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Monday, December 29, 2008

Don't Drink the Yankee Kool Aid

With the recent signings of C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Mark Texiera by the New York Yankees this winter, many baseball fans find the upcoming 2009 season to already have a determined outcome. Personally, I don’t think we have to fear any Yankee domination come October ‘09. Sure, I feel the Yankees have a fantastic shot at winning their division but an actual pennant or championship seems to be a bold prediction. The Yankees have skirted around a $200 million dollar payroll for the last six years and have come up empty handed each season. Their nearest World Series titles (’01 & ’03) came with the help of ageing vets from the 1990’s dynasty like Paul O’Neil, Scott Brosius, and Roger Clemens. Having their origins in one of the wealthiest markets in the world coupled with a rich historical history has granted the Yankee organization with a tremendous ability to acquire pristine baseball talent that most baseball franchises can only dream about. Since the 2001 free agent signing of Mike Mussina, Yankee high priced off-season acquisitions have been met with utter dismay from the rest of the league and have trumpeted an outpouring of claims to forgo the regular season and present the title to New York. As soon as New York announced signings of Jason Giambi in 2002 or traded for the venerable Alex Rodriguez in 2004, fans have criticized the Yankees of destroying the competitive integrity of Major League Baseball. The fact is, since Luis Gonzalez’s 2001 World Series winning blooper, the Yankees (0-8) have been watching other franchises poor Champagne over their heads come the end of October.
In some ways you can argue that the Yankees reckless spending is detrimental to their title cause. If one looks at their successful 90s teams, one sees a lineup mixed with quality all-stars (Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, & David Wells) and consistent roll players (Paul O’Neil, Tino Martinez, & Joe Girardi). Today’s Yankee lineup today seems to be more a row of me-first superstars (AROD, Johnny Damon) who have trouble fathoming the concept of teamwork and understanding a role that might place them as a second fiddle to another player. The Yankees spending is also detrimental to all out victory for the fact it places the team under an immense public/media microscope where only total victory will quiet the detractors yet unify fan bases that despise New York. Even if they Yankees do win a World Series in 2009, will the players, front office, and fans even enjoy the victory since they were supposed to win anyways?
So go ahead and be seduced by the signing of a chubby pitcher coming off 250 innings pitched in 2008. Hey, even talk yourself into A.J. Burnett putting in 30 starts in a non-contract year or Mark Texiera living up to the tremendous pressure of a mega contract. We know ARod is doing well with the scrutiny from New York’s media that has been generated by a massive salary. Rodriguez has put up some outstanding numbers in the regular season but has failed to achieve the same semblance of success come playoff time. Something Texiera will have to contemplate as he becomes the latest high price talent to sport pinstripes. Besides, offensive production has never aided the Yankees come playoff time this decade. In 2007 and 2006, the Yankees scored over 900 runs in the regular season but were trounced each time in the ALDS. Therefore, I’m not necessarily sold that this team’s perceived excellent offensive firepower will spell victory come October.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Iowa vs Michigan St

IOWA (8)PtsRBAsstStlsFg%3pt%FT%
GAndre Wooldridge15.
GAdam Haluska16.
GJeff Horner12.
FGreg Brunner11.
FReggie Evans15.311.
B:G Dean Oliver12.
G/F Ricky Davis15.
F Ryan Bowen9.

Woolridge: In 1997 became the first player in Big Ten history to lead the conference in points and assists.  What more can I say? Honors: 1st team All Big Ten 1996, 1997
Haluska: A deceivingly good Iowa career.  Absolute burner and money from the line.  Defenders just couldn't stay in front of him and he made them pay. Honors: 1st team All Big Ten 2007
Horner: Level-headed, fundamentally sound guard who started all four years.  Not a great shooter but looked to get everyone else involved.  Another solid FT shooter.  Honors: Big Ten Tournament MVP 2006
Brunner: Solid, but unspectacular big man who had a little range on his shot.  For someone who shot as well as he did, I was always a bit surprised that his FT% wasn't better.  Honors: 1st team All Big Ten 2006
Evans: This JUCO transfer wreaked havoc in the Big Ten for two year.  An absolute rebounding machine, Evans was not a good shooter but instead a fearsome competitor that dared opponents to come into the lane.  Honors: Ben Ten Tournament MVP 2001
Bench: Dean Oliver is another quick guard Iowa can throw at you.  Ricky Davis was an offensive force who was so indifferent about defense he went to the NBA after one year, and big man Ryan Bowen was given 1st team honors in 1998 for his stellar season.

Strengths:  Guard play, rebounding, experience.  
Iowa's guards are not so unique in themselves as to what they bring as a unit.  Haluska is the big guard that can fly to the hoop, Horner the quarterback of the offense who controls the tempo and Wooldridge is a blend of the two.  Ricky Davis coming off the bench is a nice touch.
With six of the guys playing at least 3 seasons in Iowa City and Dr. Tom on the pine, this team's experience cannot be discounted.  Additionally, the Hawkeyes are running out two tournament MVPs ensuring that an under-prepared team will suffer the consequences.

Weaknesses:  Size, offensive imbalance
Iowa's biggest strength--work ethic--is offset by its biggest weakness regarding the physical limitations exposed by playing squads stocked with NBA lottery picks (the tallest guy on this team is 6'8" Reggie Evans).  Scoring in the post is already difficult enough but none of the post players on this team are go-to guys.  The Hawkeyes attempt to shroud this disadvantage with quality in Evans, Brunner, and the hard-working Bowen.  One of them, most likely Brunner, will have to step up to take some of the offensive responsibilities off the guards.

MSU  (2) Pts RB Assts Stls Fg% 3pt% FT%
G Mateen Cleaves 12.5 2.1 6.6 1.6 0.405 0.312 0.737
G Shawn Respert 21.3 3.5 2.5 1.2 0.484 0.455 0.857
F Morris Peterson 11.9 4.8 1.0 0.9 0.483 0.377 0.748
F Jason Richardson 9.6 5.0 1.4 0.8 0.502 0.382 0.648
C Paul Davis 13.2 7.0 1.4 1.1 0.537 0.270 0.763
B: G Drew Neitzel 11.1 2.0 4.2 0.7 0.411 0.399 0.865
G Charlie Bell 10.5 4.5 2.6 0.9 0.438 0.343 0.782
F Raymar Morgan 13.3 5.7 1.2 0.8 0.533 0.307 0.678

Cleaves: Compared to Magic in his ability to get everybody involved although their similarities end there.  Excellent defensive player who is the ultimate 2nd coach.  Honors: 1st team All Big Ten 1998-2000; Big Ten POY 1998, 1999
Respert: Quite possibly the best pure shooter in this tournament.  His 21.3 ppg rank second only to Kris Humphries (knocked out in the 1st round by Iowa) but unlike most superstars he played all 4 years.  Honors: 1st team All Big Ten 1994, 1995; Big Ten POY 1995
Peterson: A role player his first two years who later exploded and became an NBA lottery pick. Excellent shooter and decent rebounder.  Honors: 1st team All Big Ten 1999, 2000; Big Ten POY 2000
Richardson: Forced to play PF for this team because of a lack of size, Richardson was a big part of that 2000 MSU team that won it all.  Don't be fooled by his averages as he only played 2 yrs and put up a 14.7/5.9/2.2 line his soph year while shooting over 50% from the floor.  Honors: 1st team All Big Ten 2001
Davis: A solid, unspectacular big man that is the holy hope for size on this team.  Fundamentally sound, excellent shooter in the paint and a good passer.  Honors: 1st team All Big Ten 2004
Bench: Two-time 1st team selection Drew Neitzel gives MSU another quick guard who can come in and do what Cleaves does while providing an improvement from three.  Charlie Bell was an excellent defender and passer who has found a niche in the NBA.  Raymar Morgan is a beast who hasn't really reached his potential but provides a little size to this small Spartan squad.

Strengths: Athleticism, Guard play, rebounding
Don't be fooled by the lack of height.  Since Izzo has taken over, Michigan St. has been one of the best rebounding teams in the country.  This team will have to go small though due to a lack of forwards but the guys they do have are excellent as three were named POY and all but Morgan were first team selections.

Weaknesses: Height, consistent FT shooting
The bigs on this team consist of Paul Davis and no one else.  If forced to play a team such as Ohio State there could be some serious problems.  There are some good free throw shooters on this team and there are some average ones, but one thing I remember is the Spartans tend to miss these gimmes in close games.

What to expect:
Iowa will use the same formula that brought them success against Minnesota: take the PG out of the game and burn clock.  For the Spartans every long rebound will be a fast break opportunity so expect them to try to run often.  Iowa is not too big either so these teams match-up well.

Match-up to watch:  Jason Richardson on who ever guards him (Iowa may go zone)
Richardson is the one guy that will give Iowa the most problems.  He's too quick for Brunner and Evans but too strong for their guards.  If he has a big day watch out.  If the shot is not falling then Iowa's defense can settle down and force MSU to shoot from three.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Jedi/Sith Power Poll

1) Yoda: No shock here. The little green guy may look frail and innocent but he can pounce with tenacious speed at any sign of a threat. His cunning intellect is second to none. Not even the conniving Lord Palpatine could outsmart the unknown creature (possibly Whills) from an unknown world. His stalemate duel with Emperor Palpatine in Revenge of Sith is something I feel personally was controlled by Yoda. Nothing the Emperor threw at Yoda seemed daunting and the fact that Yoda took the offensive in challenging Palpatine will always sway me towards the little green guy in who is the more powerful being. To gauge Yoda’s wealth of knowledge, one only has to look at his pupils that include Obi-Wan Kenobi, Count Dooku, Luke Skywalker, and Jedi Council member Mace Windu. Yoda is also involved with Qui-Gon Jinn in developing ‘Force Ghost,’ the ability of immortality. Props for his outstanding acrobatic display in chasing Count Dooku into retreat in Attack of the Clones.

2) Obi-Wan Kenobi: Hear me out before you disregard my credibility in forming this poll. The reason I place Obi-Wan at such a high ranking and ahead of the mighty Emperor is Kenobi’s impressive resume. Not only did he slice the duel lightsabre owning Darth Maul in half, he also defeated General Grievous (could wield up to 4 Lightsabers), and turned Anakin Skywalker into a gimp. Obi-Wan never was outright defeated (he willingly allowed Darth Vader to strike him down in A New Hope) by a Sith. Sure, Yoda stated he was incapable of challenging Palpatine in Revenge of the Sith but Kenobi became even stronger as the Star Wars series continued. Personally, I feel he was capable of standing toe to toe with Palpatine. Again, his suicide was intended to aid Luke in his Jedi development and not a defeat at the hands of Vader. I find the struggle with Count Dooku along with Anakin in Attack of the Clones to be more due to youth than lack of capability.

3) Emperor Palpatine: this master of psychology has taken advantage of many a mind to gain his seat within the galaxy. Darth Sidious has mastered the use of ‘Force Lightning’ to go along with his awesome lightsaber and force capabilities. Still, the guy is old and nowhere near as athletic as many of the other Jedis/Siths on this list. He’s an Anakin Skywalker whiney plea for a trial from Mace Windu making him oblivious to the Sith cause. I feel the Emperor’s ability to seduce fellow Siths like Count Dooku and Anakin/Vader to do his dirty work is the main reason for a lot of his Galactic success, not his brute strength.

4) Mace Windu: this member of the Jedi Council was tutored by the great Yoda and had was one of the few council members to have reservations about teaching a young Anakin Skywalker the ways of the Force. The purple lightsaber wielding Jedi was an Anakin distraction away from defeating the great Palpatine. Also took out some praying mantis looking creatures in Attack of the Clones and that always counts for something.

5) General Grievous: if somebody has over 10 Jedi kills (according to the animated Clone Wars episodes), he deserves to be highly ranked in the power poll. Grievous’ breathing problem was caused by Windu crushing his body armor over his lungs during the successful kidnapping of Palpatine in Revenge of the Sith. Therefore, I had to place Windu in front of this towering cyborg. Grievous’ ability to use four lightsabers in combat places him at a stronger position than Darth Maul and the resumes of the remaining poll members.

6) Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker: Defeats of Count Dooku and the murder of Emperor Palpatine warrant mentioning for this legend of the Star Wars Universe. His confusing second battle with Obi-Wan Kenobi will always be a stalemate in my opinion. Also took a brutal maiming from Kenobi in the end of Episode III. Vader would also end up being defeated by Luke Skywalker in Jedi but not entirely defeated for he maintained enough energy to dispatch the Emperor. It should be stated that Skywalker did lose his arm in combat with Dooku but eventually defeated the Count in Episode III.

7) Luke Skywalker: My boyhood idol will not be going any lower on this poll. This legend restored order to the galaxy and deserves credit for not making the same mistakes as his father. Showed some exceptional piloting skills in destroying the first Death Star. Took out his main nemesis (Vader) in Jedi but couldn’t challenge the Emperor’s Force Lightning.

8) Count Dooku: The wealthiest man in the Galaxy was also quite a Jedi with the ability to use Force Lightning. Initially subdued Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker during Attack of the Clones. Fleeing the mighty Yoda doesn’t help one’s style points though. Eventually death at the hands of the #6 ranked Jedi/Sith doesn’t help his status either.

9) Darth Maul: His lack of ability to use Force Lightning hurts this mesmerizing character from The Phantom Menace (really the only reason to watch Episode One). The sinister looking Darth Maul matched his unique looking features with an amazing staff like lightsaber. Killed the #10 ranked Qui-Gon Jinn in an epic duel at the end of Episode One.

10) Qui-Gon Jinn: Kind of important to the whole saga. Without his discovery and push to train Anakin Skywalker to be a Jedi, we have no Star Wars. It was either him or the guy with the long forehead Ki-Adi-Mundi.

Michigan vs. Wisconsin

MICHIGAN (5) Pts RB Assts Stls Fg% 3pt% FT%
G Jimmy King 11.9 4.1 2.7 1.4 0.477 0.351 0.676
G Louis Bullock 17.9 3.4 2.5 1.1 0.434 0.433 0.867
SF LaVell Blanchard 15.8 7.3 1.4 0.6 0.435 0.389 0.813
F Maurice Taylor 12.3 6.2 1.1 0.7 0.507 0.200 0.718
C Tractor Traylor 14.7 8.9 1.8 1.2 0.567 0.000 0.544
B: F Bernard Robinson, Jr. 12.5 5.3 3.0 1.4 0.439 0.297 0.813
G Daniel Horton 14.7 2.6 4.4 1.7 0.396 0.358 0.796
G Ray Jackson 10.1 4.6 2.4 1.0 0.493 0.259 0.680

King: One of the fab five that actually stuck around, King was a big guard who could shoot from everywhere but the line.
Bullock: Bullock was probably the best player each year he was a  Wolverine and even averaged 20 a game his Jr year.  The Timberwolves agreed he was a stud by taking him with the 13th pick in the '99 draft.
Blanchard: Led the team in scoring all four years.  He is outstanding from 3 and clutch from the line.
Taylor: Played one year in Ann Arbor but had some dominant performances in the Big Ten Tournament.
Traylor:  The Tractor was a mini Shaq, putting up several double doubles while manhandling people in the paint.
Bench: Robinson was a solid forward who could post up a little and shoot from outside, Horton, a true floor general, adds another guard to UM's arsenal, and Jackson is outstanding swingman who can be the showstopper.

Strengths: Athleticism, FT shooting, Size on the perimeter
Michigan's guards are big.  Bullock and Jackson will tower over Harris and Kelley.  Even though the stats don't show it, Michigan may have the most future NBA players on the team.  

Weaknesses: foul trouble, me-first basketball, inexperience
The Wolverines may have the most talent but the guys didn't stick around to show it.  Tractor Traylor was often plagued by foul trouble and when Horton is on the bench there can be some doubt on whether or not the offense will be run or if someone is going to try and steal the spotlight.

WISCONSIN (4) Pts RB Assts Stls Fg% 3pt% FT%
G Devin Harris 14.8 4.1 3.1 1.7 0.446 0.374 0.778
G Mike Kelley 4.7 2.3 2.7 2.1 0.472 0.279 0.750
F Alando Tucker 16.5 5.7 1.6 0.8 0.479 0.306 0.636
F Michael Finley 18.7 5.6 3.2 1.5 0.440 0.338 0.769
F Mike Wilkinson 11.8 6.6 1.7 1.3 0.474 0.336 0.737
Bench G Kirk Penney 11.5 3.8 1.7 0.6 0.433 0.387 0.753
C Brian Butch 9.0 5.4 0.8 0.5 0.467 0.319 0.626
G Tracy Webster 14.4 2.8 5.7 2.1 0.426 0.411 0.775

Harris: Exceptionally quick off the dribble, I never saw a guy Harris couldn't drive on.  Honors: 1st team All Big Ten 1994
Kelley: The glue that holds this team together, Kelly never looked to score but instead to stop his opponent from scoring.  An absolute nightmare for most offensive foes, Kelley averaged over 2 steals a game for his career.  Honors: Def player of the year 1999
Tucker: Tucker and Harris were an underrated tandem while wearing Badger red.  Tucker is a go-to guy that doesn't disappoint.  Honors: 1st Team All Big Ten 2006; Player of the Year 2007
Finley: Forced to play PF on this team, Finley will help his teammates on the offensive end  with his versatile game.  The guy can post up and hit the turn-around j or he can nail the big three.  Honors: 1st Team All Big Ten 1993, 1995
Wilkinson: A big, burly lumberjack type guy, Wilkinson improved each year in Madison.  As a senior he earned first team honors thanks to mastering the 12ft jumper and for his hard work in the paint.  Honors: 1st team All Big Ten 2005
Bench: Kirk Penney earned first team honors in '03 & '04 for his dynamite 3 point shot, Polar bear Brian Butch was another awkward looking big man who could shoot from 18 feet but struggled defensively against smaller, quicker players, and Tracy Webster gives the Badgers some backup if anything happens to Harris or Kelley.

Strengths: Defense, guard depth, experience
The Badgers defense is the best in the tournament bar none.  Harris and Kelley make up for what they lack in size with lightning quickness.  The sheer depth of guards will enable the Badgers to create a variety of matchups causing constant miss-matches.  And with several four year players on the squad crunch time should be a little less nerve-wracking. 

Weaknesses: Lack of size, Offensive oriented big men
Really, anything other than these two weaknesses is nitpicking.  The lack of size could haunt the Badgers as Finley is already playing power forward.  If Butch and Wilkinson are forced to score more than 10 points this team could be doomed.

What to Expect:  Wisconsin will grind out the game, forcing Michigan to create lots of turnovers.  Michigan will run, run, and try to get the Tractor to push people around.  If Wisconsin has their way they'll win 45-41 while Michigan will shoot for the upper 70's. 

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Big 12 (South) Predictions for 2009


Record: 11-1 (7-1)

2008 Synopsis

Being left out of the BCS Championship Game will be forever stuck in the craw of Texas football history in 2008. Yet, an eleven win campaign can never be looked down upon for a program, even one as prestigious as the Longhorns. The “what if” thought process will haunt this team until next year’s kickoff. One can only wonder if their heart will be in the upcoming Fiesta Bowl matchup with Ohio State?

Strengths and Weaknesses

The announced return of the offensive machine Colt McCoy for his senior year is a huge coup for head coach Mack Brown. McCoy (Texas’ leading rusher) will for sure be the leading Heisman candidate heading into 2009. The Longhorns will also sport a stable of thoroughbred running backs in Foswhitt Whitaker and monstrous Cody Johnson. The 255 pounder had an amazing 12 touchdowns in 2008. McCoy will also be protected with a stout offensive line with four senior linemen returning for action.
Attrition within the receiving corp and along the defensive line will make an eleven win season difficult to match in 2009. Leading receivers Quan Cosby and Jordan Shipley will be graduating and only senior Lamarr Houston will be coming back on the defensive front. Running the ball and stopping the run will determine how far the Longhorns get in 2009. A weak non-conference schedule (Rice, Florida Atlantic, and UTEP) will allow the Longhorns to achieve a 10-2 record and first place in Big 12 South division next season.

Texas’ Memorial Stadium (cap. 93,553) gradually through expansion and renovation over the last ten years has become a pristine, state of the art football gallery. Its immaculate grass sod is arguably the finest playing surface in the country. Though, for a stadium that seats over 90,000 people, I expect crowd noise on par with an SEC venue. This unfortunately has not been the case in Austin. The crowd creates a wine and cheese scene instead of a Lion’s Den so prominently described in the Southeast and other large capacity stadiums.

Stadium Grade: B+

Oklahoma State

Record: 9-3 (5-3)

2008 Synopsis

Mike Gundy had his Cowboy team sitting in the top ten for most of the year and put to bed the chatter over not being former coach Les Miles equal. The offensive mastermind (Gundy) has built and sustained a quality program in Stillwater.

Strengths and Weaknesses

2009 will be marked by the return of the three-headed offensive monster in quarterback Zac Robinson (2,735 yards passing), running back Kendall Hunter (1,518 yards rushing, 6.7 ypc), and wide receiver Dez Bryant (18 touchdowns). Three returning offensive lineman will also be back to aid in clearing holes for the amazing running game and aid Gundy’s plentiful passing attack. The Cowboy defense will return seven players with the entire linebacker corp coming back for their senior season. Massive nose guard Tonga Tea will be a difficult cog in the run defense to replace. Both starting defensive ends (Derek Bruton & Ugo Chinasa) return to create a much needed pass rush. If they were not Oklahoma State, I would pick the Cowboys as the favorite in the South. I tough early season matchup with Georgia will toughen up the Cowboys for the Big 12 season and their second place finish (9-3).

Boone Pickens Stadium (cap. 60,000) has been enlarged by the funding from the generous booster who bears his name upon the Cowboy’s stadium. The field now welcomes more proper college football scenery with the football field being completely enclosed. Cowboy fans have done well in transferring their zaniness presented at Gallagher-Iba to Pickens Stadium. The absurd rule banning non season ticket holders from attending the Bedlam rivalry needs to be outlawed. They were 10,000 empty seats for the big matchup against the Sooners this year.

Stadium Grade: B-


Record: 12-1 (7-1)

2008 Synopsis

Oklahoma’s season will be either remembered for glory or another failed BCS Bowl effort. Bob Stoops has lost the stigma of being a “big game” coach and shows the weight gain of a coach dealing with the stress of the hot seat. A national title would sure bury those worries and reestablish Stoops as one of the elites in the college football community. Oh yeah, quarterback Sam Bradford rounded up the regular season by laying claim to the Heisman trophy.

Strengths and Weaknesses

The 2009 season will hinge on whether stud passer Sam Bradford returns for another go at a college football season. If he does, Oklahoma may be able to offset the damage of losing everyone from one of top offensive lines in the country. Receivers Juaquin Iglesias and Manuel Johnson will be graduating, leaving new faces for Bradford to throw to. Running backs DeMarco Murray and Chris Brown will be returning to help in the offensive effort. The unusual porous defense displayed by the Sooners for most of 2008 had to send alarm to the defensive minded Stoops. Therefore, I see nothing but improvement coming from Oklahoma in 2009. If not, I think defensive coordinator Brent Venables will be looking for a new job next December. Oklahoma achieves a hard fought 8 wins and four losses next year. Considering the amount of decimation on the offensive side of the ball and the success in ’08, a third place finish in the south is nothing to be ashamed of for Oklahoma.

Memorial Stadium (cap. 82,112) is always packed no matter the competition and one of the cleanest stadiums in the conference. The fans seem drunk with the program’s success and usually only bring the noise for big matchups. Though, when the game does come with hype, the Sooner faithful do not lack enthusiasm. One can only imagine how much the atmosphere would improve if the Red River Rivalry came north every other year? For a program with such history, the Sooners home just lacks that presence or charisma that most major football schools supply for game-day theater.

Stadium Grade: B

Texas Tech

Record: 11-1 (7-1)

2008 Synopsis

Head Coach Mike Leach was a blowout loss from Oklahoma away from getting a shot at a true amazing season in Lubbock. Though, considering the status of Texas Tech’s football program years ago, one cannot be embarrassed of their eleven win season. Still, the consolation of a trip to the Cotton Bowl seems unrewarding for such a fine record. Red Raider fans should also feel glee for the fact that Leach is still manning the sidelines of this former wasteland of college football. Michael Crabtree’s miraculous last second winning touchdown catch against Texas can always be reminisced upon for years to come by Tech fans.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Quarterback Graham Harrell, his 41 touchdown passes and 4,747 passing yards will exit after 2008. The Red Raiders will also see exodus along its vaunted offensive line with the graduation of second team All-Big 12 linemen Louis Vazquez and Rylan Reed. Two-time Biletnikoff award winner Michael Crabtree will also be lost to the NFL, placing a severe absence in the Red Raiders passing attack. Eight players will be returning to Texas Tech’s defense in ’09 with only second team All-Big 12 safety Daniel Charbonnet leaving school. Hopefully, Texas Tech’s defense will be able to step up and limit the carnage on the opposite side of the ball. I see this being highly doubtful and a fourth place finish in the South Division with a 7-5 record in the works for '09.

SBC Stadium (cap. 52,882) garnered the spotlight this season with some major prime-time matchups. The stadium lacks the size of its South Division brethren but brought quite a noise level for its two huge night games against the Longhorns and Oklahoma State. Still, major point deductions for having the corporate sponsor (SBC) for the stadium. Corporate naming rights don’t belong in the college game.

Stadium Grade: C+


Record: 4-8 (2-6)

2008 Synopsis

2008 christened first year coach Art Briles to the Waco scene. The season brought a one game improvement in the win column and the emergence of the talented Robert Griffin at quarterback. The program established that it is rising from the basement of the Big 12 with blowout victories over Iowa State and Texas A&M. A real direction seems to be in the works for Briles’ program.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Three more years of Robert Griffin is the main reason for optimism in Waco. The athletic quarterback seems to have a knack for making electric plays and turning broken plays into large gains. Eight starters will be returning to an improving defense under coordinator Brian Norwood. Having a returning center (JD Walton) is also a huge omen for an upcoming season. Baylor’s second leading rusher Jay Finley also returns to aid in the Bears’ running game. Both kicker (Ben Parks) and punter (Derek Epperson) return for the special teams, essential for a rising program. The only weakness for this team is getting over the baggage of being a program mired in mediocrity. I call for a 5th place South finish with another one game improvement (5-7).

Floyd Casey (cap. 50,000) is a stadium that really lacks a reputation for reasons being that the Baylor program has failed to have any semblance of success for the last 25 years. Waco itself maintains a reputation as a sour college town with no livelihood. I have no idea really how to grade this stadium.

Stadium Grade: C (really should be undecided)

Texas A&M

Record: 4-8 (2-6)

2008 Synopsis

2008 represented a transition year for the Aggies with new head coach in Mike Sherman taking over the reins for the terminated Dennis Franchione. With most first year head coaches, the season was entrenched in instituting a new system of play with players not recruited by the new head coach. With Sherman’s pro-style background, working with players recruited for the zone-read offense fostered its predictable shortcomings in the four win '08 season. Sherman’s hire also displays a yearning to return to the glory days of the Aggie past (Sherman was an assistant under R.C. Slocum). The verdict is still out on whether the “wrecking crew” will return.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Three year starting quarterback Stephen McGee’s graduation will place a void behind center, as will the loss of bruising running back Jovorskie Lane. Speedster Mike Goodson will return but his production dramatically decreased this season by only rushing for 406 yards. The running game must improve for the Aggies to be competitive in the Big 12. Texas Tech has surpassed A&M as the second best football program in Texas (something that can’t sit well with Aggie fans). Currently, Texas A&M has even become more of a basketball school (those screams you hear are A&M alumni running for the hills). Drastic help is needed to return this dormant football program to national prominence. I’m just not sure if some washed up NFL coach/coordinator is the man to do it. The Aggies ride another rough transition season with a last place finish in the South Division and a 4-8 record.

Kyle Field (cap. 82,600) and its 12th man tradition is a glorious sight on Saturday afternoons. The militaristic culture of the student body and the adoration for its collie mascot Reveille are second to none in the tradition department. Not many student sections are more involved in the game action. Even the concrete edifice of Kyle Field seems to fit the military vibe so prevalent in College Station. The simplicity of the stadium would fit well on a military base. Kyle Field’s grandstands tower over the game action and seem to have been designed for outright visitor intimidation. A&M’s student body swaying, yell leader chants, and the outright fan loyalty deserve a better product on the football field.

Stadium Grade: A

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Heisman Jinx

With Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford winning the Heisman Trophy this past Saturday, the Florida Gators will automatically be the National Champions this upcoming bowl season. I make this bold prediction due to the emerging theory that winning the Heisman spells doom for the winner’s respective team in their upcoming college football postseason game. This decade itself has seen winners like Reggie Bush (costly fumble) go down to the Texas Longhorns and the Heisman runner up Vince Young in the 2005 Rose Bowl and last years’ winner Tim Tebow, was stopped in a Capital One Bowl shootout 41-35 to Michigan. Tebow failed to lead his team to victory on the Gator’s last drive by throwing four straight incompletions. Troy Smith, Ohio State’s victorious Heisman winner in 2006 also met a cruel fate with a horrible showing (4 for 14 passing, 1 interception) in the BCS Title Game that ended with a 41-14 drubbing at the hands of the Florida Gators.
It doesn’t end there either. In 2000, Heisman winner Chris Wienke saw his high powered Florida State Seminole offense get stonewalled (4 interceptions) by Oklahoma 13-2 in the Orange Bowl with only a last second safety staving off an embarrassing shutout. The following year was met with another Heisman failure where Nebraska’s quarterback Eric Crouch (5 for 15 passing) came under the storm of the Miami Hurricanes stout defense in a 37-14 blowout BCS title game loss. Again in 2003, the Heisman jinx would emerge with Jason White’s inability to achieve victory over LSU in the Sugar Bowl by going 13 for 37 passing with two interceptions. It seems that not only do the Heisman winners lose their bowl game; they also put up some pathetic statistics to go along with the lapse in victory.
Proponents of the Heisman theory feel that the never-ending post-Heisman banquet dinners and constant media attention throughout December take a toll on the winner, sapping him of any ability to concentrate on the future task at hand, winning his respective team’s bowl game. Critics of the jinx however point to the success of Heisman winners in the 1990s, with all but 1992 winner Gino Torretta failing to grasp a bowl victory (Sugar Bowl loss to Alabama). This decade has even seen 2004 Heisman winner Matt Leinart (USC QB) achieve an impressive 55-19 title win over Oklahoma in the ’05 Orange Bowl. Personally, with the around the clock sports news coverage and the exponential growth of the Internet as a tool to report on college football this decade, a different beast has emerged regarding media attention over the Heisman winner than in years past. Heisman winners just can’t stem the tide of public curiosity that envelopes them after accepting the preeminent football award.
Either way you look at it, the fact is that this decade’s Heisman winners are 2-6 in their post-award bowl game, a stark contrast to the 9-1 record of the 90s. The growth in sports media and information resources has to be the culprit. So go ahead and put your money down on the Gators this upcoming January, because there is no chance of Sam Bradford avoiding the horrendous fate that has been bestowed upon glorious players of the last eight years at the Downtown Athletic Club.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Where do the Braves go from here?

Seriously, this is getting annoying.  Another top pitcher to the Yankees?  

The Braves reportedly offered AJ Burnett 5 yrs for $80 million while the Yankees got him for 5 and $82.5 million.  Factoring in taxes and cost of living, the Braves offered the better deal.  It appears winning was the deciding factor and I guess you can't blame a guy for that.  So what do the Braves do now?

The Braves reportedly had about $42 million to spend this offseason.  After trade talks for Peavy fizzled (thank you), Burnett burning them for New York, and Derek Lowe showing not interest I'm worried the Braves will throw a boatload of cash at 2nd-tier free agent in an effort to get someone to sign.  This would be a mistake.

What they should do is sit on the money.  Put more money in the draft.  Every year there is 1st and 2nd round talent that gets drafted in the 10th round because of their contract demands.  My advice is: Give in to those demands.  Pony up the dough.  Why not keep stockpiling the minor league system?  Boston does this and they are rewarded for it.  Follow their example.

The second part is to use the money they had set aside for this season on next season's free agents.  Let's compare the pitchers quickly:

2008 2009
CC Sabathia Josh Beckett
AJ Burnett John Lackey
Derek Lowe Tim Hudson
Andy Pettitte Brett Myers
Oliver Perez Cliff Lee
Ryan Dempster Rich Harden
Jon Garland Erik Bedard
Randy Wolf Kelvim Escobar
Jason Jennings Joel Piniero
Mike Hampton Vicente Padilla
Jamie Moyer Brad Penny
John Smoltz Doug Davis

Next year's market looks pretty good.  What if Atlanta signed Beckett to a huge contract?  This is unlikely, but it's possible if they hold off.  Frank Wren knows he needs 2 more starters.  How do John Lackey and Tim Hudson sound?  This is realistic and but it will only happen if the team remains patient and does not overreact.  Next year however, there is no excuse for not signing someone.  But that is a year away.  Now I'm just hoping they don't throw $10 million a year at Oliver Perez and $30 million at Raul Ibanez--wait, the Phillies already did that. 
Things are looking up already.

Phillies Ph Up.

Today Philadelphia signed Raul Ibanez to a $30+ million dollar contract over 3 years.  Ouch.

When I first read this I was flabbergasted.  I am not a Ibanez supporter and why would they give him this deal when they wouldn't give it to Pat Burrell?  The world may never know.

Fortunately for us, Keith Law has written a wonderful post about this.  Thank goodness it's not me because I just don't know what to say.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Iowa vs. Iowa State Basketball Preview

This Friday in Iowa City the Hawkeyes will be taking on their arch-rival the Iowa State Cyclones in a heated basketball feud. Iowa has tallied victories over their nemesis this year in football, wrestling, women’s basketball, and now look to finish the sweep with a victory at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Iowa (8-2) comes into the contest with a two game winning streak and a 19 point win over Northern Iowa. The Cyclones (6-2) stumble into the matchup suffering from a major home upset to fellow in-state school Drake University. Cyclone head coach Greg McDermott has really felt the consequences of star guard Wesley Johnson’s transfer to Syracuse and the basketball coach is starting to face harsh scrutiny in regards to his job productivity in Ames. Iowa second year head coach Todd Lickliter on the other hand just brought his career record at Iowa back to .500 (21-21) and seems to be taking the Hawkeye program in a more positive direction. Below is a breakdown of the two teams to better determine which side has the upper hand in this rivalry bout.


Iowa State brings solid guard play to the contest with stellar passer Diante Garrett (6.1 apg) and supersophmore German product Lucca Staiger. Staiger, who has failed to live up to the immense hype he brought to the program by only averaging eight points and one assist per game. Garrett has made up for this lack of production with eleven points a game. Coach McDermott has also placed a solid rotation of four guards in Bryan Peterson (6.1 ppg), Hawkeye transfer Alex Thompson, Adam Haluska’s little brother Sean, and Wes Eikmeier (7.3 ppg). Together the rotation is averaging 22 points a game, 7 assists. The foursome has provided much needed targets for Garrett’s excellent passing abilities. With Staiger hopefully solidifying his starting position as the season moves along and becoming comfortable with playing in the United States, the team’s offense should become quite a formidable weapon. The drop off from the Wesley Johnson transfer has not been felt to the degree that most critics thought would occur.
Leading Iowa scorer Anthony Tucker (13.1 ppg) finds himself on the bench for this huge game while serving a suspension for being arrested last weekend in Iowa City on charges of public intoxication. The length of the suspension has not yet been determined and has placed a serious blow to Iowa’s scoring ability. One pleasant surprise for Iowa so far this season, has been the emergence of shooting guard Jake Kelly (10.1 ppg, 3.1 apg), who initially began the season coming off the bench. The benching seems to have energized the Carmel, Indiana product. Sophomore Jeff Peterson mans the point position, but has struggled by only averaging 3.9 assists per game. The Minnesota prep has had trouble creating offense and feeding the Hawkeye’s stud forwards in the post for high percentage shots.

Advantage: Cyclones


Iowa has been blessed with the recruitment and immediate impact of local Iowa City product Matt Gatens. The true freshman has started the season averaging eleven points a game and an amazing 3.5 assists. His rebounding has hovered around a disappointing three a game, but the player’s natural positioning belongs on the wings and the top of the key. Senior power forward Cyrus Tate represents the best overall player for Iowa. His leadership, clutch shooting (buzzer beater against Kansas State), and 7.5 rebounds a game are unmatched on the Hawkeye bench. Aaron Fuller (3.0 rpg) and Andrew Brommer (1.7 rpg) provide the role of token scrub on the floor.
Craig Brackins has come into the 2008-2009 season on fire by averaging 17 points per contest. He has added 7 rebounds a game to lay claim as the top player on the Iowa State team. Unfortunately, he finds himself alone down low with very little size to accompany him in the lane. This adds more pressure for Brackins to create second chances for his team.

Advantage: Hawkeyes


With Iowa State’s four man guard rotation, their bench has become a seasoned attribute for the team. With so many guys seeing action, more passion will most likely be expressed on the hard-court as the players feel more involved in the team’s outcome. Again, the Cyclones lack much size beyond Brackins, leaving themselves vulnerable to teams with a decent physical inside presence.
Iowa has a surplus of big men in J.R. Angle (1.5 ppg), David Palmer (2.4 ppg), and Jarryd Cole(working his way back from ACL surgery). Junior college transfers Devan Bawinkel (3.3 ppg) and Jermain Davis (4.3 ppg) round out the backup guards. Davis, who was a starter at the beginning of the season, has quickly found himself coming off the bench with the emergence of Jake Kelly. Neither team is ashamed of their bench this season with Iowa’s starters logging just five more minutes per game than its Iowa State foes. Still, the lack of any size to spell Brackins gives the edge to Iowa.

Advantage: Hawkeyes


Todd Lickliter and Greg McDermott each originate from mid-major backgrounds and are well versed in building programs with lesser talented squads. Both coaches preach tough defense and an offense that utilizes patience with the shot clock until an open look occurs. Fast break points seem taboo for both team philosophies. As discussed earlier, Lickliter seems to be turning the corner in Iowa City, while McDermott struggles to deal with the loss of a key cog in his offense (Wesley Johnson) and the threat of termination. Lickliter has his team holding the opposition to 55 points a game, while the Cyclones are hovering around 60. Iowa State losing to Missouri Valley Conference dregs Drake University three years in a row is also inexcusable for a once proud Big 12 program. Though, Iowa has lost twice in a row to the Bulldogs also. This speaks volumes of the sad state of basketball currently within Iowa’s two major conference schools.

Advantage: Even

Iowa State’s desperation to win will show up on the court Friday night but the Cyclones haven’t seized victory in Iowa City since 2002. Though, Iowa is currently sporting an undefeated record (6-0) at Carver so far this young season. Iowa has also faced superior opposition (Kansas State & West Virginia) than the Cyclones and have faced a tough road environment (at Boston College). Iowa State’s most difficult matchup so far this season has been at Hawaii and Northern Iowa. I don’t know what to make of the Iowa State home loss to Drake other than it’s pathetic. The Tucker suspension will hurt but not enough to severely hamper Iowa’s scoring ability. Jermain Davis and Jeff Peterson will have to step up. This game will be a sluggish contest with poor shooting all over the court. The team that can get the ball to its forwards and get to the line will pull away in the second half. I feel Iowa’s size advantage and bigger guards will allow the Hawkeyes to achieve victory.

Final Score: Iowa wins 63-54

Blockbuster sends 12 packing

There was a pretty big trade last night.  As a Braves fan I'm sick and as a Cleveland supporter and a little befuddled.  Here's a quick rundown of each team's transaction starting with the middleman:

Cleveland sends OF Franklin Gutierrez to Seattle for RP Joe Smith and 2b Luis Valbuena 

Gutierrez represents a nice little lefty masher while playing good defense in both corners and center.  This past season was his first real chance to play everyday and he did not live up to expectations.  Cleveland already had Ben Francisco and Shin -Soo Choo so one had to move. I think Cleveland chose the right guy.  
Valbuena is a nice little gamble for 2b.  He gets on base at a fair clip and has some nice doubles power.  He's got the body of Carlos Baerga though, so if he doesn't stay in shape he might lose nearly all his value.
Joe Smith is a nifty sidearming righty that fits in well in a pen already stocked with goodies. Cleveland now has a situational righty to slide in late innings enabling Rafael Perez and Rafael Betancourt to keep their multi-inning roles.  Once Kerry Wood finalizes his deal this bullpen will be set.  It will also be the best in baseball.

Seattle traded RP JJ Putz, RP Sean Green, and OF Jeremy Reed to NY Mets and 2b Luis Valbuena to Cleveland for OF Endy Chavez, RHP Aaron Heilman, RHP prospect Maikel Cleto, 1b prospect Mike Carp, LHP Jason Vargas, OF Ezequiel Carrera, and OF Franklin Gutierrez.

The Mariners get a whopping seven players here.  I'll sort through as fast as I can.

Losing Putz means relatively little to a team that is not in contention.  Green was a nice reliever that had some value but he can be replaced also.
For Seattle Francisco is the guy that made this deal work.  He'll turn 26 in spring so his potential is just now starting to show.  Plays very good defense and is a superb baserunner.  There is some power potential but it seems likely he'll stay a doubles hitter accompanied by a lot of triples as long as his speed holds up.  It remains to be seen if he plays center or left but I have a feeling Seattle puts him in center to see if he can handle it (which he will).  As a fantasy player my eye is on him.
Endy Chavez should be used as a fourth outfielder since his hitting skills are weak at best.  He's another excellent defender who's probably best known for his catch in game 7 of the 2006 NLCS than anything else.
Aaron Heilman is a disgruntled reliever who told the Mets to start him or trade him.  Well, Aaron, you got your wish.  If used as a starter it will be a disaster since he only has two decent pitches and a pretty significant platoon split. Should ably fill the vacancy left by Sean Green.
Vargas is a bit of an enigma to me.  He destroyed the lower minors and showed loads of potential in AA, but once he hit AAA the wheels came off.  Maybe he can't hack it as a starter.  Some work with the pitching coaches should turn him into a valuable reliever.
Ezekiel Carrera is all wheels, Mike Carp looks like a lefty hitting Ryan Garko, and Maikel Cleto is only 19 so there's still time for him to turn into a dominating closer.  

NY Mets traded OF Endy Chavez, OF Ezequiel Carrera, RP Aaron Heilman, RP Maikel Cleto, LHP Jason Vargas, 1b Mike Carp, and to Seattle and RP Joe Smith to Cleveland for RP JJ Putz, RP Sean Green, and OF Jeremy Reed.

JJ Putz gives the Mets a dominating reliever (when healthy) that's actually better than KRod.  He has averaged more than 11 strikeouts per 9 innings over the last three seasons and, if memory serves me correctly, saved 35 consecutive games in 2007.  
Sean Green is a sinkerballing reliever whose biggest concern is that Luis Castillo remembers how to play defense.  Green has solid control and to use the ever popular phrase "a move to the National League can only help."
Jeremy Reed takes Endy Chavez's place as 4th outfielder/late inning defensive replacement.  This guy was a hot prospect but never developed power or mastered the strike zone.

Verdict:  Surprisingly, I really like what this deal does for the Indians.  The AL Central is a division completely up for grabs this season and little moves like this one might be difference makers.  Seattle gets to restock the the upper levels of their minor league system and gets to embark on a risk-free experiment known as Franklin Gutierrez.  But really, let's not fool ourselves.  The team with the biggest improvement from this trade is the Mets.  Reed and Green essentially replace two guys they were traded for (and are younger) while Putz improves them by 2-3 wins.  Maybe as much as 5 if you look at the guys he replaced.  As a Braves fan I just threw up a little.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Sabathia a bargain for Yankees

CC followed the money.   I could sit here and harp about how disappointed I am but at least those pinstripes will make him look thinner.

7 yrs $160 million is about what Johan's making annually only with one more year.  This is a bargain as far as I'm concerned.  Getting the majors best pitcher in the prime of his career is sweet.  Having a proven track record in both the NL and AL is sweet.  Getting a guy that has 200 innings pitched at the end of August is super sweet.  With this deal the Yankees just solved two problems: Getting a #1 starter and getting more bullpen depth.  

As it stands now the Yankees rotation is:

1. Sabathia
2. Chien Ming Wang
3. Joba Chamberlain
4. Phil Hughes
5. Ian Kennedy/Kei Igawa/Alfredo Aceves

I know a lot of people are going to predict bust but I think CC is worth it.  With his size, it's true he may not make it the length of the contract.  David Wells seemed to get along just fine, as did Rick Reuschel, Bartolo Colon, .  But let's not be silly, right now CC is better than Wells and Big Daddy and that's what you're paying for.  What will he give you right now?  Over the last three season's he's averaged:

16-9 229IP  47BB 211Ks  3.03ERA  and 1.14WHIP (that's a ridiculously low 1.83 walks/9 innings!!!)   

If giving him the 7th year is what it took to make him a Yankee, then their fans shouldn't complain.  If he doesn't last they'll just eat the money at the end of the deal and move on.  Either way I doubt anyone will complain about him after the Yanks sign Burnett/Lowe and win the World Series in 2009 and 2010.

Purdue vs. Ohio State Rd 2

PURDUE (6) Pts RB A Stls Fg% 3pt% FT%
PG Chad Austin 17.0 3.6 3.1 1.2 0.416 0.359 0.768
G Kenny Lowe 10.1 2.4 1.7 0.8 0.442 0.398 0.863
F Cuonzo Martin 13.1 3.8 2.0 0.6 0.472 0.451 0.777
F Carl Landry 17.4 7.1 1.2 1.0 0.602 0.232 0.714
C Brad Miller 12.0   6.7   2.5   2.0   0.572 0.259 0.754
B: G Willie Deane 14.4 3.6 2.4 1.4 0.426 0.355 0.763
F Robbie Hummel 11.9 6.1 2.6 1.2 0.489 0.464 0.882
F Brian Cardinal 12.0 5.7 2.1 2.0 0.461 0.365 0.761

Austin: Strong guard that was the go-to guy on this team.  Liked to post up his man and could blow by him.  His clutch basket at the buzzer to beat IU in Bloomington has immortalized him.  Honors: 1st team All Big Ten 1997, 1998
Lowe: This was a guy whose first two years were spent just being the fifth man on the floor.  His last two years were plagued by injuries but he somehow single handedly carried them his senior year.  Pretty much erased other team's best player as a defender.  Honors: Defensive Player of the Year 2003, 2004
Martin: This is a 6'6" guy with no real position.  He played center when Glenn Robinson was on the team and after he left he moved to "scorer".  His senior year averaged over 18 a game and became the Big Ten's all time leading 3 point shooter.  He's a nice compliment to Austin.  Honors: 1st team All Big Ten 1995
Landry: JUCO transfer whose time in W. Laf may best be remembered as being one of two players who could actually play.  Averaged 19 a game and was a heck of a rebounder.  Honors: 1st team All Big Ten 2007
Miller: A much better NBA player than college.  Skills include great passing, good shooting, and was pretty careful with the ball.  However he was not a game changer, something this Purdue squad needs to advance far in the tournament.  
Bench: Willie Deane led the Big Ten in scoring his senior year.  When he was hot, he was HOT but when he wasn't he did little to affect the game in other areas.  Robbie Hummel was a 1st team all-conf as a freshman and fills up the stat sheet.  Brian Cardinal or "the janitor" is the hustle machine.

Strengths: FT shooting, 3pt shooting, defense 
Purdue has no individual who can really take over instead having several guys who have "moments" therefore relying on intense defense to force turnovers and create fast break opportunities.  Cuonzo Martin is a career 45% shooter from 3 and everyone else save Landry will venture out there as well.  No weaknesses on the line so save your fouls.

Weaknesses: Lack of dominating scorer, depth
No Big Dog on this team so points may be hard to come by.  If Martin is double teamed will Austin be able to create enough opportunities to keep Purdue in the game?  Hummel is a solid player but you don't really want to rely on him for big minutes.  Cardinal is a solid player but in crunch time he can take some maddening shots.

OHIO STATE (3) Pts RB A Stls Fg% 3pt% FT%
G Scoonie Penn 15.4 3.8 4.0 2.1 0.415 0.345 0.754
G Michael Redd 19.6 6.2 2.5 1.6 0.447 0.318 0.648
G Ron Lewis 13.2 4.1 2.0 0.9 0.418 0.330 0.796
C Terence Dials 11.9 6.6 0.7 0.7 0.558 0.000 0.648
C Greg Oden 15.7   9.6   0.7   0.6   0.616 0.000 0.628
B: G Mike Conley 11.3 3.4 6.1 2.2 0.518 0.304 0.694
G Brian Brown 10.7 3.5 2.9 1.0 0.467 0.378 0.723
C Ken Johnson 8.3 5.8 0.5 0.3 0.539 0.000 0.629
Penn: Dynamite in the backcourt.  Not a big passer but was actually better than Redd in college.
Honors: 1st team All Big Ten 1999, 2000; Player of the Year 2000
Redd: Redd could score but actually was a better passer in college.  He was not the player you see today in the NBA.  However, when teamed with Penn this backcourt went nuts.  Took Ohio State to the Elite 8 in 2000.  Honors: 1st team All Big Ten 2000
Lewis: This G/F is a nice compliment to the big men.  He can rebound a little, play a little defense, and shoot the three.  The team's best FT shooter.
Dials: A lumbering giant who didn't have a lot of skills offensively but was just so big teams couldn't stop him.  Honors: 1st team All Big Ten 2006; Player of the Year 2006
Oden: We know a lot about this guy.  Polished in the lane, very good rebounder, but Ohio State will count on him to be an enforcer since they are lacking a stopper on the perimeter.  Honors: 1st team All Big Ten 2007; Defensive Player of the Year 2007
Bench: Mike Conley, another freshman NBA lottery pick, is an impressive substitute to have on the bench, guard Brian Brown won 1st team honors in 2002 largely due to his offensive efficiency, and center Ken Johnson gives OSU three 7 footers that won first team honors.  Johnson is the most one dimensional of the three, leading the conference in blocks at least two times.

Strenghts: Size, size, size, and familiarity on the perimeter
This team is HUGE.  Oden, Dials, Johnson will clog the lane making life hell for opponent's big men.  After having spent 3 years as teammates in Columbus, Penn and Redd start together in our tournament, a trait several teams wish they had.

Weaknesses: Free throw shooting, three point shooting
This team's free throw shooting stinks.  Only two guys are over 70%.  If the game is close OSU could be in a bit of trouble.  Also, there are no real threats from three.  When OSU is playing the giants and the outside shot isn't falling the lane is going to be very crowded.

What to Expect:
A boring, low scoring game with several shot clock buzzers ringing in your ears.  Ohio State and Purdue both will stress slowing it down.  Ohio State will have trouble running with the bigs so they will be forced to work it down low.  Purdue will be sending double teams left and right trying to confuse Ohio State while Lowe works his magic on Penn or Redd.  Expect both teams to work inside out and in Ohio State's case inside again.

Matchup to watch:  Carl Landry vs Greg Oden
Seeing as how this matchup really happened, it will be fun to watch again.  Landry will get his points but Oden will get his boards.  Which stat is more important will be determined by  how everyone else plays. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Freel for Ramon Hernandez

I just wanted to say something quick about this trade.  The Reds are trading their last year of beer-bucket Freel for two years of a slightly overrated catcher.  Hernandez represent a stopgap for two years allowing Ryan Hanigan to learn while being the backup.  He can has some medium pop, average defense, but is clearly declining.  Basically he's just overpaid.

In Freel Baltimore receives a utility player who looks like he can play everyday until you try it.  He's always injured and when he's not he fades badly in the second half.  The fans will love his all-out play and his entertaining interviews but thoughts that he was acquired so the team can move Brian Roberts are misguided.

Baltimore also gets two "prospects" in this deal but I don't see them as being significant contributors.  

Verdict:  No winners or losers here as each team traded to fill a need.