Armstrong: Five thoughts heading into playoffs, March Madness

Jack Armstrong
3/15/2010 11:38:10 AM
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Just back from the Toronto Raptors west coast trip and here are five general basketball thoughts. It's the best time of year if you're a hoops fan; March Madness is starting and the NBA Playoffs are a few weeks away.    

1. NCAA TOURNAMENT (3 players to watch):
A. Sherron Collins (Kansas) - Love his consistency and high level performance. Best team in the field and he's been their most reliable.
B. John Wall (Kentucky) - A star in the making. Arguably the first pick in the NBA Draft if he decides to come out this spring.
C. Evan Turner (Ohio State) - In my opinion, the best player in college basketball this year. Carried the Buckeyes and he'll have to do it again to give them a shot to go deep.

2. NCAA UPSET SPECIALS (Lower seeds that I think can win a first round game): Siena, Cornell, Georgia Tech, Florida, Missouri, Utah State and ODU.
3. PARITY IN COLLEGE BASKETBALL: Think about this for a second - UCLA, Indiana, St. Johns and North Carolina to name a few programs that are some of the all time leaders in NCAA wins that aren't part of the dance. Perennial powers, UCONN and Arizona, are on the outside looking in. It's a fine line in today's day and age with guys leaving college early, scholarship limits and the talent being more widely spread out. Top that off with injuries, transfers, etc., and you've got challenges. Not as easy as it used to be for the big boys.

4. TORONTO RAPTORS (17 games left: 8 games they have to get): Wanna finish strong this season?  Then you have to get these eight games (at NJ, Minnesota, Philly and Detroit -- versus Golden State, New York, LA Clippers and Chicago). The other nine games are very tough, they have to find a way to steal a few of those, but the story of how this season will finish out will be; can they win the games that they should be capable of winning? It's easier said than done.   Don't know what to figure on anymore with this team. When you don't defend consistently you become a hard team to read.

5. RAPTORS FOUR GAME WEST COAST TRIP: No fun to watch! What a tailspin right now. Nobody saw the collapse we've seen since the All-Star Game coming. They got exposed as a team that isn't playing like a group right now. Poor defense, shaky shot selection, negligent with the ball and a team that acts like they're good and yet doesn't play that way. You earn wins, teams don't roll over for you because you're supposed to be good. It's time for Jay Triano to rock their world and do whatever it takes to get their attention to turn this around. Is it too late? No, but it's getting closer to that scary breaking point if it doesn't begin to turn soon.

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