Monday, February 28, 2011

MMBSD: Close to the Madness

Only 1 more week of regular basketball before the conference tourneys start up (less for a number of the Mid-Major tournaments). The one constant this year has been don't be ranked #1 as that makes you oddly more likely to lose. This week is was Duke, nd Texas falling to bubble teams (at best) and Pitt getting upset by Louisville. The signs and portents are that its going to be a particularly unpredictable Madness infused March.

  • A few teams to keep an eye that seem to be playing better of late: UCLA and K-State. UCLA dominated Arizona early in the week to move into a tie for the Pac-10 lead. The other is K-State who had a disappointing season until recently. In the past 2 weeks they've knocked off KU and Missouri. They play Texas this coming week and a victory could signal dark horse to the sweet 16...something unthinkable earlier in the year.
  • Two teams that I found very disappointing this week was BYU and San Diego State. Undisciplined, bad shot selection, ugly fouls, horrible smelling fans... I'll be surprised if either of these highly ranked teams make it to the second weekend of the Madness.

ESPN Controversy
Well kind of. Turns out that several ESPN on-air personalities have shoe endorsement deals. If ESPN even pretended it had anything to do with journalism then this would be disappointing. But ESPN is in the entertainment business. It would be nice if they labeled their product as such much like professional wrestling refers to itself as sports entertainment. Also it would be nice if Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit occasionally got punched in the face but that's an unrelated issue....

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Duke Snider, 1926-2011

Whenever one of the legendary baseball stars of the 50s dies, it gives me an excuse to call my Dad and hear his boyhood memories of watching the fallen superstar.

I love those phone calls...and yet I hate them.

The Duke of Flatbush, an 8-time All-Star, is still the Dodgers' all-time leader in HR (389) and RBI (1271). By all accounts, he was one of the best all-around centerfielders to ever play the game.

Rest in peace, Duke.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Big East - Facts, Stats, and Attempted Analysis 2011

It's almost March... so it's time for more college basketball conference previews!

Pitt, Sag #4, kenpom offense #4, kenpom defense #20, 1st in conference at 13-2, 25-3
Non-conference wins & key conference wins: Texas, Maryland, Duquesne, Georgetown, Villanova, Syracuse
Non-conference losses & key conference losses: Tennessee, Notre Dame, St. John's
3P% - 38.3%, 3Pt defense - 33.6%, Reb. Margin = +11.4, FT 66.3%, FG 47.5%, Opp. FG 40.1% –
Excellent resume, certain contender.
Led by Ashton Gibbs (6'2" junior, 16.4 ppg, 46.6% 3p%), Wanamaker (6'4" senior, 12.3 ppg, 5 assists, 5 rebs, 36.6% 3p%), and the big man is McGhee (6'10" senior, 7.3 ppg, 7.8 rebs, 1.4 blocks, 57% FG% (ken pom has him as a top-25 rebounder, and top-100 blocker)). Notably, Gibbs, the PG, missed 3 games with an MCL injury. During those 3 games, Pitt beat W. Va by 5, Nova by 3, and So. Florida. They then lost by 1 to St. John's when he returned. This team is certainly a team to consider for going far in the tourney.

Notre Dame, Sag #12, kenpom offense #7, kenpom defense #73, 2nd in conference at 11-4, 22-5
Non-conference wins & key conference wins: Wisconsin, Gonzaga, Georgetown, Pitt, Louisville
Non-conference losses & key conference losses: Kentucky, Syracuse, Marquette, St Johns, W. Va
3P% - 37.7%, 3Pt defense - 36.0% (rank: 245), Reb. Margin = +4.8, FT 72.8%, FG 46.1%, Opp. FG 41.3% –
Notre Dame has had a great season out and in-conference. They play poor defense though. They are led by Ben Hnasbrough (6'3" senior, 17.9 ppg, 4 assists, 42% 3p%, 47% FG%), and Tim Abromaitis (6'8" senior, 14.6 ppg, 6.2 rebs, 40% 3p%, 45% FG%) and their big man is Carleton scott (6'7" senior, 11.5 ppg, 7.2 rebs, 1.8 blocks, 37% 3p%, 47% FG%).
So... if you like seniors, and a team that can purely outscore another team, this is a great team to cheer for. They play poor defense though, which is a concern, though we would need to look more into who they have defenseive breakdowns against.

Louisville, Sag #14, kenpom offense #43, kenpom defense #13, 3rd in conference at 10-5, 21-7
Non-conference wins & key conference wins: Butler, Syracuse, W. Va., UConn (twice)
Non-conference losses & key conference losses: Drexel!, Kentucky, Villanova, Providence!, Cincy
3P% - 36.9%, 3Pt defense - 31.8% (rank: 49), Reb. Margin = +0.9, FT 66.0%, FG 45.9%, Opp. FG 40.1% –
This is another team that wasn't expected to do much, but has done surprisingly well. They are led by 6'1" senior Preston Knowles (14.5 ppg, 3.7 rebs, 40% 3p%, 38% FG%) and Siva (5'11" soph, 10.2 ppg, 5.0 assists) and Jennings is the big man (6'9" junior, 9.7 pts, 5.3 rebs, 1.9 blocks, 54% FG%). Interstingly, Knowles and Siva are both excellent at creating steals (1.9 and 2.2 per game respectively). However, this team doesn't do well in rebounding. Should be an interesting team to watch, since they clearly live on the 3-pointers with 3 other guys aside from Knowles shoting over 40% per game.

St. John's, Sag #25, kenpom offense #58, kenpom defense #22, 3rd in conference at 10-5, 18-9
Non-conference wins & key conference wins: Georgetown, Notre Dame, Duke, Pitt, UConn
Non-conference losses & key conference losses: St. Mary's, St. Bonaventure, Fordham!, UCLA, Cincy (split)
3P% - 33.0%, 3Pt defense - 36.4% (rank: 267), Reb. Margin = -0.5, FT 71.0%, FG 45.7%, Opp. FG 42.9% –
This has been my favorite team to follow in the scores all season. They've beaten 4 top-10 teams! They've also lost to two awful teams and St. Mary's, but that's before they started playing like mad men. This team was supposed to do nothing, but new coach Steve Lavin (former UCLA coach from 7 years ago) has them playing possessed. Also... this team has 10 seniors. Yes, TEN. How does that happen? Well, they had 10 juniors last season, but in 2008-2009 they "only" had 8 sophomores. That's because Hardy (JUCO transfer) and Brownlee (JUCO transfer) were added. In 2007-2008, they "only" had 7 freshmen, one of them being Rob Thomas who had a knee injury wipe him out for the 2006-2007 season (see page 52 of the media guide). I think this all stems back to 2003-2004, when due to a number of infractions, St. John's lost 7 of 15 players (along with most of the games).

Anyways, back to this team. Hardy has been awesome (6'2" senior, 17.3 ppg, 44.8% FG%, 34.8% 3p%). Brownlee (6'7" senior, 12.1 ppg, 5.1 rebs, 49.8% FG%) and Kennedy (6'6" senior, 10.5ppg, 5.7 rebs46.8 % FG%). They aren't big (they have a NEGATIVE rebounding margin!). It's really all about Hardy, going off some nights and the factd that they have a balanced attack. Let's be clear here though, they have no great 3-point shooters, they play poor defense... but they somehow win games (especially against good teams). It's puzzling, fascinating, and I can't wait to see who they get in the tourney, because a story about 10 seniors banding together and beating all expectations, is just an irresistable story.

Syracuse, Sag #11, kenpom offense #20, kenpom defense #19, 5th in conference at 10-6, 23-6
Non-conference wins & key conference wins: Michigan, Mich St, Notre Dame, Villanova, UConn
Non-conference losses & key conference losses: Pitt, Nova, Seton Hall, Marq, Georgetown, Louisville
3P% - 34.3%, 3Pt defense - 32.0%, Reb. Margin = +4.1, FT 65.8%, FG 46.7%, Opp. FG 39.2% –
This Syracuse team runs the zone defense well of course. They went through a bit of a lull but are playing better of late. They have a balanced attack led by Kris Joseph (6'7" junior, 14.7 ppg, 5 rebs, 37% 3p%), Rick Jackson (6'9" senior, 13.1 ppg, 11 rebs (ranked in the top 100 rebounders and blockers on kenpom), 58.8% FG%), Scoop Jardine (6'2" junior, 12.4 ppg, 5.9 assists, 33% 3p%), and Brandon Triche (6'4" sophomore, 11.4 ppg, 32% 3p%!). I think this team is intriguing at least.

Georgetown, Sag #10, kenpom offense #11, kenpom defense #48, 5th in conference at 10-6, 21-7
Non-conference wins & key conference wins: Old Dominion, Missouri, Villanova, Louisville, Syracuse,
Non-conference losses & key conference losses: Temple, St. John's, W. Va, Cincy, UConn
3P% - 37.5% (rank: 48), 3Pt defense - 32.7%, Reb. Margin = +2.9, FT 73.4%, FG 48.9%, Opp. FG 41.6% –
**The #1 issue with this team is that their PG, Chris Wright (6'1" senior, 13.1 ppg, 5.4 assists), is injured and may not return in time for March Madness. This issue should be checked on between now and the tourney.
Georgetown is a small team focused on three guards, one of which, Wright, who is injured. Austin Freeman (6'3" senior, 17.8 ppg, 40.6 3p%, 50.8% FG%) is the main cog, and the third man is Jason Clark (6'2" junior, 12 ppg, 4 rebs, 37.4% 3p%). The only big men are Vaughn (6'9" senior, 6.3 rebs, 2 blocks) and 6'7" Hollis Thompson (4.4 rebs). So... when healthy, they have a lot of guards, but they are a small team and will get destroyed on the inside.

Villanova, Sag #16, kenpom offense #17, kenpom defense #31, 7th in conference at 9-6, 21-7
Non-conference wins & key conference wins: UCLA, Temple, Cincy, Louisville, Maryland, Syracuse,
Non-conference losses & key conference losses: Tennessee, Providence, Rutgers, Uconn, Georgetown, PPitt
3P% - 34.6%, 3Pt defense - 29.6% (rank: 10), Reb. Margin = +6.1, FT 76.2%, FG 44.2%, Opp. FG 39.7% –
This team looks great on paper... but they have now lost 7 of their last 12 (and 4 of their last 6). They only have Notre Dame and Pitt left. I'm actually worried for how far this slide is going to hurt them. They are led by the 6'1" senior PG Corey Fisher (16ppg, 36% 3p%, 43% FG%, 5 asssits, 2.4 TOs) and 6'5" senior Corey Stokes (15ppg, 42% 3pointers). Their big men are Pena (6'8" senior, 7.5 rebs) and a 6'10" sophomore, Yarou (7.2 rebs). So... three of their best players are seniors. This team just needs to get its shit together, because on paper, it has all the tools it needs.

Cincy, Sag #15, kenpom offense #65, kenpom defense #8, 7th in conference at 9-6, 22-6
Non-conference wins & key conference wins: Xavier, St Johns (split), Louisville, Georgtown
Non-conference losses & key conference losses: Nova, Syracuse, ND, W. Va, Pitt, St Johns (split)
3P% - 34.4%, 3Pt defense - 31.8% (rank 38), Reb. Margin = +4.6, FT 65.8%, FG 43.3%, Opp. FG 40.8% –
They, along with W. VA, and Marquette, will be on the bubble until the end of the Big East tourney. This Cincy team only has the out-of-conference victory over Xavier, and then whatever they could get in the conference. They have no go-to-guy - with 5 guys averagin between 8.5 ppg, and 11.2 ppg! They seem to be sloppy with the ball, but shoot poorly, and play great defense to end up with some close games. They are ranked so highly in Sagarin right now, mainly because of the conference they are in, so it will be interesting to see where they are slotted. I wouldn't trust them at all if they made the tourney.

W. Virginia, Sag #20, kenpom offense #27, kenpom defense #35, 8th in conference at 8-7, 17-10
Non-conference wins & key conference wins: Oakland, Duquesne, Cleve St, Purdue, Georgetown, ND
Non-conference losses & key conference losses: Minnesota, Miami (FL), Marq, Marshall, Louisville,
3P% - 33.7%, 3Pt defense - 28.6% (rank: 6), Reb. Margin = +2.6, FT 69.6%, FG 43.2%, Opp. FG 41.1% –
This team has been interesting. They played a soft out of conference schedule. They somehow are great at stopping 3-pointers, but are not strong inside. They will probably be on the bubble until the end as well. They are led by Casey Mitchell (15.1 ppg, 38.7% 3p%, 6'2" junior) and Kevin Jones (12.6ppg, 6.9 rebs, 43% FG%, 6'8" junior).

UConn, Sag #17, kenpom offense #37, kenpom defense #32, 8th in conference at 8-7, 20-7
Non-conference wins & key conference wins: Kentucky, Mich St, Texas, Tennessee, Georgetown
Non-conference losses & key conference losses: Pitt, Louisville (twice), Syracuse, St Johns, Marq
3P% - 33.5%, 3Pt defense - 32.5%, Reb. Margin = +4.4, FT 73.1%, FG 42.7%, Opp. FG 39.2% –
They are led by 6'1" junior Kemba Walker. Walker averages a ridiculous 23 ppg, but on an awful 42.5% FG%, 35.5% 3pointers. He also chips in 5.3 rebs and 4.5 rebs. The 2nd option is Oriakhi, a 6'9" sophomore, averaging 10.4 ppg, 8.7 reb, 2.0 blocks. UConn is a strange team, as they weren't expected to even be good this year, but Kemba Walker played out of his mind to help them beat Kentucky, Mich St, Texas, and Tennessee out of conference. They have been stubmling of late, so they may be falling back down to earth. In the end, I'm not sure if Kemba Walker all on his own can really take them that far in the tourney, now that there's so much tape from the Big East on how to stop him. It's not like he can sneak up on people, as he kind of did at the start of the season.

Marquette, Sag #29, kenpom offense #14, kenpom defense #67, 8th in conference at 8-7, 17-11
Non-conference wins & key conference wins: W. Va, Notre Dame, Syracuse, Uconn (split)
Non-conference losses & key conference losses: Duke, Gonzaga, Wisconsin, Vanderbilt, St. John's, Georgetown
3P% - 35.3%, 3Pt defense - 34.9%, Reb. Margin = +2.5, FT 69.3%, FG 47.6%, Opp. FG 44.2% (ouch!) –
This team is still a bubble team, and will be all the way through the Big East Tourney, despite the great Sagarin ranking. Their numbers are not that great in any department, especially defensively. They are led by Johnson-Odom, a 6'2" junior, 16ppg, who shoots 35.6% from 3-point land and J. Butler, a 6'7" senior, 15.6 ppg, 6.2 rebs, 49% FG%.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

NBA Trade Deadline 2011: Instant Analysis

NBA Trade Deadline 2011 was full of twists, turns, surprises, and lots of shock value. Here's a list of all of the trades, and here now are the highlights (or lowlights depending on your perspective):

Trade I can Hardly Understand:
Celtics trade Center Kendrick Perkins (and PG Nate Robinson) to Ok City for Forward Jeff Green and Center Kristic - Well, I can't understand this trade. ESPN reports the trade just involves the player. Sports Illustrated reports, via the Boston Globe, that the Celtics also get the 2012 Clippers 1st round pick (that Ok City owned). If this is true, then I could believe the theory that the Celtics thought: a) Perkins is not going to be 100%, b) he's leaving in free agency, c) Jeff Green, a stretch PF on OKCity, but is really a SF, can backup Pierce since Marquis Daniels is injured for the season, and d) they get a top-10 pick. The other possible conspiracy theory is that the Celtics really don't respect Dwight Howard and the Magic, and believe they don't need a center to beat the Bulls, Heat, Magic, or the Lakers. Yes, I hope the Celtics get the 1st round pick, because otherwise, this makes no sense and they should have just gone for the championship this season.

Second trade I can Hardly Understand:
Blazers get Gerald Wallace's poisonous contract in exchange for two 1st round picks and Dante Cunningham
I can understand the Blazers wanting to continue to amass assets... but I don't understand why they acquired Gerald Wallace. He plays PF/SF... but the Blazers already have PF Aldridge and SF Batum (who is quite good). I just don't get where everyone will play. I also don't understand why they gave up two 1st round picks. Eesh. Hope it works out, especially since it would be silly to believe Brandon Roy is ever going to be 100%, since he's had too many knee surgeries between high school, college, and now.

GM that has Mad Skills: Houston GM:
Houston trades Aaron Brooks for Goran Dragic AND a 1st round pick; Houston trades Shane Battier for Hasheem Thabeet AND a 1st round pick
Look, it was known that Houston was shopping Battier, and that Brooks had somehow fallen out of favor. But, to somehow pick up two 1st round picks, as well as two young players who could still pan out? That's pretty impressive, I must say. Granted, I think Thabeet sucks, but there are so few 7-footers out there, you mine as well give it a try. Darko has finally embraced the role of defensive center (albeit 8 years after he was drafted). Dragic is still an unknown commodity. He exploded in last year's playoffs in a crucial playoff game... and then he has been awful this year. Not sure what's up with him. Perhaps the more important aspect of this trade is the fact that Steve Nash may be leaving, soon. Maybe next summer? We shall see.

Trade that Only Makes Sense if You Have a Rich Owner
Cavs trade Mo Williams for Baron Davis and Unprotected 1st round pick
Well... Baron Davis blows, but this trade is not about Baron Davis. It's about the fact that each contract is for the same length. So, essentially, the Cavs owner is paying about $12 million to get a top-10 draft pick in 2011! Sounds awesome, until you remember that the NBA's labor problems could result in many players not going out to the draft this year. Cavs fans, keep your fingers crossed.

Trade that Shook Everyone to the Core
Nets trade PG Devin Harris, PF Derrick Favors, two 1st round picks, for PG Deron Williams
I think what was shocking at first about this was that no one had any idea Deron Williams was going to be available, especially after Utah's coach had suddenly retired in response to Deron's antics. As it turns out, this is a great move for Utah. They did it because it was clear to them that Deron wasn't re-signing with the team in 2012. So, instead they have a highly regarded player (Favors), two 1st round picks (which should be high picks), and an above-average, former All-Star PG, albeit one with an attitude problem. That was a pretty good take! This trade gets into a lot of other issues, i.e. how you don't want to end up like Cleveland/Toronto and go for it all, only to have your superstar leave you high and dry with nothing but a sign-and-trade and some 2nd round picks. The NBA may have different rules after the strike, but as of right now, its become apparent that NBA stars will force their way onto whatever team they want (and they tend to be large cities). So... small/mid-size cities need to do things like Utah, or Denver (getting PG Felton, SF Gallinari, SG Chandler, C Mozgov) to keep their teams competitive.

Trade that is based on a High Level of Confidence
Cavs get C Erden, F Harangody, in exchange for a 2013 2nd-round draft pick
Apparently, the Celtics traded two players in exchange for a 2013 2nd-round draft pick. I originally thought they did it in exchange for SG Anthony Parker. Nope. Just a draft pick! SI believes they did this so that the Celtics can then pick up a couple of players who get bought out (I'm guessing F Troy Murphy and SG Anthony Parker?). Granted, I find it funny how the rumor all week is that the Cavs demanded Erden for Parker, and both sides wouldn't budge... until Parker wasn't included in the trade! The Celtics must be pretty confident of some players becoming available. Either that, or this Turkish center is not as good as he was hyped to be!

Eat $h*t And Die, Reilly

Not that I am particularly enamored of Carmelo Anthony the person or Carmelo Anthony the basketball player and not that I think his acquisition by the Knicks will make them a decidedly better basketball team...

...but I hate these sorts of whiny, populist, anti-free market bullshit articles.

Free agency is here. It's been here for several decades now. If you can't accept that people have a right to choose where they want to earn a paycheck then you should probably not follow sports or move to Thailand where slavery and indentured servitude is apparently still accepted.

We don't have to like the way professional athletes behave and we don't have to condone the methods they use to extricate themselves from situations they don't want to be in but, frankly, anyone that has ever left one job for another has performed some version of the same wiggly dance that Carmelo Anthony just performed.

My message to Rick Reilly is simple: you're a millionaire and you quit Sports Illustrated to work for ESPN. You're a motherfucking phony. Perhaps Sports Illustrated should've put a "franchise tag" on you? The reality is, however, that no one at SI misses you because you sucked.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

And We've Reached a New Low...

Colin Cowherd, possibly the most unlikeable of ESPN radio hosts, will be getting his own tv sitcom on CBS. I'm trying to imagine the over/under on a number of episodes actually aired. I'm pretty it is less than 4 or I think I might have to give up on the tv watching habits of this country. Oh and adding to the list of things I'd rather watch.... Michael Irvin in a Midsummer's Night Dream, the NBA Ladder Dunk Contest, Tony Korneiser talking about the internet, I could go on and on but I'll stop....

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Most Artificially Exciting (and Scripted) Dunk Contest Ever

For those who only saw the highlights, or who missed the NBA dunk contest this weekend, I need to address what really happened:

The 2011 NBA dunk contest was a scripted, WWF-style event
Each of the 4 participants (Blake Griffin, DeMar Derozoan, Serge Ibaka, Javale McGee) had a celebrity coach. The celebrity "coaches" (mainly Chris Webber and Kenny Smith) were the equivalent of early 1990s pro wrestling managers (think Jimmy Hart) who gave speeches and other bizarre things before dunks. I'm not joking. Aside from the fact that each had a coach/manager, the NBA decided that instead of relying on young athletes to somehow think of original dunks or original ways to provide showmanship in a dunk contest, the NBA also followed the lead of the WWF/WWE/WCW and MUST have had writers script each athlete's dunks. The 1st round of dunks were better than the last 5 years combined I believe! Here's what happened in the opening round:
1) McGee dunking two basketballs on two hoops standing next to each other
2) McGee following it with dunking three basketballs (two quickly, and tapping a 3rd one in on an alley oop)
3) Ibaka involving a young, 7-year old child actor who said "my toy is stuck on the hoop!" and Ibaka saying, "don't worry, I'll get it down," then Ibaka inadvertently knocking part of the stuffed monkey to the ground, requiring an NBA employee to get on a lift to re-install the stuffed monkey, so Ibaka then dunked the basketball and caught part of the toy monkey in his mouth, and then took it out of his mouth and gave the toy to the child actor
4) Ibaka dunking from the free throw line (a la Jordan)
5) Derozan actually doing unreal dunks (but less showmanship)
6) Blake Griffin doing worse dunks than Derozan, but advancing with the EXACT NECESSARY score because of his planned finale involving a gospel choir singing "I believe I can Fly" while Griffin jumped over the hood of a KIA car where Baron Davis threw a pass through the moon roof of the car.

In conclusion, the dunk contest was exciting. I just never thought I would see an event with more props (extra hoops, choirs, cars, toy monkeys, horrible child actors) and scripts than in all of the previous dunk contests combined. There's obviously no turning back now though. 2012's dunk contest will have to be even better. I think fire is the next obvious element to include!

Would A Favorite Please Stand Up?

With only about 2 weeks remaining of regular season basketball, the top spots are in flux. Nobody seems immune to being upset these days. Kansas, tOSU, Pitt, Muburak....all going down when previously they seemed fairly unbeatable. Where does this leave us? Well, in a position in which conference tourney outcomes will probably dictate a good deal of the final outcome. One team hanging on the outside is San Diego State. At the moment there's a number of poll prognasticators putting them in at a 2 seed. Could they move even farther up?

NBA Ratings
While I , and well most of the BSD, have generally tuned out basketball, it appears the rest of the country is tuning in. The NBA tv ratings (most recently the all-star game) have been doing gang busters. Partially, sports ratings in general are up (I'm guessing more people are staying at home due to the economy) but the message that Stern gets is that despite the complaints super teams and douchebag superstars get ratings.

NFL Talks
Continue to meander about, I assume closer to the deadlines things will heat up, although I'm expecting racalcitrant owners to drag this into the summer. And obviously I have no data or facts to back that up.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Spring Time

With the weather heating up (well at least here) Spring is starting to feel nearby. Hooray. I won't debate the greatest words in the English language (I maintain it's free chicken finger day) there's no denying that spring makes everyone a little happier....especially for us college basketball...tournament lovers. As hard as it's to believe March Madness is around the corner.

Tournament Tweaks.
CBS/Turner have going to be spacing out the NCAA tournament games. On the one hand no more back to back to back buzzer beaters. On the other hand less regional coverage so that mean's I won't have to suffer through horrible Georgetown basketball while exciting mid-major upset alerts are elsewhere. So all in all I'll give it a tentative thumbs up.

Who's #1?
With tOSU losing at Bucky Badger...the quest for #1 seems to be falling to Kansas. Of course I ask to this who cares? The real question is seeding as is who is in the top 4. Right now Kansas, tOSU, Pittsburgh, Texas and Duke are all in the conversation. Duke probably has the easiest road given the ACC quality but given the recent over-weighting to conference tournament plays I assume nothing will be settled until the end.

Bracket Busters!
One of my favorite weekends of College Basketball is Bracket Buster Weekend (well technically it's 3 days). Basically the best mid-major teams get matched up against one another to try to give a little extra boost to getting into the brackets (possibly as at-larges). My eyes will be on Cleveland State v. Old Dominion but I'd also recommend checking #21 Utah State at St.Mary's.

Other Random
UFC, the premier mixed martial arts league, will garner it's first $10 million gate for its' Toronto event. It's popularity growth is pretty amazing. Vancouver currently is in first place in the NHL. True story. NFL Labor Talks and Francisco Franco....still dead

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Big 10 - Facts, Stats, and Attempted Analysis 2011

As I sit here watching the Ohio State vs. Wisconsin game, I figure it's only suitable to provide a look at the Big 10 this week!

Ohio State, Sag #1, kenpom offense #3, kenpom defense #2, 1st in conference at 11-0, 24-0
Non-conference wins & key conference wins: Florida, Fla. St, Purdue, Minnesota
Non-conference losses & key conference losses: None
3P% - 40.4%, Reb. Margin = +5.2, FT 68.5%, FG 49.6%, Opp. FG 41.5% –
Led by J. Sullinger (6'9" freshman 18 ppg, 10.2 reb, 56.8% FG%) and Buford (6'5" junior, 13.6ppg, 44% 3p%) and 5th-year senior Lighty (6'5", 12.5 ppg, 40.7% 3p%), and Diebler (6'6" senior, 11.2 ppg, 48% 3p% ). Perhaps more importantly, backup? freshman PG Aaron Craft has been sensational (4.6 assists, 28minutes per game). This team has been #1 and is highly regarded, and its the team I follow, so I will be keeping my eye on them all season long. Having a top-5 NBA talent in Sullinger (who is a bona fide PF, with back-to-the-basket moves) along with all of these 3 -point shooters makes OSU extremely dangerous. They also have another big body in Lauderdale, so its not like Sullinger can be complely focused on.

Wisconsin, Sag #11, kenpom offense #1, kenpom defense #36, 2nd in conference at 8-3, 18-5
Non-conference wins & key conference wins: Marquette, Boston College, Illinois (split), Purdue, Minnesota
Non-conference losses & key conference losses: UNLV, Notre Dame, Illinois (split), Mich St (split), Penn St
3P% - 37.7%, Reb. Margin = +3.9, FT 82.9% (that's amazing!), FG 44.6%, Opp. FG 40.8% –
Led by Jon Leuer (6'10" SENIOR, 19.4 ppg, 7.4 rebs, 44% 3point, 48% FG%) and Jordan Taylor (6'1" junior, 17.7 ppg, 4.7 assists, 41% 3p%). This Jon Leuer is awesome. The team doesn't rebound as great as most Wisconsin teams. What gives me some pause about this team are the losses to UNLV and Notre Dame, meaning they lost their toughest games out of conference.

Purdue, Sag #9, kenpom offense #20, kenpom defense #10, 2nd in conference at 8-3, 19-5
Non-conference wins & key conference wins: Va. Tech, Alabama, Minnesota (split)
Non-conference losses & key conference losses: Richmond, W. Va., Minnesota (split), Ohio St, Wisconsin
3P% - 38.4%, Reb. Margin = +2.6, FT 71.7%, FG 45.4%, Opp. FG 41.3% –
If only Robbie Hummel was healthy... the other senior stars on this team (6'10" senior - JaJuan Johnson - 20.6 ppg, 7.6 rebs, 50% FG%; 6'4" senior - E'Twaun Moore - 17.8 ppg, 5.6 rbs, 39% 3pt) are fantastic. This team could be dangerous in the tourney... but probably nothing more than a sweet 16 appearance.

Illinois, Sag #24, kenpom offense #27, kenpom defense #17, 4th in conference at 6-5, 16-8
Non-conference wins & key conference wins: Maryland, UNC, Gonzaga, Wisconsin,
Non-conference losses & key conference losses: Texas (in OT), Ill-Chicago!, Missouri, Penn St, Indiana, Northwestern
3P% - 40.4%, Reb. Margin = +2.1, FT 72.8%, FG 46.8%, Opp. FG 39.6% –
This team has been more Jekyl and Hyde then most. One atrocious loss (Ill-Chicago!), an awesome win (UNC), and a close call (Texas). I saw their star player against OSU (6'3" senior - G Demetri McCarney 14.8ppg, 6.6 assists, 3 TOs, 47.6% 3pt%) but he got outclassed by the freshman PG Craft and the OSU defense. Mike Davis (6'9" senior - 11.5ppg, 6.8 rebs, 52% FG%) also is the other main contributor then they have 4 guys between 8 and 9 ppg.

Michigan State, Sag #40, kenpom offense #49, kenpom defense #58, 5th in conference at 6-6, 14-10
Non-conference wins & key conference wins: Washington, Wisconsin,
Non-conference losses & key conference losses: UConn, Duke, Syracuse, Texas, Penn St, IOWA!
3P% - 36.1%, Reb. Margin = +3.8, FT 68.9% , FG 44.0%, Opp. FG 42.9% –
PG Kore Luciuos has been kicked off the team. The team has gone from being ranked #2 in the nation at the start of the season (since they were returning everyone from last year's final 4 team), to being barely above .500 and in serious danger of not making the tourney. They are still led by Kalin Lucas (6'1" senior - 16.2 ppg, 3.5 assists, 40.7% 3p); Draymond Green (6'7" junior - 13.2 ppg, 8.5 rebs, 4.2 assists, 38.8% 3p); Durrell Summers (6'5" senior - 13.2 ppg, 4.3 rebs, 37.8% 3p%). I honestly don't know what to make of this team after all of the awful performances... in past years, Michigan State would snag a 10-seed and still make a run to the elite 8... then there wer other years they'd get bounced in the 1st round in that situation. Your guess is as good as mine on this.

Minnesota, Sag #35, kenpom offense #40, kenpom defense #72, 6th in conference at 5-7, 16-8
Non-conference wins & key conference wins: UNC, W. Va, Purdue (split)
Non-conference losses & key conference losses: Virginia, Indian, Mich St,
3P% - 32.9%, Reb. Margin = +5.0, FT 64.9%, FG 46.1%, Opp. FG 39.7% –
What started as a promising season for Minnesota, has become unraveled due to injuries. Starting senior PG Al Nolen broke his foot and had surgery, and is just praying he returns for the tournament. His backup just happened to transfer earlier in the season... meaning freshmen are now manning the PG spot (and not playing well). The team is led by Hoffarber (6'4" senior - 14 ppg, 3.9 assists, 39.6% 3p); Mbakwe (6'8" junior - 13.2ppg, 10.6 rebs, 61% FG%); D. Joseph (6'4" junior - 11ppg, 38% 3p).

Penn State,
Sag #73, kenpom offense #31, kenpom defense #129, 6th in conference at 5-7, 12-11
Non-conference wins & key conference wins: Illinois, Wisconsin
Non-conference losses & key conference losses: Ole Miss, Maine, Michigan (twice), Va. Tech, Maryland
3P% - 31.8%, Reb. Margin = +1.6, FT 72.4%, FG 43.0%, Opp. FG 44.0% –
I thought at the beginning of big 10 season they might have a chance to squeak out a bid. I know now from looking at their profile, it ain't going to hapen short of a miraculous run to end the season.

For the Big 10 to have 6 bids now, Minnesota needs to survive without their PG, and Michigan state needs to get some wins. For Penn State to grab an unreal SEVENTH bid, EVERYTHING would have to go right. I'd keep an eye on the inconsistent Illinois, and I'm not sure how far Wisconsin can actually go.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

I Couldn't Agree More

Normally I'd never agree with anything that comes out of the mouth of a member of the White Sox but, in this instance, LHP Mark Buehrle speaks for me.

Mark, I couldn't have said it any better myself.

Monday, February 07, 2011

MMBSD: Super Bowl Thoughts

Well as always one last Monday Morning Back Seat Driver before we go on vacation. Here's some quick thoughts from the Super Bowl

1. Turnovers were really the difference. The Pick-6 and the momentum changing fumble were huge. It's a very different game without either of those plays let alone both. I realize that's a trite statement but that doesn't change the accouracy of it.

2. That said the Packers left a bunch of plays out on the field. Dropped balls made it much a closer game and frankly seemed to suck the life out of the Packer's 3rd Quarter offense.

3. Aaron Rogers has any many Super Bowl wins as Favre. It just feels good to type that.

4. Black Eyed Peas really sucked.

5. No - I mean really sucked....

6. Favorite commercial --- probably a toss up between the flying pug, the kid dressed as Darth Vader, and the dogs playing poker.

7. Assuming we have football'll be interesting to see where the Packers go from here. It appears (and I could be wrong) that the AFC has had far more stability among its elite than the NFC. Can the Packers stay on top or will the volatility continue? With an elite QB and Dom Capers...signs point to yes...

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

National Signing Day

Well the signings are in and here are the findings outside of the usual south dominates yadda yadda yadda.

The top classes are generally considered some combination of USC, Alabama, Auburn, Florida State, and Ohio State.

Surprises and Notables
  • USC had a class of 31. This might be surprising as NCAA rules dictate schools are limited to 25 per year and USC due to sanctions 15. Well per usual USC cheats as the ongoing appeal process means USC can skirt the rule (although next year they might really be limited as the sanctions would become retroactive). In the meantime one wonders what Lane Kiffin says to these kids
  • Florida State crushed Florida/Miami in the state of Florida. Whether it was the coaching turmoil, Jimbo Fisher, or the new coaches Florida/Miami didn't crack the top 20 for the first time in forever while FSU was consensus top 3.
  • Two teams that were crappy but cleaned up in state (how often do I say recruiting is local) were Texas and Georgia.
  • Notre Dame pulled in a top 10 class and probably more importantly the consensus best defensive line prospects in the country. It obviously remains to be seen if the wins can match the recruiting scores but no drop off without Weis.
Big 10
tOSU dominated the Big 10 with the only school close in terms of recruiting was Nebraska. No other Big 10 cracked the top 25.

Names to Remember
Jeff Driskel - #1 QB in the country heading to Florida
Isiah Crowell - #1 RB in the country heading to Georgia
Curtis Grant #1 LB in the country heading to Ohio State

Jadevon Crowley - #1 Player in the country - currently undecided but probably South Carolina

You Stay Classy San Diego

In honor of tons of snow, temperatures that border on the Hoth levels (Yesterday my Tauntaun coming in to work did not make it past the first outer marker, so I had to stay at Echo Base) and of course National Signing Day,

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Super Bowl Preview: Defeating Mr. Glass

Super Bowl week is a joyous time of the year for every American. It’s a time to eat heavily, drink heavily, and refuse to go to the bathroom during the commercials. It’s also a time of the year, where recently, I’ve enjoyed comparing head coaches to other fictional characters. It started in 2006, with Sgt. Slaughter (Cowher) vs. Colonel Mustard (Mike Holmgren) and continued in 2007 with McDowell’s, the dad from Coming to America (Lovey Smith). In 2008, I pointed out that Bill Belichick is a Sith Lord. In 2009, I just said that Nobody beat the Whiz (Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt) except on Super Bowl Sunday. And in 2010, I realized that Colts- Saints was Good Guy vs. Good guy (at least for me) and was like Hulk Hogan vs. Ultimate Warrior.

Which leads me to the most important question of this week:

When will LB James Harrison wake up and scream out, "What have I done?" and realize that he is in fact a super-villain?
James Harrison has always been a ferocious tackler. Nothing wrong with being intense and tough. HOWEVER, there is something wrong with head-hunting and being so reckless that you are injuring others all of the time with no regard for human life.

In October, things reached a new low, for Harrison, as he victimized two Cleveland Browns players in a span of 5 minutes. After being fined heavily, Harrison threatened retirement because:
"How can I continue to play this game the way that I’ve been taught to play this game since I was 10 years old?” “And now you’re telling me that everything that they’ve taught me from that time on, for the last 20-plus years, is not the way you’re supposed to play the game anymore. If that’s the case, I can’t play by those rules. You’re handicapping me."

If there was ever a closer moment to some innocent person realizing they are in fact evil, I can't think of it. Actually Harrison you're not the one being "handicapped" here, it's the players you are tackling in a dirty manner who have the most danger of being handicapped.

After wracking my brain, I realized who Harrison has become... it's Mr. Glass from Unbreakable. Mr. Glass, played by Samuel L. Jackson, (***SPOILER ALERT) honestly believed he was doing good, by searching for a superhero. Of course, Mr. Glass ended up causing a number of disasters himself and became so enfatuated with his childhood fantasy of finding a superhero.... he didn't realize that he himself had become the supervillain. And just like the end of Unbreakable:
Elijah: "... And then one day I see a news report on a train accident and its sole survivor who was miraculously unharmed. And just like that, an idea blossoms into the flower of possible reality."
"A person they believed was put here to protect the rest of us. Guard us..."

...Now that we know who you are, I know who I am. I'm not a mistake! It all makes sense! In a comic, you know how you can tell who the arch-villain's going to be? He's the exact opposite of the hero. And most times they're friends, like you and me! I should've known way back when..."

Harrison should know too... in that in his efforts to be a great defensive player he has also become the "exact opposite of a hero."

Game Analysis
Pittsburgh - Offense = 14th in yards per game; Defense =2nd in yards per game
Green Bay - Offense = 9th in yards per game; Defense = 5th in yards per game

Similar games - Pittsburgh played New Orleans back in week 8 and lost 10-20. The Steelers were stopped on a goal-line stand and on a 4th-down play in Saints territory. However, the Steelers also gave up a couple of long plays to Saints receivers, which overcame an early turnover by the Saints. The Steelers also lost to New England 26-39. The score was 29-10 with 8 minutes to play before a flurry of scoring by both sides.

For Green Bay, I'm not sure if they really played a team like Pittsburgh. Granted, it's hard for me to compare teams to Pittsburgh. Perhaps the Atlanta Falcons? They lost 17-20 to the Falcons during the season but slaughtered them 48-21 during the postseason.

I think the games by Pittsburgh illustrate one thing that has been true, and was also true during Pittsburgh's Super Bowl season in 2008 (when Polamalu was healthy)... their defense is susceptible to passing teams with great WRs. Hell, the Steelers barely survived against the underdog Cardinals mainly because of WR Larry Fitzgerald. I don't really believe that the Steelers are going to be able to prepare for the size and speed of Greg Jennings... AND the other WRs which are all top-notch. This is probably the best bunch of WRs the Steelers are facing all season.

All in all though, I'm very excited about this Super Bowl. Green Bay may have been the 6th seed, but this has been a fantastic team the last couple of seasons and they are absolutely stacked on both sides of the ball. Obviously, the Steelers are a well-oiled machine. This game can go either way based on a number of different factors, but I believe that the skill of the Green Bay WRs will result in the Packers' victory. Despite my analysis, the people at EA sports ran their simulation on Madden, and sadly Mr. Glass triumphs there.

Final Prediction
Green Bay 24, Steelers 17; Mr. Glass will hopefully not be celebrating this year. I hope Madden is wrong!

Finally, A Plea for Another Federal Holiday (first posted this in 2006)
Finally, I’m still shocked out how no political party in America has begun a campaign to make the day after the Super Bowl a national holiday. Honestly, this has to be one of the least productive days of the year, as most people on the East Coast are either tired, hungover, or have indigestion and bowel problems. You could even just call this day “American New Year’s,” and then not change the year until after the Super Bowl. This would ensure that when someone says “the 2005 Super Bowl” they were referring to Seattle-Pittsburgh and not New England-Philadelphia. This would also reduce the amount of violence in America, because no longer would disagreements occur about which specific year belongs to which specific NFL season.

Last week: 2-0
Playoffs: 6-4 (that sucks, I hope I can nail this super bowl).
Super Bowl prediction record (since 2005): 4-2 (missed the Saints and the Giants)