Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Acie Law is Awesome

I know Texas A&M wound up losing by 2 to Texas, but wow, what a show put on by Acie Law. The 3 ball with 1.4 seconds left in regulation to tie the game, and then the 3 with about 25 seconds left in OT to tie the game, and then the perfect missed free throw at the end of the second OT, though they couldn't convert on that.

The man has ice in his veins. 6 points in the first half, and he wound up with 33. Awesome.

Kevin Durant wound up with 30 and 16, but he hardly got the ball in either OT. Not sure what the deal was with that. Still, with the talent of Durant and DJ Augustin, Texas is going to be a real tough out in the Big Dance.


One other comment on the games... Jay Wright and Rick Barnes both need to give Kelvin Sampson a thank you call. If you'll remember, when Sampson left Oklahoma to go to Indiana, it let all of his recruits out of their scholarships.

One of those recruits was Scottie Reynolds, who dropped 40 for Villanova in a win tonight. Another of them was Dameon James, who scored 22 points and had 9 rebounds for the Longhorns. And now Sampson has Eric Gordon coming to play for the Hoosiers next year. The man can recruit (even if it's not always within NCAA rules).

Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Middle Infield

It's probably very likely that I'm going to be writing a lot about college basketball in the near future, so I thought it'd be good to combine a couple of position for these fantasy baseball rankings, to get through them a little quicker. Also, I'm doing this at work so I have some more time (library jobs are cool). I'll give my top 10 at each position, 2B and SS.

Second Base
1) Chase Utley (PHI) Utley has firmly entrenched himself as the top 2B with a couple of 30 HR, 100 RBI seasons. He also scored 131 runs last year, which was fantastic, though I'm not sure you'll be able to quite count on that many again. He also stole 15 bases for good measure.

2) Robinson Cano (NYY) Cano is like his counterpart Jeter because he is a good average hitter and is in a great lineup. Other pluses for Cano is that he hit 41 2Bs last year in only 122 G, and he knocked in 78 runs in 2/4 of a season. His pro-rated stats are real good, and at his age he should only be getting better.

3) Chone Figgins (LAA) - Figgins does not hit for a great average or with really any power, but his value comes from the stolen bases (52 of them last year) and the fact that he can play 2B, 3B, LF, and CF. I've got him at 2B because that is probably the weakest position overall of the 4, but his flexibility makes him a very nice guy to have.

4) Rickie Weeks (MIL) - I really like Weeks, and I think he's going to be one of the best 2B in the MLB sooner rather than later. As long as he can stay healthy all season, he's definitely a 20-20 threat, and could even be a .300-30-30 threat if he can get stronger. He's got a great minor league track record which suggests great things are in store for him as long as he can stay healthy.

5) Brian Roberts (BAL) - Roberts came out of nowhere to have a great year in 2005, but tailed off some in 2006 (though he was fighting some injuries). Still, if things go well he's capable of batting .300+, hitting 15 HR, 50 2B, 40 SB, and scoring 100 runs.

6) Dan Uggla (FLA) - It would have been difficult to predict the type of success Uggla had as a rookie based on his Minors numbers, and that does make me a little wary that he might not be able to repeat the success he had. But even if he drops just a little, the 27 HR and 90 RBI look pretty enticing.

7) Brandon Phillips (CIN) - Phillips has been a good prospect for a long time, but finally was able to sort of put things together last year. He hit .276 with so-so power (17 HR, 28), and also stole 25 bases, which helps his value. He also gets the nice boost from playing half his games in the GABP.

8) Jeff Kent (LAD) - Kent doesn't have the upside that a lot of these other guys have, but he's still a solid hitter. The power has dropped, but he's still capable of batting .290, hitting 25 HR and knocking in 100 runs, which are very good numbers for a 2B.

9) Howie Kendrick (LAA) - The minor league nubmers are great, and enough to put him at #10 for me even with a small MLB track record. At every level he's been at he's hit for a great average and hit a ton of doubles. He definitely showed signs of this late last year for the Angels, where in 72 games he hit .285 and had 21 2Bs.

10) Tad Iguchi (CHW) - Iguchi is a very consistent player, which you like to see. Through his first 2 years in the U.S. he's batted around .280, hit about 15 HR and had 70 RBI, and last year he scored nearly 100 runs. Like Kent he may not have the upside of these other guys, but you know what you're getting with him.

Apologies to: Freddy Sanchez, Ryan Freel

1) Jose Reyes (NYM) - There's a lot to like here. Last year he hit for .300 and scored 122 runs, and that wasn't even the best part about his game. He also stole 64 bases, hit 19 HR, 30 2B, 17 3B, and knocked in 81 runs just for good measure. Just a complete fantasy player and will probably be off the board at pick #2 in most drafts.

2) Derek Jeter (NYY) - Jeter was absolutely fantastic last year, batting .343 with 118 runs scored. He also hit for some power (14 HR, 39 2B) and stole 34 bases. To top it all of he hits near the top of a very good and balanced lineup.

3) Hanley Ramirez (FLA) - Ramirez had a great rookie season in which he was sort of Jose Reyes Lite. The average of .292 is certainly respectable at the top of the lineup. He also stole 51 bases, hit for good power for a SS (46 2B, 11 3B, 17 HR) and scored 118 runs. He basically does everything Jose Reyes does, just not quite as good. But that's not really anything to be ashamed of.

4) Jimmy Rollins (PHI) - Rollins continues with the theme of SS who hit for a good average, steal a lot of bases, and have deceptively good power. Did you realize Jimmy Rollins hit 25 HR last year to go with 45 2B? The HR might be a bit flukey (he's never been close to that before), but he always hits a lot of doubles, steals 30-40 bases, and scores 115+ runs. Great quality here.

5) Miguel Tejada (BAL) - Tejada did hit .330 last year, but the power numbers seem to be slipping a bit, as the 24 HR and 37 2B would suggest. Still, he's a 100-RBI guy, and if you have speed at other positions, it's definitely viable to take him ahead of a guy like Jimmy Rollins. Still a very good hitter.

6) Michael Young (TEX) - It's possible 2005 was a career year for Young, but he does a lot of things well. Namely, he was a double machine last year, hitting 52 of them. He's also a consistent .310+ hitter that'll get you 210 hits and knock in around 100 runs. You could definitely do a lot worse at the SS position.

7) Carlos Guillen (DET) - In real life, I think Guillen is one of the most underrated players in the game. In fantasy terms, he's sort of a jack-of-all-trades, master of none. He's been pretty consistent at around .320 AVG, 20 HR, 20 SB, 100 R, 90 RBI. Very good numbers across the board, but he ranks at #7 because this seems to be a very solid SS class.

8) Bill Hall (MIL) - He his 35 HR last year. 35 HOMERUNS!

9) Rafael Furcal (LAD) He's in the same style of Reyes, Rollins, and Ramirez because of his speed, but his power is not as good as theirs, and playing in Dodger Stadium doesn't help. Still, he's a .300 hitter that'll steal around 40 bases and score around 100 runs.

10) Tory Glaus (TOR) - I didn't even know Glaus has SS eligibility before I looked, but apparently he does. And with 38 HR and 104 RBI last year, that makes him a very good value pick.

Apologies to: Stephen Drew, Egar Renteria, Bobby Crosby

What changes would you make to this?

Jay Bilas like my questions

OK, this is about the worst thing in the world to be proud about, but I just wanted to brag about my chat-asking skills. From Jay Bilas' chat today:

Jon (ND): What do you think Winthrop might be looking at in terms of seeding if they win the Big South? How far can they go in the Tourney?

Jay Bilas: (3:47 PM ET ) If the Eagles got a 13, they can win. a 15 or 14 would be much tougher. Seeding is a big deal for a Big South team.

Jon (ND): Lay it all on the line Jay... if you had to choose today, who's your pick for national champion?

Jay Bilas: (3:48 PM ET ) Kansas and UCLA would be my final. But who knows? I have not seen any brackets yet.

Jay Bilas: (3:50 PM ET ) Thanks everybody!! I have to go! See you next week.

I should also mention that I've had questions answered by Mel Kiper (multiple times!), Billy Beane, Rob Neyer (multiple times!), and others. If that doesn't qualify me to write a sport blog, I'm not sure what does!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

CAA and MVC Tournament Predictions

In the past, I admittedly have not paid close attention to the smaller conference tournaments. Maybe I'd watch a minute or two of the conference tournament game, but that was about it. This year, I'm planning on watching some more of them and following them along more closely, and that starts up in the next few days with the CAA and MVC Tournaments. Both teams have a shot at getting multiple bids, so competition will be strong because there are a few teams in each conference needing to boost its resume.

Another perk here is that since I'm an Accounting student, I work with Excel a lot, so I'll even try to make some sweet-looking brackets for my prediction, sort of as a test run for the bigger conference tournies next week. Well, the brackets probably won't be cool to you, but they'll be cool to me, and that's what really matters.

Comments: More good CAA reading can be found at this blog (and the writer is also the author of the new book I just bought, which is nice). Right now there are probably 4 teams with a shot at making the Tourney as an at-large, but no one is really guaranteed a bid. Drexel and ODU have some nice wins, but they might have to at least make it to the Finals to get an at-large bid. Hofstra is probably out of luck again unless they win the Tourney, and VCU probably needs to at least win their opener to be safe. In the end, I'll go with Drexel, the team with non-conference road wins against Villanova and Syracuse, to remove all at-large doubts and clinch the auto bid.

Comments: The at-large picture here is a little clearer than the one in the CAA, but not by much. Southern Illinois is in. Creighton is probably in, but needs at least 1 more win to make sure. Missouri St. might be in, but they better beat Wichita St. in their tourney opener, and another win in the semis would assure them. If Bradley can get to the Tourney Finals, they'll have a shot. Everyone else is playing for their lives. The upset I see is a mini one, with Missouri St. punching their ticket to the Dance with a win over Creighton. In the finals, Southern Illinois is just too strong offensively and defensively. I like them to win it.

What are your predictions?

Monday, February 26, 2007

Book Review: A March to Madness

A few months back I talked about a great book I read called The Last Amateurs by John Feinstein, in which he followed around teams from the Patriot League.

This time, I got around to reading A March to Madness, in which he followed around the ACC teams for a season and talks about what happened, what they did, how they did it, etc.

It was a very interesting book that I really recommend reading, especially in conjunction with The Last Amateurs. The differences and similarities really showcase the difference between low-major college basketball and perhaps the most powerful conference in the NCAA.

One obvious difference and part that I loved was seeing the differences in the conference tournaments. In the Patriot League Tournament he detailed, it was do-or-die every game, because there were no at-large bids. In the ACC Tournament, there were probably 2 teams that were really playing in games that they saw as "must-win." Quite a difference, obviously.

Another difference was a lot of the players themselves. In The Last Amateurs, the academic lives of the players were frequently discussed. In this book, there were far less references to any type of academics, and more to attitude problems of a lot of the players. Not say that Feinstein cast them into a bad light, because he didn't, but the differences between big-time and small-time college basketball were evident.

Overall, one of the most interesting books I've read, and definitely one of the best college basketball books I've read. If you get a chance, I definitely recommend you take a gander at it.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

College Basketball Weekend Roundup

Lots and lots of great stuff from the weekend in college basketball... I'll just hit the highlights and anything else I saw as important.

- Ohio St. beat Wisconsin 49-48. As you can tell from the final score, defense was most prevalent in this game, as the Buckeyes shot 42% and the Badgers shot 35%. Still, a very good and competitive basketball game, as expected. Some thoughts just from this game:
  • I know it's been mentioned before, but I love how when Greg Oden blocks a shot, he keeps the ball in play and taps it to his teammates. Of his 4 blocked shots, at least 2 of them that I can remember basically directly led to layups. In a game where Oden wasn't a huge impact offensively, he was superb defensively.
  • I've mentioned often about how much I enjoy watching Mike Conley play, but what a game for him. There was of course the game-winner with 3.9 secods left, but he was superb throughout. 11 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, and he appeared to be everywhere out there. Great performance.
  • Hate to see something like what happened to Brian Butch... ugly looking play, and I doubt we'll be seeing him anytime soon on the court.
  • I saw a discussion on Saturday about which possible #1 seed was going to lose first... Tom Brennan said Ohio St. because of their youth, Doug Gottlieb said Wisconsin because their offense tends to stagnant when Alando Tucker isn't doing anything. Just Call Me Juice may be skeptical of the Buckeyes, but I tend to agree with Doug Gottlieb.
- Best defenses I have seen so far this year, in no particular order: Southern Illinois, UCLA, Michigan St.

- I love love Michigan St. right now. First of all, Tom Izzo's coaches tend to do very well in the Tourney (last year notwithstanding). Also, the Spartans are a fantastic defensive team and a great rebounding team, and that will keep you in a lot of ballgames. Finally, Drew Neitzel is second only to Acie Law in terms of 2nd half heroics this year. It's uncanny.

- My pet team to follow this year has been San Diego St., and while they have been maddeningly inconsistent, they showed another flash of their talent with a convining win over #22 BYU. They're going to have to win the MWC Tournament to make it to the Big Dance, but that is entirely possible.

- Lost in the shuffle of all of the other great freshmen this year is Chase Budinger. He's averaging almost 16 PPG, but he does it all in the flow of the game. He's a good shooter, he's very athletic, and he makes an impact in lots of different ways. Just a fun player to watch.

- The SEC West mediocrity continues. With Ronald Steele still not 100%, the Tide lost to Auburn to drop them to 6-8 in conference (same as Auburn). Mississippi and Mississippi St. are tied at 7-7 to lead the SEC West, but it doesn't look like either of those teams will be in the Tourney. Arkansas is down to 5-9. LSU beat Florida... to bring them to 4-10. 0 bids from the West and 5 from the East? Certainly looks very possible.

What jumped out to you over the weekend?

Friday, February 23, 2007

Fantasy Baseball Ranking: First Basemen

After starting off with the catchers, now it's time for the first basemen. One note before I get started, there were some guys - like Lance Berkman, Victor Martinez, Gary Sheffield, and Jeff Kent - that may have made this list, because they are 1B eligible, but I decided not to include them, because typically 1B is a deep position, and those players would probably be better utilized somewhere else. Other guys - like Travis Hafner and Jim Thome - would have made the list, but unlike David Ortiz they don't have 1B eligibility, just DH. So now that that's out of the way, my top 10:

1. Albert Pujols (STL) - Pujols is simply the best hitter in the world right now. The high average, lots of RBI, lots of run, lots of HR, lots of XBH. He is a complete hitter, and the best player in the MLB.

2. Ryan Howard (PHI) - Obviously Howard has remarkable power, hitting 58 HR last year. However, I have him below Pujols because the average is a little lower, he doesn't hit as many doubles, and he's not as good of a baserunner (and doesn't score as many runs). Still, it doesn't get much better than last year for Howard, as he hit .313 even with all of the HR.

3. David Ortiz (BOS) - Ortiz mostly DHs, but he does have 1B eligibility. The 54 HR are obviously great, but he's below the top 2 guys because the average was only at .287. .287 is still very solid, but its a full 40 points behind Pujols, and 25 points behind Howard last year, dropping Ortiz to the 3 spot.

4. Justin Morneau (MIN) - Morneau probably didn't deserve the AL MVP last year, but he was one of the most pleasant surprises for fantasy owners. Like Pujols and Howard, he hits for a very high average to along with the power, which is because he finally learned to lay off the curveball some and the take pitches he couldn't drive and go the other way with him. This was huge in his development as a complete hitter, and makes him the #4 ranked fantasy 1B heading into the year.

5. Mark Teixeira (TEX) - Texieira had an off year in 2006 (in which he hit 33 HR and drove in over 100), but he is still in his prime, and plays in a great ballpark in Texas. If he can get back to 2005 form (where he batted .300 with 43 HR and 144 RBI), he's one of the top 3 1B. I'm guessing he'll fall somewhere in the middle and that gets him the 5th spot.

6. Derrek Lee (CHIC) - Derrek Lee played only 50 games last season due to a wrist injury that hampered him even when he got back, but he's a great talent with huge potential. In 2005 he hit 46 HR and 50 2B, which is excellent. This year, with the addition of Alfonso Soriano, the Cubs lineup should be a little better, which will help Lee to get back to 2005 form, and make him once again a top fantasy 1B.

7. Paul Konerko (CHIA) - No one talks about Paul Konerko that much, but you can always count on him to hit for 35-40 HR, and hit somewhere around 110 RBI, all while hitting .280+ (or in 2006's case, .313). And once again, the Sox middle of the order with Thome and Dye around him is extremely potent, which will help with the RBI and R opportunities.

8. Todd Helton (COL) - Helton had a down year in 2006, but still batted .300 with 40 2B. The HR numbers were not what you'd like to see and have been declining some, but he's a guy that hits for a high average and gets lots of XBH. I think we'll see a mini-rebound from Helton this year.

9. Carlos Delgado (NYM) - Delgado's batting average isn't quite what you'd like it to be, but the HR and RBI totals go a long way towards making up for that. Over the past 3 years he has averaged about 35 HR and 110 RBI. That makes him the #9 fantasy 1B.

10. Prince Fielder (MIL) - Fielder is still only 23 years old and had a very good year in his first full year, which makes him a nice value here. He's a guy with the type of skills and power to be a top 5 fantasy 1B by the end of 2007. He's patient at the plate and waits for his pitches, which is a common trait in good power hitters. The average was only .271, but again he has the talent to improve on that. He finished with 28 HR and 35 2B, which is pretty darn good for a 2 year-old.

What would your rankings look like?

This is why I thought Dwyane Wade was the MVP

With Dwyane Wade getting injured, possibly for the year, I think it will showcase why Dwyane Wade was my first-half MVP.

As of now, the Heat are 25-20 with Wade (and largely without Shaq), 1-8 without him. Wade created absolutely everything for Miami. He scored 28.8 PPG, dished out 7.9 APG, and drew the defense to him. Without him, they won't be able to score. Sure, they scored 100 against the Mavs on Thursday, but the Mavs had that game wrapped up by half.

Who will create shots for the Heat? Jason Williams? Shaq? It's going to get ugly, because this is a bad team without Wade.

Bet the house, if Wade misses the rest of the season, the Heat will not win more than 35 or 36 games this year, and they will miss the playoffs, even in the weak Eastern Conference. To win 36 games they'd have to finish 10-19, and I really don't think they'll even be able to do that. You heard it here first.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Coors Field

I've always been a little fascinated by Coors Field because it's so different from anything we have in most sports. Here's a stadium that just completely changes the game and the style of play of the teams, as well as the way the team is set up. I mean, think about it... in basketball, football, etc. every court of field is exactly the same. Not so in the MLB, and Coors is the prime example of that because of the thin air. It's really quite interesting. Also, I've been there once, so that was cool.

So got to thinking about the best way for the Rockies to utilize the field, as has no doubt been thought up by them. But in case it hasn't, I give you full permission to use my advice Colorado Rockies (also, I am looking for a job)!

The Rockies can definitely take advantage of the high altitude in Denver, but not in the way everyone thinks. Most people think HRs when they think of Coors Field, but that's a little short-sighted.

To combat the high altitude, the walls are deep at Coors Field. Consequently, the outfielders are usually playing very deep. So what does that do? It leaves the gaps wide open, and allows for lots of extra base hits.

So what's the best way for the Rockies to take advantage of the high altitude? Get doubles hitters, because they should just be able to go nuts in Coors. And this is basically what is happening. Garrett Atkins hit 48 doubles last year, Matt Holliday had 45, and Todd Helton had 40. Good doubles hitters thrive in Coors.

Pitching-wise, you have to find groundball pitchers, because anything hit in the air will sail. But, you can't hit homeruns off a groundball.

So this is how the Rockies can take advantage of Coors Field... doubles hitters and groundball pitchers. It's a tough ballpark to play in, but if you can effectively utilize, you can make yourselves tough to beat there.

Agree? Disagree?

Links and stuff

Since it's been a long day and I don't really feel like, well, writing anything, I thought I'd do the next best thing... link to good stuff. Subjectively speaking.

First off, I put some cool stuff (I think it's cool at least) up at Sports Videos, specifically I have started up a Gus Johnson section. The man is good.

Is it really only 21 more days to March Madness? The best time of the year!

Here's something I know Josh over the Double-A Zone was really excited about: The 3-Minute Drill. Check it out if you get a chance. And just check out the Double-A Zone in general. It's not easy to cover all divisions and all sports of the NCAA, but Josh does a great job on touching on a lot of different, interesting topics.

You may as well go check out Deadspin... I guarantee you'll find something interesting over there, or I'll refund your money.

Just Call Me Juice is already calling an early round Ohio St. exit from the Big Dance... and there's definitely some merit there. Let me also take the time to announce that Just Call Me Juice is becoming one of my favorite blogs for quality college basketball action.

I know you've always wondered what the wackiest baseball injuries of the 90s were... well, now you know.

This is a little older, but The Big Picture's interview with Dan Shanoff (former Daily Quickie writer now with his own blog) was one of the most fascinating things I've read in a while. I implore you to read it, because it's excellent.

Norv Turner... luckiest coach on Earth.

Enjoy these links... I'll try to do better the next time.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Fantasy Baseball Ranking: Catchers

There's a good chance that eventually I will group some positions together, but for now let's just look exclusively at the Catchers. For brevity's sake, I'll just give my top 15 with a short comment for each. Feel free to interject at any time (by leaving a comment, or even an email, if I offend you too much).

1. Joe Mauer (MIN) - Quite simply, Mauer is the best catcher in the MLB. He was the MLB batting champ last season, and should just be coming into his own as far as power is concerned. He had 36 2B and 13 HR, and both of those should go up as he gets closer to his prime. He's also the #3 hitter in the order, meaning plenty of chances to get RBI or get knocked in by Justin Morneau and Mike Cuddyer. And if all of that is not enough, Ron Gardenhire frequently makes Mauer the DH on the days he's not catching. That's really good for fantasy purposes.
2. Victor Martinez (CLE) - I feel Mauer is the #1 fantasy catcher, but if you like Martinez more, I can't argue too much. At this point he doesn't get on base as much as Mauer, but maybe has a slight, slight power edge. Another thing you have to like with Martinez is that he sucks defensively... meaning the Indians will play him more at 1B, which helps to stop wear and tear.
3. Brian McCann (ATL) - McCann was pretty awesome last year, batting .333 while hitting for very good power (24 HR). He's like 1C for fantasy catching purposes... you can't go wrong with Mauer, Martinez, or McCann, because both are excellent and are young enough that they could be even better this year.
4. Kenji Johjima (SEA) - Johjima quietly put together a nice rookie campaign last season, batting .291 with 44 XBH and 76 RBI. Now that he's more acclimated to the MLB, he should be even better in year 2.
5. Mike Piazza (OAK) - Piazza is obviously not the hitter he used to be, but that's ok. He should be doing a lot of DHing in Oak-town, which will be great since he still has catcher eligibility. He hit .283 with 22 HR last year in 400 ABs in an extreme pitcher's park in a pitcher's league. People are overlooking him some because of his age, but I think he'll be excellent this year.
6. Ivan Rodriguez (DET) - He's another guy that's getting older, but he did hit .300 once again last season. Also, with guys like Magglio Ordonez and the extremely underrated Carlos Guillen near him in the lineup, he should be able to provide another solid season of production.
7. Ramon Hernandez (BAL) - Hernandez adapted very well to Baltimore last season, with 23 HR, 91 RBI, and a solid .275 AVG. With the lineup around him and the fact the hitter's ballpark in Baltimore, good things should again be in store.
8. Michael Barrett (CHIN) - Barrett hit over .300 last year with 16 HR, a respectable amount. With some improvements to the Cubs offense (overrated as Soriano may be), it's not inconceivable to see a little boost for Barrett, which puts him definitely in the top 10.
9. Jorge Posada (NYY) - Posada has been around seemingly forever, but he's still productive for now. He hit 23 HR last year and racked up 93 RBI. He was much better in 2006 than 2005, so we'll see if that's just a one-year final gasp, or if he's still a top 5 catcher. I'm betting somewhere in between.
10. AJ Pierzynski (CHIA) - I feel like I'm repeating myself here... near .300 average for Pierzynski, mid-teens in HR, and mid twenties for doubles. He should also get solid RBI opportunities because there are some superb hitters in front of him in the Sox lineup.
11. Russell Martin (LAD) - Martin had a very nice rookie year for the Dodgers, with 26 2B, 65 R, and 65 RBI in only 121 games. Barring a sophomore slump, he could be a nice sleeper here.
12. Paul Lo Duca (NYM) - I still think Lo Duca is a little overrated, but he hit for a high average, had a good amount of doubles, and scored a lot of runs due to batting 2nd in a good lineup. I suspect that .318 average will drop some, but he sure does have a lot of protection in that lineup.
13. Jason Varitek (BOS) - Varitek may be a great gamecaller, but he was really bad at the plate last season. He only batted .238 and his power numbers were down. He was battling some injuries, so I'm sure that contributed, but he needs to bounce back offensively.
14. Johnny Estrada (MIL) - Estrada's always been a guy to hit for a pretty good average and get in the mid-20s in doubles. We pretty much know what to expect from him.
15. Javy Lopez (COL) - I know his numbers from last year aren't all that inspiring, but playing half your games in Coors Field tends to be a big help to offensive stats.

What changes would you make to these rankings?

Monday, February 19, 2007

NBA Power Rankings

With the All-Star break and all of its festivities (including Charles Barkley vs. Dick Bavetta) behind us, I figured now would be as good a time as any for my Top 10 NBA Power Rankings.

(1) Dallas Mavericks (44-9) - The thing I like about Dallas is that they have the personnel to beat you in a multitude of ways. During their 9 game winning streak they have scored over 105 points on 4 separate occasions. They've also won a game 80-77. Oh yeah... after their first 21 games, they were 14-7. Since, they're 30-2. Just think about that for a second. Wow.

(2) Phoenix Suns (39-13) - The Suns would have a shot to be #1, but then Steve Nash got hurt and they lost 3 straight heading into the break. Still, their top 6 (Nash, Bell, Diaw, Stoudemire, Marion, Barbosa) is better than anyone else's top 6, and their style of play is the most unique in the NBA. Honestly, the only thing I think that can derail them from a rematch against Dallas in the Conference Finals is injury. Barring that, they're too talented and too well-coaches to fall to anyone else.

(3) San Antonio Spurs (35-18) - Ho hum, the Spurs keep plugging along. Duncan has been fantastic, Parker has been very solid, and Ginobili should be well-rested for the playoffs (only playing 28 MPG). This is a team that will always be in it at the end.

(4) Houston Rockets (33-19) - Got to love what the Rockets are doing, especially without Yao. I know I've said this before but the Rockets remind me of last year's Heat team, with Yao being a better Shaq and T-Mac not quite being as good as Wade. One problem... while the Heat were able to win in one series against the West, I don't think they'd have made it to the Finals if they had been a 4 or 5 seed in the West, which is what Houston will ultimately be.

(5) Utah Jazz (35-17) - The big men, Boozer and Okur, are both excellent... but seriously, how good is Deron Williams? Good shooter (who showed during the Rookie/Sophomore game that he has great range), great passer, above average defender. Look at the numbers... 17.4 PPG, 9.2 APG, 3.5 RPG... I'm not saying I'd rather have him over Chris Paul (I'm not sure who I'd take), but the pick to take Williams looks a lot better now than it did last year.

(6) Detroit Pistons (32-19) - Hey, finally a team from the East! Cant' complain too much about C-Webb, but think for a second... in one season the Pistons went from having Ben Wallace as their starting center to Chris Webber. That defensive dropoff is like going from Jason Kidd (a bad defensive PG) to me as the starter. That's never good.

(7) Cleveland Cavaliers (31-22) - I can't really figure these guys out. With LeBron, I can see them going all the way to the NBA Finals. Then I see the rest of the backcourt... Larry Hughes, Damon Jones, Eric Snow, Daniel Gibson, and Sasha Pavlovic. Yikes.

(8) Chicago Bulls (29-25) - The record is not as good as some others, but their point differential is solid, and I really think the Bulls will be one of the teams to beat in the playoffs this year. Now, if they could only find a way to trade for KG, we'd all be happy.

(9) Los Angeles Lakers (30-24) - The Lakers have been struggling lately, but they should be helped by the soon return of Luke Walton (no, really). Walton's great passing and unselfishness really help to keep the triangle flowing... in some ways I think he is actually the 2nd most important player on the team.

(10) Washington Wizards (29-21) - They score on average 0.1 PPG more than their opponents and they don't win all that much on the road... I didn't really want to put them on this list, but no one else really jumped out at me. I think this year will win up a lot like last year for the Wiz... the explosive and exciting offense to make things very interesting and give them a chance to win in Round 1 of the playoffs, but ultimately they'll be undone by the fact that they can't stop anybody.

What would you change here?

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Charles Barkley vs. Dick Bavetta Wrapup

(Some video for this can be found here, or lots of other goodies at Awful Announcing).

First, lots of quotes related to the event:

"You know, you got two guys that parted the Red Sea with Moses out there, so they calling a lot of fouls." - Charles Barkley

"He's in shape for a 67 year-old. He ain't in shape for a 25 year-old... I can outrun Dick Bavetta right now." - Charles Barkley

"First of all, if I talk to a 67 year-old person they ain't gonna be able to hear me." - Charles Barkley

"I can't believe that someone that's 67 years old has the audacity to trash talk." - Charles Barkley

"Answer me one question... which hamstring are you going to grab at when you fall behind and have to pull up?" - Ernie Johnson

"First of all, a guy that's 67 can't run 100 yards." - Charles Barkley

"This is how little respect I got for Dick Bavetta." [takes bite out of donut] - Charles Barkley

"First of all, I received no official notification from my agent, David Aldridge is handling all of my public speaking engagements. I'm staying humble, focused, and if this is horse race, what comes to mind is War Admiral and Seabiscuit. Charles is War Admiral, undefeated. And I'm this little Seabiscuit... I run funny, do crazy things... he is obviously the favorite. Humble and focused, that's all I have to saty at this point." - Dick Bavetta

"Ain't no such thing as a spry 67." - Charles Barkley

"I'm the one that has something to lose. If I beat this old geezer, y'all are gonna say I should have beaten him. It's like fighting with an ugly person... you should never fight with an ugly person because they got nothing to lose." - Charles Barkley

"I'm going to beat him like a drum." - Charles Barkley

"The fact that he's walking out tells me a lot." - Kenny Smith

"We're gonna give 2 blackjack hands to charity." - Charles Barkley

And finally, here's the video, thanks to Awful Announcing.

And be sure to check out Awful Announcing, who live-blogged it and was great at covering it throughout.

Hopefully they do it again next year!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

One final Charles Barkley vs. Dick Bavetta Video

Seriously folks, I can't recommend this highly enough. Maybe it'll be a big letdown and the race and the events surrounding it won't be that funny, but I find that generally anything on TNT that Barkley touches turns to gold... he's absolutely hilarious, and Dick Bavetta seems to have a great sense of humor as well. I think this is going to be hilarious. So here is one final video for you to enjoy, which just sort of ties everything together.

"Hey I can outrun Dick Bavetta right now." - Charles Barkley

Thursday, February 15, 2007

My Favorite NBA Players to Watch

Yesterday I looked at my favorite college basketball players to watch, and today, it's time to turn to the NBA. Once again, in no particular order, the players I most enjoy watching:

Leandro Barbosa (Phoenix) - I mentioned this in my Midseason Awards, but I just think his game is so unique and so fun to watch, especially in Phoenix, the perfect system for his skills. He's an excellent 3-point shooter with a quick release. But he's also one of the fastest players in the NBA on the fast break, one of the quickest on his first step to the basket, and a very good finisher at the hoop.

LeBron James (Cleveland) - He hasn't quite progressed this year as much as everyone hoped and expected, but he's still the guy that will get me to watch a game more than anyone else. More than any other player, you're never really quite sure what you might see from LeBron, or what he might do out on the court. He's the most athletically gifted player ever, and he makes plays that just shouldn't be made. He needs to be a little more consistent and continue to develop the jumper, but he's still great to watch.

Gilbert Arenas (Washington) - Gotta love watching Agent Zero simply because he's liable to pretty much shoot from anywhere at anytime. 25 footer with 20 seconds left on the shot clock in a tight game? He'll do it. Plus, he's got a great blog on, and that's got to count for something, right?

Kyle Korver (Philadelphia) - Just a fantastic shooter. He's got an unbelievably quick release and his range starts right about when he steps into the arena. The rest of his game is not so great, but watching him shoot makes up for that.

Kevin Garnett (Minnesota) - You just have to like a guy toiling in relative anonymity in Minnesota (well, anonymity compared to other superstars), but he just goes out there every night, plays hard, and puts up great numbers for a perpetually mediocre organization under Kevin McHale. He's one of the best rebounders of the modern era, he's consistent offensively, a great defensive player, good passer, and he gives 100% every night. Hopefully the TWolves trade him to a contender.

Shane Battier (Houston) - A guy that just does all of the little things. He's a great 3-point shooter, he plays great defense (on the ball and off the ball) and he's completely unselfish on the court.

Andrew Bynum (Los Angeles) - While its fun to watch him mature more and more, what I like about watching Bynum is his passing ability. It hasn't quite shown up a lot in the stats, but he's been very good in the triangle at just taking what is there and making some solid passes to open teammates. Very impressive for a young guy.

Allen Iverson (Denver) - And last but not least, Allen Iverson, still one of the most exciting players in the NBA, with one of the most unique styles of play ever in the NBA. I mean, just think, he's 6 feet tall, 160 pounds, has never had a great jumper, and will still wind up as one of the most prolific scorers ever. Just fun to watch him compete.

Who do you enjoy watching?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

My Favorite College Basketball Players to Watch

I've noticed that like probably everyone, there are a few guys that I really enjoy watching play more than others. One note though before I list them... when I played basketball in high school I was a guard, so in general I tend to unconsciously follow guard play more closely. But still, some big men do make the cut. Here's the list, in no particular order, and a short reason why I like watching them play.

Kevin Durant (Texas) - This one is pretty much just a given now. Silky smooth offensively, great rebounder, improving defensively, and the #1 Player of the Year candidate right now. What's not to like?

Acie Law IV (Texas A&M) - One obvious reason is that he has been asbolutely money in the clutch all season long. But I like watching him for other reasons... he makes good decisions, he's a good passer, and there is no one else in the country that is better at absorbing the foul and finishing strong at the rim with either hand.

Mike Conley (Ohio St.) - I've rambled on about him before, but just one more time here, because I love his game and think he gets overlooked with the other Buckeyes freshmen. As a true freshmen, he leads the Big 10 in assists (with 6.3 per game), is very solid with the ball (only about 2 TPG), and takes good shots. He is poised well beyond his years at the PG position.

Chris Lofton (Tennessee) - Obviously he's a fantastic shooter with loads of range. But even though he has the ball a lot and Tennessee plays in a fast-paced offense, he doesn't force bad shots up and he doesn't turn the ball over.

Jarrius Jackson (Texas Tech) - Jackson might be the best player in the country moving without the ball. With the ball, he's also great fun to watch. He has sort of a herky-jerky motion when dribbling which makes it tough for the defense to read what he's going to do. He's got a great midrange game (which he showcased at the buzzer yesterday), his 3-point shot is solid, and he can go on a scoring surge at any time.

Arron Afflalo (UCLA) - Afflalo is another guy that is great at moving without the ball. He can come up screens very quickly and sharply, turn, square up, and bury the jumper while the defender is still fighting to get through the screen. In addition, he's one of the best perimeter defenders in the NCAA. He's got the all-around game that makes it fun to watch him play on both ends of the court.

Randal Falker (Southern Illinois) - The numbers aren't eye-popping, but he does the little things necessary for the Salukis to win. He takes high-percentage shots (60.8% FG), rebounds well, and is the anchor for the best defense in the country. Again, 13 PPG and 7.5 RPG aren't spectacular, but the Salukis are nowhere near the team they are now without Falker.

Jeremy Pargo (Gonzaga) - Pargo is athletic, quick off the dribble, and a tenacious all-around player. Even though he is only 6'2'', he's got a very nice all-around game and has improved his stroke this year. He's averaging over 12 PPG, 4 RPG, and 4.7 APG while shooting over 50% from the field. With Josh Heytvelt suspended for a while, Pargo becomes even more important if the Zags are going to make the Tourney.

Jared Dudley (Boston College) - We all know the story on Dudley... he was lightly recruited, but Al Skinner brought him in and as so often happens under Skinner, Dudley has thrived. He's become the best player in the ACC this season, and has the all-around game that is fun to watch. He's great on the block where he can use the strength and quickness, but he can also take bigger men off the dribble or shoot the outside jumper. But when defenses are too focused on him, he's good passer as well. All of this is reflected in the numbers... 20 PPG, 9 RPG, 3.2 APG. He's also shooting 59% from the field and 50% from the 3-point line.

So that said, who are your favorite players to watch?

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Some good college basketball action

There were a couple of very good games on TV that I was able to watch (in between studying for 2 tests), as well as some other solid games that took place. Here's what I saw:

Texas Tech 77, Texas A&M 75
Just a great finish to this ballgame. With the Aggies down by 3 late, they went to Acie Law IV, and the man continued to show that he has ice in his veins. He got a solid look at a 3, and as he has done with so many big shots, he buried it. But that wasn't the end of things. Jarrius Jackson got the inbounds pass for Tech, drove the length of the floor, and buried a midrange jumper as time expired. This is why even though Texas Tech is very much on the bubble, I would not want to face them in the Tourney. They are coached by Bob Knight, Jarrius Jackson is a great scorer (31 points against A&M, averaging 20 PPG), and Martin Zeno provides a nice second fiddle (16.7 PPG). They have some head-scratching losses, but they can really play.

Tennessee 89, Kentucky 85
The previous game had the better ending, but I found this game to be a little more entertaining throughout. Both teams got up and down the court, hit shots, and didn't really play that much defense. Kentucky was down by as many as 16 in the 2nd half, which made me think it was over, but some big shots from Ramel Bradley and Joe Crawford brought them back. But the play of the Vols' freshmen posts and speed of the guards were a little too much for Kentucky to overcome. Last year in the tourney the Vols were overrated with a 2 seed, this year I think they'll be a little overlooked. Their posts are very athletic and cause tons of matchup problems with their ability to get up and down the court, and the style of play is very difficult to play against if you don't have great ballhandlers (19 turnovers for Kentucky). Look out for the Vols.

Virginia Tech 81, North Carolina 80
This is why I have grown a little leery about the Tar Heels. When they're on their game, they are probably one of the top 2 teams in the country. When they're not, they can be beat by anybody. The Hokies are a solid club, but 33 points and 19 trips to the FT line for Zabian Dowdell?

Southern Illinois 51, Missouri St. 47
Missouri St. could have locked up their NCAA bid with a win here, but its just a tight loss. The Salukis continue to show that they're the best team in the MVC, and again showing that they might be the best defensive team in the country. It's not easy to hold Blake Ahearn to 2/8 shooting and 7 points.

San Diego St. 67, UNLV 52
I was really high on the Aztecs before the season, then they made me look a little foolish by losing 7 of 12 during one stretch in the middle of the year. However, they have put that behind them and are playing very well right now. They've won 5 straight games, including a 21 point drubbing of Air Force and now this 15 point victory over a 21-6 UNLV team. I kind of sound like a broken record, but if SDSU can get into the Tourney, they are more than talented enough to win a game or two.

What stuck out to you on Tuesday?

Monday, February 12, 2007

My NCAA Basketball Top 10

Since everyone likes lists (right??), I figured this would be a good place to rank my top 10 in College Basketball right now.

(1) Florida - Despite having the huge target on their back, the Gators have been the best college basketball team in the land so far. Their two losses were in a neutral court game against Kansas by 2, and on the road to FSU by 4. Not bad. On Saturday they played a pretty subpar game (by their standards) and still beat a solid Kentucky team at Kentucky. Don't mess with the Gators.

(2) Wisconsin - They did lose last week, but as far as losses go, losing on the road to Indiana isn't so bad. Overall, they have the same number of losses as Florida (2) , and have some quality wins against Pittsburgh and Ohio St. The national polls seem to have the Buckeyes at #2 over the Badgers, but I don't see it based on their resumes. I'll take the Badgers right now.

(3) North Carolina - They haven't exactly been easing anyone's fears that they are a little too young right now, as they've been a little sloppy in some recent games. Still, the talent is undeniable, and they have more firepower, depth, and athleticism than possibly anyone in the country. Young or not, this is not a team anyone wants to see come Tourney time.

(4) UCLA - They lost at West Virginia, but I'm willing to see that as a game that they flew across country for and lost tight in a game that probably won't matter to them as far as seeding goes. So I'm not too worried about that. What is a little worrisome is that the Bruins still don't have any consistent inside scoring, which could pose problems. Big game coming up this Saturday against a resurgent Arizona squad.

(5) Texas A&M - One of the toughest teams in the country, and one of my favorite to watch. They take hits and they just keep on coming, led by Acie Law. They're a balanced team with 4 players scoring at least 12 PPG, which will serve them well. Also, the fact that they are very well-coached and very good defensively will help.

(6) Ohio St. - The talent is there, with that Oden guy, as well as fellow frosh Mike Conley, who's a bit underrated and is another one of my favorite players to watch. Since Conley doesn't get as much pub, I'm going to use this space to talk about him... he's already one of the best distributors and PGs in America. His A/T ratio is over 3/1, because he averages over 6 APG. He's not a great outside shooter, but he doesn't force things. He's shooting 53% from the field and 33% from beyond the arc. Just an excellent, excellent player, and one who doesn't get enough credit for what he does.

(7) Kansas - Still one of the most talented clubs in the country. They have four players averaging in double figures, but its a 5th player (Sherron Collins) that might be their most explosive offensive threat. They responded very well to the A&M loss by just thrashing Kansas St. and Missouri, suggesting this may be a more mature team than last year's first round losers. This is definitely a team that can go all the way if they can put it together when it counts.

(8) Memphis - I think they are flying a little under the radar because they don't have many really great wins and they're not getting competition within their conference, but under John Calipari they don't rebuild, they reload. They have athleticism, depth, ballhandling, shooters, solid inside play, etc. In other words, don't be at all surprised if Memphis is back in the Elite 8 this year.

(9) Pittsburgh - The timing of these rankings were unkind to Pitt, as they did no favors by getting crunched by Louisville on Monday. But they are still 22-4 overall and 10-2 in the Big East, so they're in fine shape. The guy that really makes Pitt go is sophomore Levance Fields, a tough PG that can shoot, distribute, and rebound the ball. If he is playing well, Pitt can make a deep run. If not, they could be in trouble.

(10) Washington St. - I never thought I'd be putting WaSt in a top 10 list this year, but they've certainly earned it. They beat Arizona twice, beat Gonzaga, and lost to UCLA by 3. Rookie coach Tony Bennett has them playing very well on both ends of the floor, and they're only a half game back of UCLA for the Pac-10 lead.

What changes to my top 10 would you make?

NBA or NCAA Basketball?

In an effort to get to know my readers better, which do you prefer, the NBA or NCAA Basketball?

I ask because often I am thinking of something to write, and there are times where I could probably write about either/or. Since I'm all about you, the reader (or at least that's what I tell you!), I was wondering which you prefer? And then, because I can, here are what I think the positives and negatives of each are:

Positives: the most skilled players in the world, extremely competitive playoff games, best athletes in the world doing unbelievable things with the basketball.

Negatives: players sometimes don't seem to try that hard at times during the regular season, too much isolation.

Positives: great atmosphere, many different styles, players trying hard every game, the NCAA Tournament, the Cinderalla team.

Negatives: the players aren't as talented, lots of players can be hard to keep track of and follow.

Personally, I prefer the NCAA slightly. More than one person has complained to me that there are too many teams and players and it's impossible to follow... but that's what I love about the NCAA. With so many players and teams, there is always something new to learn, and there are so many different styles of play. With all the different coaches, there are hundreds of new schemes, styles of play, and all the rest. That is why I love college basketball. That, and the NCAA Tournament is by far the best sporting event one earth.

But enough about me. I ask you, the reader, which do you prefer... the NBA or NCAA Basketball?


So yeah, I turn 20 today.

Which basically just means I'm getting way too old for birthdays.

Also, since I share the birthday with Honest Abe, enjoy the picture of him... there aren't enough Abe Lincoln photos out there.

Friday, February 09, 2007

NBA Midseason Awards

Since we're about halfway through the NBA season, I thought it would only be appropriate to do some NBA Midseason Awards. So yeah.

Rookie of the Year: Brandon Roy (POR)
Roy has been the best of a really bad class of rookies so far. Roy hasn't been great, but he's been solid as a starting guard for the Blazers. He's averaging 15 PPG, 4 RPB, and 3.6 APG, showing off the overall skillset that made him such a nice prospect. He's shooting about 43.6%, which could stand to improve, but he also gets to the line with some consistency, and shoots 86% there, so that helps offset the shooting percentage.

Coach of the Year: Jerry Sloan (UTA)
There's a few other solid candidates, such as Eddie Jordan, Avery Johnson, and Phil Jackson, but I give my vote to Jerry Sloan. The Jazz are very improved this year and playing good ball, currently sitting at 32-17. This is certainly their best year in the post-Malone and Stockton era, and with their balance, they have a chance to make some noise later in the year.

Most Improved Player: Monta Ellis (GS)
Ellis was my choice even before he hit the eventual game-winner against Chicago Friday night, as he has been very good in just his 2nd year out of high school. He's averaging about 17 pts/3 rebs/4 asts a night, which is very solid production. He doesn't have a very good long-range shot at this point, but he gets into the lane very well and also shoots about 5 FTs per game. Really a good-looking young player.

Defensive Player of the Year: Marcus Camby (DEN)
Camby's always been a very good player with one caveat... he can never stay healthy. Well, so far, he's managed to stay reasonably healthy (knock on wood) and his production is very solid. Right now he leads the NBA with over 3 BPG and is an imposing presence at the rim. He also grabs 12 rebounds a night, gets about a steal a game, and is a consistently great defensive player down low. When he's healthy.

6th Man of the Year: Leandro Barbosa (PHO)
I am just a huge fan of Barbosa and what he brings to the table. He's instant offense off the bench, a good all-around player, and just brings yet another gear to an already fast Phoenix Suns team. He's so versatile offensively. He shoots the 3-ball at about a 40% clip, which is real solid. But he also has a very good first step, and is great in transition. He's so fast that he can get ahead of the defense, and he's a great finisher at the hoop. Add it all up, and Barbosa is my 6th Man of the Mid-year and one of my favorite players to watch.

MVP: Dwyane Wade (MIA)
A lot of people seem to like Steve Nash or Gilbert Arenas for this award, but I'm not sure either guy would be in my top 5. Wade (obviously) would be there, and Dirk is my #2 (no matter what this Myspace says or what Mark Cuban says), but after that things are tight. I'd put Nash and Arenas in with Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, and maybe LeBron. They're all too close right now.

But my MVP would be Dwyane Wade. I'm not sure people realize how bad this Heat team is without Shaq, which they were for most of the first half. I mean, the Heat had Gary Payton (who doesn't really do anything anymore) and Jason Kapono (who's a good shooter, and well, that's it) in the starting lineup. Antoine Walker plays 24 minutes per game, and his time has more than passed. Chris Quinn started a game for the Heat this year. Without Wade, they'd be competing with Boston and Memphis right now. But Wade has been awesome. 28 PPG, 8 APG, 5 RPG, 2 SPG, and maximum effort every single game (which we can't say about LeBron). Wade is single-handedly carrying the Heat, and he's been unbelievable in doing it. I don't see how you can deny him the MVP right now. He's been that good.

What would your awards look like?

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Kevin Durant or Greg Oden?

I know we're a long ways from the Draft, and we don't know for sure whether both of these guys will be in the Draft, but assuming they are, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at who the better pro prospect is right now.

Coming into the year, Greg Oden was the consensus #1 prospect, but now that Kevin Durant has asserted himself as the frontrunner for the NCAA Player of the Year, things have changed in the eyes of some people. Both are extraordinary players in very different ways, and both will contribute immediately.

Some analyst said not too long ago, and I don't remember who exactly, but he basically asked would you rather have David Robinson or Dirk Nowitski? That's probably who Oden and Durant compare to the best, and if they turn out anything like them, well, you can see what all the hype is about.

First is Greg Oden, the most highly touted Center prospect in a long, long time. Despite limited use of his right hand, Oden has averaged over 15 PPG so far this year while shooting 62% from the field. He has developed a solid offensive game in the post with his left hand, even shooting free throws right handed. Still, he does have a way to go on the offensive end, as he is not really polished at all yet with his back to the basket. However, the fact that he is so athletic and agile suggests that that will come with time and experience.

But offense is not where Oden will make his living... right now, as a freshman, Oden is the best defensive big man in college basketball. That's not a slight to guys like Joakim Noah, who are very good, but Oden is just in another world. He's always in the right position, he has an NBA-type body already, and he has unbelievable instincts. He averages 3.7 BPG, and that's even with teams knowing what kind of force he is down there. Another good thing is that he's smart down there and not over-aggressive... even with all of the blocks, he's not putting guys on the line and getting himself into foul trouble, as he averages 2.4 fouls per game and has not fouled out in a game this year. Athleticism, positioning, smarts, and timing make Oden the best defensive college big man in the country.

Next is Kevin Durant, who has taken the college basketball world by storm. His numbers alone are almost mind-boggling. He's averaging over 25 points and 11 rebounds per game as a freshman in the Big 12. What's more, he is averaging about 33 points and 14 rebounds per game in conference play. That is simply incredible.

Many are saying Kevin Durant will 'redefine' our notion of a forward offensively, though admittedly I can't really see that. What does Durant do that Nowitski or McGrady doesn't? That's not a slight to Durant at all, but I wouldn't say he's redefining anything. But that doesn't really matter all that much... what does matter is that his offensive skill set might be better than any other college player's has been for quite a while. He's a very solid 3-point shooter, he can get by his man and get to the hoop, or he can post up smaller defenders. He is the entire package offensively.

Defensively, he's not there yet but the potential is there. He has long arms that can wreak havoc on an offense... as evidenced by 1.9 BPG and 1.5 SPG. He's an average defender right now, but with his tools and some good coaching, he has the ability to develop in a very good one.

So who would I choose? Certainly you can't go wrong with Oden or Durant. However, if I had the #1 pick in the NBA Draft and these 2 guys were on the board, my selection at this point would still be Greg Oden. Defensively, he can step in and immediately challenge for the All-Defensive team, and that's no exaggeration. He is that smart, that strong, and that athletic. Offensively, he's a work in progress to some degree, but the potential to be a great scorer in the post is there, which we will certainly learn more about at his right wrist gets healthier. So for these reasons, I would give Oden the slightest of nods over Durant, though the way Kevin Durant is playing, that could change.

If you had the #1 pick in the NBA Draft and these 2 players were on the board, who would you choose?

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Andre Iguodala

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Andre Iguodala. Sure, you know about him from the Dunk Contest last year, but that's just a small part. Don't look now, but he's been downright studly ever since the trade of Allen Iverson.

I'll go into depth in a minute, but first this video from last year's dunk contest, along with a quote from Charles Barkley that summed up Iguodala's first 2 years in the NBA:

To recap the video, here's the conversation that took place:

Kenny: I never understood this... why would you use Allen Iverson to pass you the ball in a dunk contest?
Charles: It's a subliminal message... like when I gave Kenny those Altoids.

Allen Iverson is my favorite player in the NBA, but let's be honest, with him and Webber in the mix, Iguodala didn't have that many opportunities to create and score on his own, and that may have hampered his growth and potential as a young player a little bit. So in his young days he was just the best defensive player on the team from the moment he was drafted, a good finisher and good passer, but he didn't have the ball enough to score a lot of points.

Well, now he appears to be making up for lost time. In last night's game, Iguodala was the star for the Sixers in beating the Bobcats, with 27 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 steals.

Of course, this is becoming a pretty common thing for AI2. He has scored 19 or more points in his last 9 games, and has averaged 23.4 PPG over that span. After averaging just about 14 PPG in November (before the shakeup in Philly), he averaged 18.9 PPG in December, 18.2 in January, and 25 PPG so far in February. But it's not like scoring is all he's been doing.

In December and January combined he averaged around 5 RPG, about 5.5 APG, and over 2 SPG. So in addition to being a high percentage scorer and being able to get to the line, he also is a contributor on the glass, a very good passer, and the best defensive player on the team.

So have a look folks at a rising star, a supremely athletic player that is just learning how to really play on the offensive end, and so far with excellent results. Andre Iguodala, one of the most underrated players in the NBA.

My Answer in the Bag/Bilastrator Challenge

If you don't know what the Bag/Bilastrator challenge is, it doesn't matter. Check one of Grant Wahl from's columns or one of Jay Bilas' from ESPN. Anyway, a couple of weeks ago there was an interesting question posed, and I thought it might be interesting to take a crack at it. The question was:

You have selected your coach for one game, and must now select your team for that one game. You may choose any active collegian, but must select one freshman, one sophomore, one junior, and one senior, plus one wild-card selection to round out your starting lineup. You must also select one player to come off of your bench. Provide the reasons for each selection.

I obviously didn't select a coach, but here's my team:

Point Guard - Acie Law (Sr, Texas A&M) - I just live pretty much everything about Acie Law's game at this point. He's a very good 3-point shooter (45% this year), very good with the ball (2.12 A/TO), and plays very good defense. Plus, he just takes over at the end of games, as he definitely showed in the Kansas game. I picked Texas A&M for the Final Four before the season began, and Law is making me feel comfortable with that pick at this point.

Shooting Guard - Alando Tucker (Sr, Wisconsin) - Technically Tucker is more of a small forward, but I don't think he would have too much trouble switching over to 2 guard. He can score from the outside or by powering inside, and despite having the ball a lot, does not turn it over very often.

Small Forward - Kevin Durant (Fr, Texas) - The numbers are mind-blowing for anyone, let alone a freshman. 25.4 PPG and 11.6 RPG, and he's averaging over 30 PPG in conference play. Oh yeah, and he has 14 double-doubles this year, which is already a Texas record. He is not a great defensive player yet, but he's not awful. And his offensive ability makes up for any possible defensive liability. He can score in almost every way possible with equal effectiveness, and it shows in the numbers. Just a phenomenal player.

Power Forward - Julian Wright (So, Kansas) - The thing I like about Wright is that with all of his talent, he doesn't need to have the ball to be effective, which would be perfect for a team like this. He is extremely skilled, and can help offensively either through his high-percentage shooting or passing ability. He's a very solid rebounder, and contributes on the defensive end as well. He'd be a great fit for a talented team like this.

Center - Joakim Noah (Jr, Florida) - Noah is not a highly skilled offensive player right now, but his athleticism and hustle make him very solid and high-percentage offensively. But the hustle and athleticism helps most with rebounding and defense. Noah averages over 8 rebounds per game in only about 25 minutes a game, which is good. He also averages a couple of blocks. He's not as athletically skilled as his fellow frontcourt mate Al Horford, but his energy makes him the choice.

6th Man - Corey Brewer (Jr, Florida) - Brewer is the pick for the 6th man because of his versatility. He can guard multiple positions, and might be the best defensive wing player in the country. He's not exactly an offensive liability either, as he shoots a reasonably good percentage from outside, and just everything pretty solidly. Just a good all-around player and a great 6th man.

What would your team look like?

Monday, February 05, 2007

Super Bowl Commercials

Overall, I thought the commercials were ok, but not great. There were no great commercials, but there were a decent amount of funny ones crunched in there between CBS promotions. You can watch most of them here on Youtube, but I'll give my thoughts on some of them I either liked or disliked.

Sierra Mist "Bad Decision"
This was just kind of creepy... Sierra Mist, preferred by guys that wear short shorts and have combover beards everywhere!

Bud Light "Rock Paper Scissors"
This was a solid commercial. Not great, but it was good, cheap humor that made me laugh, and made everyone I was with laugh. Ah, nothing like some good violence to add humor.

Bud Light "Wedding Auction"
This might have been my favorite commercial of the night. I thought it was a pretty good commercial idea to bring in the auctioneer to speed up the wedding to get to the reception. The ending was weak, but I thought this was a pretty good premise that made me chuckle.

Snickers "The Kiss"
I thought this was one of the worst of the night... nothing like a little homophobia to make a commercial! Secondly, since when is ripping off your chest hair the manly thing to do? I thought it was more manly to have chest hair? So many questions, so few answers. Like what were the guys that made this commercial were thinking?

Garmin "Mapzilla"
I enjoyed this one. Simple, corny, but it was funny. I can't explain why it was funny, because it probably shouldn't have been, but I enjoyed it.

Chevy "All-Male Car Wash"
The moral of this commercial is that I should never, ever buy a Chevy. Especially if that's the reaction I'm going to get for it. "Bad Day in the Office"
These were all kind of similar from Careerbuilder, but I enjoyed these as well. Pretty simple idea, pretty overdramaticly done, but they got their point across well and made me laugh.

Doritos "Cleanup on Register 6"
This actually kinda makes me never want to eat Doritos ever again.

Bud Light "Slap Fight"
Another good commercial here. Once again, gratuitous violence usually aids in making a funny commercial, and this was the case here. Even if there was no storyline, just a bunch of people slapping each other probably would have made me chuckle.

GM "Robot Unemployment"
As was noted other places, this was actually a sad representation of the state of the U.S. automaking industry. Anyway, what I gathered from this is that GM keeps their employees under so much pressure that they will be fired with even the tiniest of screwups, at which point their life will be ruined and they will commit suicide. That's nice.

Taco Bell "Lions"
I'll just quote this review:

I want to do a mini-poll on the least believable premise espoused in this commercial: 1. That people would be eating Taco Bell food out in the plains in Africa; 2. That lions speak English, much less argue over how to pronounce Spanish words; or 3. That any of this will make you more likely to eat at Taco Bell.

Nationwide Mutual Insurance "K-Fed"
This one was talked about a lot even before the Super Bowl, and it was decently funny. Not great, especially since I knew the punchline going in, but it was not bad.

Bud Light "Bottle Opener"
This was probably my favorite one of the night. "He has an axe." "Yeah, but he has Bud Light." "And an axe." "I'm sure there's a reason for it." Ridiculous comedy that I had a very good chuckle at. If you pressed me on it, I would say that this was my favorite commercial of the night.

Flomax "Here's to Guys"
And this gets my vote for the creepiest Super Bowl commercial. Not even a contest.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Indianapolis Colts are the Super Bowl Champions

Well, things happened pretty much like I expected them to.

Peyton Manning was pretty good (after a little bit of a struggle early on), the Bears forced some turnovers, and Rex Grossman couldn't do enough (or anything) to win the Bears the game. And so the end result was the Colts winning 29-17, proving that sometimes general consensus is right.

Anyway, how about that Colts running game? Dominic Rhodes and Joseph Addai combined for 190 rushing yards, and that's not even counting the 66 yards that Addai gained on short receptions. I thought Addai played great football, and he might have actually been my MVP. He just had a huge impact.

Speaking of impact, how awesome was the opening kickoff return by Devin Hester? He just made it look so easy... the little juke, and then gone. That really was a thing of beauty.

To get it out of the way, how about Rex Grossman? As expected (by me at least), that was decidedly not pretty. Lofting the ball up, fumbling snaps, throwing the game-clinching INT for a TD, an ugly throw to an open WR downfield... and on and on. I mean, 20/28 is a nice percentage, but that doesn't matter so much when your team finishes with 11 first downs. Yikes. Do the Bears look for another starter next year? We shall see.

The Bears defense wasn't terrible, I didn't think. Certainly they've had better days, but the Colts offense is real good and the Bears offense could not stay on the field. What resulted was the Colts holding the ball for almost 39 minutes and a tired Bears defense having no shot in the 2nd half. They brought great energy early in the game, but you can't sustain that when you're on the field that long.

One note on the telecast... I thought the announcers and commercials were OK. Not great, but OK. But my real hope was that CBS would be able to go at least 5 or 6 minutes without a little bit of self-promotion, but unfortunately that did not happen. But we can't all get what we wish for.

All in all, a little bit of a snoozer, but it happens. Congrats to Tony Dungy and the Indianapolis Colts, the 2007 Super Bowl Champions!

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Super Bowl Picks from around the Webosphere

I gave you my pick yesterday, but here's everyone else's picks, so you know who to laugh at when they're wrong (just kidding)(but not really).

Insomniac's Lounge - Colts 27, Bears 13

Just Call Me Juice - Colts 35, Bears 21

Sweaty Men Endeavors - Colts 23, Bears 13

Signal to Noise - Bears 24, Colts 20

Petey - Bears 28, Colts 24

The Sports Flow - Colts 27, Bears 14 AND Colts 23, Bears 17

The Zoner - Bears 27, Colts 20

Dan Shanoff - Colts win.

WBRS Sports Blog - Bears 20, Colts 17

If you're brave enough to face the ridicule of the millions and dozens that read this site, include your picks in the comments or send me an email and I'll add it to the post. Enjoy the Super Bowl.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Super Bowl Prediction

Yin and yang. That’s sort of the theme for this Super Bowl, because the teams seem to be complete opposites.

In the Indianapolis Colts we have a great offensive team. They are balanced and lethal, able to score on 1 play or shove a 15 play drive right down your throat. Peyton Manning seems poised to break all sorts of QB record by the time he retires, Joseph Addai is getting better and better as he gains experience, and the WR corps (led by Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne) may be the best in the NFL.

In the Chicago Bears we have a great defensive team. They are fast and relentless, able to bring the pressure or drop back and force you to make a bad throw. They are led by their MLB, Brian Urlacher, who will go down as one of the greats. They pressure the QB, their secondary makes great plays, and everyone just swarms to the ball.

So we know what we’re going to get from these two units. Which means that for the most part this game will be decided when the Bears offense is on the field. The Bears offense has been consistently inconsistent all season, led by Rex Grossman. Through a quarter of the NFL season Grossman was the NFL MVP. By the last quarter of the season fans were about split on whether or not he should still be the starter. He has physical tools, but he’s still a young guy and gets rattled and forces things when pressured.

The Colts defense was much maligned all season long but has come to play in the playoffs. In the first 2 rounds they were nearly impenetrable, and in the Conference Championship they made stops when they had to. Led by Dwight Freeney, they are a fast and athletic unit, but they have been pushed around at times.

So what does all of this mean? Well, I think the QB matchup will tell the tale. Peyton Manning has been historically good in his career while Rex Grossman is one of (if not the) worst QBs ever to make a Super Bowl. I expect the Colts fast front 7 to get to Grossman and put pressure on him, forcing him to make bad throws and get rid of it before he has to. Then I expect Manning to capitalize on those and score enough on the Bears stout defense to bring the Super Bowl to the Colts, officially getting the monkey off of Manning’s back.

I've been a pretty strong Grossman basher all season, and I still don't think he's very good. They're in the Super Bowl, but it's mostly because of the great defense and special teams, and the fact that they've found the running game here in the playoffs in a big way. If I'm wrong and Grossman wins the Super Bowl, I'll be eating my words on Monday, and you all have the right to taunt me. However, I don't think I'll be having to do that.

Colts 27-16.