Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Happy Birthday to America's Greatest Actor

Christopher Walken is 66 today. Happy Birthday!
Here is a video depicting his greatness. No, its not the cowbell skit.


Monday, March 30, 2009

7 days until opening day.

With only one week without baseball in our lives, it is time to keep evaluating this year’s teams. Now, onto the NL Central.
1. Pittsburgh Pirates-I think it says a lot about a team’s hopes for the season when their opening day promotion is for "Buc Night". That’s right, tickets for opening day are only $1. Also, there are $1 hot dogs and $1 sodas (or "pops" if you want to be a dick about it). It is truly sad to see how far this organization has fallen in a city with such a rich tradition of baseball and all other sports, and such a great stadium. However, needless to say, my review of the team will not aid their struggle. The Pirates pitching is terrible, all of their starters in their late 20s and no one has heard of them, and none are making more than a million dollars. There is really no hope for this rotation. Paul Maholm is their "ace", who has some decent stuff, but nothing exceptional. If he were on any decent team, he’s be 3rd or 4th in the rotation. Their bullpen isn’t as bad though. Matt Capps is their closer, although who knows how many save situations he’ll have. They also have a good middle reliever named John Grabow, who I want to call "Gabbo".
Offensively, this team has a few sparkplugs, but no power and no one to anchor the offense. Adam LaRoche is their only long-ball threat since they traded Jason Bay. He has the power to be dangerous if he had any decent hitter after him. Opposing teams will give this guy a lot of walks just so they don’t have to fear a homer. They do have another "LaRoche" at third, named Andy, but I couldn’t find out if they were related. The LaRoche duo, with Freddy Sanchez and Jack Wilson, makes a pretty good infield. Sanchez and Wilson have been very good infielders for the last couple years, with quality fielding and good to get on base. However, with nothing to speak of in the outfield whatsoever, the good infield gets wasted. The Pirates outfield consists of Brandon Moss, Nate McLouth, and Nyjer Morgan, and I can bet their names won’t become more familiar as the season drags on in pittsburgh.
All in all, its gonna be a rough season at the confluence of the Ohio, Alleghany, and Monongahila rivers. 67 wins last year, don’t count on much of an improvement.
2. Cincinnati Reds-This team has much more promise and much more talent than the pirates, but fails in their execution. Edinson Volquez was a dynamite pitcher last year going 17-6 with 206 Ks and 3.21 ERA. This kid has some great stuff and can really shut other teams down. However, the Reds #1 starter, Aaron Harang, was awful last year with a 6-17 record, and an ERA the size of Britney Spears’ carbon footprint. Also, I’ve always thought Bronson Arroyo was a douche, but he has the ability to pitch well, and could do so this year. If Harang and Arroyo have good years, this could be a dangerous club. Francisco Cordero is a decent closer and the rest of their bullpen is a little iffy, anchored by David Weathers who is 39 years old.
On offense, the Reds lost Adam Dunn and gained Ramon Hernandez. Not exactly trading up. Ramon Hernandez is probably the least inspiring 7.5 million dollar acquisition I can think of in the last 5 years (someone will call me out on this but whatever). The guy hit .257 with 15 homers last year, which is about his average season. The Reds do have a few young hitters who are promising. Jay Bruce is the young potential phenom in right field. He had a good rookie season, and the expectations are high for him to continue. Also, Joey Votto had a very good year, with 24 homers and hit just under .300. These two guys could really anchor this team’s power. Also, Brandon Phillips really showed some good stuff last year and had Cleveland fans lamenting his departure (as usual). Those three players could be the core that this club needs to improve and be competitive.
However, I think this team needs to improve their pitching and let their young stars develop before this team goes anywhere. I see the Reds become better and better over the next few years, but this year is not going to be very good. I would see that if they end up .500, it’s a huge victory for Cincy.
3. Houston Astros-This team’s pitching staff has been destroyed since last year. They lost Randy Wolf to the Dodgers; Brandon Backe has had numerous injuries (tommy john surgery, then a rib injury) and will probably be released very soon. And they picked up Mike Hampton, who has only pitched 13 games since 2005, and has extremely low expectations. The Astros only glimmer of hope is Roy Oswalt, who, for the last 5 seasons, has been about as consistent as you can be. He has some great stuff, but no matter how well he does, there are still four other rotation spots that need to be filled. Their next starter is Wandy Rodriguez, I’m guessing his mom is named Wendy and his dad is named Andy, and they combined their names. While, he has a name that sounds like what a good curveball is supposed to do, he will not aid Oswalt in anchoring this pitching staff. Also, Jose Valverde is a great closer, but without the right pitching in the early innings, their bullpen wont be of much use.
The Houston offense is very night and day. On one hand, you have the all-star powers of Carlos Lee and Lance Berkman. Both had just under 30 homers and had batting averages around .310. Both have the ability to drive in lots of runs and provide headaches for many pitching staffs. On the other hand, you have Miguel Tejada and Ivan Rodriguez. Both of them have had a rough couple years. Add the fact that both have been mauled by steroid talks, and that Tejada has to juggle his play with visiting his probation officer. Maybe Tejada should try out for the Bengals to feel more at home. I foresee both Tejada and I-Rod having less than stellar years. Unfortuanetly, I hate to see I-Rod’s career end on this note, but oh well. Kaz Matsui, who the Astros got before the 2008 season, did not have a great year because he missed half the season due to injuries. However, he may provide a very good strength on the basepaths and in the field.
All in all, this team has many strengths, but many more weaknesses. The injuries and off-the-field dramas for this team will dominate their play and this team will end up about .500.
4. Milwaukee Brewers-do not expect the same magic in 2009 for the land of beers. First, no more CC Fattington, second, Ben Sheets is out most of the season as well with a torn elbow muscle. Reports are that Sheets may be back around the all-star break, at best. Those two reasons right there spell moderate disaster for this team in 2009. But wait, they picked up a 41 year old Trevor Hoffman as closer. Nope, that wont do it. Their new "ace" is Yovani Gallardo, who started 4 games last year, uh oh. Him, with Jeff Suppan and Braden Looper, is what the Brewers have to offer this season. If you are a Brewer fan, better start drowning your sorrows in Brats. Mmmmmm, brats.
On offense, the Brewers do have Tony Gwynn..........Jr........on the bench. Man, I wish that guy would break out, I loved watching his dad. The rest of their outfield consists of Ryan Braun, who had a hell of a year last year, with 37 homeruns and 106 RBIs. This guy, along with Prince Fielder, could really do some damage. Oh, and the Brew Crew has Mike Cameron ("let my Cameron go" a la Ferris Bueller). The Brewers outfield, with Braun, Cameron, and Corey Hart is pretty solid. Then with JJ Hardy and Fielder on the infield, this team has a lot of offense and even more POWER!
I would like this team to really do some damage, but their pitching is........well......crap. I think this team will have to wait til next year, with the return of Sheets, and the addition/development of new pitching, to be solid.
5. St. Louis Cardinals-The Cardinals were in 2008 what the Brewers will do in 2009. The Cards did win 86 games last year, but should have done much better. Last year, their pitching failed them. They lost their Ace, Cris Carpenter, the first week, and never recovered. Adam Wainwright had a very good year, going 11-3, with a 3.20 ERA. However, the Cards success is dependent on Carpenter coming back to full strength. Carpenter has been pitching in spring ball, but reports are not promising. His status is key. Kyle Lohse is a good pitcher and solid #4 starter as well. Their bullpen with Jason Motte and Ryan Franklin is quality, and could be strong in the late innings.
As far as hitting, you cant say enough good things about Pujols. This guy is one of the top 3 hitters in baseball, no doubt. I think the only guy in the game with a more clean swing is Manny Ramirez. Pujols is 29 and he has 319 career homers. Wow! Also, Ryan Ludwick hit 37 homers last year. I’m shocked as well. He has very high expectations for this year as well, and hopefully for st. louis, he can have another solid year.
Troy Glaus, at third, will start the year on the DL again. The Cards have been having trouble keeping their third basemen healthy for a while (Scott Rolen). However, the addition of Khalil Greene could pay off big. Greene, who came from San Diego, had a horrible year last year, but definitely has the talent to improve this team on offense and defense. Rick Ankiel, the so-called "feel good story of the year", also had quite a breakout year. Just like Ludwick, he has a lot to prove.
In sum, this team has a lot of hopefuls and a lot of question marks. The only guy on this team you can count on is Pujols. If this team can get all these question marks to get hot at the same team, they will be dangerous, but don’t count on it. I see this team being very streaky, winning a lot at teams, and looking horrible the next week. This team needs a season to meld together before it can challenge for the playoffs. I think this team will finish a bit over .500.
6. Chicago Cubs-I can’t say that the Cubs are the best team in the NL Central, but they are the most well-rounded. This is a team with consistent pitching and hitting, but neither are great. On pitching, Carlos Zambrano has been consistent his whole career. For the last 6 seasons, he has given the Cubs good pitching all season long. He’s had few injuries and has been a leader on the club. At 27, I think he has many good years left and will do a very good job this year. However, with more quality starters in the rotation, I think the pressure on him to achieve will be less and he will be able to relax more. Rich Harden and Ryan Dempster, both Canadian, are very solid #2 and #3 pitchers for this rotation. Harden had a great year last year and made a good adjustment when he came to the cubs in a trade mid-season. However, Harden had a small tear in his shoulder in January and may miss some of the season. This will be a big loss if he can’t be around in April. Dempster, who had previously been a reliever in Chicago, moved to the starting rotation and went 17-6. A good move obviously, and if he can compound this success, he will help the club out by filling the void by Harden. Their #4, Ted Lilly, I have always been very critical of his play since he managed to get 8 million from the cubs. But he’s gone 15-8 and 17-9 the last two years. This rotation, coupled with former Marlin Kevin Gregg at closer, makes this pitching staff the best in the division. However, per my notes supra, that isn’t saying much. But, this is a very good rotation, but the injury to Hardin could be huge.
On hitting, Soriano, Aramis Ramirez, and Derrick Lee all had good years, but can all do better. All three can and should be hitting 30 homers a year. Ramirez and Soriano came close, but I think they could do it this year. Lee had an off-year, only hitting 20 dingers and hitting .291; a good season, but we know he can do so much more. All that power, plus with the other bats of Ryan Theriot (shortstop) and Geovany Soto (catcher), the cubs have a lot of offense.
However, the loss of Mark DeRosa to the tribe, leaves the Cubs with a big whole at second, now filled by Mike Fontenot. He had a good year last year, hitting .305 in 243 at-bats. He will see a lot of good pitches this year because of who is around him.
Also, the addition of Milton Bradley at right field could be amazing or horrible. Bradley really is the TO of baseball. Lots of talent, which is usually overshadowed by his ego and mouth. Honestly, all the success of this team’s talent could be destroyed and overshadowed by Bradley’s clubhouse cancer. As I’ve said, this team is very consistent and very talented, but a complaining festival by Bradley could send this train off the tracks.
Overall, this division has some really bad teams (Cincy and Pittsburgh), and some teams that have some talent but not a good team (Houston, Milwaukee, and St. Louis). I believe that the Cubs are the best of the division, and will win it without too much of a problem. However, injuries and the Bradley effect may prove that all wrong. Watch out.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Flash Facts: Onto Detroit

This past week of two NCAAs was really two separate story lines and Flash Facts. The Sweet 16 games were nearly pure chalk and a Big East Dance. Of the elite half came from the Big East. All of the number 1 seeds advanced and half of the #2 seeds made it. However the Road to the Final 4 finally produced much needed madness as the story lines of one conference being the best ever seemed to be put to bed as did pure chalk.

1) UConn over Mizzou - An outstanding game from start to finish (well save for the beginning of the 2nd half were nobody could buy a basket with a government bailout) UConn was able to handle the son of 40 minutes of Hell (that's Nolan Richard's Arkansas teams for those too young to remember) through outstanding PG ala AJ Price. Sometimes its hard to believe he's only one year removed from a devastating knee injury. Budding Freshman star in Walker also kept the Tigers at Bay

2) Michigan State over Louisville - Of all the elite 8 games this was probably the biggest shocker. Not necessarily just that MSU won but how they won. They simply dominated Louisville. Instead of being the namely big white guy Zuton played with skill and poise. Lucas, the Big 10 player of the year, showed that quality basketball is still played in the Heartland.

3) UNC over Oklahoma - Its always nice to rub it a Dookies face so UNC got the added joy of taken down a Capel coached squad. Blake Griffin appears to have an NBA ready body and will be coming to a rookie of a year near you next year. However in college basketball great teams can beat outstanding individuals as Danny Green , Lawson and Ed Davis were the main cogs in the Tar Heel steamroller.

4) Villanova over Pittsburgh - Villanova has somehow flown under the radar. Perhaps because Louisville, UConn and Pitt hogged the glory. Perhaps its been a long time since their escapades against G-Town. Who knows. But they matched if not exceeded Pittsburgh's physical style play which shocked me (I also learned "physicality" is now the most over-used word in basketball supplanting "length") . It came down to one of the most exciting, bizarre, and other cliche phrases 10 seconds I have ever seen. 3s, turnovers, fouls, and full court drivers all condensed into 10 seconds. Fantabulous.

Onto to Detroit....

Saturday, March 28, 2009

UCONN moves into The Final Four

This is not the weakest #1 seed.  Does this look weak to you?? Put him in a body bag Johnny!!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Battle for 98th

I almost forgot to mention the most unimportant basketball tournament, now in its 2nd year of operation:
It's the College Basketball Invitational! After the NCAA selects 65, and the NIT selects 32, the CBI selects 16 more teams... and only one can then claim rights to being 98th best in the country!

They are down to a Final 4 of:
Oregon State

Only one Big East team was invited (St. John's) and they lost in the 1st round. Granted, it's possible other Big East teams were invited but were just too proud to attend.

Sweet 16 - With 14 of the top 16 teams

Best 1st round Buzzer Beater: Siena over OSU... not exactly a buzzer beater, but a 3-pointer in regulation, in OT, and in double OT to win certainly qualifies.

Team Most Likely to be Compared to Deer: Wake Forest. Wake was down 9-0 and 25-12 just minutes into the game. Deer in the headlights look was happening all over the court! It may have messed up my bracket, but I was much happier to see Cleveland State win a game in the tournament!

#1 Seed Most Likely to Lose in the Sweet 16: I'm going with UConn, though it looks like all the #1s have relatively easy sweet 16 games. UConn is missing that guard and Purdue has players at all the positions and could pose a very tough challenge.

Mid-Major Most Likely to Do More Damage: The easy pick here is Gonzaga. Gonzaga gets a shot at a #1-seed, which they haven't seen since 2003 (where they lost to Arizona in a classic double-OT game). They also lost to #1s in 2001 (where they lost to Michigan State when Gonzaga was a 12-seed) and in 1999 of course (to eventual champion UConn and Rip Hamilton and Khalid El-Amin). Is the fourth time the charm???

Most Intriguing Matchup: Villanova-Duke. No question for me. Duke is an interesting team with the fact that they have no true low-post presence but they seem to be much more efficient than in past years (where they had early exits).

Monday, March 23, 2009

Flash Facts: Chalk Walk

One of the beauties of the tournament is supposed to be the importance of sheer probability. One game. One game can turn on an errant lay up , a clutch 3 pointer, a missed time out, etc. Only a fool would imagine a world where the team advancing always "deserved" it. Deserves got nothing to do with it. Not to say the outcomes are pure luck but hardly a purely deterministic outcome. Which is why we love it.

However this tournament for all the supposed wackiness, for all the probabilities, for all could'ves, would'ves, and shouldves, the sweet 16 is showing chalk. When an underachieving team with at least 3 future NBAers is the underdog well you pretty much know that the pper echelon have a strangle hold on the tournament. Could once again we see 4 1s? Or will "fate" take pity and send us a #2. All in all an exciting first round which had sound and fury has led us into a Sweet 16 that has signified nothing but chalk. However Thursday hope will spring anew for upsets and oddities. Onto the Sweet 16!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Cleveland State Wins - Madness Ensues

A lot of this year's tournament has been like an old fashioned professional wrestling match. The underdog puts on a few quick moves and looks ready for the KO but then something happens...the favorite hulks up or hits up him with a briefcase and that would be it. Cleveland State looked to follow that script. The undersized Vikings raced out to a 17 point lead before Wake and its 3 expected first rounders whittled the lead down to 6 with 11 minutes to go. However that's when the normal script got reversed. Senior Cedric Jackson nailed 3s, J'Nathan Bulluk the 6'5 power forward, owned the paint, and Wake made mistake after mistake leading to a 11-2 run and ultimately an insurmountable lead. Up next the no longer underachieving Arizona. Love the madness.....

Friday, March 20, 2009

17 days until Opening Day

Well, first off, I went 14-2 yesterday in my bracket, which was better than Obama, so life is pretty good. I don’t want to get sidetracked by the Donte Stallworth debacle, so......
Now, on to baseball. AL Central division!
1. Detroit Tigers-Man, what happened to this team? Their pitching was insanely good a few years ago, but have been destroyed by injuries. Dontrelle Willis, Joel Zumaya, and Jeremy Bonderman all spent more time on the IR than on the team last year. It really screwed the team. The big question is how those three will recover this year? In fact, Zumaya is STILL on IR and still having shoulder problems, his prospects this year are pretty bleak. The Tigers did get Brandon Lyon, who is listed as their closer, had a good year last year with Arizona. However, I think the rest of the Tigers bullpen will not get them where they need to be. This coupled with the giant question mark that is Dontrelle Willis, spells much problems for the Tigers. Galaragga, Verlander, and Robertson are three pitchers that add good things to a starting rotation, but are not a quality 1-2-3.
On offense, I can’t believe Sheffield is still playing. He is 40 years old, and while he put up good numbers for a 40 year old last year, I think he’s one injury away from being completely done. He is also 1 home run shy of 500, so maybe he’s just holding out for that milestone. Miguel Cabrera and Ordonez are the foundation of this team’s offense and will produce this year. They both have power and good average. Also, Curtis Granderson is a fun player to watch, he can do it all. Those three guys can spark any offense, but the question is the rest of the infield. Polanco, Inge, and Everett need to step up and hit in order for this team to do anything. Polanco had an amazing first half of the season last year, but cooled off after the all-star break.
I believe this team will produce many runs, but their pitching, just like last year will really hurt them.
2. Chicago White Sox-With Buehrle, Danks, and Floyd as their 1-2-3 starters, this team has a lot of promise. Plus, their bullpen is solid, and probably the best in the division behind Minnesota. Gavin Floyd had a great year last year, and I think he will add to that this year. Their fourth and fifth starters will be trouble for this team all year. Right now, they have some rookie named Clayton Richard listed at #4, and Bartolo Colon at #5. Yeah, Colon......he......sucks. He has really fallen, and has become the journeyman who hopes to spark it big one last time. Look for Chicago to make a run this season and shop big for another pitcher at the trading deadline.
On offense, this team has managed to maintain the Dye, Thome, Pierzynski, Konerko lineup for a few years now with pretty good success. However, Thome is 38, and Konerko was pretty bad last year. I think this offense is going to falter this year. Carlos Quintin had an amazing year last year, with 36 homers and hit .288. He could be the catalyst for a big offensive year, but I honestly don’t think so. I do not see the White Sox being able to produce enough runs, and their pitching wont be able to keep them around til October.
3. Kansas City Royals-Where are George Brett and Bret Saberhagen? I know those guys are probably 50 now, but they are better players now than the current Royals. I was shocked to see this team was only 6 games under .500 last year. They do have a really good bullpen, anchored by Joakim Soria. He had an amazing year, so look for another team to try to grab him in the near future. As far as starting pitching, I think Zack Greinke is a very talented pitcher, and had an ERA of 3.47 last year. However, he didnt get any run support and wound up 13-10. I think that is a pretty good microcosm of the Royals. With Gil Meche as their "ace", and Greinke, this team has good arms. However, their hitting is pretty lousy. David DeJesus, Jose Guillen, and Coco Crisp is nothing that is going to produce runs or hits well enough to help this team. DeJesus did hit .307 last year, with no one protecting him in the lineup, he will not make a big impact. And to be short, their infield is filled with 4 guys who will not produce. The one ray of hope is Mike Aviles who hit .325 last year. However, no one on this team has any power and they will falter.
4. Minnesota Twins-I am scared of the Twins’. I think this team has the offensive tools to beat up any pitching staff in the league. Between Morneau, Mauer, the addition of Joe Crede at third, and Jason Kubel, this team has a lot of power. Mauer did only hit 9 homers last year, but I bet he will hit at least 25 this year. Also, Michael Cuddyer is a quality hitter. Plus they have Delmon Young, who has amazing talent, but his head is more screwed up than Paris Hilton’s. He might be Milton Bradley Jr. I think this team could put the hurt on a lot other teams, and could be playoff threat IF their pitching holds up. This team has the best bullpen in the division, Joe Nathan is quality, he had a 1.33 ERA last year. He is one of the top 5 closers in baseball. Jesse Crain is also a really good setup man. But their starters, oh boy. These guys, Baker and Blackburn are really young. I’ve seen them pitch last year, and at times they have some good stuff, but are very inconsistent. When you add that to the fact that Francisco Liriano has been ravaged by injuries, this staff is going to have a tough year. I think that this team and the Tigers have a lot in common, and will both be trouble for the rest of the AL central, but will not win it.
5. Cleveland Indians-YAY! ITS TRIBE TIME.....NOW!
Remember, it is an odd-numbered year, and the indians are good in the odd-numbered years (according to Ivan’s theory). While this is my home team, I will try to be objective. Honestly, the success of this team is entirely on the shoulders of Travis Hafner and Fausto Carmona. While they are not the best hitter and pitcher, respectively, on the team, they are the biggest question marks. They also have the ability to anchor this team, or send it off into a spinning mess. Hafner’s ability to get on base, hit the long ball, and walk (in order to make a pitcher throw a lot of pitches) can really hurt other teams. Carmona, as the #2 starter has the ability to really suppress teams on back-to-back days, following Lee. But, these guys can really shake the foundation of this team by failing to come through. They have a lot on their shoulders.
The Indians’ pickup of Mark DeRosa was really big, and I think their infield is the best in the division, but that isnt saying much. Martinez/Garko, cabrera, Peralta, and DeRosa has a lot of hitting and fielding talent. Cabrera’s consistency at the plate will be the biggest thing to watch, but I think he could end up being the leadoff hitter. As far as outfield, Grady Sizemore is great, he really can do it all. I would really like to see Garko play in left, to put some more power in the outfield, but I doubt that will happen. I truly believe that the indians defense is the best in the AL.
The acquisitions of Pavano and Wood are eerily similar, and scary. Both have the potential to revive their career, and both are one injury away from never being heard of again. I think Wood is a little more solid, and probably has better stuff right now, but I’m not holding my breath. I don’t know what to make of Pavano; at this point, if he’s still on the roster in June, I think it’s a victory. What the Tribe does with their 4th and 5th starters will be heavily scrutinized. They essentially need to pick two of: Aaron Laffey , Jeremy Sowers, and Anthony Reyes. I think right now it’s a toss-up between Laffey and Sowers for #5. Both have shown they can be really good and really bad. Overall I think Laffey is the better pitcher, but the next week or two will decide.
As far as the indians middle relievers, Jensen Lewis and Betancourt are about as consistent as the stock market these days. I think Rafeal Perez will have to step up in order for the indians to win close ball games. Also, the indians got former Mets pitcher Joe Smith, and get this, Jana (my fiancee) works with his dad. Smith’s dad said he doesnt know anyone in Cleveland, so when the season starts, he may be calling Jana and I to hang out and meet people. So, thats cool. BAM!
Okay okay, I got sidetracked. Overall, this division is not nearly as strong as the AL East. It has a lot of good players, but a lot of bad spots. It is going to be a tight race for first, and with the exception of KC, I think everyone has a good shot. I truly think that by September 1, all four teams will be within 3 or 4 games of each other. However ,when the dust settles, the ranking of the AL Central will be: 5. KC, 4. Detroit, 3. Chicago, 2. Minnesota, 1. Cleveland

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Which makes me more mad?

What makes me more mad, that we are getting Browns trade rumors from Captain Chris Cooley:


OR, the actual substance of the potential trade.
bad bad bad

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy Saint Patty's Day

Departed: Alec Baldwin v. Marky Mark (language not suitable for work)

Monday, March 16, 2009

21 days until Baseball

Because I already have zero confidence in my bracket, and I couldn't care less about the Jay Cutler, and I am throughly disappointed and saddened by the fact that Donte Stallworth just killed some.......as promised, here is the 2nd installment of the major league baseball preview. the NL East.

1. Atlanta Braves-Look at this roster, WOW, they have Garret Anderson, Tom Glavine, Derek Lowe, Chipper Jones, Javier Vasquez. That is a killer lineup. Oh wait, it's not 2004 anymore. Unfortuanetly, while all these guys were once all-stars, age and injuries have turned these guys into nothing more than mediocre. I think Chipper has a couple decent years left, he is not the offensive powerhouse to carry this team. And I would just like to say that from 2000-2004, I think Garrett Anderson was one of the 5 toughest outs in all of baseball. These players represent a serious gap between the rest of the Braves, which are all young unproven players. Honestly, they dont have any in the middle, its all washed-ups and never-heard-ofs.
While Derek Lowe is still a decent pitcher, i do not think he is a #1 starter. Unfortuanetly, he will be for the braves, an organization that for the last 15 years has been a stalwart of great pitching, starting and relief.
I see it being a long year in atlanta.

2. Florida Marlins-I was shocked to see that this team got 84 wins last year. I was also shocked to look at the stats for Ricky Nolasco, their "ace". This kid went 15-8, with a 3.52 ERA and 186 strikeouts last year. This staff has a good amount of young talent and a pretty good bullpen. Also, on offense, with Cantu, Ramirez and Uggla, I would say that the Marlins have one of the best overall infields in the national league. They also have decent hitters in Cody Ross and Jeremy Hermida. I know some of you might be scratching your heads as to who the hell these players are, and hopefully their opponents will too this year. However, the marlins lost Mike Jacobs to the Royals, who hit 32 homers last year. Overall, the Marlins had a lot more power and hitting then people expected, but i am very skeptical whether they will able to keep it up.
If the Marlins can get Cantu, Ross, and Hermida to have year's like 2008, the Marlins could surprise everyone and be near the top of the NL East.

3. Washington Nationals-This was a bad team last year, 59 wins, and to improve on it, all they got for offense was Adam Dunn. Honestly, I am glad Teixiera didn't go to the Nationals, because I dont think he would've been able to help them out of the basement. The nationals also got Scott Olson from the Marlins last year, and he is expected to be their #1 starter, but I don't think he's anything special. They also picked up Daniel Cabrera from the Orioles. Unfortuanetly, going to Baltimore to shop for pitching is like trying to buy lobster and Burger King. And both situations will lead to massive heartburn. As far as hitting, we all know the pitfalls of Adam Dunn, you either get a K or a homer, nothing else.
I have always thought Ryan Zimmerman was a good player, but with no protection in the lineup, he will never put up the numbers to be highly sought after. Christian Guzman was a very good player for Minnesota, because he could get on base a lot, but again, with no one behind him in the order, he gets stranded a lot.
I do not foresee President Obama making many trips to the Nationals games, tough luck DC.

4. New York Mets-Well, Putz, Santana, and K-Rod, you know that one in 5 days you are going to see a wonderful pitching performance. The question is what happens the other 4. Both John Maine and Oliver Perez had good years in 2008, and their performances in 2009 will have a big impact on the team. These two guys are going to have a lot of pressure to perform, but I am confident that they will do well. Another Met with a lot of pressure is Carlos Beltran, while he did have 27 dingers and 112 RBIs, he only hit .284 last year. I feel like this guy is capable of hitting well over .300. He is a fun player to watch, and one of the few players in the game that can be a 5-tool player. Also, Luis Castillo is a dynamo, in the field and on the base paths, but his injury last year hurt the team. If he can stay healthy, he will add a lot to the offense.
I believe the Mets have a solid infield, with Wright, Reyes, Delgado, and Castillo, but the could really dominate this division if they had one more bat in the outfield. I've never been a fan of Ryan Church, and their left fielder, Daniel Murphy, hasn't done anything as of yet.

5. Philadelphia Phillies - The Phillies have an amazing infield, Utley, Howard, and Rollins. All three are not only all-stars, but potential MVPs. They are the heart of this team. Also, Victoriano and Werth had very good year's last year, and i think played much better than anyone expected. The question for this team's is whether Raul Ibanez can replace Burrell on offense. I don't think Ibanez, 36 years old, will be able to perform on this team. I think he is over the hill, and even though he put up good numbers last year, I am doubting his performance this year. Ibanez aside, the Phillies have a great offense, easily the best in their division.
The big debate over the phillies is how their pitching will do this year. There was a story on espn.com that Hamels is getting his arm checked out today, which is a bad sign. This guy is a fun pitcher to watch and has a lot of good pitches, but an injury to him will really mess up this team. Also, I can't believe that Jamie Moyer is still pitching at 46, but more power to him.

Overall, I think the NL East has 3 very good teams, Philly, the Mets, and the Marlins. I think whichever of the three wins the division has a great chance of going to the world series. I also think that the wild card will come out of this division. I honestly think the Marlins have a lot of good talent but won't be able to keep up with the other two. So the question becomes: who will have better pitching down the home stretch, the mets or the phils? My money is on the mets, and I pick them to win the division. But i think the Phillies will get the wild card.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

March Madness 2009 - Instantaneous Analysis

One of the greatest day in sports is the day the brackets come out (at least in my humble opinion). Now, it's time for everyone in America to suddenly become basketball experts! Let's take a look at how this year's bracket shapes up:

Best 1st round matchup- UCLA vs. VCU - This is very exciting simply because VCU's PG, Eric Maynor, already took down Duke two years ago. He's projected to get drafted this spring. Whenever there's a bona fide PG running around on a mid-major, the other team has to be concerned.

Most anticipated 2nd round matchup – First, a little history lesson proving how my personal anticipated 2nd round matchup often never happens.
In 2008, my anticipated matchups included two: Indiana vs UNC (where Indiana lost badly in the 1st round to Arkansas) and Notre Dame and Washington State (which actually did happen).
In 2007 my “anticipated” matchup actually happened [Boston College vs. former Big East rival Georgetown], but 2007’s 2nd round matchups were relatively weak.
In 2006, my matchup [Mich. St. vs. UNC] never happened as George Mason wiped out Mich. St. then UNC.
In 2005, I didn’t specifically anoint one matchup, but I alluded to the Kansas-Wisconsin game, but Bucknell took out Kansas in the 1st round to prevent that from happening
This year, I'm going with two: Arizona State vs. Syracuse (where both are coming off conference tournament losses in the title game) and West Virginia vs. Kansas. I think all 4 teams have been inconsistent throughout the season yet each have also proven to be capable of beating anyone.

Region of Death- Louisville's region! Without question, it's the hardest, which is unfair, considering that Louisville is the "#1 overall seed". Also, to make sure the road is impossible, their 2nd round game is against Ohio State in Dayton, just an hour from campus! This region has it all: a healthy Izzo-coach 2-seed (Michigan State), the defending champion (Kansas), West Virginia, an ACC-team that beat Duke and UNC (Wake), and one of the best mid-majors (Utah). Honestly, before the tournament, I would have been happy to have Wake and Michigan State in my Final 4 along with some #1s. Now I can't do that, and I even have to root against Wake in the 1st round to support my team du jour, Cleveland State.

Cinderella Final 4 Team- West Virginia - They have showed flashes of brilliance, beating down Pitt, destroying Ohio State, and playing in the Big East. Negatives: their coach is Bob Huggins and they would have to beat Kansas, Michigan St, and probably Louisville to reach the final four.
Darkhorses: Arizona State - James Harden could catch fire and take Arizona State over a tired Syracuse team, a dizzy Blake Griffin and Oklahoma, and an injured UNC.
BYU - they shoot 3s from all over the place, and UConn is lacking in the guard department, so if you feel like rolling the dice with an 8-seed, this would be the choice.
Gonzaga - if Lawson is unable to play for UNC, Gonzaga could have a real easy road. They just have to beat Akron, then they either get Illinois (who is missing their PG) or 12-seed Western Kentucky. If UNC is missing Lawson, Gonzaga could get to the elite 8 very easily and reach the Final 4 on the 10th anniversary of their run to the Elite 8 in 1999.

Now, on to the rules I've devised to analyze the tournament! If you want to see the rules I’ve devised, check out the link to 2005’s blog article on the "Rules of Engagement".

Rule #1: All (4) 1-seeds will NOT make Final4 -
-Yes, last year all 1-seeds made it. I'm guaranteeing it won't happen again this year, especially because just about every team is flawed this year either by injury (UConn, UNC) or by inconsistency (Louisville) or by tending to foul out (Pitt).

Rule#4: A 12-seed always beats a 5 (except in 2000 and 2007)-
Western Kentucky over Illinois is the best bet, because Illinois is missing their PG and because Illinois lost a game at home 38-33 earlier in the season.
My 2nd favorite is actually Arizona over Utah, though I will be rooting for Utah to prove to the Selection Committee that mid-majors can compete.

Rule#6: There always is one conference w/ multiple teams in the final4 (except in 2007 and 2008) – My favorite options:
Louisville, Memphis, Pitt, UNC (Big East)
West Virginia, Missouri, Pitt, Oklahoma (Big East / Big 12)
Wake, UConn, Villanova, UNC (Big East / ACC)
Michigan St, Purdue, Duke, UNC (Big Ten)
Kansas, Washington, Pitt, Arizona St (PAC-10)

Rule#9: If you win your power conference tourney, you won't do well in the NCAA tourney. (Exception: top 10 teams):

In 2005, one team lost in the 1st round, the other in the 2nd round
In 2006, all 3 that qualified got bounced in the 1st round.
In 2007, one team qualified [Oregon], but they made the elite 8. I still say Oregon had an easy draw though.
In 2008, Pitt (Big East) and Georgia (SEC) are the only teams that qualified. Georgia only had a 14-seed and got bounced by Xavier. Pitt got a 4-seed and was upset by Michigan State in the 2nd round.
This year, the qualifying teams are:
Purdue, Missouri, USC, and Mississippi State.
USC & Mississippie State I'm slating as 1st round losers. The rules have treated me well, so I will place Purdue as a 2nd-round loser. I'm going to go against the grain though with Missouri and place them in the Sweet 16 for the simple reason that Marquette (likely 2nd round opponent) lost their PG and has not played well.

Flash Facts: Early Tournament Thoughts

Well its tournament time. The magical time of the year when Gamblore the tyrannical gambling monster, enslaves this nation and forces us to worship at the foot of the mighty brackets. As the week goes on I'm sure the crack team of BSDers will add their thoughts (remember to fill out your BSD tournament bracket so we can all show how we are smarter than Publius) but here's a few of mine.....

1. Flash Fact #1 .... The vanishing Mid-Majors - This year the Mid-Majors and Mid-Mid Conferences received only 4 at large bids. Over the past 5 tournaments Mid-Majors have received fewer bids than the previous tournament. The fact that Arizona (RPI in the 60s) was included over Saint Mary's or San Diego State shows the bias. I tend to wish there were more Cinderallas then over-rated legacy cases but I also tend to think the tournament will weed out those faulty at larges....

2. Flash Fact #2.... Injuries. If your scowering the internet, newspaper (they still have those right?) , that random dude on the street corner with the end is near sign (Ben Bernatke?) for information remember injuries mean a lot. Illinois might be missing their PG. No one is certain how ACC player of the year Ty Lawson's toe is. Can UConn overcome the loss of Dyson? All are relevant questions as past performance might be misleading given the injuries....

Fed Chairman inspiring Confidence

3. Flash Fact #3 A #1 seed will lose...unless it doesn't. Last year was the first year all 4 #1 seeds made it to the final four. So you can take that breakage from history as a statement of gamblers logic (i.e. it can't happen again so soon) or a trend setter. Given the amount of upsets in the conference tourneys this year I'm guessing last year was an anomaly.

4. Flash Fact #4 Region of Death ? I think the two toughest regions are the Midwest and the East. The Midwest I think has the better teams but both Louisville and Michigan State have substantial homecourt advantages. The East has a number of potential teams to upset Pitt but all have shown erratic play over time. Nonetheless good luck picking either....

5. Flash Fact #5 Conference Pride Counts - While not as intense as in college football conference pride will be on display. The Big East was treated this year like the SEC is in football....excessive ball handling. However the Big East got the same number of bids as the Big 10 and the ACC (7 each). So which of the Power 3 will do the best? And how does one judge? Sweet 16 bids? Final 4 bids? Champion?

Olivia Munn says : To the victor goes the spoils.....

Hitman's Hit List: The Top 5 Teams I Root For, For No Particular Reason

I'm with you, Cramer. The Tournament is enough to make my head spin! Here are the five teams I root for annually for no particular reason:

5. Western Carolina: It's been a while since we've seen the Catamounts...but in 1996, as a #16 seed, they took Purdue to the brink and lost only by 2 points. I'm still rooting for a #16 to finally win one, and whoever does it will carry the spirit of WCU into history.

4. Chattanooga: The Mocs! Anyone remember in '97 when they took out #3 seed Georgia and #6 seed Illinois? Love the Mocs!

3. Syracuse: I've just always liked Syracuse. Jim Boeheim's teams are fun to root for. I also flat out love Otto and long for the ESPN commercials in which he got his ass kicked regularly.

2. The MAAC Champion: Best set of team names in any conference in the country! The Gaels (Iona), Golden Griffins (Canisius), and Jaspers (Manhattan) lead the charge. Also, this stealth conference will sneak up on anyone who confuses the MAC with the MAAC. It doesn't hurt that this year, Siena takes up the torch for the MAAC against the F*ckeyes. Go Saints!

1. Western Kentucky: I've rooted for the Hilltoppers ever since they marched to the Sweet 16 in 1993 as a #7 seed. Why are they first on this list, though? Easy. They have the BEST MASCOT EVER - Big Red!

NCAA Tournament: Crunching Numbers on Power Conference Teams Making the Conference Tournament Finals

One of the rules I have developed for picking NCAA tourney games, involves NOT trusting teams in the power conference tournaments that win their conference tournaments if they are ranked OUTSIDE the top 10. I have decided to finally publish some statistics to either prove or disprove this rule and to also look at the losing team in the conference final.

I started by entering data on the big-6 conference tournaments (ACC, Big East, Big 10, Big 12, SEC, PAC-10) since 1992. I was curious as to what the effect is on playing 3, 4, or even 5 games in as many days and if that physical strain produces any kind of trend. Please note that some conferences didn't have conference tournaments until later on, and I was unable to find complete data on the Big 8 tournament from 1992-1996.

So, my unofficial data shows this:

Average wins for top 5 team (before the conference tournament) that WINS their conference tournament:
3.5 (better than Elite 8 on average; an incredible 16 out of 32 top-5 teams make the Final 4)
Average wins for top 5 team that LOSES in the final of their conference tournament:
4.1 (five Final 4s out of seven teams - I don't have much data on this occurrence)

Average wins for team ranked 6-10 (before the conference tournament) that WINS their conference tournament:
2.6 (only two Final 4s out of 21 teams)
Average wins forteam ranked 6-10 that LOSES in the final of their conference tournament:
2.3 (only ONE Final 4 out of 17 teams - it was Duke in 2004 with Luol Deng)

Average wins for team ranked 11-17 that WINS their conference tournament:
1.6 (falling short of Sweet 16 on average; only two Final 4s out of 12 teams)
Average wins for team ranked 11-17 that LOSES in the final of their conference tournament:
1.4 (falling short of Sweet 16 on average; only one Final 4 out of 14 teams - it was the 1994 Florida Gators that beat a 9-seed in the regional finals)

Average wins for team ranked 18-25 that WINS their conference tournament:
0.9 (four out of 8 failed to win a game; one made the Final 4 - it was Mississippi St in 1996 with Erick Dampier)
Average wins for team ranked 18-25 that LOSES in the final of their conference tournament:
1.1 (four out of 16 failed to win a game; no Final 4 appearances)

Average wins for unranked team that WINS their conference tournament:
0.3 (Only 2 out of 7 won a game)
Average wins for unranked team that LOSES in the final of their conference tournament:
0.8 (Only 7 out of 13 won a game, and one of them, West Virginia in 2005, made the Elite 8. Those three wins pushed the average higher, but generally, these teams don't do well either).

The only way for this data to even mean anything, is to compare this data with the average wins that a team of their seeding achieves. For example, an average 3-seed wins 1.8 games. If Missouri, a team ranked #14 entering last week, receives a 3-seed hypothetically, the data says that they are likely to underperform to some degree, since on average teams of that rank only win 1.6 games.

Here, is a listing of the average number of wins for each seeding since the Tournament had 64 teams in 1985.

Seed = Average number of wins (through 2008)
1= 3.43
2= 2.41
3= 1.82
4= 1.49
5= 1.15
6= 1.25
7= 0.88
8= 0.67
9= 0.58
10= 0.63
11= 0.49
12= 0.50
13= 0.25
14= 0.18
15= 0.04
16= 0.00

Thursday, March 12, 2009

25 days until opening day!

Since opening day is a mere three and half weeks away, i have decided to evaluate each of the six MLB divisions, one installment every few days. After each division, I'll give my pick for division winner.

AL East: The "High Expectations" divison
There is a lot of talent (and money) in this division. Obviously, the red sox and Yanks have made a lot of big moves, but the Devils did win the pennant last year, and you can never count out Toronto. Its going to be a big battle all season long. Here are the teams:

1. Baltimore-this is the only team in the division, i would say has no shot of winning the division. First, they have a guy on their spring training roster named "Felix Pie", he sucks as a player, but that name is awesome. Anyway, this team has a decent infield, with Melvin Mora, Ty Wiggington, and Brian Roberts, but thats probably the best i can say about the team. And even that infield would have been quality if it were still 2004.
As far as pitching, they did pick up Adam Eaton from the Phillies, but that's like going to the carnival and winning a half-eaten corndog. Jeremy Guthrie was far and away their top pitcher last year, but i have never been sold on him, and what can you say when he went 10-12. The orioles, in 2008, only had one pitcher on their roster with a winning record (Dennis Sarfate, 4-3). I don't know what else to say about their pitching, with 18 games against each of the other AL east teams, their staff is gonna have lot of #s in the ERA column.
As far as hitting, the team does have some power, they had 5 guys hit 20+ homers, and Aubrey Huff had 32 last year. Also, three guys had 180+ hits, Markakis, Huff, and Roberts. However, I dont feel like any of these guys can carry the team, and with so many holes throughout the rest of the batting order, this team will not produce.

2. Toronto-While losing Burnett was huge, this team still has decent pitching. I love watching Roy Halladay, he is fine pitcher and I believe that if he wasn't in such a tough division, he would be have multiple cy youngs under his belt by now. Also, Jesse Litsch had a good year last year, and I believe he can come back with another good year. I also think their bullpen is quality, BJ Ryan is consistent.
As far as hitting, Lyle Overbay and Alex Rios are very good players. I was shocked Rios only had 15 homers last year, i think his power will improve. However, Vernon Wells and Rolen are question marks. Both of their resumes of injuries really hamper the team's chances. If they can stay healthy, and the Jays can get one more good year out of Eckstein and Matt Stairs, the team could give the contenders are hard time. However, its most likely that Toronto will only play spoiler for the big three.

3. Tampa Bay-This is a young, fun, team to watch. Last year they reminded me a lot of the 1995 indians, in that they never gave, they had a lot of hustle, and they lost the world series. Shields and Kazmir have solidified as a quality 1-2 punch at starting pitching. And the rest of their rotation looks to be consistent, even though it has a lot of room to grow. Their bullpen is a little up in the air right now. Dan Wheeler showed great stuff in the playoffs last year, but Troy Percival, a.k.a. old man river, is still listed as the closer. I give it until tax day until Wheeler takes over. Their lineup, top to bottom, is consistent and FAST. this is a team that can manufacture both hits and runs. Their weakness right now is their power, and when they go up against a dominating pitcher, it's going to be tough to manufacture runs. Longoria, Upton, and Crawford are going to be a great core of hitters for years to come.
I honestly believe that this team has a good shot at repeating making the playoffs. Honestly, it is going to depend on the injuries and slumps that befall Boston and the Yanks. However, with the Rays solid pitching, they could surprise us......again.

4. Boston-I don't know how much of this article will be own beliefs, and how much it will be a backlash to the Jayson Stark/Peter Gammons/Bill Simmons lovefest all over the green monster. Oh well, here goes. I guess one negative is that their "best" off-season acquisition is a 42 year old John Smoltz who in my opinion doesn't deserve to be in the rotation. I use that in quotes because even though Smoltz is getting the most buzz, they still got Brad Penny. Right now, Penny is a better starter than Smoltz. Okay, say what you will about the Red Sox (they are douchebags), but they have a hell of pitching staff. Beckett is going to be healthy and dominating, Dice-K is always good, and Lester and Wakefield get the job done consistently. And even if you knock one out early, their bullpen rocks. This is not new; its been this way, and it sucks for me.
I think i should take a second to point out that there is a guy on their team named "Jonathan Van Every", is he the dutch version of Joe Six-pack?? hahaha.
I still can't believe JD Drew is making $14 million, considering he's the worst of their outfield starters. Jason Bay is a great player, I wanted the Indians to make a move for him for years, oh well. While Pedroia and Youkilis provides and amazing right side of the infield, Boston's biggest weakness is the left side. Lugo and Lowell will not get the job done. I don't think this deficiency will ruin their chances of making playoffs alone, but this coupled with a key injury to another player could give the Yanks or the Rays the boost they need to be king of the mountain.

5. New York-Hey MJ, whats up?
450 million dollars in a week, really?!?? Yes yes yes, i know, now the Yankees have the best starting rotation in the majors. It's true. CC, Burnett, Wang, Petitite, and Joba, its crazy. However, i'm afraid putting CC and Joba both in NYC might spin the planet off its axis. I do think Petitite is a wild card, because of his age, but we know from his track record that he could have a great year. Rivera, i can't argue with, he is still gonna be him. but, the yankees middle relief is suspect. none of the guys on the roster remind me of the yankee middle relief of old: Jeff Nelson, Flash Gordon, Mark Stanton. Those guys could shut it down, i doubt Damaso Marte and Brian Bruney will have the same effect.
As far as offense, the loss of A-Rod, even if for a month or so, could have big effects on the team. HOwever, even without A-Rod, having Teixiera, Jeter, and Cano will be a hell of an infield. The real test is the Yankees outfield.
all in all, I think the Yankees will be competitive but will not make the playoffs.

I trult feel that the Red Sox are the best team in this division, with the Rays close behind. The Red Sox have too much offensive and pitching depth for any of these teams to keep up.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Rant That MJ Might be Proud Of

Ok first off I want to give a disclaimer to this rant. I am neither a Yankees or Bosox fan. I like neither of the teams and feel that they spend too much money trying to acheive superior status and they could be throwing the money where it is actually deserved. I feel that the front offices of both the Yankees and Red Sox resemble the Jackson Pollackesque explosion that comes out of my colon after a night of spicy Thai food.

I am a Reds fan through and through and wish that Pete Rose would run for the governor of Colorado so that he would allow sports betting in the casinos here.

Back to the rant...I just read an article by Jayson Stark that is once again Red Sox bias and makes absolutely no logical sense. Which is very common for the people at ESPN.


He discusses how the Bosox did a better job in the offseason by not spending 423 million dollars on a variety of players but spent far less money on "veteran" players who have spent alot of time on the DL but have alot of experience.

First case in point is Takashi Saito. He has a partially torn ligament in his throwing arm but did not decide to get Tommy John surgery. Stark seems to think that Saito will get back to the way he pitched in his prime...um the dude has a torn ligament in his throwing arm. One of two things will happen, he will pitch in pain all season and suck it up, or he will totally tear the ligament and be gone within the first couple of months. There is no way that a guy with a partially torn ligament can bounce back to his best. That is like saying that Christopher Reeve was going to be in charge of the Justice League right after his accident on the horse.

Second case that he brings up is John Smoltz. Now I have to admit that I am a huge fan of Smoltzy. He is an incredible competitor and a HOF pitcher. He is also going to be 42 years old and he just had shoulder surgery that I had hard time coming back from at the age of 28. Even without the fact that he had shoulder surgery, he is still in the twilight of his career. Stark uses his postseason record to give credence to what an amazing rotation the Bosox now have. Smoltz has been awesome in the postseason but the 12 of his 15 wins were 10 years ago before he has his first Tommy John surgery. His last win was in 2005 which was 4 years ago. The funny thing is that Stark uses the fact that Andy Petitte has not won a game in 4 years as a negative but doesn't seem to mention it about Smoltz.

Third point. Rocco Baldelli. He has some weird ailment that has baffled even the med students at Wash U and is weirder than the "parasite" that Jason Giambi had a couple of years ago. Stark is giving us the impression that Baldelli will bounce back and be a good backup to JD Drew. Now JD Drew is another one of those commonly injured players ala Ken Griffey Jr. Drew has averaged 110 games started over his career. So should we assume that a really injured will be a good back up for another really injured player.

This is one of the most fecking myopic illogical biased article that I have seen. How can a "journalist" use an argument against a player that he uses for another player. It just baffles me. I knew that ESPN (Simmons, Gammons, et al) were butt buddies with the Red Sox but this is pretty crazy.

The Madness #1: The Sweet Sound of Silence

Championship week for some schools is the most important time of the year. Cleveland State (the Vikings) faced off against their arch-rival Butler for the Horizon League Championship. CSU hadn't been to the big dance since 1986's magical year (when they beat Indiana) and to get back they had to win AT Butler (#17 in the nation). All the hard work all year came down to 40 minutes. It was a see-saw battle but as the last desperate Butler heave came up short the sweet sound of silence descended in the arena. CSU won the game, the conference tourney, and the right to go dancing. Whether or not they win A game let alone the entire thing is fairly immaterial. Tonight was their prize and they won it. Part of the joy of the Madness is that in many ways the Championship game is less important than the games along the way that are littered with tiny memories with less than famous schools. Let the moments of Madness continue.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Shoddy Sportswriting Is Contagious

Proving that ESPN does not hold supremacy over disingenuous sports reporting or specious logic, SI.com provided this article today which essentially demonstrates two things: first, that this outrageous piece of garbage is further evidence that the entire sports media universe has gone gaga over the Red Sox in the most transparent way and second, that those like ourselves here at BSD who rail against the mainstream sports media might actually be winning the battle (seriously, check the comments on that article. More than a few folks point out its stupidity).

The reason this article is so offensive is simple: it completely neglects the fact that the Red Sox actually made an offer to Mark Teixeira (as this link clearly demonstrates). Don’t tell me the Red Sox are the best-run team in baseball because they prefer to re-sign their young players instead of spending in free agency. If you want to make the case that the Red Sox are indeed the best-run team in baseball I have no problem with that. But it’s not because they eschew free agents. Give me a break. It’s common knowledge that the Red Sox made a tremendous push to get Teixeira and lost him at the last moment.

I hate it when reporters conveniently omit facts in order to make an argument. If you can’t write a story without obscuring relevant details then you probably shouldn’t be writing for a living. Incidentally, the author of this steaming turd (Dave Heuschkel) was an employee of the Hartford Courant (until he was recently laid off as a part of Tribune Company’s reorganization and bankruptcy). His job at the Courant was as a beat writer for the Boston Red Sox. As the Church Lady would say, “well isn’t that convenient?”

Flash Facts: March 9th Edition

1. Flash Fact #1 Warning Signs for the Cavs
While it's hard, even for a Cleveland fan, to find warning signs on a team with the best record in the East, the latest loss to Boston is making things Code Yellow. The Cavs are now 1-5 versus the NBA elite (Boston, LA, Orlando) and coupled with a whooping at Houston there is a pattern emerging of the Cavs falling short against bigger teams. Celtics, even without KG and Big Baby, controlled the interior both offensively and defensively. Easy layups for Powe where countered by flailing outside Lebron shots - not a recipe for long term success. Obviously the Cavs haven't been fully healthy in awhile nor will they be till playoff time but an ominious sign for the wine and gold.

2. Flash Fact #2 Bubbles Everywhere
Outside of the US dollar the biggest bubble can be found in the week leading up to the NCAA tournament. The biggest grey area lies in the Big 10 where the conference could have up to 8-9 bids despite only having 3 locks. So the tourney could be crucial. However that assumes there are no upsets in the other conference tourneys which eliminate the bubble slot. Look to the SEC as the putrid conference might only get 3 bids if things go by the numbers.

3. Flash Fact #3 KU and Memphis are Back: Or are They?
Given the huge turnover nobody expected KU (who lost all 5 starters) or Memphis (who lost 4 starters) to return to the NCAA championship game. And yet both now have won their conference regular season titles and seem poised to grab 2-3 seeds. Are they legit? I don't know but at minimal they seemed poised to bust my brackets.

4. Flash Fact #4 : Buffalo and TO or Things That I never expected to happen
You know things are desperate for TO when he's reduced to going to Buffalo. Outside of maybe Marshawn Lynch's free styling ways remind him of Dallas, I can't imagine Buffalo was high on the list of places anyone expected TO to go. A Lee Evans/TO WR core seems potent until you realize who is throwing the ball.

5. Flash Fact #5 WBC Fever Not Taking Over
Outside of the riots that broke out in Netherlands over their upset of the DR. Or something to that effect....

6. Flash Fact #6 : As you accelerate towards the speed of light you should shift towards the red end of the spectrum. Just saying.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Pot Luck - Facts, Stats, and Attempted Analysis 2009

Here's my final group of teams to preview. I'm including any other relevant teams I can think of, though I'm sure I left off some (most notably the SEC).

Oklahoma, Sag #8, kenpom offense #4, kenpom defense #51, 2nd in conference at 13-3, 27-4
Non-conference wins & key conference wins: Davidson, UAB, Purdue, USC, Utah, VCU, Texas (split)
Non-conference losses & key conference losses: Arkansas, Texas, Kansas, Missouri
3P% - 36.4%, Reb. Margin = +5.5 , FT 67.8%, FG 48.9%, Opp. FG 39.7% –
I was actually surprised when I looked at Oklahoma's profile - it's not dominating, despite the lofty ranking and eventual #1 selection of 6'10" Blake Griffin in this year's draft (22.1ppg, 14.2 rebs, 63.4% FG%). The surprising thing is that they lost to Kansas and Missouri in the only meetings, though Blake Griffin did not play in the loss to Texas or Kansas. Basically, when Griffin is healthy, they tend to meet the challenge almost any night. The free throw shooting is a little poor. The two shooters opposite B. Griffin are 6'4" freshman Willie Warren (14.7 ppg, 3.1 assists, 2.1 TOs, 37.8% 3-point) and 6'6" junio Tony Crocker (9.6ppg, 3.3 rebs, 36.6% 3-point). Blake's 6'7" brother, Taylor, chips in 9.7 ppg, 6 rebs, and 53.8% FG%.

Sag #10, kenpom offense #19, kenpom defense #14, 1st in conference at 14-2, 25-6
Non-conference wins & key conference wins: Washington, Tennessee, Siena, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri (split)
Non-conference losses & key conference losses: Syracuse, Umass (by one), Arizona, Michigan St, Texas Tech
3P% - 38.3%, Reb. Margin = +7.3 , FT 72.9%, FG 48.1%, Opp. FG 38.6% –
I can't believe how good Kansas is removed, a year after winning the championship and losing most of the roster. Based off of their numbers alone, this team almost looks as good as last year's team! In fact, if you look at last year's team, it's almost the exact same numbers (except there are more losses). The other difference? Last year's Kansas team was top-5 in offense and defense according to Pomeroy. 5'11" junior Sherron Collins leads the team with 18.3 ppg, 5assists, 3.3 TOs, 38.2% 3-point. 6'11" sophomore center Cole Adrich (14.8ppg, 10.5 rebs, 2.5 blocks, 60% FG%), 6'3" freshman guard Tyshawn Taylor (10.0ppg, 3.1 assists, 51% FG%). Two other sophomores (Morningstar and Reed) hit 45% and 39% from 3-point land. This is going to be a dangerous team in the tourney, despite my initial doubts of whether they reloaded enough from last season.

Sag #12, kenpom offense #18, kenpom defense #17, 3rd in conference at 12-4, 25-6
Non-conference wins & key conference wins: USC, California, Texas, Kansas (split), Oklahoma
Non-conference losses & key conference losses: Xavier, Illinois, Nebraska, Kansas St, Texas A&M
3P% - 36.3%, Reb. Margin = +0.3 , FT 66.6%, FG 47.3%, Opp. FG 42.0% –
This team does not rebound well or shoot free throws well, which is going to doom them in the tourney. Their win over Oklahoma was when Griffin was playing at least. Two players lead the way for Missouri: senior 6'8" F DeMarre Carroll (17.1ppg, 7.3rebs, 56.7% FG% ) and senior 6'9" F Leo Lyons (14.4 ppg, 5.8 rebs, 49.8% FG%). Their best 3-point threat, senior 6'7" Matt Lawrence, averages 2 for 5 every game from downtown. It's surprising that their two best players are forwards, yet they hardly outrebound anyone. I was excited about this team when they beat Oklahoma, but now, I'm not as excited.

Sag #26, kenpom offense #48, kenpom defense #23, 4th in conference at 9-7, 20-10
Non-conference wins & key conference wins: UCLA, Villanova, Wisconsin, Oklahoma (split)
Non-conference losses & key conference losses: Notre Dame, Mich St, Arkansas, Kansas St, Missouri, Nebraska
3P% - 31.8%, Reb. Margin = +5.1 , FT 67.2%, FG 43.9%, Opp. FG 41.0% –
Their team is terrible at shooting 3-pointers, but senior 5'11" G AJ Abrams (16.7ppg, 38.8% FG%) still shoots 38.9% from 3-point land. 6'7" Junior F Damion Jones (15.9ppg, 9.4 rebs, 47.5% FG%) and sophomore 6'6" F Gary Johnson (11ppg, 5.7rebs, 46% FG%) provide support. This team is kind of unpredictable. They don't play particularly great defense, but have some fantastic wins over UCLA, 'Nova, and Wisconsin.

Sag #5, kenpom offense #36, kenpom defense #1, 1st in conference at 16-0, 28-3
Non-conference wins & key conference wins: Cincy, UAB (twice), Tennessee, Gonzaga
Non-conference losses & key conference losses: Xavier, Georgetown, Syracuse (that's it)
3P% - 32.9%, Reb. Margin = +5.8 , FT 69.3%, FG 44.5%, Opp. FG 36.8% –
Memphis has reloaded quickly, yet again. This time, the freshman PG is 6'6" Tyreke Evans (16.9ppg, 3.7 assits, 3.5TOs, 5.5 rebs, an awful 30% 3-point%). Senior F 6'9" Robert Dozier (12.9ppg, 6.9 rebs, 52% FG%, 1.7 blocks), senior 6'6" G Antonio Anderson (10.5ppg, 4.2 assists, 5.0 rebs, 43% FG% ), and Junior 6'10" F Shawn Taggart (10.4ppg, 7.4 rebs, 49.6% FG%) are the other main contributors. This is a very large team, in that it seems like all the main players are over 6'5", and they will be larger than most other teams in the tourney. They don't have 3-point threats, which indicates that if they get behind, they could be in trouble.

Sag #24, kenpom offense #44, kenpom defense #22, 1st in conference at 12-4, 24-6
Non-conference wins & key conference wins: Missouri, Va Tech, Memphis, Auburn, Cincy, LSU, Dayton (split)
Non-conference losses & key conference losses: Duke, Butler, Duquesne, Charlotte, Richmond
3P% - 39.6%, Reb. Margin = +8.5 , FT 67.9%, FG 46.7%, Opp. FG 38.8% –
This Xavier team isn't quite as good as last year's edition that made the Elite 8, but this year's team could still win a game or two with their defense, 3-point shooting, and rebounding. They are led by senior G/F 6'6" BJ Raymond (13.8ppg, 4.2 rebs, 46% FG%, 41% 3-point), 6'8" junior F Derrick Brown (13.8ppg, 6.1 rebs, 42.7% 3-point ), and senior 6'6" G/F CJ Anderson (10.2ppg, 5.6 rebs).

Sag #59, kenpom offense #143, kenpom defense #39, 2nd in conference at 11-5, 25-6
Non-conference wins & key conference wins: Auburn, Marquette (in November when they were healthy), Xavier (split), Temple, George Mason
Non-conference losses & key conference losses: Creighton, UMass, Charlotte, St. Louis, Rhode Island
3P% - 33.5%, Reb. Margin = +4.6 , FT 65.5%, FG 42.8%, Opp. FG 39.3% –
This team's profile does not look nearly as good as I expected it to be, especially with ESPN constantly projecting this team to be in the tourney. Even if they make the tourney, it's hard to have much confidence with them, given the sub-par stats, despite the fact that they were able to beat Marquette when they were healthy. They have a very balanced attack, but are led by sophomore 6'8" F Chris Wright (13.1ppg, 6.5rebs, 48% FG%) and 6'3" junior G Marcus Johnson (12.1ppg, 3.2rebs, 47.2% FG%).

Sag #11, kenpom offense #13, kenpom defense #15, 1st in conference at 14-0, 24-5
Non-conference wins & key conference wins: Ok St, Maryland, Tennessee (twice), Wash St, St. Mary's (twice)
Non-conference losses & key conference losses: Arizona, UConn, Portland St, Utah, Memphis
3P% - 39.0%, Reb. Margin = +3.2 , FT 70.6%, FG 48.3%, Opp. FG 37.2% –
I was surprised when I found all of the numbers on Gonzaga, as their profile is even better than I expected, outside of their rebounding numbers. Their only chance for a super-marquee victory was over UConn and Memphis where they lost by 5 and by 18 (as they were outrebounded 39-25). Returning after his legal problems, senior 6'11" F Josh Heytvelt has been superb, getting 15.2 ppg, 6.8rebs, and 54.9% FG%. Also contributing are Junior 6'5" G Matt Bouldin (13.8ppg, 43.8% 3-point), sophomore 6'11" F Austin Daye (12.6ppg, 6.9rebs, 2.1blocks, 39.7% 3-point), and 6'2" senior PG Jeremy Pargo (9.6ppg, 5.1 assits, 2.6 TOs, 45% FG%). Notably, Daye is 6'11" but only weighs 200 pounds. Yikes! I think what this means is that this team will get pushed around by any team with bona fide big men (i.e. Arizona, UConn, Memphis, etc.).

St. Mary's,
Sag #48, kenpom offense #56, kenpom defense #66, 2nd in conference at 10-4, 24-5
Non-conference wins & key conference wins: San Diego St, Providence, Oregon, Utah St.
Non-conference losses & key conference losses: UTEP, Gonzaga (twice), Portland, Santa Clara
3P% - 33.7%, Reb. Margin = +7.3 , FT 69.5%, FG 44.9%, Opp. FG 40.6% –
As everyone has been reporting, this team has only one loss when sophomore 6'0" PG Patrick Mills (18.7ppg, 3.8assists, 2.5rebs, 36% 3-point) plays, and that was to UTEP at the beginning of the season. Other contributors are junior 6'11" C Omar Samhan (13.7ppg, 9.2 rebs, 2blocks, 56% FG%) and 6'7" senior F Diamon Simpson (13.6ppg, 10.7rebs, 1.8blocks, 51% FG%). I'd be scared to play them in the 1st round, assuming everyone is healthy. They don't have any real 3-point threats outside of the star PG Mills.

Sag #53, kenpom offense #53, kenpom defense #86, 1st in conference at 14-4, 26-7
Non-conference wins & key conference wins: Dayton, New Mexico (1st in Mountain West), No. Iowa (split)
Non-conference losses & key conference losses: AR Little Rock, Nebraska, Illinois St, Wichita St, Drake
3P% - 38.3%, Reb. Margin = +5.3 , FT 75.1%, FG 44.6%, Opp. FG 42.1% –
I don't believe this profile will be good enough for Creighton to get an at-large, as they lost in the semis on saturday... by 24 points! Even if they do get in, the numbers don't look great so I'm not even sure if I'd like their chances. They are led by senior 6'1" G Booker Woodfox (15.9ppg, 48.9% 3-point, making almost 3 per game!) and sophmore 6'3" G P'Allen Stinnett (12.2 ppg, 2.9 rebs, 43% FG%).

Sag #27, kenpom offense #59, kenpom defense #42, 1st in conference at 15-3, 26-4
Non-conference wins & key conference wins: Northwestern, Xavier, UAB, Davidson, Cleve St (twice)
Non-conference losses & key conference losses: Ohio St, Wis. Green Bay, Loyola Chicago, Wis. Milwaukee
3P% - 35.6%, Reb. Margin = +3.2 , FT 72.5%, FG 44.0%, Opp. FG 38.0% –
Butler will be playing Cleveland St on tuesday in their tourney final (though Butler is in no matter what happens). Butler's numbers are once again solid and should be considered dangerous in the tourney, though the 3-point shooting is not as good as it used to be (but the rebounding is better). The team is led by 6'8" sophomore F Matt Howard (14.6ppg, 6.8rebs, 55% FG%), 6'8" freshman F Gordon Hayward (13.4ppg, 6.4rebs, 45% 3-point), and 6'3" freshman G Shelvin Mack (11.5ppg, 4.2rebs, 3.5assists, 2.2 TOs, 39% FG%). It's a young team... and they look just as good as past Butler teams!

Siena, Sag #62, kenpom offense #49, kenpom defense #102, 1st in conference at 16-2, 24-7
Non-conference wins & key conference wins: Cornell, Buffalo, No. Iowa
Non-conference losses & key conference losses: Tennessee, Wichita St, Ok St, Pitt, Kansas, Rider, Niagara (split)
3P% - 33.1%, Reb. Margin = -0.4 , FT 66.7%, FG 47.2%, Opp. FG 43.9% –
Siena keeps getting mentioned as a possible at-large candidate. They lack any marquee wins. If they get in, I wouldn't trust them, based on the awful rebounding, 3-point shooting, and defensive numbers. They are led by 6'3" senior Kenny Hasbrouck (14.9ppg, 36% 3-point), 6'6" junior Edwin Ubiles (14.8ppg, 5 rebs, 49% FG%) and 6'5" junior Alex Franklin (13.5ppg, 7.4 rebs, 56% FG%). This team blew out Vanderbilt last year in the 1st round, then lost to 12-seeded Villanova in one of those silly 12-13 matchups.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

NCAA Football: Mountwain West Proposes 8-team playoff

I still don't think this will ever happen, but the Mountain West made a proposal to the BCS for an 8-team playoff to replace the current system.

The entire proposal is available for the public to review. The proposal is very professional, and I'd suggest reading it.

Here are some highlights:
1) new criteria for determining who gets an automatic berth - the criteria currently is based on playing at least 20 games against the six power conferences and winning at least 40% of these games. Notably, this criteria results in the Mountain West conference immediately qualifying. It's self-serving, but hey, it's interesting.
2) a committee determines the remaining BCS teams in the 8-team playoff. It's like the NCAA selection committee, only with higher stakes, because you aren't arguing about the last 12th-seed in, you are arguing about 4 versus 5.
3) Their proposal also includes ranking the top 10 teams, where the #9 and #10 teams play in a bowl game. I suppose this way, we are ensured another good game AND that way we all will know the BEST team to NOT make the 8-team playoff!

Lou Holtz: Scientician Extraordinaire

Honestly in my craziest nightmares I never would have come up with Sean Hannity and Lou Holtz discussing global warming , and yet that is exactly what happened. Dr Saturday provides the breakdown

The takeaway here is that Lou Holtz was engaged as a panelist on a political talk show, when there's scant evidence that the coach/doctor is a viable panelist on a football talk show.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Back Seat Driver Summit: Duff Beer, Rockies, Donkeys and More Beer

I wanted to extend an open invite for anyone that wants to come out to Denver September 24-26 of next year. We have an annual festival that brings in micro and macro brew companies throughout the country into our convention center. There are 431 breweries from Alaska to Hawaii to Florida to Maine that come in to sample their wares. Places like Great Lakes Brewery, Brooklyn Brewery to Goose Island Brewing Company to New Belgium. Maybe even Duff Beer will show up. It is beer beer and more beer. It is 55 bucks per day to have an unlimited amount of 1 oz samples of over 1800 beers. The Cardinals are also going to be in town to play the Rockies that weekend as well. And possibly the Donkeys will be playing someone. They have home games against the Brownies and the Giants this year. We have 3 beds, plus ample space on couches in the family room and in the basement. I thought this would be a good idea to get everyone together for some things that we all love.
Here is the website.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Flash Facts: March 2nd Edition

Flash Fact #1 : Never Trust Belichek
Over the weekend it became clear that the Patriots turned down the 12th pick in the draft from Denver for Matt Cassel and instead received the 34th pick from KC. Now there's any number of possible reasons for this: Belichek likes Pioli more than a former assistant, New England didn't want to pay first round money, its part of an intricate plot to help the Rand Corporation, Belichek screwed up, etc. None of them in way shape or form make sense from a football perspective. Unless that's just what Belichek wants us to believe.

Flash Fact #2 NBA loves Buyouts
In what seems to be an increasing trend if you can't trade for a player, you can always wait around and hope they get cut. Boston loaded up on Starbury and Miki Moore. It's looking like Cleveland will pick up Joe Smith and even San Antonio is rumored to get in the action with Drew Gooden or Stromile Swift. Its hard to say any of these will tip the scales but nobody is taking chances.

Flash Fact #3 Jay Cutler is Pissed
Apparently they new regime in Denver want Cutler out in the worst way. Umm why? Needless to say Cutler is supremely pissed by this and now its bedlam in Denver.

Flash Fact #4 King did good
Peter King, who is always odd about his reporting, actually did some quality reporting. Football contracts, much like unicorns or the American dream, are imaginary . Yes Hansworth signed a 100 million dollar contract but in reality given the enormity of the 5th year its really a 4 year 48 million contract. Not to say thats chump change but Hansworth will never see most of what was reported. Its good PR for the Redskins via signing free agents and for the Agent. Buried in his entire article however is probably THE news of his entire column which is King's opinion that a strike/locl out is distinctly possible in 2011. That seems big.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Big East - Facts, Stats, and Attempted Analysis 2009

The Big East Conference has 11 teams that can merit consideration on selection sunday. The conference will probably only get 7 or 8 teams in, but at this point, 11 are still in the running.

Sag #2, kenpom offense #14, kenpom defense #4, 1st in conference at 15-2, 27-2
Non-conference wins & key conference wins: Miami (FL), Wisconsin, Gonzaga, Notre Dame (twice), Nova, Louisville
Non-conference losses & key conference losses: Georgetown, Pitt (that's it)
3P% - 36.5%, Reb. Margin = +8.8 , FT 69.2%, FG 47.6%, Opp. FG 37.4% –
The Huskies lost G Jerome Dyson for the season on 2/11. Since then, they have won 3 of 4, losing to only Pitt. They have a week off to prepare for another matchup w/ Pitt on 3/7. UConn is still a force and could still go to the final 4... but it seems hard to pick them to win it all without one of their top players, though I'm still on the fence. They still have future top-5 nba pick C 7'3" Hasheem Thabeet (13.4ppg, 4.4 blocks, 10.5 rebs, 64.46% FG%), F 6'7" Jeff Adrien (13.8 ppg, 10.2 rebs), and 6'2" G AJ Price (12.3ppg, 4.5 assists, 40.4% 3-point%).

, Sag #7, kenpom offense #47, kenpom defense #2, 2nd in conference at 13-2, 22-5
Non-conference wins & key conference wins: S. Alabama, Ole Miss, UAB, Kentucky, Nova, Notre Dame (split), Pitt, Syracuse
Non-conference losses & key conference losses: W. Kentucky, Minnesota, UNLV, UConn, Notre Dame (split)
3P% - 35.6%, Reb. Margin = +3.6 , FT 65.2%, FG 44.7%, Opp. FG 39.4% –
Their numbers aren't actually that great... but they started the season very slow, with three questionable non-conference losses (W. Kentucky Minnesota, UNLV). They still have Pitino as coach, and are led by F 6'9" Earl Clark (13 ppg, 8.7 rebs, 41% FG%), F 6'6" Terrence Williams (12.6ppg, 4.7assists, 8.4 rebs, 35.8% 3-point %), and 6'9" F Samardo Samuels (12.2ppg, 4.8 rebs, 58.1% FG%). I really can't figure these guys out to be honest.

Pitt, Sag #3, kenpom offense #2, kenpom defense #31, 3rd in conference at 13-3, 26-3
Non-conference wins & key conference wins: Wash St, Siena, Fla St, Georgetown, Syracuse, UConn
Non-conference losses & key conference losses: Louisville, Villanova, Providence (that's it)
3P% - 36.5%, Reb. Margin = +10.5 , FT 66.7%, FG 48.1%, Opp. FG 40.8% –
It's three outstanding players that make this team one of the best in the country. There's 6'7" DeJuan Blair (Barkley-style body), who gets 15.8ppg, 13 rebs, and 59.5FG%. They also have 6'6" F Sam Young (18.1 ppg, 5.7 rebs, 35.6 3-point, 49.7 FG%) and 5'10" G Levance Fields (10.9 ppg, 7.5 assists!, 1.9 TOs, 36% 3-point). Obviously, this is one of the teams to watch.

, Sag #20, kenpom offense #7, kenpom defense #57, 4th in conference at 12-3, 23-5
Non-conference wins & key conference wins: Wis Milwaukee, Wisconsin, NC St, Villanova (split), W. Virginia, Georgetown (twice), Notre Dame
Non-conference losses & key conference losses: Dayton, Tennessee, So. Florida, UConn, Louisville
3P% - 35.7%, Reb. Margin = +2.3 , FT 70.9%, FG 46.8%, Opp. FG 44.1% –
Marquette relies on an incredible trio of guards who are all seniors. Unfortunately, one of them (Dominic James, 11.7 ppg, 42.3% FG%, 5.3 assists) went down with a knee injury last week and will be out for the season. I was considering placing them as a Final 4 dark horse, but w/o this main cog, it seems like the sweet 16 could be the limit for this team. It's sad, because last year, they lost in the 2nd round to Stanford (and the 7 foot Lopez twins) in an OT-thriller. They still have 6'3" Senior G Jerel McNeal (20ppg, 4.1 assits, 4.7 rebs, 43.4% 3-point), senior G 6'5" Wesley Matthews (18.7 ppg, 5.3 rebs, 41.6% 3-point), and 6'6" F Lazar Howard (16ppg, 8.6rebs, 46.4%FG%). They are a small team, as they were last year.

Villanova, Sag #18, kenpom offense #26, kenpom defense #28, 5th in conference at 11-5, 23-6
Non-conference wins & key conference wins: Temple, Pitt, Syracuse (twice), Marquette,
Non-conference losses & key conference losses: Texas, Louisville, UConn, W. Virginia, Georgetown
3P% - 36.2%, Reb. Margin = +4.5 , FT 73.9%, FG 46.4%, Opp. FG 40.1% –
Villanova didn't play a tought non-conference schedule, but does have a victory over Pitt. They have 2 main players leading the way: 6'8" Dante Cunningham (16.3 ppg, 7.3 rebs, 54.5% FG%) and 6'2" Scottie Reynolds (15.3 ppg, 3.7 assists, 35.5% 3point). Again, this is another team that is hard to figure out. Looking back, it appears they beat Pitt by getting DeJuan Blair in foul trouble.

Providence, Sag #68, kenpom offense #46, kenpom defense #128, 6th in conference at 9-7, 17-11
Non-conference wins & key conference wins: Charlotte, Syracuse, Pitt
Non-conference losses & key conference losses: Northeastern, Baylor, St. Mary's (the good one), Boston College, W. Virginia, Notre Dame, Georgetown
3P% - 32.1%, Reb. Margin = +1.4 , FT 67.3%, FG 45.3%, Opp. FG 44.9% –
This team's numeric profiles are poor. Very poor! Nonetheless, they are in bubble watch contention for their solid conference record and the victory over Pitt, but would still need to win games in the conference tourney. They have balanced scoring among 5 players (with a sixth getting 8.7 rebs). The leading scorer is 6'5" G Weyinmi Efejku (14.4ppg, 4.1 rebs, 37.1% 3-point). I'm not expecting much from this team. Their win over Pitt also included foul trouble for Blair, just like Villanova's. I think there's a trend here!

Syracuse, Sag #24, kenpom offense #19, kenpom defense #53, 8th in conference at 8-7, 20-8
Non-conference wins & key conference wins: Florida, Kansas, Virginia, Memphis, Notre Dame, Georgetown (split), Cincy
Non-conference losses & key conference losses: Cleveland St (on buzzer beater), Pitt, Louisville, Providence, Villanova (twice), UConn
3P% - 34.8%, Reb. Margin = +2.5 , FT 64.1%, FG 49.0%, Opp. FG 41.7% –
Syracuse has a much more impressive resume than Providence, especially as Kansas and Memphis continue to win. They should probably make the tourney, short of a 1-st round exit from the big-east tourney. Note: they have a poor FT% for some reason. They are led by 6'0" Johnny Flynn (17.3 ppg, 6.1 assists, 33.7% 3-point), 6'4" G Eric Devendorf (15.9ppg, 3.4 TOs, 38% 3-point), F 6'4" Paul Harris (12.9ppg, 8 rebs, 50.6% FG%). Their other F is 6'9" and gets 7.5 rebs.

West Virginia, Sag #15, kenpom offense #34, kenpom defense #6, 8th in conference at 8-7, 19-9
Non-conference wins & key conference wins: Iowa, Ole Miss, Cleve St, Ohio St, Georgetown, Villanova, Notre Dame,
Non-conference losses & key conference losses: Kentucky, Davidson, UConn, Marquette, Cincy
3P% - 32.3%, Reb. Margin = +4.8 , FT 68.2%, FG 43.1%, Opp. FG 42.0% –
Other than their loss to Cincy in the Big East, W. Virginia seems to beat the teams they are supposed to beat, and lose to the teams they should lose to. The non-conference win over Ohio State should be helpful. They are led by 2 players: 6'7" F Da'Sean Butler (18.1 ppg, 5.7 rebs, 38.5% 3-point), and 6'6" G Alex Ruoff (16.1 ppg, 3.6 assits, 3.6 rebs, and 37.7% 3-point).

Cincy, Sag #45, kenpom offense #56, kenpom defense #71, 8th in conference at 8-7, 18-10
Non-conference wins & key conference wins: UNLV, UAB, Miss St, Georgetown (twice), Notre Dame, W. Virginia
Non-conference losses & key conference losses: Fla. St, Xavier, Memphis, Providence (twice), Villanova, Syracuse
3P% - 34.6%, Reb. Margin = +4.2 , FT 66.8%, FG 43.3%, Opp. FG 41.3% –
It's a very thin profile... and they will need to win a lot of games in the tourney still to have a chance. Leading scorer is 6'1" Deonta Vaughn (15.5 ppg, 4.7 assists, 3.4 TOs, 38.7 FG%).

Notre Dame, Sag #37, kenpom offense #5, kenpom defense #121, 10th in conference at 7-9, 16-12
Non-conference wins & key conference wins: Texas, Georgetown, Louisville,
Non-conference losses & key conference losses: UNC, Ohio St, St. John's, Cincy, UConn (twice), West Virginia
3P% - 40.4%, Reb. Margin = +2.0 , FT 70.8%, FG 44.3%, Opp. FG 43.5% –
Notre Dame once was a top 10 team... and have struggled immensely once Big East play began. They had a 7-game losing streak at one point, including a loss to fellow bubble team Cincy. Not only that, their absurd 45-game home winning streak (and extremely impressive 20-game conference streak) came to an end and they couldn't recover. Their team 3-point % is absurd. However, as you can see from the defensive rank and opp. FG% they don't play defense at all. Are they still a dangerous team? You bet. But their disappointments in the tourney the last 2 seasons (losses to Wash St in 2nd round last year, loss to Winthrop in 1st round in 2007) may prove to be the only appearances for the duo of senior 6'0" G Kyle McAlarney (16.3 ppg, 3.5 assists, 43.9% 3-pointers, four 3-pointers per game) and junior 6'8" FLuke Harangody (24.2ppg, 12.5 rebs, 47.9% FG%).

, Sag #32, kenpom offense #28, kenpom defense #26, 11th in conference at 6-10, 15-12
Non-conference wins & key conference wins: Maryland, Memphis, UConn, Syracuse, Villanova,
Non-conference losses & key conference losses: Tennessee, Pitt, Notre Dame, Seton Hall, Cincy (twice), Marquette (twice)
3P% - 34.2%, Reb. Margin = -0.2 , FT 71.5%, FG 47.3%, Opp. FG 41.1% –
Georgetown was a top-10 ranked team when Big East play began... and they have just had lots of problems. They've only won 3 of their last 12 and obviously need to win both of their last 2 games (against bottom-feeders St. John's DePaul) to reach 8-10 in conference play and then would have to probably get to the conference finals... and even then that may not be enough. It's strange because their numbers, other than the rebounding margin, are very solid (computer ranking, offensive and defensive rankings). They also have great wins over Memphis and UConn and Villanova. All the losses in conference play are killer though. They are led by 6'8" F Dajuan Summers (14 ppg, 4.5 rebs, 41.6% 3-point) and freshman 6'11" C Greg Monroe (13ppg, 1.5 blocks, 6.8 rebs, 56.7 % FG%). I still wouldn't want to play them in the tourney.