Saturday, December 24, 2011

"The Brawl" Has Led Cincy-Xavier In Two Different Directions

A couple weeks ago, "The Brawl" happened in Cincinnati. Crosstown rivals Xavier and Cincinnati met, as they do every year, with the Musketeers blowing out the Bearcats. At the end of the very testy game, a brawl broke out that left both teams with suspended players and bad tastes in their mouth.

Cincinnati suspended Yancy Gates, Cheikh Mbodj and Octavius Ellis six games each and Ge'Lawn Guyn for one game. Xavier suspended Dez Wells and Landen Amos for four games, Mark Lyons for two and star guard Tu Holloway for one game.

Since then, both schools have gone in different directions.

Xavier has now lost three straight games. After "The Brawl", the Muskies were a Top Ten team with an 8-0 record. Since then, they've lost to unranked Oral Roberts, Long Beach State and Hawaii. ORU gave Xavier their worst loss in the Cintas Center (22 points) and Long Beach won by ten. They have one more game (against Southern Illinois) before they are done with all of their suspensions. The first game with their full team will be against Gonzaga.

As for Cincinnati, they have won the four games played after the fight. Granted, none were against anyone spectacular (Wright State, Radford, Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Chicago State), they have won all of them in great fashion ... winning those games by an average of 33.5 points. We will find out just how good they are after their final non-conference game with Oklahoma and entering Big East play (how is Pitt, Notre Dame, St John's, Georgetown, Villanova and UConn for starters?). While I'm sure this winning streak will end during that run, at least the Bearcats seem to be getting on the same page.

Odd, isn't it? I'm sure when the season ends, Xavier will have the better record, higher ranking and more pub than the Bearcats. Sure, the Cats winning streak happened all at home and Xavier has been in Hawaii over the past week. But it is interesting to see how both teams have handled this self-inflicted adversity.

Even right after the game, you could kind of see this coming. Cincy head coach Mick Cronin chastised his players and the schools part in this mess. He honestly seemed embarrassed and very vocal that this wouldn't happen again on his watch. Xavier head coach Chris Mack wasn't as vocal and allowed his players ... including star Holloway ... to act a fool in post game interviews. I live in the Cincinnati area and that "gangstas" rant was and still is the biggest talking point after the fight.

So as we go into 2012, it will be interesting to see the focus of both these schools which will say a lot about the futures of these two progams .... and not just for the rest of the season.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sports In 2011 Was The Year In Hell

When we look back at the sports landscape in 2011 ... it won't be a happy thought to most of us. This was a very, very, very bad year for sports as a whole.

Don't get me wrong. There were some great moments (Game 6 of the World Series could be the best game ever played in the Fall Classic) and great performances. Congrats to all the champs and all the greatness that happened over the past calendar year.

Still, 2011 clearly threw down the shroud that surrounds the dark side of sports.

CHILD SEX SCANDALS: This is the most gut-wrenching story to come out of 2011. Yeah, sex scandals have happened before and even the horror of child sexual abuse has been in the news in years past. But the cover-ups and the actions of the "adults in charge" was really shocking. It wasn't age or on-field performance that ended Joe Paterno's career ... it was sitting idle while a member of your staff was raping young boys on campus and under the umbrella of Penn State University. It was the administrators that sat on all this information for years and years without anything happening. It ruined the school and those legacies and ... worst of all ... the lives of all those boys who suffered this abuse while no one cared to help them.

We are supposed to trust these people to have the best interests of our kids when we send them to play athletics and attend these schools yet they don't have the moral compass to stop raping boys when they know it exists? It is really scary.

Even more scary when you realize that people like Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim will publically come out and chastise you for bravely stepping forward and facing your accuser. Boeheim staunchly defended his coach and friend without once thinking about what these young men who also worked for the school. He retracted it all but the damage is done. No matter how Hall-Of-Famey you may be, we can't trust you to do the right thing.

With the court cases and more details waiting to emerge, this story will be promptly in the headlines for the next few years.

DAN WHELDON: We were reminded, yet again, the dangers of motor sports haven't disappeared with all the advancements in safety. Early in the Indy Car season ending race in Las Vegas, Indianapolis 500 champion Dan Wheldon died in a fiery 15-car crash. I know we forget just how much our athletes put on the line but something like this haunts you in just how close that line may be from life and death. All for our amusement, endoresments and money.

LABOR WARS: 2011 will also be known as the year of Labor Strife. The NFL started it with their lockout which swiftly gripped the nation ... even though we missed no regular season games. With the season almost ending, can you even remember what they were fighting about? What has really changed? Still, it was a summer filled with people is suits jockeying in front of microphones instead of watching workouts, free agency and training camp.

In the NBA, it was a lot worse. Not only did it get nasty, but it got downright sickening. From David Stern's doomsday reports all the while he is trying to threaten the players to players signing all over the world as quick cash grabs. When we finally got to a deal (which cost the fans 240 games), no more than an hour later do we see a blockbuster deal (Chris Paul to the Lakers) that was swiftly vetoed by Stern because it looked bad on him. Stern then sent Paul ... who was on the league-owned Hornets ... to the Clippers, one of the historic laughingstocks of the NBA. Paul, by the way, was one of the high profile players very active in labor talks.

BCS GOES BS AGAIN: The BCS has gotten completely out of hand. Not only do we have a regular season rematch for the BCS title game, but it features a team that didn't win their conference OR THEIR FREAKIN' DIVISION! Unfair if you are LSU that Alabama could beat you on a neutral field and to be a champions when you beat them on their turf, won their conference and won their division.

Whatever, but what about the rest of the BCS? How does the ACC get two teams in the BCS when they don't even have a team ranked in the Top 10? Boise State sits at No. 7 and can't get a berth. Seriously, the No. 6 (Arkansas), No. 7 (Boise State) and No. 8 (Kansas State) can't get a BCS berth but No. 11 (Virginia Tech) and No. 13 (Michigan) can? Why even have this stupid poll when it really doesn't do anything?

LOSING JOE FRAZIER: Look, athletes die like the rest of us and that will always be the case. But Frazier's passing reminded us (a) just how far the sport of boxing has fallen in the decades since and (b) the damage done to guys like him and Muhammad Ali. Warriors in the ring that had the rest of their lives zapped away.

LOSING DAVE DUERSON: The former Bear died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He also offered him brain up for research into the effects of football related head injuries on players. Hopefully this research will help try to further safety measures in all sports.

LOSING DEREK BOOGAARD: He may not be known that well in the non-hockey world, but the 28-yr old enforcers death needs to shine a huge light on what this role in hockey is doing to the minds of these guys. Boogaard was the the youngest of three recent deaths by enforcers under the age of 40 years old.

LOSING AL DAVIS: Love him or hate him, there will never be another owner like him in any sport. Ever. And that's a bad thing.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Sportz Assassin College Football Playoff Bracket

I do this every year. Instead of all this BCS bowl crap, we just have a simple 12-team playoff that involves no bowls (other than the title game can be called a BCS championship at a neutral site).

Here are the teams that get in:
-Every champion of the six BCS conference
-Highest ranked non-BCS conference champion
-5 at-large bids regardless of conference
-Seeding and at large bids are determined by the final BCS standings
-Every effort will be attempted to keep conference teams from facing each other in the first round.

So here we go

9pm: #12 West Virginia (Big East Champ) at #5 Oregon (Pac12 Champ)
12pm: #11 TCU (MWC Champ) at #6 Arkansas
6pm: #10 Clemson (ACC Champ) at #7 Boise State
3pm: #9 Wisconsin (Big Ten Champ) at #8 Kansas State

12pm: Kansas State/Wisconsin at #1 LSU (SEC Champ)
9pm: Boise State/Clemson at #2 Alabama
3pm: Arkansas/at #3 Oklahoma State (Big 12 Champ)
6pm: Oregon/West Virginia at #4 Stanford

3:30pm: One national semifinal
8pm: Second national semifinal

8pm: BCS Championship

Funniest Bowl Names

Today and tomorrow will be filled by announcements of who is going to which bowl. While most of us will be fixated on who is going to the BCS title game or those usual big time bowls, we get treated to all of those great lesser bowls with their funny names and odd sponsorships.

Below are my TOP FIVE:

5-BEEF O BRADY'S BOWL: Bar food gets love. I'm not a huge fan of BOB's, but it's fun to say "Beef O' Brady's Bowl" a bunch of times in a row.

4-LITTLE CAESARS PIZZA BOWL: Formerly the Motor City Bowl, the Pizza Pizza Bowl is played in lovely Detroit. Look, we've already had a Papa John's Bowl and they are a much better pizza. I haven't had Little Ceez since I was a single guy sharing an apartment. Crazy bread is quite tasty, though. And when I used to go there, "pizza pizza" actually meant something! You always got TWO PIZZAS no matter what! Now it is a lie!

3-MILITARY BOWL PRESENTED BY NORTHROP GRUMMAN: That's a lot to fit on a trophy. Any bowl with "presented by" should make this list (including The Rose Bowl Presented by Vizio). Since Navy is not bowl-eligible, there will be no armed force academy in this game. As for Northrop Grumman ... why are they sponsoring this? They are a global aerospace and defense tech company. Where would sponsoring a bowl game help them?

2-BBVA COMPASS BOWL: I didn't even know people bought compasses anymore. Huh? It's a bank? BBVA is a Spanish bank that stands for Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentina and they bought out Compass ... you know, who cares? I know no one watching the game (if anyone does) will.

1-FAMOUS IDAHO POTATO BOWL: Formerly the Humanitarian Bowl, it is best known as that bowl played on Boise's ugly blue turf and for the fact that we see games played in freezing weather. The new name is just plain awesome. The logo above is even better.

NBA Owner's Logic Doesn't Work

I get what the NBA owners are saying. They need a league where every team has a chance to do well and get to the playoffs and get a ring and all that jazz. It sounds great. Sounds fantastic. I mean, it works in the NFL where you can have New Orleans and Indianapolis play for a championship and no one bats an eye. A league where Green Bay can be the latest dynasty.

Too bad it's not a great idea for the NBA, though. And history proves it.

First off, the NFL is a different beast. They pull in twice the cheese that the NBA does and have more lucrative and centralized TV contracts. While the NBA has national contracts with ESPN/ABC and Turner Sports, each team has to sell their local rights. Obviously, the Knicks and Lakers are worth more than the Kings and Hornets. NFL teams don't have to worry about that.

Plus football is followed much more passionately than the NBA.

Second off, NBA's own history proves this doesn't make all the sense in the world. I mean, what is the golden era in the NBA? The 1960s? The 1980s? The 1990s? Depending on who you talk to, all of those eras qualify. And what were those eras defined by?


In the 1960s, the Boston Celtics won 9 of the 10 championships. Those Celtics beat the Lakers six times in those Finals. The other four Finals losers were the Warriors and Hawks (the Sixers won the only other title).

In the 1980s, the Lakers (5) and Celtics (3) combined for eight titles. The Sixers won one title and the Pistons won the other (the first of back-to-back championships). In those 10 Finals, the Lakers went to 8 of them. Boston went to five.

The 1990s were dominated by the Bulls. Chicago won six titles, Houston won two. The Pistons and Spurs dynasties bookended the decade.

The last era of anyone-can-do-it was the 1970s. Though there are fond memories of that decade, it doesn't bring on the love like the decades surrounding it. The Celtics and Knicks were the only franchises to win multiple titles in the 1970s. The Bullets, Bucks, Lakers, Warriors, Blazers and Sonics each won it once. No dynasties, no love.

Now will the New NBA yield this same parity? Probably not. Hopefully not. While fans in Sacramento, Memphis, Utah, Charlotte and Orlando want to see their franchises do well, it doesn't really help the NBA all that much.

One of the issues is the NBA itself. Back in the 1980s, there were only 21 teams (there are 30 now). That made the talent level not as spread out as it is ... or has to be ... today. Sure, we didn't have any Miami Heat back then, but we didn't have Toronto, Memphis/Vancouver, Minnesota or New Orleans/Charlotte either.

I'm not into contraction, but you have to point out that 9 extra teams means at least 108 extra players in the league and some of your stars stuck in wastelands. I mean, everyone is going gaga over the "Big Threes" of the Celtics, Heatles or the Knicks hopes of landing Chris Paul to go with Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire. Well, the 1980s Lakers had Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy (all Hall Of Famers; all No. 1 overall picks). The 1980s Celtics had Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parrish and Dennis Johnson (all HOFers). The 1960s Celtics were loaded with HOFers. The second half of the Chicago Bulls dynasty had HOFers Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman. Rodman was also one of three HOFers on the Pistons back-to-back title teams (Joe Dumars and Isiah Thomas were the others).

Since then, it hasn't been the same. Those early 2000s Lakers had Shaq and Kobe ... two of the greatest players to ever play basketball. The Spurs only superduperstar is Tim Duncan.

Only one champion in the 2000s has three HOF players.
2000-2002 Lakers: Shaq, Kobe
2003, 2005, 2007 Spurs: Tim Duncan
2004 Pistons: No one
2006 Heat: Dwyane Wade, Shaq
2008 Celtics: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen
2009-2010 Lakers: Kobe
2011 Mavericks: Dirk Nowitzki

Even the Finals runners-up weren't stacked ... other than the last two and a bust of a team in 2004.

2000 Pacers: Reggie Miller
2001 Sixers: Allen Iverson
2002-2003 Nets: Jason Kidd
2004 Lakers: Shaq, Kobe, Karl Malone, Gary Payton

2005 Pistons: No one

2006 Mavericks: Dirk Nowitzki
2007 Cavaliers: LeBron James
2008 Lakers: Kobe
2009 Magic: Dwight Howard
2010 Celtics: KG, Allen and Pierce
2011 Heat: LeBron, Wade

Point is, there is no reason to get up in arms that star players are teaming up. The only difference is the stars are making this happen and not owners or GMs. So step back on whining about these megateams.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Could Carolina-Kentucky End?

One of the topics of discussion during all this college conference realignment is the loss of football rivalries. We may not have Texas-Texas A&M anymore. The Pittsburgh-West Virginia Backyard Brawl may not extend. We may not have Missouri-Kansas. Even conference basketball rivalries like Syracuse-Georgetown could be gone.

But basketball non-conference rivalries could suffer. Not just rivalries, but big time matchups.

One of them is North Carolina-Kentucky.

These are two of the biggest blue bloods in college basketball. They have won 12 titles between them and their program's histories are all over the history books. Dean Smith and Adolph Rupp. Rick Pitino and Frank McGuire. Roy Williams and John Calipari. Today is the 12th straight year these two programs have met.

But it could end with expansion. Not like a Syracuse-Georgetown rivalry where one team is leaving the conference. No, it is because conference memberships are expanding which could limit the power of non-conference schedules.

Next year, the SEC will add Missouri and Texas A&M which will expand the league to 14 teams. That will most likely mean the SEC schedule will expand from 16 to 18 games. The ACC should see the same thing when Syracuse and Pittsburgh join up to the conference in 2013. With NCAA rules stating that you may only have 27 regular season games (along with a early tournament), the non-conference slate will really have to be contained. Right now, most teams have 11 games to play with. That could fall to 9 or even 7 in the near future.

So what's the impact? Well, you are going to have to pick and choose what games are most important. John Calipari tweeted to Kentucky fans if there was no other option, what non-conference rivalry would they most like to see end: North Carolina, Louisville or Indiana. The answer would most likely be UNC, since Louisville and Indiana are natural geographical rivalries that have gone on longer that the one with Carolina. The UNC-UK matchups have been big since both programs have been among the elite for most of the series, but neither fanbase would die off without it.

With possibly only 9 non conference games to schedule, you have to really be careful. While you cannot just feast on cupcakes, you do have to schedule them. Some are because you want your kids to go back to near the homes so their family can see them play. Almost all of them are only played at home to pump up the coffers. You also have that dead period in December when school is on break and there are few games played. So, as you can see, there is only a limited number of games to schedule those huge non-league battles where you face off in home-and-home series.

If you are Kentucky, you have to deal with Indiana and Louisville so that may cost you Carolina. For Carolina, you now have Syracuse and Pitt to deal with as mandatory games, so a game against Kentucky may not be warranted. With roster turnover the way it is, coaches may not want to over-schedule their teams and burn them out.