Thursday, April 29, 2010

I (Almost Completely) Love MLB's New All-Star Game Changes


Major League Baseball may have actually done something right! And not just the "right" that comes after the initial skepticism. No, I think it's a good thing right now.

First off, I'm not the biggest fan of the Designated Hitter ... but I've long lobbied that the DH should be implemented in every All Star Game. Not just the ones in AL parks. It's an All-Star Game and having pitchers hit (even though that rarely happens) is ridiculous.

You may say that, well, what really changes? Well, that means we have extra guys who are All-Star starters. It also allows the manager, whose trying to win the game while giving everyone an opportunity to play, and easier time managing his gigantic roster (which got even bigger when MLB decided to add another position player to each team). I feel that there is more of an opportunity to get guys that kind of exposure that they may only get that one time.

Baseball also decided that one position player on each team can be re-inserted if their last position player gets injured. I like where this is heading, but I think it could go further. I would like to see EVERYONE available to be reinserted once ... even if there are no injuries. Think about it: let the voted in All Stars play the first three innings. Then start doing the substitutions in the middle innings so everyone gets an opportunity to play. Then, allow the managers to bring back guys in the 8th and 9th innings. Then we can see Pujols or Howard or Jeter or A-Rod swinging with the game on the line. Too many times in All Star games, the final innings are a little-known Kansas City Royal getting a hit off a little-known Pittsburgh Pirate. Allow the stars to come back into the game.

If ALL is too big for you, how about the top three, four or five guys? That still allows the Pujolses and Howards to be able to swing with the game on the line.

I'd also like to see all pitchers limited to just one inning of work. Get these guys in there so we can see them perform.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Big Ben's Suspension (and Return) Sure Is Convienent For the NFL


I'm still a little shocked that the NFL and Roger Goodell dropped the hammer on Ben Roethlisberger and gave him a six-game suspension. Sure, he could only sit four games if he behaves and does what the Commish wants, but the more I think about it ... the more I think it will stick at six no matter what.

Why? Just look at the schedule.

The six games Big Ben will miss will be against Falcons, Titans, Buccaneers, Ravens, Browns and Dolphins. Some decent teams in that mix along with two divisonal games and a Week 5 bye. But it isn't a huge deal since all of these games will take place at 1:00pm on Sundays.

That means it will be Week 8 when Ben Roethlisberger makes his return. Hmmmm. On Week 8, the Steelers visit the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints on NBC's Sunday Night Football. I wonder if that is a kwinky-dink?

I mean, having Ben make his return on a nationally televised primetime game sure looks like a ratings grab. You know that everyone and their mama will check in on that game just to see Roethlisberger (well, the Saints are pretty good too). And what a relief that Ben's suspension isn't longer so he doesn't miss this game.

Weird that Pittsburgh's first six games are all just 1:00pm games and that the seventh is a Sunday nighter.

Even weirder that the very next weekend, the Steelers visit the defending AFC North champion Cincinnati Bengals ... on ESPN's Monday Night Football. Man! What a strange turn of events!

It gets better. The very next weekend, the Steelers play at home (Ben's first game back in Pittsburgh) against the New England Patriots. Oh, that game is back on NBC's Sunday Night Football.

So Ben's first three games after suspension will all be nationally televised games in primetime. Now, is it me or does it seem as if this was all planned. After all, remember that the NFL delayed the release of the schedule. Remember that it was released the night before the league smacked Roethlisberger with that suspension. Do these things go hand in hand? I think so.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Realign MLB According to Class Status


A while ago, I wrote that MLB should just scrap the divisional format. I still agree with all of that, but if it is just too much for you ... well, you probably won't like this either.

Keep two divisions in two leagues ... but readjust the leagues in a class system.

The problem with baseball is that you have a bunch of haves and a bunch of have-nots. There are 10+ cities in this great nation of ours that go into virtually every season knowing they have no shot at postseason success. And despite the crying that there are small market teams that do find successes now and then, that doesn't compare to the Yankees, Cardinals, Red Sox, Angels and Dodgers knowing that they should be in the playoffs regardless of what happens.

The Florida Marlins or Tampa Bay Rays can't have a dynasty as they could of 20-30 years ago. There would be no Big Red Machine of the 1970s. There would be no Pirates run of NL East titles in the early 1990s. How long would the Bash Brothers last in Oakland nowadays? Of course, those Pirates and Reds teams were broken up quicker than they should have.

So instead of the Commish's plan of floating realignment where teams move divisions depending on their perceived competitiveness, how about just nipping it in the bud and realigning by the resources the teams have.

Make the National League the league of rich teams. Make the American League the league of small-market teams (the reasoning? The NL has been around longer and having "National" tagged to the rich league and "American" tied to the poorer teams seems proper).

NATIONAL LEAGUE
EAST: Braves, Mets, Orioles, Phillies, Red Sox, Tigers, White Sox, Yankees
WEST: Angels, Astros, Cardinals, Cubs, Dodgers, Giants, Mariners, Rangers

AMERICAN LEAGUE
EAST: Blue Jays, Indians, Marlins, Nationals, Pirates, Rays, Reds
WEST: Athletics, Brewers, Diamondbacks, Padres, Rockies, Royals, Twins

The beauty of this is that it can be fluid. Things change. The Mariners are in the rich league because they have Nintendo backing them. What if Nintendo starts a rapid decline? Or what if they just sell the team to a group that doesn't have anywhere near those kinds of resources? Things change. The Minnesota Twins were the epitome of a small market team. Well, they just popped open Target Field which will bring in a bunch of new revenue. You can float these teams across leagues if it seems as if the rich get poorer and someone goes from rags to riches.

Now, this doesn't mean that one of the American League teams cannot overspend for talent. Remember how the Diamondbacks and Marlins both exploded their payrolls in order to get to ... and ultimately win ... the World Series? Those were one-year fixes that paid off. With all the poor teams lumped together to compete, it will empower some of these teams to go for it and break their ceiling. Those teams are a bit more reluctant to do that now because they don't feel as if they have a shot to compete with the big dogs.

Sure, it will lead us to a World Series where we have a rich team against a "poor" team. So? We had the Phillies-Rays of a couple years ago. We had the Red Sox-Rockies. We had the Marlins-Yankees, D'backs-Yankees, Yankees-Padres, Marlins-Indians, Blue Jays-Phillies, Blue Jays-Braves and ... gasp ... two lower level teams with the Reds-A's. It's baseball where anything can happen. The wealthy Yankees can take on an upstart Marlins team and lose in the World Series.

The rich teams will like this because you can take the revenue sharing part out of the equation. Why should they put money back in to help the smaller market teams when they have their own league? Sure, the competition will be rabid in that National League, but that's good for all of us and keeps franchises from just writing checks to get into the postseason.

The poor teams will like this because, obviously, it gives them a better shot at winning something. There are no excuses, like "we can't compete with those large market teams".

Thursday, April 22, 2010

THANK YOU NCAA FOR SEEING THE LIGHT!

The NCAA is recommending expanding the NCAA Tournament to .... wait for it ... 68 teams. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

I love it. I've been all for expanding the tournament to 68 teams. You can have the bottom eight teams battle in out in a day long event in Dayton with those teams being the #16 and #15 seeds.

And, even better, the NCAA is signing on with CBS and Turner Sports to a 14-year deal that will ensure EVERY NCAA TOURNAMENT GAME WILL BE TELEVISED! Not as big a deal for me since I've used DirecTV's Mega March Madness for the last seven or so years. It will save me just under $100 though.

Thank you NCAA for actually showing some restraint and having some sense not to screw up out beloved tournament.

Big Ben's Punishment Is Harsh, But Stars Do Deserve the "Star Treatment"


I must admit that I was shocked to hear that the NFL suspended Ben Roethlisberger for six games. I knew and expected for him to get suspended, but I was looking at the two-to-four game range. That six gamer is quite a sting.

Now, some people think that's too much. I don't. Some people think that the NFL is making an example of Big Ben. I agree with those people ... and the NFL.

Jimmy Johnson used to always say that you don't treat every player equally. Some guys deserve the "star treatment" because of what the offer to your team. He wouldn't treat his backup center the same way as he treated Emmitt Smith or Michael Irvin. I'm fine with that.

That being said, with great power comes great responsibility. The bigger they are, the harder they fall. Fill in your own cliche.

The NFL's conduct policy has nothing to do with if you are charged with a crime or not. It is about bringing bad press to the league. Roethlisberger certainly did that. And since he is one of the faces of the NFL, his damage is greater.

Is it fair? That's hard to answer. If some backup center had this happen instead of Big Ben, he may not get that big of a punishment. But Roethlisberger's name holds more weight than most of the league. He's one of the guys the NFL loves putting out there as being tough, great QB and a winner. He's nearly in the level that Peyton Manning and Tom Brady enjoy. If Tiger Woods played in the NFL, Roger Goodell would smack him with a similar punishment.

I liken it to the NBA. In a matter of a couple of years, we had Kobe Bryant accused of sexual assault ... just after Ruben Patterson was (and later convicted of attempted rape). Now, which one do you remember? Which one held more media coverage? Kobe, by a landslide in both cases. The star's reach is greater, so his punishment should be too.

NFL Draft Isn't My Cup Of Tea


Yes, I'm the Sportz Assassin. Yes, I've been a diehard Redskins fan for nearly three decades. Yes, I'm very interested in who Washington picks with the No. 4 pick in the draft.

Other than that, I just don't care about the NFL Draft. It isn't for me.

I'm not one of those people who sets aside that weekend to watch the entire draft. I'm not one of those people who participate in mock drafts. I'm not one of those people who watch the combines or cares about draftees stock. I don't care about Mel Kiper Jr or Todd McShay. I don't.

I don't care to sit and watch an overblown production about the selection of players ... many of which I wouldn't know their names heading in. I follow and watch college football, but I'm not as big a diehard as I am the NFL. I don't care to sit and watch three days of drafting where ... on Day 1 ... when Kiper and McShay keep talking about certain player dropping or how some team is stupid for reaching for a guy. They, like everyone, cannot predict either the draft or the careers of those drafted.

Then I can't stand for the rounds past the first two. Because, you may as well not even televise it since ESPN won't even acknowledge those players. Oh, they will for guys they've earmarked as great stories or notable college players, but the last 150+ guys will get not love despite the chance that one or more of them will explode into impact players (I bet that Marques Coltson's name was just a blip on the crawl when he was drafted). And I HATE the length of time between picks.

Now, that's not to say I won't keep an eye on it. I'll check my phone periodically to see where certain guys may go. And, sure, I'm interested to see where Tim Tebow goes despite not being in love with him as other football fans are.

Give me the NBA Draft. It moves at a great pace, the draft lasts one night, I'm much more familiar with the players and those guys could have more of an impact on their teams off the bat. The NFL Draft is okay, but it's not my cup of tea.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Will the Big Ten's Expansion Lead Us Into the SuperConference Era?

With the Big Ten looking to expand, the theory that we will soon have a bunch of superconferences is starting to gain traction. I'm not sure that it will get to this any time soon, but it is an interesting concept.

The school of thought is that the Big Ten will loot the Big XII and Big East to get to 16 teams ... which will open those conferences up to get looted by the ACC, SEC and Pac-10.

ATLANTIC COAST CONFERENCE (16 teams)
NORTH: Boston College, Cincinnati, Louisville, Maryland, Syracuse, Virginia, Virginia Tech, West Virginia
SOUTH: Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Miami, NC State, North Carolina, Wake Forest

BIG TEN (16 teams)
EAST: Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Purdue, UConn
WEST: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Northwestern, Wisconsin

PAC-10 CONFERENCE (16 teams)
EAST: Arizona, Arizona State, Baylor, Colorado, Kansas, Kansas State, Texas Tech, Utah
WEST: Cal, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Washington, Washington State

SOUTHEASTERN (16 teams)
EAST: Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vanderbilt
WEST: Arkansas, LSU, Mississippi, Miss State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas A&M

The biggest losers are obviously the Big XII and Big East which will pretty much not exist. In that, the individual losers would be Iowa State, Rutgers and South Florida ... as well as the basketball-only schools of the Big East. Those three schools are left out of any realignment and will most likely have to go fishing in a smaller than BCS conference.

So I have those three globbing on to the Conference USA ... along with Charlotte ... to form their own 16-team league. Charlotte is planning to have a football program in a couple of years and should be ready to step in when all this breaks open.

CONFERENCE USA (16 teams)
EAST: Central Florida, Charlotte, East Carolina, Marshall, Rutgers, South Florida, Southern Miss, UAB
WEST: Houston, Iowa State, Memphis, Rice, SMU, Tulane, Tulsa, UTEP

Then, let's just merge the Mountain West and WAC together (sans Idaho).

MOUNTAIN WEST/WAC (16 teams)
EAST: Air Force, Boise State, Colorado State, Louisiana Tech, New Mexico, New Mexico State, TCU, Wyoming
WEST: BYU, Fresno State, Hawaii, Nevada, San Diego State, San Jose State, UNLV, Utah State

BIG EAST (basketball only)
DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall, St. John's, Villanova

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

UConn to Big Ten? Colorado and Utah to Pac-10?

It may be starting very, very, very soon.

The Big Ten is looking to get that 12th team that will allow them to hold a college football championship game ... and getting in that New York market is also on their minds. I was listening to Colin Cowherd's radio show today when he mentioned a rumor that I've been backing for years: The Big Ten is going after UConn.

It makes sense on many levels. UConn is heavily covered by the New York media AND the New England media. You'd inherit a football program that is highly competitive and gets to bowl games. You'd inherit a hoops program that has won two National Championships in the last 12 years. You'd inherit a women's basketball team that is THE elite program in the nation. It's a great school that will help get the conference into the door for Pittsburgh, Syracuse or Rutgers if they wanted to down the road.

Adding UConn to the mix is huge. That would mean that the Pac-10 would have to make their own move. Cowherd mentioned that Utah would be a lock to join (I agree) and Colorado would most likely jump over as well (I said BYU, but getting the Denver market would be huge for the Pac-10).

A new-look Big Ten could look like this:
EAST: Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, UConn
WEST: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Northwestern, Wisconsin

A new-look Pac-10 could look like this:
NORTH: Colorado, Oregon, Oregon State, Utah, Washington, Washington State
SOUTH: Arizona, Arizona State, California, Stanford, UCLA, USC

Of course, the Big XII and Mountain West Conferences will be short a member. Well, that's kind of simple. The Big XII would love to add TCU or Arkansas to their ranks. The Mountain West (maybe needing to replace TCU as well as Utah) could go after Boise State and Fresno State ... or maybe look at adding another Texas school like UTEP.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Edwin Valero Found Dead In His Cell


Another boxing story that ends in horror. Edwin Valero was found dead in his Venezuelan jail cell, hours after being put there in suspicion of his wife's murder. He reportedly used his own clothes to hang himself.

Valero is a former Super Featherweight champion (who lost his title when he moved up to Lightweight) who sported a 27-0 record ... all by knockouts (including 19 in the first round). He was in line to face Manny Pacquiao at some point in the future.

But the man had his demons. He was in a motorcycle accident in 2001 that nearly ended his professional career before it got started. Due to the damage sustained in the accident, he found it hard to get his fights sanctioned. He also had a couple of assault charges on his record, but got out of them when the alleged victims (his sister, mother and wife) said that nothing happened.

Then this. Valero's wife was found dead in a Venezuelan hotel with Valero admitting that he was the killer. Hours later, he is dead.

This comes after Arturo Gatti's death was controvercially ruled a suicide, Alexis Arguello comitted suicide and Vernon Forrest murdered during a robbery in Atlanta.

Valero was 28 years old.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Theme Song, "Marlins Will Soar", Sucks Balls



This may be the worst song in the history of songs ... and it definitely is the worst song among any that is used as a sports team's theme.

Scott Stapp, the lead singer of Creed, is the one moaning on this song.

Here are the horrible lyrics:

Let's play ball, it's game day
We watch strikeouts, base hits, double plays
Take the field, hear the roar of the crowd
Come on Marlins, make us proud
Come on Marlins, make us proud

Keep hoping and dreaming and you will soar
With a little faith and luck, you will soar
One strike, two strikes, swing awayA diving catch, a stolen base
A perfect game, a triple play
A [undistinguishable] play of praise
We're series champs, we [crack of bat?]

Keep hoping and dreaming and you will soar
With a little faith and luck, you will soar
Keep hoping and dreaming and you will soar
With a little faith and luck, you will soar

Hat tip: Miami NewTimes

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Sportz' NBA First Round Predictions

CAVALIERS OVER BULLS (4 games): This one won't be close. Cleveland will roll through this series.

MAGIC OVER BOBCATS (5 games): I think Charlotte will make this tough for Orlando -- they match up very well. But they are a horrible road team and I don't see them winning more than one game at home. Orlando gets through.

HAWKS OVER BUCKS (6 games): This will be an interesting matchup and I only wish Andrew Bogut would be suiting up for Milwaukee. The Bucks work their butts off while the Hawks can be lazy. Atlanta has much more talent, but Milwaukee will bite them when they least expect. Still, the Hawks make it through.

CELTICS OVER HEAT (7 games): Boston is old. Very old. But I can't get behind the Miami bandwagon. The Heat still are Dwayne Wade and a bunch of other guys. I don't see him being able to win this series all by himself.

LAKERS OVER THUNDER (5 games): I can see this going six since the Lakers have the tendency to lose focus. But I think the vast gap in experience gets LA through rather easily.

MAVERICKS OVER SPURS (6 games): I haven't been big on San Antonio all year long ... and now they have to face what may be the West's best team since the All Star Break. I love Dallas this year.

SUNS OVER BLAZERS (5 games): Phoenix is play so well right now and Portland may not have Brandon Roy. It's just too much for the Blazers to overcome.

NUGGETS OVER JAZZ (7 games): Best series of the first round, by far. Both play in rabid arenas that are oh-so tough to win in. Denver has more talent, but they haven't really harnessed it. Maybe ... just maybe ... the stuff that George Karl is going through can rally the troops together and fight for a key second round series with the Lakers.

Who's Better? '09 UNC vs '10 Duke


The title of NCAA Basketball Champion moved eight miles down the road from Chapel Hill to Durham, NC. Since I was watching "Battle on Tobacco Road" on HBO last week, it got me thinking ... which of these championship teams was better?

Back when this happened before (Duke won in '91 and '92; UNC won in '93), it was obvious who the better team was. Those Duke title teams are among the best of the last 40 years. But what about this time?

We saw these two play each other twice in 2009. UNC was, obviously, at their championship form. Duke was a year off but had mostly the same personnel that they had this year.

POINT GUARD: TY LAWSON (UNC) VS JON SCHEYER (DUKE): This is an interesting battle. Lawson is the better player, but the two play such different styles. Scheyer figured out how to use his height against smaller defenders. Neither turns the ball over and both have complete control over their teams. I just can't get out of my head those two matchups in 2009 when Lawson routinely went around Scheyer for layups. Advantage: UNC

SHOOTING GUARD: WAYNE ELLINGTON (UNC) VS NOLAN SMITH (DUKE): This is probably the most even matchup and hardest to use the past to help determine the outcome. Nolan Smith vaulted his game this season with a Ellington-esque kind of game. Ellington was the better shooter but Smith brings more to the table. It's hard to go against Ellington, who was as hot as you could get in the second half of '09, but Smith brings a little more to the table with his defense, athleticism and ball handling skills. Advantage: Duke

SMALL FORWARD: DANNY GREEN (UNC) VS KYLE SINGLER (DUKE): Great matchup. Both guys do a variety of things for his team. But Singler is much better. Green was a glue guy; Singler is a go-to guy. Advantage: Duke

POWER FORWARD: TYLER HANSBROUGH (UNC) VS LANCE THOMAS (DUKE): This one isn't close for me. For three years, Hansbrough roughed up Thomas. Yeah, Thomas stepped it up this year (part of that was a move to power forward), but he's no where in Psycho T's league. Advantage: UNC

CENTER: DEON THOMPSON (UNC) VS BRIAN ZOUBEK (DUKE): This is the weakest of the matchups. Thompson is a big man who like turn around jumpers. Zoubek is basically a big road block in the lane. Thompson was more of a part of the Carolina offense (Zoubek's offensive contributions are setting picks and getting offensive boards). In a close one, I'm taking Thompson. Advantage: UNC

BENCH: ED DAVIS, BOBBY FRASOR, LARRY DREW (UNC) VS MASON PLUMLEE, MILES PLUMLEE, ANDRE DAWKINS (DUKE): I like what North Carolina offers here. Both have two freshmen in the mix. Ed Davis was a man-child in the 2009 Final Four and the senior Frasor offered experience and poise. The Plumlees offered aggressiveness, but lacked a bit on the scoring side of things. Both Drew and Dawkins were a bit over their heads in their frosh seasons. I'm giving this to Carolina. Advantage: UNC

COACH: ROY WILLIAMS (UNC) VS MIKE KRZYZEWSKI (DUKE): Both Hall of Famers and you don't lose with either of them. But Coach K does have the same amount of championships (four) as Williams and Dean Smith do ... combined. Advantage: Duke.

OUTCOME: This game would be great. The Tar Heels' offensive superiority could be slowed a bit by Duke's defense. Duke's offense could cause trouble for UNC's sometimes-there-sometimes-not defense. But UNC has the star power and four guys who can kill you. All four are now in the NBA (of Duke's roster right now, only Singler looks like a NBAer). I'll pick North Carolina over Duke, 79-73

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Jerry Jones Gone Wild: Drunk Jerrah Rips Parcells, Tebow



Awesome. A drunk Jerry Jones spits bad about Bill Parcells, Tim Tebow and how he got his [explitive] new stadium. You just gotta love Jones.

The thing is, you know you gotta think before you talk, Jerrah. I know he's 70 years old with a face of a 10-year old, but you have to remember that we live in a cell phone age where everything you say in public (or private) could end up on the internet.

[NSFW]

Monday, April 12, 2010

Looking Back at My Pre-Season NBA Predictions

I know the season isn't over yet, but I like looking back at my picks.

ATLANTIC DIVISION: 1-Celtics, 2-Sixers, 3-Raptors, 4-Knicks, 5-Nets.
I feel good about everything here ... except my pick of Philly as a team on the rise.

SOUTHEAST DIVISION: 1-Magic, 2-Wizards, 3-Hawks, 4-Heat, 5-Bobcats.
The bottom fell out in Washington, while I was right about everything else (provided you dropped the Wiz to the bottom).

CENTRAL DIVISION: 1-Cavaliers, 2-Bulls, 3-Pistons, 4-Pacers, 5-Bucks.
Milwaukee shocked everyone by making their strong playoff push. From there, I did pretty good predicting the order of everyone else.

SOUTHWEST DIVISION: 1-Spurs, 2-Mavericks, 3-Hornets, 4-Rockets, 5-Grizzlies
Despite my gut feeling, I listened to the experts and picked San Antonio at the top. Dallas' big trade vaulted them to division champs. Both the Rockets and Grizzlies made excellent steps this year ... while N'Awlins fell off the face of the map.

NORTHWEST DIVISION: 1-Nuggets, 2-Blazers, 3-Jazz, 4-Thunder, 5-Wolves
The Nuggets and Jazz are still fighting over the division title with the Blazers fall just short. Oklahoma City finished 4th, but with a playoff berth. Minnesota stunk, as well all thought.

PACIFIC DIVISION: 1-Lakers, 2-Suns, 3-Clippers, 4-Warriors, 5-Kings
The Lakers weren't as dominant as we all thought. My faith in the Suns paid off with a 2nd place finish. Actually, I picked this division nearly perfect (G-State and Sacto are fighting for the bottom spot).

Now let's look at my other predictions:

EASTERN CONFERENCE PLAYOFF TEAMS: 1-Cavaliers, 2-Celtics, 3-Orlando, 4-Washington, 5-Atlanta, 6-Philadelphia, 7-Chicago, 8-Miami.

Swap Orlando and Boston, knock the Wiz and Sixers out of there and add the surprising Bobcats and Bucks.

WESTERN CONFERENCE PLAYOFF TEAMS: 1-Lakers, 2-Nuggets, 3-Spurs, 4-Blazers, 5-Mavericks, 6-Hornets, 7-Jazz, 8-Suns

Well, we are in the last week and we still don't know where these cats will finish. Well, I was right about 7 of the 8 teams. I missed on the Thunder (I picked the Hornets).

Looking Back at My Pre-Season NHL Predictions

Back in October, I gave my NHL Season Predictions. Since I don't mind going back and looking at my mistakes, let's have some fun ripping apart my predictions.

NORTHEAST: 1-Bruins*, 2-Canadians*, 3-Sabres*, 4-Senators, 5-Maple Leafs
It was easy to know that Toronto was going to suck. The Sens did much better than I predicted. I got the Bruins, Canadiens and Sabres right as playoff teams ... though I overestimated Boston.

ATLANTIC: 1-Penguins*, 2-Flyers*, 3-Devils*, 4-Rangers, 5-Islanders
The Devils squeaked by the Pens to win the division. I do feel good that I got the right three playoff teams in ... with the Rangers and Islanders picked correctly.

SOUTHEAST: 1-Capitals*, 2-Hurricanes*, 3-Panthers, 4-Thrashers, 5-Lightning
Duh. The Caps were easy. I did blow it on the Hurricanes (the only playoff team in the East that I predicted that didn't make it).

CENTRAL: 1-Red Wings*, 2-Blackhawks*, 3-Blues*, 4-Blue Jackets, 5-Predators
The Red Wings fell short of the division title, though they and the Hawks did make the playoffs. I blew it on the Preds and Blues.

NORTHWEST: 1-Canucks*, 2-Flames*, 3-Wild*, 4-Oilers, 5-Avalanche
Another blown pick with the Aves in last place and the Flames and Wild in the playoffs. I did nail Vancouver as division champs.

PACIFIC: 1-Ducks*, 2-Sharks*, 3-Stars, 4-Kings, 5-Coyotes
Yikes. Anaheim underperformed while San Jose shot to the top of the Western standings. The Kings and Coyotes surprised me by getting to the playoffs.

So let's see. I was 7 of 8 in the Eastern Conference. I was just 4 of 8 in the Western Conference ... and all three teams that I picked to finish last in their respective divisions went on to the postseason.

Sportz' NHL First Round Predictions

CAPITALS OVER CANADIENS (5 games): The Caps are the most dominating team in the league this year. Montreal did play them tough this season, splitting the four meetings.

FLYERS OVER DEVILS (7 games): My upset special. Philly put the wood on Jersey this year, winning 5 of their 6 contests.

BRUINS OVER SABRES (6 games): Another upset special. Don't know why ... just going with it.

PENGUINS OVER SENATORS (5 games): The defending champs against a franchise that never seems to play well during the postseason. Easy pick.

SHARKS OVER AVALANCHE (5 games): Another franchise that doesn't play well when they are seeded high in the postseason. I'm bucking the trend and thinking they can get to the Stanley Cup Finals.

BLACKHAWKS OVER PREDATORS (5 games): Love the Blackhawks, too.

CANUCKS OVER KINGS (7 games): I love this series and think it should go the distance.

RED WINGS OVER COYOTES (6 games): Magical season for the Yotes, especially with all that happened in the offseason. But Detroit is rolling right now and a dangerous team.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Stop Tiger-ing the Masters!!!!


I get it! I get it! Tiger Woods is playing in the Masters! Yippee!

I get it if those entertainment shows and non-sports media outlets are latching on to the Tiger Story since that's the lone reason they are there. But, c'mon ESPN! Whenever I go to their website on my phone, it's giving you a hole-by-hole update of what Tiger is doing. Isn't it amazing! Isn't it awesome! Every step he takes, every move he makes we are watching him.

The shame of it is that it is taking away from the rest of the Masters. This isn't entirely Tiger's fault (well, the the scandal and the fact that he chose Augusta to make his comeback is), but I've grown more sick of him NOW then I ever did while this was all coming out.

Yeah, I've seen Tiger's commercial 50 times already ... and zero times as an actual commercial. I have watched a total of zero minutes of the Masters because I just can't deal with it. I admit that Tiger's place on the leaderboard is quite impressive and news-worthy ... but you got to praise the guys actually leading the tournament. A tournament that is more Tiger-centric than any.

Again, I get it that you have to pimp the best players in the sport, but show the love to the guys that are actually winning the event.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

If Hornets Ownership Changes, Could Charlotte Get Name Back?


Last night, the Charlotte Bobcats went into New Orleans to face the Hornets. They came out with a win along with clinching their first postseason berth in the young franchise's history.

It was also fitting that they clinched as this may have been the final Bobcats-Hornets game with George Shinn as the owner in N'Awlins. It is being reported that Shinn has a deal in place to sell the team to local interests. Remember, it was Shinn who moved the Hornets from Charlotte to New Orleans.

If Shinn sells the team, how feasable is it for Charlotte to actually acquire the "Hornets" name back? If that could happen, it may bring back a resurgence of love back to the city.

For those non-Charlotteans, Shinn was a god in Charlotte in the late 1980s. He brought the NBA to town ... a burgeoning city with its first major pro sports franchise. The city was in love with this team as they led the league in attendance nearly every year for the first decade. The franchise ushered the color teal to the sports world ... as well as pinstripes to the NBA.

Then came the not-so-great times. Charlotte never had a bad season, but they never ascended to the Eastern Conference elite despite having an outstanding young corps of players. Larry Johnson, Alonzo Mourning, Kendall Gill, Muggsy Bogues, Johnny Newman and Dell Curry led the franchise to their first postseason -- which included eliminating the Boston Celtics in the first round. It was an exciting time. Well, except that they never got further. Shinn's cheap ways led to the franchise rotating stars to keep from paying them.

Shinn did pay Larry Johnson, the face of the franchise who was the first Hornet to be a national star. Then LJ hurt his back and wasn't the same player. That led to various trades, such as dealing LJ to the Knicks (basically for Anthony Mason), Zo to the Heat (basically for Glen Rice) and Gill to Seattle. They got decent players in return, but those guys turned into other players. Rice would be traded to the Lakers for Eddie Jones. Jones would be dealt to Miami for Jamaal Mashburn. Oh, and they also drafted and traded Kobe Bryant. Free agents froze out Charlotte as they weren't known as good spenders.

You must also factor in the Carolina Panthers factor. The Hornets were the only game in town when they ruled the roost. But the Panthers arrival in 1995 (and inprobably playoff run in 1996) made Charlotte an NFL crazy city and pushed the Hornets off the front page.

Shinn also had legal problems away from the court and fled to South Carolina. From that point on, he was more of an absentee owner. He refused to sell part of the team to North Carolina legend Michael Jordan because Shinn wanted total control of the franchise (MJ wanted basketball control). He would then sell part of the team to a swarmy Ray Woolridge who suddenly became the voice of the franchise.

From there, it got worse. Shinn demanded that Charlotte build him a new arena with all the luxury perks of many of the newer NBA arenas. At no cost to him. The city said no as the Charlotte Coliseum was less than 15 years old and was basically given to Shinn to use at his will. The city said they would build the arena, only if Shinn sold the team. So Shinn took his circus on to New Orleans and the NBA promising to put an expansion franchise back in Charlotte.

That's where the NBA gets sticky with Charlotte. The Bobcats still haven't been embraced by the city. Many people are still upset by the Hornets leaving and just can't get into a new team. Others have been turned off by the Bobcats' ownership's lack of linking the team to the community (something Shinn did well) and naming the franchise after himself.

That all may be changing. The Bobcats are in the playoffs for the first time ever and is finally getting some national love. Michael Jordan recently bought the franchise from Bob Johnson and is very open to a name change. How about "Hornets"?

Could it happen? Not likely. While Charlotte still identifies with the old Hornets, New Orleans identify with the new Hornets. Sure, the Cleveland Browns got to keep their name, logo and all of that when that franchise left ... just as Seattle got to keep the SuperSonics name, logo and all of that when they lost the team to Oklahoma City. But Charlotte got no such deal from the NBA about the Hornets, so everything left with the franchise to New Orleans.

Even though I wasn't a true blue Hornets fan (I was a Lakers fan before the Hornets arrived), I still feel pride from them because they represented my city. When they left, it hurt. I would attend Hornets games all the time (especially the one time a year when the Hornets came to town). To not have that past as part of the city sucks.

So hopefully a new precedent can be set and somehow we can get the Charlotte Hornets back in Charlotte again.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Oliver Purnell Leaving Clemson For DePaul?

Sit down, Clemson fans. You were just shown your place again. Head basketball coach Oliver Purnell is leaving you for DePaul.

DePaul just wrapped up an 8-23 season where they were 1-17 in Big East play. In 2008-2009, DePaul went 9-24 and 0-18 in conference play. Since joining the conference, the Blue Demons have been pitiful.

This was once a proud program that housed NBA talent. Now it is way down the ladder of sports lovers in the Chicago area since the White Sox, Cubs, Bulls, Bears and Blackhawks take the top spots.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Please Don't Even THINK About Expanding the Women's Tournament


Now that the NCAA has all but decided they are expanding the basketball tournament to 96 teams, there are rumors swirling that they are looking at the women's tournament now (nothing is on the horizon, but the NCAA is looking into it).

Please don't.

First off, are there 96 teams worthy of getting into the tournament? In the 2010 women's tournament, only four of the 32 opening round games were won by the worse-seeded team. Only four upsets. Four.

And in some of the wins, there were nice margins of victory. UConn won by 56 points. Nebraska won by 39. Iowa State won by 37. Duke won by 35. Ohio State won by 34. Tennessee won by 33. Stanford won by 32. Texas A&M won by 31. Notre Dame won by 28. Do we really need to add more teams to this slaughter?

It isn't just the first round. The second round saw 9 of the 16 games decided by double digits. Half of the Sweet 16 games were decided by at least 10 points. Even the Elite Eight saw a 20-point win by Oklahoma and a 40-point win by UConn.

Here's another reason the women's tournament shouldn't expand: nobody may care about it anymore. With the men's tournament up for bids, ESPN/ABC could take on the lucrative property. With the scheduling plans for that tournament, there certainly is no room on the network for the women's tournament. ESPN/ABC will use all its resources to attempt to program every single men's tournament game on ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPNClassic, ESPN News, ESPN+, ESPN3 and the ESPN Alternative channels.

And, sorry, I don't see a major network taking it on. The event would most likely end up on either Versus or the host of women's-based networks (Lifetime, Oxygen, We). No matter where they go, they won't get the advertising splash that ESPN gave them and, to be sure, a lot less people will be watching. Then the women's game will be treated by ESPN similar to the NHL -- we used to care when we had the rights to televise it but it isn't worth our time anymore.

And that happens even if the women's tournament doesn't expand.

So, it's stupid. But then again so is the 96-team men's bracket and we all know how that turned out.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Rebuttal: A 96-Team Tournament Would SUCK!


Let me say that I love reading fellow Yardbarker Jake's Take On Sports. As a YB editor, it's one of my go to blogs to look for content. So it saddens me to say that I completely disagree with his post that the new 96-team NCAA format "will be great".

Let's see where I disagree.

Traditionalists – which means all coaches and most basketball journalists – despise change. Not me. College basketball fans have had to deal with all kinds of change. From the shot clock (which was wanted) to the three-point line to the change from gyms to grand arenas to the massive conference realignments to the one-and-dones, college hoops has always had change and it's usually gone over pretty well.

Second of all, of course it’s purely a financial move, so just join the 21st century of Division I sports and stop being na├»ve. Very true and every sports fan certainly understands that. However, the NCAA sells itself as being a morally high body that cares about the student part of student-athlete. That's hilarious! The same NCAA that doesn't want a playoff system because it removes kids from class now doesn't mind that kids would be missing more class in an expanded NCAA tournament. In the proposed second week of games, schools could be playing on Tuesday through Sunday. That coming after a full weekend of games. So a team playing in the first round could play Friday and Sunday in their pod region ... then the Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday games in the regional sites.

Whatever. But don't show me those ads telling me that 90% of student-athletes go pro in something other than sports. And don't give me that garbage about keeping the BCS because a playoff system would keep kids out of class. I guess the NCAA realizes that the teams that would be playing deep in the tournament have guys on their teams that have already stopped going to class.

Third, more than half of the schools with Division I football programs go to bowl games, but a 96-team basketball tournament would include less than a third of the Division I basketball schools (about 28.74 percent for the statistical sticklers). Interesting, but here is my problem with that logic. There are only about 117 college basketball schools that would be considered in the "major" category ... and that's if I'm considering the A-10, C-USA, Mountain West and WAC as major. Of those 96 bids, about 64 of them will go to teams in the major conferences. That means 55% of the "majors" would be in the tournament, with the rest of the bids going out to the 21 other conferences.

Using the logic people are using about the extra teams in the tournament -- adding in the 32-team N.I.T. field -- then you'd have this:

ACC: 9 of 12 teams in the dance
A-10: 5 of 14 teams
Big 12: 8 of 12 teams
Big East: 13 of 16 teams
Big Ten: 7 of 11 teams
C USA: 5 of 12 teams
MWC: 4 or 9 teams
Pac 10: 3 of 10 teams
SEC: 6 of 12 teams
WAC: 3 of 9

So out of those 10 conferences, 63 of the 96 bids fall here. That's 63 of 117 teams (54%). Now, just factor in just the "Big Six" conferences (ACC, Big East, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 10, SEC). There are 73 schools in those six conferences. According to the data, 46 of them get into the dance. That's 63%! So, essentially, the big dogs have a 2/3 shot at getting into the tournament every year. That's worse than college football or any of the professional sports.

The top 32 teams would play just as many games to win a national championship as they do now. Yes, but the quality of the games would change. Sure, from a fan's perspective, seeing Kentucky have to play Rhode Island in the first round would be more fun than watching them beat up on East Tennessee State. But is that fair to Kentucky? Sure, in a seven-game series, Kentucky would easily dismiss Little Rhody. But in a single elimination game ... that's tough.

Then factor in this: if the No. 9 thru 24 seeds battle in the first round ... you know that a top team is going to get screwed. Kentucky would play the winner of the matchup between the 16th and 17th seeds. Well, what if a No. 22 team beats a No. 11 seed? Kentucky may be looking at a much better team in their first game than a team seeded 6th. That's ridiculous and makes the regular season, conference tournaments and the entire seeding process a complete joke. What's the incentive of getting a No. 1 seed when you could have a much tougher opponent that teams seeded behind you. That is stupid!

Well, Minnesota received the worst seed of any at-large team this year, and it was a No. 11. Sorry, but this is wrong. UTEP was an at-large team and a 12th seed. Utah State was an at-large team who got a 12th seed, too.

The opening weekend would involve 32 first-round games among the 64 teams that don’t receive byes. That could be squeezed into two days, most likely a Saturday or a Sunday, with 16 games each day, but it could be spread out over four days, Thursday through Sunday, with eight games each day. Um, no. The NCAA wants to cram a 96-team field into the same three-week time frame they enjoy now. So they are going to jam another 31 games in there somewhere.

Right now the plan is to have the first round games (the 64 teams who didn't get byes) into the first Thursday and Friday. The winners will then play a team that received a first round bye in the Round of 64 on Saturday and Sunday. The plan after that is to have the Round of 32 played on Tuesday and Wednesday of the next week ... with the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 on their current schedule of Thursday through Sunday. That most likely means that the third, fourth and fifth rounds of the tournament will be held at the regional sites.

Hold it right there, professor. So that means that the teams who get a first round bye would travel all the way to those pod sites to play just one game? What is that? What fan would go all the way to a pod site to see their team play in just one game when they'll have to turn around and go to another site?

More competitive first-round games. Maybe, but most of them would not be very thrilling. How were those NIT games you watched this year? What? You didn't watch any? Hmm. Seeing a bunch of bubble teams facing off against the low majors isn't really more exciting than the first round games now.

Oh, and think about this: we get more "competitive" first round games but we'll get less competitive regular season games. Follow me. Why would, say, North Carolina bother scheduling Michigan State, Kentucky, Syracuse, Ohio State and Texas (they played all of them this past season) right now? Sure, it bolsters their RPI and helps get them in the tournament. With a 96-team tournament, why would North Carolina bother with that brutal of a schedule? They would be better off putting a few more cupcakes on their schedule to finish with an 18-14 mark instead of the 16-16 record they ended up with. And UNC knows that 18-14 would certainly get them in a 96-team tournament. So no more UNC-Kentucky. We'll see more UNC-Eastern Kentucky.

How do I know this? Because of Virginia Tech. The Hokies did not make the NCAA Tournament due to their crappy non-conference schedule. In the 96-team format, they'd be in. So my point is completely validated right there. We will have a ton of bad non-conference games in the regular season that many fans won't even bother caring until conference play starts in January.

Oh, and how fun will those "more competitive" first round games be if nobody is watching. As I said before, how many NIT games did you watch this year? Well, the first round of the NCAA Tournament in a 96-team format will be a lot worse. More mid-to-small majors will be in those games and we will be left with crap.

Now, how many fans will actually show up to these games? If you paid any attention, you'd know that many of the pod sites for the first and second rounds were far from sell-outs. There were tons of empty seats in most of the arenas. Now, do you think fans are going to shell out a ton of money to see their team play one game? Kentucky was in New Orleans in their pod site this year ... so their fans got to see two games (provided they won the first one). If this was next year, they'd only get one game ... win or lose. Then you expect them to go to Syracuse and spend an entire week following their team there? And say Kentucky lost in the Round of 32 for some reason. All those fans had taken off work for an entire week and put vacation, hotel, car rental up for that entire week just to see their team play. At least the old way, you were only asking a four-day weekend for these fans ... something that isn't out of the ordinary.

So, the first two rounds of the tournament will be sparsely attended and the week-long regionals would be a cluster-you know.

Here is something no one else has brought up: This will kill the women's tournament. Oh, it will still go on but even less people will care. With ESPN as the front runner to gain the expanded men's tournament, there will be no time for them to keep televising the women's tournament. No way will another major network take on the women's dance so it will end up on Lifetime, Oxygen or We. Great for the female fans but bad for the men who just happen to watch it because it was on ESPN.

It's the Chewbacca defense. It doesn't make sense. Doesn't make sense at all. Well, it does make dollars ... which the NCAA finds more important than anything else ... but it doesn't make sense.

Again, Jake's Take on sports is a great site and I'm not dissing him by any means. I just don't agree with the opinion that this tournament expansion will be great.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

How Are the 1976 Reds Not Among the "Top 10 Teams Of All Time"???


Tom Verducci over at SI.com compiled his Top 10 Baseball Teams of All Time ... and the 1976 Reds weren't on it.

What?

The 1975 Reds were there ... which shows the lack of thought for this list. Yes, the 1975 Reds team is remembered for both its greatness and their epic World Series with the Red Sox. But that 1976 team has more of a claim to fame. Yes, the 1975 Reds won 108 games (six more than the 1976 team) and won the NL West by 20 games ('76 team won by 10 games), but that doesn't mean that the '75 team was greater.

That 1976 Reds team featured seven All Stars. Okay, that doesn't seem like that big of a deal when you consider that teams do that now and there were only 12 NL franchises then. But five of those guys started. The NL All Star starters featured Johnny Bench at catcher, Joe Morgan at 2B, Dave Concepcion at SS, Pete Rose at 3B and George Foster in the outfield. The bench featured 1B Tony Perez and OF Ken Griffey. That means seven out of the eight position players the Reds had in 1976 made the All Star team (only Cesar Geronimo didn't).

Okay, then factor in the postseason. They swept the Philadelphia Phillies (who won 101 games during the regular season) then swept the New York Yankees. They outscored the Yankees 22-8 in that four game series. The same New York Yankees that won the next two World Series titles.

I know that Mr. Verducci is a far smarter man than me when it comes to baseball matters ... I just think he missed the boat on this one.

UNC Recruit Says that Coach K "Looks Like a Rat"



I watched the McDonald's All American Game last night being wowed by Harrison Barnes. But after this video, I love Reggie Bullock. Bullock has that smack talking down pat and ... as a guy from Tobacco Road ... knows all about the UNC-Duke rivalry.

So when he actually said on a DraftExpress.com video that Mike Krzyzewski "looks like a rat", I was floored. Of course every Carolina fan says that but I don't remember anyone who actually represents the Tar Heels hoops team actually go that route.

Awesome!

NCAA Wants to Expand Tournament? Why Then 96?

So the NCAA wants to piss everyone off and expand the tournament to 96 teams. I hate that idea.

Why 96 teams? Oh, so they can have an extra 32 games they can sell to ESPN (along with the entire tournament package). So what if it waters down the tournament??? If a 16-16 North Carolina team would make a 96-team dance, who cares? The luster of getting into the tournament will go completely away. It will be like the NHL in the 1980s where 16 of 21 teams made the postseason every year.

Why not just start out with 72 teams? Have eight of those "play in games" with the 16 worst teams in the field battling for those No. 16 and 15 seeds. It gives those smaller schools the ability to say they actually won an NCAA Tournament game, allow seven of those "bubble teams" (like Miss State, Illinois, Va Tech, Rhode Island, etc from this past season) to get in and make the first round even more competitive. If you figure that these "bubble teams" who now got in were seeded 12th or 13th, those 5-12 and 4-13 games would be even better. Not to mention the 3-14 games would now feature a stronger team from a smaller conference than from before.

Let's apply this to the current tournament.

The opening round would include these teams: Lehigh, UCSB, Vermont, North Texas, Morgan State, East Tennessee State, Winthrop, Robert Morris, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Ohio, Oakland, Sam Houston State, Montana, Wofford, Houston and Siena. The winners of those games go on to play a No. 1 or No. 2 seed.

Report: Donovan McNabb Traded to Cowboys

In a shocker, Donovan McNabb has been dealt by the Philadelphia Eagles to their hated rivals, the Dallas Cowboys. Dallas is sending back Marion Barber III, Jon Kitna and a conditional draft pick.

By the way, April Fools.