Monday Morning Locks -- Week 8
Another week, another edition of Monday Morning Locks to get your day started.
Thank you, Blake Griffin.
You emphatically ended my losing streak when picking an individual by leaping over a car to win not only the NBA Slam Dunk Contest, but by solidifying yourself as the person with the best dunk in the history of the competition.
I mean, for goodness sakes, he jumped over a freaking car.
Throw in the fact that St. John's beat Pittsburgh Saturday afternoon, and the Kobe Bryant-led Western Conference beat the East in the All-Star Game, it was a pretty good weekend of basketball for my picks.
It was almost a perfect 4-for-4 week with me on the hardwood, but Ohio State, who lost to Purdue Sunday, held off a ferocious Michigan State team February 15, giving me the first of my two loses in the week.
The other came when Dale Earnhardt, Jr., who started in the back line of the 2011 Daytona 500, was in position to finish fifth or better but crashed in 197th lap, ending his shot at winning the Super Bowl of NASCAR 10 years after his father, Dale Earnhardt, died after he crashed on the final lap of the 2001 race.
So once again, I finished 3-2 in the seventh week of Monday Morning Locks.
But I'm feeling great about Week 8. And with the snow that belted our area throughout the evening, I felt it only made sense to start on the ice for this week.
Lock No. 1 –The Washington Capitals
Not that anybody noticed, but Sunday was 'Hockey Day in America.'
NBC brought coverage throughout the day, Versus closed the night with the Heritage Classic, an outdoor contest in chilly Calgary between the Flames and the Montreal Canadians.
That much hockey in one day had to give NHL commissioner Gary Bettman a smile.
But what could make Bettman grin even more would be the playoff series that would happen if the NHL season were to end today – the Pittsburgh Penguins against the Washington Capitals.
The most heated rivalry in hockey will meet in Pittsburgh tonight for the fourth and final time this season. The Caps have won the last two, including the Winter Classic at Heinz Field in the Steel City on New Year's day.
With Pittsburgh struggling without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, along with a bushel of other injuries that have promoted a slew of call-ups from Wilkes Barre, the club's AHL affiliate, the squad is struggling to remain in the division race with the Philadelphia Flyers.
This one is pretty simple-- with the talent the healthy Caps have going against a team of rookies with just a month or so of NHL experience, Alex Ovechkin and his team should have no problems strolling into the CONSOL Energy Center and earning two points.
Lock No. 2 – Brigham Young University
Is there anything better then Mountain West Conference basketball in late February?
Well, yeah, a lot of things to be quite honest.
But for the first time in a while, and probably the last, two teams in this weak conference are ranked in the Top-10 – BYU and San Diego State.
And the nation will once again be able to see arguably the nation's best shooter in Jimmer Fredette. Whether it's from 15 or 30 feet, Fredette can make it rain, averaging 27 points, while connecting on 41 percent of his shots from behind the arc.
Not since JJ Reddick of Duke have we seen such a sweet stroke with the ball.
So once again, when BYU and San Diego State meet for the second time this season Saturday afternoon, it'll be Fredette who will be the difference.
In the first game, Fredette went 5-for-8 from 3-point range and collected 43 points – one of his three 40-point nights in is breakout season.
Take BYU, but more importantly enjoy the Jimmer Fredette show.
Lock No. 3 – The Oklahoma City Thunder
The Miami Heat has the Big 3. So do the Boston Celtics.
The Lakers have Kobe Bryant.
But there is another super star in Kevin Durant that is tearing up the Western Conference and leading the Thunder to a legitimate shot at a title.
Since being drafted in 2007 by the then-Supersonics, Durant has turned a once terrible franchise into a playoff contender.
Durant and the Thunder will host the Lakers Sunday, and if he sticks to his same routine against top teams, he should have an outstanding game.
I said two weeks ago that I never bet against Kobe Bryant, but that was before his team lost to Cleveland. Yeah, the same Cleveland that lost 26 straight.
They're just not the same Lakers as years past, plus Durant shines in marquee games.
Take the Thunder, and let the Laker trade talks begin once again.
Lock No. 4 --The Philadelphia Phillies
On Thursday, the National League's Evil Empire will hit the field for the first time since a disappointing finish in last year's N.L.C.S.
But after acquiring Cliff Lee in the offseason, the Phillies are once again favored to represent the National League in the World Series.
Granted their opponent is Florida State, and we're not sure which, if any, of their star pitchers will take the mound, but this is the first step in what people in Philadelphia expect to be a magical season.
I know I'll take some flack picking a pro team over a college team for some of the readers, but hey, everybody needs a sure thing on the schedule once and awhile.
I don't hear Miami Hurricane fans grumble when Florida International comes to town.
Take the Phillies.
Lock No. 5 – Carmello Anthony (not traded)
Another day, another 14 8 stories and rumors about the latest trade proposals for Denver's Carmelo Anthony.
So I figured the Erie Reader would get its toes wet on this story that has taken on a life of its own every single day of the week for what feels like an eternity.
I'll keep it simple – it's not going to happen – at least not this week.
Too many loose ends need to be filled, too many uncertainties and it's not even a sure thing that Anthony would sign the contract extension, one of the stipulations that the New Jersey Nets need to make the deal happen.
But rest assured, the stories and rumors will only continue on this topic.
Season Record: 23-18.
~Alex Sibley covers sports for the Erie Reader. You can contact him at ASibley@Eriereader.com, or you can follow him on Twitter @ErierReaderSport.