I really have no idea why I stopped doing these posts. They're fairly easy, since I can write parts of them during the week, they cover all sports for an entire week period, and they give you, the idiot reader, something to depend on knowing this post will be here every Monday morning. I'm going to do my best to get back on this and start having the Monday morning Week in Review's again. Or your money back. And I'm going to start with Lance Armstrong.
Ha ha just kidding. I don't care.
WHO WAS AWESOME
1. Joe Flacco. As much as I hate to give credit when it's due, I'm going to have to in Flacco's case because he had a great game getting the Ravens to the Super Bowl and outplayed Tom Brady to do it. He seems to have developed a couple interesting skills to go with one of the strongest arms in the league - he can pick apart a defense underneath using his backs and TEs, and he has that over the shoulder throw to Boldin in the end zone down cold. Both of his touchdown throws to Boldin were on that same play, and more than half his completions were to backs or tight ends, and then he can cut loose with that big arm to Torrey Smith when needed. It will be kind of interesting to see how he adjusts in the red zone when the 49ers inevitably put a safety on top of Boldin when they get close. I also just realized this is going to be a Harbaugh vs. Harbaugh Super Bowl and we're going to have to hear that over and over and over again. Oh god, and also Ray Lewis. And I have a feeling Colin Kaepernick is going to get way too much press, too. God I am suddenly remembering how much I hate the 2 weeks leading up to the Super Bowl. Don't they have some kind of 2-week coma drug? I know the wife and kids probably wouldn't be down for me going in that direction, but I'm not sure I have a choice. Not my fault.
2. Washington Nationals. In a baseball hot stove league that's been characterized by teams "going for it in their window" more than any other I can remember (Baltimore Orioles exempted, for some reason) the Nats just made another move that put them in the Dodgers/Blue Jays tier for "going for it" signing closer Rafael Soriano to a two year, $28 million deal with an option that automatically vests if he finishes 120 combined games in the two years. That now gives the Nationals a bullpen of Tyler Clippard in the 7th, Drew Storen in the 8th, and Soriano in the 9th, and that's in front of a rotation of Stephen Strasburg/Gio Gonzalez/Jordan Zimmermann/Dan Haren/Ross Detwiler. Their also loaded with a young and talented lineup with only one bad contract (Jayson Werth), Wilson Ramos will be back at catcher, they traded for Denard Span to fill their only real lineup leak, and resigned Adam LaRoche to a reasonable contract which gives them an excellent trade chip (Michael Morse, now a back-up who was just traded to Seattle in a three-way deal that brought them a couple decent prospects because lord knows they don't have enough) all at the same time. Yes, paying $14 million to a reliever is too much especially when you have to give up a first round pick to do it, but I'm a big fan of this "going for it" thing and I'd say they're in pretty decent shape. At least until they shutdown Strasburg after 190 innings this year because, you know, you can never be too careful.
3. Butler Bulldogs. I don't know if it's Brad Stevens or what (NOTE: it's probably Brad Stevens) but Butler just keeps on going. When they made those back-to-back NCAA Championship games you kind of figured like, ok he found a few diamonds in the rough in Gordon Hayward, Shelvin Mack, and Matt Howard (really rough, in his case) and Stevens got them to perfectly come together for a magical run (or two) and then they'd go back to being Butler. When they missed the NCAA Tournament (made the CBI) last season everything looked confirmed. But now? First Stevens gets Rotnei Clarke, and ultra-experienced deadeye shooter who fits Butler's system perfectly, to come to Indy, joining a couple of decent players, and you figure Butler would probably be decent. Little did you know Clarke was going to play out of his mind and a couple promising youngsters would suddenly blossom into double-digit scorers. Then Clarke gets hurt against Richmond and you'd think Butler would slide, but they had no issue finishing up Richmond, and then played a really, really good Gonzaga team and did this:
I hate teams that are always good because I'm so unfamiliar with it. It's like an Amish who was dropped in Dubai.
4. Florida Gators. For my money, there are six teams (seven if you count my super sleeper VCU) who could potentially win the NCAA Championship this year - Louisville, Syracuse, Michigan, Indiana, Duke, and the sixth is Florida. For some reason they're only ranked 10th. Why? Because they have two losses, although those happen to be at Arizona (a one-loss team) in a game Florida controlled for 38 minutes before letting it slip away, and against a good Kansas State in Kansas City. Look at their recent results. After a week of dominating fools they've now won their four SEC games by 33 (vs. Georgia), 22 (@ LSU), 21 (@ Texas A&M), and 31 (vs. Missouri). I know Mizzou is in kind of a tailspin right now with Bowers hurt and Dixon having been kicked off the team, but beating that team by 31 is still damn impressive. Florida is one of the few teams in the country with a great offense and a great defense, with great players both on the perimeter and in the paint. I feel pretty effing good having gotten down on them at 12-1 to win the whole thing. Don't think, just do it.
5. Syracuse Orangemen. I've touted Louisville as my #1 team in the country so I need to give credit to the Orange for taking them down on the road, and actually this was the game that convinced me to put Cuse in that "could win the title" group because they played great in a tough environment. I have no idea why Syracuse has kind of been under my radar, but I assume it's because I'm an idiot. They're loaded at guard and play two point guards in Brandon Triche and Michael Carter-Williams, which they can get away with because they're 6-4 and 6-6, and an awesome front court that includes two great scorers (C.J. Fair and James Southerland) and a defensive superstar (Rakeem Christmas). Their only loss was to Temple at MSG, and they now have probably the best win of anyone this season with that roadie vs. the #1 team to legitimize them. They do have a big issue hanging over them with Southerland's indefinite suspension due to some kind of academic issue, but I would assume he'll be back soon enough given that Syracuse is a big time hoops school and so the administrators probably understand it's best to get him back on the court.
Stupid Joel Maturi.
1. Gopher basketball. I'm not giving up on the season, thinking they suck, or anything like that. I mean they have three losses this season and they're all to teams that have been ranked in the top 3 this season, and only the Duke game was a double digit loss. What sucks, and why I have to put the Gophers here, is that I'm having trouble imagining them as a Final Four team anymore, simply because there have been stretches in all three losses where they've been absolutely dominated, and the domination wasn't for a short period of time but a very long one. Michigan outscored them 20-7 over a 7 minute period, Indiana had that entire first half, and Duke pretty much controlled the whole game. For much of this year I had considered the Gophers to be a possible Final Four contending team and maybe the best Gopher team of my life. That seems laughable now, as I'm fairly certain the '97 team would crush these guys.
That's not to say this can't be a very good year. I'm picturing the team now as a top 5 finisher in the Big 10 with like a 5 seed and a decent shot to make the Sweet 16. Wouldn't we all have taken that coming into the season? Of course we would have. By any measure (for the Gopher program) that's a successful season, it's just that it felt like the bar had been raised and that this might be a special team, rather than a very good one. It's hard to feel that way anymore after watching Michigan completely outclass them on their own court. Hopefully they can sweet these next four winnable games and I can feel a bit better, and even though I know this is a really good Gopher team it's hard not to feel a bit of a gut punch here. It's not the losses, it's the way they lost. Hopefully they learn and move on. I'm also now extremely terrified of going to Northwestern.
2. Los Angeles Lakers. I know I'm not exactly breaking new ground here because I think everyone is aware of the Lakers' struggles, but holy crap you guys. Anybody who ever watched sports new their might be an adjustment period bringing in Nash to play with a guy who dominates the ball like Kobe (similar to the LeBron/Wade pairing initially) but even if it took them a while to get it figured out with complimentary players like Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol you'd expect them, worst case, to end up being a very dangerous low seed in the playoffs as they finally figured it out. One problem - they're not figuring it out, and at 17-23 are in severe danger of missing the playoffs after losing to Toronto on Sunday (TORONTO!!) thanks in part to Howard getting booted for picking up two technicals. They've now lost eight of their last ten, and count losses to the Raptors, Cavs, Magic, and the Kings among their failures this year - those are some bad teams. Normally I would be enjoying this immensely, but I just acquired Kobe for my Fantasy NBA team and so now I don't hate him as much.
3. Jordan Hulls. So let me get this straight, the Underpants Gnome plays out of his mind against the Gophers but then plays like a total asshole against Wisconsin? And don't you dare credit Wisconsin for this either, because he was just total garbage who couldn't shoot, only bothered to take 1 three-pointer (seriously with that range he only attempted one? First time all year), and turned the ball over like he was giving it away for Valentine's Day to some handsome man. Plus he was outplayed by Ben Brust who sucks. And what was with Indiana doubling down on Ryan freaking Evans on the block? Just let him go to work, you'll be better off letting him shoot. The only possible explanations for this game was that Indiana felt invincible after beating the Gophers and forgot to try or Jordan Hulls threw the game. Also, why do I have so much trouble spelling invincible? Everything about this has my brain scrambled like Kevin Burleson trying to break a press.
4. Matt Ryan. I thought Ryan was getting a little too much heat for never having won a playoff game (probably because the Matty Ice nickname is so annoying) but it's hard to find a way to not blame that game on Ryan (with a major assist to the defense). I'll even forgive him the pick because Roddy White fell down, but there were plenty of unforgivable mistakes. The fumbled shot gun snap that San Fran recovered which hit him perfectly in the hands and not picking up a single first down after recovering the Crabtree fumble (giving the Niners great field position after a shitty punt) were both pretty awful, but Ryan saved his worst for the biggest play of the game. On that fourth down inside the 10 he forced the ball to a non-open White, never bothering to look at any other receive and thus missing an absolutely wide open Tony Gonzalez who had slipped behind the linebackers and there wasn't a safety over the top - easy TD. I should feel good about this loss because the Falcons screwed over the Vikings in '98, but I hate Jim Harbaugh, Ray Lewis, and the Patriots so Atlanta was my only chance to enjoy the Super Bowl. Hopefully they'll be good food.
5. Seattle Mariners. If I'm going to praise the Nationals for making a good move, I gotta point out that the Mariners apparently are assembling a softball team or something. After acquiring Michael Morse in the above mentioned trade, they now have all these guys: Morse, Raul Ibanez, Jason Bay, Kendrys Morales, Justin Smoak, and Jesus Montero. Which means that even if they plan to give Montero another shot to be a catcher (LOL) they've still got five mostly immobile types to try to shoehorn into a lineup. That means something like Montero at C, Ibanez in LF, Morse in RF, Morales at 1b, and either Smoak or Bay at DH with the other coming off the bench? Ibanez and Morse as two of your 3 outfielders? Franklin Gutierrez is very good, but he's not that good. I guess the real point is why even trade for Morse? Even if they've given up on Smoak (and if they have they should trade him to the Twins because I STILL BELIEVE DAMMIT) acquiring Morse brings nothing to you that you don't already have, and by trading John Jaso to do it you've severely downgraded your defense going to Montero, but they don't really have another choice because, again, they have way to many slow RF/DH/1b types to fit Montero's bat in any other way. Seattle has the potential for a pretty kick-ass future (seriously their minor league pitchers are top shelf) but if they keep fucking up the present like this it's not going to matter. Those Nintendo guys haven't done anything baseball-related right since Baseball Stars. Remember Baseball Stars 2? What were they thinking?
You'll notice I had the prudence to not write about this whole Manti Te'o thing because let's be honest, it's pretty played out at this point. Was a pretty good day on twitter, though. I also didn't write about hockey because it's a sport for cretins. See you soon with a preview of the Northwestern game. Or maybe just a link to the one I wrote like a week ago. Jesus aren't they supposed to space these games out?