All In The Cards: New Year’s Edition (Week 16 Recap and Week 17 Picks)

With so much going on I have to yet again combine my week 16 recap with my week 17 preview. However, like I did in a previous combo article I’ll give my thoughts on big stories in the NFL between last week’s and this week’s picks. I hope you enjoy and if you do make sure to follow me on Twitter @QTipsforsports or just search the hashtag #Allinthecards for in-game thoughts and analysis. Now here is how I did with my picks last week and what are picks this week:

How I Did With My Week 16 NFL Predictions:

  • Arizona 38, Green Bay 8 (1-0)
  • Oakland 23, San Diego 20 (2-0)
  • Washington 38, Philadelphia 24 (3-0)
  • Atlanta 20, Carolina 13 (3-1)
  • Buffalo 16, Dallas 6 (4-1)
  • Chicago 26, Tampa Bay 21 (4-2)
  • Kansas City 17, Cleveland 13 (5-2)
  • Detroit 32, San Francisco 17 (6-2)
  • Houston 34, Tennessee 6 (7-2)
  • Indianapolis 18, Miami 12 (8-2)
  • New York Jets 26, New England 20 (9-2)
  • Baltimore 20, Pittsburgh 17 (9-3)
  • New Orleans 38, Jacksonville 27 (9-4)
  • St. Louis 21, Seattle 17 (9-5)
  • Minnesota 49, New York Giants 17 (10-5)
  • Denver 20, Cincinnati 17 (11-5)

NFL Thoughts Going Into Week 17:
  • While I’m very proud to see my Arizona Cardinals finally getting the respect they deserve, but all of this talk about them being the favorites over the Carolina Panthers is a little premature. While the Panthers did lose to the Atlanta Falcons, that loss isn’t worse than the two losses the Cardinals already had (vs St. Louis and Pittsburgh). However, if the Cardinals are able to wrestle away home-field advantage from the Panthers then you can slate the Cards as the favorites based on the two teams’ equal records and different ends to their seasons. One loss does not make a season unless that loss is in the playoffs or prevents you from making the playoffs and the Panthers’ loss to the Falcons was neither.
  • I would say that the Packers’ offensive performance against the Cardinals set the franchise back 50 years but the Packers were playing much better offensively 50 years ago. While the Cardinals defense had a lot to prove in their first game without Tyrann Mathieu, what really troubled me about the Packers is how much it seems Aaron Rodgers has checked out. Anytime there was a dropped pass or a missed block, instead of consoling or getting on the guy who made the mistake he just had this “I’d rather be anywhere else” look on his face and went right to the huddle. That’s not the look of a guy who wants to lead. Maybe whatever has Rodgers so lifeless can be patched up behind the scenes before the playoffs start but my guess is that this team probably just wants to start the offseason.
  • I’ll admit that I know 10x as much about the NFC West than I do about the AFC North so the St. Louis Rams’ upset over the Seattle Seahawks doesn’t surprise me nearly as much as the Baltimore Ravens’ upset over the Pittsburgh Steelers. As I have said numerous times in this column, the Rams seemingly transform from a mediocre team into a very gritty and tough team when they face their divisional rivals, and the Seahawks in particular seem to bring out the best in the Rams. That’s why I was so surprised that the Cardinals beat the Rams very easily a couple of weeks ago. I don’t know the intricacies of the Ravens-Steelers rivalry but in my opinion the Ravens, a team that is pulling guys off the street just to field a team, win over the Steelers exposes Pittsburgh as a team that only plays to the level of its competition and to me those types of teams don’t deserve to make the playoffs. They could prove me wrong by destroying the Browns by 20 but it might be too late for them.
  • My biggest question about the Philadelphia Eagles getting rid of Chip Kelly has less to do with the move than the timing of the move. Why couldn’t they just do after this week’s games when most teams fire their underperforming head coaches? If the early firing was meant to give interim head coach Pat Shurmur a chance to demonstrate how he would do as the coach going forward, I don’t think a single game against a New York Giants team that has probably checked out is a good enough indicator to change an opinion on his candidacy. To me this was more of a message by owner Jeff Lurie saying that he wanted Kelly gone long ago and only put up with him as long as the Eagles were still in the playoff hunt. Kelly’s plan to rebuild the Eagles was unnecessary and made the team worse so Lurie wanted Kelly out before the eventual rebuilding job became too big. I guess it’s possible that the extra game is to see if the Eagles should keep Kelly’s acquisitions or if they should go out with the head coach that brought them into Philadelphia.
  • I can understand the Indianapolis Colts giving Josh Freeman a chance (the team needs a backup for Andrew Luck as Matt Hasselbeck isn’t going to be around much longer) as Freeman has shown in the past that he can be decent and they way his career ended in Tampa Bay was a little unfair. However, there are no words for the Colts also picking up Ryan Lindley. Ask any Cardinals fan about Lindley and they won’t say anything in return. Instead they will just curl up into a ball and try to find their happy place. Let’s just say I hope the Colts start Freeman this week.

My Week 17 NFL Predictions:

  • Arizona 31, Seattle 27
  • New York Jets 27, Buffalo 17
  • New England 38, Miami 10
  • New Orleans 31, Atlanta 30
  • Cincinnati 16, Baltimore 13
  • Pittsburgh 28, Cleveland 16
  • Houston 27, Jacksonville 24
  • Indianapolis 15, Tennessee 10
  • Washington 21, Dallas 10
  • New York Giants 27, Philadelphia 23
  • Detroit 30, Chicago 19
  • Carolina 34, Tampa Bay 28
  • Oakland 24, Kansas City 20
  • Denver 26, San Diego 13
  • St. Louis 23, San Francisco 14
  • Minnesota 31, Green Bay 21

Week 16 Record: 11-5
Season Record: 149-91 (.621)
Perfect Score Predictions: 2

Bielfeldt Helps Short-Handed Hoosiers Hold Off Rutgers

The Indiana Hoosiers avoided a bad start to conference play by defeating the Rutgers Scarlet Knights 79-72  in Piscataway, New Jersey on Wednesday to win IU’s first Big Ten game of this season.

The close score and the quality of opponent (Rutgers was ranked as the 245th ranked team according to Kenpom) may have Hoosier Nation very worried going forward but the truth is that this was a good win considering the circumstances.

The Hoosiers faced an uphill challenge from the beginning of the game when James Blackmon Jr. was ruled out due to a knee injury he suffered during one of the practices heading into conference play. The Hoosiers faced even more adversity when Thomas Bryant got in early foul trouble and stayed in foul trouble all game before fouling out in the second half. In total, Bryant played all of six minutes and only contributed three points and a single rebound.

Then there was the turnovers. The Hoosiers finished the game with 23 of them and the biggest problem was that they came from players you’d least expect. Starting Guards Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell and Rob Johnson combined for 11 turnovers (six for Ferrell and five for Johnson) and Troy Williams, who does have a tendency to get too careless with the basketball, had a shockingly bad day even for him as he committed more turnovers (7) then he grabbed rebounds (6).

While most of these troubles were self-inflicted, the Hoosiers should still be given credit for overcoming everything to win their first conference game as well as their first road game of the season (the Maui Invitational counting as neutral site games).

Collin Hartman did a good job filling in for the injured Blackmon Jr. as he finished with nine points, including two three-pointers in the first few minutes of the game, and also added two rebounds.

However, the biggest story was Max Bielfeldt.

Unlike Hartman, Bielfeldt didn’t come into the game knowing he would have to make up for a starter’s lost production. Yet Bielfeldt filled in magnificently for the foul-plagued Bryant by tying a career-high 18 points as well as grabbing a team-high 14 rebounds. His combination of passing, scoring, and interior defense was almost Zellerish at times and was greatly needed for the Hoosiers to beat a very aggressive Rutgers team.

While Bryant didn’t have a great first Big Ten game, O.G. Anunoby did. The freshman from Missouri played his best game yet as he finished with eight points, seven rebounds, and two steals while also making two more three-pointers.

Longtime reserve Ryan Burton also made two three-pointers for an Indiana bench that nearly outscored the starters (42-37). Ferrell had a terrible first half but played significantly better in the second half as he ended up leading the Hoosiers in points (20) and assists (7).

The Hoosiers will get to celebrate New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day but will play again on Saturday at Nebraska before returning home to face Wisconsin next Tuesday.


Hoosiers In The NBA: What To Improve Upon In 2016

NOTE: Hello everyone and welcome to a new edition of Hoosiers In The NBA on its new site! Please try to spread the word by liking it on Facebook or retweeting this on Twitter if you enjoyed it. Of course this is completely optional but it is greatly appreciated. Otherwise I hope you enjoy this latest edition and for more coverage follow me on twitter at @QTipsForSports or just look for the hashtag #HoosiersInTheNBA:

Happy Holidays from Hoosiers In The NBA! New Year’s is just around the corner so that means it it time for New Year’s resolutions! This week I will give each former Hoosier something to work on as the calendar switches to 2016. These resolutions won’t be the obvious ones (such as Victor Oladipo needing to improve his shooting percentage) but instead will be small parts of their games that I think they can improve upon to play even better. Let’s check which part of each former Hoosier’s game needs some tweaking:

Eric Gordon: Guard, New Orleans Pelicans:

Vs Portland (W 115-89): 11 points (3-8 FG)(2-2 FT), 4 rebounds, 6 assists, steal, turnover, 34 minutes.

@ Miami (L 94-88 OT): 16 points (5-15 FG)(5-5 FT), 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 3 turnovers, 5 personal fouls, 43 minutes.

Vs Houston (W 110-108): 26 points (10-12 FG), 2 rebounds, 5 assists, steal, turnover, 3 personal fouls, 40 minutes.

New Year’s Resolution: Create More Assists

While Eric Gordon isn’t a point guard, Gordon needs to find another part of the game to contribute in or else he faces the risk of being benched if he has an off shooting night. Throughout his career that extra part of his game has been his assists. While he has never averaged a lot of assists during his career, a career-average of 3.3 per game is still pretty nice. Heading into this week Gordon was averaging only 2.6 assists per game after averaging at least 3.0apg during six of his seven seasons in the NBA (he averaged 2.8apg during his rookie year). He’s starting to improve in that department after averaging 4.3 assists in three games this week but this needs to be more of a normal occurrence than a pleasant surprise.

Victor Oladipo: Guard, Orlando Magic:

@ New York (W 107-99): 12 points (4-7 FG)(4-5 FT), 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 turnovers, personal foul, 24 minutes.

Vs Houston (W 104-101): 0 points (0-9 FG), 7 rebounds, 6 assists, personal foul, 31 minutes.

Vs Miami (L 108-101): 8 points (3-8 FG)(1-2 FT), 2 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 turnovers, personal foul, 18 minutes.

New Year’s Resolution: Get To The Foul Line More Often

I’ve written plenty on Victor Oladipo’s shooting percentage, but something lost in that narrative is the fact that Oladipo isn’t getting to the free throw line nearly as much as he had done in the past. During his first and second seasons, Oladipo averaged 4.0 and 4.4 free throw attempts per game respectively. This year that number is down to just 2.7 free throw attempts per game. Oladipo already has nine games this season where he didn’t attempt a single free throw, something he only did seven times all of last year and only 11 times during his rookie season. The trend has really picked up recently with six of those games coming in his last 10. Oladipo needs to get back to driving to the basket and picking up fouls as his outside shooting doesn’t look like it’s going to drastically improve anytime soon.

Noah Vonleh: Forward, Portland Trail Blazers:

@ Atlanta (L 106-97): 5 points (2-3 FG)(1-1 FT), 3 rebounds, steal, turnover, personal foul, 13 minutes.

@ New Orleans (L 115-89): 6 points (2-3 FG)(2-2 FT), 6 rebounds, steal, personal foul, 21 minutes.

Vs Cleveland (W 105-76): 2 points (1-3 FG), 6 rebounds, assist, 4 steals, 3 personal fouls, 21 minutes.

@ Sacramento (W 98-94): 2 points (1-6 FG), 3 rebounds, 2 steals, 14 minutes.

New Year’s Resolution: Attempt More Three-Pointers

While I am liking Noah Vonleh’s development in other aspects of the game, at the end of the day rebounding and three-point shooting will be the determining factors in whether or not he lives up to his potential. While the rebounding has come along nicely (4.5 rebounds in 16 minutes of play over the past three weeks), the long-range shooting has almost completely disappeared. Vonleh has attempted only three three-pointers over the last four weeks (16 games) and just attempted his 14th three-pointer of the season during his 33rd game of the year when he had previously attempted 13 triples in just 25 games last season. I understand that the Portland Trail Blazers are using him differently than the Charlotte Hornets did but the lack of long jump shots is a little worrisome and needs more attention in 2016.

Cody Zeller: Forward, Charlotte Hornets:

@ Houston (L 102-95): 10 points (5-9 FG), 7 rebounds, 2 steals, turnover, 6 personal fouls, 26 minutes.

Vs Boston (L 102-89): 7 points (3-7 FG)(1-2 FT), 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, block, turnover, 2 personal fouls, 34 minutes.

Vs Memphis (W 98-92): 8 points (3-6 FG)(2-2 FT), 6 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 blocks, turnover, 3 personal fouls, 28 minutes.

New Year’s Resolution: Stay Out Of Foul Trouble

There was a lot of defensive pressure placed on Cody Zeller when he was tasked with filling in at center for the Charlotte Hornets and so the defensively outstanding Zeller ended up seeing an uptick in his personal fouls. That itself isn’t that big of a deal but what is a big deal is that the number has jumped significantly. Over his 12 starts at center, Zeller is committing 3.4 personal fouls per game (Zeller only averages 2.4 personal fouls per game for his career) and has fouled out twice after not fouling out once during his first 166 NBA games. While Al Jefferson will likely take back the starting center role, that increase in fouls is still something that Zeller needs to work on if he finds himself in a similar situation in the future.

Season averages:

Eric Gordon: 16.1ppg, 2.2rpg, 2.8apg, 0.97spg, 0.23bpg, 1.6tpg, 2.2fpg, 41.4% FG, 37.3% 3FG, 88.2% FT, 33.8mpg.

Victor Oladipo: 12.6ppg, 5.1rpg, 3.9apg, 1.18spg, 0.75bpg, 1.9tpg, 2.3fpg, 38.8% FG, 26.5% 3FG, 78.9% FT, 29.1mpg.

Noah Vonleh: 3.1ppg, 3.6rpg, 0.4apg, 0.42spg, 0.21bpg, 0.6tpg, 1.8fpg, 41.2% FG, 21.4% 3FG, 84.2% FT, 14.9mpg.

Cody Zeller: 8.1ppg, 5.1rpg, 1.0apg, 0.93spg, 0.59bpg, 0.9tpg, 2.9fpg, 48.9% FG, 0.0% 3FG, 71.1% FT, 23.0mpg.

All In The Cards: Christmas Edition (Week 15 Recap And Week 16 Picks)

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all! I’ve been very busy this week so I’m just going to give my picks for this week and show how I did last week. Next week I will return to regular format. I hope you enjoy and if you do make sure to follow me on Twitter @QTipsforsports or just search the hashtag #Allinthecards for in-game thoughts and analysis. Now here is how I did with my picks last week and what are picks this week:

How I Did With My Week 15 NFL Predictions:

  • Louis 31, Tampa Bay 23 (0-1)
  • New York Jets 19, Dallas 16 (1-1)
  • Atlanta 23, Jacksonville 17 (1-2)
  • Washington 35, Buffalo 25 (2-2)
  • Minnesota 38, Chicago 17 (3-2)
  • New England 33, Tennessee 16 (4-2)
  • Houston 16, Indianapolis 10 (5-2)
  • Kansas City 34, Baltimore 14 (6-2)
  • Carolina 38, New York Giants 35 (7-2)
  • Seattle 30, Cleveland 13 (8-2)
  • Green Bay 30, Oakland 20 (8-3)
  • Cincinnati 24, San Francisco 14 (9-3)
  • Pittsburgh 34, Denver 27 (10-3)
  • San Diego 30, Miami 14 (10-4)
  • Arizona 40, Philadelphia 17 (11-4)
  • Detroit 35, New Orleans 27 (11-5)

My Week 16 NFL Predictions:

  • Arizona 34, Green Bay 23
  • Oakland 27, San Diego 10
  • Washington 27, Philadelphia 24
  • Carolina 31, Atlanta 17
  • Buffalo 24, Dallas 20
  • Tampa Bay 33, Chicago 21
  • Kansas City 28, Cleveland 10
  • Detroit 27, San Francisco 16
  • Houston 23, Tennessee 7
  • Indianapolis 20, Miami 13
  • New York Jets 28, New England 27
  • Pittsburgh 38, Baltimore 13
  • Jacksonville 35, New Orleans 28
  • Seattle 21, St. Louis 17
  • Minnesota 32, New York Giants 27
  • Denver 23, Cincinnati 20

Week 15 Record: 11-5
Season Record: 138-86 (.616)
Perfect Score Predictions: 2

Hoosiers’ Up-And-Down Win Over Kennesaw State A Microcosm Of IU’s Season So Far

The Indiana Hoosiers pulled ahead and the Kennesaw State Owls closed the gap.

This trend happened multiple times during the Hoosiers 99-72 win on Tuesday night and it’s not hard to see this game as a microcosm of the Hoosiers’ performance so far this season.

It looked like the game would be a walk-in-the-park like many expected in the first few minutes when Indiana jumped out to a 15-7 lead with 15:19 left in the first half. The Owls responded with a 11-9 run to cut the Hoosiers lead to 24-18 at the under-12 timeout.

Sensing that Kennesaw State was not going to go away quietly, the Hoosiers then seemed to take control by going on 18-6 run to put IU up 42-24 with 5:50 left until halftime. Usually that kind of run would put away a small-conference team like Kennesaw State but the Owls proved to be different as they ended the half on a 14-4 run, making it only a 46-38 lead for Indiana at half.

The teams went back at forth during the first eight minutes of the second half with both teams scoring 13 points. The Owls even started with a 4-2 run at the start of the second half to pull within two scores. Then, starting at the 11:48 mark, the Hoosiers defense shut down the Owls just like they did the Fighting Irish in their last game. Troy Williams led the offensive charge scoring eight points as well as grabbing two rebounds and two assists during a 26-9 run that lasted until the under-4 timeout. The Hoosiers led 85-60 and had finally pulled away.

Williams finished with 20 points and a career-high six assists. Thomas Bryant also scored 20 points (a career-high) and grabbed a team-high five rebounds. James Blackmon Jr. added 19 points while Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell added 16 points.

“We started off the game really well. We closed the game really well. What we’ve got to get better at is the in-between”, said Indiana Head Coach Tom Crean about the team’s inconsistent play. “We did not handle (Kennesaw State’s Flex offense) well in the first half, and in the second half we just said we’re just going to guard and we’re not going to switch.”

The peaks and valleys of this game almost mirrored the Hoosier’s non-conference performance.

The Hoosiers started the season with three easy wins and high hopes as a top-15 team heading into the Maui Invitational. Then the island paradise turned into a nightmare as Indiana lost to Wake Forest and UNLV while barely beating St. John’s.

The Hoosiers returned home and proceeded to score a season-high 112 points against Alcorn State. Unfortunately Indiana then gave up a season-high 94 points to Duke in a 20-point loss the next game. Following that defensive debacle, IU proceeded to limit its next three opponents to 65 or fewer points.

Finally the first 25 minutes of the Notre Dame game (where the defense again was a sieve) happened followed by the last 15 minutes of that game (where IU locked down after switching to zone and came back from 16 down to win).

It’s hard to get a read on the Hoosiers but this team is capable of being very great at their highest and mediocre at their lowest. Indiana get Rutgers (4-7) and Nebraska (7-5) to start the Big Ten schedule so we’ll see if the Hoosiers can take advantage and start off conference play with some momentum. They have the talent to be near the top of the conference but it will require consistent play to get there.

“Tornado” Troy Williams Sets More Career-Highs

On the day I decided to name Troy Williams the “Tornado” after yet another furious one-man run by the junior, I also got to ask my first press conference question and I directed it at Williams.

Here’s some background information: Williams set a career-high with six assists against Kennesaw State. However, unlike his massive 19-rebound game vs IPFW, this performance was more of a sign of things to come than a once-in-a-career performance. Williams has really improved his assist numbers during his time in Bloomington so I asked him about it.

Q’s Q: Troy, you had a career-high six assists tonight and have really improved your assist numbers this season. How much do you feel your ability to set up your teammates has improved since you came to IU?

Troy’s Response: Tremendously. This is my third year here, and I can just see the change from freshman until now. The biggest jump was last year as a sophomore, and this year I had another jump. Now that I’m able to make plays and throw the assists to my team, it’s a great way to be (as Coach Crean would say) a Swiss Army knife for this team.

First off I want to thank Troy for going very in-depth with his answer to my question. Now when Williams says he made his biggest jump during his sophomore season he means it. During his freshman season Williams only dished out 29 assists which equals 0.9 per game. For his sophomore season that number jumped all the way to 64, which is a 2.0 per game average. This year through 13 games Williams has 32 assists (already more than he had all of his freshman year) which averages out to 2.5 per game.

This season’s number might not seem like that much of an improvement but it is when you look at the game logs. Coming into this season, his single-game high for assists was four. This year Williams already has four games with four or more assists including tonight.

Williams also set another career-high with three made three-pointers. It’s only Williams’ third game of his career with multiple made three-pointers and his first with more than two. It’s easy to see that Williams is already a Swiss Army knife, and he’s only getting better.

Three Things We Learned About The Hoosiers During Their Epic Comeback Against Notre Dame

Even the most optimistic Indiana Hoosier fan couldn’t help but feel depressed when the under 16 timeout in the second half rolled around and Indiana was trailing the Notre Dame Fighting Irish 54-40 in what was the Hoosiers last chance at a signature non-conference win. Yet the final 15 minutes saw Indiana take one last stand and against the odds the Hoosiers pulled through and left Indianapolis with an 80-73 win. Among the euphoria of winning sprouted many questions for the Hoosiers going forward and whether or not this win can turn around the season. That is still to be determined, but here are three things that are a little more clear after those fantastic final 15 minutes:

  1. The Hoosiers are capable of playing great defense: It’s not like the Hoosiers haven’t had good defensive stretches this season but they usually happened against overmatched teams. This was really the first time the Hoosiers have flexed their defensive muscle against a quality opponent. While the Irish collapsing did play a huge part in the comeback, the Hoosiers deserve credit for not giving up when the walls started caving in (more on this in a moment) and executing the 2-3 zone surprisingly well for a team that Head Coach Tom Crean admitted didn’t do a lot of zone preparation prior to the game because Notre Dame has had a lot of success against zone defense.
  2. This team is very mentally strong: Hoosier Nation is a proud group with extremely high expectations, so when the Hoosiers play like they did in the first half the crowd reacted with extreme displeasure. With the losses at Maui, the blowout at Duke, and the huge deficit against Notre Dame all bearing down on this team, would the team implode or come together? To Hoosier Nation’ pleasant surprise it was the latter. Overcoming adversity is a necessary trait for any great team in any team sport and while that trait doesn’t guarantee greatness it does signify that said team is capable of being great. Players like James Blackmon Jr. and Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell showed this trait as both hit big threes during the comeback despite being liabilities for most of the game. Now it’s up to Indiana to run with this momentum.
  3. The lineup might be seeing a huge shake up: I’m a little doubtful that a huge shakeup will happen in the starting lineup, but there may at the least be a minutes shakeup. O.G. Anunoby is extremely raw offensively but there’s no way to deny that he is one of if not the Hoosiers’ best defender. Indiana has enough offensive firepower that it can occasionally play 4-on-5 offensively so that shouldn’t prevent playing Anunoby. One of those offensive weapons is Rob Johnson, who has been outstanding during the past couple of starts after starting the year on the bench. I don’t think it matters if the move back to the starting lineup was long-term or short-term, because Johnson has earned his place in the starting lineup. Without him playing starter minutes, the Hoosiers would have been in too big of a hole to mount that comeback. There are many other possible moves, but if that late-game run taught us anything it’s that this team has the players it’s just about playing them in the right spots.

Hoosiers In The NBA: Oladipo Sweeps Round One Against Former Hoosiers

NOTE: Hello everyone and welcome to a new edition of Hoosiers In The NBA on its new site! Please try to spread the word by liking it on Facebook or retweeting this on Twitter if you enjoyed it. Of course this is completely optional but it is greatly appreciated. Otherwise I hope you enjoy this latest edition and for more coverage follow me on twitter at @QTipsForSports or just look for the hashtag #HoosiersInTheNBA:

Back when this column was just Zeller And Oladipo Watch, I used to go very in-depth when Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo faced off as it was very interesting to see two players who were once the closest of teammates to be facing off against each other as opponents. Well those two faced off for the first time this season and with a Magic win, Oladipo improved to 5-4 against Zeller. However it wasn’t Oladipo’s only game this week against a fellow Hoosier as two days later the Magic hosted the Portland Trail Blazers. The Magic won and now Oladipo is 3-0 this season against former Hoosiers. So this week I’m going to analyze these two games as well as the Magic’s early season win over Eric Gordon and the New Orleans Pelicans to see how Oladipo has swept his fellow Hoosier so far this season:

Orlando Magic @ New Orleans Pelicans (11/3/2015)
(Oladipo vs. Gordon)
Magic win 103-94
Oladipo: 12 points (4-8 FG), 7 rebounds, 3 assists, block, 2 turnovers, 2 personal fouls
Gordon: 21 points (8-19 FG), 2 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 turnovers, 2 personal fouls

This game was so long ago I almost didn’t want to include a recap about it but actually it is worth analyzing when you think about how much has changed for both Oladipo and Gordon over the past month and a half. Oladipo started and played 36 minutes in this game. The last time Oladipo played 36+ minutes was against the Indiana Pacers (38 minutes), which was only a week after the New Orleans game as well as the last game Oladipo played before he suffered a concussion that caused him to miss a few games. Meanwhile Gordon’s 19 shot attempts were only slightly higher than usual for him during the first 10 games (he averaged 16.2 field goal attempts) when the Pelicans were missing Tyreke Evans and were really limiting Jrue Holiday’s minutes. Since that hot ten-game start, Gordon has only attempted 11 shots per game.

The big takeaways from the game specifically is that Gordon’s four turnovers remain the most he’s had in a game this season and it was the first time this year Oladipo shot 50% or better from the floor.

Charlotte Hornets @ Orlando Magic (12/16/2015)
(Oladipo vs. Zeller IX)
Magic win 113-98
Oladipo: 11 points (5-9 FG), 4 rebounds, 4 assists, steal, 3 turnovers, 2 personal fouls
Zeller: 11 points (3-3 FG), 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals, 2 personal fouls

Heading into this season, despite Zeller having better teams than Oladipo during their first two seasons, these former teammates had split the first eight games against each other. One other odd thing about this friendly rivalry is that they don’t play on the court at the same time that often and the trend continued this season as Zeller started in place of Al Jefferson while Oladipo has transitioned completely into the sixth man role.

Both players shot very well during the game, with Oladipo having only his third game this season where he shot over 50% while Zeller didn’t miss a single shot (he was also a perfect 5-5 from the free throw line). Despite both playing relatively well, the Magic were able to win comfortably because they were able to turn 16 Hornets turnovers into 25 points.

Portland Trail Blazers @ Orlando Magic (12/18/2015)
(Oladipo vs. Vonleh)
Magic win 102-94
Oladipo: 15 points (7-14 FG), 4 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals, block, 6 turnovers, 4 personal fouls
Vonleh: 4 points (2-4 FG), assist, personal foul

Unfortunately Vonleh only played 12 minutes so it never really felt like the two were playing against each other. As for Oladipo, this marked the game where Oladipo finally pushed his season shooting percentage north of 40% (only to shoot 2 of 11 in his next game) and marked the eighth time this season Oladipo hit 50% or better from the floor. Also, as you may have already noticed, three of those games came against former Hoosiers.

But what Oladipo really did that helped the Magic not only win this game but the Hornets game was his amazing defense. Check out this article to get an in-depth explanation of what exactly Oladipo is doing on defense. He may not be scoring or shooting as well as he did in his prior two NBA seasons but his defense is back to the level that made him a defensive monster at IU.

Of course it wouldn’t be a Hoosiers In The NBA article without each player’s game logs so here is a look at how each Hoosier performed this past week:

Eric Gordon: Guard, New Orleans Pelicans:

@ Portland (L 105-101): 9 points (3-9 FG)(3-3 FT), 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, turnover, 2 personal fouls, 34 minutes.

@ Utah (W 104-94): 19 points (5-9 FG)(5-5 FT), assist, steal, 3 turnovers, 4 personal fouls, 28 minutes.

@ Phoenix (L 104-88): 15 points (2-11 FG)(9-11 FT), rebound, assist, 2 steals, block, 2 turnovers, 3 personal fouls, 29 minutes.

@ Denver (W 130-125): 20 points (6-11 FG)(4-5 FT), 3 rebounds, 3 assists, block, turnover, personal foul, 32 minutes.

Victor Oladipo: Guard, Orlando Magic:

@ Brooklyn (W 105-82): 10 points (2-3 FG)(5-6 FT), 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals, block, turnover, 4 personal fouls, 20 minutes.

Vs Charlotte (W 113-98): 11 points (5-9 FG), 4 rebounds, 4 assists, steal, 3 turnovers, 2 personal fouls, 25 minutes.

Vs Portland (W 102-94): 15 points (7-14 FG), 4 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals, block, 6 turnovers, 4 personal fouls, 35 minutes.

Vs Atlanta (L 103-100): 4 points (2-11 FG), 6 assists, 2 steals, turnover, 3 personal fouls, 27 minutes.

Noah Vonleh: Forward, Portland Trail Blazers:

Vs New Orleans (W 105-101): 2 points (1-5 FG), 5 rebounds, assist, steal, block, 3 personal fouls, 17 minutes.

@ Oklahoma City (L 106-90): 2 points (0-2 FG)(2-2 FT), 7 rebounds, 3 personal fouls, 26 minutes.

@ Orlando (L 102-94): 4 points (2-4 FG), assist, personal foul, 12 minutes.

@ Miami (L 116-109): 2 points (1-4 FG), 3 rebounds, turnover, 3 personal fouls, 11 minutes.

Cody Zeller: Forward, Charlotte Hornets:

@ Orlando (L 113-98): 11 points (3-3 FG)(5-5 FT), 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals, 2 personal fouls, 23 minutes.

Vs Toronto (W 109-99 OT): 5 points (2-6 FG)(1-2 FT), 6 rebounds, 3 assists, turnover, 6 personal fouls, 21 minutes.

@ Washington (L 109-101): 11 points (5-9 FG)(1-2 FT), 7 rebounds, steal, block, turnover, 3 personal fouls, 26 minutes.

Season averages:

Eric Gordon: 16.0ppg, 2.1rpg, 2.6apg, 0.93spg, 0.26bpg, 1.6tpg, 2.2fpg, 40.4% FG, 35.5% 3FG, 87.4% FT, 33.2mpg.

Victor Oladipo: 13.4ppg, 5.2rpg, 3.9apg, 1.32spg, 0.84bpg, 2.0tpg, 2.4fpg, 39.6% FG, 27.2% 3FG, 79.7% FT, 29.7mpg.

Noah Vonleh: 3.0ppg, 3.4rpg, 0.4apg, 0.21spg, 0.24bpg, 0.7tpg, 1.9fpg, 41.4% FG, 23.1% 3FG, 81.3% FT, 14.6mpg.

Cody Zeller: 8.1ppg, 4.8rpg, 1.0apg, 0.79spg, 0.54bpg, 0.8tpg, 2.8fpg, 48.9% FG, 0.0% 3FG, 71.1% FT, 22.2mpg.

All In The Cards: Fitz Owns Philly (Week 15)

Welcome to a new edition of All In The Cards! This week the Arizona Cardinals play yet another primetime game, this time against the Philadelphia Eagles. This week I’m going to go over why the “City of Brotherly Love” doesn’t love Larry Fitzgerald. I hope you enjoy and if you do make sure to follow me on Twitter @QTipsforsports or just search the hashtag #Allinthecards for in-game thoughts and analysis. Now let’s take a closer look at how Larry Fitzgerald has become a nightmare for all Eagles’ fans:

Arizona Cardinals @ Philadelphia Eagles

Last Meeting: W 24-20 vs. Philadelphia (10/26/14)

For one reason or another, sometimes a player just performs very well against a specific team. There are many terms for this phenomenon, with the most common term being that “a player owns another team”. Well there’s no denying that Larry Fitzgerald “owns” the Philadelphia Eagles. Just look at the game logs from his seven career games against them:

  • 2005: 5 receptions, 93 receiving yards, touchdown (W 27-21)
  • 2008 (regular season): 5 receptions, 65 receiving yards, 2 touchdowns (L 48-20)
  • 2008 (postseason): 9 receptions, 152 receiving yards, 3 touchdowns (W 32-25)
  • 2011: 7 receptions, 146 receiving yards, 2 touchdowns (W 21-17)
  • 2012: 9 receptions, 114 receiving yards, touchdown (W 27-6)
  • 2013: 5 receptions, 72 receiving yards, touchdown (L 24-21)
  • 2014: 7 receptions, 160 receiving yards, touchdown (W 24-20)

Add up all seven games and it gives you these totals: 47 receptions, 802 receiving yards, 11 touchdowns. His 114.6 receiving yards per game against the Eagles are the second most he has against any team (trailing only the 115.3 receiving yards per game he averages against the Chicago Bears). His 11 touchdowns against the Eagles is the third most he has against any team, with the top two being against division rivals that he faces twice a year (16 vs. St. Louis and 14 vs. San Francisco).

The weirdest thing about this matchup is how reliably well Fitzgerald performs against the Eagles regardless of how he’s doing that particular season. In both 2012 and 2014, seasons where Fitzgerald failed to gain 800 receiving yards on the season or grab at least five touchdowns, he still had over 100 receiving yards and a touchdown against Philadelphia, with both games marking his single-game high for yards that season.

The best reason I can come up with for how Fitzgerald always seems to shine against the Eagles is because playing Philadelphia gives him extraordinary confidence. That confidence comes from the fact that Philadelphia was the opponent Fitzgerald faced in what is currently his biggest win of his career: the 2008 NFC Championship game. During the first half of that game, Fitz not only had his best half of his career, but possibly the greatest single half by a receiver in NFL history: 6 receptions for 113 yards and three touchdowns. That scoring outburst gave Arizona enough of a cushion to withstand the Eagles’ inevitable second-half comeback. With 10:39 left in the fourth quarter and down 25-24, Fitzgerald recorded all three of his second half receptions on Arizona’s 14-play touchdown drive that gave the Cardinals the lead for good with 2:53 remaining and punched the team’s first ticket to the Super Bowl.

You can now see why I’m so confident in the Cardinals winning this game. With one win away from clinching the team’s first NFC West title since the Kurt Warner-era, Fitzgerald (one of only three Cardinals left from that NFC Championship team) is facing the team that has brought him nothing but good fortune. I know the Eagles have played better as of late, but this game just seems destined to go Arizona’s way.

Prediction: Arizona 35, Philadelphia 17

How I Did With My Week 14 NFL Predictions:

  • St. Louis 31, Tampa Bay 23: (0-1)
  • New York Jets 27, Dallas 17
  • Jacksonville 31, Atlanta 17
  • Washington 24, Buffalo 20
  • Minnesota 23, Chicago 19
  • New England 38, Tennessee 13
  • Houston 27, Indianapolis 24
  • Kansas City 30, Baltimore 16
  • Carolina 31, New York Giants 30
  • Seattle 34, Cleveland 10
  • Oakland 28, Green Bay 24
  • Cincinnati 19, San Francisco 16
  • Pittsburgh 31, Denver 17
  • Miami 16, San Diego 13
  • New Orleans 37, Detroit 34

Week 14 Record: 9-7
Week 15 Record: 0-1
Season Record: 127-82 (.608)
Perfect Score Predictions: 2



All In The Cards: Week 14 Recap

Welcome to the Week 14 NFL Recap! So many things happened this past week that I could a couple of paragraphs about each game. However, at this point of the season each team and each game isn’t created equally so for this week I am going to give my in-depth opinion on what I believe are the eight biggest storylines instead. I hope you enjoy and if you do make sure to follow me on Twitter @QTipsforsports or just search the hashtag #Allinthecards for in-game thoughts and analysis. Now let’s take a look at what happened this past week:

How I Did With My Week 14 NFL Predications:

  • Arizona 23, Minnesota 20: (1-0)
  • Carolina 38, Atlanta 0: (2-0)
  • Philadelphia 23, Buffalo: (2-1)
  • Washington 24, Chicago 21: (2-2)
  • Pittsburgh 33, Cincinnati 20: (3-2)
  • Cleveland 24, San Francisco 10: (3-3)
  • Louis 21, Detroit 14: (3-4)
  • New York Jets 30, Tennessee 8: (4-4)
  • Jacksonville 51, Indianapolis 16: (4-5)
  • Kansas City 10, San Diego 3 (5-5)
  • New Orleans 24, Tampa Bay 17: (5-6)
  • Seattle 35, Baltimore 6: (6-6)
  • Oakland 15, Denver 12: (6-7)
  • Green Bay 28, Dallas 7: (7-7)
  • New England 27, Houston 6: (8-7)
  • New York Giants 31, Miami 24: (9-7)

Week 14 Record: 9-7
Season Record: 127-81 (.611)
Perfect Score Predictions: 2

8 Biggest Storylines After Week 14:

  1. 2015 Bengals = 2014 Cardinals: I’ve mentioned a few times over the past couple of weeks that I actually felt bad for the New England Patriots because I believe no team should ever have to suffer what happened to the Arizona Cardinals last year in terms of sustaining so many key injuries. Unfortunately the Cincinnati Bengals are now living the 2014 Cardinals’ nightmare with the recent injury to Andy Dalton. The parallels are uncanny: both were teams who were good the year before but seemed to take it to another level and suddenly found themselves as one of the best teams in the NFL, yet everyone doubted that the teams were as good as their record stated. Both teams used the doubt to fuel their motivation only to lose their quarterback who was in the midst of having a career year. Both teams were loaded at every other position so the idea of the team still succeeding with a backup quarterback was plausible enough that the team and their fans still held out hope. Well we know how it played out in Arizona, and the same ending looks to be coming Cincinnati’s way. While there is still a chance Dalton could return for the playoffs, there’s no guarantee he plays at the same level he did earlier in the season. I hope I’m wrong as I don’t want any team to go through that kind of heartbreak, but I’ve seen this movie.
  2. Peyton Manning Vs. Brock Osweiler Is Becoming A Lose-Lose Situation: I’ve seen enough of Brock Osweiler to make this statement: it doesn’t matter who Denver starts at quarterback during the playoffs as the Broncos will only go as far as the defense can drag them. While Osweiler did lead an offense that scored 30 points in a win over the Patriots, the Broncos have only managed a total of 29 points the past two weeks against two defenses (Chargers and Raiders) that each average 25 points allowed per game. Of course, Manning has been a turnover machine as he still leads the NFL in interceptions (17) by three despite not playing the last three games. However, the biggest reason the Broncos can’t win in this situation is the fact that they have to commit to one quarterback. Regardless of whom the Broncos chose, unless they win the Super Bowl they will be criticized for choosing the wrong quarterback when their season ends.
  3. The Panthers Deserve More Respect: I’ve always been a fan of the underdog or the team that doesn’t get the respect it deserves (how do you think I became an Arizona Cardinals fan?). So while I do think the Cardinals have good shot at making the Super Bowl, neither they nor the “red-hot” Seahawks should be favorited over the Panthers in the NFC. I can’t remember a team getting less credit for being undefeated as these Panthers. What does this team need to do to prove to the public that its a dangerous football team? Worries of this team not having enough offensive firepower should have been quelled weeks ago when this team started rolling off 30-point games. Also, let’s not forget that the offense has proven they can win games when the defense is having an off day (Remember when the Saints posted 38 points?). The remarks about an easy schedule are a little overexaggerated considering that by the end of the season the Panthers could hold wins over three division champions (the AFC South champ, the NFC North champ if it’s Green Bay, and the NFC East champ unless they lose to New York and the Giants win that division) as well as a huge comeback win in Seattle.
  4. Undefeated Or Not, Cam Newton Should Be The Favorite For MVP: I also feel that Cam Newton isn’t getting the respect he deserves, with most people saying Newton is only the favorite because you need to give MVP to the quarterback of an undefeated team. While I admit that quite a bit of his campaign is based on leading an undefeated team, people are acting like he’s just the game-manager of a juggernaut. His passing yards may not be on par with Tom Brady and Carson Palmer, but Newton has thrown 28 touchdowns this season without playing a single down with his best wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin. Newton has also rushed for 480 yards and has scored seven rushing touchdowns, which means he’s in the top ten of both passing touchdowns (tied for fourth) and rushing touchdowns (tied for sixth). There’s also the huge strides he has made as a pocket passer and the fact he has conducted quite a few game-winning drives. He basically is the Panthers offense, which makes him sounds very valuable to me.
  5. The Cardinals DO Have Weaknesses, But They Aren’t Fatal: These Arizona Cardinals are a great team. I fully believe this team has what it takes to win Super Bowl 50. However, the idea that this team doesn’t have any weaknesses is a little overblown. Anyone who watched the Cardinals “closer-than-it-should-have-been” win over the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday night could point out the key areas where the Cardinals could cost themselves in the playoffs. On offense this group can score from anywhere on the field but weirdly enough has a tendency to stall when they get in the redzone, trading touchdowns for field goals more often than you’d expect from the number one offense. On defense the Cardinals’ defensive line specializes more in run-stopping, which means that they rely on blitzes to create an effective pass rush. This type of play style has led to a lot of forced turnovers but has also left the defense vulnerable to certain plays such as the screen pass or slant routes over the middle in areas where the blitzers would usually cover. Any combination of those weaknesses will likely be the reason if the Cardinals don’t win the Super Bowl but the Cards have proven they can win even with these disadvantages. It will take fantastic execution of a fantastic gameplan to beat Arizona, but even then the Cardinals have shown that these weaknesses aren’t 100% fatal.
  6. The NFC East Is More Inconsistent Than Terrible: With two divisions likely to produce champions without winning records, it makes sense that we would compare the AFC South and the NFC East and discuss which division is worse. My take is not only is the AFC South worse, but the NFC East isn’t terrible but instead just fields four very inconsistent teams. The Washington Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys have plausible reasons behind their inconsistencies: the Redskins play 10x better at home than they do on the road and the Cowboys have been good with Tony Romo and bad without him. However, I wish the best of luck to anyone brave enough to find the reasons behind the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles’ inconsistencies. The Giants treat each fourth quarter like a mad lib, making sure something unique and weird happens every single game, while the Eagles produce three-week spans where they give up 45 points each to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Detroit Lions only to find themselves up three touchdowns in the fourth quarter against the Patriots in New England the following week. With how unpredictable this division is I wouldn’t get too comfortable if I was the fifth seed in the NFC.
  7. Seattle’s Offense Is Great But Its Defense Is Not As Good As You Think: I do believe that the Seahawks are one of the favorites in the NFC and they have a realistic chance to make their third straight Super Bowl. However, these aren’t the same Seahawks of the past two years. They may have the same players but this is a team that will go as far as Russell Wilson’s career-best run will lead them. It’s understandable to think the Legion Of Boom is back to playing like their old self again, as they rank sixth in passing yards allowed per game (225) but let’s take a closer look at the quarterbacks they have faced and how many yards they threw during those games. In order, the quarterbacks the Seahawks faced were Nick Foles (297), Aaron Rodgers (249), Jimmy Clausen (63), Matthew Stafford (203), Andy Dalton (331), Cam Newton (269), Colin Kaepernick (124), Matt Cassel (97), Carson Palmer (363), Blaine Gabbert (264), Ben Roethlisberger (456), Teddy Bridgewater (118), and Jimmy Clausen Act 2 (274). That equals out to allowing 199.9 passing yards in their eight wins and allowing 301.8 passing yards in their five losses. That’s right: when teams have beaten the Seahawks this season they’ve done it by throwing on their defense. The argument that they are playing better during their four-game winning streak isn’t true either. Sure they basically shoved Bridgewater into a locker, but that doesn’t counteract the fact they gave up 250+ passing yards to Gabbert and Clausen and gave up 456 yards to Roethlisberger, who didn’t even play the whole game. The Seahawks are talented enough to win in the postseason but they’ll likely have to win shootouts.
  8. Jacksonville’s Missed Opportunity: Nobody batted an eye when the Jacksonville Jaguars lost to the San Diego Chargers and Tennessee Titans in back-to-back weeks. I bet even Jaguars’ fans said something along the lines of “oh well I guess we are out of the race for the AFC South title. Didn’t really matter as there’s no way we were going to catch up with the Colts and the Texans anyway.” Now as week 15 rolls around, the Jaguars are retroactively grieving those two losses as just one win against those two terrible teams would have Jacksonville tied for the division lead and a win over both of them would have given the Jaguars a one-game division lead with three weeks to go. Take one look at both the Colts and the Texans and what you see are two teams that are battling for the chance to get utterly destroyed by Kansas City, Pittsburgh or the New York Jets in the first round of the playoffs. While the Jaguars probably wouldn’t win that game either, there’s no doubt that the game would at least be more enjoyable with Blake Bortles flinging the ball around to Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns.

Hoosiers In The NBA: The First Quarter Season Recap

NOTE: Hello everyone and welcome to a new edition of Hoosiers In The NBA on its new site! Please try to spread the word by liking it on Facebook or retweeting this on Twitter if you enjoyed it. Of course this is completely optional but it is greatly appreciated. Otherwise I hope you enjoy this latest edition and for more coverage follow me on twitter at @QTipsForSports or just look for the hashtag #HoosiersInTheNBA:

There’s no official date that marks the beginning of the NBA midseason (though I guess Christmas Day is the closest thing we have) but with every team having played at least 20 games and having won and lost at least one of those games (yes for those who didn’t know the Golden State Warriors did finally lose a game), I think we can go ahead and say the NBA season is out of its early stages. So for this edition of Hoosiers In The NBA, I’m going to recap how each Hoosier has progressed so far this season. I’ll also go over how their teams have performed to this point in the season and what their goals will be going forward:

Eric Gordon: Guard, New Orleans Pelicans:

Vs Boston (L 111-93): 0 points (0-2 FG), 2 rebounds, assist, block, turnover, 2 personal fouls, 16 minutes.

Vs Washington (W 107-105): 15 points (5-12 FG)(2-2 FT), 4 rebounds, assist, steal, 2 turnovers, 2 personal fouls, 36 minutes.

@ Chicago (L 98-94): 14 points (5-15 FG)(2-2 FT), 2 assists, steal, turnover, 2 personal fouls, 34 minutes.

Eric Gordon’s Stats: 16.0ppg, 2.2rpg, 2.7apg, 0.87spg, 0.22bpg, 1.6tpg, 2.1fpg, 40.5% FG, 35.4% 3FG, 87.3% FT, 33.6mpg.

  • Gordon’s Progress Report: Due to so many injuries to key players at the start of the season, a surprisingly-uninjured Eric Gordon was asked to take on more scoring responsibilities a year after taking a step down from such duties. Gordon showed he’s still able to score in bunches as he averaged 18.8 points over the Pelicans’ first 15 games. However, since then Gordon has averaged only 10.8 points per game over the team’s last eight games. The main reason for this decline is that key offensive pieces like Tyreke Evans are back in the lineup and thus Gordon’s scoring role has shrunken. With many players returning, Gordon has already accepted the possibility that he may have to come off the bench if that is what’s best for his team.

New Orleans Pelicans Stats: 6-17 (5th in Southwest Division, 14th in Western Conference), 101.7 points scored per game (14th), 108.4 points allowed per game (30th).

  • Pelicans Progress Report: Credit Gordon for trying to keep things together while players have been out, but the Pelicans may have built themselves too big a of a hole to climb out of in time to make the playoffs. It hasn’t been a scoring problem as the Pelicans have actually improved slightly from their 16th ranked scoring offense (99.4) of a year ago. The problem has been a horrendous defense that ranks last this season after ranking a respectable 12th (98.6) last season. The return of Evans bolsters a middle-of-the-pack offense but unless they can get some stops this will continue to be a long season for New Orleans.

Victor Oladipo: Guard, Orlando Magic:

@ Denver (W 85-74): 11 points (5-14 FG)(1-2 FT), 3 rebounds, 3 assists, steal, 4 blocks, 4 turnovers, 2 personal fouls, 33 minutes.

@ Phoenix (L 107-104): 14 points (6-14 FG), 4 rebounds, 5 assists, steal, 2 turnovers, 5 personal fouls, 29 minutes.

Vs Cleveland (L 111-76): 4 points (2-8 FG), 4 rebounds, assist, 4 turnovers, personal foul, 19 minutes.

Victor Oladipo’s Stats: 14.0ppg, 5.8rpg, 3.8apg, 1.14spg, 0.90bpg, 1.9tpg, 2.3fpg, 39.1% FG, 25.9% 3FG, 79.4% FT, 30.2mpg.

  • Oladipo’s Progress Report: It’s been an up-and-down season for Oladipo as he is having both his best defensive season and his worst shooting season. However his offense has gotten better since moving to his current role of sixth man. As a starter, Oladipo was only averaging 12.8 points on 37.0% shooting but since his shift out of the starting lineup he’s averaging 15.6 points on 42.0% shooting. Oladipo has also improved in other areas such as rebounding and blocks, which helps keep him on the court even when he’s struggling with his shot. It’s still undetermined whether or not his move to the bench is permanent, but Oladipo is definitely taking it in stride. It’s important to note that the Magic still consider him one of their five best players because he is still playing during crunch time.

Orlando Magic Stats: 12-11 (4th in Southeast Division, 10th in Eastern Conference), 99.9 points scored per game (T18th), 99.2 points allowed per game (T10th).

  • Magic Progress Report: New Head Coach Scott Skiles has done wonders for this young team as they are finally starting to show some progress and have a real chance this season to end their playoff drought. The biggest difference has been the defensive improvement. Last season the Magic were ranked 23rd in points allowed but have improved all the way up to 10th so far this season. The offense has also seen an improvement from their 25th ranked scoring attack last season. Maybe the most important thing is that the Magic are holding onto leads in the 4th quarter and are stealing some wins on the road (5-7 this season compared to 12-29 last year). As long as they continue to develop, the postseason will come either this season or the next.

Noah Vonleh: Forward, Portland Trail Blazers:

@ Milwaukee (L 90-88): 6 points (3-5 FG), 7 rebounds, assist, turnover, 2 personal fouls, 14 minutes.

@ Cleveland (L 105-100): 2 points (1-1 FG), 4 rebounds, 2 personal fouls, 11 minutes.

@ Phoenix (W 106-96): 2 points (1-1 FG), 5 rebounds, assist, personal foul, 17 minutes.

Vs New York (L 112-110): 7 points (2-2 FG)(2-2 FT), 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, turnover, 2 personal fouls, 17 minutes.

Noah Vonleh’s Stats: 3.1ppg, 3.4rpg, 0.4apg, 0.20spg, 0.24bpg, 0.8tpg, 1.8fpg, 44.4% FG, 25.0% 3FG, 78.6% FT, 14.3mpg.

  • Vonleh’s Progress Report: It took some time for Vonleh to find a role in Portland but now he’s in a position to not only help himself but also the team. After never starting a game during his rookie season, Vonleh has started 14 of the Trail Blazers last 15 games and has found a groove offensively, shooting 53.3% from the floor when he starts compared to 29.6% when he comes off the bench. He’s also scoring twice as many points (4.1ppg starting to 1.9ppg off bench) despite only logging an average of two more minutes per game. The Trail Blazers love what they are getting out of Vonleh so much that he’s still starting even though Meyers Leonard, the player Vonleh replaced after Leonard sustained an injury, is healthy again. I expect Vonleh’s role to get bigger if he continues to improve his production.

Portland Trail Blazers Stats: 10-15 (3rd in Northwest Division, 10th in Western Conference), 101.9 points scored per game (12th), 102.0 points allowed per game (19th).

  • Trail Blazers Progress Report: Everyone in the organization as well as the entire fanbase knew this would be a rebuilding season after the team lost many of their key veterans during free agency. The fact that this team has been as competitive as it has been is a testament to Head Coach Terry Stotts and this young team. Damian Lillard has taken over as the undisputed leader of the team, but it has been the breakout performance of C.J. McCollum, who has seen his scoring average jump from 6.8ppg last season to 19.9ppg this season, that has put this team ahead of schedule. Add in some great chemistry guys like Ed Davis and this team will be back in the playoffs in no time, but not this season.

Cody Zeller: Forward, Charlotte Hornets:

Vs Detroit (W 104-84): 20 points (5-9 FG)(10-13 FT), 6 rebounds, assist, 2 blocks, 3 turnovers, 3 personal fouls, 28 minutes.

Vs Miami (W 99-81): 9 points (4-8 FG)(1-2 FT), 2 rebounds, 2 assists, block, 3 personal fouls, 24 minutes.

@ Memphis (W 123-99): 2 points (1-5 FG), 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, turnover, 5 personal fouls, 22 minutes.

Vs Boston (L 98-93): 12 points (6-9 FG), 5 rebounds, assist, turnover, 3 personal fouls, 27 minutes.

Cody Zeller’s Stats: 8.0ppg, 4.8rpg, 1.0apg, 0.71spg, 0.57bpg, 0.9tpg, 2.7fpg, 47.9% FG, 0.0% 3FG, 70.3% FT, 22.0mpg.

  • Zeller’s Progress Report: Zeller’s first two seasons with the Hornets have been all about adapting to new situations so it’s no surprise that Zeller has been able to easily adapt yet again this year with a Hornets’ team that’s focusing more on the offensive end than ever before. Currently playing center in place of the injured Al Jefferson, Zeller is starting to find success scoring from the post, as he is starting to show some of the offensive prowess he showed back when he played in Bloomington. It will be interesting to see how the rotation  changes when Jefferson comes back as Zeller is starting to be asset on offense as well as an asset on defense.

Charlotte Hornets Stats: 14-9 (1st in Southeast Division, 4th in Eastern Conference), 102.7 points scored per game (8th), 98.0 points allowed per game (8th).

  • Hornets Progress Report: After finishing 28th in scoring offense a year ago, the Hornets made it a priority to improve their offense this past offseason. Not only has the offense heavily improved (from 94.2ppg last season to 102.7ppg this season), but the shift towards offense hasn’t hampered the defense as the Hornets have sustained a top-10 defense after ranking 7th last year (97.3). Players such as Jeremy Lin and Jermey Lamb have given the Hornets multiple scoring options off the bench, something the team hasn’t had in years. With a lot of the Eastern Conference in flux, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Hornets continue to challenge for a top four seed. However, the more likely scenario would be a six or a seven seed. Still pretty good for a franchise that still isn’t that far-removed from going 7-59.