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TEAM USA Drops To France

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Yesterday, top favorite for winning the World Cup, Serbia, went out in the quarter-finals, while today the US team also got eliminated by France. Although the biggest NBA stars didn’t participate for the USA, they were still considered as the second favorite for retaining the title won in 2014. This is not the surprise after Turkey missed the chance to beat the Americans only due to their own mistakes and fear of a win, but such an experienced team as France knows how to grab this opportunity.

After the first quarter, teams went to the short break evens, while in the second, France started taking the main word in this match. Evan Fournier and Rudy Gobert were a dominant duo and after several very attractive actions, France managed to score 27 points into the second quarter. They had a six-point lead after the first 20 minutes of the game. France was almost in the constant lead of the match, while the US side had a maximum advantage of three points in the first quarter.

French side continued in the same fashion in the third quarter as well and their advantage rose to 10 points. However, after several mistakes in their offensive actions, they spilled everything and let go the Americans get a three-point lead. When the current world champions went seven points ahead, 72:65, even French fans doubted that their team will get back into the game and book their place in the semi-finals. In that period, France had a very bad control of a defensive rebound and they conceded a lot of second-chance points.

But something went wrong for the US team as they managed to score only three points in the last three minutes of the game, as reported by BettingTips4You stats. Their free-throws percentage went down rapidly as Donovan Mitchell and Kemba Walker missed some shots. On the other side, although they were not at the first-half level, Furnier bagged very important shots, while Gobert booked a couple of offensive rebounds which were eventually converted into points. The United States didn’t have the solution for French defense, they even missed some open shots and sitters, while French team was flying on the wings of their excellent effort. Nando De Colo’s cool head and steady arm were keeping the advantage for the French team intact as he scored five puts of six free throws. Eventually, France won by a ten-point margin, they totally deserved the victory and the chance to challenge the top spot.

The US team needed more scorers in this game as only Donovan Mitchell met the expectations with 29 points scored, although his field goals percentage went just above 50%. Kemba Walker was stopped at 10 points with a very bad evening as he scored twice from nine attempts, excluding the free-throws. They were outplayed in the paint as French side booked 16 rebounds more than their opponents. Gobert showed the class with 21 points scored and 16 rebounds, although he spent only six minutes on the bench. Both sides were a bit under 50% field goals percentage but eventually missed free throws cost the US team a win.

To summarize, France is going to take on the winner of the last quarter-finals between Australia and the Czech Republic, while the USA will play classification matches. Ironically, their first opponent is going to be Serbia, but everybody expected to see these two sides in the finals and not in the battle for the 5th spot. The match is going to be played tomorrow and there’s a very little time for preparation, so it wouldn’t be surprising if Serbia pulls an upset as they had a day more to recover. The side which is more mentally strong should win tomorrows match.

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2019-2020 College Basketball Preview

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The 2019-2020 college hoops season is just around the corner, and with that comes the great predictions, the unlikely statistics and the performance metrics that will predict which teams will likely make a deep run in the tournament come March… But it’s never that easy.

Everybody had Duke marching to the Championship at the beginning of last season – and will certainly make similar predictions about this year until, predictably, most of their predictions will fall apart one weekend in March. But every season brings surprises, (Like Baylor coming out of nowhere to win 20 games last season).

That is why college basketball is the most joyful and upsetting sport we have… where one week your team looks as if they could reach the Final Four – and the next week they get blown out at home by East Tennessee State.

Oh, by the way? The three-point line is now 22 feet 1 3/4 inches. That might change the outcome of EVERYTHING.

#1 Michigan State is the best team in the country. Tom Izzo and crew went to the Final Four last season with most of their returning team (A shock in today’s one and done era). It’s hard not to like this team, as senior PG Cassius Winston looks to be the best player in college basketball. Add on returning 6’8” junior Xavier Tillman and we should be watching this team make a DEEP run in March. MSU have 11-2 odds to win it all…

#2 Kentucky has two 5 star freshmen in Tyrese Maxey and Khalil Whitney, who fit nicely into John Calipari’s “Prepare them for the NBA” system. The problem is that in the One-and-Done era, only two teams have actually won the National Championship that are starting five-star future NBA players. (The 2012 Kentucky Wildcats and the 2015 Duke Blue Devils).

# 3 Duke returns Tre Jones and adds two five star freshman studs in Vernon Carey and Matthew Hurt (6’10” and 6’9”, respectively). They will have to face a VERY TOUGH

#4 Louisville team twice during the season who are expected to be better than last year’s 20 win team due to the addition of St. Joe’s transfer Lamarr Kimble (Who can shoot the lights out).

#5 Kansas is dealing with the NCAA recruiting sanctions leveled against them, but the return of Udoka Azubuike from injury and Devon Dotson’s decision to not test the NBA Draft has them looking like the best team in the Big 12. Of course, health is always a concern with Azubuike coming back from a hand injury and after last season’s string of close winds and losses, (Barely beating KSU, Losing to Texas Tech) they need to be playing with a fire that burns from the knowledge of not having a tournament to play in come March.

#6 Florida This team is a powerhouse. Andrew Nembhard and Tre Mann are remarkable playmakers surrounded by great shooters. Virginia Tech transfer Kerry Blackshear, jr. loads them up front. The SEC will be absolutely tough and This could be a title run 20 years after the last one for this Gators team.

#7 Auburn may have some issues from outside, which may make them vulnerable when they face bigger teams – although with 6’8” athletic big Babatunde Akingbola ripping down boards, this team could be one of the more athletic squads we will see this season.

#8 Villanova should be the best team in the Big East, but they may have issues at point guard, unless Collin Gillespie has taken big strides in his game. The always dangerous Wildcats are still superbly coached, balanced in the shooting department and will make magic with an 8-9 man rotation.

#9 Ohio State is tough… like really tough. Ever hear of DJ Carton? YOU WILL. The kid is an elite athlete and scorer and should lead this team far… He will play Michigan State only once this season – and it should be one of the most anticipated games of the year. He’s good enough to lead this well balanced team into the pre-season top ten… We’ll see how far he can take them come tourney time.

#10 Maryland is really balanced and sophomore experience will lead them to some great wins. Again, the Big 10 is full of big time front lines and missing a true big may cost them on occasion. Serrel Smith jr. showed a lot of promise last year and should step up while surrounded by a team with a loaded wing component. They face MSU twice… these are two other must see games.

#11 Virginia is still reeling off of their National Championship last year and won’t be AS good. But will still turn some heads… These guys just always seem to breeze through the giants of the league come tourney time…

#12 Purdue will miss Carsen Edwards as their go to scorer but they still come back stacked. Trevion Williams has NBA potential after a terrific freshman season.

#13 Florida State is awfully scary, and starts a very big lineup – their issues are in scoring in their half court offense. Get them on the break, however, and these guys are going to cause a lot of problems for opponents.

#14 Seton Hall will fight for the Big East title against Villanova – and with their four returning starters, they should get off to a fast start. Myles Powell is the truth – and should be a large factor in whether or not they make a decent tourney run.

#15 North Carolina – bring in superstar point guard Cole Anthony (Son of Greg) who is expected to be one of the best players in the country as a true freshman. The ACC is always a battle and the Tar Heels could make some ripples in the conference with Anthony at the wheel.

Coach Chris Beard has #16 Texas Tech riding high, and brought in grad transfers Chris Clark and TJ Holyfield. (My favorite name in college hoops this year). If Kansas hits any drags, the Red Raiders will be your Big 12 champions.

#17 Memphis – IS THIS THE MOST EXCITING TEAM IN THE NCAA? Perhaps. Penny Hardaway is ready for the big time and he has recruited four possible future NBA players. 7’1” James Wiseman is absurdly talented and Hardaway’s former AAU player… The question remains: Will Hardaway become a superstar coach at the D1 level? Or become a casualty of the Chris Mullin/Clyde Drexler variety and flame out after a couple of seasons? Whatever the case – it should be a fun season to watch the Tigers…

#18 Gonzaga – How do these guys stay so good year after year? Mark Few is a top-five coach, and with his front court drop of Killian Tillie and Drew Timme he returns an extremely impressive basketball team. Texas A 7 M transfer Admon Gilder could be the key to taking this team all the way… And Few has a tendency to get his teams clicking at the right time.

#19 LSU – NCAA Sanctions aside, these guys belong in the top twenty and may challenge for the SEC title. Trendon Watford is poised for a break through year and even though they lost some guys to the professional ranks last year. The problem may be the drama hanging around the program…

# 20 Arizona/Oregon – I had to include one Pac-12 team here, and since the conference doesn’t look that strong, these are the two best teams. One of them belongs in the top 20. Arizona brings in point guard Nico Mannion and Josh Green and if Sean Miller can shake his past demons, he could get these guys playing like a sweet 16 team. Oregon is in a similar position – big time impact freshman, grad transfers and a shooter in Addison Patterson. (Remember, the move of the three point line will affect a lot of percentages… Look for the numbers to fall all around.)

Hopefully that gets you started… but as we all know, these are kids, the tournament determines everything and you just never know what might happen…A team like #26 Creighton could come along and shock the world. (For the record Creighton is a terrific team… we just didn’t have space to get that deep…)

Good luck out there. Watch three point percentages to drop significantly. That is all.

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NBA News and Notes: Zion to Miss Start of NBA Season

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The start of the new NBA season is just around the corner but let’s look at some news from the last week of the NBA Preseason as NBA odds boards at different sportsbooks see adjustments to the win totals for the teams.

Zion Williamson to Miss Start of NBA Season with Knee Injury

Per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Williamson, the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft, out of Duke, is expected to miss a “period of weeks” so we will have to wait for his NBA debut. The news obviously worries Pelicans fans because Williamson is expected to help turn the franchise around but he should not play unless he is 100 percent ready.

Williamson showed promise in his preseason debut, scoring 16 points with seven rebounds and three assists while entertaining the crowd with amazing dunks as the Pelicans beat the Hawks 133-109 on October 7 but we also witnessed potential issues in his game. Williamson took 13 shots (missed two 3-pointers) and eight of those were around the restricted area in the lane (he would make just three of them).

Jrue Holiday led the way against the Hawks with 21 points in 18 minutes, Brandon Ingram finished with 19 points and six rebounds, Lonzo Ball had nine points, seven assists and five rebounds and promising rookie Nickeil Alexander-Walker added 12 points, which tells us that this is a team with a deep roster that to me will be just fine in those few weeks without Williamson. New Orleans also signed free agents JJ Redick and Derrick Favors and they can make some noise in the West once Williamson comes back.

Bradley Beal Signs Contract Extension with Wizards

Star guard Bradley Beal agreed to a two-year contract extension with the Washington Wizards worth $72 million. The deal has a player option for the second year, which means that Beal can push his free agency from 2021 to 2022, seemingly keeping him off the trade market while giving the Wizards at least one more year to show him that they’re serious about their intentions to be a competitive team in the near future.

Beal averaged a career-high 25.6 points, 5.5 assists and 5.9 rebounds in 36.9 minutes over 82 games last season and he averages 19.8 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.7 assists in 34.4 minutes over 488 career games (454 starts) in seven seasons with the Wizards. Beal clearly wants to play for a winner, so now is up to the Wizards to prove him that they can build a competitive roster, unless they want to risk losing him.

Russell Westbrook Exits Preseason Finale Due to Finger Injuries

The Rockets ended their preseason slate with a 144-133 road win against the Heat last Friday but Russell Westbrook had to leave the game in the fourth quarter after re-aggravating finger injuries on his right hand.

Westbrook dislocated two fingers on the right hand in the game against the Spurs but he still played against the Heat. Backup guard Austin Rivers also left the game early. He played only seven minutes before experiencing neck soreness and sitting out.

“Both of them told me they were OK, so we’ll take that,” head coach Mike D’Antoni told ESPN. Westbrook had 16 points, four rebounds and four assists on 6 of 13 shooting in 26 minutes.

After Paul George demanded a trade to the Clippers, the Thunder worked together with Westbrook to send him to a team of his choice and James Harden wanted to play with him, so he convinced the Rockets to go after the 2017 NBA MVP.

Harden and Westbrook were teammates with the Thunder for three years and their Big Three with Kevin Durant made it to the 2012 NBA Finals where they would eventually lose to the Heat in five games. Adding Westbrook makes the Rockets serious contenders in the Western Conference as long as both players show a willingness to sacrifice.

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2020 Summer Olympics: Who Will Go, Who Will Not?

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Let’s face it: the US national team didn’t do as well as expected at this year’s FIBA Basketball World Cup. USA Basketball originally selected 35 players to represent the country at the tournament in China this summer, yet only four of them were actually part of the US squad: two were dropped after the Las Vegas training camp, and 17 of them withdrew. The US was represented by Brook Lopez, Derrick White, Donovan Mitchell, Harrison Barnes, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Joe Harris, Kemba Walker, Khris Middleton, Marcus Smart, Mason Plumlee, and Myles Turner. And the results were far from brilliant: they beat the Czech Republic, Turkey, and Japan in the group stage, Greece and Brazil in the second round, lost to France in the quarter-finals, and beat Poland but lost to Serbia in the classification games. Ultimately, the Spanish national basketball team won the tournament, followed by Argentina, and France in the medal positions – the USA came seventh, outdone by Australia, Serbia, and the Czech Republic.

Many of the players who backed out of the 2019 Basketball World Cup commitment have, in turn, expressed interest in joining the USA squad at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

Enthusiasm

Miami Heat player Jimmy Butler announced at his introductory conference in Miami that he would “most definitely” consider joining the USA squad at the Olympics next year. The Lakers’ Anthony Davis did the same, saying that he does want to play USA Basketball – he already has plenty of experience in international basketball competitions, having played in the 2014 World Cup and the 2012 Summer Olympics. The Warriors’ Draymond Green also plans to play in the Olympics – actually, he looks forward to it, as he has his wedding planned around it. The Rockets’ James Harden, the Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard, and the Warriors’ Stephen Curry have also expressed their interest and enthusiasm to represent their country in Japan next year – the latter was cautious about making a commitment, though, because of the constant threat of an injury. Understandable, considering the early point in the season.

Reservations

The Clippers’ Paul George was a bit more moderate in expressing his enthusiasm for joining the USA squad in Tokyo next year. “I would love to. Hopefully, god willing, I can get through a season healthy. And when that time comes, I would love to be part of the Olympics and represent,” he told the ESPN. “But this comes first, obviously. And getting through this year, giving everything to this year. Hopefully, by June, we’re the last team standing and I’ll deal with it at that point.” Kawhi Leonard is also on the cautious side when it comes to committing to the Olympics – “I do want to play but I’m taking it one step at a time. And right now it is getting the Clippers to the Finals,” he sais. The Lakers’ LeBron James has a similar stance on the matter. “I don’t know. I would love to. … I will address that at some point”, he told reporter Dave McMenamin who shared his words on Twitter. He plans to speak to USA Basketball head coach Gregg Popovich at some point, McMenamin revealed.

Who has qualified for the Olympics already?

According to the rules of the Olympics, the host nation – this will be Japan next year – automatically qualifies for the tournament. Besides, the teams that finished the 2019 Basketball World Cup best from each FIBA zone also qualify automatically. Thus, the national basketball teams from Australia (FIBA Oceania), France, and Spain (FIBA Europe), Iran and Japan (FIBA Asia), Nigeria (FIBA Africa), and Argentina and the United States (FIBA Americas) have their spots assured at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

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