Bull hope to continue home success vs. Knicks

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Bull hope to continue home success vs. Knicks

Thursday, Nov. 4, 2010
9:41 AM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

Heading into the last offseason, all the scuttlebutt had the Knicks making a big splash in free agency. New York was able to lure All-Star power forward Amar'e Stoudemire to the Big Apple, but fell short of its goal to add a LeBron James, Dwyane Wade or even Joe Johnson to form a dynamic duo, instead bringing on the likes of point guard Raymond Felton, former Warriors Ronny Turiaf and Anthony Randolph (both via sign-and-trade for the departed David Lee), ex-Bull Roger Mason Jr. and Russian center Timofey Mozgov.

In head coach Mike D'Antoni's third year with the team, patience is running thin, with fans in the city that never sleeps expecting to at least be a playoff squad by this season. The Knicks reportedly remain a prime candidate in the Carmelo Anthony sweepstakes (whether through trade or free agency next summer) and have been linked to superstar point guard Chris Paul after an infamous summer toast at Anthony's summer wedding. However, another alleged object of the team's desire, Tony Parker, is now off the board after inking a multi-year extension to stay in San Antonio. This is all evidence that the team is far from being the envisioned contender they intended to be after a seemingly decade-long rebuilding process.

This version of the Knicks features the virtually-anonymous Landry Fields (the rookie swingman was a second-round draft pick out of Stanford) and the aforementioned Mozgov starting alongside offseason acquisitions Felton and Stoudemire, as well as Italian sharpshooter Danilo Gallinari, who is off to a not-so-stellar start to the season, after a promising previous campaign. That is significant because "Gallo" is reportedly a key piece to a potential Anthony deal and if the 6-foot-10 small forward is struggling, Denver would almost certainly look elsewhere for a more suitable swap, if they indeed opt for an in-season trade of its franchise player.

Meanwhile, Stoudemire has so far embraced the New York scene with boasts of bravado and while he is putting up sufficient numbers early in the season, it appears he is finding the going a bit more difficult without Steve Nash spoon-feeding him easy buckets. That's not to say Felton isn't acquitting himself well (Larry Brown would probably love to have him back in Charlotte), but as his playoff struggles against Orlando's Jameer Nelson last spring proved, he isn't a top-tier NBA point guard.

The aforementioned Randolph, regarded as having some of the best potential in the league by some observers, has been sidelined due to injury, but reports out of the preseason somehow pegged him as possibly a bad fit for D'Antoni's up-tempo system, despite his talent and versatility. Mozgov was pretty much an unknown, and while like Fields (who had an excellent senior year at Stanford), he might be a diamond in the rough, but isn't considered a starting-caliber player for a postseason contender at this point.

Bench players like the rugged Turiaf, backup point guard Toney Douglas, a Madison Square Garden fan favorite, and slashing wing Wilson Chandler may be the team's saving grace. In a shallow Eastern Conference--it's obviously very early, but the top six teams appear to be Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Miami, Milwaukee, Orlando, with a steep drop-off after that group--New York may have just enough firepower to sneak back into the playoffs for the first time since 2004.

That said, it's a long season and the Knicks could overachieve, even completely flop or simply live up to expectations. But outside of acquiring a superstar like Anthony in a dramatically roster-altering deal before February's trade deadline, it's unlikely the end result will be enough for impatient New York fans eager for a return to past glory.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.coms Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

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After getting another signature win at Maryland, does any Big Ten team have two better conference wins than Minnesota?

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USA TODAY

After getting another signature win at Maryland, does any Big Ten team have two better conference wins than Minnesota?

Does any Big Ten team have two better conference wins than Minnesota?

The Golden Gophers went on the road and defeated a ranked group of Maryland Terrapins on Wednesday night, and they did so in impressive fashion, scoring an 89-75 victory in College Park.

Team this win with the win at Purdue back on New Year's Day, and there's no better pair of league victories to be found.

More importantly though, the Gophers, at 9-6, are now the No. 4 team in the Big Ten standings.

It's all a part of a quality NCAA tournament resume for the Gophers, who are closer to lock status after Wednesday's win than they are to being on any sort of bubble. With mediocrity running rampant through the Big Ten this season, Richard Pitino's 21-win squad should be well on its way to an appearance in next month's Madness, which would be the program's first since he took over as head coach.

The resume looks pretty strong at this point, especially after Wednesday. Minnesota can now claim wins over Purdue, Maryland and Northwestern — all three of those conference victories coming on the road. In the non-conference portion of the schedule, the Gophers beat Arkansas, the Razorbacks seemingly heading to the tournament themselves. The only loss from the non-conference portion came on the road at Florida State, one of the highest-ranked teams in the country.

So it's safe to say Minnesota will go dancing.

Wednesday's 14-point beatdown of the Terps saw the Gophers shoot 50 percent from the field on the night and 54.5 percent from the field in the second half. Five players scored in double figures: Dupree McBrayer with 18, Nate Mason with 17, Akeem Springs with 16, Jordan Murphy with 15 and Amir Coffey with 13. Minnesota didn't win the rebounding battle but scored 15 points off 10 Maryland turnovers and marched to the free-throw line, going 17-for-20 from the charity stripe while Maryland was just 8-for-13 there.

The second half was a rout, the Gophers outscoring the Terps 55-40 over the final 20 minutes and rattling off two separate 9-0 runs to burst away from the No. 24 team in the country.

The overtime win at Purdue on the first day of 2017 might go down as a bigger win considering the Boilermakers are closing in on the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten Tournament. That win, too, came by an impressive-enough margin, 91-82. But Minnesota dominated Maryland over the final nine minutes or so and turned in a double-digit victory on the road against a team that lost to that same Purdue team on that same court by just a point two and a half weeks ago.

The Gophers are now on a six-game winning streak and are piling up wins in a fashion that's making them look like one of the Big Ten's finest. A 3-1 start to conference play that extended its overall record to 15-2 was dampened by Minnesota's five-game losing streak that featured losses to higher-echelon teams like Michigan State, Wisconsin and Maryland, plus road losses at Penn State and Ohio State. But since have come six straight wins. While the caliber of opponent hadn't been terribly impressive until Wednesday, the Gophers can now boast nine conference wins. Only three teams have more.

It's now worth watching how high Minnesota can climb in the Big Ten standings before the conference tournament just two weeks from now. If the season ended today, the Gophers would already be in possession of one of those highly coveted two-day byes. But Minnesota is just a game back of Maryland and just two games back of Wisconsin, who the Gophers play in the regular-season finale.

Like Pitino told his team after Wednesday's win: "No more talk about (just making) the NCAA tournament. We're talking about seeds in the NCAA tournament."