Monday, February 28, 2011

Are Tar Heels a Final Four Team?


I must admit, I hate when people ask if a team is a "Final Four team". In reality, about a third of the NCAA tournament field (about 23 teams) could realistically reach the Final Four. That doesn't even add in those other teams outside that list that tend to make runs.

In that aspect, yes North Carolina is a Final Four caliber team. However, do they have a good chance to do so?

Well, they do have a few things going for them. Roy Williams is a tournament vet who has been to six Final Fours and won two National Championships. The school, itself, has won two of the last six championships and went to half of the Final Fours in that time.

They are the best rebounding team in the country. They are one of the best scoring teams in the nation. While they aren't the most stout defense in the world, they're getting much better and the twin towers of Tyler Zeller and John Henson scare a lot of people. Most importantly, they are jelling at exactly the right time.

This team however, has next to zero NCAA tournament experience. Of their normal rotation of players, only Zeller knows what it is like to be in the NCAA Tournament -- and that is minimal. Zeller played sparingly in the Heels' run to the 2009 NCAA title. He played in only a few games that season after suffering a broken wrist in the second game of the season and missing a bulk of the year. The only other name on the roster with any experience is junior Justin Watts, who actually scored a bucket in garbage time in that title game.

Harrison Barnes? Freshman. Kendall Marshall? Freshman. Dexter Strickland and John Henson? Sophomores. The others in the rotation feature a sophomore (Leslie McDonald), freshman (Reggie Bullock) and a transfer (Justin Knox). None have been to the tournament.

This team also doesn't shoot the ball very well. They are just averging 45% from the field. Three pointers? Just 32%. And if they get into a tight game, their 66% free throw shooting could kill them.

Depth, if you can believe it, is also an issue. There is no backup point guard to Marshall. When Larry Drew II left school, he left the Heels without a capable backup (Strickland, the starting shooting guard, tries his best). They employ just three big men, making foul trouble a big concern. The calls are a bit tighter in tournament play -- especially when you are dealing with unfamiliar officials. Zeller is the Heels best post player on offense. Henson makes their defense what it is. Knox is solid, albeit unspectacular.

While they could end up as ACC regular season champions, the league is down this year and could get anywhere from three to six teams into the tournament. But the ACC is also like the rest of the country: down. Remember that people were wondering if Duke could go undefeated this year. UNC could end up winning the league instead of the near-unanimous favorites. If there was a year where this young Heels team could do some damage in March, this would be it.

Seeing a big run in the tournament seems unlikely. While I hope I'm wrong, there is just a lot of unknowns heading into the Dance. Ask any Carolina fan if that beats what the team went through last year and every one of them would take it.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Were Seth Curry Chants Out Of Bounds?


Full disclosure: I'm a North Carolina Tar Heels fan. Been one my whole life. So when Duke loses or their players are embarrassed then it is a happy day for me. Both happened Saturday night when the No. 1 Blue Devils lost at Virginia Tech and sophomore guard Seth Curry was taunted for his poor showing.

Remember that Seth Curry is the son of Hokies' legend Dell Curry. Dell is the second leading scorer in Virginia Tech history. Va Tech recruited Seth, who instead went to Liberty where he was the leading scorer among freshmen in the country. After his freshman season there, he transferred to Duke. After sitting out a year, Curry has been a big part of the Devils' rotation.

Needless to say Hokie fans weren't pleased to see Seth walk into their gym. Even with Dell sitting in the crowd, there was no love for the son. He was jeered during pregame introductions. He got two quick fouls and was promptly ridiculed. He missed both shots he took, went scoreless, threw a late pass out of bounds and fouled out of the game. Not a good showing.

When he left the game, the fans at Cassell Coliseum chanted "You're not your daddy" at Seth, who look visibly shook by the atmosphere. Dell, sitting in the crowd, seemed a bit bothered by it. While it was clever and true, it did sound a bit like bullying. But were the Hokie fans out of line?

These are college kids, after all, and college kids have bad days. They make mistakes. For a crowd of fellow college kids as well as adults, is it right to ride on a 20 year old kid for not coming to your school? I know nobody likes Duke, but does that excuse fans for pummelling a kid playing for them?

I'd like to say no, but I can't. And it is because we're talking about Duke.

No, my hate for Duke isn't the reason while I side with the Hokie fans. Schools are hated by other schools all over the country. What makes them different? My reasoning is Duke's fans.

Duke is known for the Cameron Crazies. The Crazies take pride in being THE kings and queens of jeering opposing players. Ask J.R. Reid about Duke fans. Ask Grievis Vasquez. Ask a crowd of ACC players about some of the things Duke fans have yelled at them (or wrote on signs).

My point is if Duke dishes it, they have to take it.

Granted, Duke hate is pretty rough. J.J. Redick was harrassed like no other college athlete I can ever remember. The things he heard in Chapel Hill and College Park can't even be written on the bathroom wall at a seedy bar. Not only was Redick harrassed on the court, but fans gave out his cell phone number and he received tons of hate messages. As much as I hate Redick (I think he is a notch below Christian Laettner as far as Duke enemies), that's harsh.

However, I took the same stance then. If Duke is famous for their fans being jerks, then it should be okay for those Duke players to get the same treatment whenever they decide to leave Durham. Seth Curry faced a perfect storm for this. He spurned Va Tech, he went to Duke and he showed fright on his first appearance in Blacksburg. I think he would've been hounded if he went to any other ACC school. But the fact he's a Dookie means he's going to get it good.

I hope someone gave him Redick's phone number.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Sportz Assassin's 2011 Oscar Picks


Okay, this is a sports blog and I try very hard to keep it that way. So when I go off topic, I try to find the "sports" involved. It's easy this time, as The Fighter is up for Best Picture as well as several other categories. So there.

Now time for my picks:

BEST PICTURE: THE KING'S SPEECH. I have actually watched a few of these films. The King's Speech wasn't one of them. But the momentum it has seems like it won't stop. I loved Inception, Black Swan and The Social Network. The Kids Are All Right was interesting as well. I'll be rooting for Swan and Network, but I'm pretty sure neither will win.

BEST ACTOR: COLIN FIRTH (THE KING'S SPEECH): I think this is a slam dunk, from what I'm hearing. I loved Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network, but Firth has this one in the bag.

BEST ACTRESS: NATALIE PORTMAN (BLACK SWAN): Saw this movie and absolutely loved Portman's performance in it. She plays this perfectly, even if the movie gets over the top at times. She nails it and I think has this award running away. Annette Bening was really good in The Kids Are All Right, but she didn't have to carry the movie the way Portman did.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: CHRISTIAN BALE (THE FIGHTER): I haven't seen this movie yet (I will when it comes on DVD soon), but I'm a big Bale fan. I loved him in American Psycho, hated him in The Prestige (which is a good thing) and think he's one of the few actors that can take on totally different roles with total ease. I'm hoping he gets this one.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: AMY ADAMS (THE FIGHTER): I've seen none of these movies, so I'm no expert on this category. But I like Adams and I love the buzz she's got for her role in The Fighter. I'm picking her, though my dark horse is Helena Bonham Carter in The King's Speech.

BEST DIRECTOR: DAVID FINCHER (THE SOCIAL NETWORK): Tom Hooper could win this for The King's Speech, but I think Fincher will get the nod as a nod for Network. Fincher's ability to replicate a facinating subject that jumps time all through the film was spot on. It could have been weak, but Fincher got this done.

BEST ANIMATED PICTURE: TOY STORY 3. I've bought this movie on DVD but haven't watched it yet. My nephew has and loved it. I've heard the same from many other people. TS3 takes it.












It's Been 50 Years ... Put Roger Maris In the Hall Of Fame


Roger Maris is probably the third most famous historic baseball player that isn't in Baseball's Hall Of Fame. The others are Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson ... both of who are banned from enshrinement. Maris is, however, but he isn't in.

The year is 2011 ... so it's been 50 years since Maris' magical 1961 season where Maris broke Babe Ruth's single season home run record. 50 years later, it still is the record for most home runs hit in a single season in American League history. Only three players have hit more home runs than Maris' 61. Those guys are Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. All three have been linked to the Steroid Era and their numbers are tainted.

To many people, Maris' 61 still tops everyone. I'm one of those guys.

Think about this: Ruth's mark led for 34 years. Maris' lasted for 37 ... and, like I said, it is 50 years to people who don't count the Steroid players.

Sometimes a player's impact on the game means more than their actual numbers. While Pistol Pete Maravich is beloved by basketball fans from the 1970s, his numbers don't wow you. Neither does Joe Namath's. But those guys were bigger than the game. While you can argue that Maris wasn't a big name when he played, he's become quite an impactful figure since his retirement in 1968.

Maris' numbers aren't outstanding. He hit just 275 home runs and drove in 850 RBIs. His .260 career average is ... average. In his 12 seasons, he went to 7 World Series, winning three. He was a 7-time All Star. He also won two AL MVP awards.

Look, I get anyone's argument why he shouldn't be in. His numbers don't touch those typical levels that HOFers reach. I get that if it wasn't for those 1960 and 1961 seasons, his career is unremarkable. I totally understand.

But it is the Hall Of "Fame" and Maris' name has been linked to baseball's biggest single season achievement for 50 years now. The long ball sells and no one did that better in a season that wasn't on steroids than Maris. The man deserves recognition. With all the drama around the Hall with these cats from the Steroid Era every year, wouldn't having a stoic, sweet man who did it without chemical enhancement be a neat idea.

Maybe your kid will go to Cooperstown and find Maris' name among some of the slime that is or will be in the Hall. You'll get a chance to teach that child who he was.

Again, a neat idea.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Charlotte Shows Us That Playoffs Are Overrated


Today was trade deadline day and the Charlotte Bobcats were pretty active. Not because they were just 1.5 games back of the Pacers for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and wanted to get some talent for the push. No, they shed salary and stockpiled draft picks to set up their future.

They dealt away Gerald Wallace and Nazr Mohammed and got back Joel Przybilla (who probably never wear a Bobcats uniform), Sean Marks, Dante Cunningham, Morris Peterson and D.J. White. They also pick up a couple of first round picks.

Michael Jordan and the rest of the Bobcats brass decided they were better off not making the playoffs and looking to the future. When deciding between fighting for a playoff berth or ensuring a lottery pick as well as gaining some other picks, the team chose the latter.

That's a sad commentary for the NBA.

The NBA's trade deadline always gives you that sick feeling. Only a few trades are actually made with winning in mind and you rarely see a trade that made both teams immediately better. It doesn't happen. It is Team A adding a guy that was too expensive for Team B.

That is the NBA, where the only way small market teams can acquire anyone is by drafting them and hoping they'll stay. You know, sort of like baseball teams developing talent in the minors and then having to sell them away when it's time to pay up.

Charlotte wasn't the only team doing this. The Houston Rockets had a chance to make a move into a playoff berth. Especially with Denver and Utah dealing off their main players, there will be a couple of teams that could move up into those positions. Houston could have been one of them. But they dealt off Shane Battier and Aaron Brooks for Hasheem Thabeet, Goran Dragic and a couple of first rounders.

The question has been asked before. Is it worth being a No. 8 seed and getting crushed by the Spurs, Celtics or Heat instead of possibly winning the lottery and getting a top three pick? The answer is apparently "no".

Grading the NBA Trade Deadline


HAWKS GET: Kirk Hinrich, Hilton Armstrong
WIZARDS GET: Mike Bibby, Mo Evans, Jordan Crawford, 2011 first round pick

Nice deal for the Hawks. Hinrich brings leadership, defense and stability to the point guard spot. He and Armstrong will come in and help. This trade should make people happy since it is one of the few trades that was made purely for need (Hawks B+). For the Wizards, this was mainly a money and draft pick thing. They'll most likely buyout Bibby and probably Evans which makes the trade essentially for a late first round pick (Wizards C).

CELTICS GET: Jeff Green, Nenad Krstic
THUNDER GET: Kendrick Perkins, Nate Robinson

Wild deal, here. The Celtics get younger but less physical. I can only see this as a down-the-road trade. Green is a nice young piece for the future but really has no place in Boston right now. And the Celtics dealt Perkins, who is one of the best defensive paint guys in the league for a pretty soft Krstic (Celtics C-). The Thunder will have a pair of lightning bugs in the backcourt with Robinson coming in. Perkins gives OKC a huge inside presence which they haven't had who has a ton of playoff experience (Thunder A-).

KINGS GET: Marquis Daniels, cash
CELTICS GET: 2017 second round pick

They don't need the injured Daniels now that they have Jeff Green. I'm sure you won't remember this trade when the Celtics cash in their 2nd round pick in 2017 (Celtics C). The Kings had to take on somebody to reach the minimum salary cap for the year, even if Daniels is out for the season with a neck injury (Kings C).

CELTICS GET: 2013 second round pick
CAVALIERS GET: Luke Harangody, Semih Erden

Another talent dump for the Celtics. They are planning on using the roster openings to sign some of the players that will receive buyouts in the next few days (Celtics C). Cleveland gets warm bodies ... which is nice (Cavaliers C).

GRIZZLIES GET: Shane Battier, Ish Smith
ROCKETS GET: Hasheem Thabeet, first round pick

Solid trade. Memphis is making a playoff push and will be without Rudy Gay for a month. This deal for Battier fits that void. They really weren't playing Thabeet anyway so they didn't lose anything (Grizzlies A-). Houston is pretty much conceeding two things. One, they aren't a playoff team. Two, Yao Ming may not be walking back through that door. Thabeet is very raw but he brings the size this team just doesn't have. If he pans out, bully! If not, they at least have an extra mid-round pick (Rockets C).

SUNS GET: Aaron Brooks
ROCKETS GET: Goran Dragic, first round pick

This goes with the above deal. Houston is closing up shop on this year. Brooks was unhappy and wanted out. Dragic is spunky and the Rockets again picks up another first rounder. This team is all about the future (Rockets C+). It will be interesting to see how this impacts Steve Nash. Is this a deal made to move on from the Nash era? Maybe we'll see Steve Nash gone near the draft (Suns C+).

BLAZERS GET: Gerald Wallace
BOBCATS GET: Joel Pryzbilla, Dante Cunningham, Sean Marks, two first round draft picks

Good get for Portland. Wallace can do everything on the floor. He gets after it on defense and pounds the boards. They do give up their size which they already were low on, but the deal works (Blazers A). Bobcats wanted to get Wallace's contract off the books and he has struggled a bit when they acquired Stephen Jackson last year. Pryzbilla could be bought out (he threatened to retire if he was dealt), so this deal was mainly about obtaining draft picks (Bobcats C+).

THUNDER GET: Nazr Mohammed
BOBCATS GET: D.J. White, Mo Peterson

For Charlotte, this is obviously a salary dump. Talent wise it makes no sense (Bobcats C). Oklahoma City just added Mohammed to go along with Kendrick Perkins. They may be the big winners on Deadline Day (Thunder A-).

PACERS GET: O.J. Mayo
GRIZZLIES GET: Josh McRoberts, 2011 first round draft pick

Memphis obviously is done with Mayo. They get a tough guy in McRoberts and a draft pick for their troubles. Stings even more that the traded the draft rights of Kevin Love to Minnesota for Mayo a couple of years ago (D+). This is a great deal for Indiana, in my opinion. Mike Dunleavy is hurt and Mayo can step right in there. Also, Tyler Hansbrough's emergence has allowed Indiana to deal away McRoberts, who is the same sort of player. If Mayo pans out, this will be a steal (Pacers A).

NOTE: THE DEAL HAS BEEN CANCELLED BY THE NBA SINCE IT WASN'T PROPERLY RECEIVED BEFORE THE DEADLINE.

CLIPPERS GET: Mo Williams, Jamario Moon
CAVALIERS GET: Baron Davis, 2011 first round draft pick

I think this is a win-win for both teams. The Clips got Mo Williams to replace an expensive guy they couldn't trust to suit up on a daily basis. Williams brings experience. The hard part is giving up a first rounder that will be in the lottery (Clippers C+). The Cavs did this deal for the draft pick as they know that they need to rebuild this team back up. Not only will they have a lot of ping pong balls for their own crappy record, they'll get a lot for the Clippers crappy record as well (Cavaliers B+).

WARRIORS GET: Troy Murphy, 2012 second round pick
NETS GET: Dan Gadzuric, Brandan Wright

Golden State gets some salary flexibility and not much else (Warriors D+). New Jersey deals a guy they really didn't need for Wright (expect Gadzuric to be bought out. Wright is still raw and young and could pan out with some proper coaching. Not much risk (Nets C).

HORNETS GET: Carl Landry
KINGS GET: Marcus Thornton, cash

The Kings did okay in this deal. Landry is on an expiring contract and wasn't coming back. They got a young guy who could be groomed as a backcourt mate for Tyreke Evans (Kings B). The Hornets will rent Landry for a playoff push. He brings some beef in the paint to go against the Lakers, Thunder, Mavs and Spurs (Hornets A-). By the way, this deal turned heads around the league, most notably Mark Cuban, who see the NBA-owned Hornets actually taking on salary.

NETS GET: Deron Williams
JAZZ GET: Derrick Favors, Devin Harris, two first round picks, cash

This is a tough trade to grade. New Jersey gets that "star" they've been trying to acquire for months. But unlike the Melo deal, there is no extension in place. D-Will still could bolt after 2012 and Jersey gets nothing. Tough price to pay for two first rounders, former All Star Harris and Favors, the No. 3 pick in the most recent draft (Nets A or F). Utah moved ahead of the curve and dealt D-Will before the "Melo-drama". If you believe that they wouldn't be able to extend Williams, then they did well to get Favors and Harris who should thrive in Utah. The two first round picks could really pan out as well. Utah may have stumbled a bit, but the future looks good (Jazz A-).

RAPTORS GET: James Johnson
BULLS GET: 2011 first round draft pick

A wash, really. The Bulls didn't need Johnson and get what will be Miami's first round pick (acquired in the Bosh deal). Salary dump (Bulls C). Toronto did okay, getting Johnson for a late round pick (Raptors C+).

KNICKS GET: Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Sheldon Williams, Anthony Carter, Renaldo Balkman, Corey Brewer
NUGGETS GET: Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov, Kosta Koufas, 2014 first round pick, 2012 second round pick, 2013 second round pick, cash

TIMBERWOLVES GET: Eddy Curry, Anthony Randolph, 2015 second round pick

Knicks get the superstar scorer they desired. They did give up a lot considering they were essentially bidding against themselves (Knicks A-). The Nuggets did pretty well considering the market was essentially just the Knicks and Nets. They got some keeper pieces as well as some tradeable ones (Nuggets B-). Minnesota gets Randolph for their trouble (Wolves C).

Let's Contract the NBA to 24 Teams


I'm not that guy who wants the NBA to contract any teams ... but maybe it's time for them to realize that (a) basketball talent in the NBA is watered down and (b) the sudden merging of superstars on teams are going to leave smaller markets in the dust. Maybe the NBA needs to cut out six teams to form a 24-team league.

It is easy to pick off a couple of teams for contraction. Easily, the New Orleans Hornets head the list. This is a franchise that no one wants so the NBA bought them. They are easily gone.

The Hornets old stomping grounds, Charlotte, may need to see their Bobcats go bye-bye. I'm from Charlotte and would hate for the NBA to leave the city, but they are newbies and the city hasn't fully embraced the team.

Toronto seems to be another team. I know the NBA likes that international flavor, but the players aren't fans of being there. All their "star players" have bolted when they've had the chance. Raptors are done.

Three down, three to go.

This is where it gets tough. It's hard to figure out who should go out. Well, to get there, let's look at who deserves to stay.

Lakers: Duh.
Celtics: Duh.
Knicks: Duh.
Bulls: Duh.
Sixers: Duh.
Spurs: Duh.
Heat: Just look at all the guys that want to go to South Beach.
Magic: Great city, warm weather and no state tax.
Pistons: Old time team with a rabid fan base.
Rockets: You can't contract a Texas team.
Mavericks: See above, plus they have Marc Cuban.
Wizards: Hoops belong in D.C.

Nets: This team will have Brooklyn on their side.
Clippers: They usually suck, but LA is a great destination.
Kings: IF the Kings move to Anaheim, then they join that desirable mix.
Pacers: Basketball country that supports their team.
Hawks: Very good franchise and Atlanta can be a great destination.
Warriors: Long time franchise with the most underrated fan base.
Suns: Arizona is a place people like to live.
Nuggets: The NBA doesn't want to lose their lone MTZ team.

That leaves the Cleveland Cavaliers, Milwaukee Bucks, Portland Trail Blazers, Oklahoma City Thunder, Minnesota Timberwolves, Utah Jazz and Memphis Grizzlies. Three of these teams must go.

It is hard to clip the Bucks and Blazers. Both have had their glory days and both are pretty good NBA cities. So they can stay. Cleveland was wobbling a bit after LeBron James left for Miami, but those fans haven't left. That place is still hopping and that team should find their way back. They stay.

So four teams remain on the chopping block and only one survives. Out of the Thunder, T-Wolves, Jazz and Grizzlies ... who deserves to stay?

Seems pretty easy: Utah. I know that Utah is Utah and no one really wants to go there. But this franchise has been a very, very good franchise for 25 years and they can't be contracted ahead of a newish Oklahoma City, been good once Minnesota, and never won a playoff game Memphis. Utah stays, the rest go.

So we contracted the Charlotte Bobcats, Memphis Grizzlies, Minnesota Timberwolves, New Orleans Hornets, Oklahoma City Thunder and Toronto Raptors.

We take it back to the old school and go back to a four division format. Resurrect the Midwest Division and have six teams in each one.

ATLANTIC
Boston
Brooklyn
Miami
New York
Philadelphia
Washington

CENTRAL
Atlanta
Chicago
Cleveland
Detroit
Indiana
Orlando

MIDWEST
Dallas
Denver
Houston
Milwaukee
San Antonio
Utah

PACIFIC
Anaheim
Golden State
LA Clippers
LA Lakers
Phoenix
Portland

Not much different than the four division era before aside from Orlando going to the Central Division (someone had to and they fit best) and Milwaukee going to the Midwest Division.

Now, imagine that those six teams are done. That leaves these guys without teams: Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love, David West, Tyson Chandler, Marc Gasol, Stephen Jackson, Zach Randolph, Gerald Wallace, O.J. Mayo, Rudy Gay, Jeff Green, Serge Ibaka, Andy Bargnani, DeMar DeRozan, Ricky Rubio and Mike Conley ... among many, many other solid players.

Have a three round contraction draft using the inverse order of the current standings. Cleveland could get back their next superstar by taking Kevin Durant. Anaheim could get Chris Paul to run with Tyreke Evans. The Wizards could take Kevin Love. The Nets get David West. Pistons take Russell Westbrook. And so on, and so on where 72 of the up-to-90 players get picked. If a team wanted to pass on picking someone in the third round, they could just say "forfeit".

That means the worst 60-70 guys would filter out of the league and each team would be stronger and the money and talent isn't stretched so thin.

NBA Is Top Heavy Now? Um, It Always Has Been!

One of the dumbest pieces of whining coming in the aftermath of "The Decision" and the Carmelo Anthony trade to the Knicks is that the NBA is now top heavy. The little guys don't get a chance. That the glory days of the NBA are over and we are in the same boat as Major League Baseball where the Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies and Angels own all the great players.

Man you are wrong.

First off, the NBA has always been top heavy. The Celtics or Lakers have won 33 of the 64 championships the NBA has handed out.

From 1949-1954, the Lakers won 5 of 6 titles. From 1957-1969, the Celtics won 11 of 13 championships. From 1980-1988, the Lakers won 5 times; the Celtics won 3. From 1989-1998, the Bulls won 6 times, with the Rockets and Pistons winning twice apiece. From 1999-2010, the Lakers won 5 times and Spurs won 4 times.

Since 1984, only the Lakers (8), Bulls (6), Spurs (4), Celtics (3), Pistons (3), Rockets (2) and Heat have won an NBA Championship. That's 7 different teams in 27 seasons. Meanwhile, big bad baseball has had 9 different World Series Champions in the last 10 years (only the Red Sox winning multiple times).

So how is now any different?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Did Knicks Trade For Wrong Guy?


Tuesday: Knicks trade for Carmelo Anthony.
Wednesday: Nets trade for Deron Williams.

It should've been the other way around.

New York has two mismatched stars. Carmelo Anthony is a guy who holds the ball and runs a lot of isolations to get his points. Amare Stoudemire is at his best when he runs pick and rolls with a willing point guard.

New Jersey has Deron Williams who is a scorer that makes his teammates better. But he isn't really that superstar player that can make New Yorkers care. And his teammates aren't very good.

What if they switched places?

Do you think Deron Williams could run a pick and roll with Amare in Mike D'Antoni's system? Um, have you seen the Utah Jazz over the last two decades? Utah perfected that play and a Williams-to-Amare dynamic would be great. While he's an All Star player, his persona isn't going to eclipse Amare's. He'd fit perfectly in New York.

Carmelo Anthony is the perfect kind of player to become the face of the new Brooklyn Nets when they move across the river in a couple of years. Him being buddies with Jay Z and Mikhail Prokhorov just seems right. Moreso than Deron Williams.

I know that the "Chris Paul to New York" buzz would wipe out the need for Williams. I get that. I just don't think it will be possible for the Knicks to add Paul at any point. With a new CBA and, most likely, a smaller cap the Knicks may run out of space and assets to bring him in.

NBA Has That 80s Feel


Remember the 1980s? Well, if you are in your 30s or older than you sure do. Key-tars, Reagan, mullets, power ballads, coked-up businessmen and MTV actually showing music videos. Those were the days.

The NBA seems to be heading back to those days. And as a Laker fan ... I sure don't mind.

In the span of two days, two Western Conference teams traded their superstar player to an Eastern team. Yesterday, it was Carmelo Anthony heading from the Nuggets to the Knicks. Today it is Deron Williams leaving Utah for New Jersey. That came after an offseason where Amare Stoudemire left Phoenix for New York and Carlos Boozer left Utah for Chicago.

In the 1980s, the NBA's Eastern Conference was loaded with stars and star-studded teams. Boston had Hall Of Famers galore on their team. Philadelphia had some decent guys named Erving, Malone, Cheeks and Barkley. Detroit was rising up with a wicked defensive squad. Chicago had this Michael Jordan guy coming in.

The best teams in the Western Conference was the Los Angeles Lakers and ... well a couple of teams would pop up. Either the Rockets, Spurs or the emerging Mavericks caused a fuss. There were other teams that would sneak in but it was mainly the Lakers time to shine.

Welcome to the Teens where what's new is old!

When the All Star Game happened, the Nuggets and Jazz were firmly planted in the playoff picture. Now? They could fall completely out of the race or end up with a No. 8 seed at best. That opens up the race for the Memphis Grizzlies (who are without their star Rudy Gay for a month), Phoenix Suns and Houston Rockets (who are looking to make some deals soon). Needless to say, the Western Conference is much weaker.

The East now houses those Mega Teams. The Miami Heat have three All Stars. Boston has four. Atlanta had two. Chicago has a pretty tough team with MVP front runner Derrick Rose. Orlando went to the Finals two years ago and still have Dwight Howard. Now New York has Melo, Amare and Chauncey Billups. New Jersey just has Deron Williams right now, but when with one star in place it will be easier to bring some more talent into the fold.

Remember that guys like LeBron, Wade, Bosh, Rose, Howard, D-Will, Amare and Carmelo are all relatively young and may not have even hit their prime yet. Boston is getting older, yes, but the East is bright with stars.

The West? You have the aging Lakers with a starting lineup filled with guys in their 30s. Kobe is a very old 32-year old whose elite status is on the downturn. San Antonio? Tim Duncan is on his last legs, Manu Ginobili may end up with a Iverson-esque fall once his body feels all the crashes he gets into. Dallas is a bit younger, but are led by Dirk Nowitzki who is 32 himself and 37-year old Jason Kidd runs the point.

Oklahoma City is the hot young team on the rise. That is, until what happened in Utah and Denver happens to them. New Orleans is now on the clock with the Melo-drama as Chris Paul is the guy perceived as next in line to join the Knicks when he becomes a free agent after next season. Portland? Memphis? Can you really trust them? Blake Griffin makes the Clippers sexy again but does anyone really believe he'll stay there long term?

The East is where it is right now. And that doesn't look to change.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

What If You Made Up NBA Teams With THEIR Draft Picks


What if each NBA team drafted somebody and had to keep them for their entire career? What would the NBA look like?

Well, Kobe Bryant would play for the Hornets, Pau Gasol is a Hawk, Joe Johnson a Celtic and LeBron James would be in Cleveland again.

Below is what each team would look like if they kept the top 10 drafted players that are still active in the NBA.

Some teams (most notably the Dallas Mavericks and Denver Nuggets) can't fill a full team. In Denver's case, they barely have a starting roster. It happens when you trade away all your draft picks and strike out on the ones you actually do use.

ATLANTA HAWKS
G-Jason Terry
G-Josh Childress
F-Josh Smith

F-Al Horford
C-Pau Gasol
Marvin Williams

Boris Diaw

Acie Law
Jeff Teague
Sheldon Williams

BOSTON CELTICS

G-Chauncey Billups

G-Joe Johnson

F-Paul Pierce

F-Jeff Green

C-Al Jefferson

Randy Foye

Delonte West

Tony Allen

Ryan Gomes

Dahntay Jones

CHARLOTTE BOBCATS
G-Raymond Felton
G-Gerald Henderson
F-Jared Dudley
F-Brandan Wright
C-Emeka Okafor
Ryan Hollins
Derrick Brown
D.J. Augustin

Sean May
Alexis Ajinca

CHICAGO BULLS
G-Derrick Rose
G-Ben Gordon
F-Ron Artest
F-LaMarcus Aldridge
C-Joakim Noah
Elton Brand
Taj Gibson
James Johnson
Kirk Hinrich
Eddy Curry

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS
G-Andre Miller
G-Jamal Crawford
F-LeBron James
F-Carlos Boozer
C-J.J. Hickson
Brendan Haywood
Shannon Brown
Daniel Gibson
Jason Kapono
Zydrunas Ilgauskas

DALLAS MAVERICKS
G-Jason Kidd
G-Josh Howard
F-B.J. Mullens
F-Etan Thomas
C-Nick Fazekas
Solomon Alabi

DENVER NUGGETS
G-Jameer Nelson
G-Jarrett Jack
F-Carmelo Anthony
F-James Posey

C-Leon Powe

DETROIT PISTONS
G-Arron Affalo
G-Chase Budinger
F-Tayshaun Prince
F-Greg Monroe
C-Mehmet Okur
Austin Daye
Jason Maxiell
Amir Johnson
Darko Milicic
Theo Ratliff

GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
G-Monta Ellis
G-Vince Carter
F-Jason Richardson
F-Troy Murphy
C-Andris Biendrins
Stephen Curry
Anthony Randolph
Mickael Pietrus
Gilbert Arenas
Mike Dunleavy

HOUSTON ROCKETS
G-Aaron Brooks
G-Richard Jefferson
F-Nicolas Batum
F-Rudy Gay
C-Yao Ming
Luther Head
Patrick Patterson
Joel Przybilla
Eduardo Najera
Jason Collins

INDIANA PACERS
G-Jerryd Bayless
G-James Jones
F-Danny Granger
F-Al Harrington
C-Erick Dampier
A.J. Price
Paul George
Tyler Hansbrough
Shawne Williams

LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
G-Shaun Livingston
G-Eric Gordon
F-Lamar Odom

F-Blake Griffin
C-Tyson Chandler
Al Thornton
Chris Kaman
DeAndre Jordan
Antonio McDyess
Al Farouq Aminu

LOS ANGELES LAKERS
G-Derek Fisher
G-Sasha Vujacic
F-Luke Walton
F-Marc Gasol
C-Andrew Bynum

Ronny Turiaf
Jordan Farmar
Toney Douglas
Von Wafer

Devin Ebanks

MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES
G-Mike Conley
G-Kyle Lowry
F-Hakeem Warrick

F-Kevin Love
C-Kendrick Perkins
Shane Battier
Drew Gooden
Xavier Henry
Hasheem Thabeet

Sam Young

MIAMI HEAT
G-Eddie House
G-Dwyane Wade
F-Caron Butler
F-Michael Beasley
C-Kurt Thomas
Dorell Wright
Eric Bledsoe
Marcus Thornton
Jason Smith
Rasual Butler

MILWAUKEE BUCKS
G-Brandon Jennings
G-Ramon Sessions
F-Dirk Nowitzki
F-Yi Jianlian
C-Andrew Bogut
Ersan Ilyasova

T.J. Ford
Luc Mbah a Moute
Jodie Meeks
Larry Sanders

MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES
G-Ty Lawson
G-Ray Allen
F-Brandon Roy
F-Kevin Garnett
O.J. Mayo
Wesley Johnson

Jonny Flynn
Mario Chalmers
Corey Brewer
Wayne Ellington

NEW JERSEY NETS
G-Anthony Parker

G-Kyle Korver
F-Derrick Favors
F-Kenyon Martin
C-Brook Lopez
Nenad Krstic
Jordan Crawford

Ryan Anderson

Terrence Williams
Chris Douglas-Roberts

NEW ORLEANS HORNETS
G-Chris Paul
G-J.R. Smith
F-Kobe Bryant
F-David West
C-Cole Aldrich
Brandon Bass

Baron Davis

Darren Collison
Darrell Arthur

Hilton Armstrong

NEW YORK KNICKS
G-Landry Fields
G-Wilson Chandler

F-Trevor Ariza

F-David Lee
C-Nene
Channing Frye
Jordan Hill

Danilo Gallinari
Renaldo Balkman
Andy Rautins

OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
G-Russell Westbrook
G-Luke Ridnour
F-Kevin Durant
F-Rashard Lewis
C-Carl Landry

Glen Davis
Corey Maggette
Serge Ibaka
James Harden
Rodrique Beaubois

ORLANDO MAGIC
G-Keyon Dooling
G-Courtney Lee
F-Mike Miller
F-Anderson Varejao
C-Dwight Howard
Shaquille O'Neal
J.J. Redick
Zaza Pachulia
Daniel Orton

PHILADELPHIA 76ERS
G-Jrue Holiday
G-Louis Williams
F-Andre Iguodala
F-Thaddeus Young
C-Samuel Dalembert
Evan Turner

Marreese Speights

Thabo Sefolosha
Daequan Cook
Kyrylo Fesenko

PHOENIX SUNS
G-Rajon Rondo
G-Steve Nash

F-Shawn Marion
F-Amare Stoudemire
C-Robin Lopez
Luol Deng

Nate Robinson

Rudy Fernandez
Earl Clark
Marcin Gortat

PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS
G-Sebastian Telfair
G-Martell Webster
F-Travis Outlaw

F-Zach Randolph

C-Greg Oden

Tyrus Thomas
Jermaine O'Neal

Josh McRoberts
Linas Kleiza
Dante Cunningham

SACRAMENTO KINGS
G-Tyreke Evans
G-Kevin Martin
F-Gerald Wallace
F-Hedo Turkoglu
C-DeMarcus Cousins
Peja Stojakovic
Omri Casspi
Jason Thompson
Spencer Hawes
Francisco Garcia

SAN ANTONIO SPURS
G-Tony Parker
G-George Hill
F-Manu Ginobili
F-Luis Scola
C-Tim Duncan
DeJuan Blair
Leonardo Barbosa

John Salmons
Goran Dragic
Tiago Splitter


TORONTO RAPTORS
G-Tracy McGrady
G-DeMar DeRozan

F-Antawn Jamison
F-Chris Bosh

C-Marcus Camby
Andrea Bargnani

Ed Davis

Roy Hibbert

Joey Graham

UTAH JAZZ
G-Deron Williams
G-C.J. Miles

F-Andrei Kirilenko
F-Paul Millsap
C-Nazr Mohammed
Gordon Hayward
Kosta Koufos
Kris Humphries
Mo Williams
Ronnie Brewer

WASHINGTON WIZARDS
G-John Wall
G-Nick Young
F-Rip Hamilton
F-Andray Blatche
C-JaVale McGee
Devin Harris
Steve Blake
Bill Walker
Juwan Howard
Kwame Brown

Monday, February 21, 2011

Could Kobe Bryant Retire At the End of the Season?


This is based on nothing but a theory. Seriously, could Kobe Bryant hang it up after this season? It isn't as crazy as it sounds.

Kobe Bryant embraced the 2011 All Star Game experience in Los Angeles. He said several times about this being his last All Star Game in front of those LA fans. While that is probably true since the game won't be back in Los Angeles during the rest of Kobe's career (assuming that he actually did play five to seven more years), it looked a lot like he was seizing the few All Star opportunities he could.

The reason reasoning behind a possible Kobe retirement is the Lakers, themselves. By all accounts, this is coach Phil Jackson's final season with the Lakers. While I may not have 100% believed that at the beginning of the year, I can pretty much bank on it now. This team is dragging towards a hopeful three-peat. If it didn't have Phil and his unique abilities, this team would have imploded already.

Imagine a Phil-less Lakers. You have Kobe, the moody Pau Gasol, the moody Andrew Bynum, the moody Lamar Odom, the nuts-o Ron Artest and the aging Derek Fisher (more on his later). This team has a NBA all-time superstar, a notorious "warrior" who dabbles in rap, a guy married to a reality star that could get into one himself and the top player in the NBAPA.

If Phil left that, what will happen to this team? Phil is the glue. Kobe knows this. He knows it so well that he begged for Phil to come back to LA even after Phil blasted him in a book. He also knows that horrible feeling that he experienced in that poor 2004-2005 season -- the only Lakers season that Phil hasn't coached since 1999-2000.

A guy like Kobe knows about windows. He'll know that no Phil could mean that the Lakers become just another team. Where Kobe's at in his career, that doesn't sit well. Kobe, who has five NBA championships and hopes to add another in purple and gold, doesn't want to be on a declining team that is staring up at the Spurs, Mavs, Thunder, Blazers, etc. He's also spent all of All Star Weekend hearing about a different guy that calls Staples Center home: Blake Griffin.

He could do the Michael Jordan or John Elway move and retire while on top. While the Lakers may not win the ring this year, retiring after this season would mean he goes out near the top of his game.

There is also that little labor dispute stuff that could screw with the 2011-2012 season. This could get ugly and may actually result in something similar to the 1998-1999 season where they played just a 50-game season with many teams having to deal with back-to-back-to-back nights where they only played conference games. Remember that Jordan retired after the 1998 season just before that abbreviated 1999 season.

Kobe could see that in a variety of ways. He could say that a schedule packed full of games would really wear on his aging basketball body. He could think that if the owners get what they want, the Lakers talent level could suffer. If the season was cancelled, he just lost a season in his final stretch of his career.

If Kobe retired after the season, he'd have at least 5 NBA Championships, 2 Finals MVP awards, one regular season MVP award, the all-time leading scorer in Lakers history, in the top 8 all-time scorers in NBA history, the 81 point game against the Raptors and 4 All-Star MVPs. Not a bad haul, eh?

He'd also retire with two chronically bum knees and a finger that is pointing the wrong way. He'll just be 32 years old but would have tons of miles on him.

Now, I wouldn't bet on any of this. Kobe is a competitor and can easily find reasons to keep chugging along. But he's also a perfectionist and if he sees his own skills declining, he may decide to hang 'em up before he turns into a broken-down-has-been.

If this weekend showed us anything, it is that we have a ton of new stars waiting to break out. Guys like Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin were the talk of the town while guys like Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James get more pub. Russell Westbrook, Deron Williams, Derrick Rose and Rajon Rondo are the future of the league.

So maybe Kobe will pass the torch and ride off into the sunset. Just sayin'.

NBA Second Half Storylines

Now that the All Star Game is over, it's time to look at what the "second half" of the season has in store. I use "second half" loosely because most teams have just 30 games or so left in their seasons.

THE MELO-DRAMA: The "Where Will Carmelo Go" drama started long before the season started. But a lot of the questions could be answered by the trade deadline. He could be a Knick, a Net or still a Nugget. Or he could go somewhere else. This has been the major story surrounding the League but (hopefully) it will have some resolution by Thursday.

CAN THE LAKERS RECOVER?: Another story is the struggle of the Lakers. Have they gotten too old to threepeat or are they just bored? Maybe it is a bit of both. The Lakers really haven't taken the season seriously, as losses to the Cavs, Kings and Bucks would attest. They better pray that "the switch" is real.

MIAMI OR BOSTON?: It is obvious that the Heat and Celtics are the beasts of the East (with apologies to Chicago). We will all be upset if we don't see these two dance in the Eastern Conference Finals. But who will claim home field? Even more important, who will be the better postseason team? Miami is built for the regular season and could have problems going up against teams with size in the pain and a great point guard ... which Boston has. Boston is one of the oldest teams in the league and could burn out before they get to the ECF.

MVP RACE: Right now, Derrick Rose gets the nod. However, he doesn't have it by a large margin. LeBron James' name is up there, as is Kevin Durant and Dirk Nowitzki. It's so open that there is a chance somebody not on this list sneaks up into the race.

RACE FOR FINAL WESTERN PLAYOFF SPOTS: Right now, 1.5 games separate 5th-place Portland from 9th-place Memphis. Phoenix, Golden State and Houston aren't too far behind, either. You also need to factor in the Utah Jazz (currently 8th) and their sudden free-fall after the resignation of Jerry Sloan ... and the fact that 7th-place Denver could be dealing away Carmelo Anthony.

KINGS MOVE: Another story that could get some run is the future of the Sacramento Kings. The team could move as early as next season and one of the sites they are seriously considering is Anaheim. That could open up a bunch of cans of worms as I'm sure the Lakers and Clippers wouldn't be too happy for the Kings to move into their neighborhood.

OH YEAH, THAT LABOR THING: While the NFL's labor war is grabbing all the headlines, the NBA is heading down the exact same path. In fact, theirs could be a lot worse. The union could decertify and cause the entire process to spiral out of control. This has all the makings of dragging on as the NBA notoriously has a short offseason. My gut feeling is that nothing will be resolved at least until September. Probably before Halloween.

CONTRACTION: I don't see this happening, but know that David Stern has this little bug in his back pocket.

POWER STRUGGLE IN NEW YORK: Knicks GM Donnie Walsh has done the near impossible and took a team with horrible contracts and got them under the cap that they could go after the biggest free agents. The only problem is that Walsh struck out with LeBron and Joe Johnson. They got Amare Stoudemire, which is nice, but a swing-and-a-miss on any Melo deal could force ownerships' hands and run Walsh out. It's a shame, as the Knicks are having their finest season in quite a while.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sportz Assassin's Bubble Watch - Feb 20

Head over to the Bubble Watch to see the impact of Bracket Busters weekend, Nebraska's upset win over Texas, St. John's yet another impressive win and check in on all the other bubble teams.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Sportz Assassin Bubble Watch - Feb 19th

Today is Saturday and there are some big Bubble Games today. So come on over and check out where the bubbles are lying right now and see where gains and losses could occur over the weekend.

Check out my Sportz Assassin's Bubble Watch.

Friday, February 18, 2011

NBA Needs to Create Its Own Hall Of Fame

The Basketball Hall Of Fame is a joke. Or at least the voters are. Today it was revealed that Reggie Miller, a guy who owns nearly all of the Indiana Pacers career records and led the franchise to six Eastern Conference Finals and one NBA Finals, did not make it to the final vote for the hoops hall.

So they're saying that not only is he not good enough to get into the Hall, he's not good enough to be considered for it. That, my friends, is a joke.

I like Halls Of Fame but I'm not in love with them. There is just so much stupidity involved with election to the Halls that leave me in a bad way. Burt Blyleven wasn't good enough to be in the Hall for a decade ... but this year he is. Cris Carter is near the top of many NFL receiving categories and he's still waiting to get in. In baseball, Shoeless Joe Jackson and Pete Rose aren't in the Hall due to gambling, but there are racists, alcoholics and drug users in ... or soon to be in ... the Hall.

The Basketball Hall Of Fame is different than the others, though. It celebrates basketball in all levels. NBA, NCAA, high schools and international participants are in the Hall. Both men and women. That's cool in a lot of aspects because it shows the community of basketball better than, say, football or baseball.

But I do think it's time for the NBA to build their own Hall Of Fame. Put in Boston, or New York, or even Indianapolis. Make it about the NBA and their players and who were the best of the best in the greatest hoops league in the world.

Then do something else that I think EVERY Hall of Fame should do: make the Halls into a pyramid-like structure where there are different levels of HOFers. Michael Jordan and Joe Dumars are both HOFers but they aren't on the same level. Just like Blyleven and Walter Johnson aren't on the same level.

Guys like Walter Johnson and Michael Jordan belong at the top of those pyramids. Their impact was far greater than Dumars or Blyleven. Not to say those two aren't deserving HOFers, but it's not the same thing.

Which is my point. Most younger hoops fans don't know much about Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar or Jerry West. If a youngster goes to the Basketball Hall Of Fame, Wilt, Kareem and The Logo would just be mixed it with everyone else. Put them in a special level of the Hall Of Fame that only the best of the best get in. Not only would it make the Hall Of Fames stronger, but it would (a) put more pride on where your level is as much as (b) it allows voters to let those fence guys in because you do have a ground floor.

It could also work, in some aspects, as a punishment. Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds deserve to be in the Baseball Hall Of Fame even though both (allegedly) juiced up. Both were great players before the Steroid Era and both deserve to get in. Mark McGwire and Raffy Palmeiro don't deserve it because the Roids made them into HOF players.

So you could, in good conscience, vote Clemens and Bonds in but knock them down a few pegs. They aren't in the top level with Ruth, DiMaggio, Mantle, Young, Mays and Aaron ... or maybe not even the next level down. But knocking them down a bit helps ease the pain of having their names alongside the greats of the greats.

Which brings be back to Reggie Miller. Miller was a very good scorer, a great shooter and someone who revolutionized the use of the three-point shot. He also did all this in small market Indiana (if Miller was, say a Knick or a Laker, he'd be in without an argument). He deserves to be in no matter what.

Hard to Believe It's Been 10 Years Since Earnhardt's Death


I'm not a NASCAR fan. I grew up in Charlotte, NC where NASCAR is king and you hear about auto racing so much that you kinda know what's going on.

Still, it's hard for me to believe that it has been 10 years since Dale Earnhardt crashed on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500 and died.

I remember when I heard about it. My wife and I were driving home from Charlotte (I know live in the Cincinnati area) when she called her brother on her cell phone and he told her that Earnhardt passed. It was one of those things you didn't think you'd hear.

Again, I'm not a NASCAR fan, but Earnhardt was so popular that everyone knew who he was. Especially in the Charlotte area (Dale was from nearby Kannapolis), the black 3 car was iconic. I've always said that if there was a sports Mount Rushmore for the state of North Carolina, Earnhardt would be one of the four faces to adorn the shrine (the others being Michael Jordan, Dean Smith and Richard Petty).

Earnhardt was a rarity. He raced hard and didn't care if people didn't like him. Yet people loved him because of his "Intimidator" persona. Every interview I saw him in he seemed very personable and generally a happy man. I always think of his "Race ya for a Sun Drop" commercials that were constantly on. Still today, his image is on numerous items in the state of North Carolina.

The interesting thing is the legacy Earnhardt left behind. Not only was he one of the most successful drivers in NASCAR history and one of the most popular drivers ever, his on-track death was the catalyst for many changes in the sport.

The innovations in safety have gone above and beyond what anyone could have dreamed over the last decade. The HANS device (which Earnhardt declined to wear) is now made mandatory for every driver. If Dale had worn the device, he most likely would have survived the crash. Tracks and the walls were made safer and there is more emphasis on cautious driving and penalties for being out of control.

Remember that since Earnhardt's death, the Winston Cup is now the Sprint Cup and losing the tobacco giant as series endorser allowed NASCAR to become extremely popular. We now have "The Chase".

For a non-gear head living in Charlotte, he still was an icon.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

SEC Needs to Kill the Divisional Format


Divisional formats in college sports belong in football only. They work there. It allows you to easily determine who plays for your conference's championship. It works.

It doesn't work in college basketball.

The ACC knew this and never put the Atlantic and Coastal Divisions in the hoops side of things. The Big Ten and Pac-12 know they aren't using their football divisions for basketball when both leagues expand to 12 teams this fall. Conference USA and the Big XII also kill the divisional format for basketball.

So why does the SEC still use it?

It is hurting their conference. Right now, the SEC East has 5 of its 6 teams realistically looking at an NCAA Tournament berth. The SEC West has just one, if that. Yet when the SEC Tournament starts, three of those SEC East schools looking at a ticket to the Big Dance will get screwed out of a bye in the conference tournament while two less deserving SEC West teams will get a pass to the quarterfinals.

It really isn't fair and it really doesn't help the conference.

Right now, only one SEC West team has a winning conference record (Alabama). Yet 5-6 Mississippi State is in line for a first round bye because they are in 2nd place in the West. Meanwhile Kentucky would, as of now, win 4 games in 4 days to win the SEC title.

It's stupid. Fix it Mr. Slive.

It's quite easy. They could use either the Big XII or ACC model.

In the Big XII, they "use" the football divisions in hoops for scheduling only (the teams that comprise the South play each other twice and then play the North teams once every year). Sure, the schedule would the exact same as it has been for the last 20 years, but it would help with seeding and so forth.

Or do the ACC model. The ACC has 12 teams. Each team has two rivals that they play twice every year. Then they go on a three year rotation. They'll switch off playing 3 teams at home only, 3 teams on the road only and 3 teams home and road. So North Carolina plays Duke and NC State twice each year and then plays everyone else 4 times in 3 years.

I like that in the SEC. It would make it even more even since the teams currently in the SEC West don't benefit from beating up on the weaker division. It would also allow for some extra exposure. Right now, Kentucky plays Ole Miss once each year -- home the first year, road the next year. Following the ACC model, Ole Miss will get to see Kentucky 4 times in 3 years.

You could have their yearly rivals like this:

FLORIDA: Georgia, Kentucky
GEORGIA: Florida, South Carolina
KENTUCKY: Tennessee, Florida
SOUTH CAROLINA: Vanderbilt, Georgia
TENNESSEE: Kentucky, Vanderbilt
VANDERBILT: South Carolina, Tennessee

ALABAMA: Auburn, Ole Miss
ARKANSAS: LSU, Miss State
AUBURN: Alabama, LSU
LSU: Arkansas, Auburn
MISS STATE: Ole Miss, Arkansas
OLE MISS: Miss State, Alabama

I like it.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Could The NBA Move the Hornets to Seattle?


One of the interesting rumors getting some buzz is the idea that the NBA will have the wildcard of contracting the New Orleans Hornets when labor negotiations resume with the NBA Players Association.

David Stern says that isn't so, but the idea shouldn't be swept under the rug. He also said owners would mind it if the team went away. I'd doubt that the NBA would actually threaten contraction. Maybe they'll imply it. Maybe they'll leak information that they are considering it. Either way, the union will know that it could end up happening.

I have a better solution. The NBA's 29 other clubs bought the New Orleans Hornets for $300M, right? Why not sell the franchise to a Seattle buyer (there are some rich folks up there)? After all, the NBA all but promised a franchise to Seattle when the SuperSonics left there a couple of years ago. Any new franchise there would actually share the original Sonics history with the Oklahoma City Thunder (where the Sonics moved).

We have our new Seattle SuperSonics.

Now, since the Hornets name is dead, sell the rights to use the nickname, logo and all of that to Michael Jordan so he can rename his franchise the Charlotte Hornets. That would make that franchise a bit stronger. "Bobcats" suck. Orange as a main color sucks. Charlotte was a teal city when the Hornets arrived in 1988. Bring that back. We all want it.

C'mon David Stern. You know it would be smarter to sell the team, sell the "Hornets" name and let the other owners make some extra change. Seattle gets their old team back; Charlotte gets its old name back.

Win-win!

SPORTZ ASSASSIN'S BUBBLE WATCH - 2/15/11

Today is the first day of my annual SPORTZ ASSASSIN BUBBLE WATCH. So check in daily to see how my latest bubble picks are shaping up.

Yes, the NCAA Hoops Regular Season Means Something


I'm watching ESPN's "First Take" and they were debating about the value of college basketball's regular season. The two panelists argued that the games itself still mean something. Moderator Dana Jacobson thought that the season is watered down and a loss doesn't mean as much in other sports.

I agree with the panelists.

No, the regular season isn't as meaningful as ... say ... the college football regular season. But that doesn't mean it's useless. Far from it.

First, let me touch on some of the things that I do agree have watered it down a bit. I think 68 teams is too many in the Big Dance. Go back to the 65 (or make the worst 8 teams have a play-in game for the No. 16 seed). Those "bubble teams" that just miss being in the NCAA Tournament weren't good enough anyway. We don't need them in the Dance.

True, Kansas' loss last night to K-State doesn't mean a total hill of beans in the grand scheme of things. The Jayhawks still can be a No. 1 seed, still make the tournament, still get to the Final Four, still can win the whole thing. But that doesn't mean the game was pointless. Far from it.

In the last week, we saw three big games that were played in front of rabid fans. Last Wednesday, North Carolina and Duke played in yet another big game in front of a great crowd. On Saturday, top-ranked Ohio State were upset in a very excited Kohl Center in Wisconsin. Then last night, the Jayhawks lose to their little brother, Kansas State, in the Wildcats home den. In and of themselves, the games were fun to watch.

Plus, don't tell the students at those schools that those games didn't matter. They'll talk about those games for years.

And what makes that different than, say, virtually any other sport? Think a June day featuring the Royals and Indians means anything? Do you think the Yankees losing to the Orioles in August is a reason for New Yorkers to panic? Do you think that, in reality, that Lakers-Celtics game last Thursday night really meant a thing in the long run? Probably not.

Heck the Lakers are essentially coasting through the year because all they care about is the postseason. The Celtics did the same last year and still got to Game 7 of the NBA Finals. Do you think Duke could've just screwed around all year because they know they'll get into the tournament and they'll just turn it on then? Let's ask Michigan State how that will work out.

No, the college games still hold a ton of meaning. Just view all of the Bubble Watch topics over the next few weeks to see how important all these games are.

My most important point is what I alluded to earlier: the games matter to the fans. No, I don't "care" about Kansas vs Kansas State. But I'd bet the state of Kansas was pretty pumped for it. I've been a North Carolina fan all my life and each game is met by memories of past meetings. The Tar Heels have NC State in Raleigh this weekend. My best friend growing up is a huge Wolfpack fan. I'm pretty sure that game has a ton of meaning.

No, a win by State wouldn't get them into the Dance or knock Carolina out of it. It would be a win, however, that would be cherished by any fan of NC State. Heck, I still mouth off about UNC's win in Cameron Indoor Stadium on J.J. Redick's senior night. It means a lot to people.

Like to paraphrase something I told someone the other day: if you spend your time worrying about the tournament then you'll miss all the fun getting there. So when you see a college basketball game in the coming weeks, don't think about the impact the game will have on seeding or whatever ... just enjoy the game itself.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Could NBA Work In Louisville?


The city of Louisville is stumping hard for an NBA franchise. A local lawyer has got enough investors (though he wouldn't give their names or the countries they come from) to lure a team to Kentucky. He met with NBA commish David Stern and said the talks were very positive.

So the question is ... would the NBA in Louisville work?

There are a couple of things working in their favor. One, Kentucky is a basketball hotbed as it is the epicenter for Kentucky, Louisville and Indiana fans. Two, the old ABA Kentucky Colonels called Louisville home.

Also, smaller cities do work pretty well in the NBA. The NBA has teams in Salt Lake City, Portland, Orlando, Oklahoma City, Sacramento and Memphis. In all of those cities, the NBA is the lone pro dog in the town and, aside from Memphis, doesn't have a powerful collegiate presence. The NBA also put pro teams in cities that either didn't have previous pro teams or just one. Charlotte and Phoenix used to be NBA-only towns. Now Charlotte has an NFL franchise and Phoenix has a team in all four major sports. When the NBA brought the Heat to Miami, all that was there was the Dolphins. Louisville would just add to that.

There are things working against it. One, those ol' Colonels used to play in Freedom Hall ... and that's the place Louisville is pimping to house an NBA team. The building first opened in 1956 and it would be the oldest NBA arena by a decade (right now, the re-re-re-renovated Oracle Arena in Oakland is the oldest). To be NBA-ready, the city would have to do a lot of work to Freedom Hall.

The city did just build the Yum! Center where the University of Louisville plays (they called Freedom Hall from 1956 to 2010). While an NBA team could play there, the university has first dibs on everything. While the school said they'd be cool with sharing the arena with an NBA team, they reminded everyone that they get first call on scheduling dates of both its men's and women's hoops teams.

There is also a certain team in Indianapolis that would be a bit bent that a team would be moving in on its territory.

Also, would the NBA get the support that the college teams in the state get? Maybe, maybe not. Look at the other big college hoops states. The aforementioned Pacers do just fine in Hoosier-crazed Indiana. In North Carolina, the Charlotte Hornets did catch the city by storm. The newer Charlotte Bobcats aren't as beloved, but that has less to do with the college scene as much as what happened in the Hornets situation.

The differences here, though, are that college basketball really isn't a big influence in the actual cities mentioned. Yes, people in Indianapolis love the Hoosiers, it is a bit of a drive to actually go to the games. The Pacers are the city's team. Same thing in Charlotte. While the Tar Heels, Blue Devils and Wolfpack rule the college fans' hearts, those schools are a 2-hour drive away. The Hornets and Bobcats are the city's team.

Louisville is a bit different. The city has a basketball team already -- the Cardinals. This is a very successful program with a championship pedigree playing in what may be the most elite conference ... the Big East ... in the nation. They also have a transcendent coach and they will be playing in the newer, better arena.

Finally, what team would be enticed to move to Louisville? The Kings will most likely move from Sacramento. But do you think the Maloofs would move to Kentucky instead of Las Vegas? Nope. The Hornets may not be long for New Orleans, but would they think about moving up to a smaller town ... again? Same goes for the Grizzlies. Aside from that, I don't see another NBA team moving.

Even if one did, isn't Seattle or Kansas City a bit higher on the list?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Realigning the NBA

ATLANTIC: Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, New Jersey Nets, New York Knicks, Orlando Magic, Philadelphia 76ers, Washington Wizards

CENTRAL: Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Bobcats, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers, Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors

MIDWEST: Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Houston Rockets, Memphis Grizzlies, Minnesota Timberwolves, New Orleans Hornets, Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs

PACIFIC: Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix Suns, Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings, Utah Jazz

Realigning the NHL

ADAMS: Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Florida Panthers, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs

PATRICK: Carolina Hurricanes, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals

NORRIS: Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues

SMYTHE: Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche, Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, Phoenix Coyotes, San Jose Sharks, Vancouver Canucks

Friday, February 11, 2011

We Will Rarely See That Long Term Pro Coach Again


Think about it. Since last October, the longest tenured coach in Major League Baseball, NBA and NFL all have left their jobs.

At the end of the 2010 baseball season, Bobby Cox ended his two-decade reign over the Atlanta Braves. Before the Super Bowl, Jeff Fisher "stepped aside" as the head coach of the Tennessee Titans after 17 years. And now Jerry Sloan resigns as the Utah Jazz's head coach after 23 years.

I think it's safe to say that you may not see anything like that again.

Will we see a long-time professional coach again? Maybe. Right now, Tony LaRussa is pro sports longest tenured coach as he approaches his 16th season with the St. Louis Cardinals. Greg Popovich is in the middle of his 15th season with the San Antonio Spurs. The Eagles' Andy Reid is the longest running (ironic pun intended) head coach in the NFL. Lindy Ruff is in his 14th season with the NHL's Buffalo Sabres.

Those guys should mount a few more years on their resumes, though it isn't a given. LaRussa has toyed with bolting; Reid seems to always be on the hot seat; will Pop go when Duncan hangs 'em up?

In this day and age of constant pressures and scrutiny, it is hard for me to see any coach starting out now to be in the same gig for two decades. It's too tough. Joe Torre ... who won four World Series with the Yankees ... was run out of New York. And we just saw how Sloan and Fisher recently soured on their organizations -- and vice versa.

The only ones that could pull it off is Bill Belichick, Mike Tomlin, Mike McCarthy, Terry Francona, Ron Gardenhire and Mike Scioscia. I can't see any NBA coaches lasting as long as Sloan did. Popovich? Maybe. Doc Rivers (who is currently 2nd in active tenure) could take his talents from Boston when their window of opportunity closes. As for NHL coaches ... well they seem to always get fired.

If you look at the three coaches (Cox, Sloan, Fisher), you see a few similarities. All three led their franchises (and cities) to unprecedented successes. Cox won a gajillion straight division titles, won a World Series and appeared in three others. Sloan took the Jazz to two NBA Finals. Fisher took the Titans to a Super Bowl. Sloan and Fisher were coaching icons in their relatively newer professional cities. Cox was in a city that hadn't tasted any pro success.

While there are cities out there small enough to embrace a wildly successful coach, in this day of sports talk radio, blogs, twitter and everyone thinking they are an expert, it is harder to deal with the down times that come with any job you keep for 20 years.

Hopefully in 10-15 years I'll be able to write this post again as a couple of long term coaches retire their clipboards/lineup cards/headsets. I'm just not counting on it.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Who Are the Best Coaches Never To Win A Title?


With Jerry Sloan and Jeff Fisher both stepping down from their longest-tenured positions in their respective leagues, it got me thinking about who are the top coaches in the major American sports to have never taken their teams to a championship.

I'm sure I missed a few names in there, but please feel free to add them in the comments.

GENE MAUCH (MLB): Mauch is by far the winningest MLB manager to never take a team to the World Series (he has nearly 1,000 more wins than 2nd place). He presided over the Phillies remarkable last season collapse in 1964, saw his Angels take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five ALCS against the Brewers in 1982 and were swept the rest of the way, and the 1986 Angels team that was one out from getting to the World Series before the Red Sox made a comeback. "Great" is subjective since he actually has a losing career record.

BO SCHEMBECHLER (College football): The Michigan legend never won a college football championship in his 21 years with the school. Only Joe Paterno and Tom Osborne won 200 games quicker than Bo.

BUD GRANT (NFL): Only Don Shula and George Halas have more NFL wins that Grant. But Grant never won a championship. His Vikings were 0-4 in Super Bowls during his 18 seasons in Minnesota. He did win 4 Grey Cup Championships in the Canadian Football League.

DON NELSON (NBA): He's won more games than any coach in history. But he's never been to an NBA Finals ... let alone won an NBA Championship.

JERRY SLOAN (NBA): He's a Hall Of Fame coach who took the Utah Jazz to two NBA Finals -- losing both to Michael Jordan's Bulls. While he'll always be remembered for having John Stockton and Karl Malone, the fact that he seemed to always have Utah in the playoff hunt despite not being a very desirable place for free agents is quite impressive.

EDDIE SUTTON (NCAA hoops): Sutton has taken four programs to the NCAA Tournament ... getting to a Final Four with Arkansas and two with Oklahoma State. Controversy followed Sutton at both Kentucky and Okie State.

MARV LEVY (NFL): Levy took his Buffalo Bills to four consecutive Super Bowls. But he lost all four to NFC East teams. Levy also won a Grey Cup.

DAN REEVES (NFL): Reeves had John Elways in his prime and couldn't cash in on three Super Bowl appearances. He also took the Falcons to a Super Bowl where they were blown out by ... John Elway and the Broncos.

MARTY SCHOTTENHEIMER (NFL): Marty Ball works. His teams usually win: in 21 seasons he had just two losing campaigns. But he never got to the Super Bowl. No coach has won more games in the Super Bowl era that hasn't made it to the big game than Schottenheimer.

GEORGE ALLEN (NFL): The former Rams and Redskins head coach took Washington to the 1972 Super Bowl. He finished with a 116-47-5 record during the regular season. He took his teams to 7 playoff appearances in his 12 NFL seasons.

JEFF FISHER (NFL): Coached the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Oilers/Tennessee Titans for 17 seasons. Went to one Super Bowl and lost to the Greatest Show On Turf Rams.

JOHN CALIPARI (NCAA hoops): Coach Cal gets some really good recruits ... even if it seems there is some shady business going on. But he has yet to cash that in for an NCAA Championship. He took his UMass squad to the Final Four (since vacated) and Memphis was within a miracle shot from winning one in 2008 (their Final Four appearance since vacated).

Is The NFC Back?


When I was a kid, the NFC was king. From 1985-1997, the NFC won every Super Bowl. And in that span, only Super Bowls XXV and Super Bowl XXVIII were even close. The Niners won four titles, the Cowboys three times, the Redskins and Giants twice apiece and the Bears and Packers won once.

However, the AFC would win 9 of the next 12 Super Bowls. The NFC, normally filled with several heavyweights, only had the Giants and Rams appear in multiple Super Bowls in that time. The NFC currently has had 10 different representatives to the last 10 Super Bowls.

But has the NFC turned the corner? Are we entering into another changing of the guard? After all, the NFC has won consecutive Super Bowls for the first time since that 13 year dominance in the 1980s and 1990s.

Maybe.

It's hard to say. The AFC still has their elite teams. The Colts, Patriots and Steelers have been to the last 8 Super Bowls and 9 of 10. They all still have their franchise quarterbacks playing at a high level.

"Quarterbacks" to me is the key. The AFC's influx of great QBs helped usher in their dominance in the passing era. Well, the NFC is starting to get those young franchise QBs.

You have the relatively newbie Aaron Rodgers taking the world by storm. Drew Brees was last year's Super Bowl MVP. There is also the Falcons' Matt Ryan, the Cowboys' Tony Romo, the Eagles' Michael Vick, Giants' Eli Manning, Lions' Matt Stafford, Bucs' Josh Freeman, Rams' Sam Bradford and even the Bears' Jay Cutler.

The NFC was just 30-34 against the AFC this year ... but that stat doesn't sit well to me. That adds in all the crappy teams records in the fold. We're talking about the good teams. Only the Carolina Panthers went winless against the AFC (0-4), while only the Lions, Vikings and Seahawks had a losing interconference record.

I'm looking more at trends. In the NFC, there seems to be a lot of teams on the rise. The Lions, Buccaneers and Rams, long the laughingstock of the NFL, are looking like they are turning around their fortunes. The Vikings and Cowboys had bad seasons last year, but they also were picked the be the best teams before the season began. Who knows, maybe their turnaround will be swift.

There are the defending champion Packers and the Saints, who won the previous year. There are the Michael Vick led Philadelphia Eagles; not to mention the Atlanta Falcons, who finished with the NFC's best record last year. The Giants won 10 games last year. The Bears won 11.

Over in the AFC, it is a bit down. The Dolphins nearly fired their coach before reluctantly keeping him on. The Bengals went from AFC North champs to a humiliating mess. Houston, Tennessee and Jacksonville all look mediocre at best. Denver fell off the map. San Diego didn't look as great as we thought they'd be. And despite Oakland's success last year, you can't trust Al Davis to keep it going.

Sure, the AFC still has the Pats, Colts and Steelers playing at a high level and teams like the Jets, Ravens and Chargers who still have some gas in the tank. They also have the Raiders and Chiefs, who were the surprise teams from a year ago. The NFC may have some nice QBs, but the AFC still has Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Schaub and Philip Rivers ... and young guys Matt Cassell, Mark Sanchez, Joe Flacco and Colt McCoy.

It isn't like the AFC is dead. Far from it.

However, the NFC isn't a doormat anymore either. Maybe we are entering a new age of NFC dominance.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

2011 ACC Mid-term Report


The greatest rivalry in college basketball ... and maybe all of sports ... resumes tomorrow. The UNC-Duke game ceremoniously marks the midseason for the ACC season. Everyone has played at least eight games and the standings seem to be settling.

TEAM TO BEAT: DUKE. Despite their little lull right now, Duke is by far the most talented team in the conference. Even without Kyrie Irving, the Blue Devils are loaded. The one thing is that 4 of their last 7 games (after the UNC game) will be on the road, including trips to Virginia Tech and Carolina.

IF NOT THEM, THEN: NORTH CAROLINA. This is a relatively new development, but they have the talent, the depth (though that keeps thinning) and the size to make things difficult for most ACC teams. If the Heels want to take back the conference, they have a lot on their plate. After traveling to Duke, they still must go to Clemson, Florida State and NC State ... along with home dates with Duke, Boston College and Maryland.

TEAM WHO COULD RISE: MARYLAND. The Terps have a rather favorable schedule the rest of the way. Yeah, they do travel to Duke and North Carolina but they also get NC State and Miami at home. They have big games sprinkled in there, but if the Terps are going to cause any damage in the league, they will have to win those games.

TEAM WHO COULD FALL: BOSTON COLLEGE. There is a glut in the middle of the league so it's hard to say who could fall. BC is my leader for this category (though UNC could be ripe for this). BC is a team that relies on gunning threes and plays relatively no defense. With a tough slate of games down the stretch, I see them falling off the bubble.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: NOLAN SMITH. It is Smith's to lose. He leads the Blue Devils in scoring and assists and have gone from a shooting guard to lead guard when Irving went down. He brings it on both ends and is a matchup nightmare.

COACH OF THE YEAR: ROY WILLIAMS. Okay, okay, okay. So it hasn't been the best year for the Tar Heels. But follow me. Ol' Roy watched David and Travis Wear transfer, Will Graves kicked off the team and now Larry Drew II quitting on him. He has been playing a 6-4 guy at backup power forward. He has two freshmen starting, including his point guard. His backup point guard? He doesn't have one. And all this for a team that missed the tournament last year. There is a lot of work to do for this to happen, but if the Heels finish in 2nd place this year ... plus the lack of a better option ... Ol' Roy could win this one again.

DUKE-CAROLINA PREDICTION: I am a diehard Carolina fan and think we can win this game. But if I had to put money on it, I'd say Duke wins by 14. Maybe something like 76-62. Carolina is too young and has two freshmen playing important roles on this team that have never set foot in Cameron Indoor Stadium. The other guys' last trip to Durham ended with a 32-point thumping. Kendall Marshall will be brought down to earth and Kyle Singler will do a lot of damage in this one. Duke wins.

Still, GO HEELS!!!

NBA Should Move Blazers to Pacific Division


Just a thought.


I think the NBA should look at some realignment. With the Seattle SuperSonics now residing in Oklahoma City as the Thunder, I think the NBA can do a little switcheroo.

Why not move the Portland Trail Blazers to the Pacific Division and move the Phoenix Suns to a "Midwest" Division?

Portland was a Pacific Division staple until the NBA went to a six-division format a few years ago. The Blazers, along with nearby Seattle, were placed in the new Northwest Division with Denver, Minnesota and Utah. It seemed like a good fit at the time.

But with Seattle out of the picture, shouldn't we put Portland ... which lies on the Pacific coast ... in the Pacific Division? Put them with the Lakers, Clippers, Warriors and Kings.To make room, move the Suns to a revamped Midwest Division. It's stupid to have a Northwest Division when Oklahoma City is one of the occupants. So call it the Midwest and have Oklahoma City, Phoenix, Utah, Denver and Minnesota involved.

Look, this is really all window dressing. The division format is nothing more than a show to have six teams feeling as if they won something. In reality, the NBA basically is made up of two conferences. Teams within the division play each other nearly the same amount of times so moving teams really won't affect travel or, like the Dallas Stars of the NHL, won't create bad television times.

Still, it would make a bit more sense.

WESTERN CONFERENCE
SOUTHWEST: Dallas, Houston, Memphis, New Orleans, San Antonio
MIDWEST: Denver, Minnesota, Oklahoma City, Phoenix, Utah
PACIFIC: Golden State, LA Clippers, LA Lakers, Portland, Sacramento

Don't get me wrong; the best thing to do is just dump those divisional format and just have a 15-team Eastern and Western Conference. In reality, that's what we already have. Your division affiliation is meaningless.

Monday, February 7, 2011

I Gotta Lot To Say About Super Bowl XLV!!!


It's been about half a day since Super Bowl XLV has ended. I'm over my snack hangover from last night and have stepped away enough to be able to gather all of my thoughts.

AARON RODGERS: He was worth all the hype. He had a very nice statistical game ... and he would've had a better one if not for a bevy of dropped passes (two would've went for TDs). Even the ones that were completely were just in the right spot. He absolutely threaded the needle on Greg Jennings' first TD reception. He was like a surgeon out there. Simply amazing.

BRETT FAVRE: Could this season have been any worse for Favre? Seriously. The Vikings embarrassed themselves by essentially begging Favre to play again. He looked old all year and the Vikings way underperformed. He got into a snide spat with coach Brad Childress that eventually got the coach fired (well, Randy Moss may have done that). His consecutive starts streak ended due to injury. He had that whole texting of his junk fiasco. And in what will most likely be his final game, he stood on the sideline of a frigid college stadium and watched some guy no one ever heard of lead his team.

So of course Aaron Rodgers and the Packers were going to win the Super Bowl. Of course. Rodgers has now matched Favre's ring accomplishments and even won the game's MVP award (Brett doesn't have one of those). Plus it vindicated Packers GM Ted Thompson's decision to let Favre walk and begin the Rodgers Era.

It reminds me of Brad Hamilton in Fast Times At Ridgemont High. He had everything but let his cockiness get the best of him. After that, it was all down hill (well, until he thwarted a robbery attempt at the end of the movie). Favre didn't even get that.

TROY POLAMALU: Where were you?

INJURIES: As the game went on, I really hoped the Steelers didn't make the comeback to win the game. The Green Bay team that was on that field wasn't the one they though they'd have going in. Charles Woodson, Donald Driver and that Shields kid all were knocked out of the game. The Steelers were down big before Woodson got hurt so it's no surprise what the difference was when Pittsburgh started mounting a comeback when he was knocked out of the game.

Injuries are part of football and we all know that. But it sucks when they affect the actual championship game. Like that Texas-Alabama BCS title game two years ago when Colt McCoy was knocked out of the game early on. It's just a shame. Good thing Green Bay overcame all of that and pulled out the win.

CHRISTINA AGUILERA: I was shocked at how bad she was. I believe she's one of the most talented singers we have and easily the best of the teeny-boppers of a decade ago. So it really got me that Aguilera sung the national anthem so poorly and even messing up the lyrics. Yikes.

BLACK EYED PEAS: I'm not a BEP fan at all, though I know their history and catalogue and all of that. I understand it was those kids and middle aged women that were going to love their halftime show. But it didn't sit with me. Fine, play all your hits and have all the weird futuristic costumes and sets you want. But don't grab Slash and have Fergie just ruin Sweet Child O' Mine. My wife was changing our daughter's diaper in the other room and came out with this look on her face. And it wasn't the diaper that put it there.

I'm not big on any of the halftime shows anyway (though I did watch Prince's a few years back). I did watch this one because I had to, but it wasn't worth all of that.

COMMERCIALS: Not the side-splitting ads that we have been accustomed to. There were a few winners for me and some losers. I liked both Eminem ads. I liked several of the Doritos one, especially the magic Dorito dust and when the little dog knocked down the door. Those monkeys on careerbuilder.com were a winner as usual. I liked the Darth Vader commercial. I also liked the one where we could hear the couple's thoughts. But nothing knocked me out of my seat.

DALLAS: If it wasn't for Jerry Jones and that state-of-the-art stadium, I'd say that Dallas has no shot at hosting another Super Bowl. While the city can't do anything about the weather, the ice and snow storms crippled everything in the week leading up to the game. As Atlanta has found out, it's tough to win back the NFL after an ice storm shuts down your city.

I can forgive Dallas for that (though the fact that everything was so spread out made the affect of the ice even worse), but I can't forgive them for the ticket crisis before the game. How in the heck do you promise people seats and then not have enough for them when the game starts? I know that they worked feverishly to put the extra seats in, but they had several years to get this done. While relocating some to better vantage points and paying others triple the face value of their ticket was a decent touch, it scares me to death that something like this could happen to me.

ROGER GOODELL: I like the commish and I think he's really good at his job (though I don't always agree with him). But to stand up there and talk about what a great season this was ... knowing we are looking at you as one of the reasons we may not see any football next year. Word is that this game broke last year's Saints-Colts Super Bowl as the most watched program EVER. Don't screw up this momentum by nickel and diming yourselves in a $9 billion pie.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Revisiting the 45 Stops To Super Bowl XLV

Alright, let's go back through my 45 Stops To Super Bowl XLV to see how some of the factoids fared in tonight's game.

If you don't remember what each number was, just click here.

2-Didn't really notice there weren't any cheerleaders. That should tell you something about their importance.

11-The Steelers nearly obliterated the record for largest comeback to win a Super Bowl. The record is 10 points (Redskins and Saints did it). In this game, the Steelers trailed by 18 points before whittling it down to 3 late in the game. But Pittsburgh never led and couldn't complete the comeback.

12-There now has been a successful FG in 43 of 45 Super Bowls. Also, teams that intercept a pass for a TD is now 11-0 in Super Bowls.

13-Still no punt return for a TD.

19-The Packers broke the string of six straight Super Bowl champions to wear the white jerseys in the game. Green Bay, obviously, wore green and became the first team with a colorful jersey to win a Super Bowl since the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVIII.

22-The NFC has now won the last 14 coin tosses in the Super Bowl. Simply amazing.

23-The coin toss winner is now 22-23 in the Super Bowl. And the Packers win gives the coin toss winner just the 5th championship in the last 15 games.

25-The favorite is now 31-14 in Super Bowls.

30-Big Ben joins Roger Staubach, Tom Brady, John Elway and Bob Griese as QBs to have multiple Super Bowl titles to have also lost a Super Bowl.

33-The game didn't go into overtime, so no free pizza for us.

34-The Packers were just the fourth team to win three road games en route to the Super Bowl. Green Bay is the third of those teams to win the big one as well.

35-The No. 6 seed has made it to the Super Bowl twice. Now they won it twice.

42-The AFC falls to 6-3 in February Super Bowls.