Sunday, 21 December 2008

Sporting Injuries - To Yourself and Your Career

This post was contributed by Kelly Kilpatrick, who writes on the subject of top sport management colleges. She invites your feedback at kellykilpatrick24 at gmail dot com

There’s nothing that brings on the adrenaline rush like sports does – whether you’re playing or watching, no matter if you’re a sportsman or a fan, you feel a thrill that courses through your blood each time you win, and a devastating numbness that refuses to leave after a loss. Sports can drive men and women crazy – that would explain the fights that take place on and off the field, the head butts and shoves that lead to red cards and fouls, and the fisticuffs and brawls between drunken fans in crowded stadiums.

If there’s one thing worse than losing a match, it’s an injury sustained on the field. At the moment it happens, more than the immediate pain, it’s the fear of never being able to play again that’s in the mind of every sportsperson worth their salt. Some injuries are temporary – they disappear with adequate rest, medication, and physiotherapy. But there are others that, even if treated, ensure that you never play again. And even if you do, you’re never really at the top of your game like you were before.

Anyone passionate about sports is in the same boat, even if they’re not professional players. Doctors and sports clinics will tell you for a fact that the first question you hear after an injury is – When will I be able to play again? No one ever asks the dreaded question – Will I ever be able to play again? It’s always a question of when, as if the possibility of never being able to play just doesn’t exist at all.

Not many athletes and sportspersons are able to bounce back to the same level of performance after an injury, especially one that’s pretty serious. But there are players who are too valuable to be sidelined just because they’re injured. And so the controversies rise when they’re allowed to play on in spite of being injured. Of course, temporary medical relief and painkillers are administered, but then, both the management and the players know that they’re risking serious damage in the long term for a gain in the short term.

But it’s a difficult choice for players to make – they know that injuries can effectively cut short promising careers. And so they’re willing to take the risk, they’re willing to pump themselves full of drugs and play one more match, especially if it’s a world series or any other major event. And when you ask them if they don’t fear a lifelong disability because of this risk, the answer comes as a surprise only if you’re not an ardent sports fan – it’s worse sitting out now than facing a chronic disability at some time in the future. Yes, sports is all about passion, even when it’s at the cost of common sense.

This post was contributed by Kelly Kilpatrick, who writes on the subject of top sport management colleges. She invites your feedback at kellykilpatrick24 at gmail dot com

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Thanksgiving Day College Basketball Thoughts

As everyone prepares to feast on turkey (myself included!), some thoughts on the college basketball season that has been so far:

Some observations of the college basketball season so far as we hit Thanksgiving:

- After watching UNC take out Notre Dame in the championship of the Maui Invitational... hard to see UNC getting too much competition this year in the ACC. That offense is simply dynamite. We obviously know all about Hansbrough... but when Ty Lawson is on his game (as he was against ND, with 22 points and 10 assists), they're almost impossible to slow down. He might be the quickest guy down the court in America.

- Also, props to Kyle McAlarney... 39 points, including 10 threes against the Tar Heels. It takes him roughly 0.2 seconds to get into shooting position. What a quick release, and with all types of range too.

- Blake Griffin was already looking like a good candidate for the top spot in next year's draft... and that was before he went out and is averaging 27 and 19 through 5 games.

- The Big East will be as strong as ever... Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Louisville, and Notre Dame all in the top 10. Plus, Syracuse looks like it'll finally have a say come tournament time. Marquette has a lot of talent. Villanova and Georgetown are both ranked. West Virginia returns a lot. Should be a lot of fun.

- Watch out for Baylor... LaceDarius Dunn is explosive.

- Gonzaga vs. St. Mary's in the WCC might be the most exciting 1-2 race in any conference in America. The Zags are very balanced and talented. They've got about 6 or 7 guys that could legitimately start basically anywhere in America. But St. Mary's has the best player in the conference in Patrick Mills... after a good performance in the Olympics over the summer, he should continue to improve and be a force as a sophomore. And guys like Omar Samhan and Diamon Simpson provide balance down low. It'll be a fun conference race to watch... circle January 29th and February 12th on your calendar.

Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

NBA Opening Day Thoughts

I wasn't actually able to watch any of the games, but my observations based on highlights and box scores:

- Derrick Rose is really good. Obviously we know he's not a great shooter at this point, but when you get 9 assists, and 3 steals as a PG in your first game, you're doing something right. If only Mike D'Antoni had waited and taken the Bulls job instead of New York.

- When Tyrus Thomas came out of college I thought he was a poor man's cross between Shawn Marion and Amare Stoudemire, but he's never really played consistently the first 2 years. So I'm pretty excited to see what he'll do if he gets PT like he did tonight (41 mins). The results were encouraging... 15 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 1 block. And he's still only 22. Crazy. Bulls could be better than everyone thinks.

- Joe Alexander, DNP Coach's Decision. Never good for a top 10 pick. (though maybe there's more to the story that I just don't know about)

- So the Celtics are still really good at defense. And Paul Pierce should probably be considered (if he isn't already) a top 5 NBA player, maybe top 3. But got to be concerned about Ray Allen if you're the Celts... he obviously showed signs of slowing down during the playoff run last year, and while it's only 1 game (against a good defensive team to boot), 8 points on 2/9 shooting in 41 minutes isn't exactly encouraging.

- I guess it's a little early to anoint Portland as a playoff team already. Anyone know why Greg Oden only played 13 minutes?

- As long as Lamar Odom remains content in his role at 6th man (obviously some skepticism here), Lakers certainly look like the team to beat on paper.

What did you notice?

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

NFL Power Rankings - 9/23

With 3 weeks of the NFL season in the books, it's time to look at the best so far... here's my top 10 power rankings in the NFL after 3 games.

1. Dallas Cowboys - Hard to deny that they're the best team in the NFL right now. The offense is extremely explosive and is averaging over 32 PPG. They have wins at Cleveland and Green Bay, and at home against Philly. The defense looked very good on Sunday night, which is a scary thing for other NFC teams.

2. Philadelphia Eagles - After hanging with Dallas in Big D and overpowering Pittsburgh, the Eagles look like legitimate contenders. The health of Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook will always be a concern, along with the fact that they play in the toughest division in the NFL, but the Eagles look like they'll be getting back to the playoffs.

3. Tennessee Titans - If you were going to bet on football, it would have been hard to predict Tennessee as the best team in the AFC, but they've looked good so far, even with backup Kerry Collins. Their running combo of LenDale White and rookie Chris Johnson has been outstanding, and their defense is allowing less than 10 PPG. Vince Young who?

4. New York Giants - The Super Bowl champs are 3-0, but they haven't looked as convincing as some other teams. In particular, they struggled with the winless Bengals, taking things to OT before winning. But Eli Manning looks like he has continued with the improvement shown in last year's playoffs, and they have many threats out of the backfield.

5. Baltimore Ravens - The punishing Ravens D is back, allowing only 20 points in 2 games. The offense has not had any explosion under Joe Flacco, but Ray Lewis has the defense playing at a very high level.

6. Green Bay Packers - Though they succumbed to the Cowboys, they have looked solid so far. Aaron Rodgers has shown he can make all the throws, and is even displaying a nice amount of athleticism. With a young defense, if they can just simply continue to improve the running game, they're the favorites in the NFC North once again.

7. Pittsburgh Steelers - They took a beating from Philly, but they looked like one of the best teams in the League over the first 2 weeks. The line has to do a much, much better job of protecting Big Ben, but if they do, the Steelers have all the pieces in place for a Super Bowl run. They are very good throwing and running the ball, and combine that with a stout defense and solid coaching from Mike Tomlin.

8. Denver Broncos - They're 3-0, but it hasn't been easy. They've gotten some good calls from refs, and the defense has been porous at times, but the offense has carried them. Jay Cutler is looking like a Pro Bowler, and Brandon Marshall is 2nd in the NFL in receptions (behind Reggie Bush) even though he missed one game. They're 3-0 with a date against Kansas City coming up, which looks to spell 4-0.

9. San Diego Chargers - The offense looked pretty darn good on Monday night, racking up 48 against the Jets. They could very easily be 3-0, as they essentially lost their first 2 games on the final play. My money is still on them to win the AFC West.

10. Buffalo Bills - The Bills are just a solid team that doesn't beat itself. They may not be a powerful offense, but Trent Edwards and Marshawn Lynch are both real good players that get the job done. The Bills are 3-0 and look like they might be the class of the AFC East now that Tom Brady is gone.

What are your thoughts?

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Giants/Redskins Pick

Not sure if I'll have time to do my picks against the spread this year, but I'll try. And with the season opener tonight, I'll give my pick here for the defending champion Giants taking on the Washington Redskins.

I'll take the Redskins (+4.5).

Of course, if you'll remember how my picks last year went (when I was under .500), you definitely won't want to put any stock into the picks. But it's fun to try.

I like Jason Campbell to take another step forward for the Skins this year, helping lead the Skins. If Clinton Portis can stay healthy again, he's a top 10 back. Plus, I'm not sold on the Giants this year... obviously Eli has taken a step forward, but can he do it on a consistent basis? Will Plaxico be focused every week after the Super Bowl win? Can Brandon Jacobs stay healthy? Can the defense play as well as they did at the end of last year? Lots of questions.

Giants 20, Redskins 17.

Friday, 1 August 2008

Mini Ballpark Tour

Well guys, I'll be off this week touring some ballparks in the Midwest and just generally having a good time. I'll be going to these games:

Monday, August 4 - Boston @ Kansas City
Tuesday, August 5 - Los Angeles @ St. Louis
Wednesday, August 6 - Houston @ Chicago Cubs
Thursday, August 7 - Detroit @ Chicago White Sox
Friday, August 8 - Washington @ Milwaukee

Should be amazing fun! I'll update when I'm back!

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Fantasy Football Rankings: Quarterback

I just had my first draft a couple of days ago, and I've got a couple more in the next week, so with me compiling my personal fantasy football rankings, I figured it would be good to post them here. Not to sound vain, but I've had success in the past with fantasy football. But like the stock market, past performance does not guarantee future returns, so take these rankings for what they're worth.

1. Tom Brady
Duh. Maybe he can't match last year's numbers (right?), but all of the main weapons are still in place, meaning more big numbers for Brady.
2. Peyton Manning
3. Tony Romo
4. Drew Brees
Add in Jeremy Shockey and a healthy Robert Meachem, and the passing game should be even more dangerous. The Saints threw the ball more than anyone else last year, and while they might try to be a little more balanced this time around, Brees will have the ball in his hands quite often.
5. Carson Palmer
6. Ben Roethlisberger
7. Derek Anderson
Continued pressure from Brady Quinn will force Anderson to play at a high level. It doesn't hurt that the Browns added big play guy Donte' Stallworth to receiving threats Kellen Winslow and Braylon Edwards. The Browns are a trendy pick in the AFC North - the passing game is the reason why.
8. Matt Hasselbeck
9. Jay Cutler
Physically, he's one of the most gifted QBs in the game. If a second receiver can step up, he can potentially be a top 5 QB.
10. Donovan McNabb
11. Marc Bulger
12. David Garrard
Has a lower ceiling than some guys below him, but also a lower floor. You know what you get with him... he'll make some plays, take care of the ball, and get you a TD or two a game.
13. Eli Manning
14. Matt Schaub
15. Jake Delhomme
Reports are that he's healthy, and he put up pretty good numbers last year when that was the case. Top threat Steve Smith is still there, and that makes Delhomme a legitimate threat as long as he's healthy.
16. Philip Rivers
17. Aaron Rodgers
Pressure will be on, but having good receivers helps. And Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, James Jones, and Jordy Nelson is a pretty nice top 4.
18. Jason Campbell
19. Jon Kitna
20. Matt Leinart
Looks like he's the starter. For now.
21. Vince Young
22. Tarvaris Jackson
23. Jeff Garcia
24. Alex Smith
If he gets the starting nod and if he grasps Mike Martz' offense, he could be a legitimate fantasy threat. But I'm not holding my breath.
25. JaMarcus Russell
26. Trent Edwards
27. Kurt Warner
We know what he can do. If he plays.
28. Rex Grossman
29. Shaun Hill
30. Brodie Croyle
There is something to be said about being the undisputed starter, I guess. But still, if you're in any type of position where you need to rely on Brodie, my condolences.

Your thoughts? What do your rankings at the top look like?

Monday, 7 July 2008

My American League All-Star Picks

With the midseason break approaching, time to give my picks for the American League All-Star team starters.

Joe Mauer
(MIN) - Mauer is the real easy choice here. He currently sits 2nd in the AL in batting average, he's showed his usual great plate patience (.410 OBP is also second in the AL), and he's been a solid doubles hitter. We're still waiting for the homerun power to come on a semi-consistent basis, but he's still indisputably the best catcher in the AL.
Other Options: Dioner Navarro (TB)
Actual Pick: Joe Mauer

First Base
Kevin Youkilis (BOS) - I feel much less sure on this one... Jason Giambi has been a better hitter, but he has a lot less ABs and less value in the field. Youkilis has been a little better hitter than Justin Morneau, but Morneau has almost 40 more PAs. In the end, Youkilis is my choice... he's been his typical self getting on base at a .375 clip, and he's hitting for good power this year, with 13 HR and 22 2B. Plus, as always, he plays solid defense at 1B.
Other Options: Justin Morneau (MIN), Jason Giambi (NYY)
Actual Pick: Kevin Youkilis

Second Base
Ian Kinsler (TEX) - Again, a pretty easy choice here. Of all regular 2B in the AL, Kinsler has the highest average, gets on base the most, and has hit for (easily) the most power. He's even stolen 23 bases while only getting thrown out once. Brian Roberts has been very good as well, but Kinsler is hitting for a lot more power and stealing bases more effectively.
Other Options: Brian Roberts (BAL)
Actual Pick: Dustin Pedroia (BOS)

Third Base
Alex Rodriguez (NYY) - No surprise that A-Rod is once again the best 3B in the AL. The man in a machine, and continues to be one of (if not the) top all-around players in the MLB. He's in the top 6 in lots of major offensive categories, including #2 in OPS.
Other Options: Mike Lowell (BOS), Evan Longoria (TB)
Actual Pick: Alex Rodriguez

Michael Young (TEX) - Honestly, not a lot of inspiring choices for AL SS. I think Young has probably been the best of a pretty mediocre bunch of AL SS's this year.
Other Options: Derek Jeter (NYY), Jhonny Peralta (CLE)
Actual Pick: Derek Jeter (NYY)

Grady Sizemore (CLE) - Sizemore continues to be one of the best all-around players in the MLB, despite playing for an underachieving Indians team. Sizemore's average is down a bit this year, but he is still working the count to get on base, and is leading the AL in HR as of this writing. He combines that with good defense in CF, and 20 SB (only caught 3 times). Sizemore does it all on the baseball field.

Josh Hamilton (TEX) - Hamilton is one of the best stories in the MLB, and he's made it even better by becoming one of the most dangerous hitters in the AL. He's hitting for average (top 10 in AL) and power (2nd in HR, top 5 in SLG), and is far and away leading the AL in RBI with 85 as of this writing. His numbers are skewed a bit because of the ballpark he plays in (his home/road splits are pretty ugly), but he's still my choice.

JD Drew (BOS) - Drew is playing like he finally deserves that big contract, as he's been one of the best hitters in the AL so far this year. His OPS easily is tops among AL OFs with enough ABs to qualify. He's 3rd in the League in SLG, and he's getting on base at an excellent clip, also 3rd in the American League.

Other Options: Carlos Quentin (CHI), Jermaine Dye (CHI), Nick Markakis (BAL)
Actual Picks: Josh Hamilton, Manny Ramirez (BOS), Ichiro Suzuki (SEA)

Designated Hitter
Milton Bradley (TEX) - No contest here whatsoever. Bradley has likely been the best hitter in the American League so far this season, and is definitely far and away above the other DH candidates. If you were going to bet on baseball, what were the odds you could have gotten if you would have picked Milton Bradley to be leading the AL in OPS at the midway point?
Actual Pick: David Ortiz (BOS)

What would your picks be?

Friday, 4 July 2008

Happy 4th of July!

Yay for America!

Hope you have a relaxing and enjoyable holiday!

Thursday, 26 June 2008

NBA Draft Reactions

A hodgpodge of thoughts following one of the best sports night of the year - NBA Draft night.

Best value picks:
- Jerryd Bayless (11) - Had top 5 talent, but slides to 11, and will join an already talented cast of Portland Trailblazers. He can eventually be paired with Brandon Roy in the backcourt... neither guy is probably a natural PG, but both are good enough ballhandlers and passers to run the offense.

- Courtney Lee (22) - I like Lee quite a bit. He's an unselfish player who should in seamlessly with Orlando's Big 3. Playing the 2 spot, he's a lot more athletic than holdover Keith Bogans, and he still maintains 3-point range. He's also better than Bogans creating his own shot off the dribble. Just a really nice pick for a really solid player.

- Kosta Koufos (23) - He's not NBA ready yet, but at 23, he's a talented player to get. Also, he's white, so he should fit well in Utah.

- Mario Chalmers (34) - Chalmers was too good of a player to slip this far. Solid defensively, good outside shooter, unselfish with the basketball... perfect addition to a team with Wade-Marion-Beasley.

- DeAndre Jordan (35) - Not that I love Jordan's game (I actually have serious doubts as to whether he'll ever be a consistently productive player), but at 35, it's a good risk to take for the Clippers. He's got the athleticism and rebounding ability to be a very good player if he can develop some type of offensive game.

Worst value picks:
- DJ Augustin (9) - I was a little confused about this pick for the Bobcats. For one, I'm not huge on Augustin... he's small, doesn't have the quickness of a top-flight PG, and is a bit of a liability on the defensive end. But is he really going to be better than Raymond Felton? And doesn't Brook Lopez fit a big need there?

- Anthony Randolph (14) - Randolph is similar to Brandan Wright, who the Warriors got in the draft last year. What are they going to do with 2 raw, athletic PFs?

- Javale McGee (18) - Speaking of raw... he's a long ways away, and I think a guy like DeAndre Jordan might be a little better risk if you're going for the upside pick. But there were more proven 4 men like Kosta Koufos and Darrell Arthur on the board, both of which seem like they would have made more sense.

- Sonny Weems (39) - It's hard to have too many qualms about a mid 2nd round pick (same goes for Ewing next), but I was a little perplexed by this choice. Weems is freaky athletic, but with the addition of Rose to a backcourt already featuring Ben Gordon, Kirk Hinrich, Larry Hughes, and Thabo Sefalosha, I think a big man would have been a better choice. Or if they were going to go this position, Chris Douglas-Roberts was still on the board.

- Patrick Ewing (43) - Ewing is big and pretty athletic, but he doesn't really have any discernible NBA skill. Ewing was a decent 6th man as a senior in college... how does that translate to the #43 pick?

Monday, 16 June 2008

MLB Power Rankings

Here is how I see the top 10 in the MLB as of June 17th... feel free to disagree, as this is what I believe is referred to as an inexact science.

1. Chicago Cubs - No real question about this in my mind. The Cubs are 2nd in the Majors in runs and 4th in the Majors in ERA. This means that their pythegorean record is even better than their Major League best 45-25 mark, which means this hot start is probably not a fluke. We'll see if they keep this pace up even with Soriano on the shelf, but so far they appear to be very legit.

2. Boston Red Sox - The Sox have a blistering 28-7 record at home, but they're only 16-22 on the road. They're also dealing with an injury to an offensive star, as David Ortiz continues to mend. But JD Drew has actually looked like an $11 million/year player of late, meaning the offense has barely missed a beat.

3. Philadelphia Phillies - Led by strong MVP candidate Chase Utley (and don't look now, but Pat Burrell has been awesome this year), the Phillies look like the 2nd best team in the NL right now. Cole Hamels is keeping the rotation together, and the pen is led by Brad Lidge, who has decided to be a great (great) closer again. The Phils actually have the 2nd best pythagorean record in the MLB.

4. Chicago White Sox - Guys like Carlos Quentin and Alexei Ramirez might lead you to think that hitting has been the main reason for the Sox becoming relevant once again, but pitching has actually been the reason. Their 3.33 ERA is tops in the Majors, and they have been solid from 1-5 in the rotation, most surprisingly with John Danks and Gavin Floyd.

5. Oakland Athletics - The A's were supposed to be rebuilding, but they're 38-31, and the run differential suggests they should be even better than that. They're not ripping it up at the plate, but their 3.34 is just barely behind the White Sox for best in the MLB. If Rich Harden stays healthy (a huge if), the A's have one of the most formidable rotations in the MLB.

6. LA Angels - The Angels lead the AL West, but part of that reason is a little bit of abnormal success in close games, as shown through K-Rod's MLB leading 28 saves. They're in the bottom 3rd of the MLB in runs, however, and they'll need Vladimir Guerrero to start picking it up if they're going to continue at this pace.

7. St. Louis Cardinals - Even with Pujols injured, they're sticking in there with guys like Ryan Ludwick, who's improbably been one of the best hitters in the NL this season. Unfortunately, things haven't gotten easier, with Adam Wainwright on the DL and Todd Wellemeyer undergoing problems recently. Dave Duncan needs to keep pulling rabbits out of his hat.

8. Tampa Bay Rays - One of the feel good stories of the season, the Rays are 11 games above the .500 mark and having the best season so far of their existence. While BJ Upton and Carl Crawford are some of the first guys that come to mind, this has been the result of pitching from Scott Kazmir, Matt Garza, and James Shields. Kazmir missed the start of the year because of injury, but he might still be a Cy Young candidate - in 8 starts he has 6 wins, a 1.74 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, and 9.41 K/9.

9. Arizona Diamondbacks - The DBacks aren't doing anything special, but they have a large lead over the rest of the West, which has been really bad. Some might consider Justin Upton a disappointment a little for his low BA, but his peripheral numbers look pretty excellent for a 20 year old. He's going to be studly.

10. New York Yankees - The Yankees are just hanging around, like they usually do. The pitching was already mediocre, and that won't be helped by the injury of Wang. The Yankees do have to be pleased with the resurgence of Jason Giambi, who is a power threat once again.

What changes would you make?

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Home Run Derby Promotion

State Farm and Major League Baseball have partnered to launch the Call Your Shot consumer promotion taking place the State Farm Home Run Derby. Here's how the promotion works: Fans can enter the promotion daily through June 24 at The grand prize winner of Call Your Shot will win:

- All-expense paid trip for four to the All-Star Game and State Farm Home Run Derby
- First class hotel accommodations in New York
- Tickets to a Broadway show
- $1,000 MasterCard gift card

The grand prize winner will also get the chance to pick a spot where two of the Home Run Derby players must compete to try to hit a ball to. If the first player hits the ball to the called spot, the promotion ends. If either player succeeds, the fan receives a 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe hybrid vehicle and a 2009 season-ticket package for any team.

Additionally, 10 fans will win first place prizes consisting of a $300 gift card and 25 second prize winners will receive $100 gift cards.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Celtics Survive Game 2

Wow. First off, obviously I did not see the Celtics being up 2-0 coming. If I had bet on the NBA Finals, I would be in bad shape right now. Fortunately, I stick to just talking about the games. And after being a bit of a bore for most of the game, the Lakers made things interesting before succumbing the Boston. I was actually going to stop watching without about 8 minutes to go, but with the effort that the Lakers were still exerting (even down 24) I decided to stick around, and almost witnesses something awesome. Obviously I had no inkling that LA would eventually make it a 2 point game, but it goes to their credit that they continued to exert maximum effort. But the result of all of it is that Boston leads 2-0.

How have they done it? Well, obviously defense has been huge. Up until the 4th quarter of Game 2, they had frustrated Kobe Bryant just like they did in the regular season, and nobody else was really picking up the slack. But then again, we knew going on that the Celtics were the best defensive team in the NBA, and their help defense was great. The big reason that Boston is up 2-0 and in control of the series is because they have been so good offensively, which is what I did not expect.

Boston shot 53% in Game 2 and got to the foul line 38 times. Those are winning numbers. For as bad as they looked against Cleveland offensively, they have turned things around quite nicely. They are getting out and picking up the tempo (which we thought the Lakers would be doing), and Rondo is running the break like a seasoned pro. Rondo considers to be extraordinarily effective considering he does not have a jumpshot. 16 assists, 6 rebounds, and constant solid defense? That's more than enough to make up for only 4 points on 1-4 shooting.

The other big thing for the Celtics was the play of the bigs of the bench. Once again, PJ Brown was just solid. He knows his role and his game so well... hit open midrange jumpers, and always be in the right place defensively. He's been monumental for Boston. The reason Boston is so great defensively is because of their help defense, and Brown is the epitome of that. He's always in the right position to help on guys driving to the hoop, or to take charges. Then, of course, there is Leon Powe. His aggressiveness on the offensive end was big in the first half, when the Lakers jumped out to a quick start. Just taking a look at his numbers - 21 points in 15 minutes. Leon Powe might never play a better game in his life.

For the Lakers, they have to figure out how to slow Boston down, and to decrease the disparity in free throw attempts. As noted, Boston took 38 compared to LA's 10. It doesn't take a basketball mastermind to know that you're not going to win a lot of games with a 28 free throw attempt difference. The easy answer is to say that LA needs to be more aggressive and take it to the hoop more, but Boston's defense makes that a tough proposition.

Obviously I have to stick with my prediction of LA to win the series, but it goes without saying that Game 3 is a must-win for the Lakers. At home, with the momentum of a near comeback, they need to get out to a good start in game 3 and exert control over things in LA.

Just a final note, and I know that the refs not calling traveling is a bit of a running joke in the NBA, but come on, how do you not call that travel by Vladimir Radmanovic on the fast break dunk that cut the lead to 104-100? I actually really don't have a problem with them letting borderline travels go, but Vlad Rad's travel there was rather egregious, and on a fast break to boot. It definitely helped the entertainment factor that nothing was called, but he blatantly travelled on a fast break. Got to be called.

Final final note, but Jeff Van Gundy making fun of Mark Jackson for comparing Leon Powe to Dr. J was the highlight of the game for me in terms of the announcers. I had a good laugh. Bravo Jeff Van Gundy.

Monday, 2 June 2008

2008 NBA Finals Prediction

Time to give my prediction for the NBA Finals between the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers!

While both teams are pretty evenly matched, I like Los Angeles to win this series based on the matchup advantages they have. First, Boston has nobody really to match up with Kobe Bryant. Paul Pierce has done a very good job defensively this postseason, but he is simply not the player that Kobe Bryant is. Look for Bryant to exert himself, especially late and in close games, which is a huge edge in their favor. In so many of these closely-matched series', the team that has the best player wins, and Kobe Bryant is the best player in this series.

Up front, I think LA has the edge with their athleticism. While Kevin Garnett can match up well with either Lamar Odom or Pau Gasol, I think it will be much tougher for Kendrick Perkins to match up with them. They are both athletic big men that can get up and down the court. Plus, they are both skilled with the basketball, and I'm not sure how effective of a defender Perkins is 15 feet from the basket. I look for LA to exploit that.

Lastly, the Lakers have a huge coaching edge. Phil Jackson is one of the best coaches of all-time, looking for his NBA record 10th Title. Doc Rivers was on the chopping block as recently as the end of last season, as many Celtics fans openly pined for his firing. Look for Jackson to exploit the Lakers advantages. So I think the Lakers will be victorious in this game. I like the teams to split the first 2 in Boston, and the Lakers to take the next 3 at home.

Lakers in 5.

What's your pick?

Friday, 23 May 2008

2008 NBA Mock Draft

Here is my first edition of a mock draft for 2008!

1. Chicago Bulls - Derrick Rose (Memphis)
Beasley seems to be a better fit, as the Bulls need a low-post scorer, but I simply think Derrick Rose is the better player. He's unstoppable in the open court, and if he ever develops a consistent jumpshot, he looks like a stronger version of Chris Paul (without quite the passing ability). Plus, John Paxson always emphasizes defense, and Derrick Rose has a much higher ceiling as a defender than Michael Beasley.

2. Miami Heat - Michael Beasley (Kansas St.)
Rose is the guy they really want, but Beasley sure is a nice consolation. He's NBA ready both on the offensive end and rebounding the basketball, and should be able to step into a lineup right away. Beasley will have his struggles on the offensive end, but a trio of Wade-Marion-Beasley would be a real good start in Miami.

3. Minnesota Timberwolves - Brook Lopez (Stanford)
With Lopez, the Timberwolves would be setting themselves up to have one of the best offensive frontlines in the NBA. They already have improving Al Jefferson, and Brook Lopez has great touch around the basket. Lopez does not have great athleticism, but he's big and is refined in his post moves around the basket. That could warrant a top 3 pick.

4. Seattle Supersonics - Jerryd Bayless (Arizona)
Seattle already had a nice core from last year's draft, and Bayless would be another great piece. He's a PG in the mold of a guy like Gilbert Arenas, in that he is really quick off the dribble and is a deadeye shooter. He is 19 and Kevin Durant is 20, so that would be a potent 1-2 combo for years.

5. Memphis Grizzlies - OJ Mayo (USC)
The Grizzlies could go with a big man here, but I like them to go with an off guard in OJ Mayo to create an immensely talented young backcourt, teaming him up with Mike Conley (and then ideally dealing Javaris Crittenton or Kyle Lowry). Mayo has great range on his shot (which makes him a good complement to Conley), but can also score off the dribble, and showed surprising leadership ability in his one year with USC.

6. New York Knicks - Danilo Gallinari (Italy)
According to reports, Gallinari is a 6'10'' forward with PG skills. He can handle the ball, create his own shot (either off the drive or with his back to the basket), hit from 3-point range, and he's a good passer. Sounds like a perfect fit for D'Antoni's system.

7. Los Angeles Clippers - Russell Westbrook (UCLA)
With the PG position unsettled in LA, Westbrook is a nice fit to stay in town and join the Clippers. While he hasn't played full-time at PG very much, he showed he has the skills to do it last year. He's solid handling the ball, he's a very good passer, and he has the athleticism required. He's very tough defensively both on the ball and in the passing lanes. He needs to develop a more consistent jump shot, but that was coming along as the year went. With his athleticism, he is great on the fast break.

8. Milwaukee Bucks - Eric Gordon (Indiana)
Gordon is a great scoring combo guard. With Gordon, the Bucks could look to unload Michael Redd and his large contract. Gordon can score in a variety of ways, as he showed by leading the Big 10 in scoring as a freshman.

9. Charlotte Bobcats - Anthony Randolph (LSU)
Looking for more athleticism, the Bobcats can look to young, but very talented and athletic Randolph. He's in the mold of a Brandan Wright from last year in that he needs to bulk up and improve his midrange game, but he appears to have the talent to do that. He averaged over 15 and 8 in his rookie campaign, and with over 2 blocks per game, showed that his athleticism can allow him to do some things defensively.

10. New Jersey Nets - Kevin Love (UCLA)
With athleticism all around, the Nets can take Love, who provides an NBA ready, polished game. He'll never be a star because of his athletic limitations, but he's an extremely intelligent player, great passer, rebounder, and showed a nice jumpshot last season.

11. Indiana Pacers - DJ Augustin (Texas)
The Pacers are really pretty bad at PG, so Augustin is the natural pick here. He's not the most athletic PG in the draft, but he's quick enough. He is crafty enough to get his own shot, he's a very good shooter, and he can get them into their offense and get playmakers the ball (as he showed when he played Kevin Durant). This seems like a logical pick for Indiana if Augustin is still on the board.

12. Sacramento Kings - DeAndre Jordan (Texas A&M)
Jordan is extremely raw, but his athletic ability is too much to pass up. He has a long way to go, as he showed by not having a huge impact in his year at College Station (8 PPG, 6 RPG), but with his great ability, he projects to be a solid scorer, excellent rebounder and shot blocker.

13. Portland Trailblazers - Joe Alexander (West Virginia)
With the Blazers looking to make a run at the playoffs next season, Alexander is a guy that could come in and give them quality minutes right away. He's not very good defensively, but he has an advanced offensive game and can score in a variety of ways. He's sneakily athletic, has a great jump shot with lots of range, and showed he can carry a team for stretches.

14. Golden State Warriors - Donte Greene (Syracuse)
Greene looks like a great fit for Nellie ball. He's a 3/4 combo guy that can stretch the floor with his outside shot. He's great in the midrange, and shot nearly 35% from downtown in his one season for the Orange. He looks like he could develop into a very solid rebounder with his athleticism and leaping ability, as he averaged over 7 per game. He might not be ready to play a lot of minutes right away, but he should be able to contribute some with his varied skills.

What are your thoughts? What would you change around?

Monday, 19 May 2008

NBA Conference Finals Predictions

We're down to the final four teams in the NBA playoffs, and we have some relatively power matchups. Let's cut out the pretext and just get to the predictions.


With Boston and Detroit, we have to the two teams that have been a cut above the rest of the conference all season long. Detroit, of course, are veterans at this Conference Finals thing, having been here for the last 5 seasons. Boston is coming off of a season in which they won 24 games and replaced 60% of their starters, so they're not quite so experienced with the Conference Finals. But no matter, as Boston is the favorite heading into the series.

But there has been a big development for Boston which makes them appear a lot more vulnerable than they looked in the regular season... Ray Allen got really old, really fast. He was a virtual non-factor against Cleveland, even sitting out for the majority of the 4th quarter of Game 7. He wasn't hitting shots, he wasn't getting open looks consistently, and he could not create his own shot. Without him, does Boston have the offense to get past Detroit? Especially with defensive stalwart Tayshaun Prince guarding Paul Pierce?

I do think the importance of Rajon Rondo will be magnified in this series. Against Cleveland, his defensive skills were not as important, because the Cavs obviously do not have a great offensive PG. However, Rondo will be asked to slow down Chauncey Billups, and his success or failure will be a large determinant of this series. As it stands, I'll go with the more talented Billups, and ergo, the Pistons. The Boston that I watched struggle to handle Cleveland does not have the offensive firepower to hang with Detroit.



We have two legitimately great teams in this series, with the Lakers taking on the Spurs. The Lakers have been the most impressive team in the postseason so far, dispatching the Nuggets in 4 and the Jazz in 6. Meanwhile, the Spurs impressively beat Phoenix in 5 games before outlasting the Hornets in 7.

Both teams are extremely well-coached, fundamentally sound, and talented. That's usually means we should have a pretty nice series on our hands. I would guess that Bruce Bowen will start on Kobe Bryant, which will be the key matchup in the series. Though the Lakers certainly have other options on the floor, they still look to Kobe to get the offense going, both with his scoring and drawing of defenders.

When the Spurs have the ball, the key matchup will be how Derek Fisher guards Tony Parker. The Spurs obviously have Duncan and Ginobili, but the key to the offense is Tony Parker hitting his 18-footers. When Parker is hitting the jumpshot (predominately off of the pick & roll and kickouts from Duncan), the Spurs become very, very difficult to stop.

This should be a classic series between two great teams. In this case, I'll go with the proven commodity... seems like the Spurs are on a mission.


What are your thoughts?

Monday, 12 May 2008

"With no regard for human life!"

Thank you Kevin Harlan. I love that PBP call.

Anyway, Cavs tied the series up 2-2. My first question... the Celtics won 66 games this year? Really? For the second straight game, Boston just looked absolutely abominable offensively, with no flow, and nobody stepping up and making shots. They shot just 38.6% for the game, and only 3/14 from downtown.

None of the big 3 look like they're able to take over a game offensively... KG is far too passive, Paul Pierce has struggled, and Ray Allen continues to be almost a non-factor in this series (other than 1 quarter in this game). The difference between those guys and LeBron is that even when LeBron isn't shooting well, he is still such an incredible passer that he gets tons of open looks for other guys. Boston's three stars don't do that. So while James was again awful shooting the ball, his 13 assists were enough to propel Cleveland into a series-tying victory.

This series should also have put to rest any doubt in the Kevin Garnett vs. Tim Duncan debate. Both great players, but Duncan is a different player in the playoffs and in the 4th quarter. I know the supporting casts over their careers have been vastly different, but change them up and I don't think Garnett would have 4 rings.

As we have seen in the playoffs, home court has been huge, and as Charles Barkley has been saying, things go from game to game... so it will be interesting to see if Boston can get some offensive flow again back in Boston.

Thursday, 1 May 2008

The impact of Jared Allen

My life was super busy around draft time, so I never really got a chance to comment on any of the happenings (much thanks to Steve F. for his excellent post on the draft)... plus, since the Vikings didn't have a first-round choice, I didn't feel as strong of a need to comment on things.

However, I'm quite ok with the Vikings not having a first-round pick, since it allowed them to acquire the NFL's sack leader in 2007, shoring up their biggest defensive weakness, which is consistently getting to the QB with the Front 4.

For the past couple of seasons, the Vikings have had a lot of trouble stopping the pass. When people hear that, they generally assume that this is because of a porous secondary. Not that the Vikings secondary is all-world, but I never really saw that as the main reason. In my mind, there are two big reasons why they have struggled so much against the pass:

- They were so dominant against the run that people just didn't try. This is fairly obvious and has been beaten to death, but a couple of years ago, the Patriots came into the Metrodome for a Sunday night game, and they came out and literally threw the ball on about their first 20 offensive plays. This sorta provided the blueprint, and teams have simply been following it ever since.

- They could never have a consistent pass rush on the Line. Pat Williams is a man against the run, but he's not going to be putting consistent pressure on the QB. Kevin Williams is great, but facing constant double teams on the inside. Which should have, in theory, left lots of room for the DEs to operate, but it didn't always work that way. The hodgepodge of guys like Brian Robison, Ray Edwards, Kenechi Udeze, Darrion Scott, etc. are all average at best (at least, at this point in their careers) at getting to the QB. Even with 1-on-1 matchups, there was never a consistent rush of any type for the front 4. Which means 1 of 2 things happened: either the Vikings had to bring pressure from the LBs which opened things up in the passing game, or the secondary had to cover guys for a really long time. Neither is optimal.

So, of course, it's not hard to see how much of an impact Jared Allen will bring to the Vikings defense. He's one of (if not the) best pass rushers in the NFL, and he's not going to slow down the run defense either. Offensive teams will have a real tough time figuring out how to block the Vikings Line... they'll feature 3 All-Pros... 3 guys that could legitimately get double teamed if they weren't playing with the other two. On the opposite side, Ray Edwards and Brian Robison both seem to be developing into solid pass rushers, and should benefit from the increased attention that teams will have to pay Jared Allen.

So with Allen the Vikings should continue to be dominant against the run while improving them greatly against the pass. His pressure off the edge will keep QBs up at night, and it will hide any problems in the secondary because they won't have to cover as long.

For years, the Vikings have been searching for a dominant pass rushing DE, expending first round pick after first round pick on them. Now, it appears as if they finally have their man in Jared Allen. With his past, it's certainly a risk. The financial commitment is large. But when you look at his potential impact on the defense and on the franchise, giving up only a first round pick and 2 third rounders seems like a bargain.

Watching this video, I have only one thought... is it football season yet?

Wednesday, 30 April 2008

The 5 Best Second Day Picks. Plus, Random Draft Thoughts

With the 2008 NFL Draft in the books, I would be remiss if I didn't offer up some thoughts from one of my favorite sporting events of the year.

1. People saying that the Kansas City Chiefs are the big winners is like saying the 1927 Yankees were OK at baseball. But of course they were going to be, they had the 5th pick and they got 17 from the Vikings, plus a pair of 3rd rounders. In order for them to mess up this draft they would have had to be absolutely dumb.

2. Kudos to the Baltimore Ravens. As soon as Matt Ryan came off the board the Ravens identified that they wanted Joe Flacco, and then correctly determined they could trade down and still get their guy. Give huge credit to Ozzie Newsome for getting two extra mid rounders and still grabbing who I think will end up being the best QB out of this draft.

3. On the flip side the Carolina Panthers gave up everything but the farm in order to move up to draft Jeff Otah. Otah had better be a perennial pro bowler, because not only did Carolina give up a lot this year, they gave up next year's first rounder. The future is now in Charlotte, or it had better be.

Alright, on to the top 5 second day picks / undrafted free agents: (In no particular order)

1. Owen Schmitt, FB, 163 overall to Seattle
Maybe the fiercest competitor in all of college football this past season, Schmitt could perhaps be best known for this. But in addition to that Schmitt is a tremendous blocker who will clear the path for whomever Seattle has getting the majority of the carries this season, presumably Julius Jones. Schmitt also will be able to catch the ball out of the backfield.

2. John David Booty, QB, 137 overall to Minnesota
Vikings fans everywhere cheered when the Booty pick was announced. It's been said that Booty will be watching the 2008 season, but in my opinion if Tarvaris Jackson is struggling, Booty needs to be in there by week 5 at the latest. The Vikings have the best running back in football, the number one run defense, and a should-be improved pass defense. All they are missing is competent quarterback play. Booty is perhaps the most accurate passer of this draft class, and since the Vikings run a west coast offense, his lack of arm strength isn't a huge concern.

3. Marcus Henry, WR, 171 overall to NY Jets
Henry amassed over 1,000 receiving yards in his senior season at Kansas. Some of that is due to the pass happy offense the Jayhawks employ, but a lot of it has to do with Henry's talent. At just a shade under 6'4", Henry should be a force on jump balls, and though he is listed as a 4.5 40 yard dash, Henry repeatedly ran away from corners and safeties this year. I see Henry eventually becoming a very good third receiver, and possibly a starter in the NFL.

4. Mike Dragosavich, P, Undrafted to New England
Yes, a punter. Field position is important, and this allows the Patriots to get good punting for the league minimum. The Pats are the best team in football at saving money wherever they can, and this is no different. Had he qualified, Dragosavich would have led D-1AA the past three seasons in punting. He has a booming leg.

5. Caleb Campbell,S, 218 overall to Detroit
A great story who was profiled on Sunday, Campbell only runs a 4.57, a little slow for a safety. However, he is tough and hard nosed, and should be able to contribute on special teams right away, and in time could be an outside linebacker who is adept at stopping the run. The former Army Black Knight now can focus on playing football, rather than risking his life overseas. A huge standing ovation goes out from me both to Campbell and to the Detroit Lions.

Coming this weekend will be a post on a perhaps controversial topic (although not on the whole Bob Costas HBO thingy, you can check every other website in existence for that), but first, what are your NFL Draft thoughts?

Thursday, 24 April 2008

I love Inside the NBA

From last night's postgame... Kenny Smith trying to copy Kobe and jump over a moving car. This is hilarious.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

NBA Eastern Conference Playoff Predictions

With what should be a great playoff season just about upon us, it's time to prognosticate, undoubtedly ending in horrible shame at my ignorance. But that's ok.

(1) Boston Celtics vs. (8) Atlanta Hawks
It's going to be strange to see the Hawks back in the playoffs, although I don't foresee their stay being too lengthy. The Hawks have talent and athleticism, but they're no match for the Celtics. The Celtics should be able to smother the Hawks defensively, leading to a quick, decisive victory.

(2) Detroit Pistons vs. (7) Philadelphia 76ers
The Sixers are a great story and I'll be rooting for them, but it's difficult seeing them match up with the Pistons in a 7-game series. The Pistons are a bit too strong defensively and efficient offensively. The Sixers have played about as well as anyone over the past couple of months, but Detroit in the playoffs is a completely different animal.

(3) Orlando Magic vs. (6) Toronto Raptors
I like the Raptors in an upset pick. I'm not sure the Magic and their players are really familiar being in this position, as a favorite in the playoffs. It will be interesting to see how they handle it. The Raptors don't really have anyone to match up with Dwight Howard, but then the Magic don't have a good matchup for Chris Bosh. This should be a highly entertaining series.

(4) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (5) Washington Wizards
These clubs will meet up for the 3rd straight season, but this year should be a lot better than last. Now that the Wizards are healthy, they're a very dangerous club capable of putting up lots of points on the board. Meanwhile, the Cavs have the best player in the world. In round 1, I think LeBron wills his team to victory... as long as the game is close at the end, LeBron will win it for the Cavs.

What are your thoughts on round 1 of the East?

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Early Season MLB Surprises and Disappointments

With the MLB season being 1/16 over, of course it's time to grossly exaggerate what has happened so far.


Livan Hernandez, RHP, Twins- I and humans everywhere scoffed at the Twins throwing multi million dollars at Livan Hernandez, but so far at least it has worked out. Livan is 3-0, but more importantly he has a 2.57 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP. If the Twins play Adam Everett and Matt Tolbert in the middle infield spots it should boost their defense and help out Livan and more importantly the rest of that young staff.

Brian Bannister, RHP, Royals- I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised, but I didn't totally believe Bannister's 2007. He had a good year, but only 77 strikeouts. What's surprising is that Bannister doesn't quite put up the stats that should endear him to the sabermetric community, and more so, he understands why. The fact that Bannister is familiar with things like DIPS should only make him be a better pitcher and improve even more.

San Francisco Giants- Yes I realize they're 6-10 only. Yes I realize it's April 16, but if the Giants put up this good of a record over a whole season I'll be very impressed. Honestly, they are horrible. Take a look around their roster once. Bengie Molina hits cleanup? Brian Bocock plays short? Brian Bocock put up a robust .220/.293/.328 in the California League, probably the best offensive league in minor league baseball, which equates out to a -25.9 VORP. And outside of Angel Villalona, who is only 17, there isn't any help coming from any younger kids either, unless Dan Ortmeier tickles your fancy. The only thing keeping them going is the duo of Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum. And with the way he's pitching and the way the offense is going, Matt Cain is my odds on favorite to lead the NL in ERA and losses, if you can bet on such a thing.


Russ Martin, C, Dodgers- Really I could include the entire Dodgers team here. I picked out Martin mainly because I traded for him in fantasy baseball, but to tell the truth I'm not worried. My main complaint with the Dodgers is that Joe Torre is treating managing a major league baseball team like it's building a space shuttle (or to borrow a phrase from my favorite person on earth "it's not rocket surgery") rather than what it is: put your best 8 (or 9) guys out there and let them go to it. Instead the Dodgers have used the same lineup just twice, and inexplicably have played Juan Pierre, who shouldn't ever be on the field except to pinch run, instead of Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier for some games. Really Joe Torre, put him in the 2 hole and let him go to work. The end.

New York Yankees- I said this was the year the Yankees would miss the playoffs. Hopefully I'll be right. Ian Kennedy and Phil Hughes have tons of talent, but it takes time to adjust to a major league season, but the Yankees don't have free wins against the Rays and Jays anymore to get back on track. The American League is just too good for a team to have to wait to get things going. Also, why in the world don't the Yanks have Mussina in the pen and Joba in the rotation? Truth be told, I hate the Yankees, and I'm not a huge fan of Joba doing stuff like this, but it's tough to root against a guy when this is going on. Also, the Yankees are relying probably a bit too much on older players such as Damon, Giambi, Posada and Matsui. Obviously they are good players, but how long can they play at their highest level?

On one more note, my preseason World Series pick, the Arizona Diamondbacks (yes I wish I had that on record) are playing very well. Chris Young is coming into his own (although probably should be hitting cleanup) and Justin Upton is one of the better young players in the game. It should be interesting to follow them all season.

Who are your surprises and disappointments?

Tuesday, 15 April 2008


Since this has been the best MVP race in recent memory, and we should actually get a deserving winner (no offense Steve Nash), it's time to weigh in. Basically everyone's top 4 is the same in some order: Kevin Garnett, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul. I'm not going to deviate from that formula, so I will just give my top 4. In reverse order.

4. Kobe Bryant - A lot of the talk lately seems to take it for granted that either Kobe or Chris Paul will be MVP, but in my book Kobe is 4th. Yes, he's been real good on a great team. He's a great player, but that doesn't mean that others haven't been a little greater. He is still a great scorer (even with the hurt finger), scoring over 28 PPG while shooting a respectable 46%. He's a solid rebounder and passer, but LeBron (comparing him since they play similar positions) is better in both areas. He's very good defensively, but not the consistently great like Kevin Garnett, and his defensive numbers don't match Chris Paul. Add it all up, and a great season for Kobe Bryant, but still only enough to merit 4th place.

3. Kevin Garnett - He has played less minutes this year so the numbers are down a bit, but it's impossible to deny his impact on the Celtics. He's the best defensive player in the game, and he has backed it up with wild efficiency on the offensive end. His shooting is up at 54%, highest in his career. He is the ultimate team player, sacrificing his numbers and shots for the greater good of the team. He is still a great rebounder and an excellent passer for his size. How the Celtics do in the postseason will determine whether this season was a success, but there is no denying that KG has been great in his first year for Boston.

2. Chris Paul - I put him just a tiny smidgen below LeBron, but he's certainly a great MVP choice. John Hollinger actually had him as his MVP and Most Improved Player, and that's a pretty good thought. In the blink of an eye Chris Paul has surpassed Steve Nash as the best PG in the NBA, and has become one of the best players. He's become a better shooter, upping his % to above 48% on the season. He's averaging over 21 PPG, and also finding time to dole out 11.6 APG and steal 2.7 balls per game. All while leading the most surprise team in the NBA to one of the top seeds in the West. What a player.

1. LeBron James - Today I was watching Sportscenter top plays with some friends, and LeBron James was #2 with some ridiculous coast-to-coast move followed by a thunderous dunk in traffic. Someone else said something about how that wasn't even that good. But then we realized, LeBron is just so good, so talented, so athletic, that he makes it all look easy. I mean, look at his numbers... 30 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 7.2 APG, plus a more consistent defensive effort this season. No, his team's record is not as good as the other candidates, but that's so much his fault as it is that his teammates are simply not as good. But LeBron has been fantastic, and he gets my MVP vote. Once again, he's simply the best, most talented player in the NBA.

Who does your vote go too?

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Snapple Antioxidant Water

Earlier this week the kind folks from Snapple were generous enough to send me a sample of some of their Antioxidant water. Here is a short description from a press release:

Antioxidant Water product line offers a smart solution that improves energy, helps restore the body and supports a healthy immune system for consumers who are actively taking steps to incorporate healthier behaviors into their everyday routine. For those looking to add a healthier boost to their traditional bottled water, the zero calorie Snapple LYTeWater line is enhanced with electrolytes and minerals.

Also, as you would expect from Snapple, it's tasty stuff.

If you get a chance to get some of the Snapple Antioxidant Water, you should! It gets my official recommendation (which is not an easy thing to get).

Anyway, here is a commerical for the product.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Rock, Chalk, Championship

I'm speaking, of course, of the play on words that Jim Nantz has after the final buzzer sounds. Not a bad effort. He didn't really seem to have a lot to work with, as the Kansas Jayhawks is not something that lends itself very easily to a play on words.

If Memphis had won, he probably would have had it easier because of Derrick Rose. Some things he could have used for Memphis:

- "Memphis is smelling like roses."
- "Kissed by a rose."

All in all, bravo Jim Nance, bravo. You're the one thing we can count on every year.

On a sidenote, does Mario Chalmers have ice water in his veins or what? Wow.

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Final Four Picks

I'm getting these up really late, but it's before gametime, so it's legal. I just wanted to be on record with my picks.

First, I'll obviously take UCLA over Memphis. I like the Bruins to slow the game down, and effectively run it when there is something open. Memphis is not great offensively in the half-court game, and I think the Bruins can make it one. The two keys to this one are whether Joey Dorsey can slow down Kevin Love, and whether Josh Shipp can finally get his shooting stroke back, because they are going to need him against a very good Memphis defense.
UCLA 73, Memphis 70

In the next matchup, I think the Tar Heels are just playing a little bit too well right now. Their offense is firing on all cylinders, and Kansas is coming off of a game in which they struggled a bit against Davidson. I don't see the Jayhawks bigs stopping Tyler Hansbrough down low, who should have another big day. The Jayhawks balance will allow them to run with the Tar Heels, but I think UNC is just a little more efficient offensively.
North Carolina 81, Kansas 77

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Sweet 16 Predictions

With my bracket sort of in shambles (thanks Pac-10!), it's time to move on and give some new predictions for the Sweet 16. The 8 games look to provide some very interesting matchups and contrasting styles, making it a pretty nice slate of games.

North Carolina over Washington - You couldn't ask for a game with more diverse playing styles. North Carolina likes to run all day, as they have averaged 110.5 PPG in the Tourney. Washington St. likes to slow things down and grind it out, giving up an averge of 40.5 PPG in the first 2 games. As they say, something has to give. Only allowing 41 points to Notre Dame is seriously impressive, and leads me to believe that the Cougars are going to make this game a lot closer than the talent would suggest that it could. Washington St. will be able to slow things down and make North Carolina shoot a lot of jumpshots, but in the end, I don't see them having any way of shutting down Tyler Hansbrough in the post.

Louisville over Tennessee - I picked Tennessee to win this game before the Tournament, but I am changing my vote. Louisville has been a lot more impressive than the Volunteers have so far. Both teams like to play full-court games, and it seems like Tennessee is having some trouble holding onto the ball with some questions at the PG spot (let's just say we probably won't be saying JP Prince start again this game). This should be an extremely entertaining game between two very good, well-coached teams, but I think Louisville is playing better basketball right now.

Kansas over Villanova - The Wildcats have been impressive thus far, but it's hard to see them matching up with Kansas. The Jayhawks guards are good enough defensively to stop Scottie Reynolds, and it seems as if they just have too much depth for Villanova to contend with.

Wisconsin over Davidson - Davidson is the Cinderella team of the Tournament so far (even more so than lower-seeded Western Kentucky), which makes them a bit of a trendy pick here. But I like the Badgers and their stout defense to move on. They have the athletes to throw at Stephen Curry to be able to slow down his open looks (granted, he doesn't need much space for it to be an open look), and they might be the best help defense team in the country, meaning that Curry won't find a lot of space when he drives the ball. Not that Georgetown or Gonzaga were poor defensive teams, but I just think Curry is going to have a much tougher go of it against the Badgers, propelling Bo Ryan's team to the Elite Eight.

Memphis over Michigan St. - Michigan St. will try to slow things down and grind it out, but I don't see them having enough offense to keep up with Memphis all game. The Tigers are a solid defensive team, and I don't see the Spartans having enough playmakers to keep a consistent flow going in the halfcourt offense for Michigan St. I like Memphis here.

Texas over Stanford - A fascinating matchup between two teams that do completely different things (and do them well), I like the Longhorns by a smidgen. The Lopez Twins will be very difficult for Texas to contain, and they will also slow down the penetration of DJ Augustin, but I think the versatility of Damion James will make the difference. He will make the Stanford bigs come out and defend him, drawing them away from the basket. This should be a great matchup.

UCLA over Western Kentucky - Courtney Lee will give the Bruins some problems, but not enough for WKU to overcome UCLA. The Bruins suffered a scare against A&M, but I have a hard time seeing them so unfocused (at least for the first 30 minutes) for 2 straight games under Ben Howland. Kevin Love looked like he was on a mission at the end of last game, and Darren Collison is playing the best basketball of his career.

Xavier over West Virginia - Xavier is a more complete team than the ones that WVU has beaten so far. They can go inside or outside, and the Mountaineers will have some trouble matching up with Josh Duncan for the Musketeers. Meanwhile, I think that Xavier's athletic wing players will be able to slow down Joe Alexander and Alex Ruoff, allowing Xavier to move on.

Not a lot of upsets, but that is the beauty of March... sometimes they're really hard to see before they happen. What do you think will happen this weekend?

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

NCAA Bracket Predictions: Final Four

Time for the Final Four Picks!


East Winner: Tennessee VS.
Midwest Winner: Kansas

This would be an exciting matchup between two teams with very potent offenses. Tennessee would come out and press all day, but Kansas has the guard play and ballhandling to handle the pressure. Tennessee would have to make contested shots, as Kansas is very good defensively. At the end of the day, Kansas is just a little better, more balanced team.

South Winner: Texas VS.
West Winner: UCLA

Texas won the first matchup between these teams at Pauley Pavilion, but this is a different UCLA team. Darren Collison is fully healthy and playing the best basketball of his life. Kevin Love is fully ingrained within the UCLA offense. They are clicking and playing a lot better. I think they do a better job with team defense on DJ Augustin, and this leads UCLA to victory.

Championship Game: UCLA vs. Kansas

A rematch of last year's regional final, and what a load of talent would be on display for this game. Both teams are excellent defensively and efficient offensively. Kansas is a little better shooting the basketball, but UCLA is better scoring down low with Kevin Love. In the end, I think the Bruins balance wins out... as if there was any doubt about who I'd pick to win it all.


NCAA Bracket Predictions: West

The final region!


(1) UCLA over (16) Miss. Valley St. - I think the Bruins should be able to take this one.

(9) Texas A&M over (8) BYU - I like the Cougars, but the Aggies are playing well right now and are just a little more talented.

(5) Drake over (12) Western Kentucky - I'm really excited for this game. But I think Drake's team-oriented style will be able to overcome Courtney Lee, the most talented player in this game.

(4) Connecticut over (13) San Diego - The Toreros are playing well, and Brandon Johnson and Geno Pomare are really good players, but UConn is really good. AJ Price is playing at a pretty high level right now.

(11) Baylor over (6) Purdue - I like the guard play for Baylor. Plus, they're more experienced than Purdue (not necessarily tournament experience, but game experience). Plus, going what they've been through the past couple years, they might be a little hungrier.

(3) Xavier over (14) Georgia - It was a nice storybook run for the Dawgs, but it ends at the hands of the Musketeers.

(10) Arizona over (7) West Virginia - Arizona is really good and really talented when they're healthy... well, they're healthy.

(2) Duke vs. (15) Belmont - Thanks for playing Belmont.


(1) UCLA over (9) Texas A&M - UCLA has the interior defense to deal with Jones and Jordan, and A&M can't match the Bruins guard play.

(4) Connecticut over (5) Drake - I love Drake, but they haven't faced a defense like UConn yet this year. They'll still get their shots (they won't be as affected by Thabeet in the middle), but UConn's quickness will be just a little too disruptive.

(11) Baylor over (3) Xavier - With question marks about whether Drew Lavendar is 100%, Baylor's guards will pose problems for the Musketeers. They become the highest seed to make the Sweet 16 by eeking out a win.

(10) Arizona over (2) Duke - Duke can be beat by quick guards, and that could mean a big game for Jerryd Bayless. The Wildcats shock Duke and advance to the Sweet 16, showing the strength of the Pac 10.


(1) UCLA over (4) Connecticut - The disciplined defense of the Bruins is the difference in this game. They win a low-scoring game against the Huskies to keep their run going.

(10) Arizona over (11) Baylor - The Wildcats just have more all-around talent in this game, and that propels them into the Elite Eight. Chase Budinger should have a huge day.


(1) UCLA over (10) Arizona - They meet for the third time, and once again, UCLA comes out on top. Too much defense, too much Kevin Love.

Regional Champion: UCLA

NCAA Bracket Predictions: South

Moving on to the South region...


(1) Memphis over (16) Texas-Arlington - Memphis wins a squeaker.

(8) Mississippi St. over (9) Oregon - JaMont Gordon is the best player in this game, and he leads an underrated Mississippi St. club to a win over Oregon.

(5) Michigan St. over (12) Temple - The Owls are becoming a popular upset pick, but I like Tom Izzo coached teams a lot. I like the Nietzel and Izzo combo to lead the Spartans to round 2.

(4) Pittsburgh over (13) Oral Roberts - I like ORU, but Pittsburgh is playing pretty solid basketball right now. Their toughness wins out.

(6) Marquette over (11) Kentucky - I don't see the Kentucky guards being able to stop the Marquette guards, and the Wildcats don't have the size to exploit Marquette down low.

(3) Stanford over (14) Cornell - Cornell might keep it close for a while because of their shooting ability, but they can't handle Stanford down low all day.

(10) St. Mary's over (7) Miami - Like everyone else, I'm taking the combo of Patrick Mills and Diamon Simpson to lead the Gaels into round 2.

(2) Texas over (15) Austin Peay - Texas wins this going away. Obviously.


(1) Memphis over (8) Mississippi St. - Too many athletes and too much depth for Memphis in this game.

(4) Pittsburgh over (5) Michigan St. - This would be a low-scoring battle, but I like the experience that Pittsburgh has to lead them into the Sweet 16.

(3) Stanford over (6) Marquette - The Marquette guards could have a tough time scoring once they get it into the paint and run into the Lopez Twins. This is a fascinating potential matchup, but I think the Stanford guards are better than Marquette's big men.

(2) Texas over (10) St. Mary's - The Gaels will keep it interesting if they hit their outside shots, but Texas can hurt you in too many ways.


(1) Memphis over (4) Pittsburgh - Pitt is becoming a popular upset pick here, but I don't see it. I don't think they'll be able to match up with the speed of Memphis. Memphis puts up a little too many points for Pittsburgh to match.

(2) Texas vs. (3) Stanford - In a game I would absolutely love to see. The contrast of styles would be fantastic. I like the Longhorns to prevail in a really tight game, because they can make more plays down the stretch than Stanford. But how would Texas guard the Lopez Twins? How would Stanford guards the Longhorn guards? Intriguing.


(2) Texas over (1) Memphis - I like Texas' versatility a little more. I like Joey Dorsey a lot, but I don't think he matches up really well with the Texas big men. Derrick Rose vs. DJ Augustin would be an awesome matchup, and I think Augustin is just a little more refined at this point in his career.

Regional Champion: TEXAS

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

NCAA Bracket Predictions: Midwest Region

Moving on to the Midwest.


(1) Kansas over (16) Portland St. - The Jayhawks should dispatch of them pretty easily.

(8) UNLV over (9) Kent St. - Kent St. is certainly a really good team, but I like UNLV. They're very well-coached by Lon Kruger, they have Tourney experience (at least, the few holdovers from last year), and they're fresh off winning the Mountain West.

(5) Clemson over (12) Villanova - Clemson is really good. Villanova is really inconsistent. I have a hard time seeing Nova putting up enough points in this game.

(4) Vanderbilt over (13) Siena - Siena is becoming the trendy upset pick, but hold on a minute. I know they have talent, but they don't have anyone like Shan Foster or AJ Ogilvy. And Kevin Stallings is a pretty darn good coach. I'll take Vandy to win this game.

(6) USC vs. (11) Kansas St. - All about coaching, and USC has a huge edge there. I'm excited to see what Tim Floyd, the man who beat Kevin Durant in last year's Tourney, comes up this year to try and slow down Michael Beasley.

(3) Wisconsin over (14) CF Fullerton - Badgers are too tough defensively here.

(10) Davidson over (7) Gonzaga - The Zags have talent all over, but Davidson is playing too well right now. They obviously have Stephen Curry, but don't discount Jason Richards at the PG spot. He's real good.

(2) Georgetown over (15) UMBC - Uh, yeah. I think the Hoyas will have enough in this one.


(1) Kansas over (8) UNLV - UNLV is a tough team, but they don't have the talent or depth to match up with the Jayhawks

(5) Clemson over (4) Vanderbilt - The Tigers are playing very good basketball right now. They have the big men to slow down Ogilvy down low, and that makes the Commodores one-dimensional.

(6) USC over (3) Wisconsin - I just like USC's superior athleticism and talent in this game. It might not be pretty, but I think they'll be able to score just a little more easily than the Badgers.

(10) Davidson over (2) Georgetown - Just a feeling. The Hoyas haven't been overly impressive all season long. They need Hibbert to step up, and I just see Davidson being a little better in this one. At the very least, they won't be intimidated.


(1) Kansas over (5) Clemson - I think Clemson would have a very legitimate chance in this one, but the Jayhawks are playing very good basketball right now. They're just a little too talented for Clemson.

(6) USC over (10) Davidson - USC's a little too talented. Tim Floyd can devise some type of game plan to help slow down Stephen Curry, and USC's athletes can get to the rim against Davidson.


(1) Kansas over (6) USC - The Trojans run out of gas. Kansas is much deeper in this game, allowing them to run USC off the floor.

Regional Champion: KANSAS

NCAA Bracket Predictions: East Region

First up, all of my picks for the East region!


(1) North Carolina over (16) Play-In - Obviously.

(9) Arkansas over (8) Indiana - Oh, how the Hoosiers have fallen. They have the talent to win this game and give UNC a scare, but not the heart. Razorbacks have the big men to contend with DJ White.

(5) Notre Dame over (12) George Mason - Not a good matchup for the Patriots. They can't run with the Irish, and I don't think they'll be able to slow the game down.

(4) Washington St. over (13) Winthrop - Tempting to pick Winthrop to win an NCAA game for the 2nd straight year, but I don't think they have the firepower.

(11) St. Joseph's over (6) Oklahoma - Not crazy about this pick, but the Sooners don't have a ton of offensive explosiveness. This will be a low-scoring, ugly game.

(3) Louisville over (14) Boise St. - Boise is a real dangerous 14 seed, but Louisville is just too good. But I think this game will be closer than people expect.

(7) Butler over (10) South Alabama - I really like South Alabama, but Butler is too good. They're a 4 or 5 seed masquerading as a 7 seed.

(2) Tennessee over (15) American - Tennessee will have a much easier go of it than the last time they were a 2 seed.


(1) North Carolina over (9) Arkansas - Arkansas does not have the firepower or athleticism to hang with the top-seeded Heels for 40 minutes.

(5) Notre Dame over (4) Washington St. - The Cougars are a great defensive team, but you can beat them by shooting over them. The Irish have the shooters to do it. Kyle McAlarney is a huge key in this game.

(3) Louisville over (11) St. Joseph's - The Cardinal are too deep and versatile for Phil Martelli's team.

(2) Tennessee over (7) Butler - Fascinating potential matchup. I've written many times about how much I love Butler, but it's a tough draw for them. They'll score points against a fairly undisciplined UT defense, but I'm not sure they'll be able to stop the Volunteers.


(1) North Carolina over (5) Notre Dame - This would be a really high-scoring battle, but too much depth for the Heels. Harangody vs. Hansbrough would be an awesome matchup down low.

(2) Tennessee vs. (3) Louisville - Two teams that I think could give the Heels a scare in the Elite Eight. I like Tennessee a little more in this game... Louisville has a lot of ballhandlers, but not really a true PG to handle the pressure.


(2) Tennessee over (1) North Carolina - I think the Volunteers have the talent to get to the Fina Four. As they have shown this year, they have the talent to beat anyone, and they won't be intimidated by North Carolina. I like the Vols to edge out North Carolina in a highly entertaining game.

Regional Champion: TENNESSEE

Sunday, 16 March 2008

Bracket First Impressions!

Here are my quick first thoughts on the 2008 NCAA Men's Basketball Bracket, with more to come this week... this is the best time of the sports year!

- Butler a 7 seed? Huh? I absolutely do not understand this seeding in the East region:
6 Oklahoma
7 Butler
8 Indiana

That makes no sense to me.

- Here are the top 4 first round games I am most looking forward to:

5 Drake vs. 12 Western Kentucky - 2 very good Mid-Majors... WKU has the best player (Courtney Lee), but Drake is the better team.
7 Butler vs. 10 South Alabama - Awesome matchup between 2 teams that could give Tennessee fits in round 2. Once again, USA might have the best player (Demetric Bennett), but Butler has the better team.
6 USC vs. 11 Kansas St. - For obvious reasons. Loads and loads of talent on display.
7 Gonzaga vs. 10 Davidson - Again, another great matchup between 2 really good Mids. I have no idea who to pick for this game.

- My top 3 potential 2nd Round matchups:

4 Connecticut vs. 5 Drake - Two different styles. Would be very interesting.
2 Tennessee vs. 7 Butler - There would be lots and lots of 3s fired in this game. This would be so much fun to watch.
4 Vanderbilt vs. 5 Clemson - Two really good teams... Kevin Stallings is an underrated coach.

- And finally, top 3 potential Sweet 16 matchups:

2 Tennessee vs. 3 Louisville - This would be an amazing game between 2 very talented, well-coached teams. I get giddy just thinking about this potential matchup.
2 Duke vs. 3 Xavier - Two efficient, talented clubs.
2 Texas vs. 3 Stanford - I also get giddy thinking about this potential matchup. Two opposite clubs. How would Texas stop Brook Lopez? How would Stanford stop DJ Augustin? Awesome. Please happen!

- On my first time through picking (which is definitely subject to change), I have no 12 seeds winning... hmmm...

- Is it Thursday yet?

- What most caught your eye?

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Conference Tournament Preview: Wednesday

Back from Spring Break!

This is the best time of the college basketball season. Conference tournaments are getting in full swing, and then that is obviously followed by the awesomeness of the NCAA Tournament. Some of the major conference tournaments begin Wednesday, so here is just a breakdown of some of the key games that will be taking place.

Atlantic-10 Tournament
(8) Dayton vs. (9) St. Louis - With some of Dayton's non-conference wins (Louisville, Pitt), you have to figure they might still have a slim shot at an at-large if they can beat Xavier in the Quarterfinals of the A-10 Tournament. But the way that they've been playing lately, they can't afford to overlook St. Louis in round 1.

(6) Charlotte vs. (11) Rhode Island - Both of these teams have talent, and they can make a run in the A-10 Tourney if they get hot. Rhode Island has been in a freefall since their hot start. Meanwhile, Charlotte is led by streaky scorer Leemire Goldwire.

Big East Tournament
(8) Syracuse vs. (9) Villanova - The loser is essentially eliminated from at-large consideration, while the winner might even still need to beat Georgetown in the Quarterfinals to feel safe. Do-or-die game, and a great way to start off the Big East Tourney.

(5) West Virginia vs. (12) Providence - The Mountaineers have a good conference record, but they haven't really beaten a lot of quality opponents. A loss here might make them sweat a little, though they're probably safe either way.

Pac-10 Tournament
(7) Arizona vs. (10) Oregon St. - This is a must-win game for Arizona, though it shouldn't be a problem against 0-18 Oregon St. The Wildcats might need to win this game and a quarterfinal matchup with Stanford to be safe. If things are clicking, they have the potential to win 4 games in 4 days.

These are the games with the biggest bubble implications... on Thursday, the rest of the big tournaments start up, making that one of the best basketball days of the year! Which game are you most looking forward to seeing?