Thursday, March 28, 2013

Where's the Beef in South Beach?

The Miami Heat's 27-game winning streak came to a crashing halt against the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday night. Despite missing All Star center Joakim Noah, the Bulls exploited their size advantage to physically dominate the Heat on their way to a 101-97 win.

In fact, the level of physical play last night caused a rare outburst from LeBron during post-game interviews. King James complained that Chicago's hard fouls weren't "basketball plays" and should've been flagrant fouls.

Whether James has a point is another story. The fact here is that Chicago manhandled Miami. Carlos Boozer grabbed 17 rebounds, while Miami hauled in just 31 total boards. The Bulls proved that strong play on the glass and punishing defense are the keys to beating the defending champs.

Take Indiana, which has followed the same basic strategy as Chicago. This season, the Heat have suffered two double-digit losses at the hands of the Pacers. In Indiana's 87-77 win on Jan. 8, the Pacers pulled down 55 rebounds compared to just 36 for Miami. In two wins over LeBron & Co., Chicago has out rebounded Miami by an average of 16 RPG. It's hardly coincidence that the Pacers and Bulls, who rank 1st and 3rd respectively in points against this season, push Miami to their limit.

Of course, it's no surprise that strong rebounding teams have taken advantage of the Heat's small front court. Miami's has just one weakness, but it's a glaring one. You know there's trouble in paradise when Chris "the Birdman" Anderson is getting major minutes in Miami's rotation. 

The numbers bare the truth about Miami's woes. Miami pulls down just 38.4 rebounds per game, dead last in the NBA. Their -2.2 rebounding margin ranks a paltry 22nd in the league. Second chance points? Forget it. Miami grabs just 8.3 offensive boards per game or 3.5 less than Chicago and Indiana.

This past offseason, instead of adding a banger to do the dirty work down-low, Miami signed Rashard Lewis, who contributes a meager 3.8 PPG. Great decision, Mr. Riley. Udonis Haslem is often in the starting lineup, but even he is merely a space-filler. Also indicative of the missing beef, Chris Bosh, a face up shooter, is Miami's starting center!

Even with these weaknesses, it's hard to criticize a team that has lost just once since the Super Bowl. Miami is clearly the NBA's best team, but there's no denying their vulnerability against strong rebounding, defensive-minded teams.

Play SnapCall Sports throughout the NBA playoffs to see if the King can persevere for his second ring. Expect some rebounding questions!

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Curious Case of Florida Gulf Coast

The Florida Gulf Coast Eagles became the first ever 15-seed to reach the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament last night, dunking their way past San Diego State, after they did the same to Georgetown just two days prior. While many have praised the Eagles for being loose and having fun during the first weekend, how can we characterize their run? Lucky draw? Phenomenal play? A combination of both?

Before we look at what factors have resulted in this latest Cinderella story, let's first examine the Eagles' brief history.

Florida Gulf Coast University was founded in 1991. They didn't even have a basketball program for the first ten years of the school's existence. The Eagles' foray into hoops started in 2002-03 when they were established as an independent Division II team. FGCU became a full Division I member just months before the 2011-12 season. Let's pause for a few moments to let that sink in...

OK. Now we're there. This team just finished their second full season of NCAA Tournament eligibility! The soaring Eagles need to be celebrated for just getting to the tournament, let alone what they've done to their opponents. What head coach Andy Enfield and his men have accomplished so far is astonishing and extraordinary, with a sprinkle of stupendous. Considering where the program was just 5 years ago, he should be in the running for Coach of the Year. But that's another story for another time.

So, what about their play? Has their performance on the court truly warranted a place in the final 16 teams of the biggest tournament in sports?

Don't think. Just nod.

FGCU's non-conference slate this season was as good as it gets for a team that plays in the Atlantic Sun. Three of their first four games were: at Virginia Commonwealth, home against Miami and at Duke. The fact that they defeated Miami should have been a warning sign for Georgetown in their Second Round match-up. The Hoyas and Hurricanes play a similarly physical game, relying on tough defense and timely shooting to beat their opponents. Both teams fell hard, and it's no wonder.

While the world looked on, “Dunk City” made it known they would not slow their game down to match the Hoyas' modus operandi, or anyone else's. Instead, previously unknowns such as Sherwood Brown, Bernard Thompson, Brett Comer and Chase Fieler flew down the court, lobbing up and flushing down countless thunderous dunks en route to the victory.

Need more proof? Check out this "Dunk City" video that is sure to go viral in the coming days. The level of confidence and belief within their team was evident when they hit the court on Friday. One or two more upsets is not out of the question whatsoever.

So now, the Sweet 16, and whether they advance past Florida will not be determined by luck. Two very solid teams will take the court, and only one can move on. No matter the outcome, remember this squad. They may not be pros, but they'll be legends.

Download SnapCall Sports from the iTunes App Store and join in the fun for the rest of March Madness.

P.S. Andy Enfield's wife is a former Victoria's Secret model.