Wednesday, March 31, 2010

MLB Preview - American League

Here it is, what you've all been waiting for.  Your American League preview.  Although I have to warn you I went out to dinner with my parents and had a bunch of beers, so I'm probably just going to half-ass this thing.  Or at least more than usual.


1.  NEW YORK YANKEES.  It pains me, physically pains me to pick these jackasses to win.  I almost win went another team here, but then I realized that would just have been picking against the Yankees because they were assholes, especially your boyfriend Derek Jeter, and as a professional journalist who was once named a top 100 sports blog in America I just can't have that kind of impartialism running rampant on such a respected blog, so I pick the Yankees first.  Seriously though, that Nick Johnson signing is perfect for this team and the exact type of signing they used to not be smart enough to make.  So I guess what I'm saying is the Yankees might be back.  I mean Jesus Christ their fifth starter is Phil Hughes.  How is that even fair?  He'd be second on the Twins.  You heard me.

2.  TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS.  It seems like they have an endless supply of young talent, much like Vivid.  And most of them work out well, which is what makes them different.  This year, keep an eye out for "fifth" starter Wade Davis and the guy who will be the Carlos Gomez we always wanted, Desmond Jennings.  I'm not certain that Rafael Soriano is actually the answer to their bullpen questions but why is the guy from those Miller High Life commercials on Cougar Town?  Side bar:  this show is terrible.

3.  BOSTON RED SOX.  I just wish they'd go away already, but somehow ($200 million payroll) they keep staying relevant.  But who fills in for Jason Bay's numbers?  Victor Martinez?  Please.  Although I do want you all to know that I'm sharing a fantasy baseball team with Snake this year and he said our second round target should be V. Martinez so feel free to all point and laugh at him.  Adrian Beltre should be a monster though.

4.  BALTIMORE ORIOLES.  I feel bad for these guys.  They finally seem to have it together, with a bunch of nice young arms and a bunch of good young bats and it doesn't matter remotely because of the division they are in.  If the O's were in the central or west they'd be in contention for a division crown, but being in the East they are screwed.  Look out for both Adam Jones on the bat side and Brian Matusz on the arm side.  I got a game he throwed last year and I think he's probably the real deal (not the J.D. Durbin kind).  Also wieters wieters wieters  wieters wieters wieters wieters wieters wieters wieters wieters wieters wieters wieters wieters wieters wieters wieters wieters wieters wieters wieters wieters wieters wieters wieters wieters wieters wieters wieters.

5.  TORONTO BLUE JAYS.  Trading Halladay was the right move since they suck, but they need to pray to Poseidon that a bunch of those prospects pan out because this is uglier than that chick from that one show.  Travis Snider is a complete pimp, as are Adam Lind and Aaron Hill, but the rest of the lineup features guys like Jose Bautista, Alex Gonzalez, and Lyle Overbay.  And that's better than the rotation, which is just like the Twins rotation how every starter is kind of on the same level except if that level was Glen Perkins.


1.  MINNESOTA TWINS.  I'm almost kind of glad about the whole Nathan injury because it puts a flaw into what was shaping up to be a little too perfect of a team.  Kind of like going into the season everyone was expecting the Vikings to hit the Super Bowl, that's how the Twins offseason was shaping up.  Now that there's a chink (NOTE:  not racist) in the armor maybe they are ready to take it.  Feel free to expect Kubel to become the third member of the current team to win an MVP.  Also, Delmon Young:  .310/.360/.500.  Believe.

2.  DETROIT TIGERS.   I'm very intrigued by what they are doing here.  It's a very nice mix of young (Austin Jackson, Scott Sizemore, Max Scherzer) and old (Mags, Miggy, Verlander) with a shitbox of a bullpen.  Does anybody still believe in Joel Zumaya at this point?  Because he's officially closing now, a solid three or so years after he should have been ready.  Did you know Brandon Inge struck at 170 times and OBP'd at .314.  God that guy sucks.  If I wasn't lazy I'd try to find video footage of his 0 home runs in the derby last year.  But here we are.

3.  CHICAGO WHITE STOCKINGS.  That rotation is super good if you believe Peavy is back, which any smart human does even though that sucks worse than your life for the Twins.  Funny that the offense basically keys on if Carlos Quentin, who looks like a retarded mexican Eric Cartman, is back to form, which he won't be.  So you can expect a lot of 2-1 losses for Chicago this year.  Oh, and if you want a prediction you can consider this a guarantee - Bobby Jenks implodes this year.  Mark Wohlers-style.

4.  CLEVELAND INDIANS.  They don't really have much of a chance to compete this year, and will definitely trade Kerry Wood and should think about trading Grady Sizemore, but they seem to at least have an idea of what they're doing and are stockpiling some talent.  Matt LaPorta, Lou Marson, Carlos Santana, Luis Valbuena, Asdrubel Cabrera, and Michael Brantley are very good young hitters who aren't there as a group yet but will get their soon.  Luckily the rotation is brutal and the bullpen might be even worse.  There is a lot of chatter about Fausto Carmona and being back to form coming out of spring training.  I'd dismiss it, but I'm basically buying in 100% to the Frank Liriano hype so I have to respect this, right.  I don't want to be some kind of hypocrite like Oksana Baiul.

5.  KANSAS CITY ROYALS.  I want to believe in KC, I really do.  Partially for Zack Greinke and partially because it should be unconstitutional for such a beautiful ballpark to house such a shitty team (see:  TCF Bank and the Gophers).  Every time it seems like they might be moving in the right direction, like stockpiling a good amount of young arms, they go out and sign the worst lineup anybody has ever seen ever in forever.  Just terrible.  It's like, I feel the Pirates are starting to figure it out but the Royals are the younger, more retarded brother who has had the same plan explained to them and acts like they get it but then signs Jason Kendall to a 2 year/$6 million contract.  Honest to god his agent must have shit himself when he saw that come through on facsimile.


1.  CALIFORNIA ANGELS.  Sort of by default here.  All these teams are pretty close to even, but when you're in a cut-throat business like blogging you have to make a stand and I guess my stand is picking the Angels and also I'm bored.  Does it even matter?  These teams (sans the Rangers) all play way the hell over on the west coast where sports are over by 8pm and then every one is bored.  Unless the Oscars are on, in which case the whole city shuts down and if you happen to be out there for new job orientation you can't go to the hotel bar and watch a basketball game because every TV is on the stupid Oscars and god forbid you ask if they can change one little tv in the corner because the bartender will judge you like he was Mills Lane and then not change the channel at all.

2.  SEATTLE MARINERS.  I have to pick them here because I love their strategy of going after pitching and defense in that gigantic park, and also because I put some money on them already at 16-1 two win the AL.  Now that I think about it, that's a pretty stupid bet and if I really like them I should have just waited for their win OVER/UNDER to come out and roll on that and hold on one minute.  Ok I now have the Mariners to win over 83.  Also Twins OVER 82, Rockies over 84.5 (heavy here), Giants UNDER 82.5, and ATHLETICS UNDER 78.  That was fun.

3.  TEXAS RANGERS.  I have never heard of any of these pitchers.  I wish it was Friday.  I want to draft a team.  And also drink beer.  And also drink beer with Snake while we draft a dominant team which will have no Rangers at all unless Justin Smoak gets called up.  That guy is going to make Justin Morneau look like a girl.

4.  OAKLAND ATHLETICS.   This is, frankly, pretty awful.  I love Billy Beane and he basically turned the league's front offices upside down by looking at the game in a different way, but it's not really working anymore and I don't think you could fault the A's if they chose to go in a different direction.  Also when/if that happens I will be first in line for the "Fire Bill Smith hire Billy Beane" movement.  Somebody just let me know when we meet and what I have to bring.  I just concocted a pretty good dry rub for some chicken wings, so if it's going to be that kind of party somebody let me know.  Also let me know if it's the kind of party where ding-dongs are getting stuck in the mashed potatoes.  I'll call Q-Tip.

AL PENNANT - Twins (believe it)
AL MVP - A-Rod (runner up = Kubel)
CY YOUNG - Felix Hernandez (runner up = Matt Garza)
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR - Matusz (runner up = Jennings)

WORLD SERIES WINNER - Phillies.  Sorry homers.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

MLB Preview - National League

I'm trying not to think about how we're about to lose Tubby Smith, so instead I'll turn my attention elsewhere so I don't break down and cry.  With just five days until opening day and the first day of being sick and tired of the Yankees/Sox media barrage it's time to roll out the baseball predictions.  I'm breaking this into National League and American League posts, one today and one tomorrow, because I'm way too lazy to it all at once.  I'm also starting with the National League - just to piss you off.


1.  PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES.  Take the same team that won the Series in 2008 and finished runner-up in 2009 and add the best (possibly second best) pitcher in baseball.  Yeah, I think they're going to be pretty good.  Look for Hamels to regain his 2008 form and J.A. Happ to get even better in his second year and they're likely going to be the team with the most wins in baseball.  I'm fully expecting Halladay to win 25 games.

2.  ATLANTA BRAVES.  They're getting a lot of preseason heat as a possible sleeper team, and it's not all that far-fetched.  Tommy Hansen is a stud, and there's good pitching behind him in the rotation, especially if Tim Hudson is back to top-of-his-game form like all the preseason crap is saying.  And this Jason Heyward hype has officially surpassed Wieters-levels.  If he isn't built like Deebo while hitting like Roy Hobbs and running like Willie Mays Hayes I'm going to be disappointed.

3.  FLORIDA MARLINS.  Outisde of pimp-daddy Hanley and alleged NL Rookie-of-the-Year Chris Coghlan there are plenty of questions about the lineup, but that rotation should be pretty rock solid.  At the very least Josh Johnson and Ricky Nolasco are going to form a very nice 1-2 punch at the top.  I'm very interested in seeing what Cameron Maybin can do with a full season of at-bats as well.

4.  NEW YORK METS.   I know you're thinking it's crazy to have the Mets in fourth, but go ahead and check out their team for a minute and then tell me they're good.  Wright has regressed, Reyes has some mystery ailment, their right-fielder was basically cut by Atlanta, and I've never even heard of their projected starting catcher.  Perhaps most damning of all, however, is that they STILL start Luis Castillo and bat him second.  Oof.  And that rotation is a nightmare behind Johan.  Oh, by the way, Johan.  How many postseason games have you played in since you forced the Twins to trade you? 

5.   WASHINGTON NATIONALS.  At least they have Strasburg so there's a reason to watch beyond watching Adam Dunn put everything he's got into every swing.  What's that?  They're starting him in the minors despite some truly sick Spring stats?  I hope it's worth the minimal savings you'll get by keeping his clock from running right away.  Seriously, who runs this team, Brad Childress?


1.   ST LOUIS CARDINALS.  Although the Phillies should win more games, the Cards will probably win their division by the widest margin because after them this whole division should be thrown in a garbage dumpster.  It's basically Pujols and friends going up against five teams of Cleveland Indians.  I suppose I should predict something for this team, so I predict that Brad Penny will have one of his best ever years.  I also predict Ryan Franklin loses his closer job to Jason Motte.

2.  MILWAUKEE BREWERS.  All because Carlos Gomez came aboard?  Maybe.  We still have to see if he's continued to learn plate patience (you might not have noticed, but he was better last year).  The Brewers have the best lineup of the rest of the central teams and will be getting Rickie Weeks back.  There's a lot to like about the lineup here, and Gallardo gets any help behind him they could be in line for a Wild Card spot.  Ugliest part?  They still start Jeff Suppan, and LaTroy Hawkins is their top set-up guy.  Ouch.

3.  CINCINNATI REDS.  I'm giving a lot of credit to some young guys here, but I'm a big believer in most of these guys.  Injuries have derailed Homer Bailey before, but he finally hit his stride late last season and him and Cueto join veterans Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo to give Cincy's rotation a nice mix of young and old.  The lineup will need guys like Jay Bruce and Chris Dickerson to live up to their potential, but I say they do and make the Reds a dangerous team.

4.  CHICAGO CUBS.  Aramis is a walking injury, Soriano looks like he's basically done, their big free-agent signing was Marlon freaking Byrd, and their middle infield consists of that wiener Ryan Theriot and a cast-off from the Rockies.  Yuck.  The rotation is mostly brutal as well, and you can go ahead and pencil in Carlos Marmol for a complete meltdown as a closer right about mid-June.  Yeah, I'm not a big fan of the Cubbies this year.

5.  HOUSTON ASTROS.  This is the most boringest team in all of baseball.  Their big free-agent splash was signing Brandon Lyon.  Yawn.  Also, nice shitty signing, that guy sucks.  They should have two mid-teen game winners in Oswalt and Wandy Rodriguez, assuming Lyon doesn't blow every game.

6.  PITTSBURGH PIRATES.  I really didn't want to pick Pittsburgh to finish last because I'm starting to really like what their front office is doing (it's a new front office the last year or two), but I just can't quite yet.  They're moving in the right direction.  If Lastings Milledge has finally figured it out he and Andrew McCutchen make up a nice start to the outfield, and when Jose Tabata finally gets up that's going to be a very fast outfield.


1.  COLORADO ROCKIES.  If Chris Iannetta and Ian Stewart can raise their averages even a little this going to be a dangerous team because the lineup is loaded, and even if they don't they are still solid players because they walk a lot.  A good but not great rotation should be enough to win the West, assuming Franklin Morales doesn't blow it while he fills in for Huston Street.  Troy Tulowitzki is a complete and total stud, and if Albert Pujols didn't exist he'd have a shot at an MVP.

2.  LOS ANGELES DODGERS.  James Loney is kind of a lame-o and Blake DeWitt hasn't worked out, but the Dodgers hit home runs with Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp, who are a hell of a 1-2 punch.  Kemp looks like a good bet to go 30-30 and Ethier has the look of a career professional hitter.  The rotation is pretty thin, but Clay Kershaw at the front is a sure-fire Cy Young candidate, and will probably be for years to come.

3.  ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS.  They'd be a bit easier to place if I knkew what was going on with Brandon Webb, but in reality they probably couldn't be better than the teams above them and definitely couldn't be worse than the team's below them.  Like Kemp, Justin Upton has a shot at 30-30 this year, and is just an incredible hitter for his age - kind of like what everybody wanted Delmon Young to be just shoot me right in the face.

4.  SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS.  They get to finish fourth based solely on their pitching staff, because Lincecum and Cain are studs, Baumgartner and Jonathan Sanchez are potential studs, and everybody in the lineup sucks other than Pablo Sandoval (aka the black Billy Butler) and possibly Nate Schierholtz.  They also have Buster Posey, who has a super sweet name is is supposed to be a pretty big stud with the stick.  He better be, because their isn't much of a lineup here and there isn't much coming soon. 

 5.  SAN DIEGO PADRES.  Holy god this lineup is depressing.  How depressing?  Kevin Kouzmanoff hits clean-up, David Eckstein hits in the upper half, and I haven't come even close to hearing of their 7th or 8th batter.  The rotation isn't that much better, but at least there's some hope with guys like Clayton Richard, Mat Latos, and star of "The Last Best League" Tim Stauffer.  The bullpen is decent, but they'd really be better served trading Heath Bell for prospects (as well as Adrian Gonzalez) because they aren't going anywhere as currently constructed.   

NL Wild Card - L.A. Dodgers
NL Pennant - Philadelphia Phillies
MVP - Albert Pujols (runner up = Kemp)
CY YOUNG - Roy Halladay (runner up = Lincecum)
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR - Jesus Heyward (runner up = Posey)

AL preview should be coming tomorrow, assuming Tubby doesn't leave.  I mean by tomorrow, because I know he's leaving I just don't know when.


Monday, March 29, 2010

The Big Ten 2011

As I was sitting here watching Cory Joseph win the McDonald's All-American game three point contest tonight (something that had Mrs. W contemplating divorce when I told her I was watching a High School three-point contest) I couldn't help but think about how good the Gophers could be next year if he (and Maurice Walker) signed here.  Which got me to wondering about how the rest of the Big Ten will shake out with graduations, early entries, and incoming classes.  And when I get to wondering about something, I generally have to research it, and as along as I'm researching it, I might as well share what I find with you.  Because don't you, constant reader, deserve to be informed.  I know damn well you aren't coming here to be entertained, so you might as well be informed.

Here are my ultra early rankings for the Big Ten in 2011.  Obviously we're working with some assumptions here, and I'm going with Evan Turner gone and Manny Harris staying in the draft.  I'm also going to assume the recruiting classes stay as they are currently and nobody else enters the NBA draft early.  So let's do this thing, times-a-wastin'.

1.  MICHIGAN STATE.  In the Final Four for the second year in a row, and all they lose of this team is Raymar Morgan and Isaiah Dahlman.  Morgan has been been in a stagnation period since his sophomore year, so he'll be easily replaced.  Assuming nobody (Durrell Summers) makes an ill-advised decision and goes pro early, they are going to be stacked.  Joining all that awesomeness is another excellent recruiting class highlighted by Adreian Payne, the #4 center in the country according to Rivals.  They have so much talent that Draymond Green is going to likely be the best 6th man in the Big Ten for the second year in a row.  They are in very, very good shape for next year; assuming they can figure out a way to replace Dahlman.

2.  PURDUE.  Assuming all of the big three are back they should be able to challenge the Spartans atop the division.  They do lose Chris Kramer (allegedly, I'll believe it when I see it, you know he's coming back for yet another year somehow the guy just won't die he's like Jason) and Keaton Grant, both of whom filled valuable roles for the Boilers, but another solid, but not spectacular, recruiting class should help fill that void.  Not to mention the current collection of role players look to have enough talent to fill in.  I particularly like Lew Jack, and soon-to-be-sophomores Kelsey Barlow and D.J. Byrd, athletic wings in the E'Twaun mode.  Yeah, even if Johnson and/or Moore do something stupid and go pro, the Boilermakers are going to be fine.  And they already have an annoying white guy to carry on the Brian Cardinal torch in Ryne Smith.  Even his name is annoying.

3.  OHIO STATE.  If David Lighty and William Buford are both back, as they likely will and should be, they will be joined by another out of this world recruiting class on it's way to Columbus.  They're getting the #3, #18, #37, #104, #124, and #137 ranked recruit on Rivals list, and that #3, Jared Sullinger, is an absolute beast of a center.  He's like what LeBron James would have been in High School if he had been more Barkley and less Magic.  He's going to destroy people next year.  Plus the Rich Man's Blake Hoffarber will be back, and there's nobody important leaving.  Unless you're Bill Simmons and you worship Mark Titus for some reason, then you'll probably have to cry yourself tonight.

4.  ILLINOIS.  If Demetri McCamey goes pro for some strange reason that drops the Illini ranking quite a bit because other than Michael Jordan's crappy kid there's no other point guard here.  For some reason Bruce Weber is religiously against recruiting point guards, but he's doing a hell of a job pulling in athletic wings.  This year's hot shot freshmen, Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson, are both wings who showed flashes of brilliance last year but disappeared at times too, and they'll be joined next year by a couple more highly regarded wings in Jereme Richardson (#36 Rivals) and Crandall Head (#81).  And yes, captain annoying Mike Tisdale is back, and he's bringing his crazy monkey arms with him.

5.  MINNESOTA.  There's a ton of uncertainty here, as I'm sure you're aware.  I'm assuming Trevor Mbakwe is actually on the team and nobody of consequence transfers.  If Royce ends up joining the team and/or Cory Joseph and/or Maurice Walker sign with the team, it could shoot them up.  If Mbakwe ends up not on the team for some reason and/or somebody who matters transfers and/or Tubby leaves, you could probably drop them a few notches.  Too many unknowns to evaluate them properly, especially nine months before the season starts.  It's pretty stupid to be doing this so far in advance, isn't it?  God I hate myself.

6.  NORTHWESTERN.  There are a couple of issues they'll need to figure out, such as who gets to be the alpha dog out of Shurna and Coble and how they are going to replace Jeremy Nash at the head of that press, but this is definitely the most talented Northwestern team of my lifetime and it's not even close.  Beyond the guys coming back, they're also adding a top 100 recruit in SG Jershon Cobb, who, along with Drew Crawford, gives them back to back year's with very good, athletic freshmen coming in.  If they don't finally snag that first ever NCAA bid, it'll be a pretty massive failure.  Like the G.I. Joe movie.

7.  WISCONSIN.   Yeah, yeah, I'm probably underrating the Badgers and your boyfriend Bo Ryan for the millionth year in a row, but it's pretty tough to replace your starting back court especially when it's manned by two solid, smart veteran players in Hughes and Bohannon.  Are you really ready to hand the team over to Jordan Taylor?  Ug.  Still, Leuer is back and he'll be annoyingly good and the incoming class is loaded with white guys with size who don't look good on paper which means they're Bo Ryan's "guys" and will fit the system and blah blah blah.  Expect Wisconsin to outperform this prediction and make the NCAA tournament again even though they shouldn't.  F Bo Ryan.  F Bo Ryan, indeed.

8.  INDIANA.  The first of four teams with no real shot to make the NCAA Tournament, that talented group of freshmen will be back with another year of experience and presumably more skill.  Unfortunately for the Hoosiers, Crean wasn't really able to follow it up with anywhere near the same level of talent after missing out on Josh Selby, the #2 ranked recruit in the country who had Indiana in his top 7 before cutting them out when he narrowed it to four, but he did get two guys ranked in the 130s so they aren't exactly taking a step backwards.  I like Creek and I really like Watford, but there's still a serious talent deficiency here.  Like that "adult" club in Albert Lea.

9.  PENN STATE.  Talor Battle, assuming he's back, will finally have another highly rated player joining him when incoming freshman Taran Buie, #136 on Rivals list, comes on board, but I'm afraid it's probably too little too late to help Battle.  Everybody is back from last year, literally everybody, but who cares, really?  Do you really expect guys like David Jackson, Chris Babb, or Andrew Jones to make any kind of significant improvement?  Sorry, Crispin-lover, not going to happen.  That's Crispin-lover, not Crispin Glover, weirdo.

10.  MICHIGAN.  DeShawn Sims and Manny Harris are gone, and whoa, this team is a mess.  The incoming class is very meh with just two players, there's nobody over 6-8 who has ever played a minute of college ball, and the leading returning scorer is Zack freaking Novak who averaged all of seven points per game last year.  The only reason they don't rank last is because Darius Morris might end up being pretty good, they have a chance at getting Trey Ziegler who ranks as the 26th best recruit in the country, and Iowa is still in this conference.  For now.

11.  IOWA.  What are you getting yourself into Fran?  This is not a good move for anybody right now.  Take a read at that returning roster.  Go ahead.  Did you look?  You're laughing now, aren't you?  Seriously, outside of Gatens and maybe Eric May and/or Aaron Fuller I don't think there's a single player there that would crack any other rotation on any other Big Ten team - and that includes Michigan and Penn State.  And if you're wondering if there's an impact class coming in let me save you the suspense - there's not.  And that's all before anybody has reacted to the Lickliter firing.  Who knows, there could be a bunch of mass transfers, crippling them even worse.  Sweet.  Good call McCaffery.  You display the decision-making skills of a drunk frat girl on spring break.

It's early, but that's how I read it.  Obviously a million things could happen to change it, but right now I see three really tough teams, four teams in that next "bubble team" tier, two more who won't make the tourny but could be dangerous at times, and two crap sandwiches.

Expect baseball predictions later this week, if that's your thing.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Week in Review - 3/29/2010

 I'm pretty sure this is the best NCAA Tournament I can remember in quite some time.  I know that can't really be trusted since people have a tendency to overrate whatever is current (more on that later), but it just seems like almost every game has been great.  Close games, buzzer beaters, overtime games, upsets - it seems like we're getting more of these things this year than in any other year.  Maybe I'm romanticizing it a bit, but I'm ok with that - I love this year's tournament, and I'm sad to see it come to an end.  Of course, the poop in the swimming pool is that Duke made the final four, and I really, really, really hate Duke, but as long as somebody else ends up winning I'll be happy.  Hell, I'll even end up rooting for Butler if they end up going against Duke.  That would be hilarious, talk about a bunch of white guys.  I'm almost hoping for that now.  Almost.  Even so it's still been an awesome tournament, and it sucks that's it's basically over.

I'm pretty sure they time it so the NCAA Tournament wraps up right before baseball kicks off and end the world series just before the college hoops season starts because the powers that be know those are the only two things really worth watching.  God bless you sports overlords, you have it all under control.


1.  Butler.  I considered the Bulldogs to be more getting lucky than being good, catching Murray State in the second round and getting Syracuse on a night when they seemed pretty disinterested to be there, but a weekend spent by beating both the Orange and then K-State is pretty impressive.  At some point I have to stop thinking of them as lucky, overachieving white nerds and realize they are a pretty good team, and what better point than now, with them on their way to the Final Four.  They really play some solid, solid defense, and it wasn't luck that Jake Pullen and Denis Clemente, the heroes last round, combined to shoot just 11-28 with six turnovers and just two assists on Saturday.  With the Bulldogs being on the wacky side of the bracket, they can absolutely beat Michigan State and end up in the final.

2.  West Virginia.  I pretty much got almost nothing right this entire NCAA Tournament, but at least I was right about West Virginia being a Final Four team.  I just love this team.  Ebanks, Butler, Kevin Jones, and Wellington Smith give the team four super-athletic 6-7 to 6-9 guys who play great defense, can handle the ball, hit the boards hard, and can score inside or out.  There's no real need for a point guard since all those guys can just play point forward, and they did beat Kentucky with their only real PG, Truck Bryant, out with an injury, but the good news is that in case they do need him Bryant will be back for the Final Four.  This is good because the guy who filled in for him, Joe Mazzulla, had his career best game last round and there's no way he'd be able to do that again.  The Mountaineers will be my adopted team for the Final Four, and if they end up being underdogs I'll be hammering that line like I was at a conjugal visit with your mom.

3.  LaceDarius Dunn.  Holy crap is this guy good.  I remember watching a few Baylor games the last couple of years and he was always a good scorer, but with Curtis Jerrells graduated he has taken his game to a whole new level.  Unfortunately, Duke conspired with Dunn's teammates and they figured out a way to take him out of his game late in that regional final, but prior to that he was doing whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted.  There was one possession where the undisciplined hyper-athletes that make up most of the Baylor team were running around like jackasses just throwing the ball wherever and doing mostly nothing except almost turning it over.  The shot clock got down to under 10, Dunn finally got the ball, looked and saw Scheyer on him, and just put the ball down and drove in for an easy floater.  And he could have done that all game.  At least he's only a junior, so we'll get to see him play for another year.  Also WVU is going to destroy Duke.

4.  Durrell Summers.  I've written about him already this tournament in passing, but I really think Summers has taken a leap this post-season and is going to be in the Big 10 POY running next year.  He had a rough Big Ten tournament, but in the NCAA tourney he's been unstoppable, scoring 14, 26, 19, and 21 while shooting 56% from the floor and has just looked like a more confident, take over when I need to take over kind of player.  I'm really looking forward to seeing what he can do next year, but not against the Gophers because without Damian he's going to shred them like Bogart playing me in Madden.  I'm betting he ends up being close to a 20 point-per-game scorer.  Believe it.

5.  Jordan Crawford.  I know he only played one game this week and his team lost, and I know there's a good chance you might be sick of hearing about Crawford already, but he really, really impressed me in this tournament more than any other player, even Summers or Dunn.  Inside, outside, off the dribble, off the catch, rebounding, defense - he can do it all.  He also seems to have matured quite a bit, and looks like he might be putting it all together.  My fear is that he's going to get some really bad advice, let his nice tournament run go his head, and enter the NBA draft this year, which will just suck.  I'm too dumb to know if he's going to be a good pro or anything, but I know he'll be an absolute pimp next year in the A-10 if he stays, which he should.  Plus he needs to beat down Dayton again.  I hate those hippies.


1.  Syracuse.  I still think the Orange were the best team this year, along with Kansas on a whole nother tier, but they really didn't come to play against Butler.  I gave Butler their props above for creating these kind of situations, but it really seemed like the Cuse were just waiting for Butler to go away.  Then, with five minutes or so left, they hadn't, and Syracuse panicked - specifically Andy Rautins and Scoop Jardine, who just started launching anything and everything, completely rushed, completely covered, and early in the shot clock and shot their come back attempt right out of the water - like Snake with a Squirrel that is in the water.  Also, I think maybe at some point we should start talking about whether or not Boeheim is an epic choker or not.  I'm not ready quite yet since he does have that national championship, but I really think he should be winning more than he does.

2.  Kentucky.   Speaking of epic chokers, hello again John Calipari.  Once again Slimy John has the most talent and ends up bowing out early in what has become nearly as predictable of a rite of Spring as the salmon returning to Capestrano.  4-32 from three, which is really shitty shooting, but maybe the coach needs to reign in the chuckeration a little bit.  And why is Patrick Patterson hanging out around the three-point line all day?  It's like playing with Rick Rickert (or Bogart).  Get your ass inside, big man, and quit it with this perimeter shit.  That's on Calipari, too.  As is the piss poor defense they played in the second half.  Why did they continually refuse to stop dribble penetration in transition?  Just a poorly played, poorly coached game by the team with the most talent in the tournament.  Cal is a hell of a recruiter/cheater, but he couldn't out coach your average fifth-grade girls coach.

3.  Kyle Singler.  In case you needed another reason to be pissed that Duke won, and I'm sure you don't, it's that this beak-faced fake ACC player of the year (blatantly stolen from General Greivis) laid the biggest egg possible in the biggest game of the year.  He shot 0-10 from the field, 0-5 from three, and turned the ball over four times while grabbing just three rebounds despite being 6-8 and playing 34 minutes.  Just an absolutely brutal performance, but because the refs received a mandate from the NCAA that Duke needs to win, it's going to be ignored.  I hope he chokes even harder against West Virginia.  He's the embodiment of the irritation that is Duke.  And he looks like a damn chicken.  And a girl chicken at that.  Seriously, he looks like a girl chicken. 

4.  Fran McCaffery.  The Iowa job?  Really?  Wouldn't you rather coach at either Seton Hall or St. John's?  They both have better recruiting bases, and St. John's especially has to be a much more attractive job.  But Iowa?  Iowa?  Good luck, Fran.  I have a feeling this is going to end up being a terrible decision on both sides, and Iowa will remain irrelevant in basketball for four or five more years before they end up firing McCaffrey.  Fine by me, that's how it should be.

5.  Len Elmore.  And all announcers, really, but Elmore was the one who put me over the top.  I'm pretty sure Vern Lundquist hasn't watched an actual game outside the tournament in years, and Dick Enberg looks like death in HD and made the wrong call at least ten times in the WVU/Kentucky game, but Elmore is still the worst.  He has some speech impediment that causes him to constantly refer to time outs as "times out" as in "Xavier calls times out" which is annoying, but his constant harping on how Kansas State was "fatigued" on Saturday after their double-OT game two nights before made me want to stab my ears with an ice pick.  He must have mentioned it twenty times in a ten minute span, including pointing out how "All the Wildcat players on the bench are looking down", "Curtis Kelly is breathing out of his mouth", and "Jake Pullen is shifting from foot to foot while he's standing", all as some kind of proof they were tired.  I've never quite heard anything so bizarre, nor listened to somebody with such a single-minded focus on one subject before, not counting John Madden and Brett Favre.

The icing on the cake, however, was some doofus I heard on the radio talking about Wall, Cousins, and Bledsoe and how "no group of three freshman have accomplished what they have."  Dude, what?  A quick look tells me that Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, and Juwon Howard combined to average more points and rebounds than the Kentucky trio.  Carmelo Anthony, Gerry McNamara, and Billy Edelin were all major contributors on a national championship team, and you'd be hard-pressed to find a better group of freshman both stat and winning wise than Greg Oden, Mike Conley, and Daequan Cook.  And those are just three rebuttal examples I thought of in 30 seconds after that moron made his statement, I'm sure there are many more examples.  Look, I understand people tend to overrate what is in the now, and the Kentucky freshman are great, but let's try to have enough historical perspective here so you don't sound like a complete jackass.  I swear to god they just pluck half of these people right off the street and tell them to cover something they know nothing about.  It would be like me trying to cover hockey, or Super Sioux Fan writing about high class living - it just isn't going to work.

The End.  Oh, and.....


Saturday, March 27, 2010

Elite 8 Preview (Saturday's Games)

Even though my bracket picks have sucked, I've rocked the gambling this year and specifically last round (not posted but I won 8 units on the Tennessee moneyline, which was a hedge against my OSU 75-1 future), so let's keep on posting.  I'm going to attempt to keep this brief since it's Saturday, but sometimes I get carried away so no promises.

KENTUCKY -4.5 vs. WEST VIRGINIA.  At this point there is little doubt that Kentucky is the favorite to win since every other "contender" has been eliminated, but if you look closer they haven't been overly impressive, other than in margin of victory.  Their three wins are over East Tennessee, a rapidly crashing Wake Forest, and a completely over-matched Cornell.  I'm not belittling this team, because I think they are starting to come together at the right time, but West Virginia will be by far the best team they've played this tournament, and a team that can deal with both their size and athleticism.  Both teams are awfully good defensively as well, so I'm expected a slug-fest.  THE PICK:  West Virginia +4.5, 3 units (BONUS PICK:  UNDER 133, 3 units)

KANSAS STATE -4 vs. BUTLER.  I still can't believe Butler beat the Cuse, even though that win might not be as impressive you'd think if you hadn't watch the game.  Syracuse seemed to be in cruise control mode for the first 35 minutes or so, almost like they were waiting for Butler to go away, and when they didn't the Orange panicked, and starting jacking some of the dumbest and worst shots, completely unopen and early in the shot clock and shot themselves right out of the game.  Of course Butler won't just go away, they're pesky and white like that.  But have you seen Kansas State?  They aren't going to wait for the Bulldogs to go away, they're going to attack and attack and attack.  I was very wrong about this Wildcat team, which is yet more evidence that making judgments about a team without having seen them play all year is not a very good way to evaluate a team.  THE PICK:  Kansas State -4, 4 units

And how freaking good is Durrell Summers?  Good god.  I really hope he decides to ill-advisedly go pro, because I'm not looking forward to having to watch Hoffarber try to guard him next year.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sweet 16 Preview

I know you're probably sick of reading about it by now, but this is a really fascinating Sweet 16 this year.  You have a little bit of everything.  You've got eleven different conferences represented.  You've got your small conference upstarts (Northern Iowa, Cornell, St. Mary's), your big conference upstarts (Kansas State, Baylor), your small conference dynasties (Xavier, Butler), your traditional powers (Kentucky, Duke, Syracuse), your underachieving squads starting to put it together (Tennessee, Washington), team's dealing with injuries old (Purdue) and new (Michigan State, West Virginia), and the best team god ever assembled (Ohio State).

You've got the two best players this year (John Wall, Evan Turner), media darlings (Omar Samhan), precious little white boys with a hometown angle (Ryan Wittman), transfers who flourished (Denis Clemente, Ekpe Udoh, Jordan Crawford), cheaters (John Calipari, Bob Huggins), slime balls (Coach K, Calipari), and spazzes (Izzo, Frank Martin).  You've got lightning quick guards (Jake Pullen, Isaiah Thomas, Terrell Holloway), do-it-all wings (Durrell Summers, David Lighty, Wes Johnson, Devin Ebanks), dead-eye shooters (Farokhmanesh, Jon Scheyer, Scotty Hopson), and monster big men (JaJuan Johnson, Matt Howard, DeMarcus Cousins).

Seriously, I'm really fired up for these next four days.  It should be awesome.  Here are my picks, gambling-wise, ranked from least amount of units vs. most amount of units wagered.

WEST VIRGINIA -4 vs. WASHINGTON:  I'm more than a bit surprised that I'm not more confident in the Mountaineers, but I think the injury to Truck Bryant is going to play a bigger role than you'd think in this particular match up.  WVU has zero answer for Isaiah Thomas, and he can completely control the tempo of a game, as New Mexico found out.  Since WVU likes to play a slower-paced game, that could become an issue.  Still, in the end, Washington doesn't have the athletes to play with WVU beyond Thomas and Quincy Pondexter, so they'll probably run out of gas in the end - assuming Huggy Bear doesn't orchestrate another one of his teams' patented choke jobs.  THE PICK:  West Virginia -4, 1 Unit

SYRACUSE -7 vs. BUTLER:  Another tough game to read.  One of the ways Butler beats more athletic, more talented teams is by being so fundamentally sound, but this year's Syracuse team won as many games as they did by being equally fundamentally sound.  Still, I doubted Butler this year, and that waxing they put on a very good UTEP team tells me I might have underestimated them.  I expect this to be a pretty hard fought, low-scoring affair between two good teams, and in that kind of situation you go with the points.  THE PICK:  Butler +7, 1 Unit (Bonus Pick:  UNDER 138.5, 1 Unit)

DUKE -8 vs. PURDUE:  Not really sure how to call this one.  Duke is the better team, and Purdue can't win on emotion forever, but there are some reasons to believe in Purdue here.  With or without Hummel, they are a very tough defensive squad.  Couple that with a Duke team that relies monster-heavily on the three-pointer for the offense, and one cold night, whether because Duke can't hit or because of tough Purdue defense and the door is suddenly open for an upset.  With the Johnson and Moore it's possible, since they're tough match ups for Duke, and if Kramer can get under Scheyer's skin it could be a long night.  Something tells me this is either going to be a blow out or a Purdue upset, so the spread does me no good.  THE PICK:  Purdue to Win @ +340, 1 Unit.

KANSAS STATE -5 vs. XAVIER:  If you've read this blog leading up to the tournament, you know I'm a big fan of Xavier this year, and not a believer in Kansas State, so this pick is pretty easy.  Nothing has really changed through two rounds, since X has looked good in their two wins while K-State has been less than overwhelming.  Still, any team with two good guards is a danger at this point, so I can't go to heavy.  THE PICK:  Xavier +5, 3 Units (Bonus Pick:  OVER 152, 1 Unit)

OHIO STATE -4.5 vs. TENNESSEE:  The Vols are the kind of team who have been up-and-down all year, and now that they're in the Sweet 16 they probably have you thinking they have it all together now.  Well you're wrong.  They barely beat a San Diego State team that barely bothered to show up, and then lucked into a second round game against the least deserving team in the field in Ohio, and couldn't really get it going until the second half against them.  No my friends, the Vols are doing this with smoke and mirrors and they are about to be exposed.  If you really feel the need to gamble on Tennessee, take the money line, because they have just as good a chance at winning as they do at covering 4.5.  THE PICK:  Ohio State -4.5, 3 Units (Bonus Pick:  OVER 134, 2 Units)

KENTUCKY -9 vs. CORNELL:  I feel a bit weird here, because part of me says that Cornell just got lucky, matching up against two slow-it down, grind it out, non-super-athletic, non-super-quick teams, but another part of me says that this is the kind of team that could take the youngsters on Kentucky completely out of their game.  And it's not like Trevon Hughes or Jordan Taylor are slow.  Not to mention, and I hate referencing something that happened in January and was a loss, but they did hang with Kansas right up until the end and that's a pretty athletic team.  I think this is going to be a fascinating game.  In the end, Kansas probably wins, but those are a lot of points, and Cornell seems to be all business right now.  They don't think they're done yet.  THE PICK:  Cornell +9, 3 Units

BAYLOR -4 vs. ST MARY'S:  I'm still not 100% convinced Baylor is all that terrific, but I think more than anything the Gaels are riding easy matchups.  Well, by beating overrated teams, at least.  Richmond had me convinced, but they didn't even come close to coming close to showing up, and it was clear to everyone, pre-bracket even, that there was no way in hell Villanova was a legit 2-seed.  Maybe more than anything else, and I'm going to bring this up again later, but did it sort of feel like St. Mary's won their Super Bowl already?  Not to mention that Baylor is the same team as St. Mary's, but only if St. Mary's got an upgrade.  Good interior player - but Udoh is better than Samhan - surrounded by good perimeter players - but Baylor's guards are head and shoulders better than St. Mary's guards.  It's hard to see how St. Mary's keeps this much of a game, Baylor should win by ten.  Oh, and the game is in Houston, so it's pretty much a home game.  THE PICK:  Baylor -4, 5 Units (Bonus Pick:  OVER 143, 1 Unit)

MICHIGAN STATE -1.5 vs. NORTHERN IOWA:  Ok, tell me this line isn't fishy and media driven.  First, Kalin Lucas is hurt, and it's being played up as a big story.  Second, UNI just knocked off the major favorite in the tournament, and everyone knows it and can't stop talking about it.  These two facts alone have probably swung this line by about two points.  And there's more.  UNI's coach just agreed to a 10-year deal a couple of days ago, while the tournament is still going on.  Farokhmanesh is the darling of the tournament - hell, the whole team is the darling of the tournament.  It just feels like they're good and done and fat and happy and basking in the glow right now.  Meanwhile, Tom Izzo, notorious advancer in NCAA tournaments, has the team locked down in the gym, going over the game plan without Lucas over and over and over, and making sure his team knows that they haven't accomplished jack shit just yet.  Not to mention Bill Self has clearly established himself as the kind of guy who makes chocking out of the tournament into a routine, while Izzo is the complete opposite, and this feels like the line should be more like 7.  THE PICK:  Michigan State -1.5, 8 Units

I know my bracket picks haven't been doing that well (although I still have all my final four teams left), but the gambling has been successful thus far, so I highly recommend that you follow these picks blindly.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Let's Talk Closers

I wasn't planning on writing anything since I'm still so damn tired from that damn Chicago trip, but I happened to be in the car and flipped on the radio and listened to a little Twins Spring Training game.  Even though we're in the heart of the NCAA Tournament, and the two rounds where the best basketball is usually played, it still made my heart skip a beat for summer and some hardball.  Of course, I also had to hear Gordy and Gladden talk about how Jesse Crain would be a great closer if he could just throw strike one, and I don't exactly miss that, but you take the good with the bad.

And even though I know the Twins aren't going to make a move, and even though I know they are going try to go with a closer-by-committee, and even though I know it's not going to work and they're going to wait too long to try and fix it, I'm going to look at the outside possibilities anyway.  Mainly to educate myself on how many options are out there that are going to be ignored.

So here are 10 possible closers we might find wearing a Twins' jersey and working as a closer at some point this year, in the order I found information on them:

1.  John Smoltz.  I bring him up because a reader mentioned him in the comments, but the only thing I find attractive about him is that he's a free agent and wouldn't cost anything outside of the contract to acquire.  At 43 with rapidly dropping velocity and a rapidly rising flyball rate, it's tough to figure out what would be attractive here.  He just took a job with TBS, but his contract has provisions in it where he can leave to play ball if he gets a contract offer.  How badly would that move reek of desperation?  And how much does it sound like something that is going to happen around July?

2.  Kerry Wood.  In the last year of his contract (unless he finishes 55 games this year), Wood is a natural to come up in every closer-related trade rumor.  Of course, Wood is hurt again, this time with a strained back muscle, and with $10.5 million coming his way this year there's no way the Twins would make a move for him now, and nor should they.  If he comes back strong and nobody has stepped up by mid-summer, I can see this one happening, division foe or not.

3.  Mike MacDougal.  I'm not sure about this one, especially because he just got released by the freaking Marlins, but MacDougal did have 20 saves last season for the Nationals and has notched 20+ in two other seasons in his career.  He throws hard and gets a lot of groundballs, so he's an intriguing possibility, but he walks as many as he strikes out these days.  I'd be much more interested in him if he had become available prior to Spring Training, but if he's willing to sign for cheap I'd endorse this move.

4.  Heath Bell.  I've mentioned him here before, and he's probably the best possible option, but the Padres are apparently asking for Glen Perkins and two "good" prospects.  I've said it before, if by "good" they mean guys like Ben Revere, they can screw off, but if they mean guys more like Trevor Plouffe, I'd consider myself intrigued.  This team is in position to win this year, and a move like this takes that up another notch, not to mention showing a nice shift in team philosophy.  

5.  Derrick Turnbow.  Remember this guy?  He notched 39 saves for the Brewers in 2005 with a sub-2.00 ERA and looked poised to be a star, but fell off a cliff since then.  In the next three seasons he's posted a total ERA north of six and has started walking nearly as many batters as he strikes out, and hasn't pitched in the majors since 2008.  He was just released by the Marlins, who apparently stockpiled crappy relievers this Spring, and it actually sounds like he's retiring due to a shoulder injury, but I'm including him here mostly because I already typed all that stuff above before I read the part about the injury.

6.  Jason Frasor.  The other hot name behind Bell, and I'm not entirely certain why he's such a hot commodity.  He saved just 11 out of 14 opportunities, and last year was the first time he posted an ERA under 4 in the last four seasons and the first time he ever put up a WHIP under 1.2.  He's cheaper than Bell, would cost less in prospects, so I see the interest, but I'm not sure he's necessarily any better than Rauch, Neshek, or any of the other clowns the Twins have.  That said, if they can get him in a straight swap for Glen Perkins I would enthusiastically endorse it.

7.  Matt Capps.  I know the Twins had their shot to sign him this off-season if they really wanted him, and they wisely laid off, but time's have changed with Nathan's elbow issues.  I can't imagine the Nationals really need a $4.5 million closer this year when they're going to struggle to win 65-games, and with just a one-year deal it's hard to imagine them not looking to deal him around mid-season.  I fear he's really more of a middle reliever type who's been forced into a closer role, and he regressed big-time last year, so I can't imagine the Twins making this move unless he either provs himself to be back to being good or they get really desperate. 

8.  Francisco Cordero.  He's a pretty big long shot, considering he will make $12 million each of the next two years, but I'm starting to have to stretch to get to 10 and what do the Reds need with a $12 million closer?  Actually they have a pretty good young roster, but if it seems they aren't quite ready I can see the Reds moving guys like Cordero, Aaron Harang, and Bronson Arroyo - they could always try to convert Jose Arredondo into a closer.  I doubt the Twins get involved here, but it's always possible, particularly if anything further goes wrong with Nathan.

9.  Octavio Dotel.   He seems to be about 100 years old, but he keeps plugging along, putting up decent numbers.  He's now on the Pirates, making $3.5 million this year, and they have a club option for next year for $4.5 (although the option becomes team/player mutual if he's traded).  The Pirates have started to show that their front office gets it, and there's really no need for them to bother keeping him - not to mention having that trade clause in there shows they've had that in mind since they signed him.  Actually, other than Bell, Frasor, or (god help me) Smotlz, he's probably the most likely to end up a Twin.

10.  Eddie Guardado.  He's almost certainly going to retire, and there is really no point in bothering to bring him in since him getting people out is basically little more than a rumor at this point, but tell me this, as a Twins' fan, that this doesn't sound like something they'd do.

Of course, I could be wrong about all this too.  ESPN's Eric Karabell believes Jon Rauch could be the next closing star - or at least the next David Aardsma, and really if you look at the ten guys I listed above it's mostly garbage.

I don't know.  I'd still feel a lot better if they got Bell, or are at least prepared to pull the trigger on Wood if he shows he's recovered.  All I really know is that this sucks, because the Twins did basically everything I wanted them to do, and now we have to worry about this.  Arg.  At the very least, tell me they're going to pick somebody, hopefully Rauch, and just go with him.  I have less than zero interest in dealing with watching some kind of closer-by-committee garbage all year.  I prefer to focus my rage on one player at a time.

Sweet 16 predictions coming Wednesday night, so if you are still waiting on my picks to make your wagers, just sit tight.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Week in Review - 3/21/2010

 Well, we made it back from Chicago and everyone is still alive.  Sorry for the lateness of this post, but believe me after pulling consecutive days with 12+ hours logged at the bar, the last thing I could manage when I got back on Sunday was writing some stupid crap for this stupid blog.  But now that I'm back, even though I still feel like crap, I figure I should at least put up some kind of half-assed Week in Review (well, more half-assed than usual, I mean.) 

Quickly, two things that stood out from the Chicago weekend:

1)  A Colombian man openly weeping in the middle of the Dayton bar while listening to latin music on his pink Ipod.

2)  Loud, obnoxious Kansas fan yelling "yes" when Kansas hit that meaningless three with 0.4 left in the game.  He either forgot the actual score or has no idea how basketball works, and I'm not sure which way is funnier but I know he had all of us rolling in the back room after we heard him. 

Anyway, on to the usual garbage:


1.  Xavier.  It's hard to blame the Gophers too much for the loss on Friday, particularly when the Musketeers were the far better team, and they continued to show that by beating Pitt on Sunday to advance to the Sweet 16 for the third consecutive season - one of just two teams (Michigan State is the other) who can make that claim.  Sure, there were things the Gophers could have done better/differently, but the entire game it seemed as if the Gophers were doing everything in their power just to keep it close, and I don't really remember ever thinking they had a chance to pull it out.  Jordan Crawford was by far the best player on the court with his 28 point, 6 rebound, 5 assist performance (which he followed up with 27-6-6 against Pitt) and the Gophers had no idea how to keep Love and McLean off the boards.  Xavier has enough talent to take down Kansas State and could advance to the Elite 8 this week.  I don't think they have enough juice to beat Syracuse, but once you get this deep, anything can happen.

2.  Joe Mauer.  Or Bill Smith or Ron Shapiro or whoever you want to give the credit too.  The important thing is that Mauer is signed  Even if he regresses a bit, his downside is probably something like .310/.390/.480 with 15 homers, and from a gold glove catcher even that is probably worth close to what he's getting paid.  Add in his upside, MVP-potential, and what he means to this town, and it had to be done.  I'd say this is all they had left to do, but with Nathan now out for the year I think they need to make another move.  This team is really good and right on the verge, and I'm afraid if they don't do something it's going to be a disaster.  Tell me you don't see them going closer-by-committee, having it become a disaster, and not realizing or trying to make a change until it's too late.  That's exactly something the Twins would do.  I read somewhere that the Padres want Perkins and two "good" prospects for Heath Bell.  Now, if that "good" level means guys like Ben Revere and Wilson Ramos I'd tell the Padres to go screw, but if they're talking like Trevor Plouffe and Steven Tolleson then it's time to run, not walk, to make this deal. 

3.  Ali Farokhmanesh.  The biggest upset of the tournament thus far has got to be UNI's victory over Kansas (well, Ohio over G-Town was probably bigger, but essentially meaningless), and the hero was without question Cedar Falls' version of Jamal Abu Shamala in Farokmanesh.  That monster three pointer he hit with 30 seconds left was the stupidest, dumbest, ballsiest shot I've ever seen, and since it went down and ended up being the game winner, Farok goes down as a hero rather than a goat, and is going to end up being a tournament legend who is talked about long after his playing days are done a la Bryce Drew.  Add in the fact that he also hit a three with under five seconds to go to give the Panthers their opening round win over UNLV, and this kid had one hell of a weekend.  It's just unfortunate that he's a terrorist.

4.  Cornell.  Remember all that "under-seeded" talk?  Well, two wins and a sweet 16 berth says that wasn't just crazy talk.  I still contend the Big Red caught a nice break in running up against two team's that play a similar style and weren't going to out-athletic them, but you can't really talk down to an Ivy League team that ends up playing in the second week of the tournament.  Even though Ryan Wittman gets most of the press, especially here with his Minnesota connection, seven-footer Jeff Foote might end up being the key against Kentucky.  He's not just some big ole seven-footer who plays because he's seven feet tall in the Ivy League, he has some legit skill and good footwork and is going to need it all against Kentucky.  This is going to be a real tester, since Kentucky is playing as well as it has all year.  I'd love to see Calipari go down, no matter how unlikely it may be.

5.  Michigan State.  How annoying are the Spartans?  It's the same thing every year, they look mediocre all through the Big Ten season, end up with a middle-high type seed, you think they're ripe for the upset, and then they just keep winning.  That monstrously entertaining win over Maryland on Sunday gave Michigan State their third Sweet-16 in as many years (meanwhile the Gophers haven't made it that far in over ten years) and showed once again why you never, ever doubt Izzo.  I read that there is a 90% chance Sparty will be without Kalin Lucas against Northern Iowa, and normally I'd say that is a pretty big deal, but it doesn't seem to matter who is there or gone on Izzo's teams, so they'll probably win by ten.  Oh, and Durrell Summers is absolutely going to be a huge star next season.  All Big-10 First Team.


1.  Scottie Reynolds.  There's not much as enjoyable as watching a truly overrated chucker nearly shoot his team to a loss in the first round against a 15-seed and then, after his team manages to escape thanks to an NCAA mandate to the refs that Robert Morris isn't allowed to win, doing the same thing 48 hours later, but this time they couldn't escape and were dropped by the suddenly super popular Omar Samhan and St. Mary's 75-68.  I'm not kidding either.  Your precious All-American shot 2-15 in the first game and was 2-11 in the second, going 4-26 in what has to be a record in futility from someone who idiotic fans love because they're stupid.  He makes Stephen Curry look like Magic Johnson.  I'm almost sad he's graduating, just because he's so fun to root against, but I will enjoy not having to hear about him anymore.  Maybe the most overrated player in history.

2.  The Big East.  Speaking of overrated, what do we think of the Big East?  Eight teams with bids, called the best conference in all the land for the second-year in a row, and yet only two teams (Syracuse and West Virginia) are still alive for the Sweet 16.  It's really not that bad if you think about how they made up 1/8th of the invitees and still make up 1/8th of the remaining teams, but they were set up for a lot more success.  Both Villanova and Georgetown had Final Four aspirations and Pitt was a three-seed, Marquette and Notre Dame as six seeds were picked by some to make the Sweet 16 but lost in the first round, and Louisville was thought to be a challenge for Duke in round two but couldn't even get past Cal.  That's currently a 6-6 record for the conference by my count, which sounds ok until you think about how they had a 1, 2, 2, 3, 3, 6, 6, and 9 seed.  Seriously, pretty embarrassing.

3.  The Mountain West.  Well, if we're going to talk about disappointing conferences we can't very well ignore the Mountain West, which had three teams invited, two with a good chance at getting to the Sweet 16, but instead ended up going just 2-3, with their top team (New Mexico) getting bounced hard in round 2 by Washington by 20 and BYU refusing to even show up in their second round guy against Kansas State after just squeaking by a Florida team that probably didn't even deserve a bid.  Not that I necessarily thought these guys were great, but this certainly doesn't help my argument that high-mid-major teams from conferences like the A-10 and MWC can be valid sleepers in the NCAA tournament.  Apparently you have to go to smaller conferences like the Ivy or Missouri Valley to have a prayer.

4.  Richmond.  Hey, speaking of teams that suck and aren't valid sleepers, let's give it up for my most disappointing team of the dance - The Richmond Spiders.  I was so fired up for these guys to make a run.  They closed out winning twelve of their last fourteen including a huge win over Xavier in the A-10 tournament, and even though I knew St. Mary's was a dangerous 10 seed I was still expecting a Richmond win followed by another win over Villanova.  Obviously not.  And they would have beaten Villanova, too, just like the Gaels did, but they decided not to show up for their first game.  Seriously, have to seen this stat?  Richmond was out-rebounded 39-16?  How is that even possible?  The earlier mentioned Samhan had twelve boards all by himself, which means he damned near out-rebounded the Spiders all by himself.  Ridiculous.  And such a good team, too.  I mean, they just had 35 rebounds in a game against Xavier the prior week.  Such a shame. 

5.  Blake Hoffarber. I'm sick of Hoffarber.  Actually that's not exactly true, I'm just sick of an offense that relies so heavily on someone who can't create his own shot.  Hoff is just fine.  He's a great shooter (unless he's too open), he's a good rebounder for his size and lack of athleticism, and he's a smart player.  I'm just sick of watching all these good teams and all these good players and we're stuck watching the Gophers and their two players who can create their own shot, one of whom is likely functionally retarded.  I want better players, dammit.  Get on it, Tubby.  You need to get this program turned all the way around before you bolt to Auburn.  Don't you betray me, too.  I'm still trying to recover from Rico Tucker turning his back on me.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Tournament Predictions

Ok, I think I have my bracket all figured out.  But before I get to telling you what is going to happen, I'm going to go ahead and strongly recommend the new Alice in Wonderland movie.  With about as strong of a recommendation as I can give.  I'm a huge fan of the original stories, and this managed to stay true to those while being completely original at the same time.  Well, not completely original.  At it's core it's kind of the same story that's been done a million times, but doing it with time-honored characters with enough of a twist so it doesn't feel cliched is a tall task, but Burton pulls it off brilliantly.

It's not for everyone, like most of Burton's work, and only scores 53% positive on Rotten Tomatoes, but if you like Burton, Sleepy Hollow, Nightmare Before Christmas, and/or the original Alice stories you need to go see this, and in 3D if you can.  I was skeptical about 3D, but it's not at all intrusive or distracting, and really just gives the screen more depth.  And, of course, there are the few jump scenes.  I could write paragraphs on this movie, but that's not why we're here, so just go see it.

On to the tournament.  Here's what is going to happen:


-Kansas over Lehigh - Slaughter.
-UNLV over Northern Iowa - UNI gets all this pub for their great defense, but they suck on offense.
-Mich State over New Mex State - This is one 12/5 game that isn't remotely up for grabs.
-Maryland over Houston - The Cougars have a few good players, but they're lucky to be here.  Maryland is a Final Four contender.
-SDSU over Tennessee - The Vols are just streaky enough to lose a first round game.
-Georgetown over Ohio - Slaughter.
-Oklahoma State over Georgia Tech - The really funny thing is that the Yellow Jackets have enough talent to challenge for a Final Four berth, but they can't put it together.
-Ohio State over UCSB - Slaughter.

-Kansas over UNLV - I like the MWC, and I like UNLV, but they have no chance to match up with Kansas.
-Maryland over Michigan State - One of the toughest calls for me in the entire tournament, but I think Greivis Vasquez is the kind of player who can carry a team in this kind of tournament thing.
-Georgetown over SDSU - Like I said, I like the MWC, as shown by having SDSU win one, but they can't hang with the Hoyas.
-Ohio State over Oklahoma State - James Anderson vs. Evan Turner should be fantastic, but Turner has a lot more help.

-Maryland over Kansas - This might be my dumbest call of the tournament, but everyone really needs to chill about Kansas.  They aren't nearly as good as you would all like to believe.  They're basically the same team from last year, and I don't remember them in the Final Four.
-Ohio State over Georgetown - The Buckeyes have zero answer for Greg Monroe, but the Hoyas have no answer for Turner.  Or Lighty.  Or Buford.  One of those last two is going to have a huge tournament, I'm just not sure which.

-Ohio State over Maryland - I've said since the year started that Ohio State was a Final Four team, I can't very well back off now.


-Syracuse over Vermont - VM beat the Cuse as a 14 a few years ago, and I expect this one to be closer than you'd think, despite the fact that one fact has nothing at all to do with the other.
-Florida State over Gonzaga - FSU is great defensively, as long as they can find some scoring they should roll.
-UTEP over Butler - Butler finally grabs a high seed, just in time to lose to the new Butler.
-Vandy over Murray State - I don't even like Vandy, but why are people calling Murray a possible sleeper?  They're awful.
-Xavier over Minnesota - My official pick is actually the Gophers, but I'm picking X for my bracket.
-Pitt over Oakland - This is going to be tight, trust me.
-BYU over Florida - This one isn't.  Florida doesn't even belong in the tournament.
-Kansas State over North Texas - Not really sure what to make of K State, but this isn't the game they're going to lose.

-Syracuse over Florida State - The Seminoles "Good D No O" shtick will work against the Zags, but you need to bring a complete game to beat the Orange.
-UTEP over Vanderbilt - I like UTEP and I hate Vandy.  I actually would have picked Vandy to lose against almost anybody, but I don't want to validate morons who think Murray State is an upset candidate.
-Xavier over Pitt - Or Minnesota over Pitt, doesn't matter who wins round 1, Pitt isn't getting out of the weekend.
-BYU over Kansas State - I anguished over this one.  I know taking a 7 over a 2 is a risk and really sets me up to lose a bunch of points, but I can't help it.  K State is going down early, and BYU is the call.

-Syracuse over UTEP.  The Miners run ends.
-BYU over Xavier.  Pretty good matchup, but BYU gets to play in Salt Lake if they make it this far.

-Syracuse over BYU.  The Salt Lake thing makes this close, but the Orange advance to the Final Four without having to play anyone seeded higher than a 7.


-Kentucky over ETSU - Laugher.  Probably the biggest margin of the tournament.
-Texas over Wake Forest - I was looking forward to picking against both of these teams, and now they're matched up so I have to pick somebody to win.  I'll go with the Longhorns since they have more talent.
-Temple over Cornell - I, like man, think both these teams were underseeded and like them both quite a bit.  Somebody's got to win though, and the Owls have more talent.
-Wisconsin over Wofford - I watched Wofford win their conference championship.  That was by default.  They, and the entire SoCon, are garbage.
-Marquette over Washington - I heard somebody saying the Pac 10 is undervalued because of East Coast Bias.  That may be true a lot of years, but this year the Pac is just terrible.  There is no way this game should be a pick 'em.
-New Mexico over Montana - This game bores me.
-Clemson over Missouri - I liked Mizzou here until I found out they have a starter out and his replacement hurt.
-WVU over Morgan State - One last hurrah for the chucker.

-Kentucky over Texas - Texas actually has the talent to knock out the Wildcats, and I really hope they do.
-Wisconsin over Temple - Fascinating match up of two similar teams, but Wisconsin does it better.
-New Mexico over Marquette - A lot of people are taking Marquette here, but I have too strong of a crush on Darington Hobson.
-WVU over Clemson - Since I have Clemson winning last round pretty much by default, I can't very well have them beating my Final Four team.

-Kentucky over Wisconsin - Another good opportunity for Kentucky to slip up, but I'm not seeing it.
-WVU over New Mexico - Hobson is really good, but the Mountaineers have about five guys who are nearly as good, with a couple who are probably better.

-WVU over Kentucky - This is going to be a hell of a game.  Look for De'Sean Butler to continue his heroics.


-Duke over Ark-Pine Bluff - I'm just glad the Golden Lions got to play in a real game.
-Louisville over Cal - I'm not really sure what to think of either team.  Both can be really good or really bad.  I'll give the advantage to Pitino.
-Texas A&M over Utah State - The Aggies knock out a team from Utah in the first round for the third year in a row.  Anti-Mormon bias.
-Siena over Purdue - I'm almost starting to think this is reaching "too obvious" status, but I can't talk myself out of it.
-ODU over Notre Dame - I don't get it, the Irish went on a tear without Harangody, but now he's back.  Ergo, they're going to suck again.  Plus ODU is pretty good.
-Baylor over Sam Houston - I think I read somewhere that this might end up being a barn-burner.  That would F up a lot of brackets.
-Richmond over St. Mary's - Love me some Spiders.  If they were playing any other 10 seed they'd blow them away, bad luck getting the Gaels.
-Villanova over Robert Morris - Nova is overrated, but not so overrated that RMU could win.

-Duke over Louisville - I know some people (Snacks) are taking the Cardinals here, and although I can see it, I can't quite pick it.
-Texas A&M over Siena - I'm close to picking Siena here, but I can't quite talk myself into it, seeing as how they beat nobody this year.
-Baylor over ODU - I know Baylor is the sexy pick for the Final Four, and even I am picking them here, but this will be a dangerous game for them.
-Richmond over Villanova - I told you I liked the Spiders.  But Villanova is supremely overseeded at #2.  They are in a complete tailspin right now, and Scottie Reynolds is the most overrated player since Steph Curry.

-Duke over Texas A&M - You know what's sick?  The Aggies are the best team the Blue Devils could possibly face in the first three rounds.  NCAA loves Duke like a fat kid loves cake.
-Baylor over Richmond - Well, I don't love the Spiders quite this much.

-Duke over Baylor - I just can't put Baylor in the Final Four.  Any other 2 seed, any other three seed, and a bunch of four or five seeds would go over Duke, but none of them ended up in this bracket.  This sucks.


-Syracuse over Ohio State - The Orange is just such a complete team.  I love the Buckeyes, but I think the Cuse is just a bit better.
-West Virginia over Duke - The Dukies finally play a real team, and they get smoked.
-Syracuse over West Virginia - A Big East showdown for the crown, with Syracuse taking it down and Andy Rautins proving me completely wrong by winning Most Outstanding Player.

There you go, the perfect bracket.  Just go ahead and copy those picks and you'll be rolling in the dough Scrooge McDuck style.  Unless you are in the same pool I am, in which case you can't copy my picks.  It's unethical.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Gophers Sweet-16 Bound?

As I'm sure you are aware, the Gophers have somehow made the NCAA tournament as an 11 seed, and now take on Xavier Friday morning.  As you may also be aware, I will be traveling with Snacks and Snake to visit Bogart and watch the first two rounds this weekend.  I'm not really sure why I bring that up, except that I'm pretty fired up about both developments.  There's nothing quite like drinking and watching March Madness all day and tonight and then drinking and playing Madden on a 12-foot TV.  And I'm almost as excited for the Gophers.  So let's hop to it, Gomer.

1.  So just how good is Xavier?  Good, but not great or unbeatable.  The record is an impressive 24-8, and going 14-2 in a very good A-10 this year is nothing to be ignored, but that shouldn't be looked at as a sign of invincibility in any way.  Although the Musketeers played a very good out-of-conference schedule, they missed out on almost every opportunity to grab a big win.  They lost to Marquette, Baylor, Kansas State, Butler, and Wake Forest, with their best wins coming over Florida and Cincinnati.  Their record against the other NCAA teams from the A-10 was just 1-2 and they lost by 25 against Dayton.  They won't beat themselves (there isn't a bad loss in the bunch) so he Gophers won' be able to stumble into a victory, but if they play as well as they can this game is eminently winnable. 

2.  That twin towers thing the Gophers have going on, will that work again?  Not only could it work, but it might have to.  Xavier has some serious size on the inside; 6-9, 265lb. Jason Love, 7-0, 265lb. Kenny Frease, and 6-8, 235lb. Jamel McLean all play at least 17 minutes a game, shoot better than 50%, and Love and McLean average around a triple-double per game each.  If you go ahead and add in the fact that Xavier is one of the best team's in the country at defending the three-pointer (opponents shoot just 29% from three against them), and it's clear that Ralph, Colton, or both are going to have to have a big game if the Gophers are going to advance.

3.  Who are the key players for the Musketeers?  Point guard Terrell Holloway and swingman Jordan Crawford.  Holloway is quick as all hell and is one of those kind of guards who seem like they are just a hair short of completely out of control, but this year he's managed to nearly double his points (to 11.8 per game) and assists (to 3.9) while leaving his turnovers at a comfortable 1.9, and has become a truly dangerous lead guard, and a great closer at the end of games with his 85% free throw shooting.  Crawford, formerly of the Hoosiers, is the the team's leading scorer at 19.7 per, and has turned himself into a hell of an all-around player.  He's hit double-figures in all but one game this season, and that was the fourth game of the year.  He's tough to handle at 6-4 because he can get to the rim and can hit the three - he's a very, very good player (and a member of my fantasy team this year).  If anybody in this game from either side could single-handedly carry their team to victory, it's Crawford.

4.  Anything else we need to know?  Pace.  Speed, and Pace.  Xavier plays a quick, uptempo game and ranked 38th in tempo, while the Gophers play far slower, ranking 205th.  I think the Gopher number is deflated a bit by playing in such a slow conference overall, but they're never going to be confused for Tarkanian's UNLV teams.  They can really push because of their athletes, and especially because of Holloway and his back-up, Mark Lyons.  They are both incredibly quick, incredibly fast with or without the ball, and generally make good decisions (particularly Holloway).  In fact, PM Thor from the Xavier message board I became a member of this offseason thanks to my incredibly accurate A-10 preview wants us to know, 
"Xs guards are going to run you ragged. Get ready to run from end to end."
We've all seen games where the Gophers seemingly refuse to get back, and refuse to play anything resembling transition defense.  If that happens against the Musketeers, this could get very ugly, very quickly. 

5.  So who wins? Make no mistake, this Xavier team is very, very good.  Don't relax because they're A-10, don't relax because, outside of Jordan Crawford, you may not recognize any names, don't relax because they are just a six seed and don't relax because the Gophers played so well against Michigan State and Purdue - this is a good team that is probably underseeded by a spot or two.  That being said, they aren't invincible either, and the Gophers have looked so, so good in the past month save for a couple games, and this game will probably come down to the very end.  I also think both teams are better than Pitt, and whoever wins here ends up advancing to the Sweet 16, minimum.  My head gives a slight edge to X, but my heart says otherwise:

Minnesota 66, Xavier 65.

There are three important things to remember here:

1.  This should be a great game.
2.  In general, the Musketeer fanbase seems like a bunch of pretty good guys, at least in my limited experience.
3.  Whoever wins, at least those assholes from Dayton are stuck in the NIT.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Week in Review - 3/15/2010

Whew.   Were you like me and had your heart drop when Florida popped up on the screen?  Terrifying, but ultimately the committee made the right choices and the Gophers were rewarded for an incredible last week of ball.  I like the matchup quite a bit, too.  Not necessarily because I think the Gophers will have an easy time with Xavier or anything, but mainly because I think that region is pretty weak.  If they can get by the Musketeers, they get the weakest three seed in the second round.  They also caught a pretty big break by playing in Milwaukee, where they should have a sizable advantage in fans.

One thing is for sure, it's exciting, and the season no longer goes down as a failure.  I'll be back with a true preview before I head out to Chicago with Snacks and Snake, but for now I'm predicting a Gopher win.


1.  Colt Iverson.  How did this happen?  And I'm not even talking numbers, although basically scoring double his season average in every game is impressive, but his game was completely unrecognizable and I mean that in a good way.  His moves were suddenly polished, and he had a lot of them.  He now suddenly has a drop step.  He's using shot fakes beautifully and looks like Kevin McHale down there.  He can score with either hand.  I have no idea what is going on here.  I thought his upside was going to be like a Greg Ostertag rebounder/enforcer type who is most valuable for setting picks and his five fouls per game, but suddenly things have gotten really interesting.  If this is for real, the Gophers are suddenly a dangerous team.  Please let this be for real - like the Loch Ness Monster - and not some kind of false production - like the Moon Landing.

2.  San Diego State.  If you're on the bubble going into your conference tournament there is one surefire way to make sure you get a bid - win the whole thing, and that's what the Aztecs did, winning the MWC tournament, including wins over UNLV and New Mexico.  SDSU is a dangerous team, and they went 2-1 against New Mexico this year with the loss being by just two points.  Drawing Tennessee is always a mystery since they are the kind of team who could either flame out early or go on a deep run, but I'm calling an Aztec upset in the first round.

3. Duke.  It's always tough to praise Duke, but they did what a lot of other regular season conference champions couldn't manage and they went out and won their conference tournament.  They got lucky a bit in that Maryland got knocked out early by Georgia Tech, but winning the ACC is still winning the ACC.  As a bonus, they picked up the fourth #1 seed and were somehow placed in the easiest region in the history of college basketball.  But, since they're Duke, I'm sure they'll still screw it up somehow.

4.  Ohio.  Every year some middling team from a smaller conference gets hot and makes a run, winning their conference tournament and setting themselves up to get their doors blown off in the first round.  This year, that honor goes to the Ohio Bobcats for winning the MAC, with Georgetown being the doors-blow-offer.  Kent State or Akron would have been a dangerous foe, but they couldn't get it done so now we're saddled with the crappy Bobcats.  And how tough is that region?  The top five seeds are all legit Final Four contenders, including probably the best #1 and best #2.  It should end up playing pretty close to form as I only see one real first round upset possibility, but whoever ends up coming out of there is really going to have to earn it.

5.  Second-Tier basketball tournaments.  I know nobody really gives a crap about the NIT, CBI, or CIT because the only thing that matters is the NCAA Tournament, and I agree with a lot of that, but I also really like the second-tier tournaments.  There's some intrigue with these.  Illinois and Dayton ended up in the same bracket, and that would be a pretty good matchup.  Will either UCONN or North Carolina put their talent together finally and play well, or have they completely given up for the year?  And if nothing else, be thankful they exist so there's some college ball to watch/wager on all week long.


1.  Conference USA.  It looked like this might be a break-through year for C-USA with a legitimate chance of them getting four teams in the dance depending on how the conference tourney shook out.  It shook alright, with Memphis and UAB both getting dumped by crappy teams in the quarters, ending both team's NCAA dreams and assuring that outside of UTEP, nobody would be getting an at-large bid from the conference.  They did manage to get two team's in thanks to Houston's championship win, but the Cougars are crappy and UTEP got a shitty seed, so there's a good chance C-USA goes 0 for the tournament this year.

2.  Virginia Tech.  This is the team that most people seem to have a problem with being excluded from the tournament, but the Hokies aren't even close to deserving a bid.  That 23-8 mark looks nice, but their non-conference Strength of Schedule ranked a ridiculous 344th in the country.  Their only non-conference wins over teams that are even remotely not god awful were over Penn State and Georgia, pretty much the defining line before you get to god awful.  And as good as a 10-6 conference mark looks, they didn't beat either Duke or Maryland.  Combine all that with a first round loss to Miami in the ACC tournament, and there is no way the Hokies deserved a bid.  Sorry VT, maybe try to schedule some real teams in the future.

3.  Dayton.  Well it is now official - this year's trip to Chicago will be a bit hollow, since when we go to the Dayton bar there won't be any Dayton fans there, unless I guess maybe there's an NIT game or something.  Considering they were supposed to be at the top of the A-10 and be a sweet-16 type team, this year can't be considered anything other than a disaster.  Other than one win over Xavier and an early non-conference victory over Georgia Tech, they couldn't beat anybody, whiffing on games against Villanova, Kansas State, and New Mexico, and they lost plenty of games they couldn't afford to lose.  Coming down the stretch they lost games to St. Louis, Richmond, and Duquesne.  Losing to Richmond and St. Louis might have been manageable, but the loss to Duquesne was a crusher. 

4.  Mississippi State.  Jarvis Varnado deserves better than the NIT, but for the second straight year MSU didn't do enough to get into the tournament and had to try to win SEC tournament to get in.  Last year it worked, this year it came just short.  The Bulldogs were damn close though, leading Kentucky by three with 4.9 seconds to go in the game.  The Wildcats, however, pulled off the rare intentionally miss a free throw, get the rebound and score to tie the game move and sent it into overtime where they ended up winning and sent MSU to the NIT.  Hopefully they can play well and at least make it to Madison Square Garden and send Varnado out in style, a player like that deserves it.  I'm really going to miss him.

5.  Northwestern.  Ouch.  From 10-1 media sleeper sensation to earn their first ever NCAA bid all the way to a 7 seed in the NIT (and will play vs. Rhode Island in round 1).  I'm not too worried about them though, they'll almost certainly get a bid next year.  With Shurna and Thompson both back, Coble returning from injury, and Drew Crawford getting better they have a real chance at an upper-division finish in the conference next year.  That sounds weird.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Calm Down, I'm Here

If you follow this blog, you know I haven't really posted this week save one quick update from California, and if you follow the comments on this blog, you know the natives are getting pretty restless, so here I am.  Seriously you guys, I really didn't have the opportunity to write anything.  I had no computer the entire time I was out in California, and I didn't get back until last night after 10pm so there wasn't really any chance to get to the writing.    But now I'm back, and I'm ready to write some stuff. 

-  First off, yes, losing Joe Nathan for the year really sucks, but we'll live.  And not because he sucks now or something.  Everybody needs to calm down about his blown save in the playoffs, and stop talking about how the Twins should have traded him - something I heard noted huge idiot Pat Reusse say on the radio when I was accidentally listening to that channel.  He's a fantastic, fantastic closer, and you know exactly what you're getting - 40 or so saves with a 90% conversion rate, an ERA under 2.00, a WHIP under 1.00, and shit ton of strikeouts.  He won't easily be replaced, and, actually, is pretty much irreplaceable.

But the good news that even if whatever direction the Twins' decide to go in - naming a replacement or closer by committee - ends up being a disaster, it's only going to cost them about three games.  Aaron Gleeman breaks down the math, but the difference between a 90% save rate (Nathan) and an 80% save rate (a horrible closer) is only 5 blown saves over the course of a season, and if the Twins' bullpen ends up being average, it's only 2 extra blown saves.

If I had to make a guess, I'd say the Twins' will spread the save opportunities out between Guerrier, Mijares, and Rauch and they'll do just fine, like an average bullpen.  I think that when they flame out, they'll flame out spectacularly and we might end up watching some ugly, ugly ninth innings, but overall this isn't the kind of thing that is going to hurt enough to make the differences between playoffs or second place.

There are plenty of other problems with this team that should take care of that.

-  Secondly, you're probably wondering how Carlos Gomez is doing.  Well I'll tell you.  He's hitting .278/.316/.389 with two doubles, a walk, two Ks, and three steals in 18 at bats.  That means he's getting more hits and showing the same amount of gap power while striking out about half as often and he's gotten better at stealing bases.  He's also still not walking at all.  It's Spring Training and all so that basically means those numbers are meaningless, but I just thought you'd like to know how Captain 5-Tool was doing so far.

-  I don't know if I've mentioned this in this space, but you should all know I HATE St. Patrick's Day.  I can't stand it.  I hate it almost as much as I hate Wisconsin, although this hate has nothing to do with geography - I have no beef with the Irish.  I just hate you people who go out and use that day as an excuse to act like total morons.  If New Year's Eve is known as amateur night, St. Patrick's should be called I've never ever drank before but I'm going to chain-swallow a bunch of Irish-sounding shots to try to look cool night.

-  Oh, you're probably here to read about the Gopher game.  I laugh at you.  Who cares?  It means nothing.  Well, not nothing.  It does give the team the chance to play a game that might give them a chance to be on the bubble if they win.  If that sounded convoluted, well, that's your team's chances to make the NCAA Tournament.  A win tomorrow over Sparty at least puts them in the conversation depending on what other teams do.  With UAB and Memphis both losing in the C-USA quarters, Arizona State losing early in the Pac, and Wake on a tremendous slide there are spots coming available.   Somebody is going to step up and take those spots, why not the Gophers?


Gophers 70, Michigan State 65.