Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Extended Pun Video: Timberwolves Edition

It is super, super rare when I'm ahead of the curve on something, so I'd like to take a moment to point out that back in January I did note that Corey Brewer's play was worth noticing.  Since I wrote that, Corey has only taken his game up a notch (including a crazy streak in which Brewer hit at least one 3-pointer for 30+ games in a row) and the national media is beginning to notice.

And so the Wolves have geared up a campaign for Most Improved Player.  And it is one big 4:22 pun based on the fact that Corey has the last name he does.  In Milwaukee, they would have done this is a brewpub, or in a bar.  In Minnesota, where we don't wear our drinking problem as a badge of honor, it takes place in a Caribou Coffee.  Entertaining?  Maybe.  The last minute of the video, with Brewer dunking, stealing and the like is certainly fun.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Abraham Lincoln Bunny Weighs in on Sunday

The rabbit version of Abraham Lincoln has something to say.  Sorry Duke Fans.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Sunday's Elite Eight Match-Up Breakdowns

We'll get to tomorrow, but first, let's take a quick look back on Saturday's predictions and results.  Basically, one out of two.  Butler won a close, hard-fought game against Kansas State.  I'll say this--Butler's defense has been underrated all season long.  I'm assuming that it wasn't credited because they weren't playing the caliber of teams that they are now.  But a few games in a row now, they've forced very good offensive teams look really bad, for at least 20 minutes.

The first half against Syracuse was one of the Orange's worst halves of the entire year.  Kansas State experienced something similar in their first half today.  I don't think that is coincidence.  I think whoever wins tomorrow is going to have their hands full with Butler, in Indianapolis.

Kentucky vs West Virginia today was a essentially a flipped coin that Kentucky kept trying to get to land on its side.    Stat of the game:  3 pointers.  West Virginia hit 43%--(10-23) while Kentucky hit 12.5% (4-32).  And here's the thing--Kentucky ain't a 3 point shooting team, and I think they knew that going in.  What possessed Patrick Patterson to attempt four of them?

OK, on to tomorrow:

Tennessee vs. Michigan State--Two teams that are in the Elite 8 that are not supposed to be, but can hardly be unexpectedly--Michigan State always goes a little deeper than expected almost every year.  Tennessee beat Kansas and Kentucky this year, but the weird seeding of the SEC Tournament led to an early exit there, and let's face it--they were up and down all year.  But Wayne Chism is a legitimate all-over-the-floor threat, Scotty Hopson and Bobby Maze make a hell of a tandem in the backcourt.

Michigan State was in the final game last year, and for intents and purposes, they only thing they lost was Goran Suton.  But they'll be without Kalin Lucas again.  It didn't matter against Northern Iowa, but it might against an aggressive defensive team like Tennessee.  Still--Raymar Morgan, Delvon Roe, Durrell Summers--Michigan State is long, athletic and tough.

But, in the end, I'm taking the most complete team, and Tennessee has proven themselves to be that at this point.  I'll take Tennessee winning by more than five, less than ten.

Baylor vs. Duke--Is there a tougher team in the tournament to predict than Duke?  At times, they look unstoppable, and borderline incapable of missing a shot.  Other times, they get straight-up run out of the gym. They are also partially responsible (along with Purdue) for one of the ugliest halves in the tournament so far.  Meanwhile, Baylor has been getting better and better throughout this tournament.  If Duke opens up the game the way they did against Purdue, they won't be in a close game--they'll be getting blown out.

Duke has a trio of players that they need to be hot to win, and when they are hot, the team is as good as anyone--whiny Danny Ainge type Jon Scheyer, Zombie Kyle Singler, and boring old Nolan Smith.  They get some production from the Plumlee brothers and Lance Thomas, but only in a secondary role.  If they are forced to rely on points in the paint, they are screwed.

For a team that finished 2nd in the tough, Big 12, Baylor has got some great players that are just getting noticed now--Tweety Carter and LaceDarius Dunn run the backcourt.  They've also got some great forwards with athletic Quincy Acy and long armed interior finisher Ekpe Udoh.

I'm going with the hotter team, and frankly, the team I'm rooting for and the team I've got some money riding on--I'm going Baylor, and I'm going Baylor big.  I say they win by more than 10.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Saturday's Elite Eight Match-Up Breakdowns

First of all, some bona fides.  I'm not some total schmuck when it comes to breaking these things down.  I'm willing two pools as we speak, one of which has 200 entrants, and a sizable entry fee--it isn't all pikers that I'm beating.  I'm currently kicking the living shit out of the Sports Illustrated expert's bracket--that, despite the fact that I do in fact have Kansas winning it all a couple of times.  But I predicted Villanova's early crash; Tennessee and Baylor's deep runs, Cornell's two wins, and Murray State, and Syracuse and Ohio State crashing out before the Elite 8.

OK, that said, let's look at tomorrow's games real quick:

Butler vs. Kansas State--both coaches, sitting together, awkwardly, on the court, were interviewed by the CBS crew.  Both swore up and down that pace will not matter.  I have to agree with Seth Davis, that that is bullshit.  This game must not be up and down for Butler to win it.  And Butler can absolutely win it.  Hell, Butler beat Syracuse without playing their best basketball.  They were in foul trouble, Hayward was a non-factor for huge chunks of the game, etc.  But Kansas State loves to play fast and loose, and if the game is like that, I don't like Butler's chances.

But I do like Butler to "upset" Kansas State.  Kansas State guards Pullen (he's got a beard, which people in Kansas find exciting!) and Clemente (hey, did you know that he's related to Roberto Clemente?) are dynamic, and are streaky but dangerous shooters.  But I don't think they've faced a defense quite like Butler's yet this tournament.  It won't be about getting a shot off--it will be about getting the ball in their hands.  Butler will at least attempt to force Kansas State to win with their front court, which is suspect.

I think the difference will be Butler's front court--that's where they win the game.  Matt Howard absolutely, positively, can't get into the foul trouble he did against Syracuse.  They also have to generate turnovers--they can play fast when that happens, and they are more dynamic in transition than you think they are.  And fatigue could be a factor late in the game.

Big Blue Monkey says:  Butler by 5.

West Virginia vs. Kentucky.  Jesus--flip a coin.  This is a game that is going to come down to random variables.  Let's just take an example--Cousins.  If he gets in foul trouble early, that's trouble for Kentucky.  Big trouble, because West Virginia is, as a team, huge--not that Kentucky is tiny--West Virginia is just uncommonly tall, and Kentucky is going to need their beast in the paint.  This will be one of the few times that Patrick Patterson finds himself guarded by a guy his size who comfortable on the perimeter.

But West Virginia isn't particularly deep at the guard spot, and nowhere near as talented at Kentucky--if this becomes a game of guards pulling up from 10 feet out, edge to Kentucky.  If it is guards shooting from 3?  Edge to West Virginia.

If it is close late in the game, both teams have guys who seemingly hit every big shot needed (scientists tell me that is not true, but I, like Glenn Beck, believe Facts to be biased).  If this were a best of seven series, I'd probably take Kentucky in six or seven.  But one game?  Very hard to call.  And let's be clear--this game has the chance to be a blowout, too.  In either direction.  I'mma goin' to go with my gut.

Big Blue Monkey says:  Kentucky by 9.

Yep, That's Pretty Drunk

Attempting to revive a opossum should be against the law on its own merits.

Old School Thursday: Salt-n-Pepa

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Kentucky is Too Young To Win the Whole Thing...but...

I keep hearing the argument (muted somewhat, with Kansas and now Syracuse gone) that Kentucky with their at least five future NBA'ers, and 3 or 4 lottery picks in next year's draft, that they are maybe too young and immature to win the whole thing.

I'm not saying Kentucky is a lock to win the whole thing because of their superior talent--far from it.  I'd wager Cornell helped scout the Wildcats for West Virginia in a pretty major way, and WVA's size is going to give the Wildcats fits.  But here's the thing that bothers me about that argument.  It's a small thing, but worth mentioning.

And it is the 1997 Arizona Wildcats.  Went into the tournament as a #4 seed.  Considered too young to do much but get seasoning for the next year (this, kids, was before the whole one-and-done thing was a thing), they won the championship, beating three #1 seeds along the way (including a Minnesota team that later had to vacate their wins, due to some minor incident in which the entire school was helping the players cheat).

That team had one real career NBA'er on it--Mike Bibby, whose daddy gave him nothing but a name.  Other players were drafted, of course--Miles Simon, Michael Dickerson, and A.J. Bramlett were all on that Championship team and all were drafted in the first two rounds.  But they all came back in 1998, and they lost in the Elite Eight.  

My main point is this--we went through the whole "too young to win" thing in 1997, and it got blown up real good, and that was before this era of ridiculous athletes.  Kentucky is more talented than that Arizona team.  They can still lose, of course.  But it won't be because of youth.  Why does that even merit a mention in this day and age?  Because it is something to talk about, that's why.

Nice Start, Sweet Sixteen

After arguably the great first day of the tournament last Thursday, we are getting one hell of a first Sweet Sixteen night.  Sweet Christmas!

Nerd Break

A while back, we interviewed comic creater Joshua Dysart about his favorite movies.  At the time, we highly recommended his then brand new book, Unknown Soldier.  It has since won, roughly, a metric shit tonne of awards.

My  favorite new book is another Vertigo imprint, called Unwritten, by a great writer named Mike Carey (not be confused with the NFL referee).  It's going to win a ton of awards this year.

So, nerdish tendencies demonstrated, I was justifiably interested in an interview about process and writing featuring both of those guys, conducted by a guy who knows their styles best--their shared editor, Pornsak Pichetshote.  It is a fascinating read, by guys who love what they do, and are great at it.  Go read it.

And then, maybe, buy some books:

Dramatic Recreation of Syracuse vs. Butler

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

What's the Point of Force Choke, if You Don't Use it On Nordy?

Darth Vader (of a sort--you'll notice the stormtrooper on the left is bigger than him, which is bullshit) visited the Minnesota Wild game the other night, and while Nordy may have his stupid ass grin on his face, I sure hope he was sweating the invisible grasp of the Dark Side around his neck. 

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Umm, Welcome Back, Brian Cardinal

Timberwolves re-sign Brian Cardinal after he was dumped by the Knicks.  Looks like I was a little hasty.  But I regret nothing.

Good news is that we got shockingly helpful Darko Milicic for nothing.  Bad news, I assume that Cardinal is going to take an actual roster spot now.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

NFL Umpires Flip Sides

This is a minor detail in the midst of a great NCAA tournament.

But it might be a transition worth noting for the NFL season only six months away: starting next year, NFL umpires will be positioned behind the offense.

At every level of football, umpires have always been positioned behind the linebackers: inside the meat grinder. I read Chad Brown's entertaining Inside the Meat Grinder, which gave me an appreciation for the difficulties and dangers of his profession.

Like most NFL umpires, Chad Brown is a former pro player. Agility, strength and vision are an umpire's most prized assets. Umpires are primarily responsible for watching the lineplay: formations, motion, holding, cut blocks and spotting the football.

Time will tell if it will be harder for the umpires to do their job on the flip side. According to the league, safety is the reason for the change. In 2009, NFL officials sustained over a hundred injuries, including two concussions and three knee or shoulder surgeries.

"Safety" has often held the power of shibboleth in the NFL and our larger culture (e.g. banning hugs and high-fives in school). But in this particular case it's hard to argue against.
The new positioning will certainly expose some blind spots, and we will likely see some missed calls. But, with everything else I see turning into total shit (overtime? don't get me started), I can't form an argument against this.

Good luck?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Bracket Busted, a Consideration

Alternatively, "Hey Experts, Go Fuck Yourselves."

I haven't blogged much during this March Clinical Insanity, and the simple reason is that I'm too tired and drained after watching 12 hours of basketball to do so.  I don't get paid for this shit, obviously.  It's a labor of love, and sometimes the love of watching trumps the love of writing about it.  But that's neither here nor there...

As I sit here, somewhat gobsmacked by Kansas' departure at the hands of a team that I knew would be dangerous to them (that dangerous?  No.  But Northern Iowa and Cornell have a lot of similarities, and Cornell almost beat Kansas earlier in the year).  As I sit, running my workplace pool, and seeing the majority of brackets totally busted wide open, I wonder exactly what is the value of experts.

Consider:  for the fuck of it, I entered the Sports Illustrated bracket into my workplace bracket.  Where's that bracket?  At the very bottom of a pool played by me, a couple of husbands of co-workers, one woman who loves basketball, and about 14 women who hardly ever watch basketball.  The Sports Illustrated expert is behind almost all of them, and yes, his champion exited today.

There's no fault in not seeing the Northern Iowa upset, and it takes balls to pick Wofford to win even one game (and they came close to doing it).  And no one saw Georgetown losing to Ohio U.

But that's the thing--if the experts can't alert you to that shit (and they try, they try, they try) why bother listening to them?  Seth Davis was 100% sure that San Diego State University was a stone cold lock to beat Tennessee.  SI said the same.  Never mind that Tennessee beat the top #1 seeds in the dance in Kansas and Kentucky.

"Experts" swore that Vanderbilt was a Sweet Sixteen team, and watch out.  Other experts swore that Murray State was a Cinderella to watch.  Which was great, except they were playing each other.  And hey, one last second shot determined that half the experts were going to be wrong.  Again, that's part of the deal.

SI predicted Marquette's march into the Sweet Sixteen, and said it would be proof of Big East power--instead, Marquette, Georgetown, Notre Dame, Villanova and Louisville all exited.  The best conference in the fucking universe lost to teams like Ohio University, Old Dominion University, California, St. Mary's, and Washington.  Any of those sound like National Champs to you?  Have I mentioned that SI gave over 1000 words to New Mexico as the next great fun team?  It was delivered on my doorstep mere hours before the Lobos got their dogs walked by Washington.

I was discussing brackets with Barnyard, and how he had let the experts talk him into picking Vanderbilt over Murray State, even though he really liked the Racers.  And that's the poison of the experts.  Don't fucking listen to them.  Watch teams.  Develop your own "eye test" as they like to call it.

Here are my rules for not listening to experts:

1.  Don't listen to comparisons intra-conference, like this one from Sports Illustrated, "Gonzaga are Dance veterans, but played two ACC teams this year and lost to both."  That's worthless analysis.  Gonzaga lost by two to Wake Forest in early December.  They got their doors blown off by Duke in December at Duke.  What does losing to Wake Forest (by 2 points) or to Duke have to do with playing Florida State?  Nothing, that's what.  You know who else got their doors blown out by Duke?  Florida State.

2.  Beware teams from Big Conferences that haven't played well lately.  Take your pick of teams here--I'll pick Villanova, but you could easily throw in Georgetown, Wake Forest or Texas.  Villanova was 4-6 in their last 10 games in the Big East, but were still considered a likely Elite 8 team, because they were losing to Big East teams, and we all know that the Big East is FUCKING TOUGH.  But you know, even though they lost to Connecticut, Pitt, Georgetown and Marquette, and barely squeaked by Robert Morris, the headline is that Villanova was Shocked by St. Mary's.  If you were shocked by that result (or by Georgetown and Marquette's exits), you weren't paying attention.  In general, if a team is hovering around .500 in their own conference, they don't deserve your Sweet Sixteen consideration.  Contrapostively, if a team is kicking ass in their conference, don't be scared to have them win at least one game in the Dance.

2b.  Corollary:  Don't take seeding as Gospel.  Look, I'm as surprised as anyone by Northern Iowa beating Kansas.  But they should not have ever been a #9 seed.  That's a team that was ranked in the Top 25 for the last 2 months of the regular season.  They play in a tough conference, the Missouri Valley, home of other upsetters like Southern Illinois, Bradley, Wichita State and Creighton.  It's not a major conference, but it is a conference that produces NBA quality talent pretty regularly.  So how does a top-25 ranked team end up with a #9 seed?  Good question.  Ask Gonzaga, I guess, who still, after showing up in the top 25 and the Sweet Sixteen year after year, still got a #8 seed.   Ask Butler, who was ranked in the top 15 most of the year, and still got a #5 seed.  Mid-majors are devalued, and quite possibly on purpose by a NCAA selection committee that is trying to get small schools out of the picture as quickly as possible.  Cornell as a #12 was a joke, and having them play #5 Temple was cruel.  Those were two teams that deserved to meet each other in the second round, not the first.

3.  Embrace the Random and Don't Relinquish Hope.  Wagering on the NCAA is not unlike wagering on which popcorn kernel is going to pop first.  Two years ago, all #1 seeds made it to the Final Four,  It was the first time in 20-some years that had happened.  People who pick a Final Four like that usually lose.  See this year for more evidence.  You will see articles about "Who is This Year's George Mason"?  Bullshit, those articles are.  There is too much quality for any team to be a new George Mason.  Butler and UNI were ranked at the end of the year.  The only reason they are considered Cinderellas is that basketball writers ignore their own rankings.  St. Mary's beat a good (not great) Villanova team by exploiting the things that every team that beat them has--superior play in the paint.  So you had Kansas in your Final Game, maybe even champion?  Don't give up--Kentucky, Syracuse, or Duke haven't locked this thing up.  Cheer for the Panthers of Northern Iowa; cheer for the Baylor Bears; keep hoping for upsets--you deserve them, don't you?

Friday, March 19, 2010

The abhorrent state of journalism.

Perhaps some of you recall last fall when Andy Richter pummeled Wolf Blitzer on celebrity Jeopardy. O.K., Andy is intelligent and educated so that's not necessarily a huge surprise. The latest celebrity Jeopardy pitted Anderson Cooper, Aisha Tyler, and Cheech Marin against each other. Before final jeopardy Cheech - yes Cheech - lead both Cooper and Tyler( who were tied with $8,000) with $14,200. The final Jeopardy question that stumped them? Basically, who wrote "The Wizard of Oz." Tough one. Cheech claimed not to get the answer because he read the date wrong (1980 instead of 1890). At least Cheech gave a reason. If you'd like, watch the final Jeopardy question - Cooper is visibly pleased to have his ass handed to him by none other than Cheech Marin.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Gross Rexman

What had been a calm, encouraging off-season for the Washington football team has turned dark. Very dark. Very dark, indeed.

Larry Johnson is a poor addition, but at least he's talented. Gross Rexman was never good, QED.

After losing the Superbowl: "Even if Grossman manages to chuck a ball into the right place, his WRs & TEs are so surprised to receive the ball that whackiness ensues ... every time the Bears had an opportunity, Rex 'Gilligan' Grossman boofed it up ... If the Bears had a QB, they could be a very good team."

When the Bears inexplicably re-signed him again: "I am so glad I'm not a fan of the Bears ... Rexman has been in the NFL since 2003 and there isn't much reason to believe he'll turn into a good quarterback."

Well, the muthafuckin joke's on me.

Dear CBS

Why am I watching Kansas State blow out North Texas, when there are 3 other games that are single possession games?

In your programmers minds, are Minnesota and Kansas basically just part of a big Midwest region?  Because very few people here give two shits about Kansas State, and would much rather watch potential upsets like Sam Houston vs. Baylor or Murray State vs Vanderbilt. Please move me soon.  Thanks!

Old School Thursday: The Coup

I still remember the first time I sat down to Rap City on a Wednesday afternoon, and saw the visionary Boots, E-Rock, and Pam the Funkstress, aka The Coup, drop science.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Hey Low Down Scamps--Roughly 11 Hours Until Tip-Off

Have you joined our March Clinical Insanity Pick'em Yet?  You can learn how here.

And to celebrate March Clinical Insanity in the most literal way, please enjoy some of the most excellent reactions from the Free Republic reader's reactions to Obama's Final Four Picks.  (hat-tip to Garwood B. Jones)

I hope he focuses MORE attention on college and pro sports. That way he's not focusing on the spearhead into socialism. 
6 posted on Tue Mar 16 2010 22:43:09 GMT-0500 (Central Daylight Time) by Renderofveils

"From each according to his ability, to each according to his need." If that is your mantra, why would you watch college basketball, or any sport, for that matter. Obama should only watch sports where they do not keep score. Socialists are hipocrits. 

12 posted on Tue Mar 16 2010 22:48:52 GMT-0500 (Central Daylight Time) by mlocher (USA is a sovereign nation)

Can I tell you I don’t give a f*** what this bast*** signs up for. He is a low down scamp.

16 posted on Tue Mar 16 2010 23:05:32 GMT-0500 (Central Daylight Time) by CT 

When will Pelousi and the dimocRATS attempt to force a vote to make sure Obozo’s picks come through???
22 posted on Wed Mar 17 2010 02:31:12 GMT-0500 (Central Daylight Time) by SoldierDad (Proud Papa of two new Army Brats! Congrats to my Soldier son and his wife.)

Rex Grossman Also Now a Drunken Savage

Andrew Wice emailed a week or so ago warning me of the impending signing of Rex Grossman, but I didn't believe.   Why would any team sign that guy?  Why would Washington?  How is Grossman an improvement over Todd Collins?

Regardless of the fact that those questions are basically unanswerable, the Drunken Savages went ahead and did it anyway.  Now, note--this doesn't reflect any sort of major misstep in the Deion Sanders way.  It's just knowing that when someone asks, "Rex Grossman?  Whatever happened to that fucking piece of shit?"  I'll have to say, "He's on my team."  Between this signing and Larry Johnson, we are really racking up the guys who had a good year several years ago.

Monday, March 15, 2010

"I hated Reggie."

And so Patrick Ewing helps make "Winning Time" the most enjoyable of the 30 for 30 series yet on ESPN.

If you haven't it seen yet, seek it out; get it on your DVR, and make some time, because you may be rewinding a few times to enjoy the nuggets that come out of the interviews.

I, without any hyperbole here, laughed out loud more in the first 15 of "Winning Time" then I during the entire viewing of "The Hangover".  

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Political Allegory

After QB Delhomme's blowout in the 2008 playoffs, his Carolina Panthers gave him a new contract with massive guaranteed money.

Delhomme was melting down in a torrent of picks until he was benched. After the worst year of his career, Delhomme was surprisingly released. Surprising, because the Panthers must pay that guaranteed money.

$12.7 million in guaranteed money.

Enter the Cleveland Poo, who are still shuffling through mediocre QBs like the bargain CD bin. Hmm, Jock Jams Vol. 2 for only three bucks?

Delhomme certainly deserves to be in the QB hell that is Cleveland (according to angry ex Derek Anderson, the "fans are ruthless and don't deserve a winner"). But did he deserve a two-year deal that will pay him $7 million this year?

Before getting benched, Delhomme threw for 8 TDs and 18 INTs with 3 lost fumbles: a QB rating of 59.4. Delhomme will make $19.7 million in 2010.

This reminds of George W. Bush's re-election in 2004. Good luck, Cleveland!

Who's in? Minnesota vs. Illinois

I don't know if it really is a case of one open spot for two Big Ten teams, but if it is, I have a hard time accepting the idea that the Gophers are not in. 

Bruce Weber, coach of Illinois, made the case himself when he started listing signature wins for the Illini.  He mentioned Clemson.  Look, Bruce Weber, don't mention Clemson as a signature win if you want to be taken seriously.

Yeah, you beat Clemson.  So did Boston College.  So did Virginia Tech.  So did NC State.  You beat a team that isn't going to the Dance, that three other teams that aren't going to the Dance also beat.  Congratulations!

Speaking of teams not going to the Dance--Utah.  Bradley.  Georgia. Northwestern. You lost to all those teams, Illinois.  Meanwhile, I guess we should talk about those other out of conference wins--there was SIU Edwardsville, Northern Illinois, Presbyterian, and Wofford, and Western Michigan.  To be fair, there was also Vanderbilt, which is almost a signature win. Perhaps most importantly, you lost to Minnesota, in late February.

How Illinois goes in before Minnesota, given that they lost to the Gophers, that they didn't make the semi-finals of the Big 10 Tournament, and the Gophers did; that they played a ridiculously crappy non-conference schedule, I don't know.

To be clear and fair--neither Minnesota or Illinois has much of a chance of playing beyond the first four days of the tournament.  If  either one makes it into the Sweet Sixteen, I'll be absolutely gobsmacked.  But regardless of that, Minnesota deserves the chance to lose in the first round more than Illinois does.

Live Bloggin' Our Inevitable Outrage re: Selection Sunday

Saturday, March 13, 2010

This Tournament Will Be B-A-N-A-N-A-S

I don't know about you, but I do know about me, and I am looking at these presumptive number one seeds heading into Selection Sunday, and there isn't a single one that I'm even 85% sure will be in the Final Four.  (Just for the sake of mentioning--we'll be liveblogging our reactions to the bracket unveiling Sunday afternoon)

The presumptives, for those not paying attention are Kansas, Kentucky, Syracuse and Duke.  Classic teams, always favorites to win the whole thing (though Syracuse only wins the whole thing when they are not favorites, but that's neither here nor there.)  There was some speculation that if Ohio State just rocked the Big 10 tournament, they could sneak into #1 consideration.  But for that to happen, they needed to not win on a 37 footer from Evan Turner, and they needed to play real competition in the final, and Minnesota knocked off  Purdue.  So no impressive final win coming for Ohio State; they'll have to live with a #2 seed.

Getting back to our likely #1's--they all have obvious warts, despite the fact that between them, they averaged about 2 losses in 30 games per team this year.  That's pretty damn good.  Not Lady Husky good, but pretty damn good.

Kansas is probably the most complete team, but they lack some speed in the front court.  To be frank, they look at times a bit boring.  But they are effective, if Collins is playing at his best.  Maybe that's where they are lacking--Xavier Henry was supposed to be one of the most heralded players in the country, and while he has shown flashes, he's been overshadowed by 3/5th's of the Kentucky starting five, who are all freshman.  Xavier has got to be bad-ass, consistently, for the Jayhawks to make it to the Final.

Speaking of Kentucky's youth--they are super young, and at times, unable to play slow half-court basketball. John Wall is impossible to stop in transition; Bledsoe hits big shots; Cousins is a monster at 6' 11" and that doesn't even mention upperclassman front court badass Patrick Patterson.  So why do I think this team can be upset in Round 2?  It takes a team with patience, coaching and a gameplan, but I've seen Kentucky rattled before by just such a thing.  Of course, one of the teams that managed to do that was the team that Kentucky just blew out today--Tennessee.

Let me be clear--I don't think anyone is likely to frustrate Kentucky.  I just think it is doable.

In my mind, the most at risk presumptive #1's are Syracuse and Duke.  It all depends on match-ups (a fairly obvious caveat, but one that needs to be said) but there are teams out there that would be absolute nightmares for these teams to deal with.

Syracuse is obviously in trouble if Onuaku can't go, but even if he does, there's a central fact that no one has really talked about--the Orange are lacking a point guard that they really trust.  Sccop Jardine and Brandon Triche aren't really running that team--Andy Rautins is.  When your best shooter is responsible for getting everyone else involved, that's potential trouble.  They are also incredibly shallow--you are looking a seven man rotation, and any team that puts some stress on their front court via fouls is going to be rewarded.

Duke also isn't incredibly deep, and they have a liability--it's called their front court.  You'll watch games, and the commentators will praise Zoubek and the Plumlee brothers simply for rebounding and not getting in the way of Singler, Scheyer, and Nolan Smith.  A deep with an actual skilled front court and good defensive guards could pose problems for Duke.  Duke would probably beat Northern Iowa, say, 8 out of 10 times.  But they only play the game once, ya dig?

Here's my fearless prediction:  The Final Four will have no more than 2 #1 seeds in it.  How's that for a bold, exciting prediction?  Dig on that, bitches!

Come Tickle the Twine (In a Non-Sexual Manner (For Now))

 We are once again playing March Madness over on Yahoo.  The only things necessary to play are a Yahoo ID and a willingness to put up with those of us that done run this blog.  We know, we know--hardly worth it.  But if you do well, you could win free gear, ranging from a Jesus Playing Basketball Statuette all the way down a coffee mug that promotes this here blog.  But again--we aren't charging you, so stop complaining, for fuck's sake.  We're not going to beg you to play.  We don't need you.  We don't need anybody!  

Click the link above.  The only things you should need to know beyond your own ID and password are our groups login and password.

We are Group #: 48428
The password is:  vitalepitstains

The Kurt Rambis Dog says, "Play, you bitches."  (photo stolen from the awesome Hipster Puppies)

Friday, March 12, 2010

Tubby Smith Got a Little On Him

I don't know why I find it hilarious when people spit whilst yelling, but I do (ah, Coach Cowher, we miss you most of all!).  But obviously, if one is juvenile enough to find spit flying hilarious, you can only imagine how much fun it is to see a big ol' spit ball gain so much weight (like hail) that it doesn't fly out, but rather just falls, and lands on what I presume to be a nice suit jacket.  Thanks, Tubby!

Shanahanigans: Uh-Oh #1

The Washington offseason had been refreshingly flaccid. The only decision that's made me grind my teeth was bringing in Haslett and a 3-4 defense. Until today.

Big BM beat me to the punch, but there's no question that signing RB Larry Johnson is going to be a controversial move among Washington fans. I don't like it, and I expect most fans don't like it either. Even if he never actually points at my own, personal titties.

Johnson's on-field problems are a result of too many carries on shitty Chiefs teams. He's a top-heavy, physical runner who also possesses good straight-line speed for a 230-pound back. He managed to accumulate many yards behind mediocre offensive lines. Johnson is no passing threat out of the backfield, and no longer has the legs to hit the big play. After scoring 55 TDs in his first six seasons, he has scored zero in his last two years and played in less than half the games.

Johnson was brought in to complement veteran RB Clinton Portis, who is at a similar stage in his career. Any fans hoping to get younger at the position must hold out hope for a mid-round draft pick. Johnson was signed to a 3-year, incentive-laden contract that could be worth up to $12 million (but certainly won't).

Coach Shanahan has great respect for Johnson, a result of competing against him in the AFC West so many years. But he's not the back he was four years ago; RBs are falling through the cracks in this free agency period and it probably would have been worthwhile to try out, say, Lendale White.

Of greater consequence than Johnson's diminishing contributions is his sordid personal history of violence against women. He has been dogged by controversy throughout his career; his antipathy towards reporters and (some say) teammates has done nothing to ingratiate him to the fans. He was finally released by the Chiefs, not because of the steady stream of sexual and aggravated assault allegations, or controversy over a rude rap song, but because he insulted his head coach, insulted fans and said "Get your faggot ass outta here" to a reporter.

Washington fans ought to get used to his agent issuing these kinds of statements in the near future:
“I’m going to work to that point to get my life back on track and know that I and I alone put myself in these critical situations and environments to where things don’t come out favorably to me.”
But if that's too subtle a doublespeak, check out various blogs from his present/former ladyfriends, such as Julissa from BET. A sample from the comments should let DC fans know what we just signed up for:
"OH SHUT THE HELL UP!!! HE aint TRICKIN on that UGLY “BROWN” BITCH!!!! and he aint the typa nigga to trick! SO “LETOYA” like i said quit posin like ur sumone else. GET A LIFE n get off his dick. He aint stuntin you HOE!"
He's not exactly Joe Gibbs material, is he? I hope this isn't the direction we're going.

And fathers of daughters ... to paraphrase Chris Rock, if your daughter is dating Larry Johnson, you fucked up.

Larry Johnson Now a Drunken Savage

Washington Post writer Jason Reid reports that it is official.  Not to brag, but I predicted this back in November, kind of.

Let's see--he's not here because of anything he's shown on the field for the past few years.  It must be because he's the kind of proven, classy leader you want in your locker room.

Oh, yeah:

"Johnson has had more than his share of off-the-field troubles. He lost his job in Kansas City after he was suspended twice within a 12-month period, following remarks he made on Twitter about Chiefs' coaches and gay slurs he used to members of the media."

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Old School Thursday: Rob Base & EZ Rock

Now it's a party!

RIP, Merlin Olsen

Football Great, and Acting Good Merlin Olsen passed away today.

For me, and lot of men of a certain age, a favorite Olsen came early in his acting career--in the Joe Don Baker MST3K Classic, Mitchell.

You'll see him at the 2:55 mark of the greatest hit compilation below.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010


Or so it sounds listening to the news on ESPN.  Yes, Joe Nathan has a significant tear in his throwing arms ligament.  Yes, this undoubtedly sucks.  Sucks hard.  Sucks burro testicles.

But the always steady, never stupid crew of Mike and Mike in the Morning w/ guest Buster Olney took things a little too far, when they basically buried the Twins.

I'm paraphrasing, but the argument which has been around a bit longer than the truth, was this:  Joe Nathan when healthy is a preeminent closer--one of the best in game.  The Twins don't score a whole lot of runs, so runs will be at a premium; they are a small market team, and don't have a payroll that allows for much movement.  They don't have any proven closers.

Only fact one was 100% true.  Joe Nathan is one of the best in the league, without a doubt, especially when looking at his career over the past five years.

The Twins not scoring a lot of runs is based on assumptions based on last year's (or maybe even the year before) line-up.  The Twins scored 817 runs last year.  That's more than Detroit, or the White Sox, or the Rangers.  It is behind the Yankees, Red Sox, and Angels, but it still better than most teams in the league.  There wasn't a power outage last year for the Twins--Mike and Mike may have not noticed, but the Twins had four guys who hit over 25 home runs last year; 10 guys who hit 15 or more doubles; and 4 guys with 90 or more RBI.  That's an offense that was clicking along OK most of the time.   Anyone who watched the Twins last year knows that the thing that stung them was injuries to starting pitchers.  That was not hyperbole--literally anyone who watched them last year knows that.

The Twins have announced plans to add to their payroll, based on new income based on the new outdoor park, and so far, they seem to be following suit.  They've added Jim Thome, Orlando Hudson, and J.J. Hardy this offseason, and are still likely to sign Joe Mauer to a long term, big time deal.  They aren't ever going to be the Yankees (thank god) but when you look at what they've been willing to do so far, it isn't impossible to imagine they'd look at potential free agent players.

The Twins don't have any proven closers, that part is true.  But let's all remember something.  When they got Joe Nathan, he wasn't a proven closer himself.  He was a failed starter in San Francisco who had become a good set-up man.  Not so good that the Giants thought twice about trading him (and Boof Bonser and Francisco Liriano) to get the Awesome Asshole that is A.J. Pierzynski.  So, you know--if you are looking for a great closer, maybe the place to look is a good set-up reliever, and the Twins actually have a few of those.  My guess is you'll see Matt Guerrier, who went 5-1 with 33 holds and and ERA of 2.36 last year.  A dark horse could be The Sub-Mariner!, Pat Neshek, who is back from an injury plagued couple of years, and is looking good at the moment.

So, please ESPN's Buster Olney and the circuit of clowns you have to talk to in the morning--please let's not bury the Twins just yet.  Let's wait until they play a game or two, shall we?

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Some Curious Free Agent Moves

The Detroit Lions seem to think a lot of Nate Burleson, seeing as they gave him $11 million guaranteed.  That's a lot of cash, is it not?  MJD of Shutdown Corner thinks so, and I have to agree.  Burleson is a nifty route-runner, but he does tend to get banged up and I don't know if the Lions can expect 16 games out of him in any given year.

Everyone is talking about the Bears making a splash in the free agent market, and they certainly have, but is Chester Taylor really a guy who should be getting a four-year deal?  Of course, it is the NFL, and contracts don't actually mean anything, unless the money is specifically designated as guaranteed.  And he was kind of a bargain, averaging only a little $3 million over 4 years.  That's not bad for a running back who will contend for the starting job.  But he's 30 years old.  He isn't a four year solution, lack of mileage on his feet notwithstanding.  It screams how unhappy the Bears are with Matt Forte, but as even the most casual observer knows--the Chicago Bears offensive line sucks, and their defense is old (and doesn't get much younger with Peppers), and maybe Chester Taylor doesn't change those factors.  I'm dumbfounded that no one has offered a similar deal to Pierre Thomas, at least in the interest in making the Saints actually invest in their best running back.  He's what?  5 years younger?  Isn't that worth a 2nd round pick to someone out there?  Why not make the Saints match a deal, rather than giving them Thomas' services for under $1.5 million?

Not curious, but just badass--The Ravens getting Anquan Boldin, who 2 seasons ago, got his face broken in half, came back 3 weeks ahead of schedule, and kicked ass.  He's fucking badass, and he's a great fit for the Ravens, who needed  a great receiver to fit with their aspirations to be a great throwing team (which hurt them at times this past season).  Getting Boldin means that a good, but aging quickly defense can be the focus of the draft.  Between Flacco, Rice and Boldin, the Ravens have their top 3 skill position players locked in.  No one is going to be too excited to play them come next year. 

Friday, March 05, 2010

Cribbs Signed

Good job, yokel!

Exactly - Charles Pierce Gets the CBA Horsepuckey Right

Two Charles Pierce posts in a row?  Yeah, because every time I remember to go read Charles Pierce, I'm happy that I do.  We've talked a lot on this here blog about the upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement in the NFL, and how the NFLPA is having swim upstream against the current of bullshit coming from the owners.  Here's Pierce:

It would be nice if Commissioner Roger Goodell could do a better job of pretending he isn't in management's pocket on this one. It would be nice if Kraft and his fellow owners would let the labor side see the actual books. It would be nice if they would admit that, whatever financial problems they actually have are less the result of salaries and more the result of grandiose real-estate transactions, and ego-driven, debt-ridden elephantine stadium projects like the one in Dallas. It would be nice if, generally, people would look at what football players do for a living and realize that, of all the athletes in team sports, they risk more for less reward than do any of the others, and that they do so in a system where not even contracts mean what they say. That's what "assuming risk" really is.

Charles Pierce Explains Bill Simmon's Stupidity

Bill Simmons thinks that Tiger Wood's Comeback is going to be tougher than Muhammad Ali's.  This is obviously crazy. 

Charles Pierce has a great deal of fun of destroying that argument, and even takes the time to mock the format of Simmons' column, which was definitely worthy of mockery.  (Not as much as that cracked-out thesis, but worthy nonetheless).


Thursday, March 04, 2010

Four Players and a Clear Divide

Martin Rogers at Yahoo is an insightful writer, who, when not burdened with crazy ideas about how Thierry Henry is coming to the MLS, has some points to make.

But he is absolutely killing me with this paragraph about the US Team as they meander aimlessly into the World Cup:

[US Coach Bob Bradley's] job is made somewhat harder by the relatively consistent level of ability at his disposal. Apart from a handful of standouts like Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard and his son Michael Bradley, there is little to differentiate the other players.

Can I tell you the ways that assessment drives me crazy?

1. Dempsey did little to prove himself if we are talking about consistency. Throughout qualifying, he was a petulant child, unwilling to accept the role that Bradley had given him. For about 99% of the soccer players in America, playing the right midfield wing would have been a dream come true. For Dempsey, it was a burden. He wanted to be a striker, and protested his role like a dick--dribbling into trouble, not recovering on defense after his own turnovers, and just in general, sulking on the pitch. Time and time again, he was rewarded by Coach Bradley. Dempsey was pushed to a striking position late in games, where he performed well. I like Dempsey as a striker, but only because he's proven himself a liability at the right midfield spot. I would say that Stuart Holden had won that spot outright, if it were for his broken fibula (thanks for that, Netherlands!)

2. I have no idea what Michael Bradley has done, beyond being the coach's son, to earn this kind of "locked in" status as a starter. He's almost always a step too slow; his passes are more often than not based on luck rather than skill. I've watched him play at the International level as much as anyone has. I have yet to see what makes the attacking midfield role his, beyond a dearth of options.

The simple fact of the matter is, 3 months away from the World Cup, the US roster is in a dangerous state of flux. And Martin Rogers is lying when he says that the players he mentions have played themselves onto the pitch. Only Donovan and Howard have. I'd argue for Stuart Holden, if he hadn't gotten his fibula cracked. I'd argue for Benny Feilhaber, if he weren't coming off injury. I will argue for Jozy Altidore, simply because there isn't a better option up top. Jonathan Spector has proven to be the best wing defender the US has. The formerly German Jermaine Jones could step in and prove to be very important, if he's given an opportunity.

For a US soccer fan, it is a scary thing to admit--but 3 months away from the World Cup, and I'd say 6 to 8 of the positions are up for grabs. And Michael Bradley's position is certainly one of them.

Dear Cleveland Browns--Spazzy Pitt Fans Spit Knowledge

This slack-jawed yokel at the Pittsburgh/Providence tilt has some advice for the Cleveland Browns.

Honestly, I'm trying to remember the last time I saw NFL advice in the signage of the student's section at a NCAA basketball game. Another example is not jumping to mind. Good work, Cletus.

The scary thing is, the slack-jawed yokels seem to more on target than the guys who get paid big money to make big money decisions. The Chargers narrowly avoided going into the draft without a running back; The Saints tendered their best overall running back with a deal so cheap that it practically invites another team to make a move on him (for example--Pierre Thomas would be cheaper to go after Jason Campbell); The Raiders have gone full-bore batshit insane on their Restricted Free Agents.

Seriously, Cleveland Browns--you have one bona fide skill player on offense and special teams--the rest of your team is either super old, or unproven youngsters--you are having a hard time figuring out whether to sign the man who accounted for like 130% of your yardage this past season? Is he worth $10 million guaranteed? More than the rest of your team combined is, yes.

Old School Thursday: Brand Nubian

Shanahanigans: So far so good

The Washington professional football team has placed a $3.1 million, first-round tender on QB Jason Campbell. While this doesn't guarantee Campbell will remain in the burgundy and gold, it establishes a high price: another team would have to pay up and offer a first-round pick.

Teams which have the greatest need for a new QB include Oakland and Buffalo, but I think the team most likely to approach Campbell is the St. Louis Rams. I'm hoping that their brand-new owner wants to draft a billboard QB and thereby build his legacy. There's no doubt that Campbell would rather stay in DC.

Washington also placed a first-round tender on CB Carlos Rogers. It's unlikely that any team will forfeit that pick for a CB who, though good in coverage, is simply incapable of catching INTs.

Cementing these two free agents (though it's still drying) resolves two of the five major question marks for the 2010 season.

The number-one need, offensive linemen, has only become more dire. Former Pro Bowl LT Chris Samuels retired, RG Randy Thomas was released. Things are shaping up to force Washington into drafting at least two linemen: at this point, we just need intact bodies. LT Russell Okung is the highest-ranked O-lineman in the draft; if he is available at #4 that pick is a no-brainer.

Another need: LBs for the 3-4 scheme. I have a bad feeling -- consider it skepticism, not cynicism -- that we'll revamp our personnel for the 3-4 and then Haslett will get fired and we'll go back to a 4-3 and have to revamp our personnel yet again, always playing catch-up. Our D has been solid these last years, so why are we ripping it out like mildewed dry wall ?

Another need: a placekicker. Still.

Chargers Hurt My Groundless Speculatin'

The Chargers decided that they were being a wee bit rash with their "No RB's on the team in the offseason" plan and tendered Darren Sproles after all.

Of course, they still need a real running back for the first and second downs, but after basically agreeing to play Sproles at least $7 million next year, I doubt they will spend big money to get Pierre Thomas (which was a kind of silly, totally speculative shot-in-the-dark on my part anyway).

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Expanding the Tournament Would Be Dumb

I've said that before, and it is certainly still true. George Dohrmann over as has a handy dandy list of the Four Most Powerful Reasons Why it is stupid.

It's a pretty good list.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Meaningless, Idle Speculation About Pierre Thomas

The Saints have offered a 2nd round tender to Pierre Thomas. The Times-Picayune, and a lot of the fantasy football sites, all contend that while that sounds low, the Saints have looked at the market and have decided that they'll take their chances. After all, even if some other team comes along and is willing to give up a 2nd round pick to sign a young, versatile running back, and offers Thomas a big spanking new contract, the Saints will have the right to sign him to a matching deal.

So everyone seems to think that he'll probably remain with the Saints. But this still seems like risky behavior to me. Do the Chargers have anything to lose in offering a guy like Thomas a big deal? If he signs, he instantly improves what has been the Incredible Disappearing Backfield, at the price of a 2nd round draft pick. If the Saints match, the Chargers will have forced a rival team into spending more than maybe they wanted to.

If I'm managing the Chargers, I take a long hard look at offering Thomas at least something, and test the Saints resolve in holding onto their most complete running back.

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