About Evan Knopp

Content Specialist at TicketCity.

Best Games of the 2014 College Football Season

Michigan State vs. Oregon, September 6

The Spartans finished the 2013 season win 10 consecutive wins, and will be sexy pick to win the Big Ten. Wins over Ohio State and Stanford proved that they belonged in that Rose Bowl, but will they be able to stop Oregon’s offense? This Week 2 game will be a battle of two completely different styles of play.

Texas shocked the Sooners in 2013 in Dallas

Oklahoma vs. Texas, October 11

Last year’s Red River Rivalry was one of the biggest upsets of the season with the Longhorns obliterating the Sooners in Dallas. Texas had already lost two games to mid-tier opponents, but rocked OU early and often. The Sooners went on to lose only one more game in 2013, culminating in a shocking dismantling of the Alabama Crimson Tide at the Sugar Bowl. This is always the defining game of the Big 12 season, and it’s a must win for both teams.

Notre Dame vs. Florida State, October 18

Halfway into the season comes this matchup that could be a major upset if the defending-champion Seminoles are 6-0 heading in. Notre Dame finished last season at 9-4, including wins over Michigan State and USC. Unfortunately for the Fighting Irish, both of those wins came in South Bend. Barring a complete collapse early in the year, Florida State will be heavily favored.

Ole Miss vs. LSU, October 25

Ole Miss was as streaky as it gets in 2013, but was able to take down the Tigers in Oxford last season 27-24. Ole Miss was not very successful in SEC play, with their defining wins being over LSU and Texas. The Tigers lost to only the Ole Miss and Alabama but will be without QB Zach Mettenberger.  While Ole Miss might not look like a title contender, this will be a big step for the Tigers if they want to be in the mix in 2014.

Alabama vs. LSU, November 8

Alabama might have a more storied history squaring off against Auburn, but this fixture in the schedule always has national title implications. It’s very likely that both of these teams are undefeated coming into the game, and you know Les Miles and Nick Saban will be throw everything but the kitchen sink at each other to come out victorious. This time it’s in Baton Rouge, and there isn’t a better college football experience in the country than a night game at Tiger Stadium.

Auburn vs. Alabama, November 29

With how this game ended last season, you can Bryant-Denny Stadium will be electric for this one. A field-goal returned for a touchdown as time expired put the Tigers in the SEC title game and eventually in the National Championship, while Alabama got crushed in the Sugar Bowl by the Sooners. This is one of the best rivalries in all of sports, and it’s the last game of the regular season for both schools. All of Alabama wishes they could cram into the stadium for the Iron Bowl in 2014.

The Best and Worst Franchises in the NBA

The Best Franchise in the NBA: San Antonio Spurs

- 4 NBA Championships (since 1999)

- 11 Division Titles (since 1999)

- 17 consecutive playoff appearances

- Above .500 in 24 of last 25 seasons.

The Spurs are always a factor deep into the playoffs, they consistently win 55+ games a season, and are led by one of the NBA’s all-time greatest coaches… but you’ll very rarely see them as someone’s preseason pick to win the title. The Spurs don’t have the pizzazz, the big-free agent signing, or the guy that will drop 35+ on any given night. San Antonio has made the most out of the draft, has kept its core intact, and has kept the same man in charge for the last 18 years.  By comparison, the second-longest tenured coach in the NBA right now is Erik Speolstra, who was hired by the Heat 6 years ago.

Tim Duncan, 3-time Finals MVP and 14x All-Star

The team’s general manager is R.C. Buford, who was hired as head scout for the team in 1994 by then-GM Greg Popovich. Two years later, Popovich fired Spurs head coach Bob Hill and named himself coach. Injuries decimated the Spurs roster that season and they won only 20 games. The silver lining of that situation was a #1 pick in the NBA draft, which they used on a lanky power forward out of Wake Forest – Tim Duncan. The only other time the Spurs had a #1 pick was in 1987, which was used to draft Hall of Famer David Robinson. Popovich also had hugely successful drafts after taking over as head coach, picking up Tony Parker with the 28th pick of the 2001 draft, as well as Manu Ginobili with the second-to-last pick in 1999. Buford became general manager in 2002, and continued the Spurs penchant for drafting foreign players. The best move thus far since Buford took over was likely the draft-day trade for Kawhi Leonard, who has become one of the up-and-coming stars in the NBA.

The Spurs were mere seconds away from a fifth NBA title last season, and they will go into the 2014 playoffs as the #1 seed in the Western Conference. Label the Spurs boring, call them old, say they won’t do it again – and then watch them win another 60+ games. Duncan will go down as one of the game’s greatest players, Popovich as one of the game’s greatest coaches, and the entire team as one of the NBA’s best dynasties, and it’s because the made the most out of every opportunity. The same can’t be said for the next ball club I’ll discuss.

The Worst Franchise in the NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves

- Losing record each of the last 8 seasons

- Averaged only 22 wins from 2007-2013

- Worst record in Western Conference in 2009-10 (15-67)

- Worst record in NBA in 2010-11 (17-65)

- Lost in first round of playoffs every year for 7 consecutive seasons (1997-2003)

The Timberwolves were once a solid team, reaching the playoffs in eight consecutive seasons culminating in a #1 seed in the 2004 playoffs. That season ended in a 4-2 loss in the Western Conference Finals to the Lakers, and Minnesota hasn’t been back to the playoffs since. A combination of terrible drafts, mismanagement of coaches, and a bevy of other bad choices by general manager David Kahn put the T’Wolves in the midst of a 10-year postseason dry spell – the fourth longest in NBA history and longest current active streak.

Minnesota’s best management move was in 1995, when they took high school big man Kevin Garnett with the #5 overall pick. Garnett went on to win an MVP in Minnesota, as well as countless of other accolades. The problem was that GM Kevin McHale couldn’t seem to find any pieces to put around him. McHale made a secret deal with free agent Joe Smith to circumvent salary cap rules, and the Wolves were subsequently stripped of their next five first-round draft picks (later reduced to three). While Minnesota found some success with Flip Saunders at the helm, McHale fired him during the 2005 season, which is the last time Minnesota had a winning record.

McHale’s backroom dealing damaged Minnesota for the long haul

Garnett, who at the time had spent more seasons with one team than any other active player (12), was eventually traded to the Celtics for five players and two draft picks. Garnett went on to win a championship with the Celtics and the T’Wolves continued to fall down the standings in the years to come. The only player Minnesota got back that was of any use was Al Jefferson, who was eventually traded to the Jazz.

While the Garnett deal is the most high-profile trade Minnesota ever made , it’s the moves the Timberwolves front office has made over the last five years that were the most damaging. David Kahn was hired in 2009, and in his first draft used the first three of Minnesota’s four first-round picks on point guards. Ricky Rubio was picked #5 overall, but decided to continue playing in Spain for the next two years. Jonny Flynn was selected #6 overall and played in Minnesota for only two seasons before being traded to Houston, and now currently plays in Australia. The point guard that was picked immediately after Rubio and Flynn:  Stephen Curry.

The bad draft picks continued with drafting Wesley Johnson #4 overall in 2010, who played for the Wolves for only two seasons before being traded to the Suns. The next year, Minnesota drafted Derrick Williams out of Arizona with the #2 overall pick. Williams was also traded after two seasons. With all the bad decisions on draft day, the worst move still might be refusing to offer Kevin Love a max-year deal.  Love, one of Minnesota’s few success stories, has become one of the best players in the NBA. Kahn refused to extend Love’s deal to five years, instead giving the max deal to Rubio. Now Love will likely leave for greener pastures at the end of the 2014-15 season, likely leaving Minnesota to fall back down into the cellar of the Western Conference.

Today Minnesota sits one win away from its first .500 season since 2005. Rick Adelman has done a decent job as head coach, but with both he and Love likely departing soon, the Wolves might have missed their small window at a playoff run. If Love does head off to bigger and better things after next season, Minnesota might just break that 14-year postseason drought record after all.

Oh, and Darko Miličić.

The Big Buck Theory — There’s No Such Thing as a Perfect Bracket

The NCAA tournament is famously hard to predict. So much so that Warren Buffet partnered with Yahoo! to give away $1 billion if someone nailed a perfect bracket. Your chances of winning that money are 1-in-9.2 quintillion. That number is reached when you take 9.2 billion and then multiply it 1 billion times. Now that the tournament is over, let’s look back at how quickly everyone lost.

By 2:30 PM on the second day of the tournament (still in the first round), there were only 16 perfect brackets left.  Sixteen. This point in the day was marked by Duke’s loss to Mercer, with only 2.4% of the brackets submitted having picked the Bears over the Blue Devils. Combining that upset with others like Stephen F. Austin over VCU, Dayton over Ohio State, Harvard over Cincinnati, and North Dakota State over Oklahoma and you get only 16 people with a chance at a billion dollars.

Warren Buffett is smarter than all of us.

While 16 perfect brackets remained at 2:30 PM, that number shrunk down to 1 by the end of the night. The last man standing was Brad Binder, but there was one caveat to his bracket – he filled it out on Yahoo, but did not enter it into the billion dollar pool. Sounds crazy, soon enough he was out too. In the end, no one came close. No one could even correctly predict the first two rounds of the tournament, much less every game going through the national championship. Memphis getting the win over George Washington eliminated the last three people eligible for the billion dollars, and it was all over 25 games into the 32-game first round.

The bracket that did come in first place, taking home one of the tidy $100K prizes that were awarded, got 8 first-round games incorrect. The money doesn’t go to whoever holds out a perfect bracket the longest when it comes to the smaller prizes, so because he correctly predicted 6 of the Elite 8 teams, all Final Four teams, and the national champion UConn Huskies, he won. Over on ESPN’s challenge, the champion did pretty much the same except he got 7 of the Elite 8 teams correct.

What Yahoo!, Quicken Loans, and Warren Buffett did was amazing. They offered a tangible prize to a non-existent winner. I couldn’t find the numbers behind it, but I’d guess that this was the first time in a while Yahoo had more people sign up for its challenge than ESPN. They made people believe they had a snowball’s chance in hell of winning, and we all kind of held out hope.

Want a chance next year? It looks like the trick is to stop concentrating on those first-round games, because the perfect bracket isn’t going to happen. Just give up on that dream and go backwards from the National Championship and Final Four you’re taking. Think back at the person in your office pool who was ahead after the first round… did he/she win? Probably not. The first round is a crap-shoot for the most part, and while it’s fun to watch Cinderella take down one of the powerhouses, it’s not going to win you that office pool or $1 of Warren Buffett’s money.

Durant’s Time is Now

The King is in blue.

Much has been said and written about Kevin Durant’s outstanding 2013-14 season, including his “dethroning” of LeBron James as the league’s best player. This season has been Durant’s best since coming into the NBA in 2007, averaging 32.2 points and 5.6 assists per game – both career highs. Durant is versatile – shooting over 50% from the field and over 40% from the arc while being an inside presence when he needs to be. There’s nothing to dislike about his game, much like LeBron’s – but it’s the distance he’s put between himself and the rest of the league this year that is truly fascinating.

Since being drafted by the Sonics, Durant has made his aspirations to be the best player in the NBA no secret. Unfortunately for the former Longhorn, he had to live in the shadow of a player that could end up going down as one of the best to ever play the sport. By the time Durant was a rookie, James was playing in his fourth All-Star game, had made the All-NBA First Team, and had just come off a run to the NBA Finals. While LeBron’s high school games could sometimes be found on ESPN, Durant was relatively unknown until he burst into the national spotlight in Austin his freshman year. Being as good as LeBron for a year or two was never going to make fans think he was the best player in the league – he had to make sure there was no question about it.

At this point in the season, Durant has scored over 300 more points than the next best player. He’s made 53 more field goals while attempting 52 less shots than Carmelo Anthony (James is currently third in total points scored). While Durant is usually near the top of the free throw leaderboard every season, he currently has 157 more free throws than any other player in the league. It’s not just scoring where Durant has taken a step forward, as only he and James sit in the Top 20 in assists without being point guards.

The advanced statistics support the theory that Durant has taken the leap over James and the rest of the NBA as well:

Player Efficiency Rating:

  1. Kevin Durant – 30.4
  2. LeBron James – 29.1
  3. Kevin Love – 27.7

Offensive Win Shares

  1. Kevin Durant – 13.3
  2. LeBron James – 10.8
  3. Kevin Love – 9.9

Defensive Win Shares

1. Paul George –  5.9

8. Kevin Durant – 4.0

(LeBron James not in Top 20)

Total Win Shares

  1. Kevin Durant – 17.4
  2. LeBron James – 13.8
  3. Kevin Love – 13.3

Here’s a guide to exactly what Win Shares are if the stat is new to you.

Aside from now being sure that Love has been the third most productive man in the NBA this season, Kevin Durant is clearly the best player in the world at the moment.  Part of LeBron’s problem (if you dare to say he has one) is that he seemed to go through a few lulls throughout the course of the season, while Durant was electric the entire way through. The forward has put up over 40 points 13 times this season, as well as going over 50 twice in the last two months. On the other hand, James has reached 40 only three times this season, and has been under 20 points 13 times (Durant has scored under 20 only four times).

As for what Durant himself thinks about this season, you can bet he’ll hold off judgment until the Thunder are either eliminated from the postseason or he’s holding an NBA Finals trophy. Anything but a championship is looked upon as failure by the fans and media, and soon Durant could be getting the treatment that James got for so many years before the move to Miami. A good month of playoff basketball could help the world of basketball see that there’s a new king in town.

2014 Lollapalooza Lineup — It’s Out, and it’s Tremendous

Eminem is one of the headliners in Chicago this summer.

 

The Lollapalooza lineup is finally out in the open, and it’s caused quite a stir. Leading the way in Grant Park from August 1-3 is rap superstar Eminem, a veteran at the festival that doesn’t tour much these days. The other two headliners are Outkast and Kings of Leon, with a plethora of supporting acts throughout the day. Check out the lineup below and get your Lollapalooza tickets here.

  • Eminem
  • Outkast
  • Kings of Leon
  • Artic Monkeys
  • Skrillex
  • Calvin Harris
  • Lorde
  • The Avett Brothers
  • Foster the People
  • Zedd
  • Sebastian Ingrosso
  • Krewella
  • NAS
  • Above & Beyond
  • Childish Gambino
  • Broken Bells
  • Spoon
  • The Head and the Heart
  • Cage the Elephant
  • Young the Giant
  • Chase & Status
  • Interpol
  • Lykke Li
  • Chance the Rapper
  • Phatogram
  • Cut/Copy
  • Flosstradamus
  • Fitz and the Tantrums
  • Grouplove
  • Chvrches
  • The Glitch Mob
  • Portgual. The Man
  • Gramatik
  • Chromeo

And many, many more! Check out the full lineup.