ATTENTION: W2PB is back up and running! I'm not sure of the capacity that I will be writing yet (let's be honest, it's really dead right now in terms of sports stories), but as things start picking up, I'm sure I'll be back. In the meantime, you're welcome to follow my normal writings and such over at my personal blog.

Thanks for sticking with me, everyone!

NCAA Basketball Tournament: My Thoughts

March 5, 2010 1 comment

Every year, it seems, we go through some of the same issues…  Better NFL overtime rules.  Issues with 1-and-dones in the NCAA going to the NBA.  NASCAR not being a sport.  Cheerleaders and mascots.  Bruce Pearl’s orange suit.  And, of course, expanding the NCAA tournament.

Let’s face it, any sports fan will tell you that the most exciting 4 days of sports are the first 2 rounds of the NCAA tournament.  Basketball for hours on end, dominating the CBS affiliates.  The water-cooler talk about the games the day before, or the buzzer beater you just saw.  Hell, some businesses will even stop working because of this.  (I remember working for the local utility company, who also provides internet and cable to everyone.  I was getting some office training during the first Stephen Curry-dominated Davidson game in the 2008 tournament, and the entire office had their mandatory cable boxes tuned into the tournament, with a whole buffet of snack food on the other end of the office.  No one was working.  Best day of training ever.)  And yet, every year, we manage to debate whether or not the setup is right.

Every year, good teams get left out.  Every year, some really strange teams make it in, either by virtue of winning their conference tournament, or just being “that one” selection that the NCAA committee will make.  Instead of finding joy in this randomness, a lot of people despise it and offer their own opinions on making it better.  And the one we always here?  Expand the tournament.

Look, I see the argument.  Let’s broaden the field, get an extra day of games in somehow.  Lots of people are advocates for 68 teams, so instead of just 1 play-in game (which I find dumb), we’d have 4.  Ok, I can buy that.  That’s 3 more borderline teams that would make it in, and give CBS a couple extra games to televise.  That’s 3 more teams that get to win a tournament game before going on to get stomped on by the #1 seed (but just you wait… one of these years, it’ll happen.  Someone’s gonna get upset, and it will be awesome).

Then there’s the advocate for 96 teams.  24 seeds per bracket, and the top 8 teams get a first round bye.  Possibly.  Again, more teams with opportunity, but now instead of the upsets that the tournament prides itself on producing, it’s almost like you’re just trying to tire out the bottom tiered teams and give the top 8 a relatively easier run towards the title.

And then there are the nutcases.  128 teams.  32 teams per bracket, everyone plays.  When you consider that there are 347 Division 1 basketball teams, that’s still not even 37% of the teams making it to The Big Dance.

I don’t like it.  At all.  Wanna know why?

1) The tournament is supposed to reward teams, and should not be a given for anybody. Perfect example – North Carolina might, just might, miss the NCAA tournament this year.  They’ve had a rough season, and for the first time in a long time, Roy Williams and the Tar Heels might not get an invite.  While I feel bad for them as a team, I am in no way disappointed.  If they make a run in the conference tournament and win it all, ok, fine, they can get in.  Otherwise, if they don’t DESERVE to get in, then go away.  And that goes for anyone, from Kentucky to Texas to South-west-eastern Conneti-massa-fornia.  Seriously.  Your entire season defines the postseason reward.

2) The only reason the NCAA is considering this is for the money. That’s a given.  And it’s stupid.  I understand the reasons to capitalize on the opportunity to make more money.  However, the prestige of this tournament just seems… at risk… by all this expansion talk.  It’s an exclusive club to get into, and thus a prestigious event to win.  We have the NIT for those teams that didn’t do enough to make it in.  Keep sending them there.

3) Diluting the talent pool is not the answer. And don’t tell me that we wouldn’t be diluting it.  You can’t add that many more teams and tell me that the quality of teams is still going to be that elevated.

Frankly, the only reason that I am a fan of this is for the mid-majors.  I attend the University of Northern Iowa, a member of the Missouri Valley Conference.  I would be thrilled to pieces to see Wichita State make the tournament this year.  Will it happen?  Probably not.  Even though they’ve got a 23-8 record and have beaten 2 ranked opponents (Texas Tech and UNI), getting 2 teams from a mid-major is a rarity.  Heck, even though UNI has been ranked for most of the 2nd half of the NCAA season (or at least flirting on the edge of the rankings), a bad loss to Evansville last week means that if we don’t win the tournament, we might not make it into the dance.  Yikes.

Also… think about those “last 4 teams in”/”first 4 teams out”.  Every year, some big name teams are “bubble” teams.  In theory, the ones in the most danger of missing the tournament.  The ones that make it in… where are they seeded?  10-14.  Always.  A very small amount of 9s, and a very small amount of 15s.  I can’t ever recall a “bubble team” being a 16 seed, ever.  Please correct me if I’m wrong.

I. Don’t. Get. This.

If you are a “bubble team”, I feel that you are the least deserving team to make it.  You didn’t win your tournament.  You obviously have had a rocky season.  So why are you getting ranked above teams that have played their butts off, won their tournaments, and/or have had outstanding seasons?  It’s so… well, stupid.  At the time of writing this, Notre Dame, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and San Diego State were the 4 teams listed as the last 4 in.  3 of these teams should be listed as 16 seeds, and the last one participates in the play-in game.  Doesn’t that seem right?

I can’t believe I’m suggesting this… but why don’t we throw all the stats and whatnot into a computer program and let it spit out our brackets for us?  We always talk about teams having to pass the “eye” test, but doesn’t that lead towards bias?  I’d think so.  That’s part of what makes the BCS kinda messed up, is the fact that humans still have their hands in things.  The games “select” their teams based on what they think will be the best draw for fans and media.

And then… are you seriously telling me that there are non-basketball people… hell, even non-sports people on the tournament selection committee?  Seriously?  You’ve got to be out of your mind.  I remember Bob Knight having a cow about this last year on ESPN, and I totally agree.  *If* you’re going to be using humans to select this bracket, then for the love of sports, put people on the committee that know what they’re doing.

So, what do I think needs to be done?

  1. No expansion.  None.  If anything, cut that 65th team out and go back to 64 teams.
  2. Seed teams appropriately.  If you’re a bubble team, that means you’re hovering on whether or not you’re the 16th seed, or out.  Not somewhere in the middle.
  3. Cut the bias.  If you’re going to use a selection committee, then don’t have names on the portfolios of the teams, nor on the records of who they’ve beaten.  You see record, RPI, scores, and the like, and that’s it.

And hey, all you “power conference” teams… stop being so scared of the mid-majors.  Poor babies, you might lose to a good team and tarnish your reputation.  Suck it up and play, you cowards.

52 Free-Agent Pick-up!

March 4, 2010 1 comment

Hey again, sports fans. Sorry it’s taken me so long to get rolling again over here. Life’s been pretty hectic, but I think I’ve finally managed to get things under control to some degree, so… I’m back.

And first up on the docket… the 2010 NBA Free Agency fiasco.

As you’ve probably heard, there are a whole boatload of NBA stars that are going to be free agents at the end of the season.  Normally we hear about a couple big names every season that teams either re-sign or decide to let go, but this summer/fall is going to be chock full of “names you know” people changing homes.  Don’t believe me?

Here’s an abbreviated list of just the unrestricted free agents after this season, or those that have the option to terminate their contracts early.

*deep breath*

Joe Johnson, Ray Allen, Eddie House, Paul Pierce, Tyson Chandler, Brad Miller, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, LeBron James, Shaquille O’Neal, Drew Gooden, Josh Howard, Dirk Nowitzki, Kenyon Martin, Tracy McGrady, Yao Ming, Marcus Camby, Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher, Udonis Haslem, Jermaine O’Neal, Dwayne Wade, Michael Redd, Peja Stojakovic, Eddy Curry, Chris Duhon, David Lee, Jason Williams, Jason Kapono, Amare Stoudemire, Louis Amundson, Manu Ginobili, Richard Jefferson, Chris Bosh, and Carlos Boozer.


Believe me, that’s not by any means an exhaustive list.  If you want the full list, check out ESPN’s full listing on the matter.

In the above list, I’ve highlighted a bunch of players.  Some are absolute studs, and will be sought after by any owner that has a pulse (Kobe, Pierce, LeBron, Bosh, Wade, Dirk).  Others are absolutely fantastic basketball players that, while not full-fledged stars, can make awesome compliments to any team (Allen, Chandler, Ilgauskas, Shaq, Gooden, Martin, Lee, Stoudemire, Ginobili, and Boozer).  These are the hot commodities of the off-season.  Yes, I just referenced NBA basketball players as items.

First of all, let’s be frank.  Kobe isn’t going anywhere.  The Lakers would be absolute morons to allow him to walk away.  Frankly, I don’t think Yao, Manu, or Pierce are going anywhere either.  All of them are faces of their respective franchises, and would force the teams to completely reorient themselves on how they approached the game.  McGrady is washed up and an injury risk, so I think the Rockets are ok letting him walk away.

Oh wait, I totally forgot… Bosh, LeBron, and Wade.

Listen, they definitely belong in the above category of “don’t let them go, stupid”.  Toronto is truly a joke team without Bosh.  He has carried that team to the 5th spot in the division, and without him, they’re struggling hard.  The Cavs are going to be lost puppies when they lose LeBron.  Not if, when.  They’ve got some outstanding role players on that team, and they all thrive off of James’ energy and skill, but that won’t matter once he’s gone..  And the Heat… well, other than the fluke year where Shaq and Wade decided to dominate, they’ve also been a garbage team.

Joke, lost puppies, and garbage.  That pretty much sums up the NBA as a whole right now.  I couldn’t figure out how to throw “bleeding money like it’s their profession” into those analogies, so I’ll let that slide.

But where will they go?  Who is going to vie for those positions?  First, I’ll tell you who’s screwed.  The Clippers.  Plain and simple.  Look, pretend I’m James/Wade/Bosh.  First of all, my #1 deal is I want to win a championship.  Sharing a town and division with the Lakers is not the right way to do that.  Plus, the Clips are so poorly marketed and operated, that even with Baron Davis, Chris Kaman, Eric Gordon and Blake Griffin, the desire to try and make that team my home is very, very slim. (I could see some mid-high level guard/forward arriving and trying to contribute.  Maybe a Ray Allen or Kenyon Martin?)

Same deal with the Timberwolves.  Even while Kevin Garnett called that hell-hole home, the team was “eh”.  Sure, they’d get carried into the playoffs a couple times.  But seriously… it’s cold there.  Really cold.  And while they obviously have a massive surplus of guards from this year’s draft, that doesn’t mean that I could make that team good.  Well, no, I take that back, I’m amazing, and I make anyone good.  But could we win?  Doubtful.

So who’s left?  What are the options we have here?

5. The New York Knicks – Everyone has the Knicks as their #1 contender for LeBron, who is easily the most coveted player in this free agency.  I don’t buy it.  Sure, you’ve got the Garden, it’s in New York, yadda yadda.  So what?  Is this a team that one, maybe two players (if they’re lucky) can turn into championship contenders?  I don’t see it… especially if they don’t manage to re-sign David Lee.  Plus, Nate Robinson is gone to the Celtics now.  You might be able to pull in Wade and Bosh (and that’s about all your team would be, after their contracts were paid), but LeBron is a no-go.

4. The Oklahoma City Thunder – My “dark horse” team, and the only Western Conference team I can see the stars flocking to.  Why?  Kevin Durant.  Well, more like Durant, Jeff Green, and Russell Westbrook.  Will they get one of the Big 3?  Probably not… but wouldn’t that rock if they did?  Otherwise, a solid role-player would probably boost the Thunder straight to the top of the Western title contention in the 2010-2011 season.

3. The Chicago Bulls – Hinrich’s gotta go.  No question on that one.  If that happens, there’d be plenty of cap space for LeBron to come in and make Chicago his city.  A combination of good players (Rose and Noah), plus the prestige that is the Chicago Bulls, makes for a very enticing option.

2. The Miami Heat – A lot of put the Heat behind the Knicks.  However, the Heat have one huge advantage… Wade already plays for them.  Re-sign him, pull in another big name, and you’re off and rolling again.  Who knows, maybe you can get Shaq back…

1. The New Jersey Nets – Yep.  The Nets.  If I had money to spare, I’d put it on the Nets acquiring LBJ.  No question about it.  First of all, Jay-Z owns the Nets, and he and LeBron are tight.  Plus (if I understand this correct), the Nets are moving into New York.  They’ll still be the New Jersey Nets, though… kinda like the New York Giants playing in Jersey… makes perfect sense.  Third, the Nets actually have some decent players on the team.  Brook Lopez is a stud, Chris Douglas-Roberts will be a good player, Devin Harris is studly, and Yi Jianlian has some awesome upside to him.  And lastly… the most important reason of all… ego.  If LBJ can take this team, who’s on pace to be the worst in the league, and make a strong playoff push (or even win the title) next season, what’s that say about him?  Granted, he may be the only major free agent the Nets could acquire, but they could collectively do some pretty serious damage.

All in all, this is going to be an exciting off-season.  Now if only David Stern would “trim the fat” and contract the NBA, in order to weed out the super garbage players…

Big Ten Expansion

December 15, 2009 6 comments

Right now, there is all this talk about the Big Ten expanding to 12 schools.  The primary reason for this was made very apparent this football season, that being that football doesn’t have a playoff, and therefore our quality teams (Ohio State, Iowa, and Penn State) suffer from inactivity.  2 questions need to be tackled before this can be accomplished, though.

1) Who’s the team? (check out the maps)

The logical question.  Who do we pick up?  There are a couple factors to consider.  The Big 10 is a conference that prides themselves on academic and athletic excellence.  All 11 schools have won at least 1 national championship in a sporting event in the last 11 years.  Location is also key.  Spreading the conference out extremely far, especially during these tough economic times, isn’t something that I think the conference would like to do.  While there’s no set-in-stone requirements for being a member of the Big Ten, they’re not going to just take anyone.  I’m going to go through conference-by-conference and tell you who I think would be logical to join.  (Remember, this is more than just football.  This is all sports.)

INDEPENDENTS: Right now would be the perfect time to swoop in and grab Notre Dame.  The talks for years and years are “why would an independent school with its own TV contract and inclusion into the BCS desire a conference?”, but those were when Notre Dame was outstanding good decent not the worthless pile that it seems to have become.  Guaranteed money coming in from other teams playing in bowl games.  Even more national news attention.  Great location (northern Indiana), though it would make splitting the conference into 2 divisions might be slightly more difficult (maybe Indiana teams + OSU + Penn St. + Illinois in the “South” division).  Academic excellence.  Guaranteed great games (vs. OSU and Penn St. every season?  Hell yes), and you can still make your own pre-season schedule.  However, Notre Dame is not a part of the Association of American Universities, an extremely exclusive organization of the top doctoral research institutions of Canada and the United States, and the Big Ten bylaws state that anyone joining the conference would have to be a member of the AAU.

***EDIT*** Apparently the Notre Dame athletic director doesn’t read my blog, because otherwise he may have considered this.  As it is, ND has stated that they are “happy being independent”.  Right.

Atlantic Coast Conference:  Nope.  Steering clear.  Bringing in a Va Tech/Virginia/Maryland might be interesting (think of Maryland during basketball season!), but the extra distance is (in my opinion) just a little much.

Big 12:  Iowa State is the logical choice here (leading to even more in-state squabbling… ah, high school), with Missouri as a potential backup.  Nebraska has too much Big 12 history to leave.  The key here would be if the Big 12 could pick up another quality school, like a TCU, Houston or Boise State.  Come to think of it, if they managed to acquire TCU, the state of Texas would need to work on annexing Oklahoma.  Then you could have the Big 12 North, and the Big 12 Texas (Texas, T Tech, TA&M, Baylor, TCU, “Oklahoma”).  This would be a win in multiple respects…

  1. Big 10 gets their 12th team.
  2. Big 12 makes themselves stronger (let’s face it, TCU > Iowa State… at least in football).
  3. TCU puts themselves in perfect contention for a BCS game (though it makes their road more difficult by having to play in the Big 12), allows them to recruit better, and make more money.

I honestly think that this is one of the better solutions.  The BCS would win too, because there would be less controversy in terms of non-automatic qualifiers trying to break in.

Come to think of it, the state of Texas should just make their own conference.  They could even take over the Big Ten name…

  • Texas
  • Texas Tech
  • Texas A&M
  • Baylor
  • TCU
  • UTEP
  • Southern Methodist
  • Houston
  • Rice
  • North Texas


Big East: Another strong possibility for the Big Ten to raid, though with the shakeups that they have had last season, I’m not sure what the likelihood of this would be.  Cincinnati, Pitt, West Virginia, and Louisville would all be logical choices in terms of location.  Think of the juiciness of West Virginia playing, and opening their season against Rich Rodriguez and Michigan.  Yummy.  I personally would be chasing Pitt, though any of these teams would be an extremely appealing option.  There are also talks of Rutgers and Syracuse to be targets of the B10, if only because of the New York media and the extra exposure the conference would get from that move.

Conference USA: Maybe Marshall?  That’s all I’ve got.

Mid-American Conference: All teams have the location.  None have the athletic prestige in my mind to truly fit with the Big Ten.  If you twisted my arm, I’d just cry a little and ask you politely to move on.

Mountain West: Whoever had the idea of inviting TCU was just dumb.  Location, location, location!

PAC 10: Same issue.  Location.

Southeastern Conference (SEC): Screw location.  If you could get any of those teams to be dumb enough to leave that conference, I will sign them in an instant.  Kentucky?  Arkansas?  Vandy?  Tennessee?  Yes please.

Sun Belt: Location + lack of athletic prestige = not likely.  Western Kentucky would really be the only option here… plus, their mascot is badass.

Western Athletic Conference: Nope.  Not even Boise State.

And since I know my reading audience, I’ll play a little favoritism here…

FCS (former D1-AA) schools:  Northern Iowa has the athletic excellence (playoffs in football 3 of 5 years, Missouri Valley champions in basketball/NCAA tournament frequent visitor, women’s volleyball), as well as the academic prestige to fit.  However, size-wise, we lack a lot.  A LOT.  Other potential options would include Southern Illinois (Missouri Valley), Cornell (Ivy League), or Villanova (Colonial South), and *maybe* Georgetown (Patriot).  However, the most appealing additions (Villanova/Georgetown) are probably more strongly desired for their basketball teams, rather than football, which is why we’re having this whole debate in the first place.

If I had to list my top… let’s say 5, in order of highest desire as well as most likely, I would go in this order:

  1. Pitt
  2. Notre Dame Iowa State (though it would take some help from TCU/Houston/similar team)
  3. Cincinnati
  4. Louisville
  5. Northern Iowa Syracuse (Face it, Panthers… we would get our butts handed to us for at least 4 years, and we would need a new stadium.)

2) What’s the name?

It’s dumb enough that we call ourselves the Big Ten when we have 11 teams.  Seriously, this is a conversation I had with a friend a few minutes ago:

Me: So if the Big Ten gets another team, what would they call themselves?
Them: Heaven Eleven?  Big Eleven?
Me: Nono, they’ve already got 11.  They’ll have 12.
Them: ???

I was kinda confused on that when I was younger too.  I hate math, but even I understand 10 ≠ 11.

I’ve always been partial to the “Better 12” conference, though I’m sure that would get current Big 12 teams pretty riled up.  Maybe the MCC (Mid-Continental Conference)?  WDC (Water-Deprived Conference… though we do have the Mississippi/Great Lakes)?  Great Lakes Conference?  Throw some of your ideas my way.

Overall, I’m happy to see the Big Ten making these strides, and I truly hope that this comes to pass.  I can’t wait to see who the Big Ten decides to pursue in this deal.

The BCS Got It Right… Or Did They?

December 6, 2009 7 comments

The BCS sucks.  It really does.  In theory, you’d think that this idea would be great, and would really assist all of us fans in getting to see the top two teams in the nation play each other.  That’s what we want after all, right?

Yeah, that plan nearly failed this year.

We were witness to some great football games yesterday.  Georgia Tech held on over Clemson, despite CJ Spiller’s best efforts.  Alabama showed the Florida Tebows Gators what was up.  And if you watched it, I don’t think I really need to tell you about how amazing the Pittsburgh/Cincinnati game was.  Holy crap.

But then we get into the crap of a game that was Texas v. Nebraska.  Now, I realize that the entire premise of this game was Texas Offense vs. Nebraska Defense.  Frankly, I’m not sure what happened to Texas, but there’s no way that this game should’ve come down to a last-second field goal.  And (seriously, no offense to Nebraska here) if you really are only going to be able to put up 13 points against the Huskers, do you truly think that you deserve the title of the 2nd Best Team in the Country?  I sure don’t.

Oh well.  Hey, Colt, Mark Ingram called.  He says thanks for the Heisman Trophy.

Here’s one thing that I think the BCS got completely lucky on.  No matter where teams go, we are on course for 5 absolutely outstanding football games this January.  While I don’t necessarily agree with some of these placements of teams (you’d figure higher-ranked teams would play each other or something), there’s absolutely no denying that these matchups are going to be great.  Here’s how I’m projecting that these games will shape out.

  • Sugar Bowl (Jan 1) – Florida, the loser of the SEC Championship (but still the darlings of NCAA Football right now), vs. Cincinnati, the outright Big East champions.  Cincy was sure hoping Nebraska was going to upset Texas, since that would’ve put them right in the mix, along with TCU and (gasp) Florida to play Alabama in the title game.  Instead, we get to see 2 outstanding college QBs flex their muscles, make strangely prophetic Biblical quotes (did Tebow really know that his defense was going to betray him this season?  Why else would have a passage related to the Last Supper plastered all over his face on Saturday?), and put up tons of points to bring us into our New Year as happy fans.
  • Rose Bowl (Jan 1) – The only game that we are absolutely sure of.  Ohio State, the outright winner of the Big Ten, against Oregon, the PAC-10 champion.  Is it sad that I’m not really sure what to expect out of this game?  I mean, I haven’t seen Ohio State play in a couple of weeks (boo, no championship Big Ten game), so I kinda forget what team this is.  But Oregon… wow.  Another spectacular offensive team, and a defense that’s no slouch either.  The most exciting component of this game right now is seeing what uniform Oregon walks out of the tunnels in.  Personally, I’m hoping for those flat-black helmets that they wore during the Black-Out of Arizona.
  • Fiesta Bowl (Jan 4) – Ahh, this is where things get interesting.  ESPN is slating TCU, the Mountain West champions, to take one of these slots.  Ok, that makes sense.  But who’s a worthy opponent to throw against them?  I’d love to see them play Texas on a neutral field… Skip Bayless mentioned this matchup on ESPN First Take one morning, and as much as I despise the guy, there’s no denying that this matchup would be a blast to watch.  But since Texas won their game, we have to include an at-large team in this game.  And what team makes better sense to place here than Boise State, the perennial powerhouse of the Western Athletic Conference.  Houston and BYU made their pushes this season, but I don’t think there was much doubt that these two teams would be the ones to come out on top.  Since we can’t really see TCU get a shot at one of the Big Boys (‘Bama, Texas, Florida) this season, why not have them square off for non-BCS Conference Bragging Rights?  Is it really fair to the teams?  Not at all… if this matchup happens, expect a ton of uproar from fans complaining that “the BCS is scared to pit their pretty teams against the non-automatic qualifiers” (and they’re exactly right).  But is this going to be an exciting football game?  You better believe it.
  • Orange Bowl (Jan 5) – Georgia Tech, by virtue of winning the ACC this season, gets an automatic bid into the Orange Bowl this year.  And who will they face?  Our second at-large team of the bowl season, the Iowa Hawkeyes.  (Warning: Extreme Bias Incoming)  Let’s be honest, people.  Iowa was a good football team this year.  Great?  Nah.  Good?  Definitely.  The “OMG NEAR LOSS” to Northern Iowa was not a fluke.  Northern Iowa was an outstanding team for the first half of the year, absolutely pounding the crap out of every opponent that they played.  Maybe the game shouldn’t have been as close as it was, but Iowa showed early in the season that they could strengthen their defense, flex their special teams powers, and get just a little bit lucky exactly when they needed to.  We weren’t a pretty team, but we won, and that’s what matters.  And except for one play (during the Northwestern game when our starting QB, Ricky Stanzi, went down for the season), there is no denying that Iowa had a legitimate shot at running the tables, locking up the Rose Bowl, and possibly vying for a slot in the national championship game.  They deserve to show up at this game, and give the Georgia Tech’s Flexbone Option offense a run for their money.
  • National Championship Game (Jan 7) – A near certainty, unless something absolutely incredible happens with the voters, will have Alabama playing for their first national championship against Texas.  If Texas plays like they did yesterday, they have absolutely no chance of winning.  If they show up… well, they still have no chance.  I’m calling it right now; Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide will roll all over the Longhorns.  Not that this won’t be a great game… but Texas can’t run the football very well as of late, and the ‘Bama defense will eat that O-Line as a snack on their way to the McCoy Feast.

Outstanding games.  I’m excited.  But… since this is my blog, I get to play Devil’s Advocate.  Yes, I’m talking about a playoff.  A 4-team playoff doesn’t seem like it would be good enough (ooo, let’s add 2 more games).  I would love to see an 8-team playoff for the National Championship, and this year would make it so good.  Seriously, look at the potential that we have.

First, all auto-qualifiers make it into these seedings.  Then, you throw in the next 2 highest BCS ranking teams (for the sake of this argument, I’m going to assume that Boise State and Florida are going to be these teams). You rank them top to bottom, seed the teams and let them go at it.

  • #1 Alabama (SEC)
  • #8 Georgia Tech (ACC)
  • #4 TCU (at large)
  • #5 Florida (at large)
  • #3 Cincinnati (Big East)
  • #6 Oregon (PAC-10)
  • #2 Texas (Big 12)
  • #7 Ohio State (Big 10)

Ho… ly…. $*^!@$#.  I would happily take Iowa/Boise State in order to watch this playoff.  TCU/Florida would be a dream matchup for any fan of the playoff system.  Cincy/Oregon would be a huge slugfest.  Let’s assume that the top seeds win (for this argument)… you’ll then have Alabama vs. TCU (another WOW game), and Texas vs. Cincinnati.

Are you as excited as I am right now?

Here’s why this would work.  At-large teams that perform well (TCU) would get a legit shot at playing some big-name teams.  In this particular case, after 1 win against the Tebows Gators, they would be playing the #1 team in the nation.  The ultimate test to see if you belong or not.  This also allows teams that perform admirably all season long, only to come up just short of the glory (Florida this season), or that happens to split their conference titles (nearly Pitt/Cincy) a shot at still making it into the playoff.  The entire tournament takes 3 weeks, which is about how long the bowl season is anyway.  You can play the games at the Orange/Rose/Sugar/Fiesta Bowl, then maybe throw in the new Dallas Stadium possibly the new Minnesota Vikings stadium that’s being built, before finishing at the National Championship site.  You could easily rotate these locations too, in order to make sure everyone gets a chance to enjoy the glory.

Why are we not doing this yet?

Dying In This Fantasy World

November 6, 2009 Leave a comment

This is why I hate fantasy football.

Apparently, the stats aren’t “official” for a day or two afterwards.  Also apparently, the Saints did something to warrant them losing 1 point in the score column.  More than likely, they didn’t get as many return yards as originally thought.  Long story short… instead of a 1 point victory, I tied.


Categories: Fantasy Sports, Football, NFL

Living In This Fantasy World

November 3, 2009 1 comment

Tonight was why I love fantasy football.  Probably the most intense thing that I can participate in with this disgusting cough.

Going into tonights game, I was trailing by 5 points.  Our league is a little bit crazy, giving out massive amounts of points for all kinds of things.  Needless to say, when I saw that I had the Saints defense and my opponent had Roddy White remaining, I felt extremely confident that I could pull off the victory.

Then Roddy White went off.  Absolutely crazy game for him.  4 receptions (4 points) for 108 yards (10 points) and a TD (6 points).  At one point, he had a 7 yard TD reception (which would’ve given him an extra 8 points) called back by review.  Every Atlanta possession, I’m alternating back and forth between elation and frustration.  White just seemed to have our number.  Saints couldn’t seem to return any kicks at all (only 89 return yards tonight).  But 3 sacks and 2 INTs (including a pick-6) helped me stay close.  (Oh, and to make matters worse for the whole game… I was rooting for the Saints to win, since I chose them this week in Pick’em.)

And then the final sequence of plays/possessions occurred.

I’ll have to set this up a bit.  I’m trailing 150-148.  Atlanta has the ball, and they’re driving.  I’m crossing my fingers that White doesn’t touch the ball, hoping that the Saints can pull something off.  At one point, the Saints sack Ryan (+2) and he fumbles the football, and a linebacker recovers the football (+2).  4 point play, and I’m in the lead!  But no, it was just an incomplete pass… (-4).  Rawr!

So as the drive progresses, the Saints end off getting a sack on 3rd down (+2), forcing the Falcons to kick a field goal.  I’m tied now, so this is better than nothing, right?  Wrong… by kicking that field goal, the Falcons scored 27 points on the day, moving them into a different points bracket, and giving me -1 point.  Suddenly I’m trailing 150-149, and the Saints are going to recover the onside kick.  19% chance for kicking teams to recover… this is so over.

Nope!  Falcons recover an onside kick and start driving down the field.  My whole “don’t throw to White” chant comes out in full force again, and I get my wish.  At one point, White got his hands on it, but it was an incomplete pass.  Then, with 11 seconds to go, Matt Ryan chucked the ball down the field in a hail mary pass, which probably has an even less chance of succeeding than an onside kick, and the ball is picked off for a 3rd time by the Saints defense.  +2 points for Nic and the Skol Crushers (yes, I’m a Vikings fan… get off me), and a 1 point victory, 151-150.

Seriously, people… play fantasy football.  You’ll be so involved in the game, even if you’re only cheering for one particular player/defense.

What A Thriller…

October 31, 2009 1 comment

So I want to tell you a little game about a football game.

Today, I had excellent seats for the Iowa/Indiana football game at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City.  And by excellent… well, 8 rows up, on the 46 yard line behind the Iowa bench.  Yeah, they’re good.  8-0 Iowa was taking on 4-4 Indiana, one of two teams that’s notorious for giving Iowa fits on occasion (the other being Northwestern, who Iowa plays next week).  Obviously, we had some expectations for a massive blowout.  The spread was 17.5 points today.  We’d cover that, right?

Not the way we thought…

Indiana got the ball right away, and marched straight down the field.  11 plays, 69 yards, 5:01, 7 points.  Iowa proceeds to get the ball on a great kick return, march down the field, 9 plays, and miss a field goal.  Great.

Then we get into the turnover drought.  INT at 1:16 of the 1st quarter.  Trading punts, including an 8 yard shank by our outstanding punter Donahue.  Trading TDs (now down 14-7).  Giving up another TD right before the end of the 1st half because our punt returner picked up a bouncing kick and couldn’t hold on to the football.  Down 21-7.  Obviously things aren’t looking good.  It was so quiet late in the 2nd, you could clearly hear players on the field.  Deathly quiet.

Iowa takes the kick to start the 2nd half.  5 plays, and an INT.  Next drive, 3 plays and an INT.  Indiana drives down to the 2 yard line.  And then… the game changer.  If you’ve watched Sportscenter already, you’ve seen the play.  The ball gets punched out of the Indiana QB’s hands, hits 2 Indiana players and 2 Iowa players before settling into Tyler Sash’s hands, and he was off to the races for an 86 yard INT TD.  #1 play on ESPN’s Top Ten of the night.  The crowd went absolutely insane.

And then the defense showed up.  Indiana took the ball down to the Iowa 3 yard line.  1st down, a run.  Stuffed.  2nd down, pass.  Batted down.  3rd down, Indiana throws a fade to the far end zone.  Catch, ruled a TD, overturned (questionably, but I’ll take it).  Indiana goes for a field goal… missed.  No points.  more insane crowd.

Oh look… we’re not done throwing INTs.  I think Stanzi was confused… he thought the Iowa players dressed up in white for Halloween.  2 more INTs thrown, making 4 total in the 3rd quarter.  Indiana gets a grand total of 3 points out of those.  That had to be frustrating.  Crowd is extremely pissed during all of this, because we’re having great opportunities and not doing anything about it.

And then we get to the 4th quarter… Down 24-14.  Iowa decides to go for style points (and the victory, of course).  1 play, 92 yard TD from Stanzi to McNutt.  Indiana has a 3 and out.  Next play, Stanzi to DJK for a 66 yard TD.  Next posession, Iowa gets an INT.  Wegher, the other true freshman running back on the Iowa squad, ends off getting a 6 yard TD run.  Another 3 and out for Indiana.  Iowa goes to run out the clock, and ends off punching in a 27 yard run.  2 plays and another INT for Indiana.

The amazing stats of the game?  4 INTs for Stanzi and Iowa in the 3rd quarter… 3 points for Indiana.  11 plays in the 4th quarter for Indiana… 2 INTs, 4 TDs given up to the Hawks in that time.  Stanzi in the 3rd: 4-11, 48 yards, 4 INTs.  Stanzi in the 4th: 3-3, 177 yards, 2 TDs.

Honestly, I’m still in a small bit of shock over the game.  I can’t really wrap my mind around what happened, or how it happened.  I’m waiting for this game to be replayed on ESPN Classic so I can watch it from the comfort of my home.  You can’t script a game like this… it’s like a bad horror film that the good guys finally rise up and kick the crap out of the bad guy.  Ironic that a game like this lands on Halloween.

The Hawkeye Marching Band doing the Thriller dance.

My best football moment was obviously when Cris Carter made his 1,000th career catch for a TD 15 rows in front of me in the Metrodome.  My best football game in attendance?  This one, by far.  What a Thriller…

Other notes from the day in sports:

– Tennessee’s black uniforms look outstanding.  So do Georgia’s black helmets.
– I called Oregon upsetting USC.  I didn’t call Oregon blowing out USC.  Yeesh. 47-20?  Owie.
– I predict right now that Texas takes over the #2 spot in the polls, with idle Alabama slipping to 3 and Iowa slipping to #5.  Oregon should vault over Iowa, TCU, Boise St. Cincy, and LSU and claim the #4 spot.
– If TCU, Boise St., Houston, or any other team have a desire to win a national championship, then they need to start scheduling some real football games.  Play Notre Dame.  Play a high level Big Ten team.  Play a mid-high level Big East/Big 12 team.
– I’m more excited to watch 20-and-under ranked teams play “bubble” teams than I am watching LSU play Tulane (insert other equally-good and equally-not-good teams at your discretion).  The Oregon/USC game was only good because it was an upset.  The Texas/Oklahoma State game was just dumb.  Conversely, Auburn beat #25 Ole Miss 33-20, and Tennessee beat #22 SoCar 31-13.  #19 Miami held on against Wake Forest 28-27.
– Case Keenum should win the Heisman trophy.  Screw the fact he plays for Houston.  44-54, 559 yds, 5 TDs is just insane.  And he’s been doing this all year.  And the team’s ranked #18 currently.  Deal with it, voters.

“Blowing The Whistle”

October 28, 2009 2 comments

So tonight, I decided that I wanted to write a nice little article about the NBA.  I figured I’d talk about who I thought had the best chances to win (I’m guessing Spurs/Lakers in the West, and Cavs/Celtics in the East… but don’t count out the Magic, or even the Nuggets this season), how I’m actually excited to watch the NBA for the first time in a long time… you know, something positive.  I mean, think about it.  We have all these high-profile stars being traded everywhere, tons of stars that have expiring contracts and want to make the best possible impressions… this has the potential to be an amazing NBA season.

And then I checked my RSS reader.

I had 2 stories that really caught my eye out of my “most read feeds” section.  The first was about how Tim Donaghy’s book Blowing the Whistle was being yanked by the publisher (courtesy of ESPN), as well as some more in-depth reasoning behind it (courtesy of  The second was actual excerpts from the book (more Deadspin).

Regarding the book being yanked, here’s an excerpt from Deadspin:

About 10 months ago, [Donaghy] shopped the book to Triumph Books, an imprint of Random House, according to a source close to Donaghy. Triumph, the source says, “put forth a huge effort to verify every statement in that book.” (Triumph’s editorial director, Tom Bast, declined to comment.) Two weeks ago, Blowing the Whistle was ready for printing; 60 Minutes had plans to interview Donaghy in conjunction with the book’s publication. Then the NBA came calling. “They came after Random House and threatened a lawsuit,” the source says, “and Random House just rolled and decided to not go with it. It’s really that simple.” To his knowledge, no one at the NBA had actually read the book.

“Which is why,” he goes on, “Triumph was so intrigued as to why the parent company decided to not go with it. Because there was no logical reasoning other than an open threat. It just doesn’t make sense. If they had come down and said, ‘There are some specific things that are flat-out lies or they’re wrong and we think there are fabrications or something,’ then there’d be some basis to say, ‘OK, we need to back up and double-check this.’ But this was just an open comment. And so we don’t know what the specific basis of that potential suit might’ve been.”

The book no longer has an Amazon page; it’s cached here. Meanwhile, Donaghy is looking for another publisher. He may even self-publish. “It’s dead right now,” the source says. “The whole thing has fallen flat on its face. … Obviously, the NBA has got some people running scared.”

And here’s exactly why I think this book should be published… an actual excerpt from the book, talking about Dick Bavetta being the self-proclaimed “go-to” referee for the NBA in big time moments.

The 2002 series certainly wasn’t the first or last time [Dick] Bavetta weighed in on an important game. He also worked Game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference Finals between the Lakers and the Trail Blazers. The Lakers were down by 13 at the start of the fourth quarter when Bavetta went to work. The Lakers outscored Portland 31–13 in the fourth quarter and went on to win the game and the series. It certainly didn’t hurt the Lakers that they got to shoot 37 free throws compared to a paltry 16 for the Trail Blazers.

Two weeks before the 2003–04 season ended, Bavetta and I were assigned to officiate a game in Oakland. That afternoon before the tip-off, we were discussing an upcoming game on our schedule. It was the last regular-season game we were scheduled to work, pitting Denver against San Antonio. Denver had lost a game a few weeks prior because of a mistake made by the referees, a loss that could be the difference between them making or missing the playoffs. Bavetta told me Denver needed the win and that it would look bad for the staff and the league if the Nuggets missed the playoffs by one game. There were still a few games left on the schedule before the end of the season, and the standings could potentially change. But on that day in Oakland, Bavetta looked at me and casually stated, “Denver will win if they need the game. That’s why I’m on it.”

I was thinking, How is Denver going to win on the road in San Antonio? At the time, the Spurs were arguably the best team in the league. Bavetta answered my question before it was asked.

“Duncan will be on the bench with three fouls within the first five minutes of the game,” he calmly stated.

Bavetta went on to inform me that it wasn’t the first time the NBA assigned him to a game for a specific purpose. He cited examples, including the 1993 playoff series when he put New Jersey guard Drazen Petrovic on the bench with quick fouls to help Cleveland beat the Nets. He also spoke openly about the 2002 Los Angeles–Sacramento series and called himself the NBA’s “go-to guy.”

As it turned out, Denver didn’t need the win after all; they locked up a spot in the playoffs before they got to San Antonio. In a twist of fate, it was the Spurs that ended up needing the win to have a shot at the division title, and Bavetta generously accommodated. In our pregame meeting, he talked about how important the game was to San Antonio and how meaningless it was to Denver, and that San Antonio was going to get the benefit of the calls that night. Armed with this inside information, I called Jack Concannon before the game and told him to bet the Spurs.

To no surprise, we won big. San Antonio blew Denver out of the building that evening, winning by 26 points. When Jack called me the following morning, he expressed amazement at the way an NBA game could be manipulated. Sobering, yes; amazing, no. That’s how the game is played in the National Basketball Association.

There’s many out there that wonder how true some of these allegations are… some of this stuff is just too difficult to make up, in my mind.  I’m really bummed now that this book has been yanked… if any of this stuff is true, I hope that David Stern, as well as all of the commissioners of every sports league, are taking a good hard look at their staff, from the front offices to the medical staff (with all the NFL talks about concussions and the team doctors clearing players) and the umpires/referees.  It amazes me that Stern looks at these claims as, and I quote, “baseless”… makes you wonder if he’s in on it too.


October 28, 2009 Leave a comment

I’ve noticed something over the past few weeks… placing Pick’em’s here in the main page has made me extremely lazy.  No new posts, things like that.

So… if you take a look up at the top of the page, you will see 2 new links… NFL Pick’em, and NCAA Pick’em.  If you’re curious about checking out who’s picking whom and how the season is going, check there.  I’ll try and leave the main page for news-related things from now on.

Categories: Pick'em, Sports Nation

It’s Time To Go Zebra Hunting…

October 25, 2009 Leave a comment
I’m going to be really honest with you all today…
I’m getting really annoyed with officials in all leagues.
You look at today’s Vikings/Steelers game.  Vikings were driving, inside the 10, and got called for a tripping call on a TD pass.  There was absolutely no trip on the play.  The Vikings lineman got flattened, rolled to try and get back up, and some greedy Steeler tried to hurdle him and failed.
Or you look at the Defensive Delay of Game that was called.  Pretty sure no one moved, so I don’t know how this penalty was called.
I’m really happy Dugan flattened that line judge on Harvin’s kickoff return.  That’s the one that called the trip just 2 plays earlier.
Or what about the umpires in MLB?  Blowing tons of calls left and right, ones so obvious a 7 year old that’s just learning to play can do better.  An easy double play call at 3rd, missed.  Neither was on the base.  Both tagged.  How the hell do you miss that?  Or the base hit that was really a foul ball off the batter.  Etc. etc.
Look, I realize that being a ref/umpire is difficult.  They have split seconds to make a decision that we get to critique for a week afterwards.  But I’m starting to agree with Shawn a little more.  We had a debate this summer that has continued off and on throughout the semester about how the various sports should include more forms of electronic monitoring/instant replay.  While there’s something historic about the human element being a part of the game, these blunders are just stupid and easily correctable.
Here’s the kind of water cooler talk I’d like to hear… “Hey, did you see that game between the Steelers and the Vikings?  It was incredible!!!”
… and not… “Hey, did you see that game between the Steelers and the Vikings?  The refs really gave that game away…”
Good refs/umps are the ones that go completely unnoticed during the course of the game.  Make the correct calls, and get off the field.  When we talk about you the following morning at work, or hear about it on Sportscenter, that’s when people like me get really annoyed.

I’m going to be really honest with you all today…

I’m getting really annoyed with officials in all leagues.

You look at today’s Vikings/Steelers game.  Vikings were driving, inside the 10, and got called for a tripping call on a TD pass.  There was absolutely no trip on the play.  Dugan (Vikings FB) went for a block, went low, and some greedy Steeler tried to hurdle him and failed.  Feet flailed out, and so the refs called a trip.

Or you look at the Defensive Delay of Game that was called.  Pretty sure no one moved, so I don’t know how this penalty was called.

I’m really happy Dugan flattened that line judge on Harvin’s kickoff return.  That’s the one that called the trip just a few plays earlier.

Or what about the umpires in MLB?  Blowing tons of calls left and right, ones so obvious a 7 year old that’s just learning to play can do better.  An easy double play call at 3rd, missed.  Neither was on the base.  Both tagged.  How the hell do you miss that?  Or the base hit that was really a foul ball off the batter.  Etc. etc.

Look, I realize that being a ref/umpire is difficult.  They have split seconds to make a decision that we get to critique for a week afterwards.  But I’m starting to agree with Shawn a little more.  We had a debate this summer that has continued off and on throughout the semester about how the various sports should include more forms of electronic monitoring/instant replay.  While there’s something historic about the human element being a part of the game, these blunders are just stupid and easily correctable.

Here’s the kind of water cooler talk I’d like to hear… “Hey, did you see that game between the Steelers and the Vikings?  It was incredible!!!”

… and not… “Hey, did you see that game between the Steelers and the Vikings?  The refs really gave that game away…”

Good refs/umps are the ones that go completely unnoticed during the course of the game.  Make the correct calls, and get off the field.  When we talk about you the following morning at work, or hear about it on Sportscenter, that’s when people like me get really annoyed.