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The GIST's Guide to Basketball

You may not believe it, but a basketball court is more than just a place for awkward middle school dances.


Basketball is made up of four quarters lasting 12 minutes each. Five players on each team are on the court at the same time. The point of the game is to shoot a basketball in a hoop to get the most baskets which = the most points. A basket counts as either two or three points, depending on how far the shooter was from the basket when she took the shot. Unlike any other sport, basketball brings out the rich and famous which makes playing  #spotthecelebrity so fun. You can always see the hottest celebs (let’s be honest we really only care about Jay-Z and Beyonce) sitting courtside.

How is it organized?

The best league in the world is the National Basketball Association aka NBA. The league is split into two conferences (East and West), and each of those conferences are further divided into three divisions. The teams are playing for a chance to be the NBA Finals Champions. There are 30 teams in the league, and only one team in Canada - our Toronto Raptors! The Raptors have been absolutely KILLIN’ IT these past years earning the hearts of the country... #WETHENORTH BABY!! Our celeb ambassador is October’s Very Own, Drake (aka Aubrey Graham, aka Jimmy *RIP*).

The Best of the Best

The two best teams for the last few years were the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors. These squads have faced off in the last four NBA Finals, with Golden State winning the first, Cavs winning the second, and Golden State winning the last two. However, in this 2018/19 season, the Toronto Raptors and Milwaukee Bucks have risen to take Cleveland’s place as the most dominant team in the Eastern Conference mostly because LeBron James left Cleveland to play for the LA Lakers.

On the other hand, the MVP is quite a controversial topic in the NBA. The top ballers in the league are Stephen Curry & Kevin Durant (Golden State Warriors), Lebron James (prior Cleveland Cavaliers and now LA Laker), James Harden (Houston Rockets), Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder). That said, we care the most about our Raptors. The best dinos on the court are Kyle Lowry (who has been a loyal asset to the team) and Kawhi Leonard

Hoop Hunnies!

The Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) is one of the best professional leagues for women in North America as these basketball bosses actually get airtime on top sports networks in the US. One of the top players right now is Candace Parker (Los Angeles Sparks). At a 6’4” she became the first woman to EVER dunk in a NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) back in 2006 when she was only a freshman. Like, pardon me?! We can’t even jump high enough to reach out top shelf in the kitchen. Honourable mention to our Canadian ballas who are now ranked 6th in the world after an incredibly impressive 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.

If ya don’t know, now ya know

The most important (although we are admittedly biased) fact about basketball is that the sport was created in 1891 by James Naismith who is Canadian! O’ Canada, indeed!

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Literally just bouncing the basketball up and down consecutively.


When you move your feet without dribbling the basketball. If you’re not dribbling the basketball, you have to keep your feet planted. The only time you can take two steps is when you’re making a lay up toward the net.


You know how you can’t take more than 2 steps with the ball? You can still move around by keeping one foot planted and pivoting around with the other one.

GIF - Ross from TV show, Friends, screaming pivot while moving furniture

Lay Up:

This is the most common way to score in basketball but it sounds kinda complicated. It’s when a player drives to the basket, takes two steps and tosses the ball up so it bounces off the back-board and into the net.

Slam Dunk:

When a player is REALLY tall, they’re able to jump high enough to get their hand(s) and the ball above the basket. A slam dunk is when they jump up and then slam the ball into the hoop - it is AWESOME.

Three Pointer:

When you nail your shot from beyond the three-point line, aka the arc (and also get 3 points instead of 2!!). It gets more points because it’s further away from the basket, so theoretically harder to get in.

Field Goal:

Any shot that isn’t a free throw. Includes three pointers, layups and the rest.

Bank Shot:

A shot that hits the backboard before the rim/net.

Jump Shot / J:

When you knab a shot over the head while still in mid-air.


Okay these look sick. Generally the point guard (player who handles the ball the most), passes the ball up close to the basket (sometimes looks as if they are about to have a huge air ball) to another player who jumps up and generally dunks the ball into the net. Check it out here.

Free Throw Line:

If the other team fouls you, you get two shots (sometime three if you were in the midst of shooting a three pointer) uncontested. You think these are easy shots to take, but a player is generally under a lot of pressure, and sometimes don’t have much finesse to get the basket.


When one player completes 2 of the following: scores 10 or more points / has 10 or more rebounds / 10 or more assists / 10 or more steals OR 10 or more blocks. Most common is points, rebounds and assists.

Triple Double:

The above but one player completes THREE of the above. Simply RIDICulous.


A rebound is when a player shoots but misses off the rim or background, so the ball bounces back into play. The player who gets to count the rebound as a statistic is the one who gets the ball after it’s shot. Most of the time, the defensive team collects the rebound; however, an offensive rebound can occur as well. The shot clock resets when there’s an offensive rebound. This is similar to IRL when you give a guy a shot and date him for a bit, but then you break-up, you just sometimes needs a rebound to help you get over it.

Shot Clock:

In the NBA, once you inbound the basketball, you only have 24 seconds to shoot. The shot clock was implemented so that players don’t meander around to keep possession. It forces the game to be more exciting. 


You are dribbling the ball and switch quickly from one hand to the other and back to the OG hand to try to fake-out the defensive player.


A lot of the time, you need to make some room on the court so that your teammates can make a play. A pick/screen is when you block a player on defence from getting in the way of one of your teammates. You do this by planting your feet and standing your ground so that your teammate can run past you, effectively tossing the person covering them (their check) aside.

Pick and Roll:

Same as above but after you set your screen, you roll away and accept receive a pass. Tricky tricky!

Over and Back:

Occurs when a player crosses half court and and then goes back. Can’t do that.

Full Court Press:

Defence mechanism. The defensive team applies the pressure for the entire court before and after inbounding the ball. You’ll generally only see this happen in the pro leagues at the end of each half if a team is down b/c it’s terribly tiring.

(Wo)man to (Wo)man:

Another defence mechanism. You’ve got one check on the other team that you have to follow. Think stage 5 clinger.

Zone Defense:

Opposite defence strategy as man to man. The squad doesn’t have a person to follow but a zone on the court to defend.

Technical / Technical Foul / T:

Any foul that does not involve physical contact. The refs get super into this one and make an aggressive T out of their hands. This normally happens when a player/coach is getting too fired up and generally involves some sort of swearing.


The seats literally on the court where all of the biggest ballas get to watch the game from. Throwback to Jay Z’s Empire State of Mind “Sitting Courtside, Knicks and Nets give me high fives.”

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Why do teams foul so much in the last 2 minutes of a basketball game?

You’ve prolly noticed that in the last coupla minutes of a game, the team that’s losing (especially if they’re only losing by a few baskets) will start fouling the other team. The only reason they do this is to try to gain back possession. After foul shouts, the defending team is more likely to get the rebound as they have more players in the key (4 vs 3), and if the foul shot is made, then they get to inbound from their own baseline effectively gaining back possession. That means, they get the ball back for another chance at a scoring opportunity that wouldn’t have if the other team just ran down the clock passing to each other. That make sense?

What is the deal with time outs - are they strategic? Do you call a time-out when your team is down? Do you ever do it when your team is up? Do you always try to use all your time outs?

Time outs are v strategic and are normally called when:

1) your team can’t get their sh!t together and the coach needs to settle everyone down (e.g., opponent scores five straight buckets without your team responding).

2) there’s a major opportunity to tie the game, or pull ahead. The coach will normally call a timeout so that she/he can organize a play that will lead to a basket.

3) when your relationship is falling a little flat and, like Ross and Rachel, you need a bit of a break. 

GIF - Ross from TV show, Friends, screaming We were on a Break

Why is basketball so centred around the star players? Versus hockey or soccer that feel more like it’s focused on the whole team.

Okay. So. Because of basketball’s format (5 v. 5 for four 12-minute quarters), the fact that the court is relatively small, and there can be moments when you’re not moving at full-speed, there’s less of a need for substituting players. As a result, a lot of teams rely on their best players to play for the majority of the time. 

On the flip side, hockey’s format of 5 v. 5 for three 20-minute periods is a longer game, and on a larger ice rink. Hockey players go out on the ice in “sprints”. Their shifts are only one to two minutes in length and they are absolutely GIVIN’ ‘ER the entire time. There are at least four lines of forwards (3 players x 4 =12 players) and at least 3 lines of defensemen (2 players x 3 = 6 players) that are major keys to the team being successful. 18 players vs. 8 players is a big difference when you’re comparing hockey and basketball. In basketball, it’s much easier for a handful of players to take up most of the playing time, hence why there seems to be so much more focus on star players. 

What kind of build makes the different positions?

We’re gonna give this to you real quick. The taller you are, the closer to the basket you tend to play. Generally, the shorter you are, the more likely you end up being a point guard. The point guard is also generally the player who has the best hands in terms of dribbling as well as passing. 

Is grabbing a rebound or being a good rebounder essentially jumping highest to grab the ball? Does that mean it’s always the tallest players that get the rebounds?

Height and being able to jump high to get the ball is definitely helpful in getting rebounds, but it’s not everything. One of the most important things about rebounds is “boxing out” your opponent. Boxing out basically means you put your body between them, and the net. Generally this means you get your butt right back on them, and get your arms wide so that there’s no way they can get around you to get the rebound. A lot of offensive rebounds occur when the defensive team gets lazy and doesn’t properly box out. 

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The GIST’s Guide to Fantasy Basketball

Everybody get up it’s time to slam now, we got a real jam goin’ down, welcome to the GIST’s Guide to Fantasy Basketball! Now, when we put “fantasy” and “basketball” in the same sentence, we’re not talking about Michael Jordan and a team of Looney Toon characters playing a game of intergalactic basketball against giant aliens (oh, wait…). No, we’re talking about that fun, competitive game amongst friends and colleagues whereby you can prove your elite bball knowledge and earn some major office bragging rights.

GIF - Harvey from Suits sipping whiskey

Why should you play Fantasy Basketball? Well, it’s hella fun, is super topical as basketball is one of the most watched sports leagues in North America, and is one of the “easier” fantasy leagues to join for your first time.  

WTF Is fantasy basketball

In classic GIST fashion, we need to ask… WTF is Fantasy Basketball?! Fantasy basketball is all about building the best bball team given your fantasy league’s available players and competing against the other teams in your league to prove who’s best.

Not entirely clear? Let’s compare this to Hollywood then, because we’re suckers for pop culture and why the heck not. We want you to picture your favourite actors (or singers – shout out to Lady Gaga’s A Star is Born!). Next, imagine if all of your favourite actors were to suddenly team up and join a movie that YOU have full creative control over. The actors are real, their ability to deliver lines are real, but YOU select who’s on the cast, what parts they play, and how they will be directed. For this exercise, replace Lady Gaga with Lebron James, replace the movie set with a bball court, and replace line delivery skills with bball skills in your mind. That is fantasy basketball. You have control of your players and your players have control of the game and their ability to produce results.

Sounds fun - how do I play?

To play this fun-a$$ game, you first need to join a league. Your office may be in the works of starting one up, so definitely ask around, but you can also join a league for free online! These websites are some of the best, and most popular, out there:

Once you join a league, a “Draft Day” will be set and scheduled by your league’s commissioner (fancy phrase for league organizer). You should aim to do all of your prep work and research before your scheduled Draft Day, as this will be the day that you actually select your team. It’s a BFD.

Before we dive in, you should know that teams are mostly made up of six forwards (SF, PF, F), five guards (PG, SG, G), and two centres (C), for a total roster of 13 players (ten active players + three inactive bench players each day). There are 301 players in the NBA and you only need to pick 13 on Draft Day, so be sure to make your picks count.

Fantasy basketball is generally structured in a VERY similar way to fantasy hockey – if you have not yet checked out our Fantasy Hockey Guide, then we strongly recommend you take a quick jump over and read all about the wonderful world of fantasy sports and the small nuances that come with it.

Let’s return really quickly to Draft Day, as this day is absolutely critical to your success. There are two types of drafts – the snake draft, by far the most common, and the auction draft. Just like hockey, a snake draft is when each team in the league is assigned a predetermined draft number and selects a player (from the remaining available players) to join their roster on their respective turn. If there are ten teams in your league, then you will draft somewhere between first and tenth, with the tenth drafter also selecting the eleventh pick because the order flips after each round. It will look something like this:

Team 1 Team 2 Team 3 Team 4 Team 5 Team 6 Team 7 Team 8 Team 9 Team 10
Draft # 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
20 19 18 17 16 15 14 13 12 11
21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30

The whole point of Draft Day is to build your team using the best players available to you. Whether you pick the known high performers or take a gamble on a potential breakout star (aka sleeper pick), Draft Day is all about what you decide. There’s some strategy to this, y’all! But, don’t fret, your picks are not set in stone; you’ll get the chance to make trades or pick up undrafted players during the season to mix your roster up and chase after a baller you couldn’t/didn’t nab in the draft. As always though, beware the buyer as a big trade could require you to give something big up in return…

If you haven’t a clue what to do, most websites offer ADP (Average Draft Position) for each player to help a sister/mister/GISTer out. The ADP is the average spot that the player was taken across all of the drafts run on that website – the higher the ADP, the more in demand that player is, which is a big clue that they might be pretty friggin’ good.

As an owner after the draft, you set up your squad every day and select which players get to play Like Mike and hit the bball court and who gets to sit on the bench. Most often, you’ll play against another team in your league each week in a head-to-head format to see who’s team does the best in a variety of categories – points, threes, rebounds, assists, and steals are some of the most common categories, but it can vary depending on what your commissioner has decided. The team who outscores their opponent in each of the league’s categories at the end of every week will earn a point; for example, if Team A had 36 total rebounds for the week and Team B had 32, Team A would earn a point. The team with the most points in their “head-to-head” matchup will earn the dub (win because dub is short form for W) for the week and this will go towards their overall standing in the league. Rinse and repeat this process until playoffs and there you have it, a regular season of fantasy basketball.

If you have any questions, feel free to light us up@thegistnewsca on Twitter – we are here to help you become the Fantasy Basketball champ you were always meant to be.

Wanna get good? Here are some draft tips to get you started

À la Elle Woods & her iconic orange Mac laptop in the 2001 classic Legally Blonde, you’re gonna have to sit down, do some homework, and take some notes in order to kick fantasy bball ass. To get you started, we’re gonna give you a quick rundown on some of the best players in the league, who to keep your eye on and where you can go to get some more info on your own:

Top Players – these guys are gonna go early for sure:

  • Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans. Fear the brow? No, trust the brow. Embrace and accept the brow. Depending on who you ask, AD is likely the frontrunner to win MVP this upcoming season – you cannot go wrong with this pick.

  • James Harden, Houston Rockets. Coming off an MVP 2017-2018 season, the Beard will be looking to do it again with the Rockets and their updated roster.

  • Lebron James, Los Angeles Lakers. Returning after his best Fantasy season ever during the 2017-2018 season, King James is very likely going to crush it. But the move to the Western Conference with the Los Angeles Lakers could make for an interesting mix to his game.

  • Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors

  • Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

  • Kawhi Leonard, Toronto Raptors (GO RAPS GO!). Despite missing pretty much all of the 2017-2018 season due to injury, Kawhi is still a top five player in the world, an elite scorer and even better defenseman with a good chance of taking home Defensive Player of the Year.

  • Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks. His nickname is the “Greek Freak” – he is so good at bball, it’s FREAKY.

  • Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder. Although he is amazing, be careful with this pick – Russ had knee surgery this off-season and could miss a good part of the early season.

  • Victor Oladipo, Indiana Pacers

  • Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers. Of course, Damian is amazing and is one of the best players in the league. But, we would be remiss to not mention his eligibility for a Super Max Contract if he puts up ELITE numbers in this season or the next and makes the All NBA Team in either season. If he does, he is eligible to earn $235 million USD, which would make him one of the highest paid NBA athletes of all time. With this very likely in the forefront of his mind, Damian is going to ball out this year and you can count on him to produce some ridiculous results – solid draft pick.

“Keep Your Eye On” Picks – likely to have an explosive year and are strong pickups for anyone:

  • Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns. Sure, the Phoenix Suns were the worst team in the league during the 2017-2018 season and their General Manager was recently fired, but that doesn’t mean Devin Booker is the same; this kid is putting up crazy numbers in the Arizona desert and should not be overlooked.

  • Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder. Could have a big year with the departure of Carmelo Anthony from the team as he will very likely see more plays and setups come his way. Also, he consistently produces elite numbers in two fantasy categories: 3’s and steals.

  • DeMar DeRozan, San Antonio Spurs. As tough as it was for the city of Toronto to say goodbye to DeMar this off-season, we’re happy that he will be working with one of the best NBA coaches of all time in Gregg Popovich (aka simply “Pop”) and all evidence suggests he will flourish in the Spurs organization.

  • Gordon Hayward, Boston Celtics. Coming back from a gruesome leg break early last season (PSA: do NOT watch the vid), Gordon looks to beef up the Kyrie & Celtics this year, and help them be serious contenders for Eastern Conference Champs.

  • Tyreke Evans, Indiana Pacers. Had a very strong showing during the 2017 – 2018 year performing well above his career average in every stat; will be looking to continue his success and ball out this year.

  • Khris Middleton, Milwaukee Bucks. Nooo, this is not that NBA guy Kim Kardashian was married to for 72 days. Middleton is the guy who will fill up your fantasy stat sheet, especially now that he will be playing alongside guaranteed first rounder Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Want to do some research on your own? Check these resources out:

Fun fact to share on draft day

Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, one of the greatest basketball players of all time, was drafted by the Charlotte Hornets (RIP, now the New Orleans Pelicans) 13th overall in the 1996 NBA Draft. Immediately after being drafted, Charlotte traded Kobe to the Lakers in exchange for Vlade Divac, a trade that would change the course of the NBA and the game of basketball itself. What’s basketball history without Kobe in a Lakers jersey, anyway?

Still have questions? That’s what we’re here for! Slide into our DMs, tweet us@thegistnewsca or hit us up with an email – we want to help you be the best, the very best.

Written By: Holly Westgate
GIST Guest Writer and Basketball Guru

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The GIST’s Guide to The NBA Playoffs

While the spring season is widely known for its rain, showers, and flowers, it’s also known as playoff season.



After playing 82 gruesome regular season games, the NBA’s star players (including Toronto’s very own Kyle Lowry and Kawhi Leonard) and top teams, set out to compete to become the NBA champions.

How it’s Organized?

Need a reminder of how the league is organized prior to getting into how the playoffs are structured? No worries. Click here.

The best eight teams in each Conference (Eastern and Western) reach the postseason. The top team in each conference plays the eighth team in the conference, with the second team facing the seventh team, and so on.

Each round consists of a best-of-seven game series with a 2-2-1-1-1 format. This means that the team with the best record will play the first two games at home, followed by the next two games being played at the lower seeds home, and then alternating for the rest of the series. The higher seed of the two teams receives home court advantage.

The winning team must make it through four rounds (aka win 16 games) in order to win the championship and be named basketball’s kings of the world.

The GIST of The Teams & Players

Eastern Conference

Milwaukee Bucks

Finishing with the number one seed in the Eastern Conference and the best record in the entire league, the Milwaukee Bucks, led by MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo (aka the ‘Greek Freak’), have done more than enough to prove themselves as a legitimate contender to win it all. However, late season injuries to guard Malcolm Brogdon and forward Nikola Mirotic may very well change the entire complexion of Milwaukee Bucks’ postseason run. The Bucks have had a great regular season, but do they have what it takes for a playoff run?They’ve fallen short in  the first round in back-to-back seasons. They enter as the favourites in the Eastern Conference.

Toronto Raptors

Raptors President of Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri knew something had to change upon failure after failure in the playoffs. Last season’s second round disappointing sweep suffered at the hands of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers was just the cherry on top of the cake. It was clear the Raptors hit a hard ceiling while being led by DeMar DeRozan. This offseason, Masai shipped DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a protected 2019 First Round Pick in a blockbuster deal with the Spurs in exchange for superstar Kawhi Leonard and guard Danny Green. The purpose? These next few months right here.

Kawhi Leonard is already an NBA champion, and has the chance to do something special with a strong roster around him (featuring All-Star guard Kyle Lowry and rising star Pascal Siakam aka Spicy P). These next few months will define how the Raptors’ future will look. The time to win a championship for this squad is now.

Philadelphia 76ers

The 76ers have made it clear that they’re all in. This season, the 76ers pulled off two blockbuster deals to land star forwards Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris. Coupled with rising star Ben Simmons and superstar Joel Embiid, the 76ers arguably have the most talented starting five in the Eastern Conference. Their matchup with the Brooklyn Nets will no doubt be an exciting one, but their real test will come after that -- do they have what it takes to beat the Raps or the Bucks?

Boston Celtics

Coming into this season there was so much promise for the Boston Celtics. However, it hasn’t turned out exactly as planned. After making an incredible Cinderella story run to the Eastern Conference Finals without their best player (Kyrie Irving was out with an injury) last year, the Boston Celtics were heavy favorites to win the East after getting Irving and Gordon Hayward back on the court. But this season, just like your ex, they’ve been wildly inconsistent and have also had team drama.

Indiana Pacers

The Pacers are always overlooked despite being a very good, gritty team. But because of the gruesome injury suffered by their star player Victor Oladipo mid-season, many have written them off. The team has the grit to be a successful playoff team, but their talent level doesn’t match the Boston Celtics, who they’ll face off with in the first round. It will be tough for Bojan Bogdanovic and the Pacers to pull off the upset, but they can certainly put up a fight.

Brooklyn Nets

Everyone loves the Nets. The Brooklyn Nets are one of the best feel-good stories around the NBA. Led by rising star D’Angelo Russell, Brooklyn hopes to steal a few games and gain some much valuable experience in what will be the first postseason appearance for much of the roster. Their first-round matchup against the 76ers will be one of the more fun matchups around the league.

Orlando Magic

The Magic are up against the Raptors in the first round as the seventh seed in the Eastern conference. Although they aren’t expected to win against the dominant Raptors, it will still be a fun series to watch. They will need guys like Terrence Ross (a former Raptor) and Aaron Gordon to step up in order to put up a fight against the number two seed.

Detroit Pistons

The Pistons just barely made the playoffs on the last day of the regular season by obliterating the New York Knicks in MSG without their best player, Blake Griffin. BUT, the team is hopeful Griffin will be back just in time for their matchup against the Bucks, where he will play a big role in Dwane Casey’s (former Raptors head coach and now Pistons coach) offensive schemes. If the Pistons have any hopes of stealing a game (or two) against the number one seeded Bucks, they’ll need him, and they’ll need him at his best.

Western Conference

Golden State Warriors

The Golden State Warriors are the heavy favourites to win the championship again. They’re back-to-back champions and have won three championships in the last four years. So yes, if they win again, they’ll three-peat and go down as one of the greatest teams ever assembled. And, it looks like this season might be the last year for that as star Kevin Durant’s free agency is nearing and multiple reports are claiming that he’ll leave the team this summer. Key players to watch are Durant, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, DeMarcus Cousins (aka Bougie) and Draymond Green.

Denver Nuggets

The overachieving Nuggets posted the second best record in the West. Coming into the season, they were expected to fight for a playoff spot so them coming in second is a BFD. However, the Nuggets have somewhat stumbled late in the season, becoming a target for teams to play in the first round due to their lack of experience and upper-level talent, aside from star Nikola Jokic. Jamal Murray and Gary Harris will also need to step up if the Nuggets hope to fill the Western Conference Finals slot and potentially get their chance to square off against the Warriors.

Portland Trail Blazers

Losing rising star Jusuf Nurkic to a gruesome, season-ending leg injury, the Blazers are hoping to ride their all-star backcourt (defence) of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum to the promised land. Coming off a disappointing first round series sweep to the Pelicans last year, Portland hopes to fight their postseason woes and make a deep run this year, even if they have to do it without one of their  best players. Winning their last game of the season with a shorthanded roster, the Blazers have played themselves into a scenario where they won’t have to face the Warriors ‘till the Western Conference Finals, but will still face a difficult Oklahoma City Thunder (aka OKC) team in the first round.

Houston Rockets

The Rockets look phenomenal this season! Despite their slow start, the Rockets have been the best team in the league since the new year with much thanks going to reigning MVP James Harden’s record-breaking season. They’re facing the Utah Jazz  in the first round. The Rockets have championship ambition, but with star point guard Chris Paul approaching 34-years-old, their window may be nearing an end.

Utah Jazz

Coming off yet another successful regular season, the Donovan Mitchell led Jazz hope to make some noise this postseason. Last year, the Jazz pulled off a great upset against OKC, and will hope to build off of that success this year. But, the upset may be much more difficult to pull off this time, since they’re matched up against the surging Houston Rockets. Mitchell will need to be spectacular, and star center Rudy Gobert must outplay the opposing center Clint Capela if the Jazz want to win this series.

OKC Thunder

OKC started the season on fire and have one of the best defensive teams in the league. They’re entering the postseason with some momentum, riding a five-game win streak, including a huge character-building victory over their rival Houston. The Thunder have played themselves into a favorable matchup in the first round against Portland. Now, if MVP candidate Paul George and former league MVP Russell Westbrook play to their full potential, they could find themselves staring at a Western Conference Finals birth.

San Antonio Spurs

After trading star Kawhi Leonard to the Toronto Raptors for a package deal centered around DeMar DeRozan, many thought the Spurs’ famous playoff streak was threatened; especially when they lost rising star Dejounte Murray to a preseason injury. It also didn’t help that the rough start to their season further reinforced the question marks surrounding the team, but the second half of their season was much stronger. Once again, head coach Gregg Popovich (and female assistant coach Becky Hammon.., shout out), one of the best coaches EVER, has led the storied franchise to yet another winning season, and another chance at postseason success. The Spurs are one of many teams in the West that hope to make a deep run in the postseason, but will need star DeMar DeRozan to overcome his playoff demons to do so.

LA Clippers

Even though the Clippers have had far more success than their Los Angeles counterpart, the Lakers, who have gotten all the attention this season (I mean, it makes sense with LeBron James and all the drama he entails...) Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell are the backbone of the best bench (not the starting five players) in the league. Unfortunately for Steve Ballmer and the Clippers, the team lacks upper-level talent, and is matched up with arguably the greatest, most talented team of all time in the first round (Golden State). For the Clippers, their 2019 season has been a remarkable success, but it will probably come to an end in the first round.

Trivia Time!

Be the go-to gal at the trivia table this playoff season by knowing these facts:

  • The Boston Celtics have won the most NBA Championships at 17. The LA Lakers (who aren’t in this year’s playoffs) are a close second at 16.

  • Speaking of Boston, prior Celtics player, Bill Russell holds the record for the most NBA Champions, winning 11 titles within his 13-year career. Not too shabby!

  • Finally, this fact doesn’t really have anything to do with the finals, but we think it’s fun! When the game was first invented by Canadian James Naismith (proud Canadian moment) the game was actually played with soccer balls instead of basketballs and instead of players shooting into baskets, they shot them into wooden peach baskets.

That’s #thegist of it

By Guest Writer: Abeer Khan

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The GIST’s Guide to March Madness

Why is February so short?
To make room for March.
Bring on the madness! 

Note: this is a shortened version of our full March Madness guide.


March Madness is an annual NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) basketball tournament. If you don’t remember cheering for your school while you were in your undergrad, that’s because you couldn’t .March Madness only includes 68 of the best college basketball teams in the U.S., with this year’s tourney taking place in 14 different cities from March 19th to April 8th.

Okay. So. What’s so special about March Madness? Why do people go buck wild for it? Well,  whether it’s due to the thrill of cheering for your alma mater, beating your colleagues in an office pool (or friends in our GIST pool), or because you love a Cinderella story (and no, we’re not talking about Chad & Hil’s fire of a classic); people love March Madness so much that it can sometimes even bring them to tears.

How Teams are Selected

The US has a lot of colleges, so there’s a bit of process for choosing which teams will participate in March Madness. This is called “Selection Sunday”. Is it just us or does this name give you the dystopian creeps? Anyway, teams earn a bid to the tournament if they:

1) win the conference in their division (BTW there are 32 divisions in college basketball), or 2) get chosen by the selection committee based on their “pedigree” to earn an invitation to the tournament.

Last year, the selection committee introduced a new system called the NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET) to help decide what teams should get a bid. Among other stats, NET uses game results, strength of schedule (how many good teams they beat), game location and scoring margin to decide who should get an invitation to the big dance. It can get prettttty complicated, but someone has to do it (we’re v grateful it’s not us).

How It’s Organized

March Madness is a bracket style tournament that starts with 68 teams. You may be thinking, “what TF is a bracket?” In this instance, it’s not the bracket on your keyboard or the one you (occasionally) used in math class. A bracket represents a knockout tournament where two teams play each other and the winning team moves on. There are no second chances. To give a bracket some context, think back (fondly or not) to every beer pong tournament you took part in in university, similar rules apply here (with substantially fewer regrettable decisions – we hope). If you’re more of a visual learner, click here.

The brackets are set up based on a team’s “seed”. Seed rankings are determined by the committee from the best (1) to the worst (68), regardless of whether a team was an automatic bid or a committee selection. These seedings are based on how a team has performed throughout the year and are used to ensure the best teams don’t play each other in the first couple rounds, increasing the chances of the ‘best’ teams facing off in the finals. It’s basically the same set up as a tennis tournament.

Teams are then seeded into four regions (16 in each with eight teams matching up in the First Four “Play In” games—more on that later) with the 16th seed playing the 1st, 15th playing the 2nd , 14th playing the 3rd and so on. If you’re feeling it, click here for more details.

After the initial round of four games, called the “First Four”, 64 teams will remain and the field will be cut in half after each round. The part of the tournament you’ll want to really pay attention to will start with the “Sweet Sixteen”, then “Elite Eight”, “Final Four” (don’t you love alliteration?) and finally the Championship Game.

You may have heard your friends, colleagues and family talk  about “their bracket”. Creating a bracket is a big reason why fans gets so amped about March Madness. People use a bracket to predict who’s going to win each game of the tournament, and ultimately try to predict who will win the whole damn thing. Often there’s money on the line to make it a weeee bit more interesting.

Because this is college ball and a lot of these players are who are still developing, March Madness is notoriously unpredictable so it’s practically impossible to create a perfect bracket (aka choosing all of the correct winners). Bracket math isn’t an exact science, but the internet tells us that the chances of filling out a perfect bracket are 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 (that's 9.2 quintillion)! But that’s what also makes March Madness fun. Because of the unpredictable nature of the tournament, you don’t need to follow NCAA or even basketball to have fun filling out your bracket.

If you’ve never filled out a bracket before, here are some tips to consider:   

  1. Veteran Guard Play – If a team doesn’t have good guards with experience (aka 3rd and 4th year players), they probably aren’t going to do too well in the tournament. Guards are the players who dribble the ball up the floor and call the plays. They usually shoot more threes and jump shots than forwards and centres (aka the taller players) and have the ball in their hands A LOT, so it’s definitely important for them to be ~top tier~ talent.

  2. Free Throws – A lot of games in March Madness come down to the wire, which means foul shots/free throws are v important. Teams who shoot well from “the line” usually do better in the tournament! Every point counts.

  3. Turnovers – It’s hard to win if you give the other team extra chances. A turnover is when a team accidentally loses the ball to their opponent before they had a chance to shoot. Turnovers generally result from things like travelling, bad passes, good defence from the opponents, etc. Teams that have fewer turnovers get more chances at taking shots, which usually means more baskets.

  4. If all else fails, or you want to keep the research quick, have fun with it! We like to choose teams that have Canadians on them (shout-out to superstar RJ Barrett on Duke) and teams that have mascots we love.

Buuuut, like we said, 1 in 9.2 quintillion, so there really is no foolproof way to pick your bracket. You just do you!

The Best of the Best

The 2018 men’s March Madness winner was Villanova. Last year’s win marked their third national championship and second in three years (they also won in 1985 and 2016). They beat Michigan in a bit of a lopsided final 79-62. We’re def hoping for a bit more drama in the Championship Game on April 8.

This year’s season has been full of upsets with many different teams sitting atop the AP Top 25 (weekly rankings of the best college basketball teams), which should result in a v exciting tournament and some extra madness. That is, after all, what the people want to see.

March Madness is a little different than other major tournaments because it’s harder to focus on specific players. Since there’s an insane amount of teams, each with their own strategies and systems, the game is more about team play than individual players stealing the spotlight like we see in the NBA. Though there are still some super talented players who can take over the game if they want to (see: Zion Williamson – scroll down for more info on this generational player).

Even still, there are many current NBA/WNBA players who played in March Madness during their collegiate careers. However, many of the biggest NBA stars were never NCAA champions, which shows just how hard it is to win it all! One of the only current NBA stars to win a championship in college is Anthony Davis, who won in 2012 with the Kentucky Wildcats.

On the women’s side, the Notre Dame Irish are the defending champions. Want all the deets on the women’s tournament? We know you do. Click here or keep scrolling to get all the info you need on the women’s tournament.

For more details on the best teams and players to watch (and include in your brackets) click here for our full March Madness feature.

Lady Ballas

Who run the world? GIRLS. From March 22nd – April 7th, women’s basketball also has its March Madness tournament. The tournament will run the exact same way as we outlined above for the men’s (though without a First Four because there’s only 64 teams in the women’s tournament), but instead of Selection Sunday, teams are revealed on Selection Monday. So much for ladies first…

This year’s field is one of the most open fields in NCAA women’s basketball tournament history. There hasn’t really been a year where there is no clear-cut favourite - until 2019! Bring on the madness! As in the men’s AP Top 25, there’s been a lot of movement at the top of the list and A LOT of upsets. And everyone loves an upset!

Unfortunately, as with the majority of female sports, the women’s March Madness tournament is largely overshadowed by the men’s, with the men taking the majority, if not all, of the live air-time. Because last year’s women’s Final Four was. So. Dang. Exciting (much better than the men’s, in our opinion), we’re hoping there will be more coverage of the women’s tournament this year. 

For more details on the best teams and players to watch on the women’s side click here for our full March Madness feature.

Getcha Head in the Game

Here are some NCAA fun facts you gotta know:

  • Before last year’s men’s tournament, a 16 seed had never beaten a 1 seed. This changed when UMBC upset Virginia in the first round of the 2018 tournament. It wasn’t even a close game with UMBC coming out on top by 20 points! UMBC would go on to lose their next game in the Round of 32, but they will always have a v important place in history (and our hearts).

  • The phrase “March Madness” was first used in 1982 when sportscaster Brent Musburger coined the phrase while talking about the tournament. The phrase became the center of a 1996 legal battle with the Illinois High School Boys Basketball Championship, which had used it in 1939. The result? A “dual use trademark”. We told you the NCAA was full of drama.

  • The tournament has been held for almost 80 years, BUT only 35 schools have ever won the top prize - you do the math.

  • The lowest seed to ever win the tournament was Villanova; they were ranked 8th. The Wildcats cut down the nets (the champs traditionally climb a ladder and cut down the net after the game) in 1985. The very next year, 11th seeded LSU became the lowest seed to crack the Final Four. George Mason and VCU would match this feat in 2006 and 2011 respectively.

  • Unlucky #5. A No.5 seeded team has never won a championship.

That’s #thegistofit.

You can also read our full March Madness feature.

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