Big Wins in Big Games

It’s been a crazy couple of days for college basketball. First, we’ll start with the biggest win of all: UNC defeating NC State 85-84 in overtime on Wednesday. I’m a big Carolina fan and I was nervous the entire game! The lead kept changing on every possession and it pretty much went down to this: whoever had the ball last will win the game. Well, UNC sophomore point guard Marcus Paige took the last shot of the game and ended up winning it for the Tar Heels. He finished that shootout of a game with 35 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals. The way he’s been playing this year, it wouldn’t surprise me if he won ACC Player of the Year. The Tar Heels have now won 10 games in a row, all of those wins coming in the ACC. They beat NC State earlier in the year 84-70 and this win was show who the best Carolina team is this year. Now UNC will have to keep this streak alive when they travel to Virginia Tech this Saturday. Another team that won by the skin of their teeth was Michigan. They defeated Purdue in overtime as well, winning 77-76 last Wednesday. Glenn Robinson III had the game-winning basket and led his team with 17 points. The Wolverines have faded away from national championship contention talks, but they’re starting to pick things up again after that win against Michigan State on February 23rd.

Glen Robinson III has been averaging 13 points and 4.4 rebounds per game this season. Credit: zimbio.com
Glen Robinson III has been averaging 13 points and 4.4 rebounds per game this season.
Credit: zimbio.com

That same Wednesday night, Virginia improves to 15-1 in the ACC after a 65-40 win over Miami (Florida). They are quietly becoming a force to be reckoned with in this loaded conference. Their only loss came at Duke, but they have also beaten UNC and Pitt earlier this year. It’s hard to believe that they are 12th in the nation right now! Watch out for the Cavaliers when the ACC tournament comes around in March!

Malcolm Brogdon had 15 points, 4 rebounds and 2 steals in the win against Miami. Credit: college-basketball.si.com
Malcolm Brogdon had 15 points, 4 rebounds and 2 steals in the win against Miami.
Credit: college-basketball.si.com

Then Thursday night, we had a few upsets. Duquesne takes down Saint Louis 71-64, to give the Billikens their first conference loss of the season. What’s even more embarrassing is that Duquesne has a losing record: 12-15 overall and 4-10 in the Atlantic 10 conference. Saint Louis was ranked 10th in the nation, so we’ll see how far they drop next week. Also, Arkansas beat Kentucky again! The Razorbacks pull off their second-best win of the season, beating the Wildcats 71-67 in another overtime game. That win gives Arkansas a winning record in the SEC (8-7). Michael Qualls proves to be a nightmare for John Calipari. In the last game, he scored the game-winning put back dunk and in this game, he led this team with 14 points and 3 steals. Kentucky getting swept by Arkansas will definitely affect their rankings next week. Hopefully they can get back on track at South Carolina this Saturday.

The last game I want to mention is also an upset. Penn State, one of the worst teams in the Big Ten, took down Ohio State 65-63. All seven of Ohio State’s losses were against Big Ten opponents. This does not bode well for them in the upcoming conference tournament. What’s even worse is that Penn State beat Ohio State earlier this year, a 71-70 victory in overtime. If Ohio State wants to make it far in the national tournament, they’re going to have to worry about beating their own conference opponents first.

Christian Athlete of the Week: Blake Griffin

Last week, I talked about another L.A. Clipper by the name of Chris Paul. This week, we focus on All-Star L.A. Clipper Blake Griffin. The Oklahoma product has been outstanding since winning the NBA Rookie of the Year award back in 2011. He’s been to four All-Star games and won the Dunk Contest that year after he jumped over he hood of a car! Recently, the power forward been averaging a career-high 24.2 points per game this year and he’s had his best season at the free-throw line, shooting 70.5 percent. More importantly however, he considers himself an evangelical Christian and a man after God’s heart. His father, Tommy Griffin, is a pastor and had him home schooled until high school. While at home, Griffin was taught the Biblical principles of life and how to build a strong foundation in his faith. He ended up going to Oklahoma Christian High School, playing under his father and won state titles all four years there. Then Blake joined the Fellowship of Christian Athletes during his years at the University of Oklahoma. Before he could play a single game in the NBA, Griffin broke his kneecap and had God humble him in a big way.

“I was just excited about the opportunity to play in the NBA,” said Griffin. “I was ready to go, but everything came crashing down, so to speak. But these things happen. That was God’s way of just humbling me.” (Credit: thehollowverse.com)

Griffin’s patience to get back on the court helped him out better than anyone thought. This superstar is now one of the top players in the league and is currently on a team headed for a title. Also, his gravity-defying dunks are unbelievable! Griffin revealed that for every dunk he makes, he donates$100 to fight childhood obesity. By the way, when he dunked over that Kia car in the Dunk Contest, he donated the car with the proceeds benefiting Stand Up to Cancer. No wonder he likes to dunk the ball! All of these great things are going for Griffin, because he has great trust and faith in God.

“I know everything happens for a reason,” Griffin said. “I don’t know what the reason is, but only God knows. I just have to wait and let his plan unveil.” (Credit: christianpost.com)

We can all learn a good lesson from Blake’s story. He had everything going right for him at such a young age. When that knee injury occurred, his dreams were put on hold. Griffin had to first understand that God’s plans are more important than Blake’s plans. After Griffin put his faith into what God was doing for him, the rest is history. We must lean on God when the circumstances are tough and trust Him that He will pull through for us. He always has in the past and He always will in the future.

The Rivalry Rages On

Recently, Duke has been dominating UNC in college basketball. Not tonight! The Tar Heels beat the Blue Devils 74-66 for their 8th straight win. Shooting guard Leslie McDonald led the way with 21 points for UNC and point guard Marcus Paige exploded in the second half with 13 points and four assists, guiding the Tar Heels to the sweet victory at home. This year, UNC is 5-1 against ranked teams, which is a pretty good stat for an unranked team. As a Tar Heel fan myself, I was very proud of the win tonight. UNC has done well lately after a rough start to the season. Their free throw percentage was absolutely horrible in the first half of the game (as it has been all season), but they picked it back up in the second half and played with a lot more intensity on defense. Duke’s phenomenal freshman Jabari Parker still managed to get a double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds, but UNC was able to shut down the Blue Devils’ three-point shooting in the win. Duke only made five three-pointers tonight, when they usually average somewhere around ten made per game. The Tar Heels were also grabbing rebounds all game long. They are ranked 8th in the nation in rebounds per game and that stat was true tonight. Those offensive rebounds gave UNC second chances that was probably the main key to the win. This win will definitely be savored for a while, but UNC now has to focus on Wake Forest on Saturday.

One Undefeated Team Left

Syracuse drops to 25-1 after the 62-59 upset loss to Boston College! That means that Wichita State is the only undefeated team in college basketball right now. Olivier Hanlan scored 20 points for the Eagles, but Ryan Anderson was the MVP of the upset win with 9 points, 14 rebounds, four assists and two blocks. His performance helped seal the win for Boston College. Syracuse’s loss could attribte to their inefficency off the bench. None of the bench players scored points, while Boston College’s bench player, Patrick Heckmann had nine points. Fortunately for Syracuse, they can still easily be considered the best team in the nation. They have gone against fierce competitors and their strong play on defense could help them out greatly in the national championship run.

Cleanthony Early is one of Wichita State's top players, averaging 16 points and 6 rebounds a game. Credit: zimbio.com
Cleanthony Early is one of Wichita State’s top players, averaging 16 points and 6 rebounds a game.
Credit: zimbio.com

As for Wichita State, they only have three games left in the regular season after the win over Loyola-Illinois. Syracuse’s loss will also put Wichita State to #2 in the nation behind Florida, who just won their game against Auburn to keep them undefeated in the SEC. Things are starting to look interesting in college basketball now. The last team to go undefeated in college basketball was the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers led by Coach Bob Knight. Wichita State has a chance to join that elite club of only seven other undefeated squads (John Wooden and UCLA did it four times). They have a good shot of doing it to with only Drake, Bradley and Missouri State left to play in the Missouri Valley Conference.

Recent News in the Soccer World

In the big worldwide sport of soccer, things are always happening around the globe. It’s hard to keep up with it all, but thanks to technology, we can always stay updated of what’s happening to our favorite teams. First, we’ll start with England and work our way around.

Samir Nasri has 4 goals and 3 assists in 21 games this season. Credit: telegraph.co.uk
Samir Nasri has 4 goals and 3 assists in 21 games this season.
Credit: telegraph.co.uk

For the Barclays Premier League, the FA Cup is in full swing with teams heading to the quarterfinals. Manchester City got revenge against Chelsea last Saturday by beating them 2-0 to knock them out of the tournament. Samir Nasri scored the second goal of the match to put the Citizens in the quarterfinals. Arsenal defeated Liverpool 2-1 last Sunday with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Lukas Podolski each scoring a goal.

Diego Costa is 2nd in La Liga with 21 goals for Atletico Madrid this season. Cristiano Ronaldo has 22. Credit: hiilkubad.com
Diego Costa is 2nd in La Liga with 21 goals for Atletico Madrid this season. Cristiano Ronaldo has 22.
Credit: hiilkubad.com

Now we go to Spain, where Barcelona continues to dominate with a 6-0 thrashing of Rayo Vallecano last Saturday. Atletico Madrid also won a big game defeating Real Valladolid 3-0 that same day. Then last Sunday, Real Madrid crushed Getafe 3-0. All three of those winning teams are tied for first place in La Liga. It truly is going down to the wire after 24 games played. Barcelona has a slight edge because their offense is unstoppable, having a goal differential of 52!

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has 31 total goals in 34 games this season. Credit: ftbpro.com
Zlatan Ibrahimovic has 31 total goals in 34 games this season.
Credit: ftbpro.com

However, Barcelona’s next game could prove a challenge for them. They play Manchester City in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday at 2:45 p.m. The entire Champions League will have some good fixtures and match-ups that day. Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paris Saint-Germain will take on Sidney Sam’s Bayer Leverkusen that same hour. Bayer Leverkusen is a formidable opponent; they are 2nd in Bundesliga right behind Bayern Munich, who takes on Arsenal on Wednesday. The Gunners are 2nd in their league as well, behind Chelsea who play next Wednesday against Galatasaray. Another well-known Premier League team is Manchester United, who plays Olympiakos next Tuesday. The biggest game to watch out for will be AC Milan against Atletico Madrid. Milan has been struggling badly this year, but Mario Balotelli’s goal-scoring abilities should be fun to watch and will make his game more exciting. Unfortunately, Robinho might miss this game due to a left thigh injury, so expect Atletico to win this one.

After beating the Houston Dynamo 2-1, Kansas City advanced to their first MLS Cup. Credit: usatoday.com
After beating the Houston Dynamo 2-1, Kansas City advanced to their first MLS Cup.
Credit: usatoday.com

As for the United States, the MLS is just around the corner. The season starts on Saturday March 8th and seven games will be played on that day, including the defending MLS Cup Champion Sporting Kansas City who plays at the Seattle Sounders at 3 p.m. Kansas City won a thrilling cup match against Real Salt Lake last year in a penalty shootout and hope to capture another MLS Cup this year. As for DC United, they have had a struggling stretch the last few years. This team went to the first four MLS Cups and won three of them. United has not won a title since 2004. They look to rebound this year.

There is your worldly soccer update for the day. I hope it’s enough soccer news to keep you satisfied and reminds you to watch some big games coming up!

Christian Athlete of the Week: Chris Paul

The L.A. Clippers point guard has been out with injury most of the season, but with him back, the Clippers have won their last three games. In Paul’s last game before the All-Star Break, he had 20 points, 12 assists, four rebounds, and three steals in the 122-117 win against the Trail Blazers. It was his 26th double-double of the season out of the 36 games he has played this year! Before getting injured, he was leading the NBA in assists per game. While he may get great assists on the court, it’s his assists off the court that I would like to focus on. Chris Paul was born and raised in Winston-Salem, North Carolina to parents Charles and Robin Paul. They brought Chris up in a Baptist church all his life and that part of him has rooted him in his faith. Paul’s father Chris talks about how God has blessed his family by giving Chris the talents of a great basketball player.

“My wife and I give all the credit to God because God is the One that gave us Chris and gave us a chance,” said Charles Paul. “Like Chris says, he was given an opportunity to play basketball, so we’re grateful for how God has blessed us.” (Credit: Winston-Salem Journal)

Chris Paul started the CP3 charity foundation that has donated to organizations such as the Salvation Army Boys and Girls club, Feed the Children, Meals on Wheels, and even the Special Olympics. Giving back as always been something that his parents taught him while growing up in church and it’s something that Christians around the world should do no matter what kind of income they have. Back in an interview when he was on the New Orleans Hornets, Chris Paul talks about his growth in the Christian community:

“I grew up in the church and still go to church every Sunday if we don’t have practice,” said Paul. “It’s always something that my parents instilled in me. I’ve grown to be pretty devout in my faith.” (Credit: nba.com)

Paul has been an inspiration on and off the court the last five years. His team is in prime position to make an NBA title run mostly due to his play-making ability in the games. That title run resumes on Tuesday against the tough San Antonio Spurs.

NBA 1st Half Analysis

The first half of the NBA regulat season is in the books. There’s been a lot of great stories and games so far. Let’s take a look at some of the things that happened earlier this year that we should keep an eye on later on this year. Here are the top five stories going on in the NBA:

1. Kevin Durant leads the NBA in scoring…again. The Durantula has been on a hot streak ever since Russell Westbrook got injured. His ability to put the ball in the basket has been phenomenal this year. He leads the NBA in points per game with 31.5. Carmelo Anthony is the closest to that mark with 27.3 and LeBron James is right behind him with 26.5. This could be the year that Durant has been waiting for. His Oklahoma City Thunder team has the best record in the NBA with a 43-12 record, which is four games better than the San Antonio Spurs’ 38-15. Unless something drastic happens to Kevin Durant, he could finally win that MVP award that has eluded him so many times.

2. DeAndre Jordan is having a stupendous year! The big man had a nasty dunk last year that took over the SportsCenter Top Ten plays for months! This year he’s playing like a true All-Star, leading the league in rebounds (14 rpg) and field goal percentage (65.9 percent). He’s also a great defender with 2.4 blocks per game, which is 4th in the NBA right now. His L.A. Clippers are also 4th in the Western Conference standings and have the 2nd best offense in the NBA, averaging 107 points per game. As the season dwindles down, the Clippers could go far into the playoffs and DeAndre Jordan could be that cornerstone in the Clippers’ title hopes.

3. How good are the Portland Trail Blazers? Last year, the Trail Blazers went 33-49, ending their disappointing season on a 13-game losing streak. This year, they’re 5th in the Western Conference standings with a 36-17 record! They also have the number one offense in the NBA and lead the league in rebounds per game! Head Coach Terry Stotts has led a great turnaround for this basketball club in his second season. The former Dallas Mavericks assistant has this team headed in the right direction although they are 4-6 in their last 10 games. They hope to rebound next Wednesday against the San Antonio Spurs with superstar power forward LaMarcus Aldridge and young point guard Damian Lillard leading the way.

Thanks to LaMarcus Aldridge, the Trail Blazers have won more games this year than they did all of last season! Credit: larrybrownsports.com
Thanks to LaMarcus Aldridge, the Trail Blazers have won more games this year than they did all of last season!
Credit: larrybrownsports.com

4. The East will be won in either Indiana or Miami. The Eastern Conference of the NBA is definitely weaker than expected. Indiana and Miami are number one and number two in the conference respectively and by a long shot. Third place belongs to the surging Toronto Raptors with a 28-24 record. LeBron James is holding the Heat together without an injury plagued Dwyane Wade and he’s looking more dominant than ever. However, the Indiana Pacers boast the NBA’s best defense with only 90.3 points allowed per game. Guys like Roy Hibbert and Paul George are doing a great job at keeping this team at the top. These top two teams will be a great preview for the Eastern Conference Finals game unless teams like Toronto or Chicago step up.

5. Houston does not have a problem. So far it looks like Houston was the right fit for All-Star center Dwight Howard. The Rockets are 3rd in the league with points per game (105.5) and are 8th in rebounds per game (44.9). James Harden is leading this high soaring club with 23.9 points and 5.3 assists per game. Howard is also having a fantastic season with 18.8 points, 12.5 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game. Coach Kevin McHale has this team headed in the right direction and could prove a legitimate threat in the Western Conference playoffs once things roll around.

So as you can see, the NBA season is getting more and more interesting. The second half will provide all the drama a basketball fan could want. Which teams in the East are going to make the playoffs? Who will win MVP? Who’s poised for a championship run? All of those questions will be answered after the All-Star break.

NFL Draft 2014

I’m not good at making Mock Drafts, but I do know that big things will happen! A bunch of football players have their dream come true once Roger Goodell announces their name on the Radio City Music Hall stage in New York City. Here’s a list of some things I think will happen in this year’s upcoming draft:

1. There will be at least five trades in the first round. Last year, there were 11 trades in the first round of the draft! That messed up everyone’s Mock Draft! This year I see a lot of trades, because some teams will look for more quality picks than more quantity of picks. However this year, it is a very deep draft class for almost every position, so I see teams getting exactly what they need at every pick.

2. Michael Sam will get drafted in the first round. Sam is the 1st Team All-American defensive end out of Missouri. He’s a very talented pass rusher and a gifted athlete. He also made history recently by being the first NFL prospect to publicly announce his homosexuality. So I see him as the first openly gay athlete to play in the NFL. I don’t think teams will draft him to say that they drafted the first gay football player, but teams should focus more on his play-making ability on defense and the way he could attribute to his team on the field rather than off of it. I could see him go to the Tennessee Titans at pick 11 or possibly the San Diego Chargers at pick 25. Either way, he will be a great player in the NFL in the near future.

3. Four quarterbacks will be taken in the first ten picks of the draft. This draft class is loaded with talented quarterbacks. You got Johnny Manziel, the first freshman quarterback to win the Heisman; Teddy Bridgewater out of Louisville; Blake Bortles, the Tebow-like player out of UCF; Derek Carr, brother of former 1st overall pick David Carr, out of Fresno State; A.J. McCarron, the quarterback out of Alabama that has won a ton of football games; and many more. Houston, Jacksonville, Cleveland, and Oakland all need quarterbacks and we could possibly see four quarterbacks taken in the first five picks of the draft, but you just never know.

4. Jadeveon Clowney won’t be a top five pick. I’m not saying this to downgrade Clowney’s talent, I’m just saying that teams won’t really need him until later on in draft. Clowney is probably the most gifted and talented player in the draft, but last season was kind of disappointing for him. He didn’t exceed expectations and that’s probably why teams will hesitate to draft him. His work ethic and off the field antics would probably cost him a top pick. I will say this though, whoever gets him will get a future Pro Bowler. He’s going to have to land at the right team with the right coach to get him in that direction.

5. The San Francisco 49ers will be the winner of this draft. Jim Harbaugh knows a good football player when he sees one. This year, he has 11 picks in the draft, the most out of any team this year. Are the 49ers going to draft 11 players? Absolutely not. They are going to use these draft picks to trade up in the draft to get better quality players. I see them drafting probably only five or six players, but those five or six players will probably be future stars in the NFL. Not only that, but the 49ers already have Super Bowl talent on their team. So if they get a hold of five or six great, talented players, they could shove Seattle out of the way as the big contender in the NFC West. Look for San Francisco to draft high quality receivers and offensive line to counter the Seahawks’ defense.

If I do want to toss up some mock draft picks, I would say that Johnny Manziel will be the first pick overall by the Houston Texans. It would be a great fit for both him and Houston. Manziel would get to stay in his home state of Texas and Houston would get an exciting player that will bring in ticket sales like never before. Also, if Detroit gets Manziel’s teammate, wide receiver Mike Evans, the Lions would have the best passing offense in the NFL. Having a big receiver like Evans would take a lot of pressure off Megatron. I predict that Matthew Stafford will have a career year if the Lions get that number two receiver that Calvin Johnson needs. That’s my prediction for this year’s NFL draft and I can’t wait for it to start! I hope the Redskins get someone good.

Christian Athlete of the Week: Dwyane Wade

Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat have had a nice three-game stretch lately. Wade scored 30 points againt Detroit last Monday and is coming off a 14 points and 8 assists performance in a win at the Los Angeles Clippers.The 32-year-old shooting guard was already a star before LeBron James came to South Beach. When he played at Marquette University, he led his team to their first ever conference championship and a Final Four appearance. He was drafted 5th overall by the Heat in 2003 where he went on to become Sportsman of the Year in 2006, the same year he won his first NBA Finals and Finals MVP. He is the all-time leading scorer in Miami Heat history and was the NBA’s leading scorer in 2009. He was also a critical part of the Heat’s back-to-back championships in 2012 and 2013. However, despite all of this success, Wade has found difficulty in his life. He grew up in a dysfunctional family on the south side of Chicago where his mother was a drug addict. In 2008, he also had a nasty divorce with his wife and mother of two sons. Through all of these hard times, Wade says that Jesus Christ has helped sustain him in these tough moments. In an interview with Chad Bonham of Beliefnet, Wade shares his faith about the One who has been with him through all the trials.

“There are going to be good time and bad times,” said Wade. “There are going to be people who  love me and there are going to be people who don’t love me. As long as you are  real with yourself knowing that you’re still human even though some people put  you on a pedestal. I know that I have to be the same person no matter if people  like me or not. I try to tell kids that there are going to be people in your life that try to  tell you that you can’t do something. There were people in my life who told me  that I couldn’t make it to this point in the NBA. I believed in God, myself and  my abilities to get to this point. Always believe in yourself no matter what  anyone may say to you.” (Credit: beliefnet.com)

To give you a better look of what Dwyane Wade has gone through in his early life, take a look at this video done by ESPN that conveyed the relationship between the basketball superstar and his mother:

I addition to supporting his mother, Wade also founded The Wade’s World Foundation in 2003. The organization provides support to community-based organizations that promote education, health, and social skills for children in at-risk situations. He also hosts a variety of community outreach programs in Chicago and Miami. He wears the number “3” to represent the Holy Trinity of The Father, The Son, and The Holy Ghost. Dwyane Wade has had a positive impact for the NBA both on and off the court.

Chelsea Wins Historic Match at Manchester City

The Manchester City soccer club had never been shut out at home in the previous 61 matches. That streak was snapped on Monday when Chelsea defeated the Citizens 1-0. The one goal was scored by Branislav Ivanovic in the first half of play. Despite having possession 65 percent of the time and having the double amount of Chelsea’s corner kicks, Manchester City couldn’t surpass the Blue’s determination to seize respect and recognition in the Barclays Premier League. What’s even more amazing is that Manchester City was on a 13-game win streak and had scored 72 goals in 18 home matches this season. So to see them get shut out on their own pitch was just an extraordinary effort by Coach Jose Mourinho and his team.

“A victory is a victory but a victory against a very good team is better than against an ordinary team,” said Mourinho. “This is also good for the Champions League because we have big opponents so this is a good feeling and a good experience. Today was special.  We love the big games. When you love it maybe you feel extra-motivated. The best thing for our evolution is to play matches under pressure, to be close to the leaders, and today we came here and played against the leaders and we deserved it.” (Credit: chelseafc.com)

Chelsea Head Coach Jose Mourinho Credit: telegraph.co.uk
Chelsea Head Coach Jose Mourinho
Credit: telegraph.co.uk

The former Real Madrid head coach is in his second tenure with the Blues and has led them to an incredible run so far. They are now tied with Manchester City for second place in the league with 53 points and are catching up right behind Arsenal’s tail with a 16-3-5 record. Chelsea’s Eden Hazard is also having a great season. He leads his team with nine goals and five assists. This team has been doing great all season and Mourinho is definitely leading them in the right direction like he did in his first coaching tenure with the team. With this quality win against Manchester City, Chelsea could be a steady force later in the season because of their magnificent defense.