Thursday, August 27, 2015

NFL's Head Coach Hot Seat

10-CHUCK PAGANO (COLTS):  I know.  I must be smoking something.  However, Pagano's contract expires after this season and it isn't out of the realm of possibility that if he fails to get to a Super Bowl or back to the AFC title game then he could be replaced for a closer.  We've seen it happen in other places (namely Tampa Bay with Tony Dungy, plus what Denver just did with John Fox).  Pagano is a good guy and a good coach, but he could feel some pressure to make the next step.

9-SEAN PAYTON (SAINTS):  He's done so much in New Orleans, but sometimes a coaching era runs its course.  If sometimes feels that way in N'Awlins.  The Saints have had a soft division to win over the last few years and haven't been able to cash in.  Drew Brees ain't getting any younger and it may be the time for the team and Payton to part ways and start a new coaching era.

8-MIKE MCCOY (CHARGERS):  San Diego is in limbo.  They want to move to LA and the team is kind of stuck in mediocrity.  I like McCoy and the Chargers surprised many in the first half of last season, but he's a bad season away from being removed.

7-MIKE PETTINE (BROWNS):  I like him, but the Cleveland Browns are a complete mess.  Complete.  Mess.

6-KEN WHISENHUNT (TITANS):  Tennessee was horrible in Whisenhunt's first season in Nashville.  This season, he'll have a rookie behind center and a very young roster.  He might survive if they show moderate gains.  Still, in this day and age, patience isn't a virtue and another crapped season could end with his dismissal.

5-TOM COUGHLIN (GIANTS):  Another year, another Coughlin sighting on this list.  And another caveat:  Coughlin most likely won't be fired.  He will be given the forced retirement treatment.  He is just four years removed from a Super Bowl ring, but the Giants have had two straight losing seasons.

4-JEFF FISHER (RAMS):  Fisher has a few things against him.  He hasn't won during his stay in St. Louis; with Nick Foles now his starter, he doesn't have the Sam Bradford-injury excuse anymore; the Rams are trying really hard to move to Los Angeles.  Many times, we see a team relocate and then fire their coach as a sign of a new era.  The Rams also have a championship level defense and if Fisher can't make a move this season, it may be time to move along.

3-GUS BRADLEY (JAGUARS):  No coach in the NFL has been asked to work with less.  Bradley should be getting the benefit of a bad roster.  But this is his third season and second with "franchise" QB Blake Bortles.  Jacksonville did spend some money this offseason and would like to see a few more than three wins.

2-JAY GRUDEN (REDSKINS):  Gruden is stuck between a rock and a hard place.   He needs to win to impress his ownership ... but that ownership wants him to do that with Robert Griffin III.  That may not be possible.  One season after trying to use tough love on RG3, Gruden is coddling him, evidently bowing to Daniel Snyder's demands.  Add in a poor defense and injuries, and the Redskins look to be back at the bottom of the NFC East.

1-JOE PHILBIN (DOLPHINS):  Some are surprised he hasn't been fired yet, especially a couple of years ago when that taunting scandal came around.  But Philbin has kept Miami around the .500 mark during his time.  But the Phins spent some dough this year and see an opportunity to make a move in the changing AFC East.  Another non-winning season and Philbin will be replaced.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Sportz Assassin's NFL Predictions

Will Russell Wilson and Tom Brady meet up again in another Super Bowl?

I love predictions because they are useless.  Yep.  I'm writing this knowing it is pointless.  We all can make these predictions with educated guesses ... and some picks will be spot on and some will be way off.

Knowing this, I'm making my predictions is a very unlike-me way.  Instead of burying my head in stats and books and articles, I am just going to go by one main point:  Starting quarterbacks.

Yes, I'm just going by the quarterback play.  I know, I know, there are some great defenses and running backs and coaches and blah blah blah blah.  Who cares?  I mean, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco, Andrew Luck, Tony Romo, Cam Newton, Matt Stafford, Andy Dalton ... and whoever the Cardinals QB by the end of the season ... guided their teams to the playoffs. Yeah, some good ones didn't, but it's hard to argue that you need some really good play behind center to make the postseason in this pass-heavy league.

So I will blind myself to most of the other parts of the roster and use the quarterback as my main reasoning for ranking these teams.

NFC EAST

1-COWBOYS*
2-GIANTS*
3-EAGLES
4-REDSKINS

Yeah, you can say Eli Manning has accomplished way more than Tony Romo ever will.  You can say that Eli is a better quarterback.  I'll buy that.  However, Romo had a great season last year while Eli had some up and down moments.  Both have outstanding receivers to get the ball to.  I'm just hitching to the fact that Romo will have better opportunities.  Sam Bradford is now the starter in Philly and when he stays healthy, he's not too shabby.  He just can never stay healthy.  RG3 is getting another shot in Washington and who knows what we will get.  By the way, the starting QBs in this division are two #1 overall picks and a #2 overall pick.  Yet my top passer in these ranking is the guy that went undrafted.

NFC SOUTH

1-SAINTS*
2-FALCONS*
3-PANTHERS
4-BUCCANEERS

Drew Brees is clearly on the downside of his career, but dude is still a stud.  He's lost some weapons, but he knows how to play.  I love Matt Ryan and his two big-time receivers ... it is just something doesn't click all the way in Atlanta.  Cam Newton is a playoff veteran now and is climbing into the upper levels of NFL QBs.  He just isn't there with Brees or Ryan yet.  That leaves Jameis Winston, the overall #1 pick from this draft.  I really like him, but a rookie taking over a bad team is always a tough deal.

NFC NORTH

1-PACKERS*
2-LIONS
3-BEARS
4-VIKINGS

This is where my philosophy could trip me up.  I like the Vikings more than the Bears to make noise this season, but I think Jay Cutler is a bit better than Tedy Bridgewater right now (but maybe not for long).  We'll see.  Aaron Rodgers is, to me, the best in the biz right now.  Matt Stafford's roller coaster career should see him have a pretty good season in 2015.

NFC WEST

1-SEAHAWKS*
2-CARDINALS
3-NINERS
4-RAMS

Russell Wilson is the class of this division.  Carson Palmer is the cagey old vet who did a great job running Arizona's offense last season before suffering a season-ending injury.  I haven't been sold on Colin Kaepernick, but he is talented.  So is St. Louis' Nick Foles, who apparently wasn't good enough to stop Philly from taking on a guy that is always hurt to replace him.

AFC EAST

1-PATRIOTS*
2-DOLPHINS*
3-BILLS
4-JETS

Even if Tom Brady truly misses a month of the season, their QB situation is still better than anyone else in this division.  I do like Ryan Tannehill in Miami and agree with the experts that he's going to take a big leap this season.  Buffalo is a trendy pick and Matt Cassell isn't bad.  He's not the guy you really want to lead your franchise, but he's better than E.J. Manuel and Tyrod Taylor.  Oh, and better than anyone the Jets are putting out there.  Geno Smith?  Ryan Fitzpatrick?  Doesn't matter.

AFC SOUTH

1-COLTS*
2-TEXANS
3-JAGUARS
4-TITANS

Andrew Luck is so much better than anyone in the AFC South that it isn't even funny.  I mean, can you even name the quarterbacks for the other three teams?  Houston's QB is ... Brian Hoyer!  Hoyer had his moments as the starter in Cleveland last year.  Blake Bortles is entering his second season as the starter in Jacksonville and he has next to nothing to work with.  Marcus Mariota is now the head man in Tennessee ... I think.  He looked a bit off in his first preseason game and Zach Mettenberger could end up getting the regular season nod as the starter.

AFC NORTH

1-STEELERS*
2-RAVENS*
3-BENGALS
4-BROWNS

Big Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Flacco are Super Bowl winning quarterbacks, making this the lone divisions with multiple starting QBs who won Super Bowls as starters.  Andy Dalton has led the Bengals to the playoffs in each of his four seasons in Cincinnati.  And Cleveland?  Well, Josh McCown is now their starter and not Johnny Football.

AFC WEST

1-BRONCOS*
2-CHARGERS
3-CHIEFS
4-RAIDERS

I think, as many do, that we could be seeing the end of Peyton Manning's career.  He still plays at such a high level, but he really tails off as the season moves along.  Philip Rivers had an MVP-type of season before his own second half troubles last season.  Alex Smith is still chugging along in Kansas City.  Derek Carr is still getting the nod in Oakland and he could turn into a pretty decent starter.

SUPER BOWL:  PACKERS OVER STEELERS

Why?  Well I think losing Brady will hurt the Pats chances at getting home field advantage for an AFC championship game.  I also think the Packers are the best team in the league.  I hate the Steelers defense, but this just has a feel that Big Ben and Pittsburgh buck the odds and move onto another Super Bowl.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

MLB Wants To Expand? C'mon Montreal and Charlotte!

Will the Expos return to Major League Baseball?

The MLB is talking about expanding for the first time since 1998.  Nice.  Expansion in pretty much all the major league sports has died off since the early 2000s yet all we see are skyrocketing values in franchise values.  Makes sense for leagues to start to kick around expansion.

Baseball can see itself expanding soon and two teams make the most sense.  For one, it would place a 16th team in each league.  Second off, it can right one wrong.

Any baseball expansion needs to include Montreal, provided they can get a new stadium built.  The Expos were a fine franchise during its time and was basically crushed into moving to Washington DC.  I would love a return of the Expos to baseball and think that's a no-brainer.

The other franchise is debatable.  Portland, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, New Jersey, Vegas and Charlotte top the list.  Maybe a Mexican city or Puerto Rico would be viable.  Since I grew up in Charlotte, I'm "bullish" on the Queen City.  Of the cities mentioned above, they are the only one with two professional franchises already (unless you consider New York's NFL teams as "Jersey teams").  They have no territorial team already (it is Braves country, but that isn't a rock solid thing).

Forget arguing, I'm going with Charlotte.

That brings us to the next issue -- realignment.  With the two leagues at 16 teams, do you realign to four divisions now?  Do you move teams to different leagues yet again?  Can I find a way to move the Astros back to the National League where they belong?

Well, I think moving to four divisions will happen.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

What Cities Should Host World Cup Matches If The United States Has To Host?

What if FIFA decided to strip Russia and/or Qatar of their World Cup bids in 2018 or 2022, respectively?  That could happen if the bribery and kickback scandal reaches to the awarding of their bids.  While that would be a historic decision, it isn't one that is out of the realm of possibility.  If that did happen, there must be another country willing to step in on short notice to take on the huge task of hosting the World Cup.

The United States is one of the few countries that could pull that off.  America has plenty of available stadiums and corporate help to make an event like this happen.  So s
ay the USA is told to do such a thing.  Where would they hold the games?  What stadiums will we use?  Here is a list.  

I'm going off of stadiums that are already in place right now and would be available as early as the 2018 World Cup that is currently scheduled for Russia.  I'm also listing 12 as my picks as Russia will have that many stadiums hosting the actual World Cup.  I'm not having any city with two host stadiums either.  I also took out any baseball stadiums due to their use for the MLB season.  That knocked out some interesting picks like Yankee Stadium or Tropicana Field.

1-ROSE BOWL, PASADENA CA:  Pretty easy pick.  It's huge, historic, the weather would be nice and the city is obviously a destination place to have some matches.  The Rose Bowl also hosted the 1994 World Cup Final.  Plus, if it was hosting the 2022 World Cup, that would mark the Rose Bowl's 100th birthday. The Los Angeles Coliseum is an option but I just like the Rose Bowl better.  If the US was awarded the 2022 games, that could be enough time for one of the projected NFL stadiums in L.A. to be built and used.

2-AT&T STADIUM, ARLINGTON TX:  The Dallas Cowboys' stadium is a marvel and of any arena in the United States, this is the one we'd love to show off.  It has a retractable roof and would be an outstanding place to have the World Cup Final ... just like it has held a Super Bowl and the first College Football Playoff championship.  It is the largest non-college football stadium in the country. The Cotton Bowl would be an option but, c'mon, you gotta show off this place.

3-FEDEX FIELD, LANDOVER MD:  You have to include the stadium in our nation's capital.  Maybe it isn't the greatest stadium, but it is big and very capable of hosting World Cup matches.  RFK Stadium would bring nostalgia as well as a stadium actually in DC, but FedEx is just better.  While not in the works, there has been rumbling of the Redskins trying to get a new stadium in the near future.

4-METLIFE STADIUM, EAST RUTHERFORD NJ:  Same as FedEx Field, you have to have New York host several games.  Beautiful stadium in our largest metro area.  It has been a host of a Super Bowl, and since it hosts both the Jets and Giants, it is used to having to change up on short notice.  Yankee Stadium is the home of the New York City FC of Major League Soccer, but it won't be used during baseball season.

5-CENTURYLINK FIELD, SEATTLE WA:  We all know that Olympic and World Cup stadiums tend to have unique architecture.  This place has it.  This place is loud and a soccer lovin' city (huge MLS draw).  It is a world class city and a base for many companies.  It also allows the Cup to be featured in the Pacific northwest. Husky Field at the UW campus would also be a good spot.  

6-UNIVERSITY OF PHOENIX STADIUM, GLENDALE AZ:  Another retractable roof and another with nice architecture.  They've hosted multiple Super Bowls, multiple college football championships and will have the 2017 NCAA Final Four.  Great weather as well as a city that would feature another aspect of Americana.  Think about it.  So far we have the Hollywood of the Rose Bowl, the big size life of Texas, the history of Washington DC, the hustle and bustle of New York, the Pacific northwest and the desert area of Arizona. 

7-SUN LIFE STADIUM, MIAMI GARDENS FL:  You may not realize it, but Sun Life Stadium has had quite a run in the over two decades it's been around.  You got to have South Beach on the list and with a diverse population.  Plus it has been a Super Bowl staple.

8-GILETTE STADIUM, FOXBOROUGH MA:  Old Foxboro Stadium hosted the 1994 World Cup and I think the newer Gilette Stadium would work fine as a host.  Not to mention the cultural aspect of having the world cup in the Boston area.  It has been a staple of soccer events since its opening. 

9-SOLDIER FIELD, CHICAGO IL:  The Second City makes great sense hosting some Cup matches.  Soldier Field has a unique standing in America stadiums as it is old yet has been renovated as a basically new stadium. However, Soldier Field was rejected as a venue when the 2022 bid was up.  

10-RELIANT STADIUM, HOUSTON TX:  I'm a bit weary of having Texas with two venues, but Reliant is a perfect stadium to host World Cup matches.  Houston is different than Dallas the distance between the two cities is virtually the same as the distance between New York and Washington.  A Super Bowl city that will host next year's Final Four.

11-ARROWHEAD STADIUM, KANSAS CITY MO:  One of the most unappreciated stadiums we have, Arrowhead is a great place to watch a football game and would be great hosting a World Cup match.  It is loud, centrally located and the city is interesting.  It, like many of the others mentioned, has previously hosted soccer matches. 

12-INVESCO FIELD AT MILE HIGH, DENVER CO:  Okay, I may have gone with the whole "let's see a lot of the diversity of America" slant, and that's why I have Denver here.  You have the beautiful Rocky Mountain setting, a nice stadium and a different geographic setting.  The air will be a factor in any match played there.  Oh, and the mountains in the background.

So these are my 12 cities.  It makes the tournament spread across the country and, literally, all four corners of the nation (Seattle, LA, Miami and Massachusetts).  Joining them would be New York City, Washington, Dallas, Houston, Chicago, Denver, Kansas City and Phoenix. 

I hate that a few cities I would've loved to have it I left out.  There are reasons I did leave them out.

DETROIT:  Is Detroit the world class city it used to be?  To be honest, that's what it would come down to.  I'm not sure if Ford Field would be the right fit, but these games could be played in Ann Arbor.  When I look at the 12 cities I used, I notice that the east coast isn't as represented as much as you'd think (four cities in the Eastern Time Zone).

INDIANAPOLIS:  Right at the cut line.  Indianapolis has hosted a Super Bowl and plenty of Final Fours.  Also, due to its location, it is a good city to have teams travel around from.  

TAMPA:  Another close cut.  In 1994, the US used both Miami and Orlando for World Cup matches, so it isn't adverse to using two Florida cities.  I just think that the event would be spaced out a little bit more this time.  

SAN DIEGO:  The Chargers have spent two decades trying to get a new stadium to replace Qualcomm.  Now the Chargers are rumored to be interested in moving to a new Los Angeles stadium.  A World Cup would play in L.A. and that would be enough for the SoCal area.

BALTIMORE:  Great city, but like San Diego's proximity to L.A. hurts them, B-more's distance to Washington would hurt them.  

ATLANTA:  Atlanta would bring the American South to the mix, but where would a World Cup be played?  The Braves and Falcons are building new stadiums which could work.  Turner Field's (formerly an Olympic stadium) future is up in the air when the Braves move, but what will it be in 2022?  Plus, is Atlanta a soccer city?  

COLUMBUS:  The city has really embraced soccer and the MLS' Crew.  They even had the foresight to build a soccer-only facility.  Now, a World Cup would be played at Ohio Stadium where the Buckeyes roam, but which other city should be knocked out?

NEW ORLEANS:  No way would a World Cup game be played indoors like that.  NOLA would be an awesome World Cup city, but it would be logistically tough.  And, remember, the last big sporting event there was when the lights went out during the Super Bowl.  

Sunday, May 31, 2015

NBA Should Come Up With 'Legacy' Contracts For Long-time Players

The Miami Heat would love to keep Dwyane Wade around for the rest
of his career.  However, they are a bit worried committing the kind of
money it may take to do so.  What if we had a 'legacy' clause that could
remedy these kinds of situations?

By now, most of you have heard about the contract issues with Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat.  In a general nutshell, Wade has had a great career in Miami and has taken a lot of sacrifices for the team to be able to make moves to win championships.  Now he's in the latter end of his career, he's banged up, but he wants some financial security from the team.

I get that.  It is one of the more difficult things in sports.  When to let go.  Should you let go?  Do you owe a player that meant so much to your franchise even as his skills decline?

Look at the Los Angeles Lakers and Kobe Bryant.  The Lakers gave Bryant a two-year deal that made him continue to be the highest paid player in the NBA.  That, despite Kobe coming off two serious injuries and entering his 19th season in the League.  The contract limited what the Lakers could do last offseason and the payoff was another injury-plagued season that saw the most losses in franchise history.

Miami doesn't want that to happen with Wade.  Sometimes, those lifers do take smaller deals to help their teams stay competitive.  Just ask Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki.  If you don't, you could end up with a Patrick Ewing SuperSonics jersey or a Hakeem poster when he was with the Raptors.

That's where I'd like the NBA to do something that would benefit the team.  A legacy clause.  If a player has been with you for ... say ... ten or 12 straight seasons, then his cap number would be half of what his salary is.  So if Kobe is getting paid $25 million this season ... he only counts $12.5 million towards the cap and all the payroll tax brackets.  You are able to keep your legend in house late in his career and still have more financial flexibility to make the team around him better.  It would allow Dwyane Wade to earn extra money he deserves for years of signing less than max deals but allow the franchise to transition to the next era.

This isn't a big list of players, either.  The names would include Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki, Wade, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Udonis Haslem, Nick Collison and Anderson Varejao.   Some are Hall of Famers; others are role guys.  Either way, it works.  A guy like Udonis Haslem could stick around Miami if the Heat's cap number for him is half his salary.  A guy like Wade could finish his career with the Heat and in front of their fans.  He'll get his pay and the Heat can still have some flexibility.  

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Sportz' NCAA Tournament Recap - Final 4


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.  This one will take the entire Final Four as one day.

GAME OF THE WEEKEND: Wisconsin vs Kentucky. This was what everyone outside of the Bluegrass state wanted.  To see Kentucky beaten.  Maybe that's a bit drastic, but the SEC wasn't challenging enough for a team of Kentucky's stature, so it would be interesting to see how they'd perform against the best teams in the NCAA.  After all, the Wildcats only played one game against teams ranked in the top 14 of the final regular season AP poll.  Wisconsin, who clearly had a chip on its shoulder, came in swinging and it paid off.

UPSET OF THE WEEKEND: Wisconsin vs Kentucky. It's hard to call a game featuring two No. 1 seeds as an upset, but Kentucky was undefeated and staring directly into history.  Wisconsin, while one of the best teams in the nation, came in with no McDonald's All Americans.

CONFERENCE OF THE WEEKEND: ACC. The ACC won another title.  Since 1982, that's 34 years, the ACC has won 11 National Championships (Duke 5, UNC 4, NC State 1, Maryland 1). The ACC finished an amazing 17-5 in the tournament, with five Sweet 16 teams and three Elite 8 teams.

CONFERENCE WITH A BAD WEEKEND: Big Ten. Two Big Ten teams made the Final Four, and both were beaten by Duke.  The ACC is now 6-1 against the Big Ten in National Championship games, with a nice six game winning streak (Duke-Michigan, UNC-Michigan, Maryland-Indiana, UNC-Illinois, UNC-Michigan State, Duke-Wisconsin). 

DUD OF THE WEEEKEND: Duke vs Michigan State. After the Spartans looked like they were set to give Duke a game, the Blue Devils just owned them.  The other two games were tight.  This one, not so much.

DOMINANT PERFORMANCE OF THE WEEKEND: Duke. They blew out Michigan State and then toppled Wisconsin and the player of the year, Frank Kaminsky.  That is Duke's fifth title in 25 years.

UNDERLYING STORYLINE OF THE WEEKEND: Talent. I've always said that the NCAA tournament is two different tournaments.  One is that first weekend where we see those small schools pull off a few upsets and the Georgia State's of the world become darlings of the sports world.  Then there is the the Sweet 16 on forward, where the best teams usually do their thing.  Look at this Final Four.  According to NBADraft.net, there were 9 guys in this Final Four who are projected to be first round draft picks this June -- including six of the top 11 picks.  Duke and Kentucky were loaded with one-and-done players.


ACC Dominant In NCAA Title Game Again

*Since 1982 (34 years), the ACC has won 11 NCAA tournaments.  That's nearly one-third of the time.

*Current ACC membership has won 13 of the last 34 NCAA tournaments (and 14 of 36).

*The ACC is now 6-1 vs Big Ten in NCAA title games.

*Conferences in that span ...

ACC: 11 titles (13 from current members)
Big East: 7 titles (only 2 from current members)
SEC: 6 titles
Big Ten: 3 titles (4 from current members)
Pac 12: 2 titles
Big 8/Big 12: 2 titles
American: 1 title (4 from current members)
Metro: 1 title (conference disbanded)
Big West: 1 title (0 from current members)
MW:  0 titles (1 from current members)

*The ACC has had four different programs win titles in that time span.

Big East: 5 (Georgetown, Villanova, UConn, Syracuse, Louisville)
ACC: 4 (North Carolina, NC State, Duke, Maryland)
Big Ten: 3 (Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State)
SEC: 3 (Arkansas, Kentucky, Florida)
Pac 12: 2 (UCLA, Arizona)
Big 8/Big 12: 1 (Kansas)
Metro: 1 (Louisville)
American: 1 (UConn)
Big West: 1 (UNLV)

*Under current membership:

ACC: 5 (North Carolina, NC State, Louisville, Duke, Syracuse)
Big Ten: 4 (Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Maryland)
SEC: 3 (Arkansas, Kentucky, Florida)
Big East: 2 (Georgetown, Villanova)
Pac 12: 2 (UCLA, Arizona)
Big 8/Big 12: 1 (Kansas)
American: 1 (UConn)
Mountain West: 1 (UNLV)

*The state of North Carolina trails only California for total NCAA titles ever.

California (15 titles)
North Carolina (12)
Kentucky (11)
Indiana (5)
Connecticut (4)
Ohio, Kansas, Michigan (3)

*Since that 1982 mark

North Carolina (10 titles)
Kentucky (6)
Connecticut (4)
Florida, Kansas, Michigan (2)
Indiana, California, Pennsylvania, New York, Nevada, Arkansas, Arizona, Maryland, District Of Columbia (1)

Monday, April 6, 2015

Imagine If We Did Have The Best 16 Teams In The NBA Playoffs ...

Remember that whole thing about the NBA just ditching the current playoff format and just having the top 16 teams in the playoffs?

Let's see how that would look right now ... as of April 6th.

1-WARRIORS (63-14) vs 16-BUCKS (38-39)
2-HAWKS (57-19) vs 15-SUNS (39-38)
3-ROCKETS (53-24) vs 14-PELICANS (41-35)
4-GRIZZLIES (52-25) vs 13-THUNDER (42-35)
5-CLIPPERS (52-26) vs 12-WIZARDS (44-33)
6-SPURS (51-26) vs 11-RAPTORS (45-32)
7-TRAIL BLAZERS (50-27) vs 10-MAVERICKS (46-31)
8-CAVALIERS (50-27) vs 9-BULLS (46-31)

Here are the main differences.

First off, the Pelicans and Suns would be in the playoffs, while the Nets and Celtics (currently sitting 7th and 8th in the East) would not.  That's a great trade-off.  The Pelicans are a very talented team with a budding super star on their roster.  Phoenix is an exciting team to watch.  The Nets and Celtics have each tried to purge their rosters to shave money and get young talent.  With the shoddy Eastern Conference, you can do that and still make the playoffs!

Next, well look at these matchups.  Cleveland is in an 8-9 series instead of being a No. 2 seed in the current format.  That means they'd get the Bulls in the first round instead of the Nets.  Again, a much better series.  Six of the eight home field advantages would be to Western teams because they are better.  On the flip side, the Warriors would face the Bucks ... and much weaker team than the Thunder they are currently trending to play.  Right now, the Bucks would face the Bulls in the first round.  Think about that!  The Bulls would get the Bucks in the first round, while the NBA's best team ... Golden State ... would have to face the Oklahoma City Thunder?

One interesting thing to look at is the travel.  Here is where the series look as far as distance:

New Orleans to Houston
Cleveland to Chicago
Memphis to Oklahoma City
Milwaukee to Oakland

Toronto to San Antonio
Dallas to Portland
Atlanta to Phoenix

Washington to Los Angeles

Sure, DC to LA is quite a ride ... but that happens in NBA Finals. And look at Dallas-Portland?  That would be a normal Western Conference series.  Imagine a Memphis-Portland series?  Or Minnesota-Los Angeles?



Friday, April 3, 2015

Ten Years Ago: UNC Beats Illinois For National Championship


The NCAA tournament is known for being wild sometimes.  The best team doesn't always win it and the best teams rarely play in the title game.

In 2005, those two teams did.

That Illinois team lost one game all season long, a one-point loss to Ohio State to end the season.  They had the three headed guard monster of Deron Williams, Dee Brown and Luther Head.  North Carolina lost just three games all year long, including a surprising loss to Georgia Tech in the ACC tournament.  They returned the trio of Raymond Felton, Sean May and Rashad McCants, brought in super freshman Marvin Williams (all four would become lottery picks in the same NBA Draft) and several upperclassmen who saw the tough times in Chapel Hill.  The Illini finished No. 1 in the final poll with UNC finishing No. 2.

Monday, March 30, 2015

NCAA Should Pull Events Out Of Indiana

As most of you know by now, the state of Indiana is passing a law that makes it alright for businesses to discriminate against homosexuals if it is part of their religious beliefs.  You may also know that Indianapolis is the site of next weekend's Final Four.  Wonder if that topic will come up?

It should.

The NCAA has to do something.  Right now, the NCAA won't hold postseason events in the states of South Carolina and Mississippi because they still fly the confederate flag (though there has been a big flap about South Carolina hosting NCAA Women's basketball tournament games this year).  The NCAA should look into bans into states that have outright laws that discriminate like this.  I know it could be a slippery slope since this could be extended to states that ban gay marriage or some other forms of discriminatory policies, but it should at least be approached.

Sports can do that.  Remember that the NFL pulled a Super Bowl out of Arizona due to that's states refusal to recognize the Martin Luther King Jr holiday.  The NCAA has already made a stance on the confederate flag.  Those are symbolic things.  This is a reality of lawful discrimination.  The NCAA, which is based in Indianapolis and holds the Final Four there every four or five years, needs to make another statement (well, other than the strong official statement they did make).  

Next year's NCAA women's basketball Final Four will be in Indianapolis.  How can that happen?  Move it somewhere else.  The men's Final Four will be back there in 2021.  Threaten to move that.  No other NCAA sanctioned postseason event should be held there either, and conferences that can, should try to move postseason events away.

Judging what NCAA president Mark Emmert said, "We will work diligently to assure student-athletes competing in, and visitors attending, next week's Men's Final Four in Indianapolis are not impacted negatively by this bill.  Moving forward, we intend to closely examine the implications of this bill and how it might affect future events as well as our workforce."

That is a good first step.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Sportz' NCAA Tournament Recap - Elite 8


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.  This one will take the entire Elite 8 as one day.

GAME OF THE DAY: Kentucky vs Notre Dame. This was sooooo close.  Notre Dame had Kentucky beaten, but the Wildcats made key defensive plays late and smartly went to Karl Anthony-Towns and attacked the rim to squeeze this one out.  While this team may be unbeaten, that doesn't mean they are unbeatable.  With Wisconsin up next and Duke possibly on the horizon, Kentucky will have to earn this one.  Sure, Michigan State-Louisville went to overtime, but everyone will be talking about this game Monday morning.

UPSET OF THE DAY: Michigan State vs Louisville. The only non-No. 1 seed left in the tournament.  Tom Izzo has done a great job with this team over the last two months.  They will be a huge underdog to win this thing, but the fact that the Spartans have ended Virginia, Oklahoma and Louisville's seasons (plus their last loss was a great game to Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game) means they are battle tested.

CONFERENCE OF THE DAY: Big Ten. Despite all my love for the ACC in this spot and the Big 12 all year, it is the much maligned Big Ten with two teams in the Final Four.  Amazing.  Wisconsin seemed pre-ordained to be here, but Michigan State seems like a legacy at this point.

CONFERENCE WITH A BAD DAY: ACC. Notre Dame and Louisville were ousted.  Louisville was the favored seed against Michigan State and were beaten; the Irish had Kentucky on the ropes and just couldn't pull it out.  To have the biggest win of the entire season on your fingertips and letting it slip really hurts. 

DUD OF THE DAY: Duke vs Gonzaga. None of the games sucked, but Duke pulled away late and made this one a bit of a dud.  Many people wanted to see if the Zags were Final Four caliber ... and they were ... they just can't break that wall yet.

DOMINANT PERFORMANCE OF THE DAY: Duke. The Blue Devils went all Duke on Gonzaga late and used all that talent to break off another trip to the Final Four.  Amazing.  While Kentucky may be the team to beat in the Final Four, Duke could be the most talented.

UNDERLYING STORYLINE OF THE DAY: Coaching. While this hasn't been a chalk tournament, it was a pretty well constructed one.  Three of the No. 1 seeds are left and a wildcard No. 7 seed.  But look at the coaches.  Krzyzewski.  Izzo.  Calipari.  Ryan.  All are well versed in Final Four runs.  Only Ryan doesn't have a title.  Six National Championships won by the coaches.  This should be some great chess matches.


Saturday, March 28, 2015

Sportz' NCAA Tournament Recap - Sweet 16, 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: Michigan State vs Oklahoma. It looked like Oklahoma had a hold of this one ... until the Spartans do what they do.  Survive and advance in March.

UPSET OF THE DAY: Michigan State vs Oklahoma. The only true upset in the Sweet 16.  There are some great teams out there, and despite the fact that Mich State is a No. 7 seed, they have the pedigree to be right there in the mix.

CONFERENCE OF THE DAY: ACC. I know I've been riding on the ACC in this spot (and that I'm an ACC guy), but today two teams from the conference won, making three teams in the Elite 8.  Duke and Louisville will be the favored seed in the next round.

CONFERENCE WITH A BAD DAY: Pac 12. Nothing shameful, but UCLA and Utah's seasons ended today.  UCLA took a controversial bid and made a Sweet 16 run while Utah rode their seed out and lost a close game to a talented Duke squad. 

DUD OF THE DAY: Gonzaga vs UCLA. UCLA struggled with their three-point shooting, which is what propelled them in this tournament.  Gonzaga led big and held on for the win.  Every other game had at least some drama.

DOMINANT PERFORMANCE OF THE DAY: Gonzaga. Like I just said, the Zags did what they needed to do to advance.  This could finally be the year that they get to the Final Four.

UNDERLYING STORYLINE OF THE DAY: The muscle moves on. Like yesterday, the big dogs keep winning.  Aside from the East Region, the No. 1 seeds are all still alive.  Two of them will face a No. 2 seed in the Elite 8; one will face a No. 3 seed.


Friday, March 27, 2015

Sportz' NCAA Tournament Recap - Sweet 16, 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: Wisconsin vs North Carolina. This was a high level basketball game.  Both teams played well offensively and it was a back and forth game all night.  North Carolina showed that it can hang with anyone when it gives the proper effort.  Wisconsin showed just how good, poised and experienced they are.  This team can win a championship.

UPSET OF THE DAY: Notre Dame vs Wichita State. There were no true upsets.  In fact, all teams that won tonight have 5 losses or less.  But this game was the lone one where the loser didn't have double-digit losses.  Wichita State is a good team and many wanted to see them get a shot at Kentucky again.  Notre Dame pulled away and kept that from happening.

CONFERENCE OF THE DAY: ACC. Grasping for straws here, but Notre Dame is in their first Elite 8 since 1979.  Yeah, North Carolina lost but they pushed the Big Ten champion to the limit.  The ACC is guaranteed two spots in the Elite 8 with Duke also playing on Friday for a spot.

CONFERENCE WITH A BAD DAY: Big 12. The mighty Big 12 just has one team left (Oklahoma) after West Virginia got spanked.  This hasn't been as banner of tournament for the league as we thought during the season. 

DUD OF THE DAY: Kentucky vs West Virginia. The media really wanted us to believe that the Mountaineers could hang with Kentucky.  Nope.

DOMINANT PERFORMANCE OF THE DAY: Kentucky. The Wildcats just obliterated West Virginia in a way that it wasn't even funny ... and it shut up a lot of the people who were clinging to their bored play in the first weekend.

UNDERLYING STORYLINE OF THE DAY: The muscle moves on. As I mentioned earlier, the top seeds all moved on.  That's what they are supposed to do.  Kentucky, Wisconsin and Arizona all have designs on a National Championship.  They all showed up tonight (though Arizona looked more shaky).  Notre Dame is a wildcard here as this is one heck of a shooting team with an ability to run you around on the defensive end.  Their matchup with Kentucky should be great.


What To Look Forward To: 2015-16 Tar Heels

The entire starting unit should be back for another crack at a Final
Four run in 2015-16.

Mighty Wisconsin ends the North Carolina Tar Heels season in the Sweet 16.  Better than the past two seasons, but not as good as I felt this team was prior to the start of the year.  Of any Carolina team I've seen in a while, this team certainly was in its place.  Essentially, the Heels beat all the teams it was supposed to beat and all 12 of their losses (with the exception to a loss at Pitt) was to a tournament team.

Carolina was the 2nd best rebounding team and the 2nd best assist team in the nation (and 17th in scoring).

So now we look to next year.  Provided no one leaves (I don't see that happening, but you never cough*Bullock McAdoo*cough know.  Brice Johnson would be the leading candidate to leave, but I don't see that happening, especially with his rather pedestrian tournament showing.

STARTERS

MARCUS PAIGE (Sr):  Paige had a down year to his standards.  Still, he is the heart and soul of this team.  He needs to work on being aggressive.  Now, this isn't all his fault.  He needs to have other guys able to create their own shots and hit perimeter shots to help space the floor and keep defenses from solely focusing on him.  If he can have a healthy season, we could see Paige back in the ACC Player Of The Year race.

JUSTIN JACKSON (So):  Jackson had an up-and-down freshman season.  Still, it says a lot that Ol' Roy stuck with him the entire season.  It paid off.  Over the final few weeks of the season, Jackson found his three-point shot and showed a lot more aggressive play.  He still gets lost out there at times, but his little floater should be one of the Heels' go to moves next season.

J.P. TOKOTO (Sr):  Tokoto is one of the most frustrating players.  His defense is really good and he is one of the best passers on the team.  His ability to play point forwards allows Paige to move without the ball.  That's a big deal.  But Tokoto is known for some bone-headed plays.  He'll throw balls away, take bad shots and take dumb fouls.  If he can shore that up, he'll be one of the most important cogs in a possible Final Four run next year.

BRICE JOHNSON (Sr):  Johnson also frustrates, but in a different manner.  He's so talented but sometimes we just don't know he's on the floor.  Some games he looks unstoppable.  He's got an array of ways to get off his shot and he can receive the ball and get it into shooting position faster than anyone in Chapel Hill since Antawn Jamison.  One thing he really needs to work on is his fouling.  He reaches in way to much and doesn't move his feet well on defense.  Essentially, he cheats defensively and it puts him in foul trouble.  He fouled out against Arkansas in the 3rd round and was in foul trouble all game against Wisconsin.  When he gets into a rhythm, he's tough.  But he can't do so when he's not on the floor.  Also, like Paige, he needs to be more aggressive offensively all game long.

KENNEDY MEEKS (Jr):  Meeks had health issues in the postseason (flu, knee sprain) which limited his effectiveness.  He, like Johnson, also has a tendency to foul a lot.  Meeks was a beast at times during the season and then looked ... meek ... at others.  He's an under the rim kind of player, and I'd love to see him be able to get more like Sean May or Tyler Hansbrough where they became decent mid-range shooters.  Also, it seems as if Meeks has a good game, Johnson doesn't.  They need to figure a way to make that work better and if Meeks had a more consistent jumper like Johnson does, it would do a world of good.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Sportz' NCAA Tournament Recap - Round of 32, 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: Wichita State vs Kansas. Just like on Friday, there wasn't a ton of nail-biting upsets today.  However, the feel and fire of the Wichita State-Kansas game was palpable.  A battle of the Sunflower State being played in Omaha, the crowd and both teams were into this.  The fact that the Jayhawks have been ducking the Shockers put a little spice on this one.

UPSET OF THE DAY: Michigan State over Virginia. There were three games where the lower seeded team won, but none of them felt like a true upset.  Sure, Wichita State running Kansas was ... shocking.  And while a lot of people penciled in Michigan State over Virginia here, it still is a pretty big upset.  Michigan State hasn't had their typical Sparty season and Virginia has spent most of the year near the top of the rankings.  For the Spartans to end Virginia's season like this was an upset.

CONFERENCE OF THE DAY: ACC. Sorry for beating a dead horse, but the ACC is now 11-1 in the tournament.  Sure, Virginia lost today, but the league has 5 of the Sweet 16 and, due to NC State and Louisville facing off in the next round, one guaranteed spot in the Elite 8.

CONFERENCE WITH A BAD DAY: Big Ten. The Big Ten split their games today, with Wisconsin and Michigan State winning and Iowa and Maryland losing.  Nothing to be ashamed of here, but they were the one league to have multiple losses.  

DUD OF THE DAY: Duke vs San Diego State. Just not a good game to watch.  Duke had this game in control pretty much the entire way.

DOMINANT PERFORMANCE OF THE DAY: Duke. If Okafor dominates the paint like this and they keep hitting all those shots ... they are scary good.

UNDERLYING STORYLINE OF THE DAY: Great coaching. Just look at the names of some of these coaches in the Sweet 16.  Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams, Rick Pitino, John Calipari, Tom Izzo, Bob Huggins, Bo Ryan, Mark Few, Sean Miller, Lon Kruger and Mike Brey have a combined 10 titles and loads of tournament experience.  Steve Alford, Mark Gottfried, Gregg Marshall, Larry Krystkowiak and Chris Mack aren't slouches, either.  This is a big dog bracket of coaching.