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Welcome to "Extra Bases." Here, you can find my takes on just about anything, from sports to politics to good music and movies. I would also like to get some discussions going, so please, feel free to comment on my articles and I will definitely respond. I hope you enjoy reading "Extra Bases" as much as I enjoy putting it together.
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Apr. 30th, 2007 @ 01:26 am NFL Draft Reflections
Let me start this by saying that as a Green Bay Packer fan, this weekend may have been one of the more disappointing weekends in quite some time.  Let me clarify this statement by saying what I believe every Packer fan out there was hoping for:  They needed to do EVERYTHING that they could to give Brett Favre one more shot.  That meant immediate help at wide receiver and running back.  With immediate help at wide receiver, with immediate help at running back, Green Bay could have become a major player in the watered-down NFC.

Let's rewind to last week Thursday, when it was first reported that Kansas City had put Larry Johnson on the trading block.  Yes, THAT Larry Johnson.  Fearing high demand in contract negotiation after this upcoming season, when Johnson becomes a free agent, Kansas City opened the bidding.  The reported price?  A first- and fourth-round pick for the All-Pro running back.

At the same time as this possibility opened up, negotiations about disgruntled Raider wide receiver Randy Moss were charging along, to the point where John Clayton said on ESPN Radio on Saturday morning before the draft that he thought Moss would be a Packer by the end of the day.  He, instead, became a New England Patriot.  The price New England paid?  A fourth-round pick, while Moss restructured his deal to subtract a year, making it a one-year deal, for $3 million (plus incentives that could push it to $5 million), far less than the $9.5 million that he was owed.

With that being said, we fast forward to pick #16 of the first round on Saturday.  The player most had figured to go to Green Bay, running back Marshawn Lynch, was no longer available.  But Brady Quinn was.  Greg Olsen was.  Robert Meachem was.  Dwayne Bowe was.  Leon Hall was.  And Justin Harrell was.  Here is a little background on defensive tackle Justin Harrell.  He missed all but two games this past season with a torn biceps.  He has a history of bad ankles, missing the entire 2004 season after breaking an ankle in 2003, only to re-break the same ankle two snaps into that season.  He was widely considered to be a top 10 talent, but given injury concerns, he was a borderline first-round pick.  At least most, including Justin Harrell, thought so.  Not only was Harrell a reach at #16, but defensive tackle was not an area of need for Green Bay.  In fact, it is one of their stronger positions.  Instead of drafting a highly skilled player in a position of need, they took an injury prone player at a position of strength.  Why?

Green Bay's three glaring weaknesses are all on the offensive side of the ball:  Running back, wide receiver, and tight end.  The (arguably) second best wide receiver was on the board.  The best tight end was on the board.  And Brady Quinn was on the board.  Why do I mention Quinn?  Because, after Trent Green leaves Kansas City, they will have a glaring hole at quarterback.  Damon Huard is not the answer.  Brady Quinn could have been.  Would Kansas City have given up Johnson for Quinn and, say, the extra third round pick that Green Bay acquired when it traded down in the second round?  It's a definite possibility.

Fast forward to the second round.  Green Bay trades down instead of taking a high quality player such as USC receiver Steve Smith or Auburn running back Kenny Irons.  By the time they pick, Irons and Smith are gone.  And they choose:  Brandon Jackson?  A running back who has had surgery on the labrum of BOTH shoulders during his career at Nebraska.  Another injury plagued draft choice.  The running backs still available?  Ohio State's Antonio Pittman, Penn State's Tony Hunt, and Louisville's Michael Bush, among others.  Brandon Jackson started just 11 games in three years at Nebraska.

Third round?  Green Bay uses the first of their two third round choices on a wide receiver.  Finally.  By choosing James Jones from San Jose State.  Yes, that is the same James Jones who stands just 6 feet tall, runs the 40 in 4.6 (slow for NFL wide receivers), and scored a 9 out of 50 on the Wonderlic test.  That was the lowest score for any wide receivers at the NFL Combine (there were 43 wide receivers there).

So what did Green Bay end up with instead of Randy Moss and Larry Johnson?  An injury plagued defensive tackle, an injury plagued running back, and a small, slow, stupid wide receiver.  Super.

Why am I bitter about this?  As I said prior, EVERY Packer fan wanted to see Brett Favre get one more shot.  Johnson and Moss would have given them that.  Would the risk of taking two players for one season be worth ruining an entire draft?  Absolutely.  In fact, three draft picks, especially given what Green Bay ended up with in those picks, would have been a small price to pay to become the immediate favorite in the NFC.  For one season.   One more shot.  If they would have gotten to the Super Bowl, Favre would have retired and Johnson and Moss would have left via free agency.  Green Bay would have been back where they will probably be at the end of this season anyway.  Except instead of a great season and a playoff appearance, they will struggle to go 8-8 in the suddenly stronger NFC North.  But hey:  They'll still have a defensive tackle they don't need, a wide receiver that won't play, and a running back who will probably get hurt.  That, ladies and gentlemen, is why I am extraordinarily pissed off right now.

(Exhale)  Now, with that said, here are some other quick observations:

Cleveland paid a steep price for Brady Quinn.  Yes, they had a decision between three players with the third pick of the draft.  Yes, they ended up with two of them.  But a team with as many holes as Cleveland cannot afford to lose their first-round pick next season.  They are still not a playoff team, especially in that division, and with Quinn at quarterback, will still struggle to win games this season while he develops.  Losing next year's first round pick really hurts them, even if Quinn turns out to be as good as some think he will.

San Francisco had a MONSTER draft.  They will win the NFC West this season.  Getting Darrell Jackson for a 4th-round pick was robbery.  Patrick Willis will be a star, and offensive tackle Joe Staley will really help Frank Gore.  Gore will contend for MVP this fall.

Why did Adrian Peterson have to go to the Vikings?  Why?  Anyone else want to bet that he terrorizes the NFC North for the next 5 years?  I do.

Detroit traded Josh McCown and Mike Williams to the Raiders for a single fourth-round pick?  The Raiders got fleeced...

New England is going to be really, really, really, really, really good next year.  Early prediction:  15-1, Brady gets his 4th ring.  And they got San Francisco's first round pick for next year.  So they'll win the Super Bowl, then get two first round picks next year?  I guarantee GM Scott Pioli wins his fantasy league every year...

If Detroit ever drafts a wide receiver in the first round again, I'll scream.  Four wide receivers in the last five years in the first round?  This is getting ridiculous, Matt Millen.  Speaking of which, how the hell does he still have a job?  Since he took over in 2001, they are tied with the Houston Texans for the fewest wins in the NFL.  The best part about that stat?  Houston didn't have a team until 2002.

Green Bay will struggle to win football games.  If they win seven games this year, I'll consider it a success.  They overachieved to get eight a year ago; getting back there this year will take a miracle.  Or for 1996 Brett Favre to suddenly appear under center, vicatin problem and all.

That's all I got.  I'm out.

PS.  Let's go, Brewers!
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Mar. 12th, 2007 @ 07:28 pm A Quick Look at the Bracket....
This may be the craziest NCAA tournament bracket I've seen in years.  At my count, I've determined that 11 teams could do one of two things:  Get to the Final Four, or get bounced on the first weekend.  Some of the bigger names there are:

North Carolina:  Those who know me know that I despise Carolina for many reasons.  But even I feel for the absolute shaft that they received in their bracket.  Simply look at the 8-9 game that opposes them:  Marquette-Michigan State.  If Jerel McNeal is healthy (word is that the injury is worse than people think, making many believe that he won't play in this game), Marquette has the firepower and the defense to take out Carolina.  However, if McNeal is not healthy, I expect Michigan State to beat them.  And that is brutal for North Carolina.  Given the way Carolina plays, err, doesn't play defense, Michigan State is exactly the type of match-up that could give Carolina fits.  Drew Neitzel is one of the best players in the entire draw, and Michigan State is more physical, better defensively and on the glass, and can match up with Carolina's athleticism on the wings with Raymar Morgan and Travis Walton.  Should Carolina get past the first weekend, they are looking Kevin Durant square in the face, followed by the possibility of my national runner-up, Georgetown, in the Elite Eight.  That's a brutal stretch.

Kansas:  First, let's not forget this fact about Kansas:  They have been knocked out of the tournament in the first round the past two years.  Will that happen here?  No.  But early exits have been the track record of Bill Self.  Remember, this is a team that in each of the last two seasons has entered the tournament on a roll, just as they do this year.  Their potential second round game?  Kentucky or Villanova.  Ouch.  Kentucky (the favorite team of someone who has read these in the past and complained about their lack of acknowledgment) has struggled against teams with good guard play, and Villanova has just that in Scottie Reynolds.  Can Villanova beat Kansas?  Absolutely.  Will they?  We'll see.

Wisconsin:  Let's face it:  Wisconsin has made Dick Bennett's final four team from 2000 look good offensively in the wake of Brian Butch's injury.  They haven't been able to score, save the first half against Michigan State.  And the tournament committee didn't do them any favors here either.  The winner of Georgia Tech and UNLV will give Wisconsin all they can handle in the second round.  Georgia Tech (a pre-season sleeper team of mine) didn't develop as quickly as I thought they would.  I thought Thaddeus Young would be doing what Kevin Durant has done this season.  I thought Jevaris Crittendon would be doing what D.J. Augustin has done.  That doesn't mean they aren't capable of doing it; Young had 30 in their win over North Carolina two weeks ago.  UNLV, on the other hand, plays very similar to the way Wisconsin does and could present problems to the Badgers offense.  If those two teams match up, and you like offense, you won't want to see that game.

Memphis:  Memphis, first of all, is a team that is overrated, despite their lofty record.  It's not their fault that Conference USA does not provide them with any competition, but they haven't played a tournament team, other than Gonzaga, since December.  And they are 1-3 against the RPI top 25.  Tennessee beat them by 18.  Arizona beat them by 8, but it wasn't that close.  While North Texas should be a blowout, their second round game against the winner of Creighton and Nevada won't be.  Both teams have a chance to beat the Tigers.  If Memphis survives to the 2nd weekend, Texas A&M surely will pick them off in the Sweet 16.

This is a bracket that is full of potential upsets and potholes, so a few things to remember are these:

-Never have all #1 seeds made it to the Final Four.

-Only four times since expansion in 1985 have all #1 seeds advanced to the Sweet 16.

-Two teams from one conference have made the Final Four in each of the last 8 years.

-A 12-seed has beaten a 5-seed six years in a row.  Last year, it happened twice.

-On average, one team who is a top 3 seed will lose in the first round.

-Should a #1 seed reach the Elite Eight, they are not guaranteed a spot in the Final Four.  In fact, #1 seeds are 21-21 in Elite Eight games.

My "Ballsy" (aka Stupid) Predictions (subject to change)

-I am fully aware of this statistic:  #9 seeds have beaten top seeds in 3 of 44 tries.  Why have I picked two of them to advance to the Sweet 16?  Match-ups.  I like Michigan State to beat North Carolina.  This Carolina team is inexperienced and wants to make each game a track meet.  Michigan State won't let them do that.  They will slow the game, dominate on the glass, and get a monumental effort from Drew Neitzel in one of the biggest shocks in the tourney.

-The other #9?  Villanova.  Bill Self has constantly underachieved in the NCAA tournament.  His Jayhawk team has been a 3 and 4 seed the last two seasons, and lost in the first round.  They are still inconsistent, as shown by the tail of two halves against Texas.  If they don't show up right away against the Wildcats, they'll be gone, and I think their inexperience and inconsistency will come back to bite them.

-Wisconsin, yes, I said it, Wisconsin will get to the Final Four.  Why?  Because I don't think they'll have to play Florida.  I think Maryland will take out the Gators and subsequently fall to the Badgers in the Elite Eight, making the Big Ten (I'm a homer, I think) my conference to have two teams in the Final Four.  That is, if Wisconsin doesn't lose to Georgia Tech in the 2nd round.  I love the tournament.

Preseason Final Four Picks:  Wisconsin, Georgetown, Georgia Tech, Arizona

Actual Final Four Picks:  Wisconsin (over Maryland), Georgetown (over Texas), UCLA (over Southern Illinois), Ohio State (over Texas A&M)

Championship:  UCLA, over Georgetown, 72-65

Let the tournament begin.
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Jan. 17th, 2007 @ 06:55 pm Quick Observations
A lot of people are going to give North Carolina a lot of credit for the way they've handled Clemson in the first half, taking a 44-31 lead into the locker room.  But I've been far more disappointed by Clemson than impressed by Carolina.  Clemson is completely inept in playing a half-court game, both offensively and defensively.  They couldn't rebound on the defensive end, they weren't getting out on shooters, they weren't even getting back on defense.  And the trainwreck that is their offense made their defense look like their strong suit.  Clemson does not space the floor at all in a half-court offense.  Period.  They seemed lost, like five players all wishing to go one-on-one.  They all ran to the ball instead of spacing the floor.  And their outside shooting is horrendous, as is their free-throw shooting.  Yes, I understand that they started 17-0.  But they got off to that start by playing full court basketball, by pressing and by running out on the fast break.  If a team handles their press, as Carolina is doing and Maryland did on Saturday, Clemson is an average team at best.  In fact, Maryland beat them at their own game, running on them for 92 points.  Look for the Tigers to go no better than 10-6 in a watered down ACC.

I wanted to watch this game to gauge North Carolina against what was thought to be good competition.  Clemson is not good competition, not when teams can take them out of their game.  A lot of teams will be able to do that, and when they do, they are in trouble.
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Jan. 16th, 2007 @ 02:19 pm Reflections from a long time off....
I constantly feel as though time has not been my friend as of late, and despite many opinions and many thoughts about the world of sports (and the world), time has not allowed me to write about them....  until now, when I am putting off a presentation and a research paper to write them down (winterim sucks, trust me on this....).  Thus, in creating the time to write now, I have many topics to discuss, many ideas to share...  i used to write a weekly column on topics off the top of my head.....  so I'm bringing it back.  I'm done rambling.  Here we go.

-The No Fun League is a league which, should Brett Favre retire and I stop winning fantasy football leagues (3 of them), I would probably stop watching all together until the playoffs.  With that said, the playoffs this season have been nothing short of riveting.  On paper, the matchups that we have gotten have been spectacular, and that has translated for the most part into great games on the field.  What have we learned?  The first thing is that the Indianapolis Colts can actually play defense.  Peyton Manning has been typical playoff Peyton Manning, aka, the quarterback who has never won a big game in his career.  He has played two extremely pedestrian games, especially against Baltimore.  But somehow, after Jacksonville torched them for 400 yards on the ground, Indianapolis figured out how to play defense.  They have taken a great offense (Kansas City) and a decent offense (Baltimore) and held them to a combined 100 yards rushing and 14 points.  What?  How did they do that?  How did they beat Baltimore without scoring a touchdown?  And can they do it three weeks in a row?

-San DIego had a remarkable season.  But smart football beats talent.  New England plays extremely smart.  San Diego did not, and a lot of people are blaming Marty Schottenheimer for that.  I don't.  San Diego had great gameplans on offense and defense.  Their players were in the right spots with the ability to make plays.  That's coaching.  Marty Schottenheimer didn't drop four passes and a punt.  Eric Parker did.  Marty Schottenheimer didn't headbutt an opposing player as part of a taunt.  Drayton Florence did.  Marty Schottenheimer did not try to be a hero on 4th down by intercepting a pass instead of knocking it down and then fumbling the ball back to the other team.  Marlon McCree did.  DId Marty make mistakes?  Yes.  You can't challenge that fumble in that spot.  That was inexcusable.  You can't let the best player in the league touch the ball only nine times in the second half.  But they should have won the game in spite of that.  New England played smarter and they didn't make (many) mistakes.  They got a subpar performance from Tom Brady and won.  They beat a better team, because smart football beats talent.

-New Orleans is going to beat the Bears.  Chicago is not the same defense without Tommie Harris and Mike Brown.  Deuce McAllister is goinig to have a MONSTER game on Sunday.  Rex Grossman played well enough to squeak past the Seahawks.  That won't be good enough to beat the Saints.  Quite frankly, I'm not sure they're good enough right now to beat them even if they play well.  Those injuries hurt them that much.

-On the subject of New Orleans:  Did anyone else think Reggie Bush was dead after Sheldon Brown crushed him on that swing pass?  Probably the best hit I've ever seen, kudos to Bush for playing as well as he did after the collision.

-If Peyton Manning is finally going to go to the Super Bowl, how fitting is it that he'll have to beat Brady and Bellichick to get there?  Despite the great seasons that San Diego and Baltimore had, it's better this way.  It's better with New England and Indianapolis.  Just like Bird needed to beat Magic, just like Jordan needed to beat the Pistons, just like Favre needed to beat the Cowboys, every player has that nemesis they need to beat to be measured as the greatest.  Manning needs to beat the Patriots.  I want him to win.  I want the Colts to play the Saints in the Super Bowl, just so we can see if they can combine for 150 points in the Super Bowl.  But I can't bring myself to pick against Brady until he loses to the Colts in the playoffs.  Despite that, I think I will.  This game will get more hype in the upcoming week than maybe the Super Bowl.

(Remember, since 1997, at least one road team has won a conference championship game every year)
New Orleans over Chicago
Indianapolis over New England

Super Bowl
Indianapolis over New Orleans

College Football
What did we learn from bowl season?  Well, if you listen to the national pundits, the Big Ten is slow, the SEC is dominant, and a plus-one method is an okay method for a playoff.  What do we know?  Wrong, wrong, and wrong.  The Big Ten is not slow.  At the skill positions, it is just as fast as the SEC.  Ohio State and Michigan, for whatever reasons, played completely uninspired football.  Michigan's loss can be explained.  Ohio State's cannot.  Michigan has a history of uninspired football in bowl games coming off of a loss against Ohio State.  Don't agree?  Look to last season, when they lost to an inferior Nebraska team in the Alamo Bowl.  It can be traced back for quite a while.  I don't know why, it just is.  Ohio State, on the other hand, played the most uninspired football I've ever seen.  Period.  They looked completely indifferent, as though the Michigan game was their national championship and that was good enough for them.  Ted Ginn would not have stopped Florida from scoring 41 points if he continued to play.  But that doesn't mean the SEC is a better conference.  In fact, the Big Ten went 2-1 against the SEC, with Wisconsin beating Arkansas and Penn State beating Tennessee.  What the national championship game did prove is that 51 days is far too long to have between games.  How can we solve that?  A playoff, consisting of 12 teams, set up just like the NFL.  For everyone else?  Let them play bowl games.  But let the top 12 teams, the teams that are eligible for the BCS already, settle it on the field.  What would a plus-one system have given us this season?  Florida vs. Boise State?  Couldn't USC beat both of them?  Just a question....

College Basketball
-I'm still not sold on North Carolina.  I know, I know, they have all that talent, blah blah blah.  I just am not sure they're legit yet.  They've only played two true road games, winning by 20 at St. Louis (but were only up single digits with 4:47 remaining) and losing at Virginia Tech (they were down by 22 at one point) and Gonzaga on a neutral court (who has since proven to be mediocre at best).  Yet the national media continues to obsess over them.  Their best win has been over an Oden-less Ohio State team.  My personal feeling?  North Carolina gets bounced in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.  Take that to the bank.

-Kansas has still proven to be as inconsistent as I thought they would be.  When they play their 'A' game, as they did against Oklahoma State, they are unbeatable.  But they still really like to play their 'C' game, as they did last night when they almost lost at home to a rebuilding Missouri team.  Kansas has the best talent in the country.  They too will get bounced early in the tournament.  If everyone stays in school next year, watch out.

-Wisconsin is still my favorite to win the national championship.  They are winning games that they never used to win.  In year's past, they would have lost that Northwestern game.  They would have lost the Georgia game.  This year, they are winning these games, and they have always, until last season when they were shorthanded, overachieved in the NCAA tournament.   The only team that I believe can beat them in the tournament would be Florida.  And if they grow up fast enough, Ohio State could too.

-Ohio State is going to be scary good.  They were put in the same situation twice:  They were on the road playing one of the best teams in the country in a tie game early in the second half.  The other team goes on a huge run and builds a big lead with Greg Oden doing little to nothing to make his presence felt offensively.  The first time was against Florida, where they lost by 26.  The second was against Wisconsin, where they didn't fold like they did against the Gators and only lost by 3.  They are growing up right before our eyes.  If they keep growing, they will be big time title contenders come March.

In closing, I have a lot more opinions, a lot more ideas to put down, but I think I've put my homework off long enough.  However, this semester I am going to treat this as homework:  Updates will be made at least twice a week, if not more often.  Come back on Saturday to get my betting picks for Sunday's games.  Until then, I'm out.
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Nov. 8th, 2006 @ 07:08 pm My 2nd Annual College Basketball Preview
Nearly one year ago tonight, the first night of college basketball on ESPN2, I wrote, for the first time, my college basketball preview, calling sleeper teams such as UCLA, and having two of my Final Four predictions make it all the way to the Elite Eight.  And while I didn't see the likes of Witchita State or George Mason or Bradley prospering the way that they did come tournament time, I still believe, that of all the sports that I know, college basketball is my personal area of "expertise" if you will.

This college basketball season is shaping up to be absolutely spectacular.  Why?  Well, for the first time since 1998, a defending champion brings back their entire starting five.  However, Arizona didn't repeat in '98.  Arkansas didn't repeat in '95.  Not since Duke in 1991 and '92 has a team gone back to back.  And they were the first to do it since the Legend of Westwood was sitting on the bench watching guys named Alcindor and Walton.  Does that mean that Florida can't repeat as national champions?  Absolutely not.  But history is against them.

Who stands behind Florida?  By all national prognosticators, North Carolina and Kansas are clearly the second and third best teams in the country.  But I'm not sure I buy them.  Why?  Youth.  It's the same reason I don't like Ohio State to finish better than 11-5 in the Big Ten.  The speed and size at this level is different than high school.  And there is more to basketball than raw talent.  It's also hard to take kids who are used to being the man all by themselves and fit them into a team concept.  Villanova almost did it last year.  But here's the problem with those teams:  Bill Self and Roy Williams.  Roy Williams had the most talented college basketball team in the last ten years and was a bad call away from losing to Villanova in the Sweet 16.  Bill Self?  Well, he hasn't won an NCAA tournament game in the last two years with the Jayhawks.  Yes these coaches can recruit.  Yes they have talent.  But can they put it all together and make a run to Atlanta despite their youth?  Time will tell.

Wisconsin is ranked 9th preseason.  I think they might be the most underrated team right now.  Yes, I said it.  Underrated.  The name who is going to emerge as an all-conference player this year?  Jason Chappell.  Yes, Jason Chappell.  He looked amazing in the red-white scrimmage.  He looked even better against Stout.  His decision making and shot have improved and he's finally being more aggressive.  He's always had talent.  He's just never harnessed it, and in fact looked lost on the court in many situations last year.  Not anymore.  He's going to have a GREAT year.  The name who could be a freshmen All-American?  Jason Bohannon.  His game reminds me of Jason Williams, except he doesn't have all of the tatoos.  He is relentless, his range is limitless, and he's already the best ballhandler on the team.  I saw this team play in their scrimmage against Stout.  They're big, they can shoot, and they are quicker than any Wisconsin team.  Ever.  This team is fast.  Wisconsin has the best team they've ever had, and it's not even close.  They are going to win the Big Ten going away this year, and should be either a 1 or 2-seed come the NCAA tournament.

Watch out for Georgetown this year.  They're going to be really good.  Everyone is picking Pitt to win the Big East.  I'm picking Georgetown.  They might have the best frontcourt in the country with Roy Hibbert and Jeff Green coming back.  They're going to be good.

Another team to watch for?  Arizona.  Yes, I know, I'm an Arizona fan.  But Chase Budinger is going to draw immediate comparisons to Adam Morrison.  Not just because he's white.  Well, mostly because he's white, but he can shoot it from anywhere and can create his own shot.  He's my pick for Freshman of the Year nationally.

Will Florida even win the SEC this year?  LSU brings everyone but Tyrus Thomas back.  Tennessee brings almost everyone back as well.  Don't forget, Tennessee beat Florida twice last year.  Alabama is going to be really good too, and Kentucky is always around come tournament time.

My biggest sleeper team from a major conference?  Georgia Tech.  They bring nearly everyone back from last year and add a stellar freshmen class, including Thaddeus Young.  Get to know that name.  It will get called within the first five picks of next year's NBA Draft.

The highest ranked team who won't live up to the hype?  I'll take two:  Pittsburgh and Kansas.  Pitt wasn't that great last year, and don't have a real good freshmen class coming in, not to mention the heart and soul of that team, Carl Krauser, was a senior last year.  Yes, everyone makes a big deal about Aaron Gray coming back.  But while he may be the best rebounder in the country, most of his points came because of Krauser's penetration and incredible knack to pass the ball into very small spaces.  Pitt won't finish in the top 3 in the Big East.  On the other hand, Kansas is already having issues.  Their starting center, C.J. Giles, just got dismissed from the team for reapeated violations of team rules.  Also, Sasha Kaun will miss the first two months with a broken foot, and may miss the entire season.  Their team is based on guard play, but are there enough minutes and enough ball to keep all of the playmakers happy?  My guess is no.  This team could self destruct early and limp into the NCAA tournament.  Look for Texas and Texas A&M to give them trouble in the Big 12.

If Greg Oden is out until January with a broken wrist, is Ohio State really worthy of the high preseason ranking?  Given their tough early season schedule, they might not be ranked by the time Oden returns.  He's worth the hype though, and rumors are already swirling that he may not be one and done at Ohio State.  If that's true, just hand them next season's NCAA championship trophy.

Time for some final predictions:

Final Four:  Georgetown, Georgia Tech, Arizona, Wisconsin

National Champion:  Wisconsin
I've wrestled with myself on this one for about two months now.  Is this really a homer pick?  Because they way I look at it, no one can match up with Wisconsin.  They can go big, they can go small, and they can play fast.  They match up with Florida's size, Carolina's guards, and remember, before Marcus Landry and Greg Stiemsma got suspended last season, they were ranked 13th in the country and had just beaten Michigan State by 25.  The freshmen that they have may not be as heralded as others around the country, but Jason Bohannon and Travon Hughes can both play.   They're good enough to start for this team.  Kam Taylor and Jason Chappell are going to break out huge this year.  And Tucker will be a first-team All-American.  They can go 12 deep, and remember, when Bo Ryan won his national championships at UW-Platteville, they used a deep rotation and full court pressure to simply wear teams out.  Wisconsin can shoot, they can rebound, they can play defense, and they can run.  It seems like a homer pick, it really does, I know that even as I write it.  But Florida lost a lot of depth.  North Carolina and Kansas are young.  Arizona lost a lot of athleticism when Hassan Adams graduated.  And Georgetown's guard play, while very good, isn't quite at Wisconsin's level.

Player of the Year:  Tyler Hansbrough, North Carolina.  I think it's going to be Tucker.  But the national media loves this guy, and it's his award to lose.  I don't think he'll lose it.

If a Final Four Team Falters, Watch Out For:  LSU, UCLA, Texas A&M

Sleepers:  Georgia Tech, Marquette, Kansas State

This Year's George Mason:  Creighton, Hofstra, Winthrop.  Remember, Hoftstra beat George Mason twice last year, and brings nearly everyone back, and Creighton beat George Mason on the road by 20, and Nate Funk comes back for another season after injuries plagued him last year.  He was the MVC Player of the Year two years ago.  Winthrop was a tournament team from a year ago that nearly beat Tennessee in the first round.  They bring 4 starters back.

That's my college basketball roundup.  Will I be right?  Will I be completely wrong?  I'm not sure.  But it'll be fun to watch and find out.

I'm out.
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Oct. 30th, 2006 @ 06:57 pm Monday Night Best Bet
Welcome to the Halloween edition of the Monday Night Best Bet.  Yes, my predictions have been scary as of late, but I turned it around with the Cardinal prediction of game 7 (and by restraining from picking the World Series....  what a disasterous five games for Major League Baseball...  did anyone even watch?), and this is my opportunity to turn around my Monday night picks as well.

New England Patriots (-2) at Minnesota Vikings; over/under 40

This is a game that features two teams that want to to exactly the same thing:  Run the football.  New England features the two-headed monster of Corey Dillon and the kid returning to his former homefield in ex-Gopher Laurence Moroney.  Minnesota, on the other hand, has a monsterous offensive line and Chester Taylor, the league's leading rusher,  running behind them for a team who is quickly taking on its coach's personality.   However, Minnesota's run defense is 2nd in the league against the run and New England is 6th.  Also, both teams are in the top 10 in scoring defense.  Both teams have smart quarterbacks who are not prone to turnovers.  Also, this game features a better's nightmare:  New England is 3-0 on the road against the spread this year; Minnesota is 3-0 at home against the spread as well.

The biggest thing comes down to matchups.  Richard Seymour is going to start for New England despite his elbow injury, which is a huge benefit for them.  Furthermore, Tom Brady is finally beginning to find a comfort level with his brand new receiving corps, a scary thought for a Minnesota secondary which is the weakness of that defense.  Minnesota, on the other hand, will be seeing a 3-4 defense for the first time all season, and Marcus Robinson will not play tonight for the Vikings.

This may be the quietest Monday night game ever that features two teams with these records.  New England is a very quiet 5-1, and Minnesota has surprised some with their 4-2 record.  Is it possible that New England could get caught looking forward to their showdown next week at home against Indianapolis?  The hunch here is no.  Everything in my gut tells me to pick the Vikings at home on Monday night.  But I'll never bet against the best quarterback in football, and that is Tom Brady.  This is a guy who shines under the bright lights, and the feeling here is that Moroney will have a huge homecoming game, and Brady will do just enough in the air to pull out a close game.  The over/under is set at 40.  Take the under.

Pick:  New England 21, Minnesota 17
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Oct. 19th, 2006 @ 10:40 pm The MLB Playoffs and Where I Went So Wrong...
Wow...  I feel like an idiot...  then again, so does most of the planet., so in that regard, my mind is eased by the horrible picks I made at the beginning of these playoffs.  Has there ever been a postseason so bizarre?  From the powerful Yankees losing to the hapless Tigers, to the hapless Tigers sweeping the heavily favored A's, to my two World Series picks combining for zero wins.....  you know, I don't want to think about it anymore.  It hurts too much.  What I will attempt to do is right the ship, right here, right now, an hour and 15 minutes before the start of game 7 of the NLCS.

Cardinals (Suppan) at Mets (Perez)
Wow.  The most unthinkable seventh game matchup ever.  Statistically speaking, Oliver Perez is the worst pitcher to ever start a game 7, going 3-13 in the regular season.  One has to go all the way back to 1947, when Hal Gregg marched his 4-5 regular season mark to the hill for the Brooklyn Dodgers.  By the way, these are the only two pitchers to start a game 7 with less than eight wins in the regular season.  Perez is so bad, in fact, that ESPN.com compiled the statistics of all pitchers who have started in a game 7.  Check these out:

Game 7 Pitching Stats
Number of pitchers to start a game 7, including tonight? 94

Oliver Perez's Career Rankings Among those 94 Pitchers
Wins in season of game 7 start (3): 94th
Winning percentage in season of game 7 start (.118): 94th
Career winning percentage (.411): 94th
Career ERA (4.63): 93rd

Ouch.  And, if we are talking tonight's pitching matchup, Jeff Suppan?  Well, the last time he threw in a game 7, he outdueled Roger Clemens to send St. Louis to the 2004 World Series.

However, these statistics are greatly contradicted by these.  Of the last 11 home teams who were down 3-2 in a series and forced a game 7....  11 of them have been victorious.  Not only that, but the Mets have won their last five and are 7-1 all time in series clinching games at Shea Stadium. 
And, the best statistic I've ever seen:  Oliver Perez ranks 93rd of those 94 pitchers to start a game 7 in career ERA.  Wait for it....  yup, that's right, the pitcher ranked 92nd and 94th?  Jeff Suppan.  Suppan's career ERA when he pitched the 2004 game was 4.80.  It is now 4.60.  And, Oliver Perez, as of 2004, was an All-Star!  What does this mean?  It means that tonight's game will either be 13-12.....  or 1-0.  I can't figure it out.  All I can do is laugh, sit back, watch, and enjoy.  My head says the Mets, especially given the statistics favoring them.  But there is just something about this Cardinals team that I can't figure out.  I thought they would get to the NLCS.  Now I think they can win it.  If they don't?  Well, then mama's wrong again....

Pick: Cardinals 8, Mets 5

Random Thoughts About the MLB Playoffs
-Anyone else feeling a little de ja vu with this Tigers team?  I don't know, they, oh, I got it.....  they feel EXACTLY like last year's Chicago White Sox.  They even won seven in a row, just as the Sox did last year (Chicago hadn't lost yet, though).  Think about it:  Two teams who came out of nowhere, jumped out to giant leads in the Central division, and then hobbled to the finish line as they were almost caught last year (Cleveland) and were caught this year (Minnesota).  And then both teams got red hot in the playoffs, especially their starting pitching.  I'm still trying to figure out where the hell Detroit came from this season?  Is Jim Leyland really that good?  If so, why hadn't he managed for the last five years?

-The Yankees need to trade A-Rod.  Now.  They can pretend all they want to that everything is fine, and that he's happy, and they're not going to move him, but come on.  The team captain stood up for Giambi when he apologized for nothing (steroids), he stood behind Sheffield playing first base, and he stood behind his manager when he called out A-Rod, but he couldn't back up #13 even once?  That speaks volumes, as does....

-Rodriguez might be the most emotionally fragile man in the history of men.  Richard Simmons thinks that guy is soft, and I'm sure Dr. Phil has left him multiple messages to "Stand up and be a real man."  A-Rod wilted under the pressure of New York.  He can't handle it, and he needs to move, for his own good.  He is the best player of his generation, and he would thrive in a place like Chicago, where Cub fans already know that they're going to lose anyway.  So someone in New York needs to tell Mr. Clutch to wave his no-trade clause and wave goodbye to Yankee Stadium.  Yes, I just called Alex Rodriguez Mr. Clutch.  Bill Buckner thinks that's ironic.

-I knew the Twins were still a year away.  I knew it.  I just couldn't bring myself to think that they'd lose at home, and lose the way that they did:  By playing sloppy baseball.  If anyone can tell me what Torii Hunter was thinking when he dove for what became Mark Kotsay's inside the park home run, please let me know.  And if someone wants to field a ground ball cleanly, kind of like you did in the regular season, that'd be cool too.  Watch out for the Twins next year.  Their starting pitching will be sick.  Santana, Liriano, Bonser, Garza, Baker?  Yikes.  And with the new open air stadium coming, they might be able to keep all five together for a long time.....

-Way to show up for the ALCS, Oakland.  Just because you won a series for the first time since Mark McGwire was sticking needles into Jose Canseco's buttocks doesn't mean you can tank in the next round.  A hit or two would be nice every once in a while.

-If the Mets win tonight, it might be the worst pitching staff to ever throw in a World Series.  Ever.  You have a Hall-of-Famer, followed by a rookie, followed by the worst pitcher to ever throw a game seven, followed by......  Steve Traechsel?  Julio Franco thinks he's old.  To think, they almost started Darren Oliver tonight.  The last time he started?  May of 2004.  Good call.

-How do you make two outs on the same play at home plate?  The Dodgers win that series if that didn't happen.  One of the most ridiculous plays that's ever happened.  The worst part?  It wasn't the first time it had happened....  in the playoffs!  Boston tagged two runners out at home on the same play....  in 1986.

-Speaking of which, Bill Buckner's curse has finally been solved.  I understand playing against one curse, but two?  Check this out for a better understanding....  and no, it was not photoshopped.


I'm out.
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Oct. 16th, 2006 @ 07:37 pm Monday Night's Best Bet
Wow....  one thing I can say about my picks since my return to writing:  I'm struggling.  I feel a little like John Anthony in Two For the Money, the guy who starts out strong, has a perfect week, and then everything goes downhill from there.  I've been on that downhill.  However, today is the day that changes.  Here you go, my best bet of the night.

Chicago Bears (-13) at Arizona Cardinals; Over/Under 40.5

Vegas oddsmakers have turned off the moneyline, meaning that they firmly believe in one team, and that team is da Bears.  The question then becomes by how much.  The line is set at 13.  I think they're crazy.  That's way too low given the way these two teams have been playing as well as Arizona's injury problems.

In the NFL, I firmly believe you need to be better than your opponent in two of these three categories to win:  Defense, offensive line, and coaching.  The Cardinals are better than the Bears in.....  none of these.  They may have the worst offensive line in football, not good news for your rookie quarterback when you face the best front seven in football.  What's worse, Larry Fitzgerald is out for a few weeks with a pulled hamstring.  Not good for the Cardinals.  The Bears front seven will dominate the Cardinals offensive line, making Edgerrin James a non-factor except in the passing game.  With a one-dimensional offense, Matt Leinart will be under constant pressure and will turn the ball over more than once.

On the other side of the ball, Chicago's offense is rolling.  More bad news for Arizona?  Three of their top four tacklers play in their secondary.  That's really bad for the Cardinals against a Bears offense that can now kill you running or passing the ball.  Not only that, but Arizona has said that they are going to play single coverage on both Bernard Berrian and Mushin Muhammad.  Ouch.

All of these things make for a potential blowout tonight.  Arizona is dominated at every position but running back, however with their putrid offensive line, Edge won't have much of an impact in this game.  The over/under is set at 40.5.  Chicago might score 40 by themselves.  Take the over.

Pick:  Chicago 34, Arizona 10
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Oct. 11th, 2006 @ 07:25 pm Thank You
I just want to thank everyone who wished me a happy birthday yesterday.  It really meant a lot to me, and while it would take a long time to thank each and every one of you individually, this makes it much easier to simply say thank you to a mass amount of people.  You made it special.

Thank you again, you have no idea how appreciated it truly was.


PS.  Rest in peace, Cory Lidle.  A regular guy who was lucky enough to play baseball, he died doing what he loved to do:  flying his plane.  It is always uneasy to see anyone taken far before their time, and though I didn't know him, I did get the opportunity to watch him pitch, and my thoughts go out to his friends and family.
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Oct. 9th, 2006 @ 07:21 am Monday Night's Best Bet
Alright, so my return to writing has left my predictions a bit off....  While my pick up the Eagles covering the spread last week was correct, the teams still fell 10 points short of covering the over....  10 points that I'm sure Ahman Green and Brian Westbrook would have made up had they been playing as I thought they would be when I posted this last week.  However, my Monday night picks from a week ago make me look like a genius compared to my baseball predictions.....  At least I picked one series right....  nevermind, my two World Series picks, the Dodgers and Twins, combined to win....  ZERO games!  WOO HOO!  Ouch.  Updated playoff predictions will be made later in the week.  Anyway, now on to tonight's Best Bet:

Baltimore Ravens (+5.5) at Denver Broncos; Over/Under (33)

I am very confused by the oddsmakers in Las Vegas on this one.  Baltimore is undefeated.  Denver has looked very ordinary, even in their victory at New England a week ago.  Denver has struggled in their loss at St. Louis and their field goal duel with Kansas City, and prevailed at New England because Javon Walker was able to get behind Asante Samuel twice for long scores.  Chris McAlister is not Asante Samuel.  To be honest, aside from those two big plays, Denver's offense has been downright inept over the course of their first three games of the season.  However, they are coming off of their bye week, and Baltimore is coming off of two heart pumping victories over San Diego and Cleveland.

What I'm saying is, despite the home field, despite the week off, and despite Baltimore's close calls, I don't believe Denver should be the favorite in this game.  They do not match up well with the Ravens, a team which I believe will completely take Denver's running game away as well as Javon Walker, leaving Jake Plummer to force the action, a scenario which every Bronco fan fears.  While Baltimore hasn't looked particularily impressive themselves offensively the last two weeks, they still have one of the two best defense's in the league, and they do have a quarterback who makes plays in the clutch.  It all sets up for Jake Plummer to turn it over at least three times and for all of Denver to be calling for Jay Cutler to be playing next week.

This game will not be pretty.  It will not be high scoring.  Both team's have good defenses.  But Baltimore's D is great, and Steve McNair will make enough plays and Jake Plummer will make enough mistakes that Baltimore should win this game fairly comfortably.  Denver is a 5.5 point favorite.  Take Baltimore to cover, if not to win straight up.  The over/under is set at 33.  Take the under.

Pick:  Baltimore 17, Denver 9
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