Saturday, October 01, 2005

It All Comes Down to This


160 games in the books. Records knotted at 94-66. Two more to play in Fenway to decide the AL East title. The chance to see if the big Randy Johnson trade was worth it for the Yankees. How is it even possible that the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry can constantly grow more dramatic each year? In 2003 they fought (literally and figuratively) through a wild seven-game ALCS that ended with Aaron "Bleepin" Boone's 10th inning walkoff home run and featured things like Pedro throwing down Zimmer, Grady Little blowing the series by leaving Pedro in too long in Game 7, and Roger Clemens getting roughed up and knocked out early in what looked like it would be the final game of his career (remember that?). Then last year ... I don't even have the energy to recap it. Now it is 2005 and the heat is turned up another notch, because this time, someone might not even make the postseason. I figured this kind of drama was as good of a reason as any to fire up the blog again. So consider this your home for MLB Postseason chatter. We'll be blogging our way through it, from the final weekend of the regular season to the final pitch of the World Series. Enjoy.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

NBA Offseason Chatter


Toine is headed
to South Beach
The NBA announced the largest trade in league history last night and when the dust settled, the Heat had somehow managed to swap a decrepit Eddie Jones, Rasual Butler, and the always hilarious Qyntel Woods for Jason Williams, Antoine Walker, and James Posey. Has a team ever made a trade in which all three players they got back were significantly better than the guys they traded away? Whether it works out (imagine the look on Shaq's face when Antoine casts his first 28-foot brick) remains to be seen, but you have to commend Miami, they just upgraded their overall roster significantly with this move.

Weigh in here with all chatter regarding the NBA's offseason moves; we'll discuss everything from summer leagues to trades to free agency.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Stat Central


Utley is raking
Every once in a while, it is helpful to take a look at the leaderboards to get a feel for who is playing well throughout the major leagues. For instance, you probably didn't realize that Brian Giles is third in the NL in on base percentage or that Chase Utley leads all NL middle infielders in OPS, or even that Corey Patterson still ranks in the top 10 in strikeouts despite being sent down to the minors almost a full month ago. What follows are some of the highlights, lowlights, and interesting observations pulled from the leaderboards in various statistical categories.

(To read the rest, click on the "Stat Central" link on the right side of the page.)

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Slip Sliding Away


Dontrelle's ERA is
going through the roof
At the end of April, I gave Pedro my "First Month Fantasy Cy Young Award" over Dontrelle Willis. Part of the reason was D-Train's track record of falling apart late in the season; the tie-breaker went to Pedro. I took quite a bit of heat for that one. I went on a radio show and predicted that Willis would crumble after the calendar flipped to July and was chided for "assuming the worst." Well, unfortunately for Willis, it looks like I may have been right on this one. Just as he has in his first two major league seasons, Dontrelle is getting lit up in the second half of the season.

To read the rest of this thread, click on the link titled "Slip Sliding Away" on the right side.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Launch Sequence


Ensberg has been
leading the charge
A few days ago a wrote a column for WhatifSports detailing why I think the Astros will continue their winning ways and land the NL Wild Card spot in the playoffs. Since that time they got swept in St. Louis and then took three straight from the Pirates, and I remain convinced that they are going to "get it done" (I'm getting back to showing some love for Digger Phelps) down the stretch. Posted as the first comment to this thread is the column in its entirety. I forgot to get it to my editor before he went on vacation, so we'll have to house it here. Enjoy.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Vegas Summer League


The new fan favorite
I'm a big believer in the idea that the NBA needs to put a team in Las Vegas as soon as possible. But since it is not going to happen in the immediate future, I will have to take comfort in the fact that the city is hosting a sweet 16-team summer league. Given that I am obsessed with the NBA and eager to see how some of the recent draft picks are working out, I thought I would investigate. Read on to find out who is hot and who is stinking up the strip through the first three days of action.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

The Gerald Green Draft


The Celtics are "lovin' it"
This is your one-stop shopping location for all discussion of the NBA Draft. The review of the Eastern Conference picks is up over at the mothership (www.whatifsports.com/insider) and the Western Conference breakdown will be up shortly. For now, feel free to use the comment option to leave scathing criticism for Isiah Thomas, Rob Babcock, or The Guru. Don't take any shots at me though, or I'll delete your post. Enjoy.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Get Your All-Stars!


Ortiz will be there
Lost in the NBA Draft excitement is the fact that the All-Star teams will be announced in a matter of days. Here are my versions of the team, taking into account the fan voting (controversial), representation rules (ridiculous), and all of the other weird twists and turns in the selection process. Be sure to weigh in with your own choices.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Big Beltran News!


Who gets their
watch autographed?

You won't see it on SportsCenter tonight. You might not even notice this vital piece of information by glancing at the Mets-Phillies box score from Thursday afternoon's game. But you can bet that fantasy baseball owners everywhere took notice of today's BIG news. Carlos Beltran - mired in a colossal slump and currently ranked 292 on the ESPN Player Rater - went 0-3 today. He failed to drive in or score a run. So what did he do? He stole a base. Not only that, he stole two bases.

Why is that important? Read on and find out.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Draft Central (Updated)


Bynum's stock
is soaring
The second half of the Draft Preview should be up tomorrow over at WhatifSports.com, so it seemed like a good time to refresh the draft chatter. Trade rumors are flying, promises are being made to awful players, and the Blazers and Clippers both appear poised to screw things up (again). Weigh in with all opinions, questions, and debates right here.

NBA Finals Wrap Up


People must have
short memories
The NBA Finals are over. Did anyone notice? The ratings were down, the Seventh Game was a brickfest (the first clue was that the guy who won Finals MVP and supposedly played a great game went 10-for-27 and missed eight straight shots in a crucial stretch), and ABC's coverage was excruciating. All in all, it was probably an act of mercy when it finally ended. Of course, I watched every minute and loved it, so I'm not sure what that says about me. Be sure to weigh in here with any Finals related rants or raves.

Monday, June 20, 2005

The Robert Horry Game


Superman
to the rescue
We've had the Flu Game, the Magic Hook Shot Game, and so many other classic Finals performances ... add Horry's Game Five, 2005 to the list. 21 of the last 35 Spurs points, ridiculous threes, high-flying dunks, and the game winner. Not bad. Of course, it never should have come to that when you factor in the awful officiating and the ridiculous double-team by Sheed, but the fact is, this will forever be Horry's game.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

NBA Finals: Games Three and Four


This very bad
individual is back
Vacation is great, but internet access is slim to none, so the Game Three thread is late. Sorry about that. But if you've got something to say about Detroit's thrashing of San Antonio last night, this is the place. I'll get things started by saying this: Ben Wallace appears to be back. If he stays active and engaged the rest of the series, this one could go either way. *Note, Big Benny Wallace did indeed stay active and this series is all knotted up at 2-2. I was too lazy to start a new thread, so this will suffice until Game Five.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Draft Central

Can I use that term? Has it been copyrighted already? Whatever. Got a different take on some of my calls? Think Deron Williams really is the next Jason Kidd, or TJ Parker is gonna be better than his brother (or at least less whiny)? Is Andrew Bogut the next Joel Przybilla? Love big, slow, undeveloped Europeans with tremendous "upside?" Weigh in with questions or comments, now that I'm finally working, I should respond pretty quickly.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

NBA Finals: Game Two


What team is this
guy playing for?
Well, Game Two is underway and it looks like this series is headed for Blowout City. Spurs are up 30-19, Detroit has missed approximately 47 layups, the refs have been wildly inconsistent, and Antonio McDyess is still in the process of completing the ultimate point shaving scam. All in all, it looks very bleak for the Pistons and it looks like the NBA season has once again crested during the conference finals. NBA in June = BORING. Again.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

In the Year 2000


Shaq was unbelievable
Man, I loved that Conan O'Brien sketch. Anyway, I had the unexpected treat of stumbling upon an NBA Finals Marathon on ESPN Classic. I saw Blazers-Pistons from 1990 and now am tuning in to Lakers-Pistons from '88. Good times, to be sure. But the game that really warrants attention was Game 4 of the 2000 Finals, between the Lakers and Pistons. Click the link on the right side of the page to find out more, and be sure to comment on your favorite Finals observations and memories.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Part of the Minority


Give me my money!
You all might call me crazy for this, but I see nothing wrong with what Terrell Owens is trying to do to the Philadelphia Eagles. Unlike MLB and the NBA, the player contracts in the NFL are totally slanted in the favor of the team. Any action taken by a player has to be considered with those differences in mind.

To read more, click on the "Part of the Minority" link on the right side of the page.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

NBA Finals: Game One


The Anti-Dooling
Before all of you pro basketball haters get too worked up, just know that we'll be doing the same thing for the World Series, the NFL Playoffs, the BCS, and whatever else you want to break down game-by-game. So just take a deep breath and relax. Consider this home base for Game One of Detroit-San Antonio. I'll be weighing in at halftime, probably during the fourth quarter, and then after the game. Don't make me the only one.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Get Your Finals Predictions!


The Pistons need Big Ben
Well, I'm sure that most people would have preferred a different Finals matchup, but getting two of the best three teams in the NBA paired up isn't all that bad. I've come around on the Spurs being a worthy participant and I'm trying to let go of the fact that it should be Shaq and Duncan and Wade against Manu in a battle between the Heat and Spurs. Instead, we've got a different storyline: defending champs as big underdogs.

To read more and weigh on with your predictions, click on the "Get Your Finals Predictions!" link on the right side of the page.

Consistency is a Virtue


Pujols is Mr. Consistent
It seems that there are plenty of baseball players that get the job done year in and year out, guys that can be counted on to dominate certain aspects of the game. However, the number of players that are truly able to dominate even one area of the sport are few and far between. Taking the 5x5 statistical categories central to fantasy baseball (batting average, runs, RBI, home runs, stolen bases, wins, ERA, WHIP, strikeouts, and saves), we are able to look at the past three years and see just how rare it is. The standard was finishing in the top-five in the league (AL or NL) for that category ... and doing it each year from 2002-2004. Only 14 players (9 hitters, 5 pitchers) have accomplished the feat. Only four did it in multiple categories. And only two have the chance to do it again. Your "Mr. Consistent" Award winners: Pedro Martinez and Albert Pujols.

To read more, click on the "Consistency is a Virtue" link on the right side of the page.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Best of times or worst of times?


Butler gets ready to
drain another jumper
in Tayshaun's grill
It is hard to say whether the Heat should feel great or horrible right now. On one hand, their young stud, Dwyane Wade, was unable to finish their Game Five victory tonight. On other hand, Shaq showed once again that he can take any band of merry misfits and turn them into an elite team. It is hard to imagine them closing out Detroit without a healthy Wade, but with Rasual Butler, Udonis Haslem, and Damon Jones riding on the big man's shoulders, I guess anything is possible. We'll stay tuned for updates on Wade's health and in the meantime, consider this the new command post for discussion of all things Heat-Pistons.

The Face of Baseball


Adam's pick gets into one
ESPN is running a story wondering who represents the true face of major league baseball. They seem to have settled on Derek Jeter, which was more than enough of a reason to fire up the topic on this blog. As you can see from the photo, I have selected Miguel Tejada as my choice - explanation to follow. Over the next few days, the rest of the Insider team will make their choices and hopefully we will find ourselves in a sweet debate. Feel free to join in the fun.

Lee for MVP


Wrigley's got a new hero
Time to fire up the propoganda machine. Based on the fact that Steve Nash won the NBA MVP on the strength of November press, there is no reason to delay getting Derrek Lee's name on the minds of the voters. And why not? He has been absolutely incredible through the season's first two months.

To read more, click on the "Lee for MVP" link on the right side of the page.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Superstitious, Anyone?


"Where's my number three?"
Baseball is a funny game. I've been meaning to break up the string of posts focusing on baseball and today's Sox-Yankees game gave me the perfect excuse.

Now, before you scream, "Not Sox and Yanks!" know that I mean to go in a completely different direction. Something like "Brewer's young pitching staff" or "Don't look now, but Junior Griffey has driven in 24 runs this month." But alas, the best story came from the best rivalry. Coincidence? Probably not.

To read more, click on the "Superstitious, Anyone?" link on the right side of the page.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

The Best "Worst Thing for the NBA"

OK, enough already with the Suns lovefest. It's hard to turn on ESPN or visit a sports website without hearing about how it would be much better for the league if the Suns were going to make the finals instead of the Spurs. The common thinking is that the Suns are much more exciting to watch. I take issue with this entire argument.

First, what about the interest in having the best team in the Finals? Clearly, the Spurs play much better and more efficient basketball than the Suns. More importantly, the Spurs play a much more fundamentally sound game. If you want to watch a sort of acrobatic, run-the-floor ball with no defensive effort that makes a mockery of true basketball, you can just watch Streetball on ESPN2. The Spurs play the game the way it should be played, and it sends a much better message to youngsters out there that if you want to win, you need to be able to buckle down on D and focus on the little, basic aspects of the game. It may be more exciting, but in the end, run-n-gun with little discipline just doesn't win championships. Hopefully, this will sink in, and little kids will practice boxing out instead of dribbling the ball with their knees.

Beyond the interest in teaching the right lessons, what about the interest in having a team in the Finals that stars two international players (Duncan's not international, both people in the Virgin Islands are watching anyway). While Europe is already coming down with bad case of basketball fever, the outbreak has yet to reach Latin America. Manu is becoming a huge draw down there, though. Case in point: last night I was with a buddy whose uncle is from Argentina. He said that his uncle doesn't really know anything about basketball, but loves Manu and watches all his games down there. This is exactly what the NBA needs to help grow its product in Latin America, and an appearance by the best Latin American player in the league championships can only help improve the NBA's popularity in a potentially huge market.

Finally, why are the Spurs getting dumped on so much while everybody sweats the Pistons? Is their game prettier than the Spurs'? Certainly not. I'm not claiming the Spurs play pretty ball, but they play good, sound basketball, and serve as a reminder that fundamentals beat out glitz in the end.

Friday, May 27, 2005

When You Assume ...


Larry Brown could
cost the Pistons
a repeat title
We all know how the rest of the phrase goes. For some reason, the experts and pundits are all giving the next two games of the Eastern Conference Finals to the Pistons. Yes, assuming that Detroit will win their home games without even breaking a sweat. Am I missing something, or is this series far from over?

To read more on the Heat-Pistons series, click on the "When You Assume" link on the right side of the page.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

The Answer Man


Can he keep it up
in the road blacks?
A week ago, the D-Wade bandwagon was filled to capacity. Yesterday, people were breaking their ankles jumping off the train. The same ESPN writer who stated that Wade was better than LeBron wrote about how overhyped the Heat guard had become. My boys on PTI stated that he was no match for the Pistons' D. People were claiming the series was over. To call the media fickle would be the understatement of the century.

For more on this subject, click on the link titled "The Answer Man" on the right side of the page.

Monday, May 23, 2005

All Eyes On Shaq


The world's most valuable thigh
The Miami-Detroit series is moments away from tipoff and all eyes are on Shaquille O'Neal and his freakishly injured thigh. I was watching the game when he was dinged up at the end of the season and I never saw this coming. What looked like a bruise is now some weird blood calcification. When you see Craig Sager holding up the syringe from Requiem For A Dream and talking about pulling 100 cc's of blood out of his muscle ... yikes. If you believe the experts, Shaq needs to play great for Miami to win. That doesn't look likely.

Consider this Eastern Conference Finals central.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Nice D


The human layup drill
Things don't look good for the Suns. Despite the Spurs' obvious flaws (exposed by Seattle) and the supposed Duncan ankle injury, Phoenix got ran off its own court on Sunday. Unless Joe Johnson can get back in the lineup quickly, San Antonio can forget about the fact that Nash can't guard Parker, and Q can hit a few shots, this is going to be ugly.

For all thoughts on Spurs-Suns, click on the comments link.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Spurs-Sonics


The Wily One
It felt wrong covering every other series and neglecting the Sonics and Spurs. Maybe its because this one has never really been in doubt, despite Seattle's valiant homestand over the weekend. The Sonics have too many injuries and the Spurs get too many calls for Seattle to win. Nevertheless, we should still have a place reserved to chat about the happenings of the series. So there you go.

How good is Dwyane Wade?


D-Wade's stock is soaring
Everywhere you look, there's a story about Dwyane Wade, proclaiming him as the best player in the playoffs. Or the best swingman in the game. Or the best player under 25. You get the idea. Wade has taken a great second season to the next level with a string of outstanding playoff performances. But while there is no doubt that he's playing at an amazing level and that he's turned out to be better than anyone (except for me ... no seriously) thought he'd ever be, but is he really THIS good? "The real MVP of the Miami Heat" good? "Better than T-Mac and Kobe" good? "The player that should have been taken #1 instead of LeBron" good?

I say no.


*For the rest of this entry, click on the link "How good is Dwyane Wade?" on the right side of the screen.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Foster: Australian for AWESOME


Air Foster
The 2005 postseason may not feature a more improbable performance than the 15 points, 20 rebounds (10 offensive), 2 blocks, and 2 steals thrown up by Jeff Foster tonight. This is a guy about which I recently said "can't be on the court, ever" if the Pacers wanted to win and the source of an outstanding, "Foster: Australian for terrible" joke that I beat into the ground in short order. And here he is, spurring an incredible upset victory over the defending world champs. Just another example of why you can't count out this Indiana team.

(Consider this entry the thread for all things Pistons-Pacers.)

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

An MVP Performance


Now there's an MVP
I'll be the first to admit that I doubted the validity of a member of the Suns winning the MVP Award. Despite those 62 wins and all of the exciting basketball, it seemed too hard to pinpoint any one person as being responsible for the success. Now I have to change course. After watching Game One of the Western Conference Semifinals last night, it became obvious that Phoenix may indeed possess the most valuable player in the league. A force so dominant that he creates mismatches on every possession, causes coaches to lose sleep, and makes the game as easy as can be for his teammates. My apologies, city of Phoenix!

It takes a lot for me to admit when I'm wrong, but 40 points and 16 boards will do it. When you see a guy come out the day after the MVP is announced and absolutely dominate the game on both ends of the floor - getting to the line, dunking in traffic, hitting a myriad of 15-footers, jumping over teammates to block shots, and snaring every rebound in sight - you know you are seeing something special. You are seeing a team's franchise player prove to the world why he's the MVP of the league.

Oh wait ... that was Amare Stoudemire, not Steve Nash. My bad.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Semi-Entertaining


MVP of the First Round
The first round of the NBA Playoffs are officially in the books and we're down to eight teams. Unfortunately, the entertainment value is about to go way down. With the exception of an exciting Mavs-Suns series, we are probably looking at three blowouts. The Heat are on their way to crushing the Wizards, the Sonics have like four players left to try to prevent a sweep at the hand of the Spurs, and even if the Pacers make it competitive against the Pistons, it's going to be ugly.

That said, I'm still going to talk about it.

*To read the rest of this entry, click on the "comment" link below or the "Semi-Entertaining" link on the right side of the page.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Marred by the Refs

The NBA Playoffs should be entertaining and exhilarating. Well, at least for an NBA fan they should be. Instead, the games are being ruined by absolutely horrific officiating. Seemingly every call is wrong and it feels as if every game is being decided by blown calls. Can't the league find anybody with decent eyesight? The Rockets are now down 3-2 thanks to two ridiculous calls late in the game. The first was a hack by Josh Howard that knocked the ball of T-Mac's fingertips. The refs gave the ball to the Mavs. This NEVER happens. If they didn't want to call a cheap foul, then they just call it out off the fouling player. Horrible call that took the game out of the players' hands. Then tonight, Michael Finley was allowed to strip the ball from Jon Barry (on an eerily similar play to the T-Mac non-foul) while standing squarely out of bounds. It wasn't even close. With Phoenix racking up points and Detroit trying to defend its title and Miami riding Wade and Shaq ... I mean, this should be great. Instead, every game sucks because the refs have no idea what they are doing. Much more of this and I'm boycotting. (Okay, I don't mean that, but you get the idea.)

Friday, April 29, 2005

Thursday Night Review

A few comments on last night's games:

Reggie Miller must've read Bill Simmons' "Reggie was never a superstar" column on espn.com. I didn't get to see the game (how is it that the NBA can spread out the first round for over two weeks, and still not get all the games on national TV?), but he's playing as well as he ever has. He may never have been on the level of Jordan or Isiah, but he's proving that, at 39, he's still got something in the tank. If he had played as well throughout the entire season as he did after the All-Star break, he would've been an MVP candidate.

The Nets gave the Heat a great run last night, but ran out of gas. They looked tired in the overtime period, with Vince Carter and Jason Kidd settling for too many contested jumpers. They lacked energy and were outhustled in the overtime periods, highlighted by Alonzo Mourning winning a key offensive rebound off a missed free throw and Udonis Haslem going to the floor on the other end. Those of us Bulls fans who hoped the Nets might upset the Heat or at least tire them out a bit before the next round are disappointed to see Miami on the verge of a sweep and some rest for the banged-up Shaq. By the way, Vince's ridiculous shot to send the game to overtime notwithstanding, he forced a lot of shots down the stretch and just took too many shots, period. Reminded me a bit of Antoine Walker circa 2002.

Houston really went through the motions last night. So close to taking a surprising 3-0 series lead, they relaxed and let Dallas go on an 18-0 run. The Mavs are too talented a team to let your guard down against, as they proved last night. T-Mac, who's looked like he's finally taking it to the next level recently, settled a bit and faded back to his old, lazier self for a few minutes. My question is, why didn't Jeff Van Gundy make any moves during that run, aside from wear a very annoyed look on his face? When players seem to be phoning it in, he should stick some new guys in there for energy, but instead he just let it play out. The Rockets finally woke up, but it was too late. Hopefully, they'll be able to recover Saturday and keep control of the series.

I've been thinking this for a while now. Mark Cuban looks ridiculous out there. He's like a little kid, sitting on the bench with the team, jumping up and down, rocking Mavs warmups or Dirk football jerseys. He might be the coolest owner, but he's definitely also the goofiest. He also might be too close to his players, making it tough to make sound business decisions (though he did let Steve Nash go last year). It's his team, so I suppose he can do what he wants with it. Nonetheless, the Maloof brothers are active owners, yet maintain a necessary separation and dignity. Then there's Cuban, high-fiving the players, arguing with the refs, getting fined by the league. Take it down a notch, bro, you look silly.

Comments and responses welcome.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Must See TV


Hard to believe Chad Johnson
could be more entertaining
OFF the field
After a riveting Monday night of playoff basketball, things have taken a turn for the worst. The Suns and Grizzlies played some entertaining ball last night, but the game ended at like 3 a.m. The Bulls victory was compelling, but was only shown locally (lucky me!). The other four games - featuring wins by Detroit, Miami, Seattle, and San Antonio - were all horrific blowouts that would put even a diehard fan to sleep.

So what to do when a five hour block of anticipated entertainment goes awry? Easy; tune in to ESPN for their bizarre new show, "Battle of the Gridiron Stars." It's like the Real World/Road Rules "Inferno" without the debauchery, featuring a terrific brand of "we're pretending to take this very seriously" commentary, with a steady dose of trash talk thrown in. It's like the Iron Chef merging with an MTV Rock and Jock softball game.

*To read the rest of this entry, please click on the "Must See TV" link on the right side of the screen, or click on "comment" below.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Ron Mexico Central


The one and only ... Ron Mexico
Keep it right here for all the latest on our boy Michael Vick and his infamous alter-ego Ron Mexico.

For an overview of the situation, check out this gem from Gabe Higa:

"My nomination for news story of the year so far is Michael Vick aka Ron Mexico getting sued by some groupie for giving her genital herpes. I missed this story when it first broke because I didn't have thesmokinggun.com as my home page. That was my mistake. Go there and check it out. Here's the skinny:

1) Mike Vick has herpes.
2) We know how Mike likes to 'get down.'
3) Mike is using the alias Ron Mexico to get treated for his STD.
4) The underground movement for Ron Mexico apparel is so strong that the NFL had to issue a statement announcing a ban on the sale of any gear bearing the name 'Ron Mexico' on it.

Hopefully, this story will blow up into a freedom of speech issue and get seen in front of the Supreme Court. You can help by going to ronmexico.com and purchasing a t-shirt, and I'm sure EBay has Ron Mexico stuff up for auction as we speak."

Great stuff, although I will point out that it seems ronmexico.com has already been squashed, so you'll have to go to http://www.cafepress.com/ronmexico.

Playoff Chatter


Nuggets big and small
gave the Spurs trouble
Use this thread to post comments on the first round of the NBA Playoffs. Just click on the "comment" button below to break down all the upsets, bricks, horrible officiating, and Ben Gordon 30-point performances.

To get things started, here are some thoughts on each of the eight first round matchups:

Phoenix-Memphis. The Suns rolled in game one despite a lackluster game from Amare. That's a good sign. The one thing I took away from this game is that Joe Johnson should be a rich man this summer. A restricted free agent, he could be the perfect running mate for LeBron in Cleveland or a nice building block in a place like Charlotte or Atlanta. Even Denver has some cash to throw around a glaring need for an elite two guard. He's the one guy on the Suns that can create his own shot from anywhere on the floor and he's their best defender. Watch his stock go through the roof over the next few months.

Denver and San Antonio. I'm not a believer in the Spurs this year, but I certainly wasn't a believer in the Nuggets either. One of those stances has changed. In my Playoff preview column I stated that Andre Miller could be the X-Factor if he took Parker into the lane, and he did that to the tune of 24 first-half points. Parker may be improved and lightening quick but let's not forget that he's still French. Bully him and he's sure to surrender. I think the battle-tested Spurs can and will still win this series (if for no other reason than the fact that Duncan will get every call from here on out), but it's going to be a tough task with the likes of Camby, Nene, and K-Mart challenging every shot. When you consider that San Antonio got a shocking 15 points, 15 board, and 4 block performance from Nazr Mohammed and STILL lost ... well, that's not a great sign.

Seattle and Sacramento. What a horrible game to watch. The Sonics got four million offensive rebounds, a career night from Jerome James, and watched Mike Bibby launch one airball after another on his way to a 1-for-16 shooting night. Hard to imagine that happening every night in this series. I still think the Kings will get their act together and beat Seattle.

Rockets and Mavs. No LeBron, no KG, and no Kobe in the playoffs this year. No worries, we've got T-Mac, who is out to stake a renewed claim as one of the league's dominant players. The most impressive thing about this game was the way McGrady shut down Dirk on about 10 different occasions. Tracy playing defense? Yup.

Miami and New Jersey. Yawn. Bring something, Nets. The best thing about this game was the Damon Jones Show in the postgame press conference. Hilarious.

Detroit and Philadelphia. For about 16 minutes, it looked like the Sixers really did have the Pistons' numbers, but then Rasheed remembered that he's sweet and it was all over. If Wallace plays like that for the next two months, Detroit will repeat. Never saw that coming.

Boston and Indiana. The Pacers were the biggest disappointment over the first weekend. What an awful performance. Look for Jermaine and Reggie to play much better and for Raef to shoot a little less than 100% from three-point land in Game Two. I'm not giving up on the Pacers either.

Chicago and Washington. The most entertaining game so far. Ben Gordon continues to amaze, Kirk Hinrich made huge plays, and Tyson Chandler completely changed the game when he was able to stay on the floor for the fourth quarter. When you consider that Larry Hughes played flawlessly for most of the game and the Bulls got some of the worst officiating this side of North Carolina-Villanova, things look good for Scott Skiles and company. Then again, Gilbert Arenas isn't going to shoot 3-for-19 every night and Nocioni is not going to morph into KG every night (25 and 18) either. This is a series to watch.

(Other highlights coming out of that Bulls victory: listening to Nocioni talk in the locker room, Eddie Jordan saying that Nocioni was "more hungrier" on the glass, and Charles Barkley saying that the Chicago win was even more impressive because "Dong" wasn't available.

Be sure to weigh in with your thoughts as the playoffs roll on.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Early Season Trades

We have all heard the saying “Buy Low and Sell High”, but when it comes to Fantasy Baseball, these are not always the best words to live by. Before agreeing to a trade or offering up a trade, every owner should spend 15 minutes and perform their due diligence on all parties involved in the trade. For example, there are certain players (i.e. Thome and Beltran) who are notorious for their slow starts. An inexperienced owner might have grown frustrated with these players after the first few weeks and be willing to part with them at a price that is a bit below their draft position. If you can find one of these owners out there, it is your duty as a good fantasy owner to swoop in and snatch these players off of their roster.

On the flip side of this scenario, is an owner who is trying to unload players that are playing well above their draft position. Two perfect examples of this are Torri Hunter and the next AL Triple Crown award winner in Brian Roberts. In most 10 team mixed leagues, you could have snagged either of these guys between rounds 13-17 and that would have seemed like a decent pick at the time. Through the first 3 weeks, these players have played better than almost anyone else at their respective positions. The common thought amongst most owners is to trade them away while you can because their value will never be any higher. I can totally understand that viewpoint because more times than not, these players production will taper off over the next month and they will fall back to the mediocre players that they were when you drafted them. If someone is willing to give you B. Sheets or K-Rod for B. Roberts, you should not think twice about pulling the trigger. However, when it comes to Mr. Hunter, I tend to disagree. The reason being that his power numbers are not the reason his value is so high, it is his SB numbers (9 SB’s thru 4/21/05) that are separating him from the competition. Barring an injury or a change in team strategy, I see no reason that he can’t steal 35 bases this year. He is obviously running more frequently and his success rate is perfect thus far. If he can steal 35 bases and then have a slight increase in his other statistics, here is what his year end stats could look like…. 98 Runs, .284 Avg., 32 HR’s, 101 RBI and 35 SB’s. Call me crazy, but that line looks eerily familiar to the numbers that C. Beltran will put up this season. Am I saying that you should trade Beltran or a player of similar draft position for Hunter? No, but if you can find someone who is willing to unload Hunter for someone like Aubrey Huff, you should take that deal and run!

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Changing My Vote


MVP! MVP! MVP!
Recently I wrote a column about the NBA's MVP award (can be found using the WIS Insider link to the right) and gave the award to Shaq. Well, I'm changing my vote. Allen Iverson was already a candidate, but what he did down the stretch convinced me that he's at another level. 10 games ago, you couldn't find an expert that had Philly making the playoffs. They supposedly couldn't beat Miami or Indiana or anyone else on their schedule. Well, somehow they found a way.

Wait, not somehow. Allen Iverson is how they found a way. AI become the first player in NBA HISTORY to finish in the top five in scoring (first), assists (fifth), and steals (second). He won his fourth scoring title at 30.7 per game and trails only Jordan and Wilt for the most titles all time. He joined Jordan as the only players to average 30 points, 7 assists, and 2 steals a game for an entire season. He lead the league in minutes once again (tied with LeBron at 42.4). He averaged 32.3 points and 8.6 assists per game after winning the All-Star Game MVP. As Jason Kidd said recently in a hilarious quote while hyping AI for the MVP award: "He's always been a threat; now he's a superthreat."

Not enough? The Sixers went 8-2 over their final 10 games. Not counting the final game against the Hawks in which he played only the first quarter, AI's numbers in the other seven wins were phenomenal. He averaged 37.5 points, 13.8 assists, 6.5 rebounds, 3.9 steals per game, while shooting 53.1% from the floor and 91% from the line. I'm telling you, this will go down as one of the best stretches of the decade. His whole season will go down as one of the best. It's incredible how overlooked this whole thing has been.

Oh yeah, and he did all that with a broken thumb. But it was okay, because the other one was only badly sprained.

When you think of AI from this 2004-2005 season, remember one game. April 14 at Miami. Shaq returns to the lineup, nobody gives Philly a chance after being upended by Boston at home. A loss probably sends them spiraling out of the playoffs. All AI did was play the game of his life. He was on the floor for all 53 minutes and committed no fouls and only two turnovers. He hit all 13 of this free throws, including two that he willed in to send the game to OT. He grabbed three steals and six boards. And he threw up 38 points and a career high 16 assists, something that had yet to be done in this millennium (I was unable find the necessary game logs further back than 1999, so who knows how long it has been since someone went for at least 38 and 16 in a game). It was arguably his greatest game ever and possibly the most memorable performance of this NBA season. Pure brilliance.

So there you have it. I don't care about "first place teams" or "offseason acquisitions." I don't care about what I wrote last week or what anybody says in regard to the MVP award. Iverson's my guy.

AI for MVP! Spread the word.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Bearing Down for Draft Day


The best player in the 2005 Draft
I've never been a huge NFL Draft guy. The combines, rumors, mock drafts, Mel Kiper's toupee ... it just didn't do it to me. Even last year when I was in New York during the draft, I was far more interested in following the NBA playoffs and charting my fantasy baseball team. And world events, of course.

For some reason though, I've become intrigued with this draft. It has something to do with two stud running backs coming out of Auburn and even more to do with two unbelievable wide receivers. But mainly, living here in Chicago, I'm curious to see what the Bears will do. Most of the speculation has them going for a big running back, likely Cedric Benson. I believe this is a big mistake. If Ronnie Brown slips to #4, fine, take him. If he's not there though, you have to go with Mike Williams. The former USC star is only going to be the best player out of this draft, so it wouldn't be a bad idea to nab him. Especially when you consider that if they don't get him, division rival Minnesota will.

Since I'm always interested in helping out the good people of Chicago, here are the guys that the Bears should take this weekend:

First Round - Mike Williams. A no-brainer. Ronnie Brown and Braylon Edwards are the only other guys in this draft that can be as good as Williams, but they will probably be gone by #4. Even if they were around, Williams is the guy. Ever since he made that transcendent catch during his sophomore year (the one handed palm-job in the back of the end zone - a catch that was the football equivalent of Tiger Woods' amazing chip on the 16th at Augusta), I've just known that this guy was going to destroy the NFL. Why pass on a sure thing?

Second Round - Eric Shelton. Here is where you take your big, bruising back. Shelton is wildly underrated coming out of Louisville and a perfect compliment to Thomas Jones.

Third Round - No Pick. They should try to trade for a pick and take Bryant McFadden, an exciting defensive back out of Florida State. He might be gone by the third round, but there's a chance he could slip.

Fourth Round - Marion Barber. There are some terrific running backs in this draft, so I say take another one. Barber is another strong runner that reminds me a bit of Rudi Johnson.

Fifth Round - Adrian McPherson. When Chad Hutchinson is your backup QB, it can't hurt to take a signal caller. McPherson is a gamble because of his checkered past, but he'll probably be the most talented player taken on the second day.

Sixth Round - Jared Newberry. I've heard good things about the outside linebacker from Stanford. Chicago is pretty loaded on defense, but it doesn't hurt to grab a young guy that plays hard.

Seventh Round - Brandon Jones. Back to offense! This Oklahoma receiver is wildly underrated and I think he'd be a real nice addition to a group that will be headlined by Muhammad and Williams.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Book It


Did anyone think Gordon
would be THIS good?
This was an interesting season to decide the Rookie of the Year award. Emeka Okafor was a monster, but played in relative obscurity and missed several games on the IL. Dwight Howard has been great all year and is really turning it on down the stretch while playing on a team fighting for the playoffs. And Ben Gordon has been the best 6th man in the league on the surprise team in the East.

I've been leaning toward Gordon on the strength of his league-leading 19 double-figure fourth quarter performances, but was undecided. Until tonight. My man went for 35 points on 11-17 shooting (6-8 from three) in ONLY 23 minutes. That's crazy.

Anyway, he's been the man in crunch time for a team that has a good chance at grabbing home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. He's one of the best scorers in the league. He is the new frontrunner for 6th Man of the Year.

Which makes him my Rookie of the Year.

High School Impact


Who is this guy?
Only the next T-Mac
People have been down on this year's high school senior class in regard to their NBA potential. After watching the McDonald's game, I have to agree for the most part. It was actually a very good game and featured some surefire collegiate stars. However, there were only two young guns that looked like lottery picks.

The first, Gerald Green, is the player most have been pointing too as the one guy that could make an immediate impact in the NBA. He's got good size, a flawless jump shot with deep range, and incredible athleticism. He won the dunk contest yesterday and just got done throwing up 24 points while shooting 6-9 from three. He could stand to grab a few more rebounds and appear slightly less greedy during games (he hand his hands out in the "give me the ball" signal pretty much the whole time), but this guy is the closest thing I've seen to Tracy McGrady. He could have moved from late lottery to a top six or seven pick with this performance in the All-Star game.

The other lottery pick-in-the-making is Martell Webster, a bruising swingman with athleticism and a nice jumper from Seattle. I think he could actually make a similar impact because his game seems so mature and tailor-made for the NBA. However, Green is the guy with more star potential.

I'll be interested to see what guys like Chad Ford made of these performances.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Shooting Counts


Hassan Adams soars into the
first round of the NBA Draft
Back before the tournament started I told my brother, Drew, that I was taking Duke to the Final Four because they had the best shooter in the field in J.J. Redick. My thinking was that you just can't put a price tag (don't worry, I'm not dredging up the "Town Hall" on whether college athletes should be paid) on being able to hit jump shots. And the theory has played out ... just not really with Duke. Redick and the Blue Devils will have their chance, but for now, the long ball has been kind to others in the field, including the winners from tonight̢۪s games.

- West Virginia has used their sophisticated offense and backdoor cutting to set up open looks, and it's been the shooting of guys like Gansey, Salley, and Pittsnoggle (my favorite name to say) that has carried them to the Elite Eight.

- Illinois "gets it done" (a nod to the insane Digger Phelps) with defense and passing, but none of that works of guys like Brown and Williams and Head don't knock down shots. Their ability to stretch the defense and hit threes is what makes them great.

- Louisville, my pick to represent the left side of the bracket in the title game, is shooting epitomized. If they ever go ice cold, they are probably done. But when you've got three guys that are all capable of dropping 5-7 threes and going for over 20 any given night, that's the kind of team that is hard to stop. And tonight against Washington, Garcia and Tai-Kwon-Dean both hit five triples.

- Finally, Arizona advanced purely because of shooting. Salim hit the game-winner and the equally important three a few minutes earlier (when Bobbit moronically tried to pick his pocket) and he and Hassan Adams combined to shoot 15-23 from the field. On that topic, Adams probably did more for his NBA prospects in that game than any player has in one tournament game in recent history. Maybe D-Wade against Kentucky a few years ago. Adams has always been criticized as being a guy that can't take his game to the perimeter, but now that Lute Olson is letting him fire from deep, he's showing he has the whole package. He can lock people up, take it to the rim, sky for rebounds, and now drill jumpers. To me, he looks just as good as Igoudala.

Monday, March 21, 2005

That's Why You Don't Call Timeout (Day Four Recap)


Hodge knew what
to do with it
All weekend I've been railing about the new trend in college hoops: coaches calling timeout and micro-managing the game. Today we saw Herb Sendek let his guys play on, and the result was a fantastic game-winning three-point conversion by star senior Julius Hodge. Not only were the Wolfpack able to create an advantage by keeping the pace of the game intact, they also got UConn in matchup problems. Rudy Gay was clearly not ready to handle a guy like Hodge (although he was unlucky getting tripped like that), and Jim Calhoun certainly didn't want Charlie Villanueva guarding ANYONE out there (impartial analyst Gus Johnson went so far as to apologetically call him a liability). If NC State calls timeout, it gives the Huskies a chance to get Josh Boone back in the game, and viola! that shot gets cleaned right off the glass and we go to overtime. Great work by Sendek.

Here are other thoughts on the day:

- Sendek's great coaching stole the show from Calhoun, who showed his skill in the most challenging of times. He did a great job with offense-for-defense and he did it early. He wasn't afraid to go to the bench for guys like Ed Nelson. He kept his team attacking and going to the basket. Great job of coaching - too bad no one will remember it since they lost.

- Billy Packer continues to be one of the most vile men in the world. Well, at least in the broadcasting industry. He just can't keep his big mouth shut. Last year it was an open war with St. Joe's. This year he was openly rooting for Duke. There's no other way to put it. He was pleading with the officials for calls, making excuses for the Blue Devils, and carrying on as if he was the AD of the university. It was loud, it was blatant, and it was the ultimate example of unprofessional behavior.

- Louisville looked mighty impressive. I told you that was just a 2-7 game in disguise. Please, please, let CBS show the Louisville-Washington game this Thursday. If I get fed another crappy game because a Big 10 team is playing, I might puke.

- Isn't it weird that last year's Wisconsin team was considerably better than this year's team ... yet they are already a round further this time around? Crazy game.

- Mmmm ... Mamba's.

- Digger's matching tie/highlighter shtick needs to stop immediately.

- Has anyone seen a single minute of a Villanova game?

- Oklahoma State vs. Southern Illinois is the best game that everyone will forget about. The Cowboys had to dig down deep and get a career game from McFarlin (31 points) to get past the gritty Salukis. Great job by both of those teams.

- Have to mention North Carolina (the only team to absolutely roll through the first two rounds), so how about Marvin Williams going for 20 and 15 off the bench? Ladies and gents, there's your #1 pick in the 2006 NBA draft.

See you on Thursday.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Round Two Brings Excitement

I've always looked forward to the first Saturday of the Tournament more than any other day. Part of the reason is that until this year, I'd never once had either the Thursday or Friday off, so Saturday was my first chance to see games all day. Along those same lines, there are only half the games played, so CBS has less of a chance to screw you over with mismanaged feeds (although they still managed today when I saw a total of 43 seconds of a wild BC vs. UW-Milwaukee game). Finally, the quality of the games goes way up. You may not have the extreme upsets that come with round one, but you get more well-played games and fantastic finishes. We certainly weren't disappointed today. Here are thoughts on Saturday's action:

- Best game of the day was obviously the double OT thriller between West Virginia and Wake. Incredible effort by both teams that came down to the Mountaineers have more viable options. First, some praise for the Wake guys: Eric Williams for staying out of foul trouble and for making the third biggest "time expiring" block I can remember (behind Mourning's against Princeton and my boy Cedric Suit against San Diego a few years back ... sorry, that one is a little inside), Chris Paul for playing his heart out and cementing his status as a top-3 pick in next year's NBA draft, and Taron Downey for making three of the biggest shots I can remember. And for the victors: D'or Fischer for having a career game at the best possible time, J.D. Collins for shaking off a rough first half and controlling the comeback in regulation, Tyrone Salley for going 21-4-4 with ONE MISS in the entire game (7-8 from the field, 5-5 from the line ... not to mention the block and dunk in round one that got them here), Kevin Pittsnoggle for coming big after being pulled, Darris Nichols for blocking a shot and hitting a huge jumper after Collins fouled out, and Mike Gansey for throwing up 29 and 7 and playing the game of this life. One of the best team efforts and one of the best coaching jobs I've seen in several years.

- Worst game of the day (that I saw) was Utah-Oklahoma. The Utes are the luckiest team in the dance so far, as they got a UTEP team that wasn't ready for prime time and a Sooners club that simply crapped the bed. Contrary to Dan Bonner's relentless praise for Andrew Bogut (or, as Charles Barkley calls him, Andrew Boo-got), the three reasons Utah won were: 1) Justin Hawkins going for 20 and 14, Mark Jackson hitting four of five from downtown, and Oklahoma going on unfathomable 2-19 from three. Bogut's solid 10-11-7 comes in a distant fourth. Was he good? Yeah, he was solid. But he was hardly THE reason they won. I hate when announcers pick one guy to hype no matter what happens (Chris Duhon, anyone?). To hear Dan Bonner tell it, Justin Hawkins was a little toddler getting lifted up by Andrew Bogut so that he could set the ball in the basket.

- Okay, these need to get shorter. Worst choke goes to the Zags ... there is no excuse for that kind of collapse. I also want to note that I've got love for Adam Morrison, Ronald Ross, and Jarrius Jackson for bringing back the mid-range jumper.

- Cinci-Kentucky was the most intense second round game I can remember. Extremely physical, almost violent, and incredibly exciting. Too bad the Bearcats ran out of gas down the stretch because that was shaping up to be a finish for the ages.

- Almost forgot ... my search for a favorite frosh point guard is over. Rajon Rondo of Kentucky is my guy. 16 points on 7 shots to go with 7 assists and 3 steals. Nice. (A nod to freshman big man Randolph Morris - who Dick Enberg called simply "Randolph" the entire game - for posting his first double-double and changing the complexion of the game in the second half.)

- Illinois looked good today and what really stood out was how good of a coach Bruce Weber is. First, he quickly noted that James Augustine was having a great start, so he let his power forward (a 60% FT shooter) take two technicals. Augustine hit them and went on to have a career game. Later, his backup power forward, Jack Ingram, made a major blunder, but Weber kept him in ... even though Ingram was due to come out anyway. He called Augustine back to the bench and allowed Ingram to make a nice play and restore his confidence before making the substitution. Great work on the bench.

- Good day for the Pac-10 as both Arizona and Washington demolished their opponents. No one's saying anything now, but these were supposed to be dangerous games for each team.

- Finally, great work by the Panthers of UW-Milwaukee. They play extremely hard and have a great coach in Bruce Pearl.

See you tomorrow.

Day Two Recap


Vermont delivers the goods
It look a day and a half, but the tournament finally got crazy. Vermont gritted out a huge win over Syracuse and Bucknell (Bucknell!) won a thriller with Kansas. Meanwhile, a pair of #5 seeds won very good games to finish out the night and my Final Four pick from the West, Louisville, survived a horrifying matchup with the Ragin' Cajun. Great night of hoops.

Some highlights and thoughts from the second day of March Madness:

- My Dad nailed the Vermont pick. When we spoke on the phone last night that was the one Friday game that he pointed to as an upset waiting to happen. Nice work, buddy.

- Bucknell's Charles Lee has to be the happiest guy in the world right now. After dropping an easy pass and then committing a questionable intentional foul, he single-handedly propelled Kansas to a 63-62 lead. I was chatting up my brother, Drew, on the phone and we both agreed that it was over. Nope. You have to love March Madness!

- I just want to point out that Bucknell is from the Patriot League. In case you weren't aware of this, it is one of only two leagues (along with the Ivy League) that does not alter its admission standards for athletes. In addition, they have very few scholarships to dole out.

From Brenn Jones (in a book review of John Feinstein's "The Last Amateurs"): "Year after year, the winner of the Patriot League tournament is granted a 15th-seed slot in the NCAA tournament to play what amounts to one last "guarantee game." By refusing to lower academic standards for basketball talent, the Patriot League has ensured that it will always be quickly swept aside by a big-conference bouncer at the Big Dance. In keeping basketball honest, though, the Patriot League has shown that a big loss at the Big Dance is a very small loss indeed."

The Bucknell players are to be commended.

- The SEC got some redemption today. Florida held off a tough Ohio team and Mississippi State FINALLY came to play and as a result, crushed an overmatched Stanford team.

- Conference USA was one Charlotte collapse from going 4-0. The 49ers meltdown was the biggest gag that no one is talking about.

- Looking at the 5-12 showdown, we got our required upset in the first game of the tournament. Beyond that, Villanova kept the Big East's terrific record in such games intact, and New Mexico helped extend the Mountain West Conference's futility as they are now 0-5 as the #12 seed in this decade.

- The analysts are calling the Oklahoma-Utah matchup the best game on tomorrow's slate, but I have to disagree. I think UW-Pacific (scary game for the top seeded Huskies), UAB-Arizona (could we finally see two teams in the 80's?), and Texas Tech-Gonzaga will all be better games.

- Looking ahead to Sunday, Duke has to be absolutely bitter right now. Mississippi State has the talent of a #3 seed and now that they are finally playing well, they present all kinds of problems for the Coach K U. This could be similar to the 1997 Tournament when the second seeded Blue Devils ran into a suddenly unstoppable Providence (seeded 10th) in the second round. Keep on eye out for that one.

- Digger Phelps has lost it. He used the phrase "Got it done" at least 74 times in three minutes while chatting up Joe Namath's girlfriend on SportsCenter. First the matching tie and highlighter shtick, now delusional ramblings. I can't even watch the Game Day team of Chris Fowler, Dickie V/Majerus, Digger, and Steve Lavin (who is by far the best they have going right now, which tells you everything). Someone get Bilas off the sideline and back into the studio, stat!

- By the way, Old Dominion's coach (name escapes me, but Tom H-to-the-Izzo loved him) stole "worst stache" away from Bobby Lutz. Rough day for the Niners' coach.

That's it for tonight and for the first round. The second stanza doesn't get the pub of opening day, but it's always been my favorite. Let's hope the scoring and the late-game dramatics continues to pick up during round two.

Friday, March 18, 2005

CBS, You're Fired


Somebody get Trump on the line
You know the games are finally getting good when you start screaming at your TV, begging CBS to switch feeds. That's what happened in the first round of night games, as three contests went down to the wire. Which one did I see? Wisconsin-Northern Iowa, which is the curse of being in Big 10 country. But I can live with regional preference where primary coverage is concerned. What enraged me was CBS' inability to call the audible.

With 2:12 to go, the Badgers stretched the lead to eight, while Syracuse hit two free throws to tie their game with 30 seconds left. Perfect time to go with the, "We'll keep you posted on the action in Charlotte, but right now let's go out to Syracuse-Vermont ..." Right? Wrong. The latter showdown went to OT without a single live look-in. Then, as the Cuse and Vermont battled with under a minute left, we were forced to watch Wisconsin parade to the line, protecting a five-point lead with under 10 seconds to play. It's over! Switch games! Finally, during a timeout (with 2.6 seconds to play in a 5-point game; which meant that it was OVER), we got a live look-in as Vermont made one of two free throws to extend their lead to three. Then, just as Syracuse inbounded the ball for their final possession, CBS took us back to the Wisconsin ... just in time to see the officials gather around the scorer's table to discuss whether there should be 2.6 or 2.9 seconds remaining. Presumably they were also discussing whether to institute a new rule, allowing for seven-pointers.

Needless to say, the best game of the first round ended dramatically and I didn't see it. Perfect.

Oh well, at least the games are finally good, even if CBS sucks.

Stop calling timeout!


This guy knows something
about ill-advised timeouts
We had a good round of games this morning and it looks like March Madness is finally heating up. Oklahoma State - one of the most dangerous teams in the field - fended off SE Louisiana, NC State climbed on Julius Hodge's back and raced past Charlotte, Iowa State used a ferocious press and great play from their big man, Jared Homan, to turn away a scrappy Minnesota team. And Florida dodged a bullet when they turned away Ohio's comeback for the ages.

And on that note, let me just say that I've identified my pet peeve of this year's tourney: coaches over-managing the game in the closing moments. When you think back on all the great finishes in early round games, it usually involves somebody taking the ball out of the net and racing down the court, getting the defense on their heels. This year, we've seen one timeout after another, which gives the defense the advantage by allowing them to set up and get into their matchups. We saw it again today when Ohio called a timeout down three, only to turn it over within about five seconds.

Let 'em play, coaches!

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Day One Recap


The Sucking Effortlessly Conference
A few notes on the day as a whole:

- It was a bad opener for the SEC as they went 1-2 and saw things get progressively worse as the day went on. Kentucky barely got by a #15 seed, Alabama was finished off by a #12, and LSU got hammered by the UAB Blazers. They need Florida and Mississippi State to come up big and salvage some pride tomorrow.

- 13 higher seeds won, which helps explain why it was so boring.

- C-USA is halfway to getting their redemption. Cincinnati destroyed a hot Iowa team and UAB crushed a legit sleeper in LSU. I told you this league got jacked by the committee.

- Mid Majors quietly had a nice day. In showdowns between mids and major conference teams, the little guys (or "medium-sized" guys, I suppose) went 4-3 behind big wins by Nevada, UW-Milwaukee, UAB, and Pacific. Utah and Gonzaga also won, but they were playing other mid-major or small conference teams. And when you consider that the St. Mary's-Southern Illinois matchup will produce another mid-major winner, the Midwest region will feature four mids in the second round. Not bad at all.

- I always fall for a freshman point guard in the tourney (Chris Thomas, Chris Hill, Chris Paul ... wow, all named Chris!) and was all set to jump on either the Ronald Steele or Daniel Gibson bandwagon, but alas, their teams choked. So the search continues.

Let's all hope that tomorrow produces a little more magic. In the meantime let me recommend a book (Torture the Artist by Joey Goeble), a CD (Sunrise over Sea by John Butler Trio), and a movie (Riding Giants). Sorry, that was random.

Ouch


The picture that comes up when
you type "Adam Hoff" into Google's
Images database
I was trying to find a picture to post under "My Profile" and since it's much easier to use jpg's that are already on the web for this blog, I decided to check Google and see if there was already a picture of me floating around out there. This is what I got. Seems like a sweet dog though.

At Least UAB Won


Dee Brown is back
Well, my Blazers are doing it again. They rolled into an NCAA Tourney game against an SEC team and laid another whooping on them. If I'm the AD at Tennessee, I pay Mike Anderson whatever he wants to coach my team ... it's obvious he can beat SEC opponents if nothing else.

In addition to UAB running roughshod over LSU in the All-Acronym battle of the day, we were treated to:

- A mediocre game between Texas Tech and UCLA.

- A shaky Illinois victory over feisty Fairleigh Dickinson that was notable only for the fact that Dee Brown broke out of a miserable shooting slump, going 7-10 from the floor with 19 points. That is good news for an Illini team that simply looks tired. I think they'll beat Nevada and the winner of the UW-Milwaukee-BC game, but that might be all this team has left. It's been a long and emotional season and they look the part.

- Our first true down-to-the-wire game of the day as West Virginia's Tyrone Salley made a huge block and followed it up with a fastbreak dunk to beat Creighton by two. It was nice to see a team make a play to win a game, rather than see someone crumble down the stretch.

I guess that's it for day one. All in all, a pretty poor opening day. There were very few close games, only a handful of upsets, and maybe one or two memorable moments. The 48 points that high schooler Jon Scheyer threw up the other night will stick with me longer than all of these games put together.

I'll be back later to post some general thoughts on the day before calling it a night.

Is Jay Bilas Drunk?


One too many
My man seems to be crumbling during his fourth game in one day. While March Madness vets like Harlan, Dan Bonner, Ian Eagle, and Jim Spanarkle are cruising into the home stretch like a Nigerian marathon runner, Bilas seems to be going out of his mind. Even his partner, the cryogenically frozen Dick Enberg, is holing up better than the former Blue Devil.

First he screamed out "Dee Brown shows his speeeeeed" while doing his best impersonation of Jack Black in School of Rock, then dropped a "Illinois shows their spurtability!" Even worse was that he followed that up with, "Shoutout to Clark Kellogg!"

My man is getting loose. He's screaming, he's riffing, he's straying away from the Bilastrator ... the night can't end fast enough.

Dodge, Dive, Duck, and Dodge


Wake Forest "punches" out Chattanooga
At one point three of the top 12 teams in the tournament were trailing with less than 15 minutes to go in their respective games. #3 Arizona was down one to Utah State, #2 Wake was being beaten by Chattanooga (in spite of the officials' best efforts), and #3 Gonzaga found themselves going back-and-forth with Winthrop. None of the three heavy favorites lost, but each were forced to battle late into the game before securing victory. It will be very interesting to see if the draining contests have any ill effect on those squads on Saturday. Top seeds usually have an advantage in second round games because they were able to coast in round one, but that won't be the case for several teams this year.

In the other evening game, Nevada outlasted Texas in a contest of who could brick one less shot. In fact, I can't remember a tournament with worse shooting and scoring. Every game is in the 50's and 60's. Put the ball in the hoop! Other than the Panthers of UW-Milwaukee, Washington, Pacific, and Boston College, nobody has shown the slightest ability to consistently make jumpers. Hopefully this picks up as we go.

In an unrelated story ... we need more showdowns between Alex and Ryan on The O.C.

Why Even Have a Rulebook?

The classic Bill Walton phrase applies right now. With time running out in the first half of the Chattanooga-Wake contest, Justin Gray took a spill while driving the lane. Then got up. Then took two steps. Then kicked it out to All-American Chris Paul who drained a three at the buzzer, cutting the lead to 27-24. If the Mocks lose this game by three or less ... controversy!

Seriously, that was one of the worst no-calls I've ever seen. What could the officials have been looking at?

Afternoon Delight ... Not


Bogut better enjoy his success while it lasts
Rough start to the best sports day of the year. So far we've had one game that was in doubt in the final minute and it was a sloppy, grueling affair between Utah and UTEP. In that contest, star center Andrew Bogut controlled the tempo and allowed his team full of scrubs to prevail against a more exciting Minors squad. Now we are all subjected to an awful Oklahoma-Utah matchup in round two. Puke.

As for Bogut, he looks pretty good against college players - makes good decisions, has decent hands, can hit threes, blocks shots - but I can't imagine him being any good in the NBA. People are calling him a top-6 pick in the draft, but if I wouldn't touch him with a 10-foot poll.

The other games played in the early afternoon session were all blowouts as UW, Boston College, and Cinci rolled to victory. Thoughts on those games:

The Bearcats were very impressive defensively and could give Kentucky trouble in round two.

Washington looked like the best team in the country for about six minutes and then mailed it in for the next 34.

Boston College-Penn was notable only because Jermaine Watson ran off nine straight points at one point. In case you missed it, Watson is the guy that jumped out of a second story window to escape a group of armed and masked men that invaded his apartment. That has to be one of my favorite things about March Madness - the crazy stories that pop up along the way. Last year we had DePaul's LeVar Seals getting suspended for the opening round after punching the aptly-named Tony Bobbit in the seeds and two Murray State players getting the boot after they got caught hiding in a closet during a drug bust. Gotta love it!

Anyway, here's to hoping that the evening provides more excitement.