NATIONAL TOURNEY PREVIEW: Numbers don't lie, CMD All-Stars lay claim to No. 1
Story by Kenny Zeigler
Columbia, MD — Now as most avid sports fans know, ESPN has a new weekday show called ‘Numbers Never Lie’. The basic premise of the show is for the panelists to engage in debates on various topics and players, utilizing statistics to support their respective positions. With that being said, if any numbers are going to be crunched going into this tournament to determine who should be the #1 seed and prohibitive favorite, the tourney coordinators may only need to look at the team logging the most miles in their journey to Sin City…the CMD Allstars.
Let’s start this preview with an equation…
Core of the Columbia Knicks (3-time champion, 4 time finalist, 38 game winning streak owner, ranked as high as a #2 nationally)
An UHoops career 18-20 ppg scorer x a savvy guard shooting 50% from three in the Spring Session x A 6-5 combo guard/forward who can score at a high level & guard any position on the floor
THE CMD ALLSTARS!!!
It might be safe to say that no team in this tournament will bring more UH Championship pedigree to the table than CMD. The core of this team (The Knicks) has dominated the first full year of UH Hoops in Maryland, compiling a 41-5 record and an initial 38 game winning streak. Their founding GM David Hannon is the reason a league even exists at the Columbia, MD Lifetime and their exploits on the court have led to the level of competition rising to an unprecedented level. In this Spring session, at least 15 players throughout the league have played professionally and over 25 have played on the collegiate level. Let’s breakdown this powerhouse coming from the Mid-Atlantic…
BACKCOURT: (Great Collection of Guards, Versatile Bunch, Perfect Compliment to the Frontcourt)
Al Kamara (PG) 5’11’’: The starting point guard from the Knicks is going to be tough to guard in Vegas. Being the floor general of a 3-time repeat champion proves his ability to lead a championship run. Kamara has built a reputation of playing his best in the big games. He has the combination of deceptive quickness, superior strength, and a high basketball IQ. His ability to score, distribute and defend will make him one of the most versatile guards in the tourney.
Eric Nixon (PG/SG) 6’1’’: If there was going to be an allstar Saturday night similar to the format the NBA puts on every February, Nixon would easily be able to compete in every event. A career 18 ppg scorer in UH, he has the total package for a shooting guard. He possesses range beyond NBA three, quickness to get by any defender, and ridiculous leaping ability. While he was stuck on lesser teams in his first few UH sessions in Columbia, he came to play every night and is a new addition to a Knicks squad that was looking to add scoring punch. He will be an absolute problem this weekend.
Sean Bennett (SG/SF): 6’2’’: Bennett might enter this tournament as the best pure perimeter defender. He is a 3 time selection for the All-Defensive team in UH Columbia and has shut down some the best players in the league. He normally draws the best perimeter player for opposing teams and I expect the same once CMD gets a feel for their opponents. Bennett is also a capable 3 point shooter, slasher, and offensive rebounder, but look for him to make his mark in the tourney on the defensive end.
Jason “New York” Brown (SG/SF): 6’2’’: Brown is literally the heart and soul of the Knicks. If there was a player on their core roster who would qualify as a coach it would be him. He is the epitome of a glue guy and always seems to come up with key plays throughout the course of games. Whether it is steals, big shots, or great passes, he is destined to have a key moment this weekend.
Joe Johnson (SG): 5’10’’: The GM of current Spring-session league leader Showcase, Johnson is coming to Vegas with the plan of spreading his reputation nationally as a sharp shooter. His UH career 3pt percentage is not indicative of the type of shooter he is. His recruitment of high level players to his Showcase organization has led to him shooting a 50% clip. He is going to have a ton of open looks this weekend with the formidable frontline of CMD drawing a ton of attention in the paint.
Chris Smoot (PG): 5’9’’: No one will have more swagger than Smoot in Vegas…NO ONE!!! His charismatic personality is the fuel for his game as he thrives on getting his teammates involved. While he has only averaged 8pts in his UH career, he has an all-around perimeter game and likes to push the tempo. Look for Smoot to give guards problems on both ends of the floor.
Frontcourt: (Probably comes in as the best Frontcourt in the tourney)
Derek Chappell (SF/PF): 6’5’’: ‘Pell’ as he is known in UH Columbia quite possibly will be the hardest player to guard in Vegas. Having won 2 MVP trophies after Knicks’ championship campaigns, Chappell is the ultimate combo forward. This Ohio native has a LeBron James type of game (plus a clutch gene) with his tremendous level of strength and versatility. Tough to stop someone who can get to the basket at will but still shoots at a 51% career clip from 3. He is a definite MVP candidate this weekend.
Kenny Zeigler (SF/PF): 6’6 ½’’: The Knicks are blessed to have two of the most versatile forwards in Columbia and perhaps the entire country. Hailing from Atlanta, GA originally, Zeigler also has an MVP to his credit after one of the Knicks’ title runs. He perhaps comes into this tournament playing at as high a level as anyone in the country, coming off a 42 point, 19 rebound, 4 assist effort in his most recent game. He is averaging 27 and 13 this Spring campaign and also possesses an inside/outside game like his frontcourt partner in crime. Look for him and Chappell to cause matchup nightmares all tournament long.
Antar Crawley: (Combo G/F): 6’6’: ‘Black’ is going to be the X-Factor not only for CMD, but for this entire tournament. His late addition not only adds depth to the roster, but he will be the absolute best defender and one of the most versatile players in the entire tournament. He has spent the first four sessions in Columbia as one of the league commissioners, but his competitive juices and superior talents have led him to make his UH debut this session. ‘Black’ can literally guard every position on the floor and can score from anywhere on the floor. This is a HUGE pickup for CMD.
Ronnell Peters: (PF): 6’5’’: Perhaps the most underrated player of the Knicks’ core is Peters. ‘Nelly’ is the best mid-range shooter on the roster and is an absolute stud inside. He is also known in Columbia as an enforcer, willing to put his body on someone and make an impact. There is little doubt that his presence rounds off what is probably the most talented frontcourt coming into Vegas.
Gregory Gray: (PF) 6’3”: A late addition to the roster, Gray is notorious around Columbia UHoops for being the ultimate team player. He comes up with all of the key plays that don’t show up in the box score. Thanks to his 6’8” wingspan and extremely strong hands, he is an absolute nuisance for opposing teams on both ends of the floor. His last second decision to come to Vegas now officially makes CMD the deepest team coming from another state.
If offense wins games and defense wins championships, the CMD Allstars may be primed to walk away from Vegas with the ultimate piece of hardware. In the first four full sessions in Columbia, the Knicks have led the league in scoring defense and finished in the top 2 in scoring offense. They also boast multiple league MVPs, multiple titles, and multiple players who have played collegiately and/or professionally. They will also have a 10 man roster, one of the deeper teams automatically by sheer volume.
So when you add the extra fire power, this team looks absolutely ridiculous on paper. And while championships are not won on paper, if you want your #1 seed or at minimum, a favorite in this national tournament where none of the teams have competed versus each other, as guard Chris Smoot would say, “CHECK MY RESUME!!!”
If numbers truly don’t lie, come Sunday evening, the Ultimate Hoops National Championship trophy will be on its way back to Maryland!!!
FROM THE TOURNAMENT DIRECTOR
Contributed by Joe Neuenfeldt
Did you all just hear that? It’s complete silence. And then the voices of 11 different teams exclaiming “Oh sh*t!” at the same time just before the storm hits.
Judging by the number of teams I heard from before I even woke up this morning, I would say that some of the competition has the same thought going through their heads about the CMD All Stars; “We’re in trouble.”
Hats off to Kenny Zeigler. He has done the best job of anyone at scaring the bejesus out of the other Vegas bound teams. But before everyone throws in the towel, we need to assess just how strong the eye of this storm really is. If numbers really never lie, then there are a few more Mr. Zeigler failed to throw out that we need to look closely at.
5 – That is the number of seasons in the history of Ultimate Hoops Maryland. And if one thing is true about Ultimate Hoops as a whole, it’s that talent grows per season. Translation: the level of competition is not as strong in the early stages of the league. And the Maryland market is just getting out of its early stages.
7, 9, 7, 6, and 7 – The number of teams that have participated in Ultimate Hoops Maryland in the first five seasons. So, is it more impressive to win three titles in a row against 6, 8 and 6 other teams? Or two out of three/four out of five titles in markets where there are up to 20 teams?
2-5 – The record of the Knicks (which most of these guys are apart of) in their last seven games. Does any other team in this tournament have the championship pedigree of the CMD All Stars? Yes and no. Does any other team entering this tournament have a worse record in the last seven games than this team? No.
5 – The number of teams coming into the National Tournament after a championship winter season. The CMD All Stars (Knicks) are not one of them.
1 – The number of Ultimate Hoops National Tournaments the Knicks out of Maryland were set to participate in but did not show up for.
I have spoken with Kenny Zeigler many several times since his team registered for the National Tournament and since Friday. And I have complete confidence that the Knicks are coming to Vegas. But that last stat needed to be thrown out there. I mean think about it. The Knicks may have had a very good reason not to come to Chicago in August. But if they don’t show again, people will look me in the eye and all say the same thing: “You’re an idiot for thinking they’d come.”
As for the rest of the stats, the answer to all of our questions depends on the level of competition out there in Maryland. Is the talent of Columbia similar to the rest of the UH markets around the country? Or is this really an exclusive little country club type place where some of the most talented hoopers come to beat up on each other? It sounds pretty impressive. But I think all of us here are more than excited to see it firsthand.
TALENT – When Kenny puts it into words on paper, all you can say is: DAYUM! But he did list a few of his guards taller than their listing on uhlife.com. So maybe they aren’t all as beastly as they appear to be. However, my instincts are telling me that I’m about to witness some pretty strong and athletic basketball players. And I also feel like I could be wowed by some of the overall team basketball as well.
TITLES – They have three of them. That’s not the most of any team playing in the National Tournament. But it’s pretty close. And they certainly seem motivated to add a fourth title to their resume within the next week.
MOMENTUM – If this National Tournament was taking place after the fall of 2011 season, there is almost no way not to seed this team #1. They had never lost a game through three seasons. And we already discussed the number of teams they have to go through to get to that point. But still, you can’t argue with a team that has never lost. The tournament isn’t taking place after the fall of’11, though. And I am concerned with their negative momentum after sustaining their first loss. It’s one thing to lose one game. But they lost two out of three after that first loss to end the winter season. And then lost two in a row to start the spring. I guess when it rains it pours for these guys.
LEVEL OF COMPETITION – As addressed above, we don’t know. If college and professional experience are any indicators, then Maryland could be up there at the top as having the best competition around. But is that always the best indicator in who plays the best basketball? That was a long time ago for some of these guys. Also, Damon Dowdell in Detroit is a true athlete and was a Division I quarterback for Michigan State. And he got smashed on in Chicago (the dunk heard ‘round the UH world) by a guy who never played more than high school basketball (I wonder who will have that dunk this tournament).
EXPERIENCE – The Knicks franchise has played for every title in the history of UH Maryland. So they know what it’s like to be in the most important game of the season. With all of the big time college/professional experience of these players, I am pretty sure that there won’t be many butterflies in the stomachs of these guys should they advance to the single elimination round on Sunday.
DEPTH – Unfortunately, the Columbia, Maryland Ultimate Hoops box scores are of no help when it comes to examining how this team manages their minutes. Just check out some past stats. They clearly don’t keep track of the minutes and just give everyone in attendance at the games equal playing time. So I don’t really know which of these guys will be playing the most minutes and which ones are used to being role players. Will guys used to 40 minutes a game be able to do that three times in one day? If not, will they know how to pace themselves so they have enough gas for the late and single elimination games? This is a good problem for a team to have. Especially if this team is as talented as they appear to be.
One more thing before I get to my bold prediction for the CMD All Stars. The #2 national ranking that Kenny mentioned the Knicks once received. The only other Ultimate Hoops stat that is more flawed when assessing a player/team is the brand new PPV. First, this ranking doesn’t even factor every Open Division currently playing. It seems to just pick out of the ones it feels like. And second, look at week 1 of this season and compare it to week 3. The top 6 teams in week 1 (Game Changerz, Goon Squad, Quality, No Size ‘Reloaded,’ The Kings and Cougar Captains) are not even top 20 teams just two weeks later. Yeah, real great overall assessment of the Open Division teams.
With that being said, I’m sold on the CMD All Stars thanks to Kenny Ziegler. Bold prediction:
The CMD All Stars will be no lower than the #3 seed when the single elimination starts on Sunday (not their seed for the pool play). And in all likelihood, higher than that.