Saturday, March 22, 2008
(5) Notre Dame vs. (4) Washington State
Last Round: Notre Dame def. George Mason 68-50, Wazzu def. Winthrop 71-40
Upset Potential: 55%. In my opinion, the Fighting Irish are just flat out playing better basketball right now. Washington State started the season on Fire, before stabilizing a bit in the Pac 10 (which is proving to be worse than adverstised in the Big Dance). Forget about the last round, Notre Dame has won 13 of 15 while Wazzu has only won 9 of 15. I also think the Big East Battle tested this team for a long run.
Player to Watch: Luke Harangody. I already talked about him last round, but it's still true today. He had 18 and 14 last game and could explode on the Cougars in this one. They don't have anybody that defend inside adequately. Look for another Double-Double from Hair and Shoulders.
Prediction: ND 76-70
(8) UNLV vs. (1) Kansas
Last Round: UNLV def. Kent State 71-58, Kansas def. 85-61
Upset Potential: 15%. UNLV had a very deep tourney run last year, but they didn't have to go through a team of Kansas' Caliber. This is a rough matchup for the Runnin' Rebs. If only they could bring Shawn "Matrix" Marion back to help them out. Plenty of people will be rooting against the Jayhawks in this one (namely Cicero), but I don't see it happening.
Player to Watch: Darrell Arthur. While Brandon Rush is the Big Name on Campus, Arthur has flown under the radar (if that's possible in Lawrence) this season while leading Rock Chalk in scoring average. The future lottery pick had 17 points and 7 boards against Portland State while shooting 80 percent from the field. Another big game against UNLV wouldn't be surprising considering the depth of the Jayhawks leads defenses to have to spread out too much.
Prediction: Kansas 88-70
(11) Kansas State vs. (3) Wisconsin
Last Round: Kansas State def. USC 80-67, Wisconsin def. 71-56
Upset Potential: 45%. When you have the best player in the country and arguably the two best players on the floor, an upset is very possible. This is a battle of teams with completely different styles of play. The Wildcats love to Run 'n Gun, while the Badgers enjoy takin' it nice and slow. Whoever sets the tempo early on will have the advantage.
Player to Watch: Michael Beasley. As long as K-State is still in the tournament, Beasley's name will be listed in this section. I think Psycho T is a vital part of his team, but you can't argue that Beasley is the cream of the crop in the NCAA this year. And I don't see why there is an argument for Player of the Year. It's MB hands down. The award isn't Most Valuable, it's Best Player and that's Beasley no doubt. He has the ability to take over any game, and it's not a matter of if he dominates in this game, but how much.
Prediction: K-State 65-58
(6) Marquette vs. (3) Stanford
Last Round: Marquette def. Kentucky 74-66, Stanford def Cornell 77-53
Upset Potential: 25%. When the Golden Eagles are on their "A" game, they can shoot the lights out and beat a lot of quality teams, but when they're not it gets ugly. Marquette loves to shoot from downtown while it's no surprise that the Cardinal are strongest in the paint. The thing that Stanford has going in their favor is that it doesn't matter if one of the 7 foot Lopez twins has a bad game, because the other can just pick up the slack. Kenny Brown can fire from deep to take pressure off the twins as well, so this is an extremely dangerous team from all over the floor.
Player to Watch: Brook Lopez. The two headed twin killing giant is headlined by Brook. Robin actually outperformed him in the last game against Cornell, but they really didn't need him to step up. Cornell was just not up to par. They'll need him in this game as Marquette will definitely put a nice chunk of points on the board. More important than scoring for Brook is cleaning the glass, especially on the Offensive side.
Prediction: Stanford 77-66
(5) Michigan State vs. (4) Pittsburgh
Last Round: MSU def. Temple 72-61, Pitt def. Oral Roberts 82-63
Upset Potential 40%. My favorite matchup of the second round. This number would have been much lower a few days ago, but the Spartans really impressed me on Thursday. Temple over MSU was a very trendy upset pick and I was concerned that they would start off slow and have to play catchup, but they basically dominated the Owls from start to finish enroute to a win that wasn't as close as the scoreboard said. Tom Izzo has a history of great tournament perfomances and you know he'll have his team ready today. Pitt on the other hand didn't allow ORU to get any sort of rhythm and made for a very uninteresting game. That's how they play though and that's what's led their success this year. The Panthers hope to continue their hot play off of their Big East Tourney Championship.
Player to Watch: Drew Neitzel. The Spartans PG is the leader of a very bi-polar team. When on fire, he's able to will his team to win under almost any circumstances. He was outstanding in last year's tourney and almost helped MSU pull of a shocker over UNC last year with a much less talented squad. If he's clicking on all cylinders here, Pitt could have their hands full.
Prediction: Pittsburgh 71-70 in Overtime
(9) Texas A&M vs. (1) UCLA
Last Round: Texas A&M def. BYU 67-62, UCLA def. Miss. Valley State 70-29
Upset Potential: 15%. The Aggies are a hard team to figure out. Like a rubic's cube, you may think you have them solved, but then you realize you have no idea. At the beginning of the season, they looked like they could be a dark horse contender for the Final Four, then in Big 12 Conference Play they went into a tailspin. The past couple of weeks, it appears that they've found themselves again. Was it all a mirage? We'll find out pretty quickly today as UCLA poses one of the toughest possible matchups for them. The Bruins are like the Noah's Ark of College Basketball. They've got 2 of each position, you can't get much deeper than that. Unless the Aggies can slow down the game right away and get UCLA out of their element it could be brutal for A&M.
Player to Watch: Kevin Love. I'm going out on a limb aren't I? Well, it's tough to pick anyone else. The vaunted Freshman has been a beast inside this year and doesn't show any signs of letting up. The only thing that can slow him down...is himself (or his ailing back to be precise). The whole back issue didn't appear to be a problem last round as he ate up the Delta Devil Defense to the tune of 20 points, 9 boards, and 4 blocks. Look for another line similar to this today.
Prediction: UCLA 83-68
(6) Purdue vs. (3) Xavier
Last Round: Purdue def. Baylor 90-79, Xavier def. UGA 73-61.
Upset Potential: 35%. I wouldn't have thought this number would have been this close before I saw Xavier barely squeak by Georgia. I realize the Bulldogs were on a roll, but that was too close for comfort. On paper, X marks the spot and looks like the much better team, but the Baby Boilers have lit the paper on fire this year and outperformed expectations. Led by a bunch of Frisky White Guys, Purdon't somehow managed to outlast IU in the tourney, who would have thunk it? Still, it's going to be tough for the Boilermakers to win this game unless they are en fuego from behind the arc.
Player to Watch: Robbie Hummel. He may not be the best player on the floor, but he'll need to play like it if Purdue wants to come out victorious. Hummel only had 1 Triple last game against Baylor and that won't cut it in this one. He needs to lead by example with this team, and the only way to do that is to leave it all out on the court.
Prediction: Xavier 76-72
(7) West Virginia vs. (2) Duke
Last Round: WVU def. Arizona 75-65, Duke def. Belmont 71-70
Upset Potential 40%. The Mounts proved the haters wrong last round with a fairly convincing win over lower seeded favorite Arizona. Meanwhile, the Dookies looked pathetic and nearly became only the 5th 2 seed to lose in the first round. They can't afford another let down against WVU or it could be another early exit for the Blue Devils.
Player to Watch: Joe Alexander. Not his best performance against the Wildcats, but 14 points, 8 rebounds is still solid. He'll need to play like he did in his previous 5 games (20 points or more) if he want to fuel an upset over Duke. A big key for Alexander and his teammates is making their free throws. In a close game, Duke usually wins because they are a great FT shooting team. Joe went 6-6 from the charity stripe last game, but the rest of the team only made 2 total.
Prediction: Duke 83-80
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Kansas (1) v. Portland St. (16)
Upset Potential: 1% Normally this would be 0%, but Kansas does have a recent history of inglorious and shameful early tournament exits (SEE: Bucknell, Belmont). Unfortunately neither Portland St. or any other team in this region starts with a "B" so maybe this it the Gayhawk's year.
Player to Watch: Brandon Rush. And not just in this game, but during Kansas' entire tournament run. KU is the definition of depth and experience, they only have one starter who isn't a senior or junior. But if they want to go deep in the tournament Rush has to be the go-to guy more often that not, and be the glue that holds these talented pieces together.
Prediction: 82-56, Kansas.
UNLV (8) v. Kent St. (9)
Upset Potential: 50% These teams, champions of their respective conference tournaments, are pretty evenly matched on paper. However, UNLV is significantly smaller and will have to rely on creating, and making, their own shots.
Player to Watch: Matt Shaw, UNLV. The 6th Man is, at 6-8, also UNLV's biggest player. He will have to come in to provide key minutes of defense and rebounding help to keep his team competitive.
Prediction: 75-70, Kent St.
Clemson (5) v. Villanova (12)
Upset Potential: 20% Clemson comes into this one with all the momentum, riding a run to the ACC conference tourney title game. Villanova on the other hand is a bubble team that limped in to the dance by virtue of a win over unimpressive Syracuse in the Big East tournament
Player to Watch: Cliff Hammonds, Clemson. A four year starter who can do it all: make his own shot, distribute to teammates, and play superb D.
Prediction: 70-60, Clemson
Vanderbilt (4) v. Sienna (13)
Upset Potential: 15% Vanderbilt has shown troubling inconsistencies, especially on defense, but they can put up points in bunches. That alone should be enough to handle Sienna and move on to round 2.
Player to Watch: A.J. Ogilvy, Vanderbilt, yet another Australian 7-footer. Everyone knows about Vandy's guard play, but the big man in the middle gives this team a semi-legit post presence they will need if they want to make a run, especially if they match up with Georgetown down the line.
Prediction: 86-73, Vanderbilt
USC (6) v. Kansas St. (11)
Upset Potential: 30% USC has played great down the stretch, but anyone who has seen a minute of Michael Beasley this season knows that he is capable of just straight taking over a game and carrying his team to victory on his manbear-sized shoulders.
Player to Watch: Bill Walker, K-St. I can't say anything more about Beasley that has already been said. If he gets any help at all from the rest of his team, especially the hot-and-cold Walker, Kansas St. will pull this one off.
Prediction: 68-65, Kansas St.
Wisconsin (3) v. Cal-Fullerton (14)
Upset Potential: 5% Just when you think Wisconsin will have a rebuilding year, you remember that they are coached by Bo Ryan and they go ahead and win the Big Ten regular season and tournament. They are more than capable of dismissing Cal-Fullerton in their opener.
Player to Watch: Michael Flowers, Wisconsin. Cal-Fullerton will try to run-and-gun their way to victory, so getting the maximum effort out of their top defender, Flowers, will be key.
Prediction: 80-62, Wisconsin.
Gonzaga (7) v. Davidson (10)
Player to Watch: Josh Heytvelt. He is a key reserve who has loads of talent, but doesn't seem motivated to use it all the time. I wonder why?....If he lays off the "herbal" remedies, he can be a key contributor and could help Gonzaga pull out a win.
Prediction: 72-66, Davidson
Georgetown (2) v. UMBC (15)
Upset Potential: 1% Considering I don't even know what UMBC stands for, I'm not optimistic about their upset chances.
Player to Watch: Roy Hibbert, Georgetown. His season has been something of a letdown based on expectations after last year. However, if Gtown works the ball through the big guy, they are primed for a return trip to the Final Four.
Prediction: 90-59. Georgetown
2007 Record: 76-86
The NCAA tourney is about to start, but I've still got baseball on the mind. There's just one week until the season officially gets underway in Japan and it will be the Athletics and Red Sox getting the party started. It will be a battle of teams going in opposite directions though. While the World Champs continue to be among the elite baseball teams in the country, the A's are in complete rebuilding mode. 2 years ago, Oakland was in the ALCS, but last year they took a tumble back to earth. The Home-grown talent that all seemed to click over the past decade didn't come together like it used to and the A's finished in uncharted territory, 3rd in the NL West. This season, could be even more depressing in Northern California as the Athletics don't even have their Ace Dan Haren to lean on. He was traded to Arizona in the off-season.
Emil Brown OF
Joey Devine RP
Dana Eveland SP
Carlos Gonzalez OF
Gio Gonzalez SP
Mike Sweeney 1B/DH
Dan Haren SP
Mark Kotsay OF
Mike Piazza DH
Shannon Stewart OF
Nick Swisher OF/1B
1) Travis Buck RF
2) Daric Barton 1B
3) Eric Chavez 3B
4) Jack Cust DH
5) Mark Ellis 2B
6) Emil Brown LF
7) Bobby Crosby SS
8) Chris Denorfia CF
9) Kurt Suzuki C
Offensive Grade: D...This lineup is thinner than the Olson Twins. I'm failing to see how they are going to generate any run support this year. Dare I say, they'll miss Nick Swisher? They have Young Bucks all over the place and none of these guys will be on the all-star team. Oh wait, you're saying they have to have an all-star? Damn. Ok, let's wait till the pitching staff to see about that. Besides the young'ns, they've got injury prone Chavez and Booby Crosby. Chavez used to be a baller, but he's not longer a good option. Suzuki is an up-an-comer behind the plate. He could develop into an above-average catcher someday, but this year he still has work to do. Jack Cust had an amazing month run last year where he hit Home runs at a ridiculous clip. Then he ran into a brick wall, and went into a massive slump. Could it have been the juice? We'll see how his performance plays out this year. Overall though, this team is going to have to rely on winning close games, because this offense isn't going to blow anyone out.
1) Joe Blanton
2) Rich Harden
3) Chad Gaudin
4) Lenny DiNardo
5) Justin Duchscherer
CL) Huston Street
Pitching Grade: C-...What happened to the days of dominant A's pitching staffs? It seems like forever ago that Oakland was trotting out Barry Zito, Tim Hudson, and Mark Mulder. All of those guys are gone now, and just when it looked like they had another pitcher in that mold named Dan Haren, he dissapears as well. Losing Haren really hurt this rotation. He was the best pitcher in baseball for the first half of last year, before falling off a bit. Still, he would have clearly been the ace of a staff that now lacks one. Blanton is serviceable and would be a good #3 on most rosters, but I dont know how thrilled A's fans are about having him start on opening day. Rich Harden is always on everyone's sleeper list, the only problem is that he can never stay healthy long enough to show off his scorching stuff. Until he proves he can stay healthy, I can't take him seriously. If he is able to put it all together for a year, he could be a monster, but until then, he means nothing to me. He's basically the Ben Sheets of the AL. Chad Gaudin started the year great, going undefeated over the first month and a half of the season. Then he came back to earth. Once you show a skillset, though, you own it and that could bode well for this staff. After Gaudin, there are a whole lot of question marks. We'll have to see how that plays out when the season begins. Street is an above average closer, but he also has health issues. Rumor is that he'll be traded by the deadline.
With those two grades combined, you can't expect this team to win a whole lot. They will contend with the Rangers for the basement of the AL West no doubt. There is such a huge gap in this division between the top 2 and the bottom 2 teams, it's not even funny. When at home, the A's will play plenty of 2-1, 3-2, 1-0 games. The Collisseum is a pitcher's park and the A's offense can't hit. The home fans aren't going to have that much fun this season. I hope Billy Beane has something up his sleeve for the future, because right now, the present isn't too bright. Projected 2008 Record: 70-82
UCLA (1) -vs- Mississippi Valley State (16)
Upset Potential: 0.80% in honor of State's most legendary alum, Jerry Rice. In all honesty though, UCLA is going to basically run a glorified practice in this game. If Kevin Love plays more than 20 minutes i'd be surprised because they won't need him.
Player to Watch: Russell Westbrook. Everyone knows Love and Collison, but UCLA will need Westbrook to play great defense throughout the tournament if they want to reach San Antonio.
Prediction: UCLA 82-53
BYU (8) -vs- Texas A&M (9)
Upset Potential: 50%. This may be the most even matchup of the entire first round. BYU is awful on the road but is very fundamentally sound. Texas A&M has the talent of a 3 seed, but the consistency of applesauce. Trying to figure out this game is like trying to solve a rubik's cube in the dark.
Player to Watch: Josh Carter. If Carter can get his shots off and provide offense for the Aggies, they can really be dangerous. But too often he dissapears in games and A&M struggles to score. Whichever Carter shows up will determine the fate of this game.
Prediction: BYU 70-69
Drake (5) -vs- Western Kentucky (12)
Upset Potential: 41%. Drake has been the best mid-major all year but not a single player on the roster has been in the Big Dance and they are playing a team that only lost by 6 at Tennessee earlier this year. Drake has shooters for days, but the Hilltoppers can also score the ball plenty enough to keep things close.
Player to Watch: Courtney Lee. He's only a sophomore but he averaged 20 points this year and is skilled enough to carry Western Kentucky to the second weekend of the tournament.
Prediction: Western Kentucky wins 78-76 in an OT thriller.
UConn (4) -vs- San Diego (13)
Upset Potential: 22%. UConn was bounced in the first round of the Big East tournament and San Diego won the Big West tourney, but both teams will not have played in over a week which will give Jim Calhoun plenty of time to rile up those Huskies and for those wacky Toreros to come off their emotional high. If UConn comes out sluggish though, things could get interesting.
Player to Watch: AJ Price. When he isnt stealing laptops he's a pretty damn point guard. UConn has the interior behemoths to contend with anyone, but it will need good guard play if they want to go far in the tournament.
Prediction: UConn 82-67
Purdue (6) -vs- Baylor (11)
Upset Potential: 44%. Purdue is a very young team that showed signs of wearing down towards the end of the season, and Baylor has 2nd life after barely sneaking into the tourney. If the Bears guards are making their shots and pushing the tempo, the Boilers could very easily be one and done.
Player to Watch: Robbie Hummel got most of the hype this year, mainly because he's white, but real hoops fans know the best freshman on Purdue all year was Etwaun Moore. Someone is going to need to be a leader for the Boilers in the unchartered waters of March Madness and he is their best candidate.
Prediction: Baylor 78-71
Xavier (3) -vs- Georgia (14)
Upset Potential: 9%. When you combine a senior-laden favorite with a team that just came off winning an unprecedented SEC title, you can see how likely Xavier is to win. Georgia may have more energy tomorrow but it will near impossible to match the emotional effort they showed in Atlanta. Plus there will be no way the Dawgs will sneak up on the X after last week's events.
Player to Watch: Stanley Burrell. One of the most versatile players in the nation will get a chance to help lead Xavier on a deep run in the tournament. He can score 20 a night or shut down any opponent's top offensive weapon.
Prediction: Xavier 80-62
West Virginia (7) -vs- Arizona (10)
Upset Potential: 48%. Bob Huggins has been achieving success with smoke and mirrors all season. It also helps that Joe Alexander has played like Jerry West the last few weeks. Arizona got in the tournament because they lost to a lot of good teams, but they will have the best player on the court in Jerryd Bayless. When him and Nic Wise are in the lineup together, the Cats are 17-7. They are playing tomorrow.
Player to Watch: Joe Alexander. He's probably going to need to go for 30 for the Mountaineers to have any chance in this one despite their higher seed. If Arizona can even limit him slightly, they will probably win this game since WVU has no other reliable scoring option to turn to.
Prediction: Arizona 72-67
Duke (2) -vs- Belmont (15)
Upset Potential: 0%. Come on. Even if this game is close, which it won't be, the refs will make sure Duke wins in the end just because they are Duke. Look for Duke to hit about 20 threes and be playing all white guys in the 2nd half.
Player to Watch: The first Belmont guy to yam on Greg Paulus the way Danny Green did gets a complimentary handshake from Young Swole, and a complimentary handjob from Erin Andrews.
Prediction: Duke 88-55
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
North Carolina (1) -vs.- Mount St. Mary's (16)
Upset Potential: 0 %. Besides the fact that a 16 seed has never beaten a 1 seed, this matchup would still be a blowout even if you took seed lines away. UNC is the #1 overall seed for a reason. I would like to say that the Mounts got hosed by having to play in the so-called "opening-round game". They had a way better profile than the Mississippi Valley State squad and could probably have contended for a 15 spot. That said, this one won't be close.
Player to Watch: This one isn't close. All eyes will be on Public Enemy #1 Tyler Hansbrough. As much as everyone loves to hate him and say he's going to be a mediocre NBA player, the kid can flat out dominate the college basketball landscape. He comes out hard every night and the player of the year candidate is the main reason the Tar Heels are on top of the world right now.
Prediction: UNC 88-60
Indiana (8) -vs.- Arkansas (9)
Upset Potential: 45 %. If this were the IU team from January, this number would be 5 %, but the Hoosiers are a completely different team under interim coach Dan Dakich. While Indiana is clearly the better team on paper, that doesn't always show up on the court (take Penn State and Minnesota for example). If the Hoosiers are ready and motivated this could be a big win for the 8 seed, but if they play like they have the past 3 weeks and Arkansas plays more like they did against Tennessee than how they did against UGA, then the Hogs will advance easily.
Player to Watch: Eric Gordon. While Sonny Weems and DJ White are the two constants for their respective teams, young EG has been a bit of a mixed bag this year. His shooting woes have killed IU in recent games and it shows how much they need him to win. There will be plenty of scouts at this game, so for his sake and the Hoosiers, he better come out firing on all cylinders.
Prediction: IU 55-50
Notre Dame (5) -vs.- George Mason (12)
Upset Potential: 25 %. The dreaded 12/5 matchup will probably be a trendy upset pick for many in the East bracket, however, I'm not seeing it here. Mason has been in this position before, when they went on the most incredible run in NCAA Tournament history 2 years ago, but this team is different. They don't have the size or depth of that team and they won't be blind-siding anyone, especially the Fighting Irish, who were upset in the 1st round of last year's NCAA Tourney by Winthrop.
Player to Watch: Luke Harangody. The Big Man will be the best player on the floor for at least the first 2 rounds (as long as they get past the Patriots). The Irish work horse has destroyed opponents inside this season to the tune of over 20 and 10 a game with almost a block and a steal as well. ND has shooters who will take pressure off Hair and Shoulders, but to be at their best, they need to work the game through Luke.
Prediction: ND 72-61.
Washington State (4) -vs.- Winthrop (13)
Upset Potential: 30 %. I actually like this Winthrop team better than George Mason, but they will still be big underdogs. The Eagles are no strangers to Cinderella shoes. They've been to 4 straight NCAA Tourney's and beat ND last year and will be looking to meet up with the Irish again this year, but they'll have to pull an upset over the Cougars first. Wazzu was a bit shaky down the stretch, beating the teams they were supposed to, but losing to the Pac 10 elite multiple times. That said, Winthrop is undermanned in this matchup having only beat one Tourney team in the regular season (Miami) and will need to shoot the lights out to stay with WSU.
Player to Watch: Derrick Low. Sweet and Low leads a Cougars team that boasts 4 players averaging double digit points this year. He shoots nearly 40 percent from 3 land and is averaging almost 1 1/2 steals per game. Wazzu's balanced attack has allowed them not to have to rely fully on Low this year, but when he needs to, he can take over a game (and he might have to here).
Prediction: WSU 66-62
Oklahoma (6) -vs.- St. Joseph's (11)
Upset Potential 40 %. A week ago, St. Joe's was no lock to make the tourney, but after a big win over Xavier in the A-10 Tournament, and getting edged in the Conference Finals, the Hawks are ready to make some March Madness Noise. Oklahoma ate up the bottom feeders in the Big 12 this year and was exposed when they took on legit contenders. Granted, they've had to deal with their fair share of injuries, but who doesn't? Since early February, the Sooners have been slaughtered 4 times: Twice to Texas, and at Colorado and Nebraska. The latter two show that Oklahoma can be beat by weaker competition. St. Joe's has had an up and down season but recently they've looked very strong.
Player to Watch: Pat Calathes. OU's Blake Griffin may be the best player in the gym, but it's Calathes who has exceeded expectations this year. The Senior G-F is averaging 18 points and 7.5 rebounds with well over a block and a steal a game. He's also a 3 point sniper and if the Sooners aren't careful, he could explode in this one.
Prediction: St. Joe's 72-65.
Louisville (3) -vs.- Boise State (14)
Upset Potential: 15 %. This sounds like a possible football bowl game. Boise State barely got in the field after a thrilling Triple OT Victory in the WAC tourney Final against New Mexico State. They were the top WAC team in the regular season too so it's not like this team is weak sauce. Reggie Larry (two first names is always a crowd pleaser) is averaging nearly 20 and 10, including 31 and 16 in their last game. Still, they don't have the depth that the Cardinals do and play no defense so if Louisville jumps out to an early lead, it's going to be tough for the Broncs to catch up.
Player to Watch: David Padgett. L-ville was a top 10 team at the beginning of the year, before a major injury to their big man really put them in a hole, but since his return a couple months ago, they've returned to being one of the 10 best teams in college basketball. He isn't a stat stuffer, but for a big man he brings great intangibles to the floor, including his excellent passing skills and quick hands. Lately, he's been a beast scoring in double figures in four of five games and he has yet to foul out this year.
Prediction: Louisville 85-76.
Butler (7) -vs.- South Alabama (10)
Upset Potential: 45 %. First of all, Butler got the shaft as a 7 seed. They've only lost 3 games all year, and despite the fact that they've played in a weak conference, it's apparent that this team has more talent than basically any other mid-major. Not only did they get a 7 seed, but they got a very dangerous matchup in South Alabama. The Jaguars played a very difficult non-conference schedule that saw them beat Tourney team San Diego and lose by 3 to Ole Miss, and 3 in OT to Vandy. They also dumped fellow NCAA Tourney team and Sun Belt foe Western Kentucky twice. This should be one of the more entertaining games of the first round and features two teams that could give Tennessee nightmares in the second round.
Player to Watch: AJ Graves. The Bulldog leader has really helped lead a balanced attack this season. He's a thief on defense, strokes it from downtown, and has an excellent assists/turnover ratio. He and the rest of Butler will need to be on their A-Game to avoid this upset.
Prediction: Butler 69-68
Tennessee (2) -vs.- American (15)
Upset Potential: 1 %. The Vols are going to take their frustration at not getting a 1 seed out on American. The Eagles are in the Tourney for the first time and won the Patriot League in a down year for the conference. Tennessee is way too deep and talented to be lose here and I'd be shocked if this game is close in the second half.
Player to Watch: Chris Lofton. The Vols floor general has scored 20 points or more in 4 of the last 6 games. When on, he can shoot better than almost anyone in the nation. He could be in for a huge game here and will probably be on the bench resting for round two late in the 2nd half here.
Prediction: Tennessee 92-65
Memphis (1) -vs- Texas Arlington (16)
Upset Potential: 0%. Lets be honest, this game will probably be over by the first TV timeout. Memphis is more athletic that some NBA teams and will quite literally run T-A off the floor. The only way this game is within 20 points is if the Tigers are seriously looking forward to their round of 32 contest.
Player to watch: Derrick Rose. He has the potential to be the most impactful freshmen in the NCAA tournament since Carmelo took the Cuse to the title 5 years ago.
Prediction: Memphis 93-56
Mississippi State (8) -vs- Oregon (9)
Upset Potential: 33%. Usually the 8-9 game is a toss-up, but this seems like one of the most lopsided battles in a long time. Mississippi State was ranked for most of the season and won the SEC West while Oregon has been on the bubble since Midnight Madness and in no way deserved a 9 seed. State has 3 really good players in Jamont Gordon, Charles Rhodes and Jarvis Varnado and the Ducks suspect defense will probably allow Mississippi State to score with ease.
Player to Watch: Jamont Gordon is criminally underrated. He is one of the most complete players and can match up with any guard in America offensively and defensively. If his teams wins, his battle against Derrick Rose is must-see television.
Prediction: Miss St. 79-65
Michigan State (5) -vs- Temple (12)
Upset Potential: 40%. We all know how dangerous the 5-12 matchup has historically been in the big dance, and this matchup certainly fits the bill. Michigan State has loads of talent, but has been wildly inconsistent all season and often struggles to score enough points to win. Temple on the other hand has been one of the hottest teams in the nation lately and is probably playing better than many of the teams seeded ahead of them. They also have a player in Dionte Christmas who has the ability to take over a game.
Player to Watch: Drew Neitzel. When he is making his shots, MSU can look like a final four team. When he gets shut down, MSU scores 36 points in an entire game. If Sparty can get him the open looks he needs, then they can win this by 15 points. If Temple can shut him down, then its going to be a long day for the Green and White
Prediction: Temple 64-60
Pitt (4) -vs- Oral Roberts (13)
Upset Potential: 7%. No team is hotter in the nation then Pitt, who have played dominant basketball since Levance Fields returned from injury. Oral Roberts got a 13 seed based off of past reputation, but their team this year is not as good as those in the past and will be dominated on the glass by the bigger and more physical Panthers.
Player to Watch: Sam Young has blossomed into a possible Naismith Candidate and gives Pitt the reliable scoring option that they have lacked in the past few years. If he plays like he did in the Big East tournament, Pitt could go really far in this tournament too.
Prediction: Pitt 76-53
Marquette (6) -vs- Kentucky (11)
Upset Potential: 33%. If Marquette is making their shots there's no way they lose. If they are missing however they are extremely ordinary and Kentucky will be able to slow the game down and possibly grind out a victory.
Player to Watch: Jerel McNeal is going to be the guy who has to guard Joe Crawford, who is pretty much Kentucky's only reliable offensive weapon. If he can contain Crawford then Kentucky is not going to be able to keep up with a Marquette team that has many more consistent options to turn to on the offensive end.
Prediction: Marquette 68-59
Stanford (3) -vs- Cornell (14)
Upset Potential: 6%. Cornell is pretty good for an Ivy League team, but there is no way they will be able to stop Brook Lopez, who will be a half foot taller than any player the Big Red can match up against him. Look for the Cardinal to control the tempo and feed the ball to the post every possession, which will let them cruise to an easy victory.
Player to Watch: Lopez was overshadowed in the Pac-10 this year by Kevin Love, but he was quietly one of the most effective big men in the nation. As a true center, he can change the game at both ends with his shot blocking and polished offensive game.
Prediction: Stanford 71-52
Miami (7) -vs- St. Mary's (10)
Upset Potential: 55%. St Mary's has been a chic upset pick since the bracket was announced. They have big game experience and a dynamic point guard in Patty Mills. Miami has more talent than they are given credit for, but are an overrated 7 seed because they are one of the most inconsistent teams in the entire field.
Player to Watch: Jack McClinton. When his game is on, the Hurricanes can beat anybody such as when they upset Duke earlier this year. When he's missing his shot, the Hurricanes proceed to put the "U" in Ugly. He will be the barometer for whether Miami wins or flames out as another overrated ACC team.
Prediction: St. Mary's 63-61.
Texas (2) -vs- Austin Peay (15)
Upset Potential: 1%. The only chance the Governors have is if Texas gets in serious foul trouble and has to rely on seldomly used players. But with the way Texas has been playing lately, don't count on this to happen.
Player to Watch: Gary Johnson. When he his healthy, Johnson gives the Longhorns a post presence they sorely lack without him. While they probably won't need him against the Peay, he will defenitly be needed in later rounds because this bracket is loaded with big, physical teams.
Prediction: Texas 85-64
Watch The General's Facial Expressions. Priceless. Anyone that thinks he's comin' back to coach the Hoosiers is off their rocker. Although, there's still a better chance he comes to IU than Georgia. Sorry Swole, but he'd have to be senile to do that.
2007 Finish: 94-68. 1st AL West
Key Losses: SS Orlando Cabrera, SP Bartolo Colon
Key Acquisitions: OF Torii Hunter, SP Jon Garland
2007 brought another AL West Pennant to Los Angeles, or maybe Anaheim? Doesn't really matter since they failed to make much more than an whimper before another inglorious exit from the playoffs. So will 2008 be any different? The Angels are, once again, the favorite on the face of things. But do they really have what it takes to do anything more than win a weak division?
1. Jon Lackey*
2. Kelvim Escobar*
3. Jon Garland
4. Jered Weaver
5. Joe Saunders/Ervin Santana
CL: Francisco "K-Rod" Rodriguez
SU: Scot Shields, Justin Speier
*Each of these players, due to injury, are expected to make their first starts mid-May.
Pitching Grade: A when all healthy, C+ until then. Without Lackey and Escobar, the Halos may be asking someone named Dustin Mosely to start? But so long as Lackey and Escobar do return, and do so no later than expected, the pitching should be o.k. The bullpen shuts down teams in late innings, and can go a little longer early in the year to pick up slack for any fill-in starters who can't go deep into ballgames. But even without the top two in their rotation, the rest of their starters are far better than your typical #3, 4 & 5 so barring any setbacks to Lackey or Escobar, I think the pitching situation looks pretty dec.
1. 3B Chone Figgins
2. LF Gary Matthews, Jr.
3. RF Vladimir Guerrero
4. DH Garret Anderson
5. CF Torii Hunter
6. 1B Casey Kotchman
7. 2B Howie Kendrick
8. C Mike Napoli
9. SS Erick Aybar/Maicer Izturis
Lineup Grade: B. After thinking about so many NL teams, this lineup seemed like a 100%, but then I forgot they will play 120+ games in the AL. People seem to be down on Vlad, but look for him to just eliminate the base-stealing aspect of his game, DH about 50 times, and have a huge season. Torii Hunter isn't exactly the perfect compliment in the heart of the order, but if he can produce the same numbers as last year, this team will be siiiiiick. Kendrick is the much-hyped breakout candidate of the year....just like last year. Lets see if he finally answers the bell.
2008 Prediction: I'm calling the Angels right now to make it through the first round of the playoffs. I think that their lineup, with Torii Hunter and a (hopefully) healthy Kendrick will score plenty of runs. They still have dangerous weapons like Vlad, utility-knife Chone Figgins, and one of the best bullpens and closers in the game. They should win their division if there are no further setbacks to their starting rotation, especially considering the added depth Jon Garland will give them.
Record: 94-68. Look for these guys to at least equal last years' win total, and most likely exceed that mark on their way to a decent post-season showing.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
I usually try to confine the political aspect of my posts to ones that are a direct commentary of the ongoing Presidential election. However, ever since it was announced that Beijing would be hosting the 2008 Olympics, I have made my displeasure known to many friends and acquaintances. So now that concerns over The Games taking place in Communist China have become a national concern all of the sudden, I guess it is appropriate to comment on why this is such a terrible idea right here on GDB.
(And go ahead, China, censor me and ban GDB from your country! We still have millions and millions of loyal fans who will continue to support us)
-The communist regime running China has committed atrocities as heinous as those in Darfur, Somalia, The Balkans, Iraq, etc. If force is appropriate there, something more serious should be done in the wake of what has been decades of ongoing oppression of numerous sub-sets of the Chinese population. You name it, the Chinese government hates it: nationalistic Tibetans, Taiwanese, Christians, Muslims, and the list goes on. And we know what they do to people who they don't like, it has been broadcast time and again on our own national television networks.
-China, and to a lesser extent, Russia, repeatedly oppose the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Italy, Australia, The Netherlands, and every other freedom-loving civilization that is a member of the United Nations, by protecting belligerent nations like Iran and North Korea.
-Olympic facilities like the "Birds Nest" and Water Cube are being built by what amounts to modern-day slave labor. Everyone, including children, are being put to work for pennies on this amazing facilities that will be a positive representation and symbol for the country when broadcast over television, but few will know of the price paid for their construction.
-People and even cats are forcibly relocated to make room to these improvements and construction projects.
China, with its billion or so people and centuries of history, has a wealth of culture and knowledge to share with the world. But all of that is either tainted by the fact that it is propagated by a dangerous and ruthless government, or that it is hidden from view by that same government, which should prevent us from enjoying it. President Bush and other heads of state should not allow their attendance give credit or publicity to the government of the People's Republic of China until it actually becomes a republic of the people.
And if you don't want to hear it from me, just listen to Steven Spielberg...
UPDATE: 17 minutes after my original posting of this article, this became a drudgereport.com headline....CALLS MOUNT FOR OLYMPIC CEREMONY BOYCOTT. I knew some frenchman had said it, but when its the major Drudge headline, you know its tight.
Monday, March 17, 2008
2007 Record: 88-74, 2nd in AL West
Key Additions: Erik Bedard SP, Carlos Silva SP, Miguel Cairo INF
Key Losses: Adam Jones OF, Jose Guillen OF, George Sherrill RP
1 Ichiro CF
2 Jose Vidro DH
3 Adrian Beltre 3b
4 Raul Ibanez LF
5 Richie Sexson 1b
6 Brad Wilkerson RF
7 Kenji Johjima C
8 Yuniesky Betancourt SS
9 Jose Lopez 2b
Offensive Grade: B-... The M's have some solid bats in the lineup of course led by the exemplary Ichiro, but they simply do not have the power or consistency that the other top teams in the AL roll out on a daily basis. Ibanez and Beltre are solid hitters that are highly underrated but there are also huge holes at 1b and RF. Between Sexson and Wilkerson, the M's can count on 350 strikeouts between their 5 and 6 hitters. The lack of hitting is offset by one of the best defensive teams in baseball and a solid pitching staff.
1 Erik Bedard
2 Felix Hernandez
3 Carlos Silva
4 Miguel Batista
5 Jarrod Washburn
CL - JJ Putz
Pitching Grade: A-... The Mariners traded for the "other" lefty, and Bedard will help compliment one of the most complete pitching staffs in the AL. Behind him will be Felix Hernandez, who at only 21 years old seems primed for a breakout year. While the names behind the big 2 won't blow anyone away, they are serviceable and know how to pitch. The Mariners also have possibly the best bullpen in the AL, led by All-Star closer JJ Putz. Between the improved starting rotation and the strong pen, the M's can shorten games and consistenly hold leads in the late innings.
Projected Outlook: The Mariners were a solid team before they added Bedard and now have to be considered definite contenders out west. It doesn't hurt that the Angels are already having big injury concerns with their starting pitchers and that the A's and Rangers will both be worse than last year. If they add one more big bat during the course of the season, the Mariners have to be considered on the same level as division kingpins Anaheim, but also AL leaders Boston, Cleveland and Detroit.
Projected Finish: 93-69, 1st or 2nd in the AL West
2007 Record: 71-91 Last in the NL East
The Marlins looked like they were starting to build a legit contender down the road...and then like other years they had another fire sale and gave up their best hitter and pitcher. I feel bad for this franchise. They have 2 World Series Championships in just over 10 years and yet they have no fan support and management that refuses to spend money. It seems like every year they play better than people think they're going to, and at the end of every year, the cream of the crop talent gets traded away. I normally don't wish this on teams, but for the Marlins sake, it'd be nice to see them sold to someone who's willing to spend money...like Mark Cuban. He can move the team to Dallas or Oklahoma City and revitalize the franchise. Alright, I'll get off the soapbox now.
Cameron Maybin OF
Andrew Miller SP
Jose Castillo 3B
Jorge Cantu 3B
Dallas McPherson 3B
Mark Hendrickson SP
Miguel Cabrera 3B
Dontrelle Willis SP
Miguel Olivo C
1) Hanley Ramirez SS
2) Jeremy Hermida RF
3) Dan Uggla 2B
4) Josh Willingham LF
5) Jorge Cantu/Dallas McPherson/Jose Castillo 3B
6) Mike Jacobs 1B
7) Cameron Maybin CF
8) Matt Treanor/Mike Rabelo C
Offensive Grade: C-...This team will once again be one of the youngest in the majors. Losing Miggy's power is a bit hit for this offense that was already playing small ball last year. This season, they're going to have to rely on singles and steals and moving runners over the old fashioned way as opposed to swinging for the fences. Dan Uggla will attempt to hit it out of the park everytime to make up for this, but that isn't necessarily a good thing as his already ridiculous Strikeout totals and measly average could potentially rise. The top 4 are solid, especially young Hanley. Ramirez would have been THE story of last year if not for Gay-rod. The 24 year old has risen to elite status not only at his position, but in all of baseball. He was 1 HR short of becoming the youngest member of the 30/50 club (Homers and Steals). Unfortunately, Hanley can't play every position on the field, so this team is going to struggle offensively. Hermida and Willingham are always popular sleepers, but they have yet to emerge as stars. Maybin could be a big surprise...or he could start out the year in the minors. The 5th spot on in this line-up is pretty gruesome and it's never pretty when you have a 3 way platoon occupying the 5 hole.
1) Scott Olson
2) Sergio Mitre
3) Andrew Miller
4) Rich Vandenhurk
5) Mark Hendrickson
CL) Kevin Gregg
Pitching Grade: D-...Where to begin...there's no ace on this roster...in fact there isn't even an above average starter (at least presently). Losing Dontrelle Willis wasn't a terrible loss the way he was playing, but he at least looked the part of a #1 starter more than anyone else here. There are a lot of young guns (young is the definition of the Marlins) that could potentially break out, but none of these pitchers have flashed ace status yet. I was actually tempted to give them an F, but Olson and Miller both have a shot at becoming Top of the Line Pitchers down the road. Whether that happens this year remains to be seen, but let's just say that there's a lot better chance that they have awful years than great ones. Kevin Gregg proved to be a fairly reliable closer last year, but one year as a closer doesn't really mean shit in baseball. If he does it again, I'll buy in a little more.
The more I wrote in this preview, the less I like this team, but like I said at the beginning, people always underestimate the Marlins and they always prove everyone wrong by exceeding expectations. That said, on paper, this is pretty ugly. The rotation is probably bottom 5 in the MLB, and the Lineup is in the bottom half. Combine those two and there aren't going to be a lot of wins for the fins this year. I don't see how they win more than last year afterAt least they have a good mascot.
Projected 2008 Record: 68-94
Young Swole-Master has been giving the UGA Bulldogs basketball team a little too much air time lately, so I thought we might revisit our roots: The Indiana Hoosiers.
There has been much naysaing and ho-ha-ing lately about the Hoosiers, who inexplicably lost to Penn St. in the regular season finale then got stabbed in the heart (at the end of a game they deserved to lose) in the BTT.
Then they were rewarded with a disgutsing #8 seed, amounting to a mafia-style hit job by Myles Brand, against UNC right in the Heels' back yard in the event that Indiana and North Carolina both win their first round games.
So here is a more-or-less positive article I saw about the boys in red today, #10 on Dan Wetzel's article about 14 Things To Watch For in the tourney:
Conceivably Indiana’s interim coach Dan Dakich could get the Hoosiers back to mid-season form and push them to a Final Four. It’s not like the talent isn’t there with D.J. White and Eric Gordon. If he did, he might be named the full-time coach.
But ever since coach Kelvin Sampson resigned following an NCAA violations investigation, IU has mostly fallen apart. That means one of the game’s most storied and fervently followed programs will probably be more obsessed this March about hiring a new coach than about the actual games.
It’s not so different from a year ago at Kentucky. The Wildcats parting with Tubby Smith and pursuit of Florida’s Billy Donovan (they wound up with Texas A&M’s Billy Gillispie) was one of the chief story lines of the tournament.
As for Indiana, any number of future head coaches could be in this tournament. The short list includes Notre Dame’s Mike Brey, Xavier’s Sean Miller, Washington State’s Tony Bennett, Vanderbilt’s Kevin Stallings and Marquette’s Tom Crean.
Indiana’s combination of local talent, tradition and ambition – and its brand new practice facility – makes it one of the most coveted jobs in the country. The downside, however, is that coaches are very concerned about going to work for such a dysfunctional administration.
(And no matter how much Dick Vitale blathers about it, Bob Knight is not getting the job.)Now, I do want Dan Dakich to push this team to a Final Four. I do NOT want Dan Dakich to be the new head coach. Granted he had an impossible task of winning over a relatively undisciplined squad of players this year, but he is a capable mid-major coach at best. Recently I've come of the opinion that the best cantidates for the IU job are, in this order: Jaime Dixon, Tony Bennett, Sean Miller, Scott Drew. Anyone who has mentioned the words Tom Izzo, Bruce Pearl, or John Calipari need to get real. One probably wouldn't leave his job and two others are the LAST thing that we should follow up the shady Kelvin Sampson with.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
2007 Record: 88-74
Key Additions: Johan Santana SP, Ryan Church OF, Brian Schneider C
Key Losses: Tom Glavine SP, Paul LoDuca C, Lastings Milledge OF, Shawn Green OF
1 - Jose Reyes SS
2 - Luis Castillo 2b
3 - David Wright 3b
4 - Carlos Beltran CF
5 - Carlos Delgado 1b
6 - Ryan Church RF
7 - Endy Chavez LF
8 - Brian Schneider C
Lineup Grade: B
Yeah this grade may seem low for a lineup with three of the best hitters in the NL, but there are some serious concerns. Many of these players are old and are already injured (Delgado, Alou) and there aren't really a lot of alternatives to turn to. While the team will score a good number of runs simply because of the brilliance of Wright and Reyes, they will not be as good as fellow division foes Philadelphia and Atlanta.
1 - Johan Santana
2 - Pedro Martinez
3 - John Maine
4 - Oliver Perez
5 - Orlando Hernandez
CL - Billy Wagner
Rotation Grade: B+
Once again the name should seem higher because of the famous names on the list, but just like with some aging hitters there are huge question marks. Santana is going to dominate as always but there is no chance at their ages that Pedro and El Duque are going to hold up for an entire year. If they can get 20-25 starts out of both the Mets will be a playoff team, if not they are going to need some young bucks to step up.
2008 Prediction: Trading and signing Johan Santana was the biggest move of the offseason and it puts the Mets in position to contend for the pennant in the inferior National League. But while many think they are a slam-dunk to win the division and the obvious front runner to reach the World Series, there are simply too many question marks in my eyes to put them head and shoulders above the rest of the league. Plus will there be any lasting effects from such a devastating collapse last year when the Mets are playing in big games late in the year? They will be a good team if only because they have 3 of the best players in baseball on the roster, but those 3 alone will not guarantee anything, they will need other contributors to step up to reach their goals.
2008 Record: 90-72
ACC: UNC, Duke, Clemson, Miami, Virginia Tech
Big East: Georgetown, Louisville, Pitt, UConn, Notre Dame, Marquette, West VA, Villanova
Big Ten: Wisconsin, Purdue, Michigan State, Indiana
Big 12: Kansas, Texas, K-State, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Baylor
SEC: Tennesee, Vandy, Arkansas, Miss. St
Pac 10: UCLA, Stanford, Wash. St, USC, Arizona St., Arizona
A-10: Xavier, Temple, St. Josephs
America East: UMBC
Big Sky: Portland State
Big South: Winthrop
Big West: Cal State Fullerton
Colonial: George Mason, VCU
MAC: Kent State
MEAC: Coppin State
Northeast: Mount St Mary's
OVC: Austin Peay
SWAC: Miss. Valley St.
Sun Belt: Western Kentucky, South Alabama
WCC: San Diego, Gonzaga, St. Mary's
WAC: Boise St
MWC: UNLV, BYU
Atlantic Sun: Belmont
Summit: Oral Robert
6 Miss. St.
8 Texas A&M
12 South Alabama
13 San Diego
14 Austin Peay
15 Oral Roberts
16 Coppin St/Miss Valley St
5 Washington St
8 West VA
9 Kansas State
10 Kent State
11 Arizona State
13 Boise State
14 Portland State
16 Mt St Mary's
11 Virginia Tech
13 George Mason
14 Cal State Fullerton
5 Notre Dame
6 Michigan State
9 St. Mary's
10 St. Joseph's
11 Western Kentucky
14 Texas Arlington
All this changes if we get some more upsets for now. Final Update coming at 6pm