Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Schedule Could Make 2019 Jay Gruden's Final Season With Redskins



I'm all on board with Jay Gruden continuing to be the head coach of the Washington Redskins.

All signs point to 2019 being Gruden's sixth season with the Redskins which would make him the longest tenured Redskins coach since Norv Turner at the turn of the century. Strangely enough, that may be a parallel comparison and both coaches typically kept the Redskins around the .500 mark but just couldn't get them back to Super Bowl contention.

After a 4-12 season in Gruden's first year, he has gone 9-7, 8-7-1 and now a pair of 7-9 seasons. While the last two seasons have been disappointing, injuries completely ravaged the team. It isn't a stretch to think that the Skins could have hit at least 9 wins in both seasons.

Still, you are what your record says you are and Gruden's Redskins have been 35-44-1 over these five years. Again, Gruden deserves to stick it out in DC but will 2019 be his final year there?

Probably.

It may not be his fault. The 2019 Redskins schedule will be brutal and the team must find a way to improve on a defense that started great and ended with a thud. They must figure out what Alex Smith will be able to do heading into the future as well as improving the skill positions. Oh yeah, health must be a factor in what the team can do next year. No matter who is wearing the burgundy and gold they will face up against a schedule that could be damaging to any success Washington can have.

Let me preface this with the obvious fact that just because a team looks like it should be good doesn't mean they necessarily will be next year. If you would have told Redskins fans back in August that they'd have a better record than the Packers, Panthers, Jaguars and 49ers ... yet a worse record than the Browns ... they'd be stunned. Still, you can make some assumptions going foward. So let's look at who we play:

NFC EAST

Of course there is the six games against the fellow NFC East foes. While the NFC East isn't really world beaters in the standings, the division does house the defending Super Bowl champion as well as two of the six NFC playoff teams. There isn't any reason to think the Eagles or Cowboys are going to stink it up next year and the Giants steadily improved as the season went on. Philadelphia is sitting on two capable quarterbacks and may have to make a decision on who leads them going forward. Dallas has the NFL's leading rusher and are a few skill guys away from having a dynamic offense. New York has a lot of issues to sort out at the quarterback spot but still has Odell Beckham Jr and Saquon Barkley.

When compared to what the Redskins are heading into next year, Washington has no idea who will be able to be the quarterback and will have a rookie running back who missed the entire season after shredding his knee (or bring back an old Hall of Famer) with a lot of questions everywhere else.

NFC NORTH

In the conference rotation, the NFC East will play the entire NFC North next year (the Redskins played the South this year). The Bears and Lions come to Washington while we head out to Green Bay and Minnesota.

The NFC North is tough. The Bears surged to a division championship this year a season or two ahead of schedule.  Their defense is wicked and young Mitchell Trubisky seems to be developing quite nicely. It is an old school NFL battle when the Bears and Redskins share a field. Same goes with the Lions, though they are tough to figure out game to game, let alone season to season.  Heading to Green Bay and Minnesota is tough as both teams underachieved this year. Aaron Rodgers will have a new head coach to guide him with the Packers and should look to avenge their loss in Washington this season. This will be the fourth time in five years the Redskins and Packers play but the first in that stretch at Lambeau. And, of course, heading to face the Vikings means facing off against former quarterback Kirk Cousins. Do you think he'll "like that"?

AFC EAST

Next year, the NFC East faces off against the AFC East in the rotation. That means the Patriots and Jets will come to FedEx Field while the Redskins will travel north to Buffalo and south to Miami.  The AFC East has a lot of fluidity to it right now. The Bills and Jets will be going into year two of their young quarterbacks. The Dolphins and Jets will have new head coaches heading into next season. The Patriots seem to be pretty much in dynastic form as they've been for nearly two decades but there may be some question marks heading into the offseason. New England wasn't as dominant as usual and there are some out there that wonder if Tom Brady may hang 'em up after these playoffs.

I'm guessing Brady will be back again and, while he won't be the MVP that he's been in the past, he's better than 2/3 of the quarterbacks starting next year. As of right now, it is hard to gauge what the AFC East teams will look like next year, but there are certainly some opportunities there.

THE FINAL TWO

Since the Redskins finished in 3rd place in the division, they'll play the Carolina Panthers (away) and San Francisco 49ers (home). The Panthers were a legit playoff team this year before a shoulder injury clearly affected Cam Newton and Carolina crashed and burned over the second half of the season. The Niners lost Jimmy Garrappolo during the season and never recovered. Certainly these two teams will be much better with healthy quarterbacks and could find themselves back into contention for an NFC title.

To recap, here is the Redskins' 2019 schedule:

HOME: Patriots, Bears, Cowboys, Eagles, 49ers, Giants, Lions, Jets

AWAY: Cowboys, Eagles, Vikings, Panthers, Packers, Giants, Dolphins, Bills

Six games against playoff teams isn't bad (even the easiest schedule guarantees you play four games against playoff teams), though seven is the max next year. You can argue that the 49ers, Packers, Panthers and Vikings underperformed and could be tougher next season.

In any event, the Redskins must bulk up the roster and get things in order or next year could be a 5-11 affair (or worse) and lead to Gruden's dismissal as head coach.

Or we can Hail to the Redskins and Hail Victory!

Saturday, August 25, 2018

I Got Out Of "Get Up" A While Ago



People have been roasting on ESPN's Get Up since the show debuted this past spring. I'm not a media analyst nor am I that typical blogger that lives to dump on everything ESPN does so this isn't just me piling on.

I just don't like the show either.

To me, Get Up suffers from the un-likability factor. I just don't like the people hosting it or anything they talk about. Mike Greenberg is just grating to me. I loved listening to Mike & Mike every morning on my way to work. I only have a 15 minute commute that begins at 6:30 a.m. so I just catch the main topic but I enjoyed it. Over the years, though, 'Greeney' just soured to me. I understand the premise is a jock and a nerdy superfan debating topics all morning but I just came away annoyed with Greenberg. The way Mike & Mike ended didn't help my impression of him either and I've found myself watching the simulcast of Golic & Wingo instead of Get Up

I like Michele Beadle in her NBA world -- not outside it. On Get Up, she just seemed to be some pissed off anchor who didn't want to be there. While I can respect her position on the matter, her rant about not watching football anymore (especially when her employer pays a ton of money to broadcast the NFL and college) couldn't have went over well. She's just been removed and sent back to her NBA duties.

As for Jalen Rose, I've had a weird feel about him ever since he was at Michigan. I did love him on Jalen & Jacoby as the "ask me my opinion and give me room to tell it" format worked well for him. He also does okay when there are other experts on set with him that can put him in check. The problem with Get Up is that there is none of that. I'm also shocked at how bad he is on the trivia segments of the show.

So there is the lack of chemistry that is a problem. It is also too long ... which will apparently be remedied by reducing the show to two hours instead of three. Each of the three hours felt like a rerun of the same show. Also, this show feels a lot like a reboot of their old show Cold Pizza that turned its catchiest segment into First Take. The main difference is that Jay Crawford and Dana Jacobson were likable and the "1st and 10" segments were interesting. Now the day is filled with people debating each other on ESPN with the same topics and just different people so that's not as relevant anymore.

I'd rather they go back to morning SportsCenters again. Maybe they can tweak Get Up into a different kind of show. One where Greenberg does more interviews (which I do think he's good at). They just need to do something because it just doesn't work. I tried to give it a solid chance but it just doesn't do it for me.

Monday, May 7, 2018

What would the NBA playoffs look like if we eliminated conference format

I'm one of those guys who feel that the NBA needs to just ditch the conference format for the playoffs and just seed the best teams 1 through 16 in the postseason. Why? Well, we get the Rockets and Warriors in the Western Conference Finals and not for the championship. Geography shouldn't be a factor to how the playoffs should happen.  We can work around that in 2018.

So what would the 2018 postseason look like if we did it that way?  Well, one thing happened: the Nuggets would qualify for the postseason while the Wizards would not. Let's look at what the matchups would be:

1-Houston Rockets (65-17) vs 16-Milwaukee Bucks (44-38)
2-Toronto Raptors (59-23) vs 15-Miami Heat (44-38)
3-Golden State Warriors (58-24) vs 14-Denver Nuggets (46-36)
4-Boston Celtics (55-27) vs 13-Minnesota Timberwolves (47-35)
5-Philadelphia 76ers (52-30) vs 12-San Antonio Spurs (47-35)
6-Cleveland Cavaliers (50-32) vs 11-New Orleans Pelicans (48-34)
7-Portland Trailblazers (49-33) vs 10-Indiana Pacers (48-34)
8-Oklahoma City Thunder (48-34) vs 9-Utah Jazz (48-34)

Under the new format, five of the eight series would be what we consider to be inter-conference games. But they aren't horrible travel situations. Houston-Milwaukee? That's not bad. Neither is Cleveland-New Orleans. Boston-Minnesota is far, but is it much, much worse than the Celtics' real matchup against Milwaukee? Portland-Indiana would be the toughest, but it still isn't a Portland-Miami series.

Just adding and guessing who would advance to the second round, we'd have:

1-Houston vs 9-Utah
2-Toronto vs 10-Indiana
3-Golden State vs 6-Cleveland
4-Boston vs 5-Philadelphia

Okay, we get the Rockets-Jazz and Celtics-Sixers series anyway. Toronto-Indiana would be pretty good.  But look at Golden State and Cleveland.  Second round.  That's how it would play out and we'd get an epic series right then.

Advancing to the semifinals
1-Houston vs 4-Boston
2-Toronto vs 3-Golden State

Nice

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Someone Got A Hold Of Malik Newman's Wikipedia Page

Kansas' Malik Newman scored 32 points against Duke in their 85-81 Elite Eight win. So obviously someone took to Newman's Wikipedia page and made a little update:

                  


Nice.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Sportz' NCAA Tournament Recap - First Round, Day 2



Just a quick recap of what I saw in my Sportz Room -- filled with TVs that I can watch all four games going on at the same time.

GAME OF THE DAY: Nevada vs Texas. We'll get to that other game in a moment. That Nevada-Texas game was just so good. Both had leads where they felt they had the win. Both made plays to get back in the game. Caleb Martin was huge in this one, the crowd was alive and we got a rather energetic Eric Musselman dropping f-bombs on live TV.

UPSET OF THE DAY: UMBC vs Virginia. Uh, let's see, who could it be?

CONFERENCE OF THE DAY: ACC. The ACC went 4-1 today, though everyone will remember that 1.  North Carolina and Clemson took care of business while Syracuse and Florida State pulled off upsets. Still ... what happened to Virginia?

CONFERENCE WITH A BAD DAY: ACC. I've never put the same conference as the good and bad on the same day. But Virginia? You won 20 ACC games this year. You went 17-1 during the regular season and coasted to the ACC tournament championship.  The No. 1 team in the country and the top overall seed in this tournament. And you become the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 seed? They ACC couldn't beat you but a team from the America Easat could?.  

DUD OF THE DAY: Florida State vs Missouri. Neither team evoked confidence heading into this one, but Florida State jumped all over Missouri and made this a sorta blowout. Sure, Mizzou made a few comebacks to get this close, but the Seminoles made quick work of this up-and-down Tigers squad. Not the usual No. 8 vs No. 9 matchup.

DOMINANT PERFORMANCE OF THE DAY: UMBC. It wasn't just that they beat Virginia, they just blew them out. That Cavaliers defense is so, so good but the Retrievers put 53 points on them in the second half.

UNDERLYING STORYLINE OF THE DAY: It finally happened. Every year, we heard that one day a No. 16 seed will beat a No. 1 seed. It was out there though no one believes it will happen in that year. There have been a few close calls but it never happened. Teams who earned No. 1 seeds found their main motivation was not being that first team to lose that game. Well, Virginia became that team and, as all before them have feared, will always be that team. This tournament will forever be known as the one where the No. 1 seed lost to the 16-seed.  Forever and always.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Sportz' NCAA Tournament Recap - First Round, Day 1



Just a quick recap of what I saw in my Sportz Room -- filled with TVs that I can watch all four games going on at the same time.

GAME OF THE DAY: Loyola Chicago vs Miami. There were a couple of a good candidates but none of the others had a shot like the one Donte Ingram hit. Down one, Ingram hit a three with 0.3 seconds remaining for the win. Not only did they get the win, but they also had Sister Jean ... their 98-year old chaplain ... give an outstanding interview postgame. Great story.

UPSET OF THE DAY: Buffalo vs Arizona.  Arizona was a popular pick to go to the Final Four as many felt their seed was rather low for their talent. Well, Buffalo wasn't having any of it. The Bulls owned the Wildcats, stomping them 89-68. What was surprising was how Arizona kind of quit in the second half of this game. They showed no fight.  

CONFERENCE OF THE DAY: SEC. The SEC won all four games today (Tennessee, Kentucky, Florida and Alabama). The conference seemingly got no respect from the selection committee with their seeding. The first three won games they were supposed to while Alabama pulled a mild upset over Virginia Tech.

CONFERENCE WITH A BAD DAY: Pac-12. The ACC lost three games today (NC State, Virginia Tech, Miami) and would normally occupy this space, but the Pac-12 wins this by watching Arizona eliminated. This is the first time in decades that one of the power conferences didn't place at least one team in the Round of 32. The Pac-12 finished this tournament 0-3.  

DUD OF THE DAY: Tennessee vs Wright State. Wright State was looked at as a team that could give Tennessee some problems. They didn't .

DOMINANT PERFORMANCE OF THE DAY: Buffalo vs Arizona. I mean, Buffalo looked like a title favorite with all the NBA prospects while Arizona looked like an overwhelmed mid-major.  Unbelievable.

UNDERLYING STORYLINE OF THE DAY: Fading stars. Deandre Ayton and Trae Young will be among the first people picked in June's NBA Draft. Both played alright (Young played better) in their first NCAA Tournament game but that experience was also a one-and-done.

Sportz' NCAA Tournament Recap - First Four



Just a quick recap of what I saw in my Sportz Room -- filled with TVs that I can watch all four games going on at the same time.

GAME OF THE DAY: Syracuse vs Arizona State. Two teams that many thought shouldn't even be in the tournament faced off in the best game of the First Four. I mean, it was the lone game that actually had a game winner attempt from Arizona State that was off the mark. The Orange, who are used to sneaking into the tournament and making a run, is set to face off against TCU next.

UPSET OF THE DAY: St. Bonaventure vs UCLA. Upset is a bit strong, but not many people are familiar with St. Bonnie at all and they just ousted one of the NCAA Tournament blue bloods in impressive fashion. It was the Bonnies first tournament win in 48 wins. Courtney Stockard dumped 26 points on the Bruins.

CONFERENCE OF THE DAY: SWAC. The SWAC beat fellow HBCU conference MEAC in an NCAA Tournament game. Texas Southern went out and played a daunting schedule (their first 13 games were on the road and against power conference teams). They went 0-13, but that experience against better talent allowed them to get back to the NCAA tournament and win a game.

CONFERENCE WITH A BAD DAY: Pac 12. Only three Pac-12 teams made the tournament. Two of them lost in the First Four. Now only Arizona remains in the field of 64.  

DUD OF THE DAY: Texas Southern vs NC Central. Both schools returned to the tournament for a second straight year. In the battle of HBCU schools, Texas Southern owned this game for the final 30 minutes.

DOMINANT PERFORMANCE OF THE DAY: Texas Southern. Once they jumped all over North Carolina Central, they coasted to an 18-point win.  They held NCCU to just 46 points.

UNDERLYING STORYLINE OF THE DAY: Uniqueness of the First Four. The First Four gets mocked as not really being part of the tournament, but it shouldn't. Since the First Four began in 2011, at least one team has advanced to the second round (round of 32, in you wish). If you didn't pay attention, UCLA and Syracuse were playing in it. The city of Dayton does a fantastic job of hosting the event no matter if it is four mid-majors you are unfamilar or two schools from the west coast the fans support the event every year. I know for a program like UCLA that has won 11 championships may be bummed to end up there, but it still is the tournament. It feels like the tournament and usually gives us good games.

The Annoying Things That Bracket People Do ...



It is bracket time again, so people all across our great land are taking pen or pencil to brackets at hoping for the best.  They reason, they debate, they flip a coin.  Most of all, they think they are correct.  They go to blogs and websites to get that last bit of info to make their selections.

This isn't that post.

This is for those people who collect the brackets.  Those people who tirelessly print the brackets, make copies, convince people to enter a sheet in, chase people down for their money and enter in all the results into some sort of program ... or do the scoring themselves.

Here are the people you are likely to deal with this week and this is just to let you know, you're not alone.

WHAT'S THIS?:  I love when you hand someone a bracket and they respond this way.  If you don't know by now, you never will.  

THE "FLORDIA" PEOPLE:  I love when people cannot spell Florida.  It is sometimes "Floirda" or "Florda" but usually I see "Flordia".  First off, you should be able to spell every single state with the exception of Massachusetts and Connecticut with relative ease.  Plus, it is only printed in type in the line right next to your dumb spelling.  

THE NUMBERS PEOPLE: I love those people that refuse to write the names of the teams in the lines but instead write their seedings.  So you  get those 1s and 5s and 12s all over the place so it is awesome when you get to enter that sheet into a database.  Plus I love when they have two #1s facing off in the Final Four and write "1" as the winner.  Thanks.

I'LL GET THE MONEY TO YOU ... :  We all know this.  Those people who just never have the $5 or whatever to pay.  It is the Final Four and you are still telling me to wait until payday?  Great.  God forbid they actually have a shot to win because they'll just hang onto their money with the ol' "well, you'd be giving it back to me anyway" jive.  Oh, and those late payers are usually the ones who are up your butt when they do win and complainin when all the money hadn't been collected yet.  



CAN YOU MAKE A COPY FOR ME:  No.  I can't.  If you can't rewrite your brackets on another sheet for yourself or find a copying machine to make your own, why must I do it for you?  Am I your mother?

THE 2:00 SHEET:  You always have someone a couple hours after the first game started handing you a sheet.  "Well, I couldn't find you and I had the sheet done before the tournament started."  Yeah, but you will end up winning and telling everyone you turned your sheet in late.  Thanks for that.

ABBREVS THAT D'T MAKE SENSE:  Like that.  I can get with the UKs, KUs, OSUs, UNCs and G'towns.  I can get with state abbreviations like NC, FL or IN.  But what is L'lle?  Or Mhst?  

WHO'S WINNING?  It is Thursday night on the first night of the Dance and you are asking who is in first.  What does that matter now?  That's like on Opening Day figuring out all the playoff scenarios in the baseball postseason.  Too soon, bruh.

THE CRITIC:  People who look at people's Final Four picks and immediately slam them.  Look, Wichita State got there a few years back so who knows what picks are smart or dumb.  

MULTIPLE BRACKETS:  Now, I don't care about people turning in as many brackets as they want.  But if you filled out 10 and had on one of them Florida Gulf Coast beating Georgetown, don't go around claiming your superiority over everyone in the bracket pool.  

PROMISE UNFULFILLED:  There is nothing better than the person who spends Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday telling you how deeply they've been working on their brackets, breaking down to you why they picked who they picked, feeding you what some website said ... and then doesn't turn in a sheet.  C'mon man!

NON-BASKETBALL PERSON:  It is like the Super Bowl -- everyone gets in on it even if you haven't watched a second of it all season long.  But some of those people wanna chat you up as if they are Clark Kellogg or Billy Packer.  This sheet they turned in makes them feel as if they are a big-time poker player on a weekend bender in Vegas and they can't handle it.  

WHOSE RELATIVES?:  I don't care if your entire family fills out one, but please put down somewhere on the sheet that you are the one handing it in.  I will forget who this sheet belongs to about 20 minutes after you hand it to me.  So I have no idea who it belongs to three weeks later.  

I WAS IN IT UNTIL ... :  Look, there are over 100 sheets in this thing.  I don't remember your sheet off the top of my head.  So don't come in telling me about how close you had things if (a) broke one way and (b) broke another and (c) happened instead.  It didn't.

FORGOT TO FILL IN THE BLANKS:  You usually spent the entire week carefully making your picks.  And then you leave some blanks ... blank.  Thanks.  It really isn't hard to fill out the entire bracket.  Oh, and thank you in advance for calling me up during the Sweet 16 to decide to make a pick then, and then get mad at me for telling you it is too late. 


THE FIRST FOUR GUY:  Usually we just throw out the first four games.  Hey, you won them all.  But someone always advances BOTH TEAMS FROM THE GAME!   

WHO DO I NEED TO ROOT FOR?:  How about the teams you picked?

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Sportz Assassin's West Region Preview



TEAM TO BEAT: Xavier. The Musketeers reached the Elite 8 last year before losing to Gonzaga. This year, they will attempt to take that next step and reach their first Final Four. They have the studs to do so (Trevon Bluiett) and an offense that can pile points on anybody. 

TEAM THAT WILL WIN THE REGION: North Carolina. There are some great teams in this region but I think the North Carolina-Michigan winner in the Sweet 16 comes out of this region. UNC beat Michigan handily earlier this season. The Tar Heels have won 11 of their last 12 NCAA Tournament games (the one they lost was at the buzzer) and beat more Quadrant 1 teams than anyone in the field. They could also be upset early on but they have the pedigree and experience to get back to the Final Four. 

TEAM TO WATCH FOR (LESS THAN A NO. 3 SEED): Gonzaga. The Bulldogs are being overlooked in this region.  The defending runners-up lost a lot from last year's team but just retooled for another run. Killian Tillie, Johnathan Williams and Josh Perkins lead a pretty formidable offense that is 9th in scoring and 14th in rebounding.  

YOUR CINDERELLA: Providence. The Friars played three overtime games in the Big East tournament, including a win against Xavier and a loss to Villanova in the title game. They did beat Villanova in February so while they aren't the best team in the tournament, they have the team that won't quit and be a thorn in the side in whomever they play..   

WORST SEEDING ERROR: Missouri. The Tigers were a team that was on the secure side of the bubble before bringing Michael Porter, Jr. back after a season-long back injury. His return didn't go well as he was clearly rusty and disrupted the rotation. This isn't a horrible seeding error, but an 8-seed?.    

HOME COURT ADVANTAGE: Gonzaga. North Carolina has a great home court advantage in Charlotte the first two rounds but it ends there.  Gonzaga will play nearby in Boise before possibly heading to Los Angeles. 

MUST WATCH GAME: Texas A&M vs Providence. Two teams that don't always play up to potential will go at it in Charlotte on Friday. Coming into the tournament, A&M doesn't exude confidence while Providence made an inspired run in the Big East tournament. Neither team piles up the points so the game should be close throughout with the winner getting North Carolina.

MUST WATCH (POTENTIAL) SECOND ROUND GAME: Gonzaga vs Ohio State.  Gonzaga hasn't played a tournament team since before Christmas which was exactly the same time Ohio State went on that 8 game winning streak (and 12 of 13) where they beat Michigan State and Purdue. These two could make a run deep into the tournament ... yet one's season will definitely end by this day..

Sportz Assassin's Midwest Region Preview



TEAM TO BEAT: Kansas. The Jayhawks are back on their perch. Ho-hum. However, this Kansas team isn't as talented as usual and suffered three home losses on the year. Still, they have national player of the year candidate Devonte Graham and former one-and-done prospect (and transfer) Malik Newman. 

TEAM THAT WILL WIN THE REGION: Duke. The Blue Devils are the most talented team in the nation. They aren't the best team, meaning the sum of its parts isn't greater than the individual parts. Their switch to the zone late in the year has been a boon for Duke and allows guys like Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter to stay out of foul trouble and rests them offensively. Grayson Allen is still around and his play ... and behavior ... will be key to how well Duke does.

TEAM TO WATCH FOR (LESS THAN A NO. 3 SEED): Clemson. The Tigers have had their best season in quite some time. The injury to Donte Grantham has forced them to pivot to a more defensive minded team and a less efficient offensive one. If they can get by New Mexico State (a big if) then they could get hot and make an Elite 8 run.  

YOUR CINDERELLA: New Mexico State. Now forget what I just said. Clemson is banged up and have lost 4 of 6 so they are ripe for an upset. New Mexico State is tournament tested and are one of the best rebounding teams in the nation. Wing player Jemeriro Jones is second nationally in rebounding and will attempt to pound the glass against Clemson. This is a good, hungry team.   

WORST SEEDING ERROR: Oklahoma. I don't think Syracuse should even be in the tournament, but their spot in the First Four is appropriate. Oklahoma is another bubble team that many felt didn't play well enough down the stretch to deserve a bid. Not only did they get in, but they didn't even have to play in the First Four.    

HOME COURT ADVANTAGE: Kansas. First weekend in state in Wichita then the next week in Omaha? Huge home court advantage.

MUST WATCH GAME: Seton Hall vs NC State. The Wolfpack are talented. They have great guards and a big man in Omer Yurtseven that's a load to deal with. Seton Hall also has a talented big man in Angel Delgado and good guards. This should be a great, great game.

MUST WATCH (POTENTIAL) SECOND ROUND GAME: Duke vs Oklahoma.  Duke would most likely bury the Sooners if this happened. Still, Trae Young against all those NBA prospects at Duke? Young against Grayson Allen? Young against that make shift zone defense? This would have the star power that most second round games don't.

Sportz Assassin's East Region Preview



TEAM TO BEAT: Villanova. The Wildcats have had an outstanding run the last few seasons and are in line to win their second championship in three years. They have two national award winner candidates in Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges. They have coughed up a few games this year but this team has a deadly combination of experience and efficiency rarely seen in the one-and-done era. 

TEAM THAT WILL WIN THE REGION: Villanova. The East Region is seen as the weakest of the four which sets up nicely for the Wildcats. Not to say there aren't landmines, but they are clearly the best team in this corner of the bracket. Of course, they seemed that way a year ago and lost in the 2nd round.

TEAM TO WATCH FOR (LESS THAN A NO. 3 SEED): West Virginia. If only the Mountaineers could close out games, they would be a top two seed in this tournament. They have a disturbing trend of blowing huge leads to good teams and that's not a cross you want to bear right now. However, they got those leads using their Press Virginia defense which is so difficult to prepare for, especially on that second game of the weekend. If they can clamp down on their choking ways, they could do some damage.  

YOUR CINDERELLA: Alabama. Any time you come into the tournament with a guy like Collin Sexton, you are dangerous. This isn't a great Crimson Tide squad but Sexton is the real deal. If they can get past Virginia Tech, their matchup against Villanova should be fun to watch.   

WORST SEEDING ERROR: Alabama. The seeding in the region is a bit off by design. Butler is a No. 10 so they can avoid fellow Big East member Villanova in the second round. That knocked Alabama up a line to No. 9 despite them losing 15 games this season -- most by an at-large selection in history.    

HOME COURT ADVANTAGE: Villanova. Texas Tech and Stephen F. Austin should have a nice fan base when the two face off in Dallas but 'Nova's itinerary of Pittsburgh and Boston should enable Wildcats fans to fill both arenas to watch their school attempt to get back to the Final Four. 

MUST WATCH GAME: Virginia Tech vs Alabama. Sexton is a must-watch talent. Virginia Tech has a lot of athletic wings and forwards to work on Sexton. The Hokies have beaten Virginia, North Carolina and Duke this year so they won't be in fear of Bama. Should be an exciting game..

MUST WATCH (POTENTIAL) SECOND ROUND GAME: Wichita State vs West Virginia.  Wichita State has a lot of good guards (led by Landry Shamet) who can handle the ball and make plays. West Virginia loves to press opponents and force them into turnovers. To see both those teams strengths collide should be a treat. Add in the Mountaineers penchant for blowing leads and this game could come down to the wire. 

Sportz Assassin's South Region Preview



TEAM TO BEAT: Virginia. The Cavaliers comfortably take their position as the No. 1 overall seed. Their patented pack-line defense is playing at its best right now while their offense is just so efficient. They lost two games all season long and Tony Bennett's team, while not pretty to watch, frustrates opponents into submission. Can the Wahoos finally break through to the Final Four? 

TEAM THAT WILL WIN THE REGION: Arizona. The Wildcats are extremely talented and have something that no other team in the nation has -- Deandre Ayton. Ayton is one of the best players in the country and a likely top five pick in this summer's NBA draft if he decides to become a one-and-done. He's not all they have as Allonzo Trier and Rawle Alkins are beasts as well. This isn't a very good defensive team, which would make for an interesting matchup with Virginia in the Sweet 16.

TEAM TO WATCH FOR (LESS THAN A NO. 3 SEED): Arizona. It is almost unfair that Arizona is a No. 4 seed but when you go back and look at their season, it fits. With the "eye test", they are on the short list or true national championship contenders. They are playing with a major chip on their shoulder after an ESPN report linked Sean Miller and Deandre Ayton in a pay-for-play deal. They can get on a tear and win this whole thing.  

YOUR CINDERELLA: Texas. Look, they aren't the best team out there nor are they scary to deal with. But they have Mo Bamba and he can be scary to deal with when you dare enter the paint. The Longhorns have a lot happening to them this season so just getting to this point is quite a feat. Shaka Smart is an experienced tournament coach and the bottom half of the South bracket isn't as daunting as the top. They could slide into the second weekend.   

WORST SEEDING ERROR: Arizona. Look, I'm not shocked they are a No. 4 seed since the metrics seem to point that out. But when you watch them play, you are in awe of their potential. The fact that the top overall see in the tournament, Virginia, might have to play them in the Sweet 16 seems wrong.    

HOME COURT ADVANTAGE: Virginia. While not playing in Virginia, their trek to Charlotte is an easy one for Hoos fans. Get to next weekend and Atlanta is also very doable. Two weeks in ACC country is a nice reward for the top overall seed.

MUST WATCH GAME: Kentucky vs Davidson. Kentucky, who seemingly has stocked the NBA with its players, takes on Davidson, who is the alma mater of two-time MVP Steph Curry. This isn't your typical Kentucky tournament team as they have been so up and down all season long that you don't know what team will show up. Davidson is back in the tournament after winning the Atlantic 10 for the first time. Count on the Wildcats to win!.

MUST WATCH (POTENTIAL) SECOND ROUND GAME: Arizona vs Kentucky.  Wildcats win this one too. Both teams feel as if they are underseeded and neither feel it is fair to meet each other in the 2nd round. The game must be played and there will be a lot of guys who will be playing in the NBA this time next year on the floor. While Kentucky will struggle to deal with Ayton, they do have the wings who can hang with Arizona. Should be a blast to watch.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Sportz' Bubble Watch (3/11)



Okay. I've been doing my whole Sportz' Bubble Watch for a few years now and I think it is time to start back up. With only a few weeks left in the season before conference tournaments, let's see how the bubble looks.

So, here are my locks ... yes, by conference. Locks are teams that I think are in no matter what.  Looking good are teams that are in, barring a total collapse.  I split the bubble teams either In or Out; self explanatory.  Also there's a spot for teams that need a miracle.  No more losses and maybe a deep conference tournament run.

I figure there are 21 conferences who are one-bid leagues and 11 conferences that could net multiple bids. So who should be going?


ATLANTIC COAST CONFERENCE (8)
LOCKS:  Virginia, Clemson, Duke, North Carolina, Miami, Virginia Tech
LOOKING GOOD:  Florida State, NC State
BUBBLE IN:  
BUBBLE OUT:  Syracuse, Louisville, Notre Dame
The ACC will get 8 in ... but can they get more? Syracuse likely has no shot. Louisville probably is out as well. Their losses at the end of the season, albeit to really good teams, kills their chances. Notre Dame is a trickier deal. On paper, they don't get in. But they missed Bonzie Colson for much of the season. He's back now, making them a different team. Now comes the question of if the committee believes they deserve to be in off of a projection more than a resume.  I think not. 

BIG EAST (6)

LOCKS:
  Villanova, Xavier, Creighton, Butler
LOOKING GOOD:  Seton Hall, Providence
BUBBLE IN:  
BUBBLE OUT:  Marquette

The Big East is pretty much set. The only thing up in the air is if Xavier can nab a No. 1 seed, giving the conference two. 

BIG TEN (4)

LOCKS:  
Michigan State, Purdue, Michigan, Ohio State
LOOKING GOOD:  
BUBBLE IN:  
BUBBLE OUT:  Nebraska, Penn State, Maryland

There will be a lot of huffing and puffing about Nebraska ... who went 13-5 in the Big Ten ... not getting in. That's one of the issues with these new super conferences. With the lack of a round robin and the fact that there can be even more dead weight at the bottom of the standings, this kind of stuff happens. The Big Ten was down, but they've got four teams locked in. Show us what you got. 

BIG 12 CONFERENCE (7)

LOCKS:  
Kansas, Texas Tech, West Virginia, TCU
LOOKING GOOD:  
BUBBLE IN:  Kansas State, Texas, Oklahoma
BUBBLE OUT:  Oklahoma State, Baylor

The Big 12 is a great league and the fact that only Iowa State (who, ironically, won the league's automatic bid last year) is the lone school not in consideration for a bid. That bubble line is so tough. Oklahoma was such a lock early on but has stunk it up over the last two months that including them would almost be insulting. Oklahoma State beat Kansas twice (they are a No. 1 seed) and may not get in. K-State looks alright and Texas will probably get in but with this weird bubble you can't be too safe. 

PAC-12 CONFERENCE (3)

LOCKS:  
Arizona
LOOKING GOOD:  
BUBBLE IN:  USC, UCLA
BUBBLE OUT:  Arizona State, Oregon, Utah, Washington

The Pac-12 is down. Only Arizona is a lock, though the two Los Angeles team should be able to wiggle in. The fact the league is bad puts Oregon, Utah and Washington as long shots to get in. Then there is Arizona State who, like Oklahoma, has stunk up the joint since the calendar switched to 2018. The Sun Devils have beaten Kansas and Xavier ... two No. 1 seeds ... but may miss.

SOUTHEASTERN CONFERENCE (8)

LOCKS: 
Kentucky, Auburn, Tennessee, Florida, Texas A&M
LOOKING GOOD:  Alabama, Arkansas
IN BUBBLE:  Missouri
OUT BUBBLE:  Mississippi State

The SEC seems to be cut and dry. Even the "Looking Good" and "In" teams look pretty solid.

AMERICAN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE (3)

LOCKS:
Cincinnati, Wichita State, Houston
LOOKING GOOD:  
IN BUBBLE:  
OUT BUBBLE:  

Nothing to see here.  These three are in and no one else was close .

MOUNTAIN WEST, WEST COAST, ATLANTIC 10, CONFERENCE USA (8)

LOCKS:
Gonzaga, San Diego State, Marshall, Davidson
LOOKING GOOD:  Rhode Island, Nevada, Saint Mary's
IN BUBBLE:  St. BonaventureOUT BUBBLE:  Middle Tennessee, Boise State

Let's look right here for the bubble issues. San Diego State, Marshall and Davidson were bid stealers. None of them were going to get bids if they didn't win their conference tournaments. Since they did, Rhode Island and Nevada will nab at large bids while Middle Tennessee State will end up sitting at home. St. Bonaventure will probably still be in the dance. But these surprises really sting those on the bubble.


ONE BID LEAGUES (21):

OHIO VALLEY: Murray State
ATLANTIC SUN: Lipscomb
BIG SOUTH: RadfordMISSOURI VALLEY:  Loyola Chicago
MAAC: Iona
SOUTHERN: UNC Greensboro
COLONIAL: CharlestonNORTHEAST: LIU Brooklyn
HORIZON: Wright State
SUMMIT: South Dakota State
PATRIOT: Bucknell
AMERICA EAST: Maryland-Baltimore County
BIG SKY: Montana
MAC: Buffalo
MEAC: NC Central
SOUTHLAND: Stephen F Austin
SWAC: Texas Southern
BIG WEST: Cal State-Fullerton
WAC: New Mexico State

IVY LEAGUE: Pennsylvania
SUN BELT: Georgia State