Friday, September 10, 2021

Should Group of 5 Create Their Own "Super Conference"?




 With all the realignment talk going on in college athletics football, much of the talk has centered on the power five leagues eventually breaking off from the NCAA and forming their own super league. We all have gotten lost in the glitz of what a league with Alabama, Clemson, USC and Ohio State would look like and how it would create an NFL-like atmosphere.

But what if the lesser leagues decide to do the same thing?  It does make sense. 

Let's start when the current news of the day: Cincinnati, Houston, UCF and BYU will likely receive invitations from the Big 12 to join their league. Soon after, those schools will accept. Now the domino falls to the AAC to replace three of their better programs. The AAC has already said they have schools looking to join, and that domino could cause the other league to start poaching each other. And then we'll have it again at some point.

So why wouldn't the Group of 5 decide to go in together and figure out a way to create a geographically wise "super" league to keep these schools under one umbrella and stop all the senseless poaching? 

I've been of the mind that the conferences and any kind of super league can coexist. The Group of 5 consists of the AAC, Mountain West, Conference USA, Sun Belt and MAC. Those conferences may not exist as leagues within any super league, but if they all offer up their membership in such league they could split several TV rights deals and help create a climate where their top programs face off to send a team or two to this 12-team playoff. 

There is a risk. If a 12-team playoff was last season, two Group of 5 schools (Cincinnati, Coastal Carolina) would've gotten in. Creating a super league of these conferences may only net one school in. Still, over the six previous seasons of the College Football Playoff, only UCF (twice) would've gotten in. So four times in seven years (among 84 slots) would've been a Group of 5 school. Of course, the caveat of six champions and six at-larges would have changed that number.

What would this Group of 5 super league look like? As I said, make it geographically sound to help these schools financially with travel (here's looking at you, Sun Belt and C-USA) but also allow for great inter-sectional matchups that will boost the league as a whole. The BYU-Coastal Carolina game last year -- which was put together at the last minute -- was a fantastic show for people who typically don't watch those schools or those leagues. 

Let's go ahead and take out Cincinnati, UCF and Houston from the AAC and BYU as an independent. The AAC has eight schools, C-USA has 14, MAC has 12, Mountain West 12, the Sun Belt with ten and five independent schools not named Notre Dame.  That's 61 schools. It would be fantastic to add two more schools into the mix from the FCS and have seven nine-team divisions ... but for this purpose, we'll have five nine-team divisions and two eight-team divisions. The nine team divisions play a true round robin (8 total games) as do the eight team divisions (7 games) with those divisions playing one cross division game with each other to add that eighth game. 

The other four games to fill out the schedule will be as follows:

*One game against one of the Power 5 teams 
*One game against an FCS school 
*Two games (home and home) scheduled against a non-division opponent, hopefully keeping true rivalries that may have been broken up

After the regular season, the four highest ranked teams play a playoff style bracket (yes, that will mean two teams will play a 14th game ... so what). Have whatever committee (or ask the CFP committee to assist with this) to determine the top four teams. The winner of that bracket would get invited to the 12-team College Football Playoff. The other teams receive their bowl bids accordingly. 

EAST: Army, Buffalo, Liberty, Marshall, Navy, Old Dominion, Temple, UConn, UMass
SOUTHEAST: Appalachian State, Charlotte, Coastal Carolina, East Carolina, Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, South Florida
NORTH: Akron, Ball State, Bowling Green, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Kent State, Northern Illinois, Toledo, Western Michigan
CENTRAL: Memphis, Miami-OH, Middle Tennessee, Ohio, Troy State, South Alabama, Southern Miss, UAB, Western Kentucky
SOUTHWEST: Arkansas State, Louisiana, Louisiana-Monroe, Louisiana Tech, North Texas, Rice, SMU, Tulane, Tulsa
MOUNTAIN: Air Force, Colorado State, New Mexico, New Mexico State, Texas State, UTEP, UTSA, Wyoming
PACIFIC: Boise State, Fresno State, Hawaii, Nevada, San Diego State, San Jose State, UNLV, Utah State

Note that the Mountain and Pacific divisions are eight teams only and will have a cross-division game scheduled each year. I attempted to do this as close to geographically as I could. I would've loved to keep the Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi schools together but then there would be oddities elsewhere. I would've loved to keep the Ohio schools together and Texas schools together, but there would've been tougher cuts somewhere else. Again, there are openings for schools to play against each other via inter-divisional play so this takes care of some of the broken rivalries (it's been hacked up in the Power 5 leagues anyway, so why would Ohio-Kent State be the death of this set up?). 

The other possible set up would be seven seven-team divisions and two six-team divisions. These divisions are really only for scheduling purposes only and would allow for more inter-sectional scheduling. If you think about it, most college football schedules are set up like this with six-team divisions within conferences, so this wouldn't be a stretch. 

EAST: Army, Liberty, Navy, Old Dominion, Temple, UConn, UMass
ATLANTIC: Appalachian State, Charlotte, Coastal Carolina, East Carolina, Florida Atlantic, Florida International, South Florida
OHIO: Akron, Bowling Green, Kent State, Marshall, Miami-OH, Ohio, Toledo
NORTH: Ball State, Buffalo, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Northern Illinois, Western Michigan
CENTRAL: Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Middle Tennessee, South Alabama, Troy State, UAB, Western Kentucky
SOUTHERN: Arkansas State, Louisiana, Louisiana-Monroe, Louisiana Tech, Memphis, Southern Miss
TEXAS: North Texas, Rice, SMU, Texas State, Tulsa, UTEP, UTSA 
MOUNTAIN: Air Force, Boise State, Colorado State, New Mexico, New Mexico State, Utah State, Wyoming
PACIFIC: Fresno State, Hawaii, San Diego State, San Jose State, Nevada, UNLV

Same basic principles. Round robin against the six other teams in your division (five, if you are in the Pacific and North divisions) and opens up the rest of the schedule to fill out. 

Again, the point is not to create division winners for a full blown Group of 5 playoff. If this was the point, the Group of 5 may as well drop to the FCS. This is to have a better schedule, less financial strains due to travel, ability to create better inter-sectional matchups, end senseless member poaching between these conferences and to place a really good team in a 12-team College Football Playoff. 

Right now, these leagues aren't putting a team in that playoff, and the ones that would've been eligible under a 12-team format are now graduating to the Big 12. Now these leagues will begin picking apart each other and it really doesn't help anything. And while it may seem as this would be a demotion of sorts, it isn't. It is more of a consolidation or resources and they'd still have the ability to play Power 5 schools, play in bowl games, and actually schedule better games then the be thrown around the country fulfilling conference requirements. 

This would likely not happen, but since we are seeing an bubbling SEC, an Alliance of three power leagues and rumors of a breakoff ... this isn't too far outside the box. 


Saturday, September 4, 2021

Big 12 Will (Likely) Add Four Teams Very Soon


 


So we've had Texas and Oklahoma leave the Big 12 for the SEC ... then the ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12 form an alliance ... and now we've seen the Big 12's response.

Reportedly, the Big 12 will add BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF in the coming weeks. The league will ultimately be back to a 12 team league. 

No word if the league will split back into divisions and what that would look like if they did. Currently, the Big 12 (which is made up of ten schools) play a round robin schedule with the top two teams playing in the conference title game. At 12 schools, the round robin won't happen but it is up in the air how they'll move forward. A division format could look like this:

EAST: Cincinnati, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, UCF, West Virginia
WEST: Baylor, BYU, Houston, Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas Tech

Of course, the East schools would be shut out from having access to the Texas area, but that was how it was in the "old" Big 12 when Colorado and Nebraska were still members. 

THE GOOD

Well, the Big 12 looks a lot better than it has over the last two months. For the eight remaining members, it showed their willingness to look for solutions together and that this isn't a fractured bunch. The schools they're adding have been recently successful football programs who bring in large markets. Houston, Cincinnati, Orlando and Salt Lake City are in the fold, with BYU's national program being the jewel of that bunch. This solidified Texas while introducing the Florida and Ohio markets for the Big 12. 

This is also a huge win over the AAC. For weeks, there were rumblings that the AAC could extract Big 12 schools to come to them which could vault that league into becoming a power conference ... or at least one that matters when the 12-team playoff comes about. With the Big 12 taking away three of the AAC's biggest programs, that all but slams the door on that idea -- at least for now. 

Let's look at basketball. Baylor is the defending national champion, Kansas is a blue blood, West Virginia is solid with Bob Huggins (who used to coach at Cincinnati), Oklahoma State just produced the 2021 top overall draft pick, Texas Tech was in the 2019 national championship game and Iowa State has been a solid program for quite some time. BYU has been really good during their time in the West Coast Conference, Houston was in the last Final Four, Cincinnati has been a decent program with two national championships in their history while UCF challenged the Zion Williamson Duke team in the 2019 tournament. 

Of course, this is all about football and while none of these schools bring with it the brands of Texas and Oklahoma, they can be great additions to the Big 12.                                                 

THE BAD

There are still some concerns, though. For one, the league will stretch geographically from Salt Lake City, Utah to Orlando, Florida -- three time zones. Obviously there could be some issue to the commonality of the member schools, though we've pretty much haven't cared too much about that of late. 

There's also the question of if these four schools can keep playing at their current level one they step up in competition. You could point to Utah and TCU as prime examples of schools taking a dip before finding their footing to push against that theory. There are also schools like Miami, Nebraska and Colorado that get into new leagues and didn't find the same level of success. 

The main issue, though, will be the individual goals of these schools. Right now, everyone is all in on keeping the Big 12 alive and well ... but what happens when one of the other power leagues start sniffing around? Say the Big Ten does try to go after Kansas and Iowa State -- you better believe those two will jump immediately at the chance for a more secure situation. The Alliance has pledged not to poach each other, but the Big 12 isn't part of that group and will be the store these leagues would likely go shopping in if they want to expand. For the last two months, the eight remaining schools have run concurrent plans of protecting the Big 12 as well as looking for a safe landing spot elsewhere. 

Say that does happen where the doomsday scenario of Kansas and Iowa State leave for the Big Ten, West Virginia and Cincinnati for the ACC and Oklahoma State and some Texas schools leave for the Pac-12. The Big 12 won't be able to just pull from the AAC and other sources to field a league anymore, and we could see the AAC as the aggressor. Remember the folly of the Big East about 20 years ago when they lost Miami, Boston College and Virginia Tech, then lost Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, West Virginia, etc several years later and then started reaching for schools to add that the entire thing fell apart. That could happen here if the ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 or SEC decide to expand. 

THE VERDICT

This is a very positive move for the Big 12 and the four schools they are inviting. The things that fall under my "bad" category are things that aren't really exacerbated by expanding and could happen no matter what the Big 12 does.

Hopefully this is the move that saves the Big 12 from extinction. This has been a solid league for 25 years now and it would be a shame to see it broken up (it's already a shame to see Texas and Oklahoma leave). Adding BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF doesn't guarantee greatness but there is potential for any or all of them to step into a bigger spotlight with being in a power conference. After all, they've all done so in smaller leagues. BYU does have a national championship, Cincinnati was in the Big East and Houston in the SWC so they aren't going into this blind.  

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

College Football Powers Need To End the Charade And Create Their New Identity

Let's just get this over with and stop playing around. Just create a new College Football System and leave everything else alone.

The SEC, Big Ten, ACC and Pac-12 need to just get their power guys in one room and hammer out how they want their new entity to look. Just create this 60-ish school football league, figure out how the money will be distributed, and leave everything else alone.

What I mean is this: those four conferences need to figure out what schools they want to put into this system. Create an NFL-type league of 64 schools that will compete only against each other, have a 12 or 16 team playoff, sell all the rights you possibly can and split the money up somehow. Right now, those four leagues have 56 combined programs. Add in Notre Dame for a 57th team. BYU as 58th? Maybe let those Big 12 cast offs to bring it to 66 or 67. Quite possibly some programs like Kansas, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest or Rutgers get left behind and placed in a lower football division with the Mountain West, AAC, MAC, Conference USA and Sun Belt. The SEC and Big Ten take bigger cuts of the money than the ACC or Pac-12 with the possibly bonus shares going to the leagues that produce the playoff teams and champions.

They all get paid. The schools get paid. And we don't have to tear apart college basketball or the non-revenue sports to make this happen. We don't need these cross country conferences anymore just to make football money. So just create this Mega Conference and keep it separate from the rest of college athletics. 

ACC Needs to Aggressively Go After the Pac-12


 

The biggest sports news over the last week was Texas and Oklahoma informing the Big 12 that they're leaving and then formally asking for membership into the Southeastern Conference. 

That news in itself is groundbreaking. Texas is one of the biggest brands in college athletics while Oklahoma has been a steady face at or near the top of college football ... and both are joining the premiere conference that has won 11 of the last 15 football national championships. It will create a 16-team league with some of the best programs in the country all in one spot.

The ripple effect is what could happen to college athletics. Is this the beginning of a seismic shift where college football ... or college sports ... looks completely different than what we've known. We can all project what that will look like, but the wheels are in motion now and everyone is in game mode so they won't get left out.

I'm an ACC guy, and the ACC is in a tough position. The good news is that the league has a Grant of Rights deal that goes to 2036. The bad news is that it is a bad financial TV deal that will put the league at the bottom in terms of revenue and will be a reason schools may eventually look to leave. Other good news is that Notre Dame is tied to the league until the deal is up in 2036 ... and the bad news is that it isn't attractive to give up their independent status in football to join a league that's on edge.

So the ACC needs to do something. Adding West Virginia does nothing. Going after the Big 12 leftovers isn't really attractive to do and won't net much, financially or in regards to stability.  None of that would help woo Notre Dame in any way.

But raiding the Pac-12 could.

When the last two rounds of expansion hit, the ACC was an aggressor. They wanted Miami from the Big East, and ended up taking Virginia Tech and Boston College along with it. That created bad blood between the two leagues, which became even more strained when a decade ago the ACC took Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Louisville and, yes, Notre Dame's non-football sports as well. In the middle of all that, the ACC took a hit as inaugural member Maryland bolted the ACC for the Big Ten. The ACC is the one of the four major conferences that got hit ... and also showed that they have the ability to be ruthless.

So go after the Pac-12. 

The Big Ten doesn't want to because they have a close working relationship with the league. The Pac-12, while stable, doesn't have the kind of options to bulk up its league as the SEC, Big Ten or ACC. So appeal to the Pac-12 powers now before someone else does.

See if you can pull USC and UCLA ... and Stanford and California ... and Oregon. Yes, that may sound ridiculous but we've entered the realm of outside the box thinking. For the ACC, it is only a matter of time before the SEC or Big Ten starts cozying up to Clemson, Florida State, North Carolina and Miami ... if they haven't already. For the Pac-12, it's only a matter of time before they're on the outside watching the SEC and Big Ten control everything.

The ACC has an attractive offer. The ACC, along with the SEC, is the only conference to have put a team in every College Football Playoff. The Pac-12 hasn't had a team in it since 2017 and hasn't won a game since Oregon won one in 2015. The ACC can say that they will form a 20-team league in pod form ... with four pods with five teams in each. Those five schools would live in a pod together and then venture out for national games against the other pods.

It gives the California schools and Oregon a pathway to recruit in the south and east coast ... and their games shown on TV all Saturday long all season long. It give the ACC the same thing, as the league would now be able to have content on all day ... including owning the late night audience. The ACC could imagine having a Oregon-Miami game at noon, a Clemson-North Carolina game at 3:30pm, Virginia Tech-Florida State at 7pm, and Stanford-USC at 10:30pm with other games sprinkled on other stations. That is attractive enough to open ESPN's pockets up a bit more. 

Oh, and adding five Pac-12 teams would only get the ACC to 19. Who's the 20th?

Notre Dame.

Bringing in USC and Stanford would be a draw for Notre Dame, and would house seven ACC games that the Irish already play during the season (currently, Notre Dame plays five ACC schools and play USC and Stanford every year). So how much different would it be for Notre Dame to play one or two more conference games (the ACC right now has an 8-game schedule, though a 9-game slate would be more appropriate in a 20-team league)? The ACC already has an open working relationship with Notre Dame and could still allow the Irish to keep most of their independent perks while still having them as a full member of the conference.

Notre Dame can still have their TV package with NBC (which is for home games), while the ACC can still offer ESPN or another bidder the Irish's road games. So ESPN would know that every other year, they'd get a Notre Dame-USC game.

It is a wild concept, but it might work. Here is how my pod proposal would work

NORTH: Boston College, Louisville, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Syracuse
SOUTH: Florida State, Georgia Tech, Miami, Virginia, Virginia Tech
CENTRAL: Clemson, Duke, NC State, North Carolina, Wake Forest
PAC: Cal, Oregon, Stanford, UCLA, USC

That keeps the historically great programs (Notre Dame, Clemson, USC, and Miami/Florida State) in their own pod. Keep a 9-game regular season schedule where you play the other four teams in your pod once, allow for any "historic rivalries" to continue ... like Notre Dame's with USC and Stanford, North Carolina-Virginia, Clemson-Georgia Tech, Miami-Boston College, etc. and then fill in the schedule accordingly. The pod system is only for scheduling purposes, as the ACC wants to ditch the division format altogether ... so have the top two teams play for the conference title. With the upcoming expanded playoff, the ACC could look to get two or three (or more) teams into the playoff this way. 

Again, this is a far-fetched idea ... but I can tell you right now that the powers that be in the ACC have thought about this. There will be growing pains and maybe concessions to be made, but if the ACC wants to have a seat at the New College Football League Presented By State Farm Alliance of MegaConferences, this is the road they need to look to go down. If not, the next decade will be the one where the ACC is looking like the current Big 12. 

Monday, July 26, 2021

What Will Happen To The Big 12?



The Big 12 could be in real trouble. Also, the teams who are currently in the Big 12 are in bigger trouble. 

The Big 12 seems like that it is nearing the end of the road. With Oklahoma and Texas gone, most of the power of the league leaves with it. Yes, there are nice programs, three Texas teams, the defending NCAA tournament champion and a blue blood basketball program ... but nothing that wows the TV guys into paying anyone more money to put them on their networks. I mean, who is the biggest name ... football wise ... left? TCU? Iowa State? West Virginia? Baylor? Probably Oklahoma State. 

The league may only exist for a few more years for financial reasons. If Oklahoma and Texas stick around until the Grant of Rights expires in four years, then the league's members would want to milk that for all they could. If those two bolt and have to pony up money back to the Big 12, those eight abandoned schools will want to still band together to cash in. Add to the fact that they would have to pay back money if they left and you'll likely get a couple more years of a tattered league.

Or this could look like the last time Texas left a conference. When they bolted the SWC for the Big 12 in the mid-1990s, the SWC tore apart as everyone ran for cover. This will eventually be what happens to the Big 12. At some point, everyone will have to look out for themselves and make tough decisions about their future. The Big 12 isn't going to purge the AAC for schools -- in fact the inverse may actually happen. Why would Cincinnati jump to a Big 12 that shunned them just a couple years ago and inherit a league that is standing on shaky ground? The AAC may be better suited to absorb several ... if not all ... the Big 12 schools.  Possibly the Pac-12 could look at Oklahoma State and the three Texas schools (TCU, Baylor, Texas Tech). Maybe the ACC does too, or even reconsiders West Virginia's pleas to join up. However, this is a time of huge moves and adding one or all the remaining eight Big 12 schools isn't a huge move. 

It was only a matter of time that the Big 12 folded. For the last decade, Texas and Oklahoma had been threatening to bolt even as the league was giving them more and more power and money. Now it's happening. 

Friday, July 23, 2021

Texas, Oklahoma To Likely Join SEC

 What would an SEC look like with Texas and Oklahoma in it?

If the SEC kept their current division format:

EAST: Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vanderbilt

WEST: Arkansas, LSU, Mississippi State, Missouri, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Texas, Texas A&M

As you can see, both Oklahoma and Texas would join the West division, Missouri would move from the East to the West, and both Alabama and Auburn would move from the West to the East. This works both with geography and it spreads the power around. The West division has been much more powerful than the East over the last decade, so moving Alabama and Auburn over makes for an interesting dynamic. 

Of course there has been a rumor of a pod system where four teams are placed in four pods for scheduling purposes. What might that look like?

A: Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina
B: Alabama, Auburn, Tennessee, Vanderbilt
C: LSU, Mississippi State, Missouri, Ole Miss
D: Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Texas A&M

It doesn't seem that perfect from a geography standpoint nor as a spread of power. For instance, do you think Arkansas wants to be in a group with Oklahoma, Texas and Texas A&M forever? Meanwhile, LSU is the only historically strong program in their group. Still, it allows for good scheduling opportunities that don't currently exist. You play the three pod teams once, then play two teams from each pod in a home and home. 

So let's look at Alabama using our pod system. They'd play Auburn, Tennessee and Vanderbilt every year. They in Year 1, they could play Florida, at Kentucky from Group A, Mississippi State and at Missouri from Group C, and Oklahoma and at Texas A&M from Group D.  In Year 2, it would be the same schedule, just switching the home and road teams. In Year 3, Alabama could play the three pod teams, then South Carolina, at Georgia, LSU, at Ole Miss, Texas and at Arkansas. Year 4 would alternate those locations.

Then every team in the SEC would get to host Alabama once every four years ... except for their fellow pod schools which hosts them every other season. Then imagine if you're Georgia, and then get to travel to a Texas school twice every four years. 

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Sportz Assassin's Midwest Region Preview



TEAM TO BEAT: Illinois. I love the Illini. They boast two NBA players who are the best inside-outside tandem in college basketball Ayo Dosunmu is having a fantastic season, scoring 20 ppg and recording a couple triple doubles late in the year. Kofi Cockburn is a paint menace who is tough to move around. 

TEAM THAT WILL WIN THE REGION: Illinois. Like I said, I'm a fan! 

TEAM TO WATCH FOR (LESS THAN A NO. 3 SEED): Oklahoma State. Cade Cunningham is likely the top overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft and he's been playing lights out of late. Their current streak of playing eight consecutive games against ranked opponents (which they were 6-2 in) ironically ends with their first NCAA tournament game. 

YOUR CINDERELLA: Virginia Tech. There are some good candidates in this region, but Virginia Tech could make a run. They are very physical and athletic and you feel it the next morning when you play them. Mike Young can coach and get a somewhat doable bracket.   

WORST SEEDING ERROR: Syracuse. Buddy Boeheim has been electric of late, hitting nearly 50% of his threes over the last week. It took Virginia a buzzer beating three to knock the Orange out of the ACC tournament. Oh, and the last two times they entered the tournament as a double-digit seed, they got to the Sweet 16 once an a Final Four the other.     

HOME COURT ADVANTAGE: Illinois. Illinois has spent some time in Indiana. Their fans won't mind making the quick trip to Indianapolis. 

MUST WATCH GAME: Loyola-Chicago vs Georgia Tech. One of those games where you don't want to root against anybody. We all know Loyola-Chicago's pedigree as a Final Four participant two tournaments ago, and Georgia Tech became the ACC champions despite being built by nobodies who play so hard and work so well together. How can you not love Moses Wright and Jose Alvarado? 

MUST WATCH (POTENTIAL) SECOND ROUND GAME: Oklahoma State vs Tennessee.  There should be three lottery picks playing in that game. Cunningham would go up against Tennessee's Jaden Springer and Keon Johnson. When the erratic Vols play well, they can beat anyone in this field. 

Sportz Assassin's South Region Preview



TEAM TO BEAT: Baylor. The Bears were crushing opponents until a late season pause disrupted their rhythm. They lost to Kansas and then to Oklahoma State in the Big 12 tournament. Don't be alarmed as they boast the best backcourt in the nation. 

TEAM THAT WILL WIN THE REGION: Baylor. They have been the second best team all year long. Baylor does have a tricky bracket to navigate, but they should be able to shine to the Final Four. 

TEAM TO WATCH FOR (LESS THAN A NO. 3 SEED): Texas Tech. The last NCAA tournament game we saw, Texas Tech lost to Virginia in overtime of the 2019 national championship game. This isn't that kind of Red Raiders team, but it is still build on defense, toughness and an ability to make opponents uncomfortable. 

YOUR CINDERELLA: Virginia Tech. There are some good candidates in this region, but Virginia Tech could make a run. They are very physical and athletic and you feel it the next morning when you play them. Mike Young can coach and get a somewhat doable bracket.   

WORST SEEDING ERROR: Florida. Like I've said, we are splitting hairs with the seeding this year since the committee didn't have to consider geography, so I'm going with Florida. They got a 7th seed ahead of North Carolina and Wisconsin? Even their first round opponent, Virginia Tech, could have a gripe.     

HOME COURT ADVANTAGE: Purdue. The only school from Indiana making it into a tournament held entirely in Indiana. 

MUST WATCH GAME: North Carolina vs Wisconsin. Two contrasting styles with the up tempo Tar Heels against the slower Badgers. There are so many clashes of strengths and weaknesses that this game could really be something to behold. 

MUST WATCH (POTENTIAL) SECOND ROUND GAME: Arkansas vs Texas Tech.  Two coaches smart coaches who have had tournament success going at it in a great chess match. A team that loves to score against one with a great defense. Love it!

Sportz Assassin's East Region Preview




TEAM TO BEAT: Michigan.
 Up until the last two weeks of the season, the Wolverines have been hanging in that triumvirate with Gonzaga and Baylor. This is a talented offensive team with a bit on an edge coming into this tournament. 

TEAM THAT WILL WIN THE REGION: Alabama. The Crimson Tide are one of the best two way teams in the country. They are aggressive on both ends of the court and have a guy in Herbert Jones that can be everywhere. Well coached and the lone power conference school to win both the regular season and conference titles. 

TEAM TO WATCH FOR (LESS THAN A NO. 3 SEED): Florida State. This is a typical Leonard Hamilton team. They are tall, interchangeable and athletic.  Freshman sensation Scottie Barnes is a 6'9 point guard who is coming off the bench. 

YOUR CINDERELLA: Michigan State. Yeah, it sucks when you see a team with this kind of branding labeled a Cinderella, but it applies this year. They are talented ... they just don't play up to it. They've also dealt with players in and out of the lineup so continuity has been a problem. They can get UCLA in the First Four and BYU in the first round. From there, they can bang with Texas and get to the Sweet 16. Tom Izzo is a tournament legend, so it is tough to sell him short.   

WORST SEEDING ERROR: Georgetown. Sure, they are 13-12 ... but they did win the Big East tournament. Shouldn't that get them an 11th seed ahead of a First Four matchup between Michigan State and UCLA?     

HOME COURT ADVANTAGE: Michigan State. Not only will Spartans fans be able to come down into Indiana to watch their team play, but their First Four game is in Mackey Arena ... a place they played a month ago when they lost to Purdue. That little bit of familiarity will help. 

MUST WATCH GAME: Michigan State vs UCLA. Yes, a First Four game is the best matchup we have set. Two power programs who have had a skittish season facing off on a national stage Thursday night. 

MUST WATCH (POTENTIAL) SECOND ROUND GAME: Michigan vs LSU.  Michigan is without Isaiah Livers and will have to face Cameron Thomas, who led all freshmen in scoring this year. Michigan could be the first No. 1 seed to fall. 

Sportz Assassin's West Region Preview



TEAM TO BEAT: Gonzaga. The Zags are attempting to be the first team since Indiana in 1976 to finish the season as undefeated national champions. This is a legit national title contender and should be the overwhelming favorite. They deserve this.

TEAM THAT WILL WIN THE REGION: Gonzaga. Looking at the region, I can only see a few teams capable of beating the Bulldogs ... and they won't reach those teams until the regional final. 

TEAM TO WATCH FOR (LESS THAN A NO. 3 SEED): USC. I'm not in love with the Trojans, but they are very tall and athletic and certainly can topple a COVID-reeling Kansas and cause Iowa some trouble.  

YOUR CINDERELLA: Ohio. Ohio will go up against a Virginia team that had to drop out of the ACC tournament due to COVID protocols. Who knows how ready the Cavs will be to play on Saturday. They would then get either a Creighton team that can be erratic (I can still hear that thud from the Big East title game) or a UCSB squad they're capable of beating. The Bobcats' Jason Preston is a stud who I hope gets a few games in the dance to show his stuff.   

WORST SEEDING ERROR: Missouri. Let me start off by saying that the committee wasn't bound by some of the issues they come upon in regards to seeding. The geographic restrictions they run into can cause some seeds to bounce around, but with the entire tournament being played in Indiana certainly helped. I'm going with Missouri here just because I feel that they could be flip-flopped with Oklahoma -- not that it would matter.

HOME COURT ADVANTAGE: Iowa. Home court isn't really an issue with everyone playing in Indianapolis, but Iowa is a big contender that is closest to Nap City. That could really help up against Kansas or Gonzaga. 

MUST WATCH GAME: Oklahoma vs Missouri. Both of these teams have beaten some great squads and have shown they can be very dangerous in this tournament. They've also let a few slip away. Watch for Austin Reaves to have a big game.

MUST WATCH (POTENTIAL) SECOND ROUND GAME: Kansas vs USC.  Kansas has had COVID issues of late, but if they are all in then the matchup between David McCormack and USC's Evan Mobley should be great.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

When Being a Washington Football Fan Is Getting Tough To Admit



I've been a Redskins fan my entire life. I was a young lad when Joe Gibbs took the Hogs and three different quarterbacks to three Super Bowl titles from 1982 to 1991.  It is hard to believe now but Washington was an elite franchise at that time battling the 49ers and Giants for league supremacy.

Then came Gibbs' retirement. And FedEx Field. And Jack Kent Cooke's death. And Dan Snyder.

The Snyder Era has been an unmitigated disaster. As a fan, I've watched my beloved team mismanaged by a man who lacks self control. Coaches rotate in and out no matter if they are winners (Marty Schottenheimer, Mike Shanahan), confusing hires (Jim Zorn) or a shiny object (Steve Spurrier).  I've watched RG3 rushed back from injury, Albert Haynesworth waste our time and money and Trent Williams' injury not treated serious. The front office has been filled with yes men, guys with checkered pasts and downright disappointments.

The product on the field hasn't been much better.  Washington has been to five playoffs in Snyder's tenure and haven't won a postseason game in 15 years. NFC East rivals Dallas (three), New York (two) and Philadelphia (one) have won six Super Bowls since the Skins last reached an NFC title game. This team continuously loses prime time games (it is amazing we still get those) and the franchise's most iconic moment over the last 20 years (RG3's 2012 season) quickly turned into the team's biggest joke.

That was all before July. Since then, the team's name is supposedly changing ... but only after corporate pressure ... and now the Washington Post story of 15 former female employees' stories of rampant harassment and sexism that spans 13 years. In the mix of all that, Snyder has essentially sat on the sidelines and trotted out brand new head coach Ron Rivera to speak for an organization that he hasn't held a practice for.  Even his announcement that the team was retiring the name was written with a Redskins letterhead.

I used to be one of the few apologists for Snyder. No, he wasn't likeable but once he figures out to let football people run his team then maybe the corner will turn. I live in the Cincinnati area now and have seen how a cheap and despised owner turned the franchise around once he let football people run his team. I though a rich one could do better. But this is Dan Snyder we're talking about.

I've spent two decades pretty much embarrassed about my favorite football team. It has been nearly three decades since they've done anything of note. Being bad on the field is one thing but when you see and hear these stories from that WaPo article and it takes you into a pit of disgust. It is hard to look at something you've loved so much for so long with that kind of sadness filling your heart.

With the name change, I'm ready for a Snyder change. Please sell. Snyder was a Redskins fan who reached the dream of owning his favorite team. In honor of all the other fans, please let it go. Let Jeff Bezos buy it. Let anyone buy it. You'll make a record amount in the sale. You can still be a fan. Just leave. You've hurt this team and us fans for far too long. And even if the strike of this scandal misses you, you haven't earned the benefit of the doubt to trust you can lift this franchise out of the sludge and place it back among the elite. You couldn't do it when people just thought you were a bad owner so why would I think you could clean house and get things right.

Hail To Whatever We Are.

Friday, May 8, 2020

Looking At the Brand New Redskins 2020 Schedule


With so much in sports up in the air right now, it is nice to see the NFL schedule come out yesterday.  Sure, no one knows if the schedule will go as planned but it is still something to see an attempt at a concrete plan when so much is fluid.

So let me take a look at the Redskins schedule. 

WEEK 1 - Philadelphia

Another opener against the Eagles.  Only this time at FedEx Field.

WEEK 2 - at Arizona

I remember back when the Cardinals were in the NFC East and the Redskins seemingly headed to Phoenix in September several years. Back then the only time we wore our burgundy uniforms was at Arizona and Dallas. Ah, memories.  Interestingly, the Redskins have won 3 of the last 4 road openers.

WEEK 3 - at Cleveland

The last time the Redskins were in Cleveland was the one where Kirk Cousins filled in for an injured RGIII and won a big game en route to that last season playoff push. Funny how Washington is 7-2 against the Browns over the last nine meetings after goine 5-31-1 in their first 37 matchups. By the way, this will be the second straight week facing a quarterback taken with the #1 overall pick.

WEEK 4 - Baltimore

Of course this is a huge game due to the proximity of the two franchises. The Skins own a 5-3 record against the Ravens. And after facing #1 picks Kyler Murray and Baker Mayfield ... we only get defending MVP Lamar Jackson.

WEEK 5 - Los Angeles Rams

It seems as if the Redskins and Rams always meet up during the season despite being on opposite ends of the country (well, now). The Rams and Redskins have played 11 of the last 15 seasons. Of course this one is against Sean McVay, which every Skins fan wishes was our coach right now.  Look, another #1 overall picked quarterback in Jared Goff!

WEEK 6 - at New York Giants

We've played no one more than we've played the Giants. Both teams are trying to climb out of a tough 2019 season.

WEEK 7 - Dallas

Cowboys week.

WEEK 8 - BYE

It is nice to have a bye smack dab in the middle of the season. Also note that the NFL has made all matchups in Week 2 have the same bye week. So if the Arizona game gets moved, it will be played here.

WEEK 9 - New York Giants

Here is one of my two gripes in scheduling. One, I hate when you play a division opponent twice in a three of four week span. The Redskins-Giants games will take place in Week 6 and 9.  Ugh.

WEEK 10 - at Detroit

It also seems as if the Lions are always on our schedule.  If Matt Stafford isn't injured, this is the 4th different quarterback taken #1 overall that the Redskins will have faced.

WEEK 11 - Cincinnati

The matchup of the two top picks in the NFL Draft. Hopefully Chase Young knocks down Joe Burrow a few times in this one. Oh yeah, the 5th different quarterback taken #1 overall. On a personal note, I am Redskins fan who lives in the Cincinnati area so I really want the burgundy and gold to win this one.

WEEK 12 - at Dallas

The Thanksgiving Day game! Nice since it is the lone time the Redskins are on national TV all year long. This is the 4th time in the last five years the Redskins have been on Thanksgiving -- too bad we're just 3-8 on Turkey Day in our history.

WEEK 13 - at Pittsburgh

It has been a loooong time since I've seen the Redskins beat the Steelers. The last time it happened? Back in 1991 ... the last time we won a Super Bowl.

WEEK 14 - at San Francisco

Three straight road games and likely the toughest stretch of games all year. Going up against the defending NFC champions is a tall task after big games at Dallas and Pittsburgh.  Nostalgia, again, puts me back to the Redskins heyday of the 1980s when these two franchises (along with the Giants and Bears) wrestled for the conference's supremacy. 

WEEK 15 - Seattle

Another tough game. Somehow, someway the Redskins kind of own the Seahawks. Washington has won 7 of 8 regular season games against Seattle ... though that RGIII playoff game in 2013 was a Seahawks win.

WEEK 16 - Carolina

This will be a big game since our new head coach used to be the Panthers old coach. Ron Rivera will likely want to win this game despite where the Redskins are heading down the stretch of the season. With several former Panthers on our squad, this game may have a little more passion behind it.

WEEK 17 - Philadelphia

Here is another gripe.  Why do we play Philly to open and close the season? So we play the Giants twice in a month's time then go the entire season between meetings with the Eagles?

No Sunday night games and no Monday night games. That's odd but frankly we don't deserve to be on any of them. We were bad last year and don't really have any bankable stars to get people buzzing. Add in that there is a lot of star power elsewhere and some great matchups and I totally understand why the Redskins will be under the radar. Hopefully this defense and a vast improvement from Dwayne Haskins will turn the franchise around and make them a must-see in 2021. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

MLB May Realign To Play 2020 Season

Could the Reds be division rivals with the Indians for the upcoming season?


As you are well aware, the sports world is in disarray and attempting to find solutions so they can play out their respective seasons. Baseball, unlike many sports, didn't get their season interrupted but instead are trying to find a way to start the year. To do so, they have been trying to come up with creative ways to have a season of substance while attempting to keep social distancing and the safety of their players foremost in their efforts.

One new way that has come out is the teams playing in their home stadiums -- without fans -- but playing only inside their division. That would help with traveling and go a long way to keeping things a bit more local than they could be.  To further those efforts, MLB may realign the league for the 2020 season into three 10-team divisions.

Right now those divisions would be:

EAST: Blue Jays, Marlins, Mets, Nationals, Orioles, Phillies, Pirates, Rays, Red Sox, Yankees

CENTRAL: Braves, Brewers, Cardinals, Cubs, Indians, Reds, Royals, Tigers, Twins, White Sox

WEST: Angels, Astros, Athletics, Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Giants, Mariners, Padres, Rangers, Rockies

I do like the idea and like the divisions.  But why not go a little bit further.  Why not have four divisions?  Sure, there would be two 7-team divisions and two 8-team divisions but Major League Baseball dealt with that before when the American and National leagues were uneven (remember the AL West with four teams and the NL Central with six?). It would make the geographic footprint smaller without giving up too many rivalries.  My proposal:

EAST: Blue Jays, Mets, Nationals, Orioles, Phillies, Red Sox, Yankees
CENTRAL: Braves, Indians, Marlins, Pirates, Rays, Reds, Tigers
MIDWEST: Astros, Brewers, Cardinals, Cubs, Rangers, Royals, Twins, White Sox
WEST: Angels, Athletics, Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Giants, Mariners, Padres, Rockies

The main difference here is the creation of a second "central" division that would take the southern teams away from the East Division (Atlanta, Miami, Tampa Bay) and the Texas teams away from the West (Astros, Rangers) and split up the Central Division. Now all the Central Division teams are in the Eastern time zone and the new Midwest Division has the Central time zone. You could have four division winners and four or six or eight wildcard teams.

Could you go to a five team format?

EAST: Blue Jays, Mets, Phillies, Pirates, Red Sox, Yankees
SOUTH: Braves, Marlins, Nationals, Orioles, Rays, Reds
CENTRAL: Brewers, Cardinals, Cubs, Indians, Tigers, White Sox
MIDWEST: Astros, Diamondbacks, Rangers, Rockies, Royals, Twins
WEST: Angels, Athletics, Dodgers, Giants, Mariners, Padres

Yeah, but then that makes the rotation smaller than it really needs to be ... and you may as well just keep the current six-division format if you do this.

Monday, April 6, 2020

UNC Has Had the Toughest NCAA Championship Wins

Tonight would have been the NCAA tournament championship game. Most Tar Heel fans (like me) knew there would be zero chance Carolina would have been playing tonight but that doesn't keep any of us from reminiscing about the six times they won the title. I have no problem saying that North Carolina's haul of championship wins are better than anyone else's. 

UCLA has that incredible run during the 1960s and 1970s. Kentucky has a couple more championships. Duke did win back to back titles. But no one has had tougher national championship games than North Carolina ... and it isn't even close.

The Tar Heels have won six NCAA tournaments -- 1957, 1982, 1993, 2005, 2009 and 2017. Each of those teams had a unique national championship game hurdle and usually it was an equally outstanding opponent. A couple of those times it wasn't just the opponent but where the game was played. And it all but the 2009 game, each one of those title tilts came down to the final seconds.


1957

What that '57 team accomplished is just simply amazing. The Heels spent the national semifinals playing Michigan State into triple-overtime before finally beating the Spartans. The very next day the Heels would have to face Wilt Chamberlain and the Kansas Jayhawks in nearby Kansas City, Missouri.  Carolina was the top ranked team in the nation; Kansas was ranked No. 2. As any true blue Carolina fan knows the Heels took Wilt and Co. to another triple overtime game before winning in the closing moments. In my biased mind, no team had ever faced a title challenge like this: two triple overtime games on consecutive days in the Final Four against a school who was playing a virtual home game and against one of the greatest players of all time. Chamberlain was picked before the 1959 NBA Draft as a territorial pick by the Philadelphia Warriors.



1982

The 1982 Tar Heels are iconic in school lore. Their opponent in New Orleans for the title game had their legend grow over the years as well. The Georgetown Hoyas were led by freshman Patrick Ewing and immediately had high hopes to bring championships back to the nation's capital. The Hoyas season was up and down but they were playing their absolute best heading into the championship game. Again, we all know the story: Ewing goaltends early on, the game goes back and forth and a kid named Michael Jordan hits the game winning jumper. Ewing and the Hoyas would go to two more national championship games during this four year stretch in one of the most impressive runs for a program since the UCLA dynasty. In this tournament, the Hoyas were a No. 1 seed in the West Region and had won 16 of their last 17 heading into the game. Ewing would go on to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 1985 NBA Draft.


1993

Many people forget that the 1990 incoming recruiting class for North Carolina was one of the best in the nation, featuring Eric Montross, Derrick Phelps, Kevin Salvadori and Brian Reese. While Tar Heel fans love those guys, they don't look as good on paper as Michigan's freshman class the following year. We know them as the Fab Five of Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Jimmy King, Ray Jackson and Juwan Howard. The two met in the Rainbow Classic in Hawaii earlier in the season when a Rose shot won the game in the closing seconds. Michigan lost the national championship game in 1992 to Duke and came into this game as a No. 1 seed.  While the 1957 and 1982 title games were tight throughout, the 1993 game had wild swings where each team went on dominant runs to take control of the game. It came down the final moments when Webber (who wasn't called for a traveling violation) would call a timeout that Michigan didn't have which cost the Wolverines -- who were down by two at the time -- a shot at winning the game. This was the final game the Fab Five ever played together (Webber would be the No. 1 overall pick that summer which makes it three title wins the Heels have beaten a team who had a top overall draft pick).


2005

This Heels team was built on a great 2002 recruiting class but had no real success to speak of heading into their title tilt with Illinois. Just three years removed from a dreadful 8-20 season, the Heels had won only two NCAA tournament games over the previous four years before making the run to the championship game. There they faced Illinois, who had lost only one game all season -- a one-point loss to Ohio State in Columbus in the regular season finale.  UNC had a comfortable lead for much of the game before a 10-0 run by Illinois late tied the game (the Illini made an sensational comeback against Arizona in the regional final which left Heels fans uneasy in this one). The game would be knotted up at 70 before Carolina took the lead on a Marvin Williams putback and the Illini couldn't cash in on some open looks. The championship game was Illinois' second loss on the season.


2009

This game was never in doubt. North Carolina dominated this game as they dominated every game in this tournament with lightning quick spurts and enough talent to overwhelm any opponent. Michigan State was a No. 2 seed in this one but the game was being played at Ford Field in Detroit. It didn't matter as the Heels jumped all over the Spartans, setting first half scoring records and sailing to an easy win. What makes this difficult is the opponent's proximity to the host site ... though when the two met earlier in the season (at Ford Field, no less) the Heels stomped them then as well.


2017

Like in 2005, the Heels would play a school that had lost only one game all season long. Gonzaga began the season before losing to BYU in the regular season finale. The Zags blew through the WCC tournament and would end up in the program's first Final Four in the NCAA tournament's first championship game out west in over 20 years. This particular Carolina team was out for "Redemption" after losing the title game to Villanova on a three pointer at the buzzer. It was an ugly game which was to be expected from two teams that loved to bang around in the paint and were rabid rebounders. Similar to all the other UNC championship wins (save 2009) this was a back and forth affair with Gonzaga leading with under two minutes left. But big buckets by Justin Jackson and Isiah Hicks along with a monster blocked shot by Kennedy Meeks sealed the win and finally gave Carolina the redemption they craved.

Six championship games where UNC ended with the trophy. All were against highly touted teams and five were against a No. 1 seed (in Kansas' case an equivalent of a No. 1 seed). They faced off against the eventual No. 1 overall draft pick three times (Chamberlain, Ewing, Webber) while playing three of the games in a relative geographical disadvantage (Kansas in Kansas City, Illinois in St. Louis, Michigan State in Detroit). They beat two centers who were revolutionizing college basketball, the most celebrated recruiting class ever and two teams that lost just one game all season long.

So when you look back at North Carolina's championship past ... which admittedly has two of the most notorious errors in sports history ... you can be proud that they beat the best to be the best.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Looking Back At My NFL Predictions

Looking back at my NFL predictions I made back in August, I didn't do too bad.

I picked 5 of the 6 NFC playoff teams correctly. Um, too bad the one I missed was the NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers.

I did get the Kansas City Chiefs as the Super Bowl champions ... though I had them beating the Rams. I also had 3 of the 4 AFC division winners correct (I had the Steelers winning the North) but missed both wildcard teams.