Monday, February 27, 2006

Here Comes March

College Hoops Top 10 (2/26)
1. Duke (27-1) 1
2. UCONN (25-2) 3
3. Memphis (26-2) 2
4. Villanova (22-3) 4
5. Texas (24-4) 6
6. Gonzaga (24-3) 5
7. Pittsburgh (21-4) 9
8. Ohio St. (21-4) NR
9. Washington (22-5) NR
10. LSU (20-7) NR

just missed: West Virginia, Florida, UCLA, UNC
dropped: (7) Florida, (8) NC State, (10) West Virginia

Overrated: GW, Oklahoma, Wichita St., The Big 10
Sleeper Teams: Nevada, Marquette

The Final Push For March is On
Anyone that knows me knows that my favorite time of year is upon us. Not only does March bring my birthday, it brings conference tournaments and of course the NCAA tournament. This is possibly the most exciting time in any sport, and this year looks like it won't dissappoint. The race right now has 2 clear frontrunners in UCONN and Duke, with a strong class of 2nd tier teams led by Villanova, Texas and Memphis. From there on out, there is so much parity that there are bound to be an incredible amount of upsets over the next few weeks. Theres talk of the Big East sending 9 teams andthe Missouri Valley sending 5 teams, while both the ACC and Pac 10 might only manage 4 bids each. Then theres the mess in the Big 10, with at least 5 teams that have a real shot at grabbing the Big 10 tourney title. And then throw in all the usual bubble talk from the big conferences as well as the mid majors for good measure. So of course there is still a lot that needs to be sorted out before the field of 65 is set, but essentially the tournament starts now. All games are must win for every team that has any real aspirations. Whether its to build your resume or your confidence, every game is critical. Just take a look at how many big games there are this week. It only gets better and more exciting from here on out.

3/4 UNC @ Duke
* The Blue Devils may be 4 games clear of the field in the ACC, but this is still Duke/UNC. As if this rivalry needed any motivation, it brings in two teams looking to send a message. UNC could use this game to propel this young team on a March run. And Duke can use this heated game as a good indication of how they are going to need to play to win the tought games from here on out.

Other Big Games to Watch This Week
Pitt @ West Virginia

Duke @ Florida St.
Colorado @ Kansas
Kentucky @ Tennessee

Wisconsin @ Michigan St.
Memphis @ UAB
UCLA @ Cal

Seton Hall @ Pitt

Illinois @ Michigan St.
West Virgnia @ Cincy
Wisconsin @ Iowa

Florida @ Kentucky
Villanova @ Syracuse
Oklahoma @ Texas

Syracuse Update
Last Week: Syracuse 60 West Virginia 58; Georgetown 68 Syracuse 53
This Week: 3/2 @ Depaul; 3/5 vs Villanova
Record: 19-9
Big East: 7-7
vs RPI Top 50: 2-8
Last 10: 4-6
RPI: 28
SOS: 7
Key Wins: West Virginia, UTEP, @ Cincy
Key Losses: NONE

*Fresh off of their biggest win of the season against West Virginia, (and their first win vs an RPI top 50 team) the Cuse kept true to form and handed back all that momentum with a blowout loss at Georgetown. The more I read though, the more it looks like even a .500 record in Big East play will get the Orange in no matter how they perform at the Big East tourney. They will be able to rely on their SOS, RPI and conference strength to get an at large bid as long as they don't stumble at Depaul, but I still don't see them getting even one win once they make the tournament.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Not Boding Well For US in Italy

US Making Headlines For All the Wrong Reasons
So let's do a little recap. So far, Bode Miller, perhaps the athlete with the biggest hype going into Torino for the US, is 0-3 in his events. Not only that, he continues to talk about how the medals don't matter to the athletes, and how he can't wait until the Olympics are over so he can go back to being a "normal guy". Well, Bode shouldn't have too much trouble blending in after the games, because he will look just like the rest of us without any Olympic gold medals. Next on the chopping block is US women's snowboarder Lindsey Jacobellis. After doing ads for Dunkin' Donuts and the Visa Check Card building up to the games, Jacobellis had the gold medal in the snowboard cross in her hands. That is until she made one last attempt at showmanship on the final jump of the race. Lindsey went for a flashy board grab, and ended up falling flat on her back. Her huge lead was gone, and she had to settle for silver. She was in tears at first, but then fell back (much like Miller) and said how she does that often for more speed and that she's happy with the silver medal. That brings us to the US women's hockey team. The co-favorites for gold with the Canadians, they fell in the semifinal round to Sweden, meaning the best they can do is a bronze. With all this disappointment, its making it harder and harder for people back in the states to watch events they had no interest in watching in the first place. Luckily there is some positive news coming out of Turino for the US. Speedskater Shani Davis became the first African American to win an individual gold medal in the winter games when he won the 1000 meter event. His win comes days after Bryant Gumbel made comments saying how winter Olympic winners can not consider themselves the finest at their sport because they were not competing against African Americans. I'm not going to give his comments a second thought, because frankly, it seems he's just trying to get back into the mainstream spotlight by making some controversial comments. What I will do is congratulate Davis for his historic victory, and giving those back home something to cheer about, rather than having to apologize for the behavior of some of his teammates.

All Star Weekend?
Well the NBA's All Star weekend has done very little to make me change my mind that the NBA is on the decline. The 3-point contest and skills competition were snoozers as usual, and while the dunk contest provided some nice moments, the best performer didn't win. When I watch the dunk contest I like to be wowed, I like to see a dunk I have never seen before. Philadelphia 76er Andre Iguodola did that, twice. Andre's loop behind the back and his feed from the other AI off the back of the backboard were both creative and well executed. Meanwhile, champion Nate Robinson made it to the "dunk off" with a leap over Spud Webb (seen it), and won it with a dunk that was run of the mill and took 14 attempts to pull off! I don't know if the answer is to penalize someone for needing multiple attempts, because often it takes two or three tries to pull off a truly innovative dunk. But taking 14 tries to essentially throw the ball off the backboard and alley oop it, doesn't sound like a slam dunk champion to me.

College Hoops Top 10 (2/19)
1. Duke (25-1) 1
2. Memphis (24-2) 3
3. UCONN (23-2) 2
4. Villanova (21-2) 4
5. Gonzaga (22-3) 8
6. Texas (22-4) 5
7. Florida (22-4) 6
8. NC State (21-5) NR
9. Pittsburgh (20-4) 9
10. West Virginia (18-7) 7

just missed: Ohio St., Kansas, Washington, LSU
dropped: (10) Ohio St.

Overrated: Illinois, BC, GW
Sleeper Teams: Northern Iowa, California, UTEP

2/26 Villanova @ UCONN

* A rematch of last week's game of the week, where Villanova came out on top. Now the scene shifts to Storrs. UCONN will look for revenge, and help strengthen their case for a #1 seed in the tourney. Josh Boone only saw the floor for 17 minutes in the first meeting, look for that to change this time around. Just like last time, this game goes beyond the Big East, and will help determine where these two teams end up come March.

Other Big Games to Watch This Week
Ohio St. @ Michigan St.
UTEP @ Memphis
UNC @ NC St.
Tennessee @ Florida
Ohio St. @ Michigan St

Villanova @ Cincy
George Mason @ Hofstra

BC @ NC St.
Iowa @ Illinois
Kansas @ Texas

California @ Washington

Syracuse Update
Last Week: Cincy 82 Syracuse 65; Syracuse 79 Louisville 66
This Week: 2/20 West Virginia; 2/25 @ Georgetown
Record: 18-8
Big East: 6-6
vs RPI Top 50: 1-8
Last 10: 4-6
RPI: 32
SOS: 10
Key Wins: UTEP, @ Cincy
Key Losses: (Bucknell and Seton Hall were here, but they are now better teams than Syracuse)

*Typical week for Syracuse. On one hand, they get killed by Cincy in the Carrier Dome, and on the other hand they return the favor to a struggling Louisville team. So, they are keeping with their season by losing to teams that are strong and beating teams that are hapless. Their resume speaks for itself at this point, they can't beat anyone that's any good and it doesn't look like that's going to change. Add to that, they are the worst free throw shooting team in the conference at about 66% which is pathetic. This week should really make or break their tourney chances with games against two top 25 opponents.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Marchin' On

Super Bowl XL Recap
* Super Bowl XL was possibly the worst game I have ever seen, and without a bout the most boring Super Bowl in my lifetime. Now I know the big game often fails to live up to the hype, and we have been spoiled the past 5 years with such classic games as Pats/Eagles, Pats/Panthers, Pats/Rams and Rams/Titans, but this game was just a total let down. Neither team played well, the refs were awful, the commercials were lackluster and all the performances made me feel like I was watching an Ensure infomercial. So as far as I am concerned, the Steelers are merely borrowing Lombardi's trophy until hopefully a team more deserving (with a QB with a higher than 20 QB rating) can claim it in Miami in '07. We will all be better off to forget this ever happened, and put it all behind us.

Note: I lost on all of my Super Bowl predictions except one. Kobe Bryant outscored the total points in Super Bowl XL 35-31.

College Hoops Top 10 (2/12)
1. Duke (23-1)
2. UCONN (22-1)
3. Memphis (22-2)
4. Villanova (19-2)
5. Texas (21-3)
6. Florida (21-3)
7. West Virginia (18-5)
8. Gonzaga (20-3)
9. Pittsburgh (19-3)
10. Ohio St. (18-3)

just missed: Tennessee, UCLA, Michigan St.

Sleeper Teams: Northern Iowa, Wichita St., LSU
Overrated: Illinois, BC, George Washington

2/13 UCONN @ Villanova
* Could be a Final Four preview. These two teams are in the top 5 nationally, but both need a win to keep pace with each other and West Virginia for the Big East regular season crown.

Other Big Games to Watch This Week
Michigan St. @ Iowa

Oklahoma @ Colorado
Ohio St. @ Wisconsin

UCONN @ West Virginia
Michigan @ Michigan St.

Georgetown @ Villanova
Indiana @ Illinois

Syracuse Update
Last Week: UCONN 73 Syracuse 50; Syracuse 75 St. John's 60
This week: 2/15 Cincy; 2/18 Louisville
Record: 17-7
Big East: 5-5
vs. RPI Top 50: 1-7
Last Ten: 5-5
RPI: 32
SOS: 7
Key Win(s): @ Cincy, UTEP (its sad but these are the best teams they have beaten so far)
Key Losses: Seton Hall, Bucknell

*ESPN's Bracketologist Joe Lunardi currently has Syracuse making the tournament as a #12 seed, meaning they are getting one of the last at large bids. Problem is, their toughest games are still to come. So if they are on the fringe now, expect it to get worse unless they can uncork a big conference win between now and the Big East tourney.

Any Publicity Is Good Publicity...
Unless that publicity involves your sports greatest player involved in a gambling ring with the mob. That's the situation the NHL finds itself in now that Wayne Gretzky is squarely in the middle of Rick Tocchet's alleged gambling operation. While there has been no direct tie to the Great One, reports have surfaced saying his wife, Janet Jones, made about $500,000 in wagers over the past 6 weeks. 99 initially denied knowing about the operation, but wire taps have confirmed that not only did he know, he attempted to work out a situation where Janet and himself would be left out of any investigation. Well that didn't work, and now its even been reported that not only did Janet bet with his associate head coach and friend Rick Tocchet, but Gretz's agent and Coyotes GM Mike Barnett placed at least one bet as well. So to sit there and tell us he didn't know what was going on, is asking a lot of the public. Your wife was laying down heavy action, and your good friend knew exactly where to go to place a wager. Where there is this much smoke , there has got to be fire. The best hockey fans can hope for now, is that hockey was not involved at all in this gambling operation, and that the Great One was truly an innocent bystander. Maybe his wife did have a gambling problem, and maybe Tocchet and Barnett were too good of friends for Gretz to rat them out. Hopefully this is the case, but this much is clear, after a resurgence, hockey is back on the front pages for all the wrong reasons.

What's Up Doc?
For all of you that know me, you know how much its killing me to even waste my time writing about the Celtics. I have never been a big Celts fan. Whether you want to call me a frontrunner, or a sell out, I really don't care. Fact of the matter is, the Celtics make it hard to rout for them because they have been so inept in every facet of the game for so long. This trend is going to continue for at least a few more years while the Green attempt their latest rebuilding effort under the watchful eye of Danny Ainge. The Celts have made it a point to get younger this time, giving college aged guys like Kendrick Perkins, Al Jefferson and 2nd year guard Delonte West big time minutes in hopes of them developing into stars. Add to that the drafting of 19 year old prep phenom Gerald Green, and it looks like they are going with a major youth movement. Only problem with that, is that coach Doc Rivers has been so inconsistent with his starting lineups this season that the team hasn't had any chance to gel. Another major issue, when these players do mature, the best player on the team, Paul Pierce, will more than likely be either out of Boston, or past his prime. So won't that leave the Celtics in yet another rebuilding stage? As much as I do love Pierce, I think the time is now to either blow this whole thing up and devote to the youth movement, or make moves now to compliment the current product on the floor...AKA continue to build around The Truth. I'm in favor of the former. This team is far away from competing for anything other than a 7th or 8th seed in the East playoffs, so the time to move is now. Acquiring Olawokandi's expiring contract was a start, but shipping out Pierce for a young player and maybe some draft picks would show Celtic fans that the days of struggling to get by are over, and at least there is some plan for the future. I get the feeling fans are willing to go through growing pains with Perkins and Jefferson, if there is a definite plan in place. On top of that, I am happy that the Celts continue to lose, because then they inch closer to firing head coach Doc Rivers. He's a terrible coach. He may be a great motivator, but he doesn't make the necessary changes during games to allow his team to adapt to different game situations. He will never be an X and O guy, and with this young corps, as much as they need a father figure to help them ease into the league, they need a coach that will teach them how to play the right way and how to compete every night no matter the matchup. Doc needs to go, and the sooner the better. The Celts are miles away from where they need to be, but taking these steps would at least show their fans they are dedicating to one game plan, rather than wallowing around the middle of the pack for another 20 years.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Super Bowl XL

*Super Bowl XL had a chance to be "Extra Large", but all of that went by the wayside when we were presented with this snoozer of a matchup. Even so, hopefully the game will be a good one, and in failing that, hopefully there will at least be some good commercials. So seeing as I have already analyzed this game, there is nothing left to do but pick the winner.*

Super Bowl XL
Seattle Seahawks (+4.5) over Pittsburgh Steelers

**Fact of the matter is, I want Pittsburgh to lose. So when a team you want to lose is giving points, you take them! Plus, can anyone remember the last time the Steelers won a major playoff game in which they were favored?**

Super Tease (6 points)
Seattle Seahawks (+10.5) and Under 53

*In my perfect world, Seattle jumps out on top and manages to hang in a close game. Therefore I see them easily covering the 10+ points. And while this game has the outside chance of being a shootout, I say enough points are scored to scare the 53 points, but the two teams will finish out with a 24-17 or 27-21 score at best. Both of those results will keep it just below the under.

Super Prop Bet
Which point total will be higher:
A) Kobe Bryant's total points scored against the NO/OK Hornets on Saturday night
B) The total points scored in Super Bowl XL

*In this one I am taking the under in 53 for my tease, so I will have to go with Kobe to score at least 40 against the Hornets seeing as the Lakers have nobody else that can score. With that in mind, I am taking Kobe just to edge out the Super Bowl, 48-41.

*So I made a $20 bet with Sean P that the Syracuse Orange will not make the NCAA tournament. So now I am going to keep everyone updated on how the Orange are fairing between now and then. Let's check it out so far:

Syracuse Tournament Resume
Record: 16-6
Big East Record: 4-4
RPI: 31
SOS: 17
Record vs RPI top 25: 1-4
Key Wins: @ Cincy
Key Losses: Bucknell, Seton Hall

* Not a very impressive resume so far. The Strength of Schedule (SOS) and Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) look good, but that's due to simply playing in the Big East. To make matters worse, the Orange are hitting possibly the most difficult part of its schedule all season with games still to come @ #1 UCONN and #22 Georgetown, and hosting #4 Villanova, #11 West Virginia, Louisville and Cincy. With only 8 games left, they will have to pull out at least a few of these crucial games in order to have the look of a real tournament team. What they do have going for them is the fact that right now it only looks like the Big East has 5 tourney locks in UCONN, WVU, G-town, Pitt and Villanova, so if they can stay even somewhat competitive, the selection committee might be compelled to throw them in simply based on the strength of the conference.