Tuesday, February 28, 2006

I watched LSU and came up wanting

Well I finally got a chance to see LSU tonight (albeit sans super-frosh Tyrus Thomas), as they eked out a win at South Carolina 64-61, and, well, I wasn't overly impressed. Here's what I liked and disliked about the 21-7 LSU Tigers.

- With all due respect to Tennessee's Chris Lofton, Glen "Big Baby" Davis is the SEC Player of the Year. He is a brute force down low, and he showed that with 24 and 10 tonight. As an added bonus, he has a move called the "Wilt Chamberneeze" (courtesy to whoever ESPN's sideline reporter was). Combine all of this with the fact that he has a cool nickname, and he is the SEC Player of the Year.

- I think LSU is susceptible to quick teams that can shoot the 3. In the post, they are extremely tough, but I think they can get beat on the break. South Carolina hit 10 3's tonight, and at least 25% of their total points came on the fast break. I also think LSU can be susceptible to teams that play a zone, because they don't shoot the ball that well from 3-point land. Coming in, they only had 3 people with at least 5 threes on the year, and only one that had at least 20 (Darrel Mitchell with 68). They were 5 of 13 tonight.

- After coming up with that formula to beat them, it dawned on me that they matched up with a team like that last year in the NCAA Tournament, when they fell to UAB 82-68. Maybe this doesn't mean anything, or that I'm still bitter because I picked LSU to the Sweet 16 last year, but I found it interesting.

- Let me add it's very possible that they are twice as good with Tyrus Thomas, who is averaging 12.7 points and 9.3 rebounds per game, but was out with a sprained ankle. All I know is, I don't think the LSU team is capable of making a deep tourney run. They'll probably be a 3 or 4 seed, so I don't see them falling in round 1, but I could definitely foresee a 2nd round loss. But another thing to keep in mind is that LSU is very young, with 7 freshmen. They have a very bright future.

- A final basketball note, props to ESPN Classic, which showed last year Arizona/Oklahoma St. tourney game, which was very good. Arizona won 79-78 on a shot from Salim Stoudemire, and I have to say I enjoyed watching it. Tomorrow afternoon they are showing last year's Louisville/West Virginia Elite Eight game, which was extremely entertaining, but I have to work, which is unfortunate.

What to read:

I don't have muchh to say right now (although I may have something up later about LSU), so I'll just give you some links of things I enjoyed:

Villanova forward Curtis Sumpter will take a medical redshirt and return next season. This is big for Villanova, because they will be losing Randy Foye and Allen Ray next year.

Phoenix Suns GM Bryan Colangelo is leaving Phoenix to take the same position in Toronto. This should be great for Toronto, because Colangelo has done very well in Phoenix.

Kyle Whelliston of ESPN breaks down some of the Mid-Major Conference Tourneys that are taking place this week.

Stewart Mandel of SI on how Matt Doherty has made the most of his shot at FAU.

Deadspin invites you to take part in their NCAA Tournament Preview.

Sweaty Men Endeavors remarks about how Detroit has 10 technical fouls in the last 3 games... including one on Rasheed Wallace for laughing.

Kevin Antcliff wonders just how good the NBA is right now.

Joe Lunardi's Bracketology is always a good read.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Will Stephen A. Smith shut up?

Earlier on this blog, I expressed my wishes that Skip Bayless would just shut up. Today, I express the same sentiments toward Stephen A. Smith.

While I (and most everyone else) have thought this many times over the past few months, this is specifically in regards to his article yesterday in the Philadelphia Inquirer, "As a black man, Cheeks watches his step." Let's take a look. (Smith's quotes in blockquote)

Maurice Cheeks is a black man.

Thanks Stephen A. I had no idea.

Under normal circumstances, this would mean absolutely nothing. But if you are a head coach in the National Basketball Association, and you are perceived as the warden of an asylum run by the players, this is something you can ill afford.

Especially as a black coach in the NBA.

Well, if you didn't know Cheeks was a head coach in the NBA, Smith told you twice. So that's helpful.

Smith apparently also subscribes to the Scoop Jackson School of Broadcasting, which calls for as much vague and cryptic writing as possible.

Here's the dirty little secret talked about amongst African Americans in the sports world: While the numbers are proliferating, methodically erasing the need to make an issue out of the paucity of black coaches in the game, it hasn't changed the unwritten standard attached to their job description.

Most coaches are hired to win basketball games. Black coaches are hired to do so while keeping players under control.

If this were not true, you still wouldn't see many black coaches in this game.

Let's ask Jim O'Brien about this. He coached for one year in Philly, led them back to the playoffs, and was fired for the effort. I didn't hear Smith complaining about that one though.

Cheeks was brought here to be something Jim O'Brien wasn't: a winner with a personality.

The onus placed on Cheeks was not just to win basketball games and ingratiate himself with the Philadelphia community. It was, and still is, to keep the players happy, so we wouldn't hearing about how Billy King is entertaining the idea of accepting expiring contracts just to start anew.

So let me get this straight, Smith complains that Cheeks was brought in to win and have personality, with his main complaint seeming to be that for Cheeks, winning alone is not enough. But he makes no mention of the fact that these were the exact same conditions for O'Brien, who won and was fired after one season.

Also, I think the reason King is entertaining the idea of accepting expiring contracts is because Philly has won exactly one playoff series since 2001, and their core is starting to get old. It has nothing to do with the coach.

But that's only as long as there's a vision for a future. A plan in motion that includes the right coach, capable of manning the ship. Translation: Keeping the players in check.

Is Cheeks the right guy? This question has been asked, albeit not by me.

That, in itself, is a problem he needs to fix. Now!

First of all, let me say I haven't heard of too many thoughts about the Sixers firing Cheeks, although since Smith writes for a Philadelphia paper, I guess I can give him the benefit of the doubt. However, (winning) coaches around the league are in jeopardy of losing their jobs. This is probably Rick Adelman's last year in Sacramento, and all he has done is lead the Kings to the playoffs the last 7 years. Jeff Van Gundy has been catching heat in Houston, and he's led Houston to the playoffs the last 2 years. Both of those coaches are white, by the way.

As a Philly fan, I like Cheeks. I don't want him fired, and I don't think he'll be fired. But what's Smith trying to prove here? That he can make racial claims? Too bad that a so-called "national reporter" has to resort to sensationalism in his writing.

I'll definitely watch my step the next time I think about reading a Smith article.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Connecticut vs. Villanova, Part 2

In the first meeting, Villanova beat Connecticut 69-64. This time, Connecticut came out on top 89-75.

Through about 30 minutes, I almost thought I was watching the first game. It was tight, then Connecticut built up a little lead, and Allan Ray went on a mini-run by himself to put Villanova up 54-53 (very close to last game). In the first meeting, Villanova got ahead and never looked back. This time, Connecticut countered with a 13-2 run, and took a 66-54 lead, which was too much for Villanova to overcome.

I think Marcus Williams is the best PG in the nation right now. He controls the game even without scoring, with 10 points and 12 assists. For the year, he averages 10.5 PPG and 8.3 APG. He is quick enough to beat his man off the dribble, and always finds the open guy in a position to score. It's fun to watch a pure PG as good as Williams play.

Also for Connecticut, Rashad Anderson is the 6th man of the year in college basketball. He's not really good at creating his own shot, but he hits key shots from the outside, but more importantly, he's great at knocking down a 3 with a man in his face. I don't know how many times I've seen Williams come down on a fast break, kick it to Anderson in the corner, and Anderson knocks down a 3. He hit 5 3's today, and wound up with 17 points off the bench.

The biggest difference in this game than the last was that Connecticut was too much inside, and Villanova didn't get quite as much from Will Sheridan. He had 9 points and 11 rebounds, but I'd bet he also got blocked at least 5 times, a lot of them from Hilton Armstrong, who had 8 blocks. And even though the guards for Villanova had decent scoring nights, they weren't all that efficient, and couldn't really get anything in the lane because of Armstrong, Josh Boone, and Jeff Adrien.

My preseason pick to win it all was Villanova, however, slowly but surely I'm starting to turn in favor of Connecticut. They've got great balance, a great PG, athletic wings, and they play great defense, especially down low. I think either Villanova or Connecticut would be my pick to win it all, but I'm not sure which one right now. Both are great teams, and hopefully we'll get to see them quare off again, maybe in the Big East Tournament or even the NCAA Tournament. Both of these teams have that capability.

The day that was in college basketball

Lots and lots of action on Saturday. Some bubble teams got big wins which may put them over the hump, Texas showed why they were the best team in the Big 12 in a big way, and as I talked about in my last post, we had a record set. Let's jump right in:

- #1 Duke beat Temple 74-66 on the back of Shelden Williams, who had 23 points and 12 rebounds. But what I found most interesting about this game was how Temple played JJ Redick. They made sure someone was tightly on Redick all the time, even within their zone. They made other guys beat them, which they had a tough time doing. From experience, I've sorta been in JJ's shoes, where it looked like Temple was face-guarding him, and this is frustrating as an offensive player. You have to work extra hard to get open to get the ball, and once you do, there's one or two guys on you so you don't get a good shot. It clearly hampered Redick, as he was 3-10 with 11 points. Definitely something to keep watch for, because Duke is not good enough to go far without Redick. Food for thought:

Paulus: 3-6 FG
Dockery: 1-4 FG
Nelson: 3-8 FG
Melchionni: 1-3 FG

And this was getting wide open looks because of all the attention on JJ. Duke only won by 8 against Temple, who is now 15-11. This is something to watch for, because if you want to beat Duke, you either have to A) get Shelden Williams in foul trouble or B) shut down Redick. This may be a way how.

- #7 Texas estabslished that they are in fact the best in the Big 12, as they stomped a very good and very hot Kansas team 80-55. The only thing that concerns me for Texas was Daniel Gibson's performance - 6 points and 4 fouls in 23 minutes. Sometime in the tourney, they're going to need him to carry them, and if he doesn't play better, they can't win it all.

- In the SEC, Arkansas beat Tennessee 73-69 in a game that should get Arkansas into the tourney, especially since this one was played in Tennessee, and the Vols were #3 in the RPI before the game. Ronnie Brewer continues to impress, as even though he only had 9 points, he also had 9 assists and pulled down 5 rebounds. As Ken Pomeroy calculates, Arkansas was 22 in the nation in pythagorean winning percentage before the game, so they could be dangerous.

- A dandy between NC State and Boston College, as BC prevails 74-72 in 2 OT. Craig Smith had a nice day with 18 points and 14 rebounds, and the NC State balanced attack was there as usual, as their leading scorers had 16, 14, 12, and 10. I like both of these teams and think both are capable of making the Sweet 16, and maybe even the Elite Eight in the right bracket. Both are well coached and they are balanced, which is nice.

- Two good Big 10 teams won today, as Illinois beat Iowa 72-58 in Champaign, and Ohio St. beat Michigan 64-54 in Columbus. I like Illinois a little more come tourney time because they play some of the best defense in the nation and because Dee Brown is capable of controlling games by himself, but Ohio St. could be very dangerous if they are hitting shots from the outside. They didn't do that today, but got a very solid performance from Terrence Dials, but if they want to make a run, they need the outside shooting to consistently be there.

- One NBA note, because I have to give the Sixers some love after beating Chicago 108-102. However, I'm not complimenting them because they beat Chicago, but it was how they did it that was impressive. Consider this: Michael Bradley, Steven Hunter, and Kevin Ollie started, and Shavlik Randolph was their leading rebounder. And they won an NBA game. Incredible. On another good note, from the numbers, Iguodala looks to have carried the momentum he got during the All-Star break into the season, scoring 20 points tonight.

Is it March yet?

Congratulations to J.J. Redick

Before I make a post about the Saturday that was in college basketball, let me congratulate J.J. Redick, who became the ACC's all-time leading scorer on Saturday.

Redick only shot 3-10 and had a season-low 11 points in a win vs. Temple, but the 11 points brought his career total to 2,590, breaking Dickie Hemric's 51 year-old record.

So congratulations to J.J. Redick for a great feat.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Knicks Debut of Steve Francis; Close finish in Minnesota

First game in New York for Stevie Franchise, or rather, Stevie Franchise-Killer, and well, let's just say that things could have gone better. NY only lost to New Jersey 94-90, but that was a lost closer than the game actually was, but for a 35-21 4th quarter advantage for New York. Let's check the six-headed monster at the PG/SG position.

Steve Francis - 33 minutes, 16 points
Stephon Marbury - 36 minutes, 6 points
Jalen Rose - 28 minutes, 18 points
Jamal Crawford - 13 minutes, 0 points
Quentin Richardson - 33 minutes, 4 points
Nate Robinson - DNP

Well that could have gone better. Rose played well, Francis was ok, Marbury, Crawford, and Richardson were mainly ineffective, and Robinson DNP. I will give Isiah some credit, this team is just randomly throw together, they are almost fun to watch. If they play together for more than 3 weeks before Isiah makes some changes, and they get on somewhat the right page, it could be fairly exciting.

I was impressed by Channing Frye. 20 points and 8 rebounds in only 27 minutes, so he was pretty fun to watch. Nenad Krstic for New Jersey also impressed, shooting 11 for 11, and showing good range on the jumper. If he can consistently put up good games, and VC decides for sure that he still wants to play there (and not tank) and not come up with any phantom injuries, they could give the Heat a decent series in round 2.

In the other exciting game of the night, Denver beat Minnesota 102-101 in overtime. But it was how the game ended that made it fun to watch. With Denver up 99-95 with about 15 seconds left, they did everything in their power to lose the game.

First, Mark Blount hit a jumper. 99-97. Denver inbounds the ball to Carmelo Anthony, who tries to dribble through KG and Trenston Hassell. Hassell winds up with the steal, throws and alley oop to KG. 99-9. Timeout Denver. They have trouble getting the ball (they still had two timeouts left), and K-Mart tries to throw one to Andre Miller in the backcourt, but it was painfully short. Ricky Davis steals it, pulls up for a jumper, scores it. 101-99 Minnesota. Timeout Denver, and they again have K-Mart throwing it in. He tosses it to Carmelo in the corner, who is guarded tightly by Trenton Hassell. So Carmelo shoots it over him from downtown, and drains it. KG misses a final shot, Denver wins 102-101.

Great game for Carmelo Anthony, with 30 points, 8 boards, and the game-winner that was about an 8 on the difficulty level.

My only complaint about the game was FSN constantly showing Mark Madsen. He did not play tonight, but every timeout or commercial break or really any decent Timberwolves play, they would show Madsen on the bench dancing. Every time. It was painful to watch.

Friday, February 24, 2006

NFL Franchise and Transition Players

Only 6 players as per ESPN. Here they are and my thoughts:

John Abraham - NY Jets - Hard to say if he'll actually wind up with the Jets, as he's been involved in lots of trade rumors. According to the Delaware County Times, the Eagles 9among other teams), might be interested in Abraham, who wants to get out of New York. So I like the decision to franchise Abraham if they can get something for him. Abraham is a franchise player.

Jeff Backus - Detroit Lions - Backus is solid and at age 28 he should still have a couple years left. Good deal for Detroit. Backus is a franchise player.

Nate Clements - Buffalo Bills - Clements is one of the top corners out there from what I can see, so I like this deal. Only had 2 INT but that's because people didn't throw at him. Clements is a franchise player.

Deshaun Foster - Carolina Panthers - I really like Foster, but his health is a concern. He only played 4 games in 2004, and only had a handful over 200 carries last year. In addition, they still have Nick Goings and Eric Shelton (their 2nd round pick last year) coming back from injury. Foster could be making over $5 million next year, which seems like a lot from him. Foster is a transition player.

Steve Hutchinson - Seattle Seahawks - Really like this. Hutchinson was the 3rd or 4th most important player to that offense, after Walter Jones, Matt Hasselbeck, and maybe Shaun Alexander. $6 million a hefty amount, but Hutchinson is real good. Hutchinson is a transition player.

Brian Williams - Minnesota Vikings - If he plays like he did last year, this is good. In 2004, Williams struggled a lot, which caused the Vikings to sign Fred Smoot. Last year after Smoot went down with an injury, Williams stepped in and played superbly, and was a key reason for the Vikings turnaround. If he does come back, having Williams or Smoot (whoever doesn't get the starting job) might be the best Nickelback in the NFL.

By the way, rules for franchise and transition players, again from ESPN:

Franchise players must be offered the average of the top five salaries at their position or 20 percent over their 2005 salary. Franchise players (unless they are exclusive) can negotiate with other teams, but any team signing a franchise player would have to compensate the players' former team with a pair of first-round draft choices if the offer is not matched. If a player is named an "exclusive franchise" player, they can't talk to any other teams.

Transition players must be offered the average of the top 10 salaries at their position for the club to maintain rights of first refusal. There is no draft-pick compensation if a transition player ends up signing with another team.

Odds & Ends

A few quick notes.

- All of this trade talk, and the best we got today was a four-team deal that included stars such as Earl Watson, Reggie Evans, Ruben Patterson, and Vitaly Potapenko. Should help Denver, because they didn't really need Watson with Miller & Boykins, and Evans is a very good rebounder. I doubt it'll have much of an effect though.

- Really good finish in Cincinnati, as Villanova pulls it out 74-72. Great play and execution on an in-bounds play in the final seconds that gave them a layup. We used to run the same play in high school, and it always worked there either. Radny Foye was awesome, scoring 25 points and grabbing 15 rebounds, and he's a guard.

I was also impressed with the Bearcats, who played a very good game, led by Eric Hicks and his 21 point, 9 rebound game. Even though they lost, this should help Cincy in their bid to secure and at-large berth in the tourney. They are 18-10 right now, and end the regular season with two tough homes. They are at Seton Hall (another team fighting for its life) on 2/28, and home against West Virginia on March 4th. They need a split to feel good about themselves, or they'll have some work to do in the Big East Tournament.

And speaking of the Big East Tournament, how great will that be? I wish all 16 teams would make it, because now it looks like Notre Dame may very well miss out despite playing some very good basketball, but this should be extremely exciting.

- According to a report, Zygy Wilf apparently told Daunte Culpepper that a trade is not in the works for him, which if you've read my stuff, you know I think this is a good thing. Daunte's still got loads of talent, and I'm excited to see what he can do under Brad Childress.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Deja vu all over again!

As I mentioned about a week ago, it was only a matter of time before Isiah Thomas made another bad trade. Well, we didn't have to wait long, and Thomas did not disappoint, as he traded the expiring contract of Penny Hardaway and 20 year-old Trevor Ariza for Stevie Franchise.

Talent wise, Francis is the best player of the group. In every other area, this trade makes absolutely no sense for the Knickerbockers. Let me count the ways:

1) I get this is no longer of consequence, but it screws them over as far as the cap is concerned.
2) They basically have 5 shoot-first PG/SG in Francis, Stephon Marbury, Nate Robinson, Jalen Rose, and Jamal Crawford. How can these guys get along both on and off the court, and why push the young guy with solid potential in Nate Robinson even deeper on the depth chart? This is not a move that will get the Knicks anywhere near the playoffs, so what's the point?
3) The underrated bad part, in my opinion, is giving up Ariza. I understand he's in Larry Brown's doghouse, but he's 20 years old, very athletic, and defensive-minded. He was an effective player last year. He is solid.

And the critics agree.

Chad Ford of ESPN says that he now realizes Isiah's plan is to come out with the best player of each trade, regardless of contracts, chemistry, personnel, etc.
John Hollinger of ESPN says the Magic come out as big winners.
Marty Burns of SI likes the deal for the Magic.
Tony Mejia of CBS Sportsline doesn't know what Isiah is doing.
Mike Kahn of FoxSports wonders what the point of the deal is.
Dan compares them to a Mid-Major team "that has talented guards who can shoot and run but they are incapable of recruiting big men."

I'll leave you with an interesting observation from Chad Ford:
It makes you wonder whether Isiah really played on the same team Joe Dumars did in the late '80s. Dumars looked at his years playing with the Pistons and came to the conclusion that chemistry, work ethic and guys who could fill a particular role were the foundation of a contender. Isiah came to the opposite conclusion.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

How many bids for the MVC?

Speculation has run rampant lately about the Missouri Valley Conference and the amount of bids they will get in the NCAA Tourney. At this point, I'd say they're guaranteed 3, and could get as many as 5.

However, a lackluster showing at the BracketBusters probably didn't help. For example:

Wichita St. lost at home to George Mason.
Southern Illinois lost at home to Louisiana Tech.
It took Northern Iowa 2 OT at home to beat Bucknell.

Now, in the defense of the MVC, George Mason, Louisiana Tech, and Bucknell are very solid teams that all have a good chance to make the tourney, especially GM and Bucknell. However, the top teams struggling at home is not exactly what the MVC was looking for.

Another thing that will hurt is Southern Illinois losing tonight to Evansville, who is last in the MVC. Not a good sign for a team looking for a tourney bid.

However, things still look good for 5 bids, at least according to ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi. He explains it better than I can, so read that article if you get a chance.

For the record, here's the RPI's of the top 5 teams in the MVC:
Northern Iowa - 22
Wichita St. - 24
Missouri St. - 26
Creighton - 30
Southern Illinois - 36

My guess? I've got the MVC for 4 bids and at least 1 or 2 wins in the tournament among them. My money is on Northern Iowa, Wichita St., Missouri St., and Creighton getting a bid. We'll find out in 3 weeks.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Barry Bonds to retire after 2006?

Well, one day after Barry Bonds told the USA Today in a phone interview, "I'm not playing baseball anymore after this. The game [isn't] fun anymore. I'm tired of all of the crap going on. I want to play this year out, hopefully win, and once the season is over, go home and be with my family. Maybe then everybody can just forget about me.", he clarified that statement.

He told MLB.com "If I can play [in 2007], I'm going to play; if I can't I won't, If my knee holds up, I'll keep on going. I'm playing psychological games with myself right now. I don't want to set myself up for disappointment if things don't work out this season."

Some, such as Gene Wojchiechowski of ESPN can't wait to see him go. Myself, I hope he sticks around. Sure, he's got a big ego, and is absolutely terrible with the media, especially amid steroid speculation. But, he's fun to watch. He's a great hitter, incredible eye at the plate, and one of the best players ever. In 40 years, no one's going to remember that he was awful with the media, they're going to remember that he was one of the top players ever. Which is why I hope he sticks around for a little while longer.

NBA All-Star Game

After a long weekend of festivities, the game finally arrived. And it didn't disappoint.

The first half was a little up-and-down, with very little flow or intensity at all, as the West stormed to a 70-53 lead. The highlight of the first half was when Shaquille O'Neal missed a free throw by throwing it off the backboard and basically throwing an alley oop to himself, which I found amusing. Other than that, it was fairly low-quality, although still entertaining.

The second half got much better, as the East played much better. Now, whether that was because, as LeBron said, "I think Charles Barkley kick-started us. He said at halftime the game was over." Or maybe it was because the 4 Pistons and Paul Pierce came on midway through the 3rd, caused some turnovers (with the help of Tony Parker), and picked up the intensity of the game. Either way, it ended up with a 122-120 victory for the East.

The MVP of the game was LeBron James, who scored 29 points and grabbed 6 rebounds, including shooting very well from the outside, and blocking/fouling McGrady on the last shot for the West.

The biggest mystery of the night was Tracy McGrady, who has apparently been plagued by personal problems of late. He looked like he was having no fun at all out there even playing in front of his home crowd and scoring 36 points. Very strange.

All in all, a pretty entertaining game, and a nice end to a nice weekend, including the Rookie Challenge, the Slam Dunk Contest, the game, and lots of Sir Charles and "The Jet." Another reminder to me about why the NBA All-Star game and weekend far surpasses all other professional sports' all-star games.

Bye Bye Ricky

So much for Ricky Williams being a changed man after his "sabbatical" or "religous experience," or whatever you want to call it. Williams failed his fourth drug test, which means that he's suspended for the year. And since he'll be either 29 or 30 when he comes back, there's a very good chance that this will effectively end his career.

Williams ran for 743 yards and 6 TD in 12 games last season while splitting time with rookie Ronnie Brown, so he was an effective player even with the time off. With Williams gone, this will obviously place more of a burden on Ronnie Brown, who was very good last year, and has the potential to be a great player, with skills running and catching the ball. However, this is still a blow to the Dolphins, not only because he could play for them, but because they could have potentially gotten something for him in a trade. As it is, bye bye Ricky, who is suspended for a year.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Slam Dunk Contest, Etc.

All-Star Saturday night, including Shooting Stars, the Skills Challenge, the 3-Point Shootout, and the most entertaining, the Slam Dunk Contest. My thoughts on the whole night:

- Charles Barkley: "The best dunk ever being decided by a white man. This ain't right." [about Ernie Johnson]

- This whole night was made infinitely more entertaining by EJ, Chuck Bakrley, Kenny Smith, and Reggie Miller. Sir Charles in particular made me actually laugh out loud more than once.

- That being said, Magic Johnson is just awful. He almost ruined the dunk contest. For example, durin the first round of Nate Robinson's misses, he said, "He should just dunk. Stop trying for the fancy one, let's just move on." Next round, twice as many misses, "This is great for the fans. Keep going Nate, we all want to see this." And then of course he had to get dramatic, "This shows to all you little people out there, you can play in the NBA, and if you can jump high enough, you can even be in the Slam Dunk Contest." Thanks Magic. I guess we didn't learn that from Tyrone "Mugsy" Bogues or Spud Webb.

- What was Josh Smith doing with the tape? Anyone know his reasoning behind that?

- In my mind, Andre Iguodala deserved the win. For one, he didn't take 10 minutes to complete a dunk (granted, Robinson's dunks were very nice). Also, he had the best dunk of the night, where he came from behind the backboard, had to dunk, and put it in. Great dunk. His bounce, behind-the-back dunk was also quite awesome. He should have won in my opinion. Of course, I'm a Philly fan, so I could be biased.

- Robinson jumping over Spud Webb was really, really cool, and a great dunk.

- If anyone watched "The Greatest Dunk Ever" before the night's festivities, my vote would have been for Jason Richardson's "bounce reverse windmill" jam was 2003. That was just awesome.

- The other events were kinda boring. The Shooting thing was kinda cool, but it was too quick. The Skills was kinda dull, and the 3-Point Shootout wasn't really dramatic at all, and the shooters weren't very good. Where was Kyle Korver?!?

- All in all, I can thank Sir Charles and Kenny "The Jet", along with Nate Robinson and Andre Iguodala for a very entertaining night. Only thing left is the actual game itself, which is Sunday night!

Saturday, February 18, 2006

NBA All-Star Weekend

Now for the all-star game that I do like and has entertaining things, unlike the Pro Bowl. The weekend started off last night with the Celebrity Game and the Rookie Challenge. Andre Iguodala was the star of the night, as he put a show in the Rookie Challenge, won by the Sophomores won 106-96. On the night, Iggy had 30 points, including 9 dunks.

On Saturday night, the main attractions are the Slam Dunk Contest and 3-Point Contest. The two main competitors in the Dunk Contest are Josh Smith and the aforementioned Iguodala, who says he has some tricks up his sleeves for tonight.

Tomorrow night, we have the All-Star game itself, which does actually get pretty entertaining in the 2nd half when they start to actually try some defensively. So check it out if you get a chance, and I can guarantee it will be more entertaining than the Pro Bowl, although that's not really saying much.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Daunte on the block?

Well, the latest news from Minnesota is that Daunte Culpepper can be had for a 2nd round pick... which I find to be incredibly stupid. Although Daunte says he is focusing on rehab and not the trade talks, this really can't be good for his mindset. The Star Tribune cited an "anonymous source" as saying that the Vikings were looking around, trying to find Daunte's trade value.

Of course, you could say Daunte has brought a lot of this on himself with the boat scandal, as well as demanding more money this offseason after the nightmare that was his last season, namely 6 TD, 12 INT, and a season-ending knee injury that leaves him a question mark for the start of next year.

My view? I really hope they hold on to him. What's their backup plan? Brad Johnson? He's 38 years old and has a weak arm. He's not an awful option for maybe one more year, but after that he'll probably about be done. Philip Rivers? He'd probably cost more to get than we'll get for Daunte, and he's completely unproven. The draft? That's even more of a crapshoot.

The Vikings already traded Randy Moss last offseason, and that didn't work out so well. For the most explosive WR maybe ever, they essentially got a WR at the #7 pick, since Napoleon Harris ended up being useless. Do we really want to make the same mistake and trade the franchise player two years in a row?

Please Vikings, have some common sense here. Keep Culpepper.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Mike Davis to resign at the end of the season

Mike Davis announced today that he will resign at the end of the season, and much like I wrote about Missouri fans after Quin Snyder resigned, I don't think you'll find too many Indiana fans that are upset about this.

Apparently, according to what Davis told the players, the stress and pressure on his family that came along with the job was a little too much. It was not, I guess, because he wasn't a very good coach. Indiana's record is currently 13-9, including 5-6 in the Big Ten, and they fell out of the top 25 this past week for the first time all season.

Although Davis did reach the NCAA Finals in 2002, that was basically with all of Bob Knight's players, such as Tom Coverdale, Jared Jeffries, Jeff Newton, etc. With his own players, the results have been less than impressive.

Davis also suggested that the reason that the fans never really embraced him was that he's not an Indiana alum. Again, I guess this had nothing to do with the fact that he wasn't really a good coach, and never had much success with his own players.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

A-Rod or Pujols?

With MLB season right around the corner, there's one question on everyone's mind... who should be the #1 pick in fantasy baseball? Ok, it's not on everyone's mind, but there's a lot of people that are wondering. And the decision basically comes down to one question, A-Rod or Pujols?

This question was addressed by Brandon Funston of Yahoo, and he came to the conclusion that A-Rod was the top choice. And I have to say, I agree with this.

Both players are basically in their prime. A-Rod's older, but he's not slowing down any. Funston makes a point to mention lineups, and this is a good point... do you want Johnny Damon and Derek Jeter hitting in front of you or David Eckstein and Junior Spivey? A-Rod should have more RBI opportunities.

But the biggest factor, I think, is their positions. Yes, there are some good, young 3B (David Wright is a stud already, and I believe Migeul Cabrera is moving back to 3B this year), but on the whole, hitting is easier to find from a 1B than a 3B. And this is what set A-Rod apart in my book.

Conclusion: Pujols is the better hitter, A-Rod is the better fantasy value.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Larry Hughes done for the year; NBA trade talks

News today is that Cleveland's biggest free agent pickup Larry Hughes might be done for the rest of the regular season... with a broken finger. Hughes had surgery on January 6 and was supposed to miss 6-8 weeks, but it's not recovering as qucikly expected, so he will miss an additional 8-10 weeks, which seems a little excessive for a broken finger, but maybe that's just me. But maybe I'm just upset because this hurts my fantasy team. Hughes was averaging 16.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 3.9 assists per game this year.

Also in the NBA, trade talks are heating up. The Sonics and Paper Clips made a swap of Chris Wilcox and Vladamir Radmanovic. I like the deal for both teams. Radman's outside shooting should help LA, while Wilcox is a young, athletic big guy. My only concern is that Radman is a free agent at the end of the year, and Donald Sterling is still the owner of the Clippers, so that could get interesting.

Also a couple of rumors floating around right now, both involving the Orlando Magic. One potential deal involves Orlando and the New York Knicks, which involves some combination of Steve Francis and possibly Kelvin Cato to the Knicks for Penny Hardaway's expiring contract, Jamal Crawford, and maybe Trevor Ariza.

However, Kelvin Cato is also part of a rumored deal between Orlando and Detroit, which would send Darko Milicic and Carlos Arroyo to the Magic for Kelvin Cato and the Magic draft pick, a deal that is interesting on many different levels. Ian over at Sweaty Man Endeavors wrote about this in much more detail.

Either way, should be a very interesting time before the deadline. Because we all know there is one guarantee in the NBA: Isiah Thomas will make a bad trade. I'm interested to see what it is this year.

Monday, February 13, 2006


Whenever the #1 team in the country travels to the home court of the #4 team in the country, there's obviously a lot of hype about the game. And this one didn't disappoint.

Allan Ray scored 25 and Kyle Lowry chipped in 18 as Villanova beat #1 UConn 69-64. Rudy Gay led Connecticut with 19 points and 10 rebounds.

My general observations from the game:

- Allan Ray was definitely the player of the game. Not only because of his numbers, but when he put them up. It was 45-33 Connecticut early in the 2nd half, and they were on a 15-0 run when Ray hit 4-straight three-pointers to make it 47-45, then Mike Nardi hit a 3 to put Villanova up by 1, and they never looked back. Also, on the final play, you'll remember it was Ray that came up with the steal (with an assist from Rashard Anderson). Great game for Allan Ray.

- Kyle Lowry single-handedly kept Villanova in the game in the 1st half. He hit some outside shots, blew by his defender off the dribble, and was seemingly everywhere defensively, as he finished with 3 steals.

- If Villanova can get more contributions like the 13 points/10 rebound performance tonight from Will Sheridan, they're going to be really really tough to beat. Especially when you consider that potential Big East Player of the Year Randy Foye, and guard Mike Nardi both had off nights.

- Villanova was seemingly running a Pick & Roll Clinic out there. UConn kept going under the screens, and Villanova kept hitting the outside shot. Wash, rinse, repeat. It was beautiful to watch.

- As Rudy Gay goes, UConn goes. He's got great talent, but he has to put up performances like he did tonight for them to go deep, because they don't have a lot of guys that can create their own shot. He shot well with men in his face and drove to the hoop well. You could certainly see why Gay is projected to possibly be the #1 pick.

- Speaking of NBA Drafts, the announcers were talking about how Hilton Armstrong has probably played himself into a first round pick, maybe even a lottery pick. I didn't really see that. He's a decent rebounder, and he's a very good shot blocker, but he doesn't have that good of an offensive game (although he did have one really nice play.) That's how desparate the NBA is for big men, I guess.

- Nice game for Marcus Williams tonight. He made some big buckets late, got to the hoop, and gave guys the ball at the right time. I was impressed.

- My pick to win it all has been Villanova, and I saw nothing to convince me otherwise tonight. They play good defense, their guards are solid rebounders, and when they're hot they're unstoppable. UConn also looks like a National Championship team, with a good outside-inside balance, and they're defensively, especially down low.

- Is it March yet?

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Redick vs. Morrison

This is officially becoming a memorable Player of the Year Race, with one great performance after another from these guys.

Take Saturday, Adam Morrison scored 34 points in a 80-76 win over Stanford, including 12 points in the last 3 minutes. All J.J. Redick did was go into Maryland and score 35 in a 96-88 victory over the Terps.

Let's take a look at their stats for the season:

J.J. Redick - 28.7 PPG, 2.6 APG, 2.0 RPG, .504 FG%, .878 FT%, .439 3PT%, 1.05 A/T
Adam Morrison - 28.6 PPG, 1.5 APG, 5.7 RPG, .511 FG%, .789 FT%, .434 3PT%, 0.71 A/T.

At this point, Morrison has 4 40+ points games, Redick has 3. These two are about at a dead heat as we approach the end of the year, and they seem to be topping themselves every game, which is making this even more fun to watch. Next up for Duke is a home date with Wake Forest on Tuesday, and Gonzaga will travel to Portland on Monday.

Pro Bowl

Well the NFC pulled off a Pro Bowl victory 23-17 on Sunday.

I'm told that all 5 fans that watched the game enjoyed it.

Air Jordan still tops them all

Let me preface this by saying that Kobe and LeBron are great players...

But at this point, neither one of them is MJ. Jordan was more efficient as a scorer. He shot nearly 50% for his career, and it would have been over 50% if he hadn't come back a second time. Kobe's at 45% for his career, LeBron's at 46%. Kobe's a better 3-point shooter, and they are about even from the line, but again Jordan was a 50% shooter. Jordan was a better passer than Bryant is, although LeBron probably has the edge over both because he has incredible vision. Same thing for rebounds. MJ clearly has the edge over Bryant, and LeBron may have the edge over both.

Defensively though is where Jordan pulls away from both. Nine time All First Team Defense in the NBA. Kobe's a solid defender when he wants to, and while LeBron's athleticism allows him to make up for mistakes, he doesn't have the lateral quickness at this point to make him a great defender. Jordan has a large edge over either of these guys.

Sure MJ never won a title without Pippen, but Kobe never won one without Shaq, who was a better player than Pippen (and don't get me wrong, I love Pippen and think he's one of the most underrated guys ever), and LBJ hasn't won one yet (for obvious reasons). Again, edge goes to Jordan.

I think anyway you slice it, Jordan's superior to Kobe in every facet of the game, and that's no slight to Kobe, who's a great player. But at this point, Jordan's a better scorer, rebounder, passer, and defender. It's not even fair to compare Jordan to James, except to say James is better at 21 than Jordan was (although don't forget, at 21 Jordan hit the game-winner in the NCAA Title game). LeBron has the skills and athleticism to be better than Jordan, but at this point, he's clearly not there.

At the end of the day, Air Jordan still reigns supreme. For now.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

UCLA at Washington

I watched a pretty entertaining 2nd half between Washington and UCLA, where Washington came out on top 60-57. The loss drops UCLA to 10-3 in the Pac-10, as Washington moves to 7-5, and gives them another quality win. Here's some things that I liked and didn't like from both teams.

- Brandon Roy for Washington is capable of carrying this team. He's 6'5'', can guard point guards (blocked Farmar's last 3-point attempmt), finishes well, and hits free throws. One of the top players in the Pac-10.

- I really like Justin Dentmon, Washington's freshman point guard. He's really quick, can knock some shots down, and hit a couple of key free throws late to push the lead to 3 with 8 seconds left. He's really a solid player.

- Lots of ticky-tack fouls in this one, as the teams combined for a whopping 54 fouls, including 4 guys fouling out, and 7 more having 4 fouls.

- I really like UCLA's Freshman post combo of Alfred Aboya and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. Both are fast, solid defensively, and they rebound well on both ends of the floor.

- If everyone for UCLA stays in school, they're going to be really good next year. They've got really good sophomores in Jordan Farmar, Aaron Afflalo, and Josh Shipp (hurt this year), and they have three freshman that are key to this year's team and playing well in Alfred Aboya, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, and guard Darren Collison. This team is young and very talented.

- Props to Steve Lavin for talking about Washington's "spurtability." Always good to hear announcers make words up!

Around the country, some surprising Big 10 scores, as Minnesota knocks of Michigan St. by double-digits, and Purdue beats Michigan by 14. Not a good day for the Michigan squads!

Friday, February 10, 2006

Quin Snyder out at Missouri

In a move that I'm sure will not upset too many Mizzouri fans, and epsecially not this guy, Quin Snyder resigned today. He was the men's basketball coach. He had a career record of 126-91.

Mizzou under Snyder once reached the Elite Eight when they were led by Kareem Rush, but since then they are only 42-42, including 3-7 in the Big 12 this year. There's been lots of speculation over whether or not Snyder would be fired, so although he said he was going to stay for the remainder of the year, this doesn't come as much of a surprise.

Assistant coach Melvin Watkins will take over as the interim head coach.

Another interesting story comes from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, where Mike Vick says he is "a little lost right now." Of course, for a team that's invested over $100 million dollars in him, this probably isn't great to hear. He also said that the knee that he sprained in Week 4 was a little more severe than he let on.

Vick told the AJC that he was a little lost in the offense. Which might explain things. Like Vick's poor passer rating. Vick's a dynamic player, but he really needs to get on track, stay healthy, and become a more consistent passer if they're going to go anywhere. Because with their personnel, they're not that far off from being a legit Super Bowl contender is Mike Vick can play to his potential.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

The Pac-10

It's a sad state for the Pac-10 these days. As far as the RPI, they are ranked 7th, behind the Big East, Big 10, ACC, Big 12, SEC, and the Missouri Valley (no that's not a typo).

As of right now, UCLA leads the conference, and definitely looks like the strongest, even though they've had lots of injuries to basically every player on the team. Ed Graney writes about that here.

But the real surprise of the conference has been the mediocrity of teams such as Arizona and Washington, who are now fighting just for a bid in the NCAA tourney. Both of these teams lost a lot of talent, but they've both got good coaches, good remaining talent, and both teams started off relatively well, especially Washington. As of this writing, Arizona is 6-5 in the conference, and Washington is 5-5 in the conference.

This leaves, right now, Stanford and Cal as the top two contenders to UCLA. Both teams are 8-3 in the conference, and both teams are playing very well of late. Cal is led by Leon Powe, who has a legitimate case for the Pac-10 Player of the Year, as he is averaging a double-double right now. Stanford has a big game against Adam Morrison and Gonzaga coming up on Saturday, which should give a better indication of how good these guys really are.

But at this point, it looks like 4, maybe 5 bids for the Pac-10.

Other Basketball Thoughts:

- Seth Davis is reporting that he's heard rumors that Tubby Smith might be interested in the NBA this time around.

- Very impressive win by Pittsburgh tonight over West Virginia, 57-53. Their offense really wasn't impressive, but their man-to-man defense was excellent tonight. West Virginia hardly got any decent looks, as they shot 35%, including 6/27 from beyond the arc. Pittsnogle was especially awful, shooting 0/12 with 0 points before fouling out. I still love West Virginia this year and think they got real good chances in the tourney, but Pittsburgh definitely impressed tonight!

Raiders job still open

Well the news today is that both Pittsburgh Steelers Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt and Louisville Head Coach Bobby Petrino have turned down the Oakland Raiders Head Coaching job. Whisenhunt is coming off of the Super Bowl win, and it was especially hard to leave because the offense is still led by 23 year old Ben Roethlisberger, who, Super Bowl aside, is a heck of a player. Petrino did not want to leave Lousiville.

Now it looks like the leading candidate is Art Shell, who has said that he will accept the position if he is offered it. If Shell is hired, he will be the only minority head coaching candidate that was hired this offseason.

As for me, I was still kind of hoping Mike Martz would somehow get the job. I don't really think he's a very good head coach by any means, but he's a great offensive mind, and watching Collins/Jordan/Moss/Porter under Martz could have been a lot of fun. Instead, it looks like Martz is probably heading to Detroit.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Dennis Erickson has come full circle

Dennis Erickson, former head coach of Idaho, Wyoming, Washington St., Miami, Seattle Seahawks, Miami, San Fransisco 49ers, is now back at Idaho.

Erickson's deal pays him about $200,000 a year... but then again he is still "earning" $2.5 million per year over the next 3 years from San Fransisco. Seems like a good deal for Idaho. As bad as Erickson's NFL track record is, he's had some good success at the NCAA Level. He won two championships with Miami in the late 1980s/early 1990s, and his Oregon St. team led by Ken Simonton hammered Notre Dame 44-13 in a BCS game, in what I believe was Ty Willingham's first year for the Irish. Should be interesting to watch Erickson.

- Very good article by Pat Forde about West Virginia, and how things have worked out for them, including how they got Beilein, Gansey, Pittsnogle, Herber, etc. Very interesting article.

- Another loss for #6 Florida, as they fell to South Carolina 71-67. This is Florida's third loss, and it probably solidified Tennessee as the best team in the weak SEC.

- A couple other scores of note: Northwestern beats Big Ten leading Iowa 51-48. Also, George Washington beats Dayton 81-67 to improve their record to 19-1. They are now ranked #8.

It's official - Tirico, Theismann, Kornheiser

I mentioned last week that ESPN was trying to get Tony Kornheiser for MNF, and it is now official. It was also announced that because Al Michaels is going to NFC, where he will stay with John Madden, Mike Breen will slide over to the top analyst for basketball on ABC, where he's partnered with Hubie Brown.

I like both of these moves. I think Kornheiser should at least be very interesting to listen to, which should be a good change from Monday Nights with John Madden. Also, I've always liked Mike Tirico, and he seems to do a good job of calling the game, and is also entertaining. The part I don't like, and I said this before, is that Joe Theismann is not very good. Even though he was probably the best of the "Patrick-Theismann-Maguire" trifecta, that doesn't make him good.

On the basketball side, Mike Breen has always been one of my favorites, ever since he called the Sixers/Celtics playoff series a few years back. He's with Hubie Brown, who, although he does make good use of the second person ("now, you're ____"), he knows his stuff. I already liked Michaels, so it's kinda like going from a good thing to another good things, but it's still nice nonetheless.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Duke/North Carolina

As you probably know by now, Duke was able to beat North Carolina 87-83 tonight in Chapel Hill. Sadly, I didn't get to watch a lot of it because I was studying for two tests I have Wednesday, but I did catch the last 5 minutes, which were rather interesting.

This was thanks in large part to J.J Redick, who had 35 points, and firmly established himself as the leading candidate for Player of the Year. He shot 12-22, and hit a couple of big 3-pointers late in the game to propel Duke to the victory.

However, I also saw some of the things that continue to lead me to believe that he won't be all that great in the NBA. For example, late in the game, when UNC came up and put more pressure on, he struggled handling the ball. When the score was 84-81, Redick was being pressured heavily in the backcourt because they didn't want to foul him. He tried a crosscourt pass to Greg Paulas, but there was a miscommunication and Redick threw it away. Next possession, with the score 84-83, Redick got the ball just past half-court, and tried to dribble through a trap, but lost the ball. Forunately for him, Duke was able to get it and hit some free throws, but again, Redick struggled with the pressure.

Which is a main part of my Redick thoughts. He's a great shooter, but I don't know if he can handle the ball well enough and I don't know if he's quick enough to be able to consistently create his own shot in the NBA. I see him as more of a Steve Kerr type, not that there's anything wrong with that.

The other thing that struck me in this game was how good UNC's young guys are. Freshman Tyler Hansborough is averaging nearly 18 points a game and might be the best freshman in the country. Junior Reyshawn Taylor averages 14 a game and is a very solid player. True freshman Bobby Frasor made some key plays down the stretch. They're not there yet, but with the young guys improving, and Roy Williams as their head coach, UNC could once again be dangerous come March.

Other basketball thoughts:

- Kentucky is in trouble after a 75-67 loss to Tennessee tonight. Tennesssee is very good this year, but this is not a game that Kentucky usually loses. This puts them at 15-8 overall, and 2-3 in the SEC, even with Randolph Morris back. Their saving grace might be the fact that the SEC is not that good this year.

- Stick a fork in Detroit's chances for 70 wins after a 99-98 loss to the now 15-32 Atlanta Hawks. The loss puts them at 39-8, which means that they'd have to go 31-4 to reach 70 wins, which seems unlikely, even for them.

My Final Super Bowl Thoughts

By now the Super Bowl is pretty much in the back of everyone's mind, but I still have a couple of things I thought were interesting, so I'll post them before moving on.

First, for all the talk before the game about how this was going to be such a boring Super Bowl, there weren't storylines, etc. it turned out that this was the highest rated Super Bowl since 2000. It was watched on about 41.6% percent of the 110 million U.S. homes that have televisions, which is a pretty staggering amount. So much for no one caring about the game.

Second, I thought Mike Holmgren's comments were a little, well, classless, I guess.

"We knew it was going to be tough going up against the Pittsburgh Steelers," Holmgren said. "I didn't know we were going to have to play the guys in the striped shirts as well."

I can understand being upset, but this doesn't seem to set a good precedent. Seems like all he is doing is making excuses. No Mike, I'm sure the awful clock management, and allowing a 75-yard run, a 43-yard WR Reverse Pass, and a 3rd-down conversion on 3rd & 28 had nothing to do with it. I'm assuming Holmgren will get fined for the comments, which seems about right.

But anyway, that's the football season. See you at the draft!

Monday, February 06, 2006

Thoughts on the Officiating

The prevailing Super Bowl theme today from many fans, and many writers such as Michael Smith and Skip Bayless of ESPN, Kevin Hench from FOXSports, many others, and even an Online Petition, is that the refs sucked, the Seahawks got screwed, and the refs were favoring Pittsburgh.

As I mentioned yesterday, I disagree with these sentiments. I touched on it yesterday, but I figured all my ref-related thoughts would get their own column.

Let's start with the Offensive Pass Interference call on Darrell Jackson. Most of the complaint seems to be that he didn't touch him, and that it didn't have an impact. I disagree, and quite honestly, I thought it was an obvious pass interference. According to the NFL Rulebook, one of the actions that constitute Offensive Pass Interference is, "Initiating contact with a defender by shoving or pushing off thus creating a separation in an attempt to catch a pass." In my mind, Jackson obviously pushed off and created separation (he even extended his arm) which got him open for the TD... and this all happened directly in front of the referee. I really don't see how this could not have been called Pass Interference.

The Roethlisberger TD was a lot closer in my mind. Watching the replays, I think he might have gotten in, but that there's no way to tell for sure. The replay was just not conclusive enough either way. I think the ref had to stick with whatever call was made on the field, which happened to be a TD. Now, if you want to argue that the ref was late with the TD call, well, I'd listen to that, because he was.

One thing I don't see too many people mentioning is the Stevens drop/fumble. I can't say for sure, but that one looked awfully close to a fumble to me.

The holding call on Locklear is one I'm kind of up in the air about. He seemed to hook him around the neck and eventually brought him to the ground. In my mind, it was a holding, but it's one that often is not called by the refs. Does that make it a bad call? Not necessarily. I think, like Roethlisberger's TD, it was a close call that went against Seattle.

The only call I think was undoubtedly missed was the Hasselbeck block/tackle and whatever penalty they called. I really don't know what the refs really saw there. That was a really bad call, though I don't think it had a huge difference.

Oh yeah, forgot about the refs giving Roethlisberger the timeout before the third down play. He obviously called it after the play clock had hit zero.

All in all, I don't think it was as awful of a job as most people do. I think the refs definitely missed a couple plays (Hasselbeck's penalty, TO to Big Ben), but other than that, I think it was more just that some close calls went Pittsburgh's way. That's football. I don't think the refs cost Seattle this game, I think they lost ir for themselves, by allowing some big plays, awful clock management, dropped passes, etc. They have no one but themselves to blame.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Super Bowl XL

First off, congratulations to the Pittsburgh Steelers, winners of Super Bowl Xl by the score of 21-10 over the Seattle Seahawks. Extra congratulations to Bill Cowher and Jerome Bettis, who finally win their first title. Here are all of my thoughts on the game, in no particular order:

- Did you guys realize that Chris Gardocki has never had a punt blocked in his career? Well if you've seen any of the past 8 Steelers games, you'd know this. Seriously, at what point in a punter's career does the streak become good enough to be mentioned in every single Steelers game? Do all the announcers get together and are like, "Woah! Gardocki's never had a punt blocked! Let's mention this every game." I kinda think they've been trying to jinx him throughout the playoffs, but it didn't work.

- How tough of a night did Tom Rouen have? From my very unofficial count, he punted about 4 or 5 times from around midfield, and each time it was a touchback. Why don't announcers mention this? Whatever happened to the pooch punt?

- Didn't Roethlisberger's long pass really typify why everyone likes him so much? He didn't have a great game by any means, but what other 2nd year QB is going to scramble away from the rush, and instead of running, stop right before the LOS, gather himself, and throw a 37 yard pass on about 3rd and 23? And oh yeah, it's the Super Bowl. Was that great or what?

- What burst by Fast Willie Parker on that TD run! Nice hole, but he sure hit it hard, and there was no way they were going to catch him.

- Aside from the one almost-catch by Hines Ward in the endzone, great game for him. Tough player, makes big catches. He just went and got that long one from Big Ben. One of the top 5 receivers in the NFL. Definitely deserved the MVP.

- What was up with that clock management for Seattle? In the first half, first off, I have no idea why they run the ball, and then let 20-30 seconds run off the clock... so you're left taking shots at the endzone, you leave 1 timeout on the board, and you miss a 54-yard FG. Terrible.

Same thing at the end of the game. Sure it's a long shot, but when even Madden knows you kick a FG with about 30 seconds left and then try an onside kick, and you don't do it, how bad is that? I just didn't understand what they were doing.

- What an arm for Randle El! On the run, a perfect spiral right into Hines Ward's hands for the TD. That was easily the best thrown ball of the night.

- So much for Jerramy Stevens walking the walk. Aside from his TD catch, where he was wide open thanks to a good route by him and Jackson, he dropped at least 3 balls, two of which would have been for long gains, and a 3rd that would have been about a 10 year gain. He did have one catch negated on a questionable holding call, but all in all, an awful game for Stevens.

- It would really be best for "The Bus" to retire, I think. He's just not really an effective runner anymore.

- The Rolling Stones are really old.

- Here our my reffing thoughts:

I thought the Offensive Pass Interference call on Darrell Jackson was a good call. It wasn't much of a push, but c'mon, he extended his arms with a push in the end zone that led to him being wide open for a TD... and it happened right in front of the ref. How could that not be called?

The Roethlisberger TD was much closer. My personal thought was that he probably got the ball across, but it's impossible to say. I don't think there would have been enough evidence to overturn whatever was called on the field, which happened to be a TD. I didn't mind that call.

The "block below the waist" or whatever they called on Hasselbeck was laughably bad. Not much to say about it, except that the refs obviously blew that call.

The NFL really needs to get full-time refs. I think they can probably afford it.

- I felt happy for Cowher and Bettis. Not to sound sappy, but I almost got emotional when they won it, and I'm not even a Steelers fan.

- On the whole, I thought the Super Bowl was a little boring. There wasn't really a lot of flow to the game. Pittsburgh especially didn't really move the ball, a decent amount of penalties, and of course lots of commercials (which weren't really that funny for the most part). It was hard to get into the game.

- See you next year!

Kornheiser on MNF?

According to the Washington Post, "ESPN is talking with Kornheiser about taking over one of the color-commentary chairs on "Monday Night Football" next season."

Also of note from the same article, "The hitch: It's unclear whether Al Michaels, "MNF's" play-by-play man, will return to the booth next season. Michaels reportedly wants to join NBC, which will carry NFL games next season."

It goes on to explain that if Michaels stays, they plan on using only Joe Theismann as a color man (they apparently went after the second worst color man in the business, as they had the sense not to go for Paul Maguire). However, if Michaels leaves for NBC, they'd bring in Tirico for MNF, and then possibly bring in Kornheiser for 2 color men.

Sounds interesting. My original hope was to have Michaels on ESPN on Monday nights, and then NBC have Bob Costas in the booth for the Sunday night games. However, I wouldn't mind hearing Kornheiser, who I like a lot on PTI, be a color commentator for MNF.

I am sure about one thing though. Get Joe Theismann out of the booth!

Friday, February 03, 2006

Super Bowl Pick

I've put this off for far too long, maybe because of my .500 record so far in picking the playoffs, but it's time to unveil my Super Bowl pick.

But first, let me say this. Despite lots of people, mainly members of the media such as Skip Bayless who keep talking about how this Super Bowl isn't very good, there's no storylines, yada yada yada, I got to say I'm pretty excited for it. It might not be a flashy matchup, but the fact is, two of the best teams in the NFL are playing (and 6 seed or not, Pittsburgh with Ben Roethlisberger is without a doubt one of the top 3 teams in the league). We don't have a storyline like previous years, but we've got two really good football teams playing in the biggest game of the year. I can't complain.

On to the game. I really think this will be a close one, because both teams have good, opportunistic defenses that can get to the QB. Both teams have good running games, good QB's that make good decisions, and decent Special Teams. The Seahawks have the best O-Line in the NFL, and the League MVP RB running behind it... although that guy probably isn't even the MVP of his own team. Regardless, the point is, their offense is really good.

In Piitsburgh, we have the hottest team in the NFL. They haven't lost in two months. They went to Indy and defeated the most talented team in the NFL. Their QB has lost like 4 times in his career. And Troy Polamalu is playing absolutely incredible football right now.

What does all of this mean? Well, I think Pittsburgh could jump out to an early lead, something like 10-0, since that's what they've been doing lately, and that'll cause everyone to be, "Yep, I told you. The NFC sucks." Then I think Hasselbeck will settle down, the defense will start to play well, and we'll settle in to something like 17-10 at halftime.

In the 2nd half, Pittsburgh will do what they do. They'll run the ball a lot, play good defense, and let Roethlisberger make plays on 3rd down. I can see Seattle driving late for a go-ahead TD, and Troy Palamalu intercepted one at around midfield. It just feels like Pittsburgh and Bill Cowher's year. And I promise it has nothing to do with Jerome "The Bus" Bettis (did you guys know he's from Detroit?)

Super Bowl Pick:

Pittsburgh - 24
Seattle - 20

Mike Tice provides more entertainment...

From SI.com and the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

"A Vikings official refused to comment Thursday when asked if the team planned to file a tampering charge against former coach Mike Tice. The Vikings appear to have grounds for the charge based on Tice's admission that he already had talked to one of their potential free agents about the chance of joining him in Jacksonville."

If true, this is extremely funny, and Tice has provided some more comedy. So not only did Tice tamper with players, he admitted to it? This is the same guy that scalped his tickets last year. You can't make this stuff up!

Thursday, February 02, 2006

High School Girl scores 113

Epiphanny Prince of Murry Bergtraum High School scored 113 points in a game Wednesday, which broke Cheryl's Miller previous record of 105.

I find this to be, well, amazing. I played high school basketball. I never quite got to 113 points. I can't even imagine 113 points. In some of my high school games, both teams didn't get to 113 points combined. Also worthy of note is that Lisa Leslie once scored 101 points in the first half... and then they refused to play the second half. Which begs the question, they were playing in the first half? But I digress. For those interested, Prince will be attending Rutgers next year.

Also of basketball note, excellent game tonight as #10 George Washington came back to beat Xavier 89-85. I wasn't able to see the first half, but I did watch the second half, and I'm glad I did, because I've been meaning to watch George Washington for some time to see if they're for real. And I came away impressed with both teams.

At 13-5, I'm not sure what Xavier's chances to get to the tourney are. But if they do make it, I think they may be capable of something. They executed well, and had good balance. George Washington I really liked. The President and the basketball team. Their execution on the fast break was fun to watch, they hit some shots, were very good on the offensive boards, and played solid defense in the 2nd half. I think both of these teams can be capable of good things.

Donovan McNabb speaks out

By now, I'm sure most of you have heard about this, Michael Smith of ESPN.com interviewing Donovan McNabb, where McNabb spoke very candidly about a lot of things, most notably the Terrell Owens situation.

Personally, I'm not sure why McNabb gave the interview. This whole time, he's come out looking like the good guy here, with Owens sepaking out against him, and McNabb keeping his mouth shut and just playing football, which I certainly respected. I understand that there have been some attacks on McNabb, whether it was from Owens or the NAACP of all places, and I guess they all just got to McNabb.

The part I found the most, well, stupid, was when McNabb talked about a "black-on-black" crime. I'm sure you heard about this, but earlier in the year, Owens agreed that if the Eagles had Favre, they might have been better off. McNabb says that was especially insulting to him because Favre is white, and he could have understood it more if he was compared to a black QB. Now, let me preface this by saying that Owens might be my least favorite guy in sports, but I didn't see anything racial about this, especially since:

a) McNabb was basically playing hurt at the time, and was nowhere near 100%.
b) Michael Irvin was the one that originally brought up Brett Favre, and Terrell Owens just agreed with him.

Or maybe, as someone else suggested, McNabb would have been less insulted if Owens had said the Eagles would have been better off with Seneca Wallace at QB? What a joke.

Do I think McNabb is the bad guy at all here? No. But I can tell you one thing for free, I had a lot more respect for him before this interview.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Signing Day

I said yesterday I was in more of a basketball mind, but I couldn't help but get excited for football today, the day when recruits could officially sign on with colleges. I've never really got too excited about this in year's past, but I was pretty excited for it this year, for whatever reason.

In fact, I might actually carry out my plan to put lots of the top prospects into an Excel spreadsheet, and then follow them through their careers. And yes, as I have said before, I realize I'm nerdy like that. :)

One of the coolest articles I have read was one by Stewart Mandel on SI. com. He basically followed Urban Meyer, and all the work that goes into recruiting, that allowed Florida to have the #1 class by most measures. Really a fascinating article if you're at all interested in the job of a college football coach, especially at a major program.

Also for reference, here's a list of the top prospects as rated by scout.com.

Class Rankings:
1) Florida
2) USC
3) Texas
4) Georgia
5) Penn St.