Tuesday, October 26, 2010

NBA PLAYOFFS Predictions

Just before the first round of games on opening night, here’s my postseason predictions!

Divisional Round
1. Miami over 8. New Jersey
2. Boston over 7. New York
3. Chicago over 6. Milwaukee
4. Orlando over 5. Atlanta

Orlando over Miami
Boston over Chicago

Conference Final
Boston over Orlando

Divisional Round
1. Dallas over 8. Phoenix
2. Los Angeles Lakers over 7. Houston
3. Oklahoma City over 6. Denver
4. Utah over 5. San Antonio

Los Angeles over Oklahoma City
Utah over Dallas

Conference Final
Los Angeles over Utah

(the NBA, where rematches happen…)

Los Angeles over Boston in another epic struggle. Boston has the big bodies to compete, but Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant will prove to be just a bit better. Jackson gets his last three-peat and retires in peace.

Make sure you check out Boston vs. Miami tonight and enjoy the season!

Monday, October 25, 2010

NBA Preview - Part 2

and the preview continues…

Western Conference


Denver Nuggets: Swirling around the Nuggets is the status of Carmelo Anthony. Chances are that he will be traded by the deadline this year as he has made it clear that he will not sign Denver’s offered extension. This is really going to hurt the Nuggets this year and keep them from a successful season. Up front for the Nuggets you’ll find the usual suspects in Nene, Kenyon Martin, and Chris “Birdman” Andersen. Joining the Nuggets this year is swing forward Al Harrington. He’s hurt to start the year but when he becomes available he’ll provide some much needed extra scoring as the strength of the Nuggets’ bigs is primarily defense and rebounding. Division Finish: 3rd

Minnesota Timberwolves: This is the team that drafted two point guards in the first round two years ago. This is the team that gift-wrapped star Al Jefferson for the Utah Jazz. This is the team that spent valuable cap room on the likes of Darko Milicic, the human victory cigar. This is a team that is going nowhere (Do look for a nice season from Kevin Love and Martell Webster if and when he gets healthy). This could be the worst team in the league this year. Division Finish: 5th

Oklahoma City Thunder (ex Seattle Supersonics): As much as I love Rumble http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aa4JEnnXHj8&feature=related its still tough to take one the NBA’s great franchises and make them disappear. Seattle still hasn’t recovered. Alright, enough whining, this is a fantastic team. Kevin “DURANTULA” Durant is arguably the best player in the NBA today and he’s got help. Guard Russell Westbrook and forward Jeff Green are great players for a team that gave the Lakers their toughest playoff test in the Western Conference. Look for even more improvement in a team that won 50 games last season. Carefully constructed almost entirely through the draft, the Thunder are a model of a well-run organization that has a bright future. Look for this team to do some damage in the playoffs this year. Division Finish: 1st

Portland Trailblazers: For all the talent they have assembled, the Blazers seem to find a way to screw it up every year. The Blazers struggled with injuries to star Brandon Roy. The center position, manned by Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla was also decimated, leading to the trade for Marcus Camby mid year. The signing of Wesley Mathews over the summer was questionable as he plays the same position as Roy and disgruntled player Rudy Fernandez. If this team can stay injury-free, they have a chance to win a postseason series but not much more than that. Division Finish: 4th

Utah Jazz: Old reliable. That’s coach Jerry Sloan for you, a class act who just finds a way to win. The Jazz shouldn’t miss a beat with the exchange of Carlos Boozer (lost in free agency) for Al Jefferson. Deron Williams makes a strong case for being the best point guard in the NBA (yes, I’m talking to you Chris Paul). The pick-and-roll offense has been working since the days of John Stockton and Karl Malone and shows no signs of slowing down. The Jazz are capable of winning this division if they can stay healthy, and, with the addition of Al Jefferson, could pose some size and matchup problems for the Lakers should they meet in the postseason. Division Finish: 2nd


Dallas Mavericks: The nucleus of the Mavericks has been putting together 50+ win seasons together for some time now. Forward Dirk Nowitzki is still a force to be reckoned with. Jason Kidd is older than the hills but he has some youth backing him up in the form of Rodrigue Beaubois and Jose Juan Barea. The addition of Tyson Chandler up front should help defensively, but can he stay healthy for a full year? The Mavs should have a great season and get to the second round of the playoffs. A trip to the Conference Finals depends on their health up front. Division Finish: 1st

Houston Rockets: The success of the Rockets hangs on the shoulders of a large Oriental man by the name of Yao Ming. His return from injury could ignite a deep group that features guards Kevin Martin and Aaron Brooks. This group plays hard and together and will compete on a nightly basis. If Yao can stay healthy, this group will be in the postseason. If not, playing in arguably the best division in basketball might be too much to overcome. Division Finish: 3rd

Memphis Grizzlies: Another team on the rise, the historically bad Grizzlies have the pieces in place to compete. Marc Gasol is continuing to improve up front and makes a very nice combo with temperamental forward Zach Randolph. Rudy Gay and OJ Mayo are as talented a pair of wings as you will find. The key is point guard Mike Conley. If he can deliver consistently and keep the team playing together, the Grizzlies have a shot at the postseason. A big question mark to be sure. They’re competitive now, but in this division, that might not be enough. Division Finish: 5th

New Orleans Hornets: The Chris Paul show is given one more chance in New Orleans. After rumors of a trade, it looks like the guard is here to stay, which means the Hornets will be good this year. It all starts with Paul who needs to stay healthy unlike last year. New addition Marco Bellineli should benefit from the passing of Paul and record a career high in 3-pointers made. Up front, David West and Emeka Okafor are decent, one scoring and the other getting the rebounds to get Paul out on the break. It’ll be a dogfight with Houston and San Antonio for the second spot in the division. Division Finish: 4th

San Antonio Spurs: How long can Duncan do it? We saw the first visible decline in the Spurs dynasty last year. My preseason prediction of a title for San Antonio went over like a lead balloon, and I see no reason to repeat that statement. Duncan is aging, Tony Parker is slowing, Manu Ginobli is balding. New addition Tiago Splitter should inject some new life, and George Hill is a nice young player. Still age is catching up with the Spurs. They’ll push the Mavs this year but will fall short again in the postseason. I put them at second out of respect, but don’t look for this team to go too far. Division Finish: 2nd


Golden State Warriors: No more NellieBall? Whats an NBA fan to do? The team famous for 4-guard lineups just added power forward David Lee to its lineup of shoot-first-ask-questions-later guards. Lee will have all the rebounding opportunities in the world, but hopefully the Warriors will remember to feed him in the post. He’s pretty good. Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis will lead the way for Golden State. They’ll still be fun to watch, just don’t look for them in the postseason. Division Finish: 4th

Los Angeles Clippers: The biggest enigma in the league this year. Will Blake Griffin be healthy? If he is and is all that he’s cracked up to be, look out. Guard Baron Davis is getting old, but he is a gamer when the situation arises. Eric Gordon is coming off a great performance in the World Championships over the summer and could be waiting to break out this year. But can they break the vaunted Clipper curse this year? Not in this conference. Division Finish: 3rd

Los Angeles Lakers: While everybody was watching the Miami SUPERHeat this summer, the Lakers quietly made their roster even better. New addition Steve Blake is the perfect back-up point guard who is capable of starting for an aging Derek Fisher. The addition of Matt Barnes gives the Lakers another lock-down perimeter defender to go with Ron Artest and Kobe Bryant. We all know about Kobe. He’ll be ready and hungry for another title. The perennial question with the Lakers is the health of Andrew Bynum, who should be back on the court by December. I see the Lakers winning it all one more time, giving coach Phil Jackson his third three-peat in 20 years, right before he rides into the sunset of his Montana home. Division Finish: 1st

Phoenix Suns: One of these days Steve Nash will get old, right? Grant Hill too. No Amare Stoudamire makes that a distinct possibility this year. The Suns brought in a motley crew of small forwards (Josh Childress, Hakim Warrick, Hedo Turkoglu) for just a bit less than they would have had to pay Stoudamire. Worth it? I think we’ll see otherwise. However, Steve Nash has a way of proving doubters wrong, and he should make good use of his new toys on the offensive end. Look for the Suns to run up and down the court all year and then crash and burn in the first round. Division Finish: 2nd

Sacramento Kings: Another of last years contenders for the worst team in the NBA, the Kings are on their way back up. I thought DeMarcus Cousins was a great pick for the Kings and he impressed in workouts and the summer league. Forward Carl Landry is as steady as they come up front. Second year Tyreke Evans will have to build on an excellent rookie campaign if this team is to improve. The Kings have some nice young pieces in place, but are still a few years away from contention. Division Finish: 5th

whew... playoff predictions tomorrow!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

NBA Preview!!! - Part 1

The 2010-11 NBA season is almost upon us and I for one am pumped about the new year!

I will do a mini preview on each team and predict where they will end up in their division. At the end I’ll pick my playoff winners and the 2011 NBA Champion (see Lakers, Los Angeles).

Sunday: Eastern Conference
Monday: Western Conference
Tuesday: Playoff Predictions

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division

Boston Celtics: The Celtics are coming off an NBA Finals appearance where they very nearly won the title. A bitter Game 7 loss will keep this group hungry and motivated. They add fresh (old) faces up front in Shaquille O’Neal and Jermaine O’Neal. These two relics will provide some beef up front to offset the size problems Boston encountered last year against the Lakers when Kendrick Perkins went down. Rajon Rondo has become one of the best point guards in the NBA and will lead the charge as the threesome of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen are another year older. The window is closing fast for this group; this is their last chance at another title. Division Finish: 1st

New Jersey Nets: Ah yes, the new era of the NBA, where Russian billionaires happen. New Jersey spent a lot of time and effort to create cap space for the 2010 free agency bonanza and wound up with Jordan Farmar and Travis Outlaw. Nothing says excitement like a new backup point guard and a serviceable small forward. On the positive side, the Nets still have a couple of nice players in Devin Harris and Brook Lopez to build around. I loved rookie Derrick Favors at Georgia Tech and he could develop into a star. The Nets also made a nice trade to bring in hometown hero Troy Murphy. This team will be much improved over last year, which isn’t a lot to ask for. There’s nowhere to go but up. Division Finish: 3th

New York Knickerbockers: Another touted loser in the Lebron James sweepstakes at least got a nice consolation prize in Amare Stoudamire. The Knicks made some other nice acquisitions in Kelenna Azubuike, Raymond Felton and super-sleeper Anthony Randolph. These players should fit well in Coach Mike D’Antoni up-tempo offense. Look for a team that’s fun to watch sneak into the postseason and then get destroyed. Division Finish: 2nd

Philadelphia 76ers: Philly is still trying to recover the magic of the Allen Iverson era. New coach Doug Collins find a team with a lot of young talent that just can’t seem to perform together. Andre Iguodala will lead the way as usual, but he is not the type of player you can build a championship around. Elton Brand is a stud when healthy, but he can’t stay on the court for enough of the season to make an impact. Rookie Evan Turner hasn’t looked all that impressive in preseason and will have some difficulty getting meaningful playing time as he plays the same position as Iggy. Division Finish: 5th

Toronto Raptors: Ah yes, the NBA’s lone team based in Canada. The Raptors took a big hit in the departure of Chris Bosh to join the SUPERHeat. In his wake we find Andrea Bargnani and little else. The Raptors big offseason signing was Amir Johnson, a player all good Detroit fans will remember quite well. I’m more interested in the acquisition of Linas Kleiza, an underrated small forward who played in Europe last year. He should produce at a high level for the Raptors, getting an opportunity to contribute that he didn’t have when he played for the Nuggets behind Carmelo Anthony. Look for the Raptors to be competitive, but there just isn’t enough talent here for a postseason appearance. Division Finish: 4th

Central Division

Chicago Bulls: My favorite team for as long as I’ve cared about basketball (aka: since I’ve been functioning as a cognitive entity), the Bulls are poised for a fantastic season. The team has been reworked around star guard Derek Rose and center Joakim Noah. Carlos Boozer was the big offseason signing for the Bulls and should fill the void at power forward that has existed since the Bulls traded away Elton Brand in 2001. Other acquisitions such as Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer filled shooting and defensive needs on the team. Some of the excitement has been dampened due to Boozer’s hand injury but he should be back within a few weeks. Look for the Bulls to start a little slow and round into form with the return of Boozer. I see a division title and a deep run into the postseason for this group. Division Finish: 1st

Cleveland Cavaliers: Will the team formerly known as the LeBronettes please stand up? What a mess. The Cavs have been building around LeBron James for several years now and since he took his talents to South Beach they are looking pretty sorry. Mo Williams and an aging Antawn Jamison will have to rally the troops for the Cavs to amount to anything this year. New coach Byron Scott is capable and young forward J.J. Hickson has some upside. Cleveland will spend most of the year adjusting to the post-LeBron hangover and struggle to win 30 games. Division Finish: 5th

Detroit Pistons: Of course, everyone wants to know about the local team. The Pistons feel like they’re stuck in the twilight zone. We still see some holdovers from the ’04 championship team in Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, and Ben Wallace. General Manager overpaid last summer for guard Ben Gordon and forward Charlie Villenueva, both of whom are now in and out of the starting lineup. The Pistons won’t be going anywhere near the postseason until they get some more balance on their roster. No team with an arsenal of small forwards (i.e. Prince, Villenueva, Jerebko, Summers, Daye, and now McGrady) and four barely serviceable big men will ever succeed in the NBA. Drafting Greg Monroe this summer was a step in the right direction, but the Pistons have a long ways to go. Division Finish: 4th

Indiana Pacers: The Pacers have been quietly developing some exciting young talent. Forward Danny Granger is one of the best in the NBA if he can stay healthy. New guard Darren Colison will provide an immediate upgrade in the backcourt for the Pacers who haven’t had a good facilitator since the playing days of Mark Jackson. Center Roy Hibbert has looked very good in the preseason. Mike Dunleavy Jr. is finally healthy and should be an asset for the Pacers. If this team can stay healthy it could sneak into the postseason as first round cannon fodder for the Miami Heat or Boston Celtics. Division Finish 3rd

Milwaukee Bucks: The Bucks are very underrated. They have the best center in the NBA that nobody knows about in Andrew Bogut. They’ve made some nice additions in Drew Gooden and Corey Maggette. This is a scrappy group that reflects the mentality of their coach Scott Skiles. Second year point guard Brandon Jennings will continue to improve off of a great rookie campaign and could create something of a rivalry with Derrick Rose in Chicago. We know this, the Bucks will come to play every night and compete with better teams. They should push the Bulls for the division crown. Division Finish: 2nd

Southeast Division

Atlanta Hawks: A new coach, a vaunted new motion offense, what can we expect for the Hawks this year? The core of last year’s team remains intact with the re-signing of Joe Johnson. Look for Al Horford and Josh Smith to improve down low this year as more of the offense runs through them. Guard Mike Bibby is beginning to show signs of slowing down. Johnson has his max contract now, which will cast some doubt on his motivation going forward. His ability to be “THE MAN” has not been proven and he will have to show that he is worth the money. This team got destroyed in the second round of the playoffs last year and they show no signs of being able to do much better this year, especially with the improvement of teams like Miami and Chicago. The same personnel will most often yield the same result. Division Finish: 3rd

Charlotte Bobcats: The greatest player in NBA history, Michael Jordan, is officially running his own show in Charlotte now. He doesn’t have the best track record as a decision maker in the NBA though, a quality highlighted byAnd the cupboard is looking kinda bare. The Bobcats lose Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton from a team that got swept in the first round last year. This year isn’t looking much better. Gerald Wallace will continue to lead the way for the Bobcats as a physical if undersized presence up front. Point guard DJ Augustin will get his chance to run the show with Felton gone. The only reason I won’t completely discount this team from a playoff appearance is coach Larry Brown. He has a way of putting things together. But don’t kid yourselves Charlotte, its gonna be a long year. Division Finish: 5th

Miami Heat: Ah yes, the SUPERHeat. The arrival of Lebron James and Chris Bosh has triggered a firestorm of opinion to say the least. This team has the absolute best lineup in the league at shooting guard, small forward, and power forward. Can’t be beat. However, basketball is a game that requires five players on the court at a time. Your 2010-2011 Miami Heat point guards: Mario Chalmers and Carlos Arroyo. You haven’t heard of them for a reason. At the center postion they are trotting out Joel Anthony and Zydrunas Ilgauskas. This won’t do against the size of the Lakers and Celtics, not to mention Dwight Howard in Orlando. During the regular season this team should be running up and down the court at will and will probably enter the playoffs with a bunch of wins and maybe a #1 overall seed. Just expect their lack of size to catch up with them deep in the playoffs. Division Finish: 1st

Orlando Magic: The Orlando Magic begin and end with Dwight Howard. Period. He is capable of singlehandedly destroying the SUPERHeat. He is the most physically gifted athlete in the NBA. He’s also a big, fun-loving goofball. The knock on Howard has always been his ability to focus and be more aggressive. He worked out with Hakeem Olajawon over the summer to develop his post game. Perhaps we’ll see him step it up this year. The Magic surround Howard with good players in Jameer Nelson, Rashard Lewis and Vince Carter. If Howard comes through, this team will still be playing come June. Division Finish: 2nd

Washington Wizards: The Wizards are making some great strides in spite of the Gilbert Arenas debacle last year. I love their size with Andray Blatche providing the scoring and JaVale McGee getting blocks and rebounds. John Wall will start right away as a rookie and will emerge as a star in this league. The wild card will be Arenas as nobody knows how he will react to a subsidiary role this year. Felv favorite Kirk Hinrich is a Wizard now and should provide good minutes of the bench. The Wizards have some great pieces to build with but they are not ready to compete yet. Looks like another trip to the draft lottery. Division Finish: 4th

Tomorrow I'll have the Western Conference Preview!

Friday, October 22, 2010

You're Welcome!

1. Hatin' on the Super Heat:  Dwyane Wade (did anybody else notice his name is spelt wrong and nobody else notice but me until now?) is hurt, Mike Miller is hurt longer, and a preseason game got canceled because the court was slippery.  ESPN has their own page for the Heat this season (Heat Index, I won't link them, out of spite) and the Heat are more hated than the Cowboys, Lakers and Yankees put together.  Its going to be a fun season. 

2. Giants Defense:  Say what you will, or if it is wrong or not, due to some new rules, but the Giants kick some butt on defense.  They have knocked out QBs, rushed the passer like crazy and are playing very well right now, 7th in pass defense and 12th in rush defense.  Not bad for a unit rebuilding under a new coordinator.  The G-Men might be frauds, but the defense is looking nice.

3. Cliff Lee:  The ultimate playoff pitcher, he just keeps winning in October/November.  He mows down whatever team he is facing, no matter how many Hall of Famers he has to face.  With Halladay, Lincecum, Sabathia showing off this post season, Lee has impressed me the most, more than a no hitter against the Reds.  That is because he takes a team and elevates them whenever he pitches, putting a city who has never tasted success to the brink of beating the mighty Yankees. 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Look Around the NFL

I have a ton of thoughts on the NFL right now, more than just about the Lions.  So lets dedicate a blog to nothing but my opinions.  You can now copy them for your own use.  Every time you use one of my opinions, just send me a nickel.

The Lions:  In an ultimate let see if he has anything move, the Lions signed Bobby Carpenter, who just sucks at football.  He has played for Dallas, St. Louis and Miami and now Detroit in less than one year.  Detroit needs linebackers, and bad, especially with all our injuries.  But he has nothing to offer besides cannon fodder.  The rest of the year should be spent winning games we shouldn't, especially on the road, because that shows real progress.  Winning against Buffalo and Tampa Bay shows nothing.  Stafford needs to come back and be excellent to make me feel better about this whole rebuilding thing.  And he just can not get hurt.  I am excited for Best and Suh, and many other young players, but Stafford is the entire team. 

Bret Favre:  The NFL or Bret Favre won't say anything from their meeting, but after taking in account Jenn Sterger's silence and the Favres dodging of questions, this should be over soon.  No suspensions or fines should happen.  As long as the Vikings win, all will be right in the world. 

Concussion Rule:  I am OK with this move.  These people complaining about this rule probably complained about the face mask rule in the 1960's or wearing helmets or playing with a football instead of a live pig.  Most of the time, the defender is hurt worse than the guy he is hitting, so the defenders complaining doesn't make sense to me.  They need to protect their players from long term injuries, which are more terrible than we even think. 

Frauds:  Bears, Seahawks, Chiefs, Giants, Rams

Just plain suck:  Niners, Raiders, Jaguars, Browns

Super Bowl pick for right now:  Falcons vs Steelers

Thursday, October 14, 2010

You're Welcome!

1.  MSU Spartan Football Players Not Named Chris L Rucker:  MSU went into the big house and beat their biggest rivals again, and did so to make me actually believe they can beat most teams in the Big Ten (if the other team's name doesn't rhyme with  Smohio Smate).  But not Rucker, who played a great game but was dumb and drove drunk Sunday morning while on probation.  Spartan athletes having trouble with the law is nothing new, sadly, and Rucker must be kicked off the team now, and hopefully doesn't distract MSU going into a home match vs Illinois. 

2. Mike Modano:  Modano, who has been in the league since the Stanley Cup had one ring, scored a goal for the Wings right off the bat.  I am looking for Modano to play smart, tough old guy on the Red Wings hockey, and bring his wife Willa Ford to the Joe every once and a while.  But to see him score is pretty cool, despite him playing for so long with the Stars (not a rival, because the Wings consistently beat them).  The local boy is looking to end his career with another Cup.  Fun fact, his first NHL goal was against former WMU Bronco Glenn Healy.  So much Michigan, so little blog.

3.  People who don't like Bret Favre: Favre, who has struggled on the field this season (besides the second half this Monday) has elbow troubles and troubles with Roger Goodell.  Favre who was very naughty texting model/journalist(?!) Jenn Sterger (who looks like a younger Deanna Favre) could be in trouble and not be suspended by the hypocritical Goodell, who will kick out Roethlisberger for his actions for four games, but not even talk to Favre.  And I know it is between two adults, but it is bringing bad press to the league, which was part of the Goodell doctrine.  And if the Vikings lose this weekend,  the playoffs won't be in a problem for Favre either.  Favre should download the app on the iphone to prevent his sort of texting. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Punched In The Face

No excuses, just reality!

I'm just going to say it, Michigan got punched in the face. Not once, not twice but multiple times. Michigan State dominated in every category. I was not happy with the out come in any means, but cloud nine basically sunk into reality. We all know now that Denard Robinson isn't invisible, especially with his arm. Robinson threw three interceptions in the game, all of which could have helped the Wolverines due to the locations of the miscues. The Spartans looked well balanced from the offensive side of the ball with Kirk Cousins leading the charge. Look for both the Wolverines and the Spartans to push forward through this week. Michigan State takes on a decent looking Illinois team who gave the Buckeyes trouble and the Wolverines host the Iowa Hawkeyes. Iowa hasn't allowed a rushing touchdown all season but I see Robinson's talent breaking that streak. Look for Michigan to bounce back against the Hawkeyes and prove that they can continue to compete with the best in the Big 10.

The Florida Gators are sitting in hot water. After losing back to back games against top ranked teams, Alabama and LSU, the Gators need to rally off some wins if they hope to make it into a respectable bowl game. The deficit could be due to the lack of experience at quarterback after Tim Tebow graduated.

Two great things happened for me (as a fan) this week in college football.. also involving being punched in the face.

First: The South Carolina Gamecocks put a stomping on the nation's top ranked team, Alabama. The Gamecocks were able to put up five touchdowns against the Tide and controlled most of the game. Alabama tried to make a push back but fell short after going for it on fourth down and failing. This brings new excitement to me because this means Alabama moved out of the top spot and someone new has moved in.

Second: The Florida State Seminoles went into Coral Gables and not only beat the Miami Hurricanes but put a stomping down. The Seminole/Hurricane rivalry has always headed with the Noles stumbling as of late. With Bobby Bowden retired and out of the way, this is Florida State's head coach Jimbo Fishers biggest win at the helm. This is huge for the Seminoles as they look forward to their rough schedule a head, including NC State, Clemson and Florida.

Looking a head to this week, there are a few good games to keep an eye on regarding upcoming BCS and AP standings:

Texas at #5 Nebraska : Texas still isn't a no body. They can still do damage. Look for Martinez to lead the Huskers to victroy with his arm and his legs.

#12 Arkansas at #7 Auburn : The Razorbacks lost a key game to Alabama two weeks ago but bounced back last weekend at Texas A&M. I'm picking an upset alert here, Go Razorbacks led by quarterback Ryan Mallett.

#1 Ohio State at #18 Wisconsin : The Buckeyes will look to remain number one as they visit a very hostile environment in Madison, Wisc. Camp Randall Stadium will be rocking underneath the lights as the Badgers look to get back on track.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

See Their Team Is Weakening

MSU won this weekend for the third straight season over their top rivals Michigan.  It was a turning point for Michigan State, who has closed the gap and are approaching a level to Michigan in football.  No not historically, or prestige, or even popularity.  But talent wise, and current program wise, MSU is right there with Michigan.  MSU plays classic Michigan football, where sound defense, running the ball and grit is favored over speed and finesse.  MSU grew up as a team these last two weeks, and Dantonio as a coach and a man, who showed how tough he is coaching this game after having health problems this season.

What we learned is that Michigan has trouble winning at home, and the Big House magic of even 5 years ago is gone.  RichRod may never be able to consistently beat good Big Ten teams, or good teams regardless.  Denard was shut down (he still had a ton of yards, but 3 interceptions and 3.3 yards per carry and only 1 touchdown is not good)  and his longest run was 16 yards, far less than his huge gains he had the first 5 weeks.  The Michigan defense is awful and can't tackle.  They are just terrible.  Michigan's special teams look better and even made a field goal.  They are still bad, but looked like improvement is a possibility.  Michigan will make a bowl, but a 7-5 or 8-4 season is likely.  That is fading down the stretch against the Big Ten again, and I am sure Ohio State will beat Michigan again.  RichRod could be the next unemployed person in Michigan very soon.

For MSU, we learned the Spartans have an incredible young balanced offense and could have a top rushing attack for years.  Cousins was really impressive, making big throws and not forcing a pass all day.  The MSU defense shut down the week 1-5 Heisman champ.  They stopped the attempt by Michigan to spread the ball to the running backs more, and got crucial turnovers.  They looked very very good on the road against a rival.

MSU outplayed UofM, and the excuses about dropped passes or redzone turnovers just don't cover up the fact that Denard played poorly and the whole team suffered.  MSU is moving in the right direction, and Michigan can't say the same thing.  The only thing is, if MSU doesn't keep moving forward and working hard and winning, this will be for nothing. 

Friday, October 8, 2010

Making Pitching Sexy

At the beginning of the height of Steroids-induced Home Run Proliferation in Baseball, Nike took advantage of a weekend series in 1999 between the Braves and the Cardinals to shoot a commerical starring underappreciated pitching greats Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, overappreciated hitting great Mark MacGwire, and an always-appreciated starlet Heather Locklear in which their conclusion became a tagline that marked an era -- "Chicks Dig the Long Ball".

Why? Because home runs are sexy.

The Home Run is majestic in scale. As the ball is pitched back and forth at 60-feet,6-inches, it all of sudden launches 300 to 400 to 500 feet away... bringing the scope of the whole ballpark into view. In less than a few seconds, something significant has happened. The power. The sheer power. Boom! Over the wall! In the bleachers! Gone!

But now in this "Year of the Pitcher", a resurregence has occured in what happens in the toss between the mound and home. And, no more is this true than what's happened in this first round of the 2010 baseball playoffs.

Roy Halladay throws the first postseason no-hitter since Don Larsen's 1956 perfect game (no-hits, no-walks) in the World Series. Tim Lincecum throws a Complete Game Shut-Out with only 3 hits. Derek Lowe and Andy Petitte throw gems - and we've only played two games thus far. The reason is obvious - without hitters having a huge power advantage due to steroids, the pitchers are able to produce more swings and misses. Also, the pitchers aren't afraid to go after hitters -- the percentage of first-pitch strikes is way up. This puts the batter at a disadvantage throughout the rest of the at-bat. Advantage: Pitcher. Pitchers are no longer afraid to work-out and build their core and arm muscles - knowing that the steroid experiment produced stronger pitchers less prone to injury. So, the playing field is "level" again between pitchers and batters.

So, what's the problem with better pitching?

Pitching is not sexy.

To make the analogy for fans of other sports... pitching is like watching the Offensive Line in football. It's the key to the game, but nobody yells "That was an awesome hole" unless you know how to look for it. Pitching is like watching the movement without the ball in basketball. Pitching is like watching the passing in soccer. Pitching is like watching the traps in the center of the ice in hockey. Pitching is like watching the opening moves in chess. It's not the touchdown pass, the soccer goal, or lighting the lamp. It's not checkmate.

To baseball insiders, pitching is sublime. Each pitch is a guessing game between pitcher and batter. No major league hitter can simply "react" to any pitch. A batter has to think through a ton of scenarios... his ability to hit certain pitches, the pitcher's ability to throw certain pitches, the situation in the game, the situation on the basepaths, the number of outs, the count, the pitchers throw previously, the pitcher vs batter's previous match-ups and results, the fatigue of the pitcher - all of these factors come into play. A pitcher has a limited number of options. He has 2-3 standard pitches he can throw, and can locate them in about 6 different locations. The batter has to guess what type of pitch, and where it'll be. He can adjust somewhat.

It's a guessing game... or is it?

Pitching is strategy to the n-th degree. Deciding on pitches and executing those pitches is worthy of military generals at war on a battlefield. But it happens on such a small scale -- across a 17-inch by 2-footish Strike Zone. It's too small to be majestic. It's too small to be sexy.

But power isn't the only route to sexiness. Mystery also creates desire. Instead of MLB teams promoting pitchers as denizens of power, perhaps they need to create a mystique about them.

That pitchers are different.
That pitchers are from another world.
That pitchers are mentally insane.
That pitchers are crazy.
That pitchers are wild.

Wild thing you make my heart sing!

Now that's exciting to watch.

But will that even compare to the Long Ball? Probably not, but in this "Postseason of the Pitcher" I find there's no alternative.

Prediction For The Battle For the Paul Bunyan Trophy

This is an exciting time for MSU and U of M fans, because for the first time in a long time, this game has big implications for both teams.  Last year both teams entered with good records, but this year has so much more.  The winner of this game is vaulted to the top 15 in the polls, and has a chance at winning the Big Ten.  If MSU wins, a 10-2 or better season is very attainable, they beat their rivals for the 3rd time in a row (twice on the road) and are closing the gap against them.  RichRod could lose his job for struggling to beat anybody but Indiana in the Big Ten.  For Michigan, winning the game means they can beat a legit team and that the program may be on the right track, and a bowl game is locked up for the first time in 2 years. 

For MSU to win:  MSU  can outscore Michigan, because of superior special teams and defense.  MSU has a more balanced offense, with weapons across the board.  Bell and Baker and both incredible young backs, and Kirk Cousins has played better the last few weeks.  Hes already a vet who keeps the ball safe.  The Wolverine's defense doesn't scare me at all.  Cousins should be safe and the team should move the ball at will. 

The defense, although not great, is good and has one of the best players in the nation with Greg Jones.  The pass rush should be solid, but with Robinson, you should hang back and watch his running.  Rushing him won't really help, since most of the passes are out in under 3 seconds.  Shutting down everybody but him won't help either, as he has shown he can do it all himself.  Playing solid, creating turnovers and trying to slow down Robinson's running should be top priorities. 

I have a ton of confidence in MSU's special teams, even though Conroy is very young.  Bates is a good punter, and occasional dramatic touchdown thrower, and Keshawn Martin is a dynamic returner.  They could steal a game.

For Michigan to win:  They have to find some sort of defense to slow the balanced Spartans.  They have to cause turnovers, because turnovers can cover up poor play.  Getting to Cousins has to be big too, since he will shred you if given time to throw.  If the defense keeps MSU to under 30, it will be a monumental effort.

The offense is key.  If they can put up enough points, they can win.  I know it sounds stupid, but scoring more points could be the only way to win.  The weather should be great, so both teams will be playing in prime conditions.  Robinson has to show he can play against a tough defense, by far the best he has seen this season.  If he spreads the ball around (like he does well) and completes short passes to keep off the pass rush and linebackers, he could see some running lanes.  Michigan has to score and not let the game come down to special teams, because they are just as poor as the defense.  I can't understand why Michigan hasn't found a decent kicker since Hayden Epstein in the late 90's.  MSU churns out NFL kickers (Edinger, Swenson, Rayner) and Michigan can't even find someone serviceable.  But it is at home, and the crowd will be pumped.  They have to play like it.

Prediction:  Dantonio is back and the Spartans will be even more pumped for this game.  That only lasts for so long though.  They will have to play hard and fast against a team that is hungry to win.  I doubt being on the road will hurt them much, but it could be the difference since both teams are good and ready to play.  Michigan needs to find a defense and play their best game on offense.  Robinson has to play well to win and become a serious Heisman contender.  This game should be an instant classic, with no lead being safe.  I have to go with the more complete and battle tested Spartans in this game.  On a side note, MSU has not lost to Michigan in football or basketball since my blog was created.  Think about it.  GO GREEN!

MSU 38 Michigan 30

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Michigan State's Season in Review

It’s that time of year again when U of M and MSU face off for the Paul Bunyan Trophy (yeah, I don’t really care about the trophy either, but the winner gets the trophy, so by the transitive property, I do care). As most Michigan fans will tell you, this is not M’s biggest rivalry, but as most will also tell you, gosh golly we need to win this game really bad. Job security for Rich Rodriguez is not the only thing at stake here, though. Denard Robinson has a chance to really put himself ahead of the pack for the semi-early Heisman Trophy list (which is a trophy I care about).

As Weston mentioned in his charming Michigan review article, I will be taking a look at how the first part of Michigan State’s season has been going, and then give a prediction on the rest of their season.

MSU started of the first game of the season playing Western Michigan, which, as the last few games have proven, is not all that great this year. From there, they played Florida Atlantic, Notre Dame, Northern Colorado, and Wisconsin. All of these have been home games except for the Florida Atlantic game which was played at the very neutral location of Ford Field in the far, far away city of Detroit, Michigan. After watching the first half of the Western game, I really thought that the Broncos could pull off an upset or at least a respectable loss. But, as the Spartans have continued to do the rest of the season, they improved in the second half and showed some progress. That has been the big thing that I have taken from the first five games of MSU’s season: progression. After that first half, I would have bet that all the offseason hype for Kirk Cousins, the running game, and Greg Jones was blown out of proportion, but since then, I would have to say that MSU has really turned it on. This may also be blown out of proportion considering the only real quality win on their schedule so far came against Wisconsin, and that they have not been tested on the road in front of 113,000+ fans, but for now, we’ll say that they look pretty good.

One of the best and brightest units for the Spartans has been that of running back, or running backs (plural) I should say. Everyone knew Edwin Baker would have a pretty good season, maybe even a season worthy of Heisman consideration, but bursting onto the scene somewhat in the spring and completely here in the fall was freshman Le'Veon Bell out of Ohio. Baker is the feature back, but Bell leads the team in yards per carry and touchdowns. If not for Bell, Baker would probably be getting more Heisman attention. Bell has established himself as the Big 10 freshman of the year frontrunner.

Also on the offense, Kirk Cousins has shown progression from that first half as well. He now has over eleven hundred yards with nine touchdowns. He has four interceptions, which is not the greatest, but he’s been making plays and putting his team in a position to win. Plus, he attended Holland Christian High School (Dutch pride!).

Like Michigan, though, MSU has some questions on defense. Greg Jones has been lighting it up, especially with his first and second career interceptions against Northern Colorado a couple weeks ago, but the rest of the defense at times has seemed a little off. They’ve played pretty well, but I get the sense that they’re overachieving, and when faced with an offense that isn’t Northern Colorado or Florida Atlantic, some cracks might start to show. For now, we’ll say that they have played well, and until otherwise, we’ll continue saying that.

Season Prediction: MSU has looked pretty good so far, and with the schedule they have (no Ohio State), competing for the Big 10 title isn’t out of the question. Regardless of what people say, they will face a test on the road for the first time this week with Michigan and Denard Robinson, and they do have to go to Kinnick Stadium to play Iowa and Happy Valley to battle with Penn St., but even if MSU loses those three games, you’re still looking at 9-3 because the other remaining games include Illinois, Northwestern, Minnesota, and Purdue, all very winnable games. I’ll give them Penn St. for sure, and then a too close to call for Michigan and Iowa, so 10-2 or 11-1. If the Spartans can finish 11-1, they could be looking at a BCS bowl because Ohio State or Iowa could go undefeated and play for a national championship. It wouldn’t be the Rose Bowl necessarily, but a BCS bowl is still a BCS bowl. At the very least, look for them to be in the Outback Bowl or Capital One Bowl. This is all assuming they don’t have one of their famous start-out-strong-but-then-collapse-for-no-apparent-reason seasons.

You're Welcome! Michigan State vs Michigan Edition

In no particular order, I thought we would look at three big performers from recent battles for the Paul Bunyan trophy. 

1. Charles Woodson: The Heisman winner from 1997, Woodson went off against MSU, hauling in an incredible interception thrown by Todd Schultz (he is the answer to some trivia question, like most knee surgeries) on the beautiful painted cement in Spartan Stadium.  Woodson used that game to show off his athleticism and along with a win over Ohio State, and playing wide receiver and winning the Rose Bowl, led to a Heisman and half a National Title.  Woodson had a great game for the Wolverines and is still elite for Green Bay.   Also, another fake field goal happened that day with Sedrick Irvin catching a pass when no one covered him.  After playing 3rd string running back for the Lions, he is probably the most successful MSU/Detroit Lion in the last 15 years. 

2. Plaxico Burress:  Before becoming a Super Bowl hero and shooting himself in the leg, Burress shredded Michigan's secondary for 10 catches and 255 yards.  In only two years, he set MSU receiving records and was absolutely dominant against everybody.  In 1999 MSU was robbed of a BCS bid and Nick Saban left the program and left it in the very unsure hands of Bobby Williams, but Burress and Duckett were bright spots during the season. 

3. Javon Ringer: During his incredible breakout season, where Ringer put MSU on his back and carried a mediocre (although NFL QB), a mediocre offensive line, and ran over Michigan in a huge game in Ann Arbor.  When he ran over about everybody on his way to converting that fourth down, he started a two year run that has, maybe, quite possibly, dare I say, closed the gap with U of M.  He was a tough back and meant more than a lot of people think. 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Welcome to Hockeytown!

I have a very good feeling that something extraordinary is about to happen in downtown Detroit. Mike Ilitch, owner of the Detroit Tigers and Detroit Redwings is in the process of buying the Detroit Pistons. This seems to be unheard of! How could a man spread his wealth so far and cover all three of these professional teams in a downward economy??

In my opinion Mr. Ilitch is making one of the best moves of his career. Not only will be able to bring new development to downtown Detroit but he will be bringing all four professional sports teams to downtown, in turn helping out the sunken economy.

Here are my thoughts on why this is a genius idea:
Mr. Ilitch will create a brand new sports arena to house both the Detroit Pistons and the Detroit Redwings. Lets face it, "The Joe" is old, rundown and out dated. There is a perfect piece of land next to and around the Fox Theater which would be a perfect location for this Arena. Not only would Ilitch have three of his sports teams within a stones throw from each other, he'd hold 80% plus of Detroit's entertainment. Think about it, where would a concert in Detroit be held? Commerica Park and this new arena. Mr. Ilitch has connections with the city of Detroit so I don't believe that zoning coordinates would become a factor. He would be producing multiple jobs for the city as well. Where is the Detroit Auto Show held every year? Cobo Hall, which Ilitch also has his fingers intertwined in. Not only would Mr. Ilitch be bringing money to Detroit with his sports teams and their facilities, utilizing a basketball/hockey arena but also he'd be bringing in money and jobs to Detroit through the entertainment.

I feel this is a great move for the Pistons. Ilitch wants to win, he will fork out the cash in order to win. We've seen it with the Tigers! I feel this could be the blossoming to a brilliant near future for downtown and surrounding Detroit.

Michigan's Season In Review

This is one of the biggest sports weeks of the year for me, Michigan vs Michigan State.  Despite what Wolverine fans say after the game, this is a big game to them and a big rivalry. Not the biggest, but still.  I hate how they make MSU seem on the level as Indiana or Purdue.

Mike will take a look at MSU's season, and we will both make a prediction on the game.  This should be an awesome week of football coverage, with a special You're Welcome tomorrow.

U of M has played a schedule almost the same as the one the played last year.  It looked much better to start the year, but UConn has proven to be frauds, Bowling Green is a crappy MAC team, UMass is D-1AA no matter how you slice it.  Indiana is one of the worst teams in the Big Ten, and Notre Dame is a 5-7 team at best.  Last year,  they beat WMU and EMU, who won 5 games combined (WMU had 5) beat a 6-6 (they were worse than that) Notre Dame team and barely pulled out a win against a terrible Indiana team.  All games were at home.  After losing to MSU in OT, Michigan beat a D-1AA team and then went winless.  Look familiar?    The only difference is Michigan is ranked now and at the time, the schedule looked decent. 

So is Michigan better than last year?  Yes, without a doubt.  They are a better team, but by how much?  The defense is 120 out of 120 in the nation in stopping the pass.  And that was against UConn's now benched starter for a game, a game against Bowling Green's backup, a second half against Joe Montana's kid, a guy who plays for a D-1AA team, and "Pistol" Ben Chappell, who is about fifth team Big Ten.  So, against terrible competition, Michigan has been all time bad.  They couldn't stop East Lansing High School right now.  They have some good players, Mike Martin and Obi Ezeh, but no secondary and the rest of the team doesn't have a ton of playing time/talent.  Plus they switch between a 4-3, 3-4 and a 3-3-5.  All three formations aren't effective, and nothing can be done to fix the defense this year.  Greg Robinson should be fired, and never hired in the first place.  

So the defense is terrible, and Michigan can't play special teams at all.  Hopefully they were watching Monday Night Football or MSU will kill them in special teams.  Special teams and defense help win close games.  Rivalry games are almost always close.  So if you suck in that field, it'll affect your chances of winning games like this.  Especially when MSU has such good special teams.

So the defense and special teams are terrible, like Sun Belt terrible.  The offense is a bright spot.  Mostly Denard Robinson.  He has put up incredible stats, but the team around him isn't terrible.  The WRs and RBs haven't stepped up this season consistently, and the offensive line hasn't been too good.  They have to block for about 2 seconds, then Denard throws or runs and they are good to go downfield.  Robinson is very quick, and has improved passing as well.  He must be contained for any team to stop this offense and win a game. 

Season prediction:  For the rest of the way, I see Michigan winning 7 or 8 games and finishing the year in a decent bowl and ranked.  Michigan isn't as good as you think now, but they aren't as bad as last year.  They will not beat OSU, and if RichRod doesn't beat them and/or MSU, he will be coaching somewhere else next year. 

Wow, did you see that?!?

A recap from week six in NCAA D1 football:

1.) I was extremely disappointed with Florida's effort against Alabama. First of all, how can you get blow out again by the Crimson Tide? Coming into the game, the Gators were ranked seventh in the nation and they looked like they should have been outside the top 25. This conference used to be pretty equal across the board with Florida, Alabama and LSU. Now it has come down to LSU and Alabama remaining undefeated with Florida looking wiery and Auburn still running strong. The Gators have dominated the SEC, except for Alabama and Auburn and I feel the Florida flame is slowly fading away from Coach Urban Meyer.

2.) Wow, how did the Ducks not jump the Buckeyes? I mean, really, how did a numer two ranked Ohio State team travel to Illinois and barely pull it out?? I understand it wasn't as close as the score but I was very happy with what I saw. Oregon whipped the tail off of a very good Stanford team. Stanford jumped out to a 21-3 lead early, but the Ducks offense is scoring at record pace. I'm not sure there is a defense in the nation that can stop this high flying offense. I expect big things out of Oregon.

3.) I was very impressed with how Michigan State handled Wisconsin. The Badgers had multiple chances to close the gap and pull a head but the Spartans defense and well balanced offense drove the Badgers right out of town.

4.) Coach Rodriguez's job is still on the line in my opinion and Denard Robinson is helping his cause. Robinson's late drive set the Wolverines up for the victory and Rich Rod's season changing game coming up this week vs MSU. I think with a victory here, he can take a deep breath but with a loss, he see early signs of packing luggage.

5.) Good bye Texas. The Longhorns were kicked out of the top 25 by Oklahoma on Saturday in the Red River showdown. This is very odd and unusual for one of the BCS powerhouses but I like what I see in other schools getting the opportunities to jump into the top 25.