannot be trusted to play consistently on either end and hit their foul shots. I like them as a great regular season team, especially with Rivers in town, but somebody will trip them up in the playoffs.” In the last year, Griffin has proven to be a top-five NBA player and a potentially strong playoff team. I think Chris Paul is fantastic, and if he enters the playoffs healthy, watch out for these guys.

3. Oklahoma City Thunder

Last year, I said, “I can’t wait to see what Durant can do without Westbrook hijacking twenty shots a game.” Now, we face the opposite scenario, with Westbrook carrying the scoring load in Durant’s absence. After watching a ton of last year’s playoffs, I’m a converted Westbrook supporter. I also wrote a fifteen-page African Studies essay based loosely on Serge Ibaka’s upbringing in Congo, and he’s also ridiculously good. As obsessed as everyone is with the term “Big Three,” this trio could perhaps be the best in the league, but no one will call them the “Big Three” because they have been together for a few years and aren’t a shiny new object.

4. Golden State Warriors

So much of the discussion around Golden State this season will be predicated on Klay Thompson’s play after the team chose not to trade him in a package for Kevin Love. I like the idea of Steve Kerr as head coach, and Stephen Curry has blossomed into one of the NBA’s top stars. They could easily be a lower seed if Kerr and the team struggle, but a healthy Bogut could anchor a talented team and help it begin to fulfill its potential.

5. Memphis Grizzlies

These guys are back again. Marc Gasol has become one of the top NBA players who is not significant in popular culture, and Mike Conley is not too far behind.

6. Portland Trailblazers

After a surprising season from Portland’s lone major sports team brought them to the Western Conference Semifinals, Portland will be competitors again this season. A breakout season from LaMarcus Aldridge and a solid sophomore season from Damian Lillard should continue into this year and notch Portland a playoff spot in the crowded West.

7. Houston Rockets

Nasty splits with Chandler Parsons and Omer Asik coupled with growing distaste for the flop-loving, defense-hating James Harden as well as the detestable Dwight Howard, few fans really like these guys. Unfortunately, they remain pretty talented and should land a playoff spot.

8. Dallas Mavericks

Lots of people will pick the improving, exciting Suns to sneak into the West this year over the aging Dallas, but the addition of Chandler Parsons and a few pieces in the backcourt should keep Dallas in it. I got all eight West playoff teams correct last year, and I picked the same eight this year. Interesting.

Matt:

1. San Antonio Spurs

This team will probably regress just a little bit from last year’s unit as everybody gets a year older, but they’ll still be the ridiculous powerhouse they’ve been for like ten years now. Spurs uber alles.

2. Los Angeles Clippers

The Clips have the offensive chops to hang with anybody, but their defense will be the potential tipping point that turns them into the Western Conference favorite. Doc Rivers is still implementing the Thibodeau system that he used in Boston, so their D should improve from last year. The Clippers are overall a solid team that I don’t think I could ever pick to win the championship. Blake Griffin is also really, REALLY good.

3. Golden State Warriors

This is one of the few large leaps in my Western Conference predictions this year. I believe that Mark Jackson was heavily costing the Golden State offense with his insistence on an isolation-heavy system. Now, Steve Kerr is in command and will be all about ball movement (or at least, much more than Jackson). With talented passers like Steph Curry and Andre Igoudala and talented finishers (around the rim and otherwise) like Klay Thompson, Andrew Bogut, and Harrison Barnes, these guys are going to be excellent on the offensive end. Given their defensive prowess last year, this team is clearly among the most talented in the league and should play like it under a new, more innovative coach.

4. Oklahoma City Thunder

If they weren’t without Kevin Durant for a while, this team would be in my number two spot. Instead, they fall to four, though I could still see them finishing first. There are questions at shooting guard (the Thunder will play a mix of Reggie Jackson, Jeremy Lamb, and eventually Anthony Morrow), but they’re finally starting a non-Kendrick Perkins entity at center and that’ll give a little boost to this team’s offensive capabilities. Praise the lawd.

5. Memphis Grizzlies

The Grizzlies will just grind everybody to death on defense. They should be in the top-five in defensive points-per-possession this season and I’m hopeful their offense will continue to improve. Quincy Pondexter is one of my favorite players in the league that nobody ever talks about, and he returns from injury this season to provide spacing and competent defense. Vince Carter makes his arrival from Dallas and he’ll also give this team a shooting punch that has been sorely lacking in previous seasons. With new options for Marc Gasol to pass to and old mainstays like Mike Conley, Tony Allen, and Zach Randolph to keep the defense rolling, it’s not hard to imagine Memphis making a small leap into contention this year.

6. Dallas Mavericks

I’m irrationally high on almost any Rick Carlisle-coached team, and this one falls under that category. Monta Ellis, Chandler Parsons, and Dirk Nowitzki are a truly formidable offensive trio operating in a fantastic system. This team will struggle to find defensively gifted options to plug holes on the other end, but Jae Crowder will provide hustle and wing D that could fix some of those issues. Add a hopefully rejuvenated Tyson Chandler into the mix and there could be a great team in Dallas this season.

7. Houston Rockets

Losing Lin and Asik will be more troubling for this team than many realize. There are truly no interior defenders behind Dwight Howard now and Lin was a better facilitator than new starting point guard Patrick Beverley. Still, the added wing defense of Trevor Ariza will certainly help cover the loss of Parsons, especially if his improved three-point shooting percentages are the real deal (I think they are). Expect this team to maintain a significant amount of their offensive efficiency, but the other teams in the West made significant upgrades– enough to push Houston down to the seventh seed.

8. Portland Trailblazers

Of all the playoff teams last year, the Trailblazers are the one I’d deem most likely to undergo some natural regression. The team was almost too hot from three for much of last year and is due for a bit of regression in their midrange shooting as well. LaMarcus Aldridge is fantastically talented but won’t artificially inflate this team like he did in the playoffs last year over a larger sample size. Dame Lillard is good, but might be too old to significantly improve upon his game. This team will be solid again, but not like they were last year.

Most Valuable Player

Bob: LeBron James

He really should win this award every year, but, as I predicted last year, Kevin Durant won due to voter fatigue and a national obsession with offense. Blake Griffin could step up and snatch this award, but he will split votes with Chris Paul. Durant’s injury will make it tough for him to win MVP, and hell will freeze over before enough people like Westbrook enough for him to be voted the NBA’s Most Valuable Player.

Matt: LeBron James

I’m with Bob on this one. I thought LeBron would take it again last year, but Durant was literally a living incarnation of the fire emoji for the entire season and took it away from James. I like Griffin as a sneaky contender for this award as well but the narrative in Cleveland is too good for LeBron. He’ll take this one going away. Other perceived contenders: Russell Westbrook, Blake Griffin, Derrick Rose, John Wall, Dirk Nowitzki

Rookie of the Year

Bob: Jabari Parker

People say he has fit in perfectly to Jason Kidd’s Bucks team, and I expect the other competitors – Andrew Wiggins, Nerlens Noel, Dante Exum, Marcus Smart, Julius Randle – to take more time to adjust. My semi-sleeper pick here is Marcus Smart, which depends a lot on Rajon Rondo’s role with the Celtics going forward.

Matt: Jabari Parker

No other rookie is going to have the offensive responsibilities of Jabari Parker this year. I almost picked Smart for this award, but he’ll be sitting behind Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley while Jabari starts at many games as his body can manage in Milwaukee. RotY voters love points, and I expect Jabari to deliver those in a big way. I’m foreseeing a tough first year for Wiggins in Minnesota, but obviously he has the natural talent and physical abilities to steal this award. Randle is weirdly behind Carlos Boozer on the depth chart so I think he’ll have a hard time getting into the conversation. Other perceived contenders: Marcus Smart, Dante Exum, Nerlens Noel, Andrew Wiggins

Defensive Player of the Year

Bob: Joakim Noah

He won it last year, so people realize how much he adds to the Chicago Bulls defense. One year of winning should not affect voter fatigue, and a hopefully strong Bulls season could further add to Noah’s resume. As I mentioned last year, LeBron James could easily win this award every year, but one man can only receive so many honors.

Matt: Serge Ibaka

Actually, I almost entirely disagree with Bob on this. I think it’s highly unlikely that Noah wins it a second year in a row, though I could see it if the Bulls finish first in the East. For this award, I like to look at the narratives around each contender. For Noah, he won it last year but the whole story of that team now is the arrival of D Rose 3.0 and Pau Gasol. Marc Gasol is a nice candidate given his return from injury and the team’s possible resurgence. However, I can’t get my mind off Serge Ibaka in Oklahoma City. He and Westbrook will carry the team in Durant’s absence. I think an increase in his offensive workload will bring more of a spotlight to his defensive efforts. He was close to winning this award last year and I think the absence of Durant will give him the victory in 2014-15. Other perceived contenders: Dwight Howard, Joakim Noah, Marc Gasol

Coach of the Year

Bob: Gregg Popovich

Sort of a lifetime achievement award, but he also deserves it. David Blatt could also win this.

Matt: David Blatt

I have a good feeling about Blatt as a coach, mostly because everything I’ve read about him is highly encouraging. If the Cavs put together an elite defense and win the East by a few games, I think it’ll be hard to choose anybody else. Other perceived contenders: Doc Rivers, Tom Thibodeau, Gregg Popovich, Steve Kerr, Dave Joerger

Most Improved Player

Bob: Giannis Antetokounmpo

This one is always pretty tough to predict. I like the chances of a member of USA’s FIBA World Cup roster to win this award, which could include DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, Andre Drummond, or Kenneth Faried. Problems: The media hates Cousins, Davis is already too good, Drummond is still a couple years away, and much of Faried’s success in Spain can be attributed to the lack of athletic big men in the tournament. Anyway, Antetokounmpo has made great strides since his NBA debut and looks to be a star in the making. A scary thought: The sophomore is still only nineteen and has recently been joined by Jabari Parker, my Rookie of the Year pick.

Matt: Klay Thompson

One player Bob forgot to mention who looked fantastic all offseason: Klay Thompson. I was not a huge Klay fan in the past, and still wonder how the Warriors avoided trading him for Kevin Love, but perhaps they knew he would make a huge jump and look like a star this summer. Klay is a good candidate– he’s on a rising team and has several areas in which he can expand his game, most notably in shot creation and passing. Other perceived contenders: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Andre Drummond, Anthony Davis, Jeremy Lamb, Patrick Beverley, and a ton of others.

PLAYOFFS

East

West

Winner: San Antonio Spurs

Matt:

Eastern Conference Western Conference

Winner: Cleveland Cavaliers

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